Spanish world champion Marc Marquez made it six wins from six races this season after claiming victory in the Italian MotoGP in thrilling style at Mugello on Sunday.
The 21-year-old Honda rider, who became the first rider since Valentino Rossi in 2002 to win six successive races, edged out compatriot and two-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo on a Yamaha after an engrossing duel for over half the race.
Marquez finally got the better of Lorenzo, who has had a miserable season up till this race, going into the final lap while Lorenzo’s team-mate, 35-year-old Italian great Valentino Rossi, took third spot in what was his 300th Grand Prix and the 187th time he has finished on the podium.
Rossi’s finish was enough to see him rise to second in the standings on 97 points, though, 53 adrift of Marquez.
“That was the hardest race of the season so far,” said Marquez, who has also started from pole position in the six races.
“I followed Jorge but he was so fast I had to fight to stay with him. But in the end I had enough power to pass him and this victory is very special.”
Lorenzo for his part was delighted to have ended a series of disappointing performances with his previous best finish a third in Argentina.
“I am nearly back to being at my best,” said 27-year-old Lorenzo.
“Marc was fantastic and just had too much speed down the straights.
“I was able to fight with him but he was very brave and got the victory.”
Rossi said his chances had been ruined by selecting the wrong type of tyre in qualifying but the ever-exuberant Italian wouldn’t let that ruin his day.
“I had a good race and I am so happy to be back on the podium at Mugello. After five years of missing out this is a very emotional moment for me,” he said.
For the second successive race Marquez got a poor start and was passed by Andrea Iannone, who set a new official top speed record for the MotoGP World Championship during practice on Saturday, clocking 349.6km/h (217.2 mph), and Lorenzo on the first bend.
Lorenzo went to the front shortly afterwards as he powered past Iannone down the inside with 23 laps to go.
However, it was Rossi who made the biggest impression powering from 10th on the grid to fourth with 21 laps to the chequered flag.
Rossi, who won seven successive Grand Prix on this circuit, then got on Marquez’s shoulder as the Spaniard fought out a terrific duel with Iannone.
Marquez and Rossi got the better of Iannone and his Ducati with the former setting fastest laps as he ate into Lorenzo’s lead.
Marquez was tucked in just behind Lorenzo with 13 laps remaining and was virtually toying with his older compatriot while Rossi looked to have run out of steam and was more than a second behind the Spanish duo.
The youngster finally passed Lorenzo with seven laps to go as the latter made an error under pressure and drifted into the dirt and although he tried to regain the lead immediately Marquez shut down the gap.
However, Lorenzo stuck to the task and they exchanged the lead on several occasions as they fought out an enthralling to-and-fro battle with them almost coming together going out on to the circuit with four laps left as Marquez took him on the first corner only for Lorenzo to regain the lead up the inside on the next corner.
Marquez passed him again but Lorenzo then produced an audacious move on the inside to again go to the front.
However, Marquez did not panic and finally gained the decisive lead going out on the final lap and while Lorenzo tried valiantly to pass him, the younger rider showed maturity beyond his years to prevail and pump the air with delight on taking the flag.