As predicted after Grandstand’s review of the qualifying and free practice, today’s Italian Grand Prix at Mugello delivered some upsets, some joys, and one breathtaking performance by a man under enormous pressure and pain.
The race conditions were perfect as the grid took off, with both factory Ducatis or Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone taking the early lead. Marc Marquez, who started down in 13th position, ended the first lap in 6th, and proceeded to work his way up to 3rd a couple of laps later. Meanwhile, current world championship points leader Valentino Rossi was mid field in 11th and struggled to gain even one position.
After four laps the race settled into a new pattern. Storming up from his last two race victories, Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo snatched the lead from Dovizioso and charged down the track leaving everyone behind. Just as at LeMans two weeks ago, Lorenzo put out perfect, rhythmic lap after lap to eventually win the race with a crushing 8 second lead on second place.
But it was there, in second, that the real hero story emerged.
Marc Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone played cat and mouse for half the race fighting for second, until Dovizioso was forced to retire due to a malfunction with his rear suspension. Iannone, who was racing with a fractured left shoulder, managed to hold off Marquez who, in his usual aggressive style, hounded and nipped at his Ducati at every turn. Given Marquez’ experience and dominating performance in the race thus far it seemed inevitable that the Spaniard would take second.
Only when it happened, the inevitable was not what Marquez hoped for.
Just as in Argentina, Marquez lost control of his Honda while making another attempt to pass and crashed out of the race in an unforced error. A lap earlier, Marquez was told via a pit board that Valentino Rossi had come back and was now at the back of his group, in 5th place, which must have added additional pressure. After struggling all weekend in practice, lacking both the speed and consistency of his rivals, and with a potential second place in sight, the temptation to exploit every opportunity must have been great.
Andrea Iannone, hurting from his injury nevertheless defended his second place from Rossi and finished there, crossing himself as he crossed the line.
“I never give up, I push a lot.” said Iannone after the race. Visibly emotional, he was also clearly physically exhausted.
Rossi maintains his world championship points lead, but Movistar Yamaha teammate Lorenzo is now only 6 points behind in second place, ahead of the Ducatis of Dovizioso and Iannone. Marquez is 49 points adrift.
The next race is the Grand Prix of Catalonia in two weeks, in Barcelona Spain.