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Casey Stoner: Six of the best

Capirossi had delivered a debut Mugello podium in 2003, then an epic ride through the field to finish second to Rossi by 0.575s in 2006. Mugello legend Rossi then continued to keep Ducati and new star Stoner off the top step in both 2007 and 2008.

In 2009 Ducati had introduced a radical carbon-fibre chassis, but were having difficulty keeping pace with Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo's Yamahas. Entering Mugello, Rossi was thus favourite for an amazing eighth consecutive home win.

Rain had been a hassle throughout race day. The 250cc grand prix was held in terrible conditions and the track was still wet when MotoGP bikes went to the grid, forcing riders to start on wets. All were aware they would potentially have to switch bikes in pit lane at some stage and revert to dry tyres.

Drama began before they had even completed their sighting lap. Pole man Lorenzo crashed and manically rushed back to the pits to get his spare bike while his team scrambled to make repairs.

Lorenzo made it to the grid, with Stoner starting from second and Rossi having qualified fourth - but just 0.161s from pole.

The race was bedlam. Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen and Hayate's Marco Melandri were unlikely early front runners, but when the front men pitted on lap ten because of the drying track, Stoner emerged two seconds behind Dovizioso.

Avoiding the wet patches he reeled him in and determinedly warded off, firstly Capirossi, then Lorenzo to finish just over a second up on the Mallorcan. Stoner's risk to push to the maximum on cold tyres had paid off and set him apart from his Yamaha rivals.

“This was the one I really wanted,” smiled Stoner afterwards. “We've struggled to find a great setting here for the past two years, but today was our day.”

Two weeks later saw Rossi and Lorenzo's epic duel at Catalunya. An exhausted Stoner took third, marking the first obvious signs of the physical problems that would cause him to miss three races - making the Mugello win even more worthy of respect.

Number 1: 2007 Catalan MotoGP, Catalunya - Round 7: It was always going to be difficult for the new 800cc MotoGP era to match the marvellous conclusion of 990cc racing - and the new format, after five races for 2007, seemed a little tame by comparison.

It had however produced a genuine surprise at the top of the table.

Stoner was only Ducati's fourth choice of rider after Gibernau, Melandri and Hayden at the beginning of the year. The young Australian then won convincingly on his Ducati debut in Qatar, followed by further wins in Turkey and China.

But none of those races had produced an out and out battle.





Related Pictures

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Casey Stoner (AUS), Ducati Marlboro Team, Ducati, 27, 2007 MotoGP World Championship, Round 7, Catalunya, Spain, 10 June 2007
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