Valentino Rossi pulled out some of the old Mugello magic as he charged from tenth on the grid to third in the opening laps of his home Italian MotoGP.

With Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez just ahead of him, a fairytale victory on his 300th grand prix appearance was on the cards.

But the Spaniards were able to inch away from Rossi, who crossed the line 2.7s from victory then lapped up the applause by thousands of fans gathered under the rostrum to celebrate his first Mugello podium since 2009.

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"The practice and the weekend were a little bit difficult for me. I think that I had a chance to fight with Marc and Jorge but we gave away too much yesterday with a [front tyre] mistake in practice," said Rossi, who then suffered a further set-back in morning warm-up.

"I knew starting from the fourth row it would difficult and then this morning I had a problem with the gearbox. We made a small mistake. Human mistake. So unfortunately I lost all of warm-up. I went out with the other bike but it had a different setting. It was a little bit unlucky.

"Anyway we did a good job in the pit box and the bike was good in the race. I was very lucky at the beginning and also strong because I did some good overtaking. I arrived in third position quite early, but already Marc was 1.4s in front.

"It is a great shame because I hoped to use the slipstream to help me, but I was already a bit too far behind.

"Unfortunately I always lost a little bit to them so I tried a different mapping on the bike and in two laps I lost one second. So I went back to the normal setting and I was not so bad.

"The battle between Marc and Jorge was great to watch. There were three or four overtakes at the end of the straight so I tried to stay close and sincerely I hoped that Marc and Jorge would make a small mistake, touch the other and go a little bit wide so that all three of us could fight!

"But I am happy because my pace was good, I lost just a little bit and I rode quite well.

"I'm happy because I am back on the podium at Mugello after five years. The podium at Mugello is the most emotional moment of the season. I think there were around 10,000 people around the podium today, all with yellow caps. So it's great, something fantastic and especially for that moment I wanted to arrive on the podium.

"I'm very proud to be there because in recent years I went there just to say 'ciao' to the people, but to be there because you deserve it is completely different."

Asked why he has such incredible support from the fans, Rossi replied:

"It is a very long career, I was able to do a lot of great results, a lot of victories but I think the main reason is the way that I race. Always a lot of people follow the races in Italy because they know that - especially in the past, a little bit less now! - if I'm fast it is a very funny race. If I can fight and I can try the maximum to win. I think for this reason I have I have a lot of fans."

Rossi's latest rostrum also moves him ahead of Dani Pedrosa and into second place in the world championship, albeit a massive 53 points behind Honda's undefeated reigning champion Marquez.

"Three successive podiums is good and I'm now second in the championship. This is not so bad so now I hope they disqualify Marc for three or four races! That would be more fun for everybody!" Rossi joked.

"I want to try to win. That is the target. I will try to stay with Marc and Jorge in Barcelona."

Rossi may hold the all-time record for premier-class victories, with 80 to his credit since his 500cc debut in 2000, but with Marquez unstoppable so far this season and Lorenzo back on form he feels MotoGP is harder than ever.

"Now the races are very, very tough," said the seven time MotoGP champion. "Before in the past there was a lot more strategy, but now you have to push 100 percent from the beginning to the end.

"So I think this was one of my most difficult podiums, especially starting from the fourth row, but in the end it was a great emotion."

Rossi was unbeaten at Mugello from 2002-2008.