Jorge Lorenzo burst back into the MotoGP limelight at Mugello, casting off his worst ever start to a premier-class season to provide the long awaited challenge to reigning champion Marc Marquez.

Lorenzo led for the first 17 of 23 laps, then clipped the grass on the 200mph main straight, prompting Marquez to make his first move for the lead.

It was the start of eleven lead changes between the 2013 title rivals during the final seven laps, Lorenzo persistently retaliating on the brakes and at one stage brushing against his fellow Spaniard as he levered his Movistar Yamaha back past the Honda rider.

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Lorenzo ultimately came just 0.123s short of a fourth successive Mugello victory, Marquez making the most of a top speed advantage to mount a last lap pass before clinging on for a perfect sixth win this season.

"It is difficult to know if it was one of my best battles," said Lorenzo. "For me it was very difficult to fight with Marc last year, even if I beat him in Silverstone, I didn't pass him on braking but with more corner speed.

"But now I feel finally quite strong on braking. I couldn't fight with Marc in all the braking areas, but maybe 60%. Much more than last year. So we made a good step.

"If we can go at 100% of the track we can finally fight with him on braking. That is what I've always wanted. For this reason I want to congratulate Yamaha for what they have done to improve the bike in braking. It has been hard but it seems that we found something."

While Lorenzo credited braking progress for allowing him to fight Marquez, he feels the difference in top speed prevented him for pulling clear earlier in the race.

"With a higher top speed maybe we could break away, because I think I was a little faster than Marc this time but he could follow me when I was pushing," Lorenzo explained. "When he passed me it seemed he was a little bit slower."

Marquez later revealed that he had used a longer sixth gear to help with top speed, while Lorenzo confessed that improving the Yamaha's straight line performance will be difficult given the new 2014 engine development freeze.

"We have to thaw the engine somehow!" he joked. "This is impossible for sure so we'll have to improve in other areas to try to be faster and further ahead out of the last corner."

Mugello was only Lorenzo's second podium appearance of the year and the first time he had fought for victory.

"I think victory will arrive soon, we have to keep pushing and stay very motivated to improve the bike and myself," he declared.

"Obviously I feel a little bit better when I'm in front because I can ride very smooth and with high corner speed and more focus. But this time I also felt strong riding behind Marc because I didn't feel that he was so fast as in some other battles.

"But unfortunately when he followed me he could match my pace. I tried everything to pull away but I couldn't. My strategy was to pull away and it was impossible so I tried to fight him in the braking.

"Obviously when you finish so close to first position you are not completely happy, because second is not the same as a victory. But comparing this race to the other races this year I was much better physically, which is important with these bikes because the race is very long. And you feel more mentally strong.

"Next is Barcelona, my home race. I will have a lot of friends there and I will try to repeat this podium and if possible the first victory of the season."

Lorenzo - who fell while leading on the first lap in Qatar, then made a jump start in Texas - is up to fourth in the world championship but already 85 points behind Marquez.