Stoner breaks Rossi’s home reign at Mugello
31 May 2009
Valentino Rossi's seven-year reign at his home Italian Grand Prix has finally been broken after Casey Stoner took victory in a wet/dry race at Mugello.
The last non-Rossi victory at Mugello was by Alex Barros in 2001, but Stoner was able to hand Ducati its long awaited first home grand prix victory by 1.001sec from Jorge Lorenzo after a strong performance on both his wet and dry bike.
The win was Stoner's second of the season, after round one in Qatar, and puts the Australian back on top of the MotoGP World Championship standings by four points ahead of previous leader Lorenzo.
After a wet warm-up, dry 125cc race and wet 250cc race, the MotoGP main event began on a wet but drying track - an almost exact repeat of conditions at Le Mans two weeks ago.
On that occasion Lorenzo had won his second race of the year after building a comfortable advantage in the wet, then holding the lead after a late switch to his dry weather bike.
But the Mugello pole sitter suffered a confidence denting scare even before Sunday's race had begun, falling from his Fiat Yamaha on the way to the grid. The 22-year-old remounted and returned to the pits where the mud-splattered Spaniard grabbed his spare bike.
Meanwhile, with bike swaps certain to take place, Lorenzo's team set about franticly repairing his number one bike as quickly as possible.
When the race got underway, Lorenzo wobbled away from pole while countryman Dani Pedrosa took the early lead for Repsol Honda from eighth on the grid. Suzuki's wet weather master Chris Vermeulen was soon a force to be reckoned with, but it was fellow Australian Stoner who was ahead by the end of the lap.
Stoner, Vermeulen and Andrea Dovizioso began pulling away from fourth placed Rossi, and it was Repsol Honda rider Dovizioso who became the first of many Italians to lead on Sunday when he hit the front on lap four of 23.
Countrymen Rossi and Marco Melandri - second to Lorenzo at Le Mans and second to Casey Stoner in this morning's wet warm-up - were also in hot pursuit, the #46 rising swiftly through the lead group to take the lead from Dovizioso on lap eight.
Melandri demoted Dovi from second soon after then, on lap ten, made a move unthinkable at the start of the year - overtaking Rossi for the lead of his home grand prix!
Meanwhile, James Toseland had been the first rider to gamble on changing bikes, the Briton diving into the pits at the end of lap four - and by lap eight he was the fastest man on track.
Dovizioso was the first of the frontrunners to pit on lap nine and at the end of lap ten the four leading riders - Melandri, Rossi, Lorenzo and Stoner - did likewise.
Melandri's Hayate emerged back in the lead, but Dovizioso was already up to full racing speed and carved his way to the front by 2.9sec over Stoner by the end of the lap, with Melandri third, Lorenzo fourth, Loris Capirossi fifth and Rossi sixth.
Former Ducati team-mates Stoner and Capirossi - running the softer compound slicks - then emerged as the men to beat; Stoner retaking the lead from Dovizioso with ten laps to go, then losing out to Capirossi's Suzuki.
Suzuki have not had a rider finish on the podium at Mugello since Daryl Beattie was second in 1995, but Loris looked to be gunning for a repeat of his 2000 500cc Mugello win for Honda.
The constantly drying track may have been working against the GSV-R, but only Stoner had got past Capirossi with two laps to go; whereupon the #65 fell victim to both Lorenzo and Rossi.
The last lap began with Lorenzo less than one second from Stoner, with Rossi a further second back. Any hopes of a miraculous last lap by Rossi to snatch an eighth consecutive home victory were soon dashed as the reigning six time MotoGP world champion instead found himself under pressure for the final podium position from Dovizioso.
Rossi held on by just 0.053sec at the flag and the visibly disappointed Italian joined a delighted Stoner and Lorenzo on the podium. Dovi thus lost out on his first rostrum of the year by one place for the second race in succession, while Capirossi dropped to the tail of the group in fifth.
But Dovizioso's fortunes were far better than team-mate Pedrosa.
The Spaniard, who began the race nine points behind Lorenzo but nursing a hip injury sustained in a near-highside on Saturday morning, was flung from his RC212V while holding eleventh on lap 13.
The triple 2009 podium finisher was slow to move and eventually carried away on a stretcher. Pedrosa has now dropped 33 points from the world championship lead, while Rossi has slipped from joint second with Stoner to third, nine points behind the Australian.
Toseland's early bike change saw the Englishman dispute sixth with LCR's Randy de Puniet for much of the second half of the race, before Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards snatched the position from him on the very last lap.
Behind de Puniet, rookie Niccolo Canepa made good use of his Mugello knowledge to claim a best yet ninth for Pramac Ducati - having also opted for an early bike change after struggling in the wet - while Vermeulen's form went in the other direction and he slipped back to tenth in the dry.
Melandri was another to suffer as the weather improved, crossing the line eleventh, with Nicky Hayden finishing his first Italian Grand Prix for Ducati in twelfth, ahead of Pramac's Mika Kallio.
Gresini Honda riders Toni Elias and Alex de Angelis completed the field. de Angelis remounted after a crash, while Scot Honda's Yuki Takahashi joined Pedrosa in going down and out.
Grupo Francisco Hernando Ducati rider Sete Gibernau is not present this weekend after fracturing his left collarbone at the French Grand Prix.
Italian Grand Prix:
8. de Puniet
15. de Angelis