Valentino Rossi has beaten arch-rival Max Biaggi for the honour of home victory in today's Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, in a race that saw Italian riders dominate the top four positions after Sete Gibernau
crashed out early in the thrilling 23-lap battle.
Qualifying had seen Rossi grab a last gasp pole from Gibernau to lead today's grid line-up with Biaggi - who suffered a slow low side in morning warm-up - making it two Italians on a front row separated by just 0.235secs.
An exciting row two was even closer with Biaggi's Repsol Honda team-mate Nicky Hayden, Suzuki's John Hopkins
and the Ducati of Loris Capirossi
all within 0.175secs - but that was on qualifying tyres, who could run at the front for the full race distance?
Rossi, Gibernau and Biaggi had been fast all weekend and looked likely to play a major part in the fight for victory - but the Ducatis of Capirossi and Carlos Checa (eighth on grid) were also on stunning form in front of their home fans.
Indeed, Capirossi had led the morning warm-up by a substantial 0.452secs from Rossi with Camel Honda's Alex Barros, who qualified in a dreadful 13th after failing to get any extra speed from his qualifying tyres, third in the 20-minute session.
When the red lights went out it was Capirossi who, as he had declared yesterday, led the field into turn one, followed closely by Gibernau, Checa, Hayden, Rossi, Melandri and Hopkins - Biaggi having lost out during the braking mayhem.
But that order would stand for only a matter of seconds before Rossi blasted past Hayden into turn two, then dropped Checa, Gibernau and Capirossi to lead the field by the end of an amazing first lap from the reigning world champion.
Biaggi was also on the move, albeit in a more measured fashion; the Roman climbing to sixth by the end of lap one and up to fourth - behind Rossi, Melandri and Gibernau - by lap three. It was at that point that the top two began to break away from Gibernau, who just didn't look like the confident rider he had been around Mugello for the previous two days.
Whatever the reason for his comparative lack of pace, Biaggi was eager to get past the Catalan road block ahead, which he would achieve within a lap. Gibernau then came under pressure from Capirossi, who would hurl his Desmosedici ahead under braking for turn one - and just a few corners later Gibernau would low side his RCV through a downhill right hander, turning what looked like being a difficult race into a complete nightmare.