MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi
has ignited his troubled 2006 season with a dramatic home win over fellow Italian Loris Capirossi
after a gladiatorial contest worthy of ancient Rome.
Capirossi and Ducati Marlboro team-mate Sete Gibernau
were riding in a special one-off red, silver and green livery for the race - and the Spaniard put the new colours straight out front by converting his pole position into a turn one lead ahead of Rossi's Yamaha, Shinya Nakano's Kawasaki and the Hondas of Casey Stoner, Marco Melandri
and Nicky Hayden.
But Capirossi had made an uncharacteristically poor start, plummeting from second on the grid to eighth - where he remained for the opening laps. Meanwhile, Rossi snatched the lead straight from Gibernau on the exit of turn one, much to the delight of his watching fan club, but ran slightly wide on lap two - allowing Gibernau back ahead.
Sete then kept his Desmosedici in the lead of its home race until lap 5 of 23, when – after several corners of wheel-to-wheel action - Rossi finally barged past the #15 and attempted to break away from the now seven rider strong lead group, as Nakano dropped out of contention.
That group was then reduced to six on lap 9 when exciting rookie Stoner spectacularly highsided out of third position – his LCR Honda cartwheeling down the track while the young Australian was fortunately able to walk away from his first MotoGP non-finish.
Back up front and Gibernau was still matching Rossi's every effort, the pair in turn 'enjoying' a one-second lead over Hayden as the halfway point arrived - but with Capirossi now charging hard and up to fourth, having carved past Melandri and Pedrosa.
Capirossi outbraked Hayden for third into turn one soon after and looked likely to repeat the move on Gibernau a lap later - but Rossi ran wide ahead of him and Loris was also sucked into a mistake, allowing Gibernau back into the lead - while Rossi dropped to an all-time low of fifth (behind Hayden and Melandri).
Capirossi, riding in his normal leathers after finding the new livery uncomfortable during the warm-up, soon recovered and took the lead into the long final corner. Shortly after, the previously confident Gibernau began a surprisingly sudden decline, swiftly slipping back to sixth after appearing to sustain boot damage from possible contact with another rider.
Without such worries was Rossi, who wasted no time in returning to the front - taking second from Hayden on lap 18 while Melandri saw his home grand prix hopes end when he ran off track while trying to force Hayden out of third. The double 2006 race winner eventually rejoined in a distant sixth, behind Gibernau, leaving a top four of Capirossi, Rossi, Hayden and Pedrosa.