Cheers, air horns, fireworks and flag waving from their respective supporters during the warm-up lap left Rossi, Biaggi and Capirossi (carrying the hopes of the huge Ducati contingent) well aware that second would be a form of failure today.
When the red lights went out it was Capirossi who fuelled further rumours of launch control as he made a faultless charge down the long main straight and into the right hand turn one, leaving Biaggi, Nakano, Gibernau, Rossi, Checa, Melandri, Ukawa, Jacque, Bayliss and Edwards in his wake.
Immediately making his presence felt was Nakano, who slipstreamed past Biaggi for second into turn one on the following lap, while Bayliss was using his awesome top speed to work his way up the order. The Australian had also made a strong start, but found his progress blocked by the riders ahead.
Nakano mixed it with the Italians for three laps before Biaggi and Rossi relegated the D'Antin rider to create an all-Italian fight for first, second and third that would last to the flag.
One lap later and Capirossi scared the Ducati fans when he allowed the rear of his Marlboro machine to slide more out of line than even he would have liked under braking – allowing Biaggi to cut inside and take the lead.
Rossi would pounce soon after, and for a five lap period the three maintained formation, studying each others strengths – the Hondas were faster through the turns, but Capirossi was 10 kph quicker down the main straight and unafraid to throw his bike sideways under braking.
Although not openly admitted, the fear for Ducati was that the Hondas would now simply ride into the distance, with Capirossi fading as the race went on... but not today.
On lap nine the #65 pitched his machine under Rossi to momentarily take second before the Repsol rider retaliated, but just two laps later Capirossi would use the tow from the two RCVs in front to clock a new all time top speed record of 332.4kph (206.6mph) at the end of the home straight.
But while Capirossi was coming alive, his team-mate Bayliss saw his hopes end in a cloud of dust as he lost the front of his Desmosedici and slid into the Mugello gravel. The Australian had worked his way into fifth at the time and might even have caught the top three with the time available, but he just hasn't seemed his usual confident self all weekend.
Meanwhile, by the halfway point the race had developed into three main groups at the front: Biaggi, Rossi and Capirossi up front, - then a 1.5secs gap to Nakano and Gibernau – then a 2secs gap to Checa and Ukawa.