Loris Capirossi rode into Ducati history yesterday when he held off charging reigning champion Valentino Rossi to score the marques first ever premier-class victory.

The triumph came in only Ducati's sixth MotoGP start - the Bologna based company having returned to GP racing this season after an absence of more than 30 years.

Capirossi's victory was also the first by an Italian rider on an Italian bike since Giacomo Agostini won the 1976 West German GP.

The two Italians dominated Sunday's event, easing ahead of Max Biaggi in the early stages to replay their brilliant duel in last Sunday's Italian GP.

Both were aware that the roasting heat required them to conserve their tyres, but when Rossi tried to up the pace after the midway point he made a mistake, running wide into the stadium on lap 16.

That put Capirossi ahead and when Rossi tried to counter-attack on the following lap he made another error, this time running into the gravel trap at turn four, demoting himself to sixth. He fought back to second but victory belonged to Capirossi, who last won a GP at Mugello in 2000.

"This is a fantastic day for me, the team, Ducati, Marlboro and for everyone who believes in us," beamed the former 125 and 250 champ who was moved to tears while the Italian anthem played as he stood atop the podium. "The race was unbelievable. I had a big fight with Valentino, the rhythm wasn't so fast because the conditions were so tough, especially for the tyres. We were trying not to push too hard, and when Valentino tried to go faster he ran wide.

"After that I rode 100 per cent. I knew that it was Biaggi behind me, but then I got signals that Valentino was coming back very fast, so I tried not to lose concentration or to spin the rear too much," added Loris. "I never believed we'd win a race so soon, we're all so happy, but we also know there is much more work to be done."

The Desmosedici's maiden win proved the brilliance of the legendary marque's engineers, as well as the dedication of the entire Ducati team - who celebrated in style as Capirossi flashed across the finish line in front of 96,000 fans.

"This is a fantastic day for us, for everyone in the team, for everyone in the factory, for everyone involved in this project," said an emotional Corrado Cecchinelli, Ducati Marlboro Team technical director. "We have all worked so hard for this, especially Loris, he rode an incredible race.

"This morning was the first time I thought we could really win this one - we knew we'd made a good tyre choice with Michelin and we knew we could do it if things went our way," admitted Cecchinelli. "Loris made a good plan for the race, he didn't want to take the lead early on because he wanted to save his tyres. It all worked perfectly."

Ducati's previous best premier-class result, in the now defunct 500cc class, was a third-place finish recorded by Italian Bruno Spaggiari in the 1972 Nations GP at Imola.