If you weren't in front of a television set watching the 2014 Italian Grand Prix this evening, then you have probably missed one of the most thrilling battles so far this season. There wasn't a different winner this time around, Marc Marquez did jump on the top step at Mugello, but the manner in which he took the chequered flag was truly spectacular - something he hadn't done this season. In the first five events, Marquez has had it quite easy, winning races without any serious challenge from his rivals. But that wasn't the case today. The victory in front of the Italian fans today was undoubtedly his toughest one yet, owing to a determined Jorge Lorenzo who made every effort in denying his countryman his sixth consecutive win of the year.
Like before, Marc didn't have the best of starts, allowing Andrea Iannone and Lorenzo to get past him by turn 1. Iannone and his team Pramac Racing had gambled on the softer tyre option, which worked for the Italian in the first few laps. But he was soon outdone by a charging Yamaha of Lorenzo who took the lead early on and started pulling away from the field. Marc did get bogged down by the satellite Ducati for a couple of laps, but he too eventually found his way past Iannone and set his eyes on the lead Yamaha.
In the meanwhile, Valentino Rossi, who started from tenth on the grid, quickly made his way up in the top 5, challenging Iannone and Dani Pedrosa for the final podium spot. As the race progressed, Pramac Racing's gamble didn't seem to work that well and Iannone was losing track positions to Pedrosa and the Tech 3 Yamaha of Pol Espargaro, but not before being involved in a tough battle for fourth. Eventually, Iannone lost some more ground and had to settle for seventh.
While that battle entertained the spectators, the leading pack had slowly begun to spice up their own duel. With 12 laps to go, Marquez was hot on Lorenzo's tail, within striking distance of the leading Yamaha, hoping for a mistake from the three-time Mugello-winner. The lead pair had done enough to keep Rossi at a safe distance, who ultimately ran a lonely race, two seconds behind them. And with 7 laps to go Marquez made first of his many moves on Lorenzo for the lead. But the Yamaha rider, who didn't have a great start to the season, wasn't in a mood to surrender. The duo were involved in a fiercely fought duel, exchanging leads on every sector of each lap from thereon.
Both riders took different lines to outdo the other, they braked as late as the track allowed them to. They ran wide on a number of occasions, but came back equally hard to take the lead. At the end, we actually lost count of the number of times the lead was changed. It was an epic battle, both riders fighting with all cylinders blazing till the very last corner. So much so that the duo made light contact on more than tow occasions, but never did they let it turn ugly. There was hardly anything to choose between the two - Lorenzo was back in form and tried every little trick he knew to keep Marquez at bay, while the 21 year-old Spaniard was determined to score his sixth straight win of 2014 and rewrite history in doing so.
On the final lap, as the pair zipped past the pit straight, Marquez pulled out yet another move and this time, managed to keep the lead in the early part of the lap. Lorenzo did try to have a look around the final two corners but the Honda rider had done enough to secure his position and took the chequered flag just 0.121sec ahead of Lorenzo. The local hero, who started his 300th Grand Prix from row fourth, finished a strong third, 2.688sec behind the race winner and a podium finish was enough for the fans, who had turned up in numbers to show their support for the 35-year-old, to go bonkers post chequered flag.
Further back, Bradley Smith had crashed out on lap 3, followed by Cal Crutchlow a lap later, who then took out an unlucky Stefan Bradl for the second time today - he had a monstrous crash early on during the warm up session, but managed to get back on the saddle in time for the race, only to be knocked out in just four laps. Pedrosa made some good ground and finished a strong fourth after a disappointing race start. Pol Espargaro continues his fine form and manages to come home in fifth, ahead of the factory Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso and Iannone.
After a thrilling end to the weekend, the teams now head to Barcelona, Catalunya, where the local-lad Marquez will have all the backing he would need from his home crowd to make it seven out of seven wins. He already has a healthy lead in the championship with Rossi being his closest rival, trailing by 53 points. But with Lorenzo getting back in form, the championship battle can only get better and better from here on.
1. Marc Marquez (Honda) 41m38.254s
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) +0.121s
3. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) +2.688s
4. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) +14.046s
5. Pol Espargaro (Tech 3 Yamaha) +15.603s
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) +17.042s
7. Andrea Iannone (Pramac Ducati) +17.129s
8. Alvaro Bautista (Gresini Honda) +27.407s
9. Aleix Espargaro (Forward Yamaha) +41.886s
10. Yonny Hernandez (Pramac Ducati) +45.212s
11. Michele Pirro (Ducati) +45.433s
12. Karel Abraham (Cardion Honda) +45.831s
13. Scott Redding (Gresini Honda) +45.839s
14. Hiroshi Aoyama (Aspar Honda) +46.834s
15. Colin Edwards (Forward Yamaha) +1m09.554s
16. Michael Laverty (PBM Aprilia) +1m17.789s
17. Broc Parkes (PBM Aprilia) +1m35.031s
18. Mike di Meglio (Avintia FTR-Kawasaki) +1m37.501s
Hector Barbera (Avintia FTR-Kawasaki) 7 laps
Michel Fabrizio (Ioda Aprilia) 6 laps
Cal Crutchlow (Ducati) 3 laps
Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) 3 laps
Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Yamaha) 2 laps