The World Champion was passed by a handful of riders from pole position but fought his way aggressively through the pack to lead the way at the end of the first lap. Chased by Marco Melandri, Sete Gibernau and Max Biaggi (all Honda) in the opening stages, Rossi set an electric pace but was unable to shake off his pursuers and was passed by Melandri on the eleventh lap as he began to struggle with front-end problems. By that time Gibernau had already crashed out of the race and it was left to Loris Capirossi (Ducati) to join in the combat and provide a home crowd of over 88,000 with a thrilling all-Italian battle. Biaggi grabbed the lead on the seventeenth lap but was stalked all the way by Rossi, who planned his move to perfection and passed his rival with just three laps remaining, opening up a crucial advantage that saw him take the chequered flag by 0.359 seconds. The fight for the final podium position raged behind them, with Capirossi clinching third place after holding off an attack from Melandri in the last corner. Whilst Rossi’s win extends his championship lead to 49 points, his Gauloises Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards continued to struggle with the set-up of his YZR-M1 machine today and could only manage ninth place. However, the American will look to bounce back as the season continues at the Catalunya Grand Prix in Barcelona next weekend.
VALENTINO ROSSI – (Winner; 42’42.994)
“That was an incredible race and the best possible finish for the crowd, with four Italian riders in the top four positions. It was a great battle – full of passes and full of attacks. In the beginning I tried to go alone but I had some problems with the front and decided just to concentrate on my rhythm. Then Melandri arrived and we had a great fight, also with Biaggi after that. We set a high pace to the finish, I made my attack with three laps to go and it worked so of course I am very happy. My team once again did a great job and everybody at Yamaha has worked so hard to provide me with the bike I wanted – this is our reward. I want to thank them and also the amazing crowd here at Mugello; it was an honour to race in front of them.”
COLIN EDWARDS (9th; + 25.485)
“It’s hard to know what to say after a weekend like this because I’m as mystified as anyone else. We made a great start to the weekend on Friday morning but didn’t seem to move on from there. Every refinement we made to the bike seemed to leave us in exactly the same position. Today my start was not good and I was way back at the first split. I passed about four people on the first lap but from then on it was an uphill battle. We made a lot of progress with the base set-up at Le Mans but we’ve struggled to get it working at this track – hopefully we can be back where we need to be in Barcelona.”
DAVIDE BRIVIO – TEAM DIRECTOR
“Another 25 points and another win! Of course, being an Italian team this is more special for us and to see all the fans from up on the podium was incredible. To win four of the first five races is a lot and, as Valentino said, it is a sign of the great job we are doing. Gibernau and Biaggi have both been in good shape to win races but they haven’t been able to and we are proving very hard to beat. But there are twelve races left and we have to keep our concentration. Colin has had a difficult weekend but we will aim to get him back on the right path for Catalunya to find again the level of result he achieved in Le Mans.”