The Malta Independent 10 December 2019, Tuesday

MotoGP: Petrucci beats Marquez for emotional 1st MotoGP victory

Associated Press Sunday, 2 June 2019, 15:47 Last update: about 7 months ago

Danilo Petrucci produces a masterful performance to fend off both Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso to win his maiden MotoGP race on home soil for Ducati.

Danilo Petrucci produced a peerless performance to claim an emotional maiden MotoGP victory in front of his home fans after prevailing in a spectacular Italian MotoGP race at Mugello.

A pulsating encounter that went right down to the wire, Petrucci kept his cool in a race of numerous changes for the lead, picking his moment perfectly on the final lap to deny both Marc Marquez and his team-mate Andrea Dovizioso.

Indeed, though it seemed Petrucci - who led for much of the critical second-half - had missed his chance when the 'disadvantage' of leading across the line coming into the final lap allowed Marquez to 'double bubble' both himself and Dovizioso past, when his rival and his team-mate ran slightly wide at Turn 1 trying to get slowed down, Petrucci struck back up the inside to re-take the lead.

Thereafter, Petrucci just needed to keep his lines neat and tidy to hold off a feisty, if evidently frustrated Marquez as he desperately tried to find a gap on the Ducati ahead.

Coming in his maiden Italian Grand Prix as a factory Ducati rider, victory marks Petrucci's long-awaited first in 132 MotoGP starts.

Jubilation for Ducati to see Petrucci hold the tricolore aloft for the third year-in-a-row, there will nevertheless be some disappointment to see Dovizioso lose ground to Marquez in the title fight, the Italian being squeezed between Petrucci and Marquez after going almost three-abreast through Turn 1 on the final lap.

Even so, the race marked a notable turnaround for Dovizioso after a troubled qualifying, his fortunes improving the moment the lights went green as a stunning getaway propelled him from ninth on the grid to third by the first corner behind ‘hole-shot’ man Marquez and Cal Crutchlow.

Similarly, Alex Rins quickly put his Saturday woes behind him to climb from 13th to fourth within two laps as he, Marquez, Dovizioso, Petrucci, Jack Miller and Crutchlow formed a ‘breakaway’ top six.

As ever, Mugello’s long home straight kept the order changing constantly with slipstreams, heavy braking into turn one and some exquisitely close yet clean battles keeping fans on the edge-of-their-seats even after their hero Valentino Rossi crashed out (see below).

With Dovizioso moving to the front on lap seven, the Italian did his customary tactic to slow the pace down to preserve his tyres, so much so that the lead six swelled to as many as nine as deep as half-way into the race.

Sensing pressure from behind, Petrucci struck back in front on lap 14 definitively and instantly began to get the lap times down again, quickly dropping all but Marquez, Dovizioso, Rins and Miller from the front pack. However, five would become four when Miller – fresh from setting a new fastest lap – crashed out at turn four, in turn almost certainly ending any hopes he had of replacing Petrucci at Ducati in 2020.

With the quartet winding up for what promised to be a thrilling final lap battle, Petrucci somewhat inevitably lost out as the leader coming up to San Donato.

Indeed, Dovizioso’s block pass on a slightly wide Marquez would have been perfect but for the gap he too opened up for his team-mate to dive for. As a result, a squeezed Dovizioso was forced to stand it up rather than risk contact with Petrucci.

A determined Marquez darted around in Petrucci’s slipstream to the finish but the Ducati’s sheer drive out of the final turn – to the chorus of a roaring crowd – was all he needed to secure victory, two years after an emotional maiden Ducati podium at the same venue.

Marquez in second and Dovizioso’s third position means the Spaniard has increased his series lead to 12 points, with Petrucci himself only six points shy of his team-mate in third overall now.

Once again far stronger on a Sunday, Rins never lost touch with the leaders but save for an aggressive first few laps couldn’t quite make it stick . Even so, fourth remains another positive result for Suzuki, one that arguably cements its status as the third quickest bike ahead of Yamaha.

Indeed, Yamaha endured a truly dismal race after Rossi – starting 18th – struggled to make headway early on before dropping to last when he clipped the back of Joan Mir’s Suzuki and ran across the gravel at turn four. In his eagerness to recover ground though he’d slide off at high-speed at Turn 9 on lap eight for his first DNF since Japan 2017.

Team-mate Maverick Vinales fared better to bring the factory M1 home in sixth place after slowly working his way up from a low of 12th. However, Yamaha will be alarmed to see him finish several seconds behind top satellite rider Takaaki Nakagami on the 2018-spec Honda.

Securing his best-ever finish in MotoGP, the Japanese rider maintained a strong pace throughout as others faded around him, even catching and passing LCR Honda team-mate Crutchlow on his newer-specification RC213V.

Behind Vinales, Michele Pirro quietly picked up a seventh ahead of Crutchlow and Pol Espargaro, who delivered another solid top ten result for KTM even if his race didn’t sparkle as expected after looking strong over a single lap.

The same could be said for Fabio Quartararo who, having never featured outside the top five all weekend in practice and qualifying, was nowhere to be seen in the race. With a poor start from the front row demoting him to ninth on lap one, he never recovered en route to a distant 10th place, while team-mate Franco Morbidelli completed a shocking day for the Petronas Yamaha SRT team by crashing early on.

Aleix Espargaro led Aprilia’s challenge in 11th from Mir, the Spaniard no doubt disappointed not to be higher having worked his way to the edge of the top ten before his contact with Rossi.

In a race of just 17 finishers, Jorge Lorenzo endured another forgettable afternoon in 13th place, from Karel Abraham and Andrea Iannone.

A race of high attrition, Francesco Bagnaia looked on course for a potential top six result before a fall added to Pramac Racing’s bad day on home soil, while Tito Rabat couldn’t take his best grid position of the season because of technical issues.

  • don't miss