Rossi leads Italian top four at home Grand Prix

Valentino Rossi extended his lead at the top of the MotoGP World Championship standings to 49 points after a dramatic home victory ahead of a trio of compatriots at the Gran Premio Alice d'Italia on Sunday. As Sete Gibernau sensationally crashed out of the race on the sixth lap to the delight of the 88,367 crowd, Rossi came under intense pressure from Max Biaggi, Marco Melandri and Loris Capirossi. All three took turns leading the race before a typical late charge from Rossi that saw him take the flag by 0.359 seconds from Biaggi, with Capirossi holding off an attack from Melandri in the final corner to clinch Ducati's first podium of the season in third place.

"That was an incredible race and the best possible finish for the crowd, with four Italian riders in the top four positions," said Rossi. "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 tyre 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."

Fourth place for Melandri maintains second place in the championship for the youngster whilst Biaggi now moves up to third ahead of Gibernau with fifteen rounds still remaining - the first of those coming in just a week's time at the Spaniard's home circuit of Catalunya. Carlos Checa completed an enjoyable home round for Ducati as he clinched fifth place after a race-long battle with Honda's Nicky Hayden, whilst Alex Barros fought his way from the 13th on the grid to take seventh at the flag.

Makoto Tamada returned from injury in style with an impressive eighth place ahead of Colin Edwards just seven weeks after breaking his wrist in Portugal, whilst Shinya Nakano banished the memories of his 300km/h crash here one year ago to clinch the final top ten position. Alex Hofmann also made an encouraging return from his wrist injury to take twelfth behind John Hopkins, with Troy Bayliss, Rubén Xaus and Kenny Roberts completing the points.

Dani Pedrosa became the first Honda rider to win the 250cc race at Mugello since 1997 as he clinched his second successive victory and extend his championship lead to 21 points over Andrea Dovizioso, who suffered from technical problems and could only take eighth. Jorge Lorenzo clinched his first podium finish in the class in second place after starting from pole position, making him the second youngest rider in history to do so by just five days from Marco Melandri. Alex de Angelis completed the podium after snatching third place on the line from Casey Stoner, who now lies just one point behind Dovizioso in the championship.

The day had got off to a dramatic start with the 125cc race, which was decided in the final corner when race leader Mika Kallio crashed his KTM and was hit by Héctor Faubel, who also went tumbling into the gravel trap. Whilst both riders miraculously escaped without serious injury, their loss in the race was Gabor Talmacsi's gain, the Hungarian rider taking his maiden victory after passing Thomas Lüthi in the final corner. Whilst Joan Olivé pipped Mattia Pasini at the line for third place, the biggest smile came from Lüthi, who now leads the championship by eight points from Kallio.


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