Italian seven-time former world champion Valentino Rossi, riding a Yamaha, won his home grand prix at Mugello for the seventh time in a row on Sunday.
Australian reigning world champion Casey Stoner took second place with Spaniard Dani Pedrosa in third.
Pole-sitter Rossi dropped to fourth by the first bend after a slow start, but he needed only four laps to reclaim the lead with a brilliant manoeuvre to overtake Stoner.
Ducati rider Stoner jumped from fourth on the grid to second by the first bend and he used his greater straight line speed at the end of the first lap to breeze past Pedrosa.
However, he could do nothing about the master of Mugello, Rossi, who quickly regained the lead, and once there, he never looked in any trouble as he won in a time of 42 minutes 31,153 seconds over the 23 laps.
Rossi also delighted the 94 000-strong crowd with his choice of head-gear, a helmet with a picture of his grinning mug on the top so that his face could be seen even when he was in the crouched racing position.
He gradually eked out his lead to over three seconds over the battle for second place before Stoner came back at him a towards the end.
A mistake by Stoner at the beginning of lap nine allowed Pedrosa to get back past him, but the Ducati’s greater pace took the Australian ahead of Pedrosa’s Honda four laps later.
Pedrosa stayed close behind until the final five laps when he simply slipped away.
More exciting battles were going on behind, meanwhile, as San Marino’s Alex De Angelis worked his way through the field.
The rookie had been fastest in the morning warm-up and carried that speed into the race, moving up from 10th on the grid to fourth by the finish.
Britain’s Superbikes world champion James Toseland also made good progress as he dragged himself up to fifth from eighth on the grid, only to be overtaken by his teammate, Colin Edwards, and had to settle for sixth at the chequered flag.
It was a disappointing day for rookie star Jorge Lorenzo, though, as he crashed out early on while running well.
It’s now three grand prix wins in a row for Rossi this season and he opened up his world championship lead over Pedrosa to 12 points.
Lorenzo is third despite not scoring any points but he has fallen to 28 points behind Rossi.
Stoner is still fourth in the standings but his gap to Rossi has opened up to 46 points and he has his work cut out to hold on to his title. — AFP