Mugello magnificence from Lorenzo

Jorge Lorenzo stretched his championship lead to 19 points after dominating the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.

The Spaniard romped home to a comfortable victory ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso after leading the race from start to finish. Lorenzo claimed his fifth victory of the season and with his chief championship rival, Casey Stoner, enduring a miserable race the title momentum has swung strongly in Lorenzo’s favour.

Stoner, the reigning world champion, ran off track in the early stages of the race before rejoining. Having struggled with setup issues throughout the weekend he could do no better than finish eighth at the flag. With races having come in quick succession of late Stoner’s crash at the Sachsenring, followed by his poor Italian showing, has left him with a mountain to climb at the halfway point of the season.

At the start of the race Lorenzo got ahead of Pedrosa at the first corner but the real fireworks came from Dovizioso who pushed past Pedrosa into second. The pair enjoyed a spirited battle and it took Pedrosa until the sixth lap to get ahead of his former teammate.

Once in-front Pedrosa was able to open a gap to Dovizioso and put pressure on Lorenzo. At half distance it seemed that Pedrosa was the faster rider and he appeared to enjoy a tyre advantage but ultimately the consistency of Lorenzo won out and he was able to pull away to such an extent that on the final lap he was able to showboat in front of the crowd by pulling wheelies.

The fight for the final step of the podium saw Dovizioso, Stefan Bradl and Nicky Hayden battle for most of the race. With two laps to go Dovizioso thrilled the home crowd by getting in front of Bradl after a superb tactical race by the Italian.

Dovizioso showed his maturity and experience by following Bradl until pouncing under braking into San Donate on the penultimate lap. Up to that point Bradl had been showing once again why he is so highly rated by Honda with a commanding performance but finishing fourth will have left the German slightly disappointed.

The third man in the fight, Ducati’s Hayden, was unfortunate to fight for the podium spot until the last lap when he muscled past Bradl before the pair touched and Hayden ran wide and was passed by both Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow.

After the race Hayden was clearly disappointed to have missed out on a podium but for Ducati it was a much more competitive showing. Last year Rossi was over 25s off the pace of the winner but last weekend he was much more impressive and was only 11s slower than Lorenzo and a second off the podium.

With the Italian manufacturer bringing a new engine to the next race at Laguna Seca there is hope within the team that they can be a genuine challenger for the rest of the season and beyond.

The topic of Ducati’s future, and who will ride the bike next season, was a hot talking point within the paddock last weekend. Cal Crutchlow has been the favourite for the ride of late, and the Englishman admitted to discussions with the team, but with Ducati still to offer him a firm contract the door is still open for Hayden to stay with the team.

The American, world champion, in 2006 has been instrumental in Ducati setting record sales in the last year in his home country but with Rossi likely to stay for at least another year it is clear that either Hayden or Crutchlow will be left in the cold. The expectation is that Ducati will make an announcement in the next couple of weeks and possibly as early as next weekend at the US GP.

While one American was battling at the front of the field it was another difficult day for Ben Spies. The Yamaha rider has had a terrible campaign thus far in 2012 and it continued to test him further at Mugello.

Racing with severe food poisoning Spies was dizzy throughout the race and finishing the race was an achievement for him. Even so his struggles aboard the M1 are becoming a headache for Yamaha’s top brass when Dovizioso is racking up the podiums. Spies was unavailable after the race for comment but patience has to be wearing thin at the factory squad.

Randy de Puniet was once again the leading CRT rider with the Frenchman showing superb consistency throughout the proceedings.

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