A stunning charge in the second half of yesterday’s Italian MotoGP race came close to securing Valentino Rossi a brilliant home podium for Ducati at Mugello.
The 33-year-old ended the first lap in 10th before he embarked on a brilliant attack that almost presented Rossi with just his third podium in 26 races on board Ducati’s factory Desmosedici machine.
Eight of the 23-laps had been completed and Rossi was lying in seventh position but six seconds behind compatriot Andrea Dovizioso’s Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine in third position.
A podium in front of his passionate home support seemed highly unlikely at that stage of proceedings but under immense pressure from British rider Cal Crutchlow, Rossi began to reel in team-mate Nicky Hayden, rookie Stefan Bradl and Dovizioso who were battling for third.
Rossi started the last lap sixth but capitalised on an aggressive move by Bradl at Turn 4 that pushed Hayden wide to claim fifth.
But he couldn’t close in on Bradl and Dovizioso to claim what would have been only his second dry race podium for Ducati.
The nine-times world champion though was just over a second away from Dovizioso in third and he told MCN: “It was a good race for us. Fifth place is not so bad but especially because I had a very good pace to the end and it has now been two races where I can stay on a good rhythm until the last laps. This is very important for me.
"The race was very positive except for the start, which was very bad. Also my start position is bad because we struggle in practice because the other guys and especially the other Ducatis are able to improve their performance with the soft tyre.
"I always have some problem with the front end of the bike and many times when I put in the soft tyre I am not able to use the extra grip and advantage in acceleration because the extra grip on the rear makes the problem at the front worse.
"We are struggling very much in practice with this. With a better position on the grid and a better start I can fight for the podium and it is a great pity because it is important to make a podium with Ducati in Mugello.
"But at the same time it is positive for me and the team because we are more optimistic because we have a better pace to improve the bike.”
Talking through an exciting final two laps Rossi added: “From halfway I started to have a good pace because we made a good change to front after the warm-up and I had the front in a perfect position, especially to brake and enter on the right corners.
"I was very strong, especially at Turn 12. I could push a lot on the front and make a better pace. I knew that Cal was behind but it was never possible for him to really attack me. He was in the slipstream but not faster than me.
"I checked my board and saw the distance to Nicky was coming down two or three tenths a lap and I tried to make a calculation if I can arrive to him. But two laps from the end I say, f**k, maybe it is difficult. Maybe I can arrive but I don't know if I can overtake.
"But after Nicky tried for the podium with Bradl and he lose out in the fight I could make up one position. It was funny."
For seven pages of coverage from Mugello and the latest on Rossi’s future, see the July 18 issue of MCN.