British rider Bradley Smith seized the lead in the 125GP world championship with a dominant performance in an enthralling Italian GP in Mugello.
The 18-year-old’s second victory in the last three races moved him 3.5 points clear of Aspar Aprilia team-mate Julian Simon, Smith holding his nerve under intense pressure from Nicolas Terol to follow up his success in Jerez earlier this month.
Smith is the first British rider to lead the 125GP world championship since 1972 and is the first Brit to win two races in a season since the late, great Barry Sheene.
Content to sit back in a frantic opening few laps, Smith began his surge on lap five when he burst through from sixth to first place with a superb exhibition in slipstreaming on the long Mugello start/finish straight.
With only Terol and Simon able to run the impressive pace of the Oxfordshire rider, Smith seized the lead again on lap 13 and produced an inspired display of attacking from the front to capture victory in front of 81,000 fans.
Smith, who needed 50 races to capture his first world championship victory, said: “This has been a great day for me and proved that I can win a different style of race. In Jerez I was able to break clear on my own, but here I really had to work hard and ride hard to get this victory. At the start I was riding really carefully because the tyres were cold and it wasn't worth risking it in those conditions. I could see that nobody was getting away at the front so I was pretty happy to sit tight in the group and see what happened.
"As the laps went by I grew in confidence and when I took the lead I felt comfortable but then I made a couple of mistakes. I thought I might have had the pace to breakaway myself but I lost the front and I didn’t want to make mistakes that would cost me. I had to drop the pace as a result, calm myself down and rethink my strategy. In the last few laps I just really got my head down and attacked.
"Slipstreaming is so important at Mugello and especially in 125s. I could see on my pitboard that I wasn’t dropping Nicolas but I was keeping the gap at 0.3s but I knew that wouldn’t be close enough for him to attack me in the last lap. The team have been fantastic again because the bike has been really fast since Friday and we've had no problems. When a weekend goes this well it is no coincidence that you have a chance of winning in the race.
"Mugello is an awesome circuit and my mechanics are Italian so to win here means more to us than just 25 points. We've got two wins now, we're leading the championship and that is all the motivation we need to keep working hard and hopefully score another good result for the team in Barcelona."