Then, minutes later, he signaled that he would be leaving the team at the season’s end.
That the victory should come at Mugello — in many ways MotoGP’s most prestigious circuit, and the ultimate prize for a Ducati rider — was generously laced with irony.
“I said that winning at Mugello with Ducati was a dream for me,” Lorenzo told reporters after the race. “Today this dream came true. It’s one of the most special wins of my entire career.”
Moments later though, he appeared to confirm what many had suspected: that his troubled year and a half with the Italian outfit would end this season.
“It’s too late”
“I’m sad, because if the pieces that I needed (to win) had arrived much earlier, now I would say to you, ‘I stay in Ducati and I have now two or three victories,'” Lorenzo told MotoGP.com.
“But unfortunately, they arrive too late these pieces, and now … I win here, but it’s too late, and the next two years I will be with another bike.”
Lorenzo is not the first big name to struggle at Ducati. Valentino Rossi returned to Yamaha afer a miserable two years with the team, while Briton Cal Crutchlow ended his contract early to join LCR Honda. But the Ducati package has improved enormously of late, and expectations for Lorenzo were perhaps justifiably higher.
This race showed exactly why Ducati had spent a reported $14 million a year to lure Lorenzo away from Yamaha. The five-time world champion was imperious, passing pole-sitter Rossi’s Yamaha on the first corner and never looking back.
The word most often used to describe Lorenzo is “metronomic,” and so it was here; lap after lap, this was a faultless performance that left his rivals to fight over scraps alone.
Marquez’s inexplicable crash
If Lorenzo’s race was a model of measured discipline, behind him a far more ragged affair played out. Six riders crashed out in the first three laps, and when world championship leader Marc Marquez inexplicably slid out from an ominous looking second place, Lorenzo’s victory seemed all but assured.
The home crowd was then treated to an enthralling battle of the Italians for the remaining podium places. Andrea Dovizioso eventually took control of second, giving Ducati a memorable one-two, while home favorite Rossi clinched third after fighting off Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone.
Ducati leaves door ajar
Ducati team principal, Gig Dall’Igna, appeared to leave the door ajar for Lorenzo after the race.
“I think it’s really difficult for him to continue with us,” he told MotoGP.com. “But never say no, so we will see what happens in the next weeks.”
The result sees Rossi climb into second place in the standings. Marquez, who remounted after his crash but finished outside the points, remains on top but with his lead cut to 23 points. Lorenzo’s heroics move him up to tenth position.
The championship resumes in Barcelona at the Grand Prix of Catalunya, in two weeks’ time.