Pasini wins thrilling wet 250cc race
Mattia Pasini fended off Marco Simoncelli in an astounding last lap dice to win a very wet Italian 250cc Grand Prix at Mugello.
The two Italians swapped the lead five times on the final lap alone as both tried everything they could to win their home race, before Pasini emerged out of the last corner with enough of an advantage to beat the reigning champion and claim his first win of the year.
Alvaro Bautista took a close third place - which could easily have been a victory but for a tangle with Simoncelli that is being investigated by the officials.
Heavy rain struck as the riders prepared for the start, forcing hurried changes to wet tyres and settings. Simoncelli adapted quickest and stormed away from the field at first, opening up a four-second lead within two laps.
But as the rest of the field settled into the conditions, the reigning champion started to get reeled in by Bautista and the charging Pasini, who had made rapid progress from eighth on the grid.
Bautista struck first, drafting past Simoncelli on the pits straight, then losing the lead again under braking but managing to reclaim it instantly as the Italian ran wide.
Although Bautista had looked faster than Simoncelli when catching up, he could not shake off the Gilera once ahead - and Simoncelli was soon trying his utmost to regain the lead.
But his bid to repass saw Simoncelli slide into the side of the Aspar Aprilia, sending both ploughing through the gravel and allowing Pasini to pick up the lead.
It looked like Simoncelli and particularly Bautista had lost too much ground to challenge Pasini again, but the top three concertinaed together once more as the race neared its end.
Although Bautista got back alongside Simoncelli several times, he was unable to complete a pass and then lost a little ground with a dramatic slide that almost ended in a high-side.
That left Simoncelli free to chase down Pasini. He drafted past the Toth Aprilia at the start of the lap but Pasini would not give up. They would take the first five corners of the lap side by side, and then swap places twice more further around the lap before Pasini sliced down the inside for the final time and claimed a lead he would not lose. He then managed to edge sufficiently clear to stop Simoncelli slipstreaming back ahead out of the last corner, winning by just a tenth of a second.
Bautista finished an unhappy third, but still extended his championship lead as main title rival Hiroshi Aoyama was pushed back to a distant sixth behind Thomas Luthi and Hector Barbera.
Results to follow