The streak has ended, the defending champ is on the bench with a broken leg... oh, the humanity! The fourth round of world-class two-wheeled racing may just go down as the definitive turning point in a season that up to this point has been high on excitement seeing the one-two punch of team Fiat-Yamaha dominate the podium.
The largest single piece of news from Italy comes not from who was racing, but rather who was not. With defending champ Valentino Rossi suffering a broken leg in practice (see image gallery below), the rest of the field no doubt felt a good bit of remorse for their fallen comrade but also likely a renewed sense of possibility, knowing that one less obstacle remained between each man and the championship. Would points leader Jorge Lorenzo extend his lead and take an unprecedented fourth win for the blue and white camp?
As the tires spun and the smell of burnt rubber signaled the start of racing, a new color graced the front of the pack, with Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa setting the pace under the Italian sun. Pedrosa never looked back as he developed a lead of over seven seconds at one point in the race, all the while setting a new circuit record on his way to a convincing start-to-finish victory in Mugello. Lorenzo held up well in the "first loser" position and was able to hold on to crucial championship points, however he posed little threat to Pedrosa's dominant performance.
Andrea Dovisioso challenged Lorenzo throughout the race but seemed to eventually fade comfortably into the the final podium position. This is where the action really heated up. Ducati claimed the number four position in as many rounds, but this time it was at the hands of Casey Stoner, who showed for the first time this season that he might just want to win something, holding off Marco Melandri and Randy de Puniet in a very close three-way battle. We'll see you June 20th at Silverstone as the action continues and the possibilities seem endless... what next?
Check out our high-res image gallery detailing the aftermath of Rossi's crash at Mugello and hit the jump to see a video of the accident as it unfolds along with the finishing order from the race.
[Image: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images]