Marc Marquez defeated Stefan Bradl and Bradley Smith in a nail biting battle for the victory in the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello, with less than half a second covering them at the finish. The trio were almost inseparable throughout the 21 lap race with Alex de Angelis and Andrea Iannone also threatening at various stages of a captivating race.
Marquez moved straight into the lead from pole position but De Angelis got a poor getaway, allowing Smith through into second. Bradl was keen to make up time and speared up the inside into San Donato but left it too late on the brakes, with Xavier Simeon briefly taking third. De Angelis and Bradl recovered before the end of the lap but the front two had stretched out a one second lead by the end of lap one.
Their advantage was soon nullified and Bradl took Smith for second at turn one on lap six, getting his braking spot on this time. The German soon set his sights on his championship rival up ahead and put a similar move on Marquez to grab the lead on lap eight.
Behind the leading quartet, Iannone was creeping into contention. After disposing of Simeon and Yonny Hernandez, the Italian was now up to fifth and taking half a second per lap out of the leaders, aided by Bradl's attempts to slow the pace down.
De Angelis had clearly seen him coming and started to make progress, first passing Smith for third at half distance and then sweeping past Bradl for second. The San Marino rider capitalised on a loss of momentum for the Kalex rider who had just lost the lead back to Marquez.
Iannone had now chased down the top four and demoted Smith to fifth place with typically daring move under braking for San Donato on lap 13. The Briton continued to shadow the leading pack and was rewarded a lap later when a major moment for De Angelis cost him three places.
With five laps remaining, Iannone's challenge began to fade as he struggled with worn tyres as a result of his aggressive charge through the field. De Angelis capitalised to take back fourth but his earlier problem had taken him out of the leading group. The fight for victory was now a three-way scrap.
Bradl moved back to the front after a mistake by Marquez at turn one on lap 17 but returned the favour a lap later with a mistake of his own, handing the lead back to the Spaniard. Smith pounced at the downhill Casanova corner to take second moments later but the 20 year old had a maiden Moto2 victory in his sights.
Smith appeared to have preserved his tyres better than those around him and dived up the inside of Marquez into the final corner on lap 19. The Suter machine had superior drive down the 1.1km pit straight though and Marquez was back through by the time they crossed the line.
Smith tried again into turn one but Marquez braved it out around the outside and muscled his way back through in the following bend. The Tech 3 rider's hopes seemed to end there as Bradl slipstreamed past him at the start of the last lap but despite setting a new lap record on the final tour, the German missed out on victory by 0.071s.
Smith was just 0.4s behind in third but was ecstatic with his first ever Moto2 podium in a fully dry race. De Angelis was forced to settle for fourth while Iannone ended up over four seconds back in fifth.
The battle for sixth involved up to a dozen riders but Thomas Luthi prevailed, narrowly beating Simone Corsi and Max Neukirchner. Aleix Espargaro produced one of the rides of the day to finish ninth from 32nd on the grid, benefiting from a crash involving his brother Pol, while Kenan Sofuoglu completed the top ten.
Scott Redding made a bright start from his lowly grid position and looked set for an unlikely points finish but the British teenager slipped back in the latter stages to 27th.