Andrea Iannone rode through the pain barrier to claim a podium finish in his final race for Ducati in the Valencia MotoGP – beating Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi after a frantic duel.
From seventh on the grid, Suzuki-bound Iannone made a rocket-like start to grab second at the opening corner, but then became embroiled in a fierce battle with Rossi – the pair swapping places repeatedly.
Although Marc Marquez later passed them both, their duel was only decided in the closing laps, when Rossi ran wide after they almost touched through the fast right-hander in the final sector.
Iannone previously missed four races due to a back injury, and says pain caused him issues in the second half of the race.
“I think for me, this race is very, very difficult because I had a lot of pain for half the race,” said Iannone. “When I look at my [pit] board and I see 16 laps, I think ‘no, it’s impossible’, because I have a lot of pain.
“I focused a lot, I ride very well. For me it was very difficult race, although the bike was very good, I didn't have the energy to brake very hard.
“In the corners, my bike didn’t have good speed and the Yamaha was better than me.
“But I think a lot, I stay in front, I relax a little bit and reduce my pace. When Vale passed me, I accelerated a bit more to overtake again. I think it’s great, a good battle with him.”
On the subject of riding his final race for the Italian team, before his Suzuki switch for MotoGP 2017, he added: “For me this podium is very, very important, because I came back [from injury] just one race ago.
“I promised Ducati I would try my best in these last two races.
“Thank you Ducati for all these years and support. I think I'll remember this moment and these years for all my life.”