Valentino Rossi takes top spot at first Grand Prix of Mexico

Italy’s Valentino Rossi took home the Grand Prix of Mexico victory Friday, finishing seven seconds ahead of nearest challenger Maverick Vinales. It was Rossi’s fourth win in Mexico and his first since 2015.

The 38-year-old, who crashed out of the World Championship early last season, was still out of ideas and racing the style of a seasoned old pro — who had been in the garages every evening working on his finesse in preparation for this race.

With four of 10 laps to go, Rossi nosed ahead of compatriot Vinales — runner-up at the Indianapolis Grand Prix in July — and a battle for the win was on.

But the virtual unknown from Valencia, Spain, Vinales, inexplicably failed to get the message that Rossi was on the verge of victory.

“I felt confident. It was a quiet race for the first half of the race,” said Rossi, who has at least one more race, in Sao Paulo next month, before the end of the season.

“There were a lot of crashes, a lot of bad races. It feels good to be back,” he added.

Piloting a Suzuki, Marc Marquez took third, also from off the pace, with the Yamaha of young Spanish rookie Alex Rins fifth.

South Korea’s Yuzuki Nakajima, who like his Yamaha teammate Ducati star Rossi is nicknamed “Monster,” crashed out with six laps to go, sending Anthony Davidson and Will Power — whose Baku Rockport team has announced it will not be able to continue next season — to the back of the race.

Rains had made a tricky track during Friday’s second practice session and gave the 16 remaining riders a nasty bump in the road.

Vinales and Nori Aoki crashed in the back straight, with Ricardo de Montreuil, the winner in MotoGP at the last two races, struggling to make it down the hill.

Cal Crutchlow, the former world champion, got out of the crash on time but, like many of the early starters, he stumbled down the hill and missed most of the action.

After his win at Indianapolis in July, the 25-year-old had been pushing the envelope too hard. But he seems to have found some peace in his life — and on the track.

“The first half of the race I was thinking about my performance. In the second half I was just enjoying it and trying to have fun,” said Vinales, who is still just 19 points behind Rossi in the standings.

“The weather conditions were really heavy so I had some problems at the beginning, but I had the pace so I was trying to reach the front.”

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