(CNN) -- Jorge Lorenza kickstarted his MotoGP title defense on Sunday as he won the Italian Grand Prix for the third year in a row.
The Spanish motorcyclist overtook pole sitter Dani Pedrosa at the first corner at Mugello and never surrendered the lead as he trimmed his rival's championship advantage to 12 points after five races.
"I knew it was going to be a really hard race because it got much hotter than it had been in the morning," Lorenzo told the MotoGP website.
"Dani was following me for about 13 laps, but on the 13th I pushed a little bit more -- to be about three-tenths faster -- and it seems he gave up a little bit, so it was much easier from then."
Pedrosa had to fight off his rookie Honda teammate Marc Marquez, who dropped to third in the standings after suffering another one of the crashes that had marred his practice and qualifying sessions -- and this time ended his race.
Pedrosa claimed second place ahead of Britain's Cal Crutchlow, with German rider Stefan Bradl fourth to match his best career result.
"I didn't feel fully comfortable in the race today, but I'm happy because I was able to gain a large number of points," said Pedrosa, who had won the two previous races in his native Spain and France, and was second at Mugello last year.
"In general, this was a difficult weekend. The back tire was giving me a lot of problems with grip but taking 20 points from this race and maintaining the lead the World Championship is something positive."
Marquez had been aiming to become the first newcomer to finish on the podium in the first five races of a season, but he suffered his seventh crash since stepping up to motorcycling's elite division.
"After three difficult days of setbacks and hard work, I finally felt good during the race," said the 20-year-old, who dropped 26 points behind Pedrosa.
"I don't fully understand why I crashed, as I lost both the front and the back at the same time and was unable to save it. It's clear that we made a mistake, but we can't go looking for excuses.
"We can't forget that this is my first year in the class and I am here to learn how things are in MotoGP. In spite of everything we were still fighting for second place, which is a reason to be happy."
Lorenzo's Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi was another casualty, with Italy's seven-time world champion retiring only three corners into the race after being hit by Alvaro Bautista.
Rossi's previous team Ducati gave the home fans something to cheer as Andrea Dovizioso, Nicky Hayden and Michele Pirro were fifth, sixth and seventh respectively.
The sixth race of 18 this season is the Catalunya Grand Prix in Barcelona in a fortnight.