It was a hard ask for the any racer in the paddock to grid up for Sunday’s races. The tragic passing of Swiss Moto3 rider, Jason Dupasquier, hit everyone hard. And how could it not? There are not that many racers competing at this level – and they kinda all know each other.
Oliveira summed everyone’s feelings up to perfection in his post-race interview. “I wish this sport wasn’t so cruel,” he told Simon after finishing second, then third, then second again – and yes, I will explain that weirdness in a sec.
Dupasquier met his end (though that was not immediately apparent) at the end of Moto 3 Qualifying, in an accident I feel no need to re-hash here, but only to observe that some MotoGP racers, like Bagnaia and Petrucci, said they felt the next day’s races should have been cancelled.
As it was, the MotoGP blokes were out on track for their Qualifying mere moments after the chopper started ferrying a terribly injured Dupasquier to the hospital, where he subsequently succumbed to his injuries.
Bagnaia told Gigi he did not even want to race, and Petrucci said he’d felt “dirty” even gridding up, and made a very pointed observation that if it was one of the MotoGP stars who had died, all the races would have been cancelled. And there may well be something to that. But that is a discussion for another time, and Trev’s not paying me to moralise.
Mugello greeted Friday’s practice with sunny skies, and Maverick and his missus, Raquel, had just had a new baby called Nina, whose name was painted in pink on the back of his seat. I immediately knew he was not going to win anything on Sunday.
Pirro, who has done a billion laps around Mugello as a Ducati test-rider was back, replacing the hapless Tito Rabat, who was himself replacing an injured Jorge Martin last race.
Marquez was back on his all-aluminium 2020 chassis, and struggling with Mugello’s very physical demands on one’s upper body. There were even rumours he’d pull the pin, go home, and come back for Barcelona.
HRC remains in its Puig-made purgatory – and without Marc being at his normal best, the year is shaping up to be another waste of time. Ironically, Marc had a shot at Rossi after Le Mans, stating that he, personally, wouldn’t be bothered racing for 17th and 18th place…and yet there he was the very next week doing just that.
Rossi’s slide into the abyss continued unabated. He was consistently some two-seconds off the pace all weekend, and the sunset looked to be near.
The blokes that were on the pace were Fabulous, Bagnaia, Zarco, and Oliveira, with Miller not too far off as well. And as they all moved into the crucial FP3, Marquez was manifestly looking for someone to tow him around. He found Bagnaia, and shadowed him for six laps, which meant he missed seeing just how fast Binder suddenly was.
I’m thinking the KTM’s new-found speed had something to do with two interesting things – the first is the new motor it wedged inside its bikes (remember KTM is not subject to the same rules as everyone else because they’re still developing their kung-fu, and are allowed nine engines instead of the seven everyone else is. And KTM homologated a new engine at the start of the season, but started the season on the old motor, and debuted the new one at Mugello). The second is the KTMs like hard-compound fronts, which they can only use when the temperature is relatively high.
And Mugello was warm.
And so Brad Binder equalled Zarco’s record top-speed of 362.4 km/h down Mugello’s magnificent straight during FP3. Morbidelli, sporting new aerofoils on his shoulder-armour, was clearly trying everything possible to get some more of everything out of his vintage Yamaha, and it seemed to work a bit – he was heaps faster than Rossi.
FP3 also had Bagnaia clocking up a new lap record, 1:45.456, and Maverick munting himself in Turn 12 because he probably hasn’t slept in a week.
Qualifying was delayed while officials dealt with the Dupasquier issue, and then the fun and games of Q1 began, featuring some big names; Rossi, but then he had been making Q1 a habit of late, Marc Marquez, and New Daddy Maverick.
Once again, Marc was looking for a tow, and because he correctly reasoned Vinales was going to be the fastest in his effort to break into Q2, he tucked in behind him. Maverick was not amused, chucking hateful looks over his shoulder on the out-lap, then immediately returning to ride through pit lane hoping to shake Marquez off. But Marquez was right there with him at 60km/h as they idled through pit-lane. Vinales’ head just about fell off as he kept turning it and gesturing to Marquez to piss off.
But time was running out, Vinales knew it and Marquez knew it, and so with one flying lap left, he had no choice but to haul Marquez around in his wake. And then, because Vinales, Vinales fluffed the last corner on a hot lap that would have seen him in Q2, and Marquez ended up going through instead, along with Aleix Espargaro. There was lots of pouting and huffing in the Spanish half of the Factory Yamaha garage after that.
The French half was all smiles and nudity, as Fabulous once again tore off his clothes and lounged around grinning at his solid pole position, wicked race pace, and glorious toplessness.
In second spot was Bagnaia, and then Zarco, satisfied in the knowledge that Mugello was a Ducati track, and what they lacked in corner grip, they would make up for down the long straight. Aleix had managed a creditable fourth on the Aprilia (clearly having his arm drained of some 400 ml of vile fluid has helped), and Jack was all intent in fifth, with Brad Binder scant tenths off Jack’s pace in sixth.
Rins and Mir sat in eighth and ninth respectively, ahead of the newly aerodynamic Morbidelli, the aching Marquez, and the scared-of-Puig Pol Espargaro.
It was always going to be either Bagnaia or Zarco into Turn One when the race started. Fabulous’s Yammy just can’t out-drag the Bologna bullets off the mark. And that’s just what happened – Bagnaia beat him hands down – and Fabulous was relegated to second, followed by Oliveira and Zarco, who was lucky to be able to start at all after Bastianini rammed him just as they were gridding up at the end of the sighting lap.
I was amazed neither was hurt, especially seeing how spectacularly Enea went over the handlebars. Zarco’s tail-piece was damaged, but it didn’t slow him down none, and he was around Oliveira a few corners after the start.
Baganaia was also about to discover just how much faster Fabulous’s Yamaha went around corners, but that had to wait until Marc Marquez ate the gravel at Turn 3 after having a brush with Binder, sending Morbidelli off the track as well. Binder was fine. Franco rejoined the race. Marc did not.
And then Bagnaia did not come out of Turn Nine, which left Fabulous, Zarco, and Oliveira to have a motorcycle race without him. Behind them, Miller raged along in fourth, while Rins passed his team-mate Mir for fifth.
Zarco was keen to be the dominant Frenchman and slammed past Fabulous down the straight – and red-eyed battle commenced, as Fabulous surged viciously back past Zarco a few corners later. Rins and Mir were closing in on Miller, while Miguel Oliveira in third was getting a great view of the French fistfight just ahead of him.
It was a short fight. Fabulous started cranking out the 1:46s and within a lap had a half-second gap on Zarco. Rins and Mir were exchanging fifth and sixth, which was the only reason they had not yet passed Jack.
But then Rins did, only to cede fourth back to Jack down the straight, because that’s what those Ducatis do. But it was not going to last. Miller eventually faded back into the waiting arms of Binder, as both Rins and ultimately Mir passed him in the twisty bits.
Fabulous was doing his very finest Lorenzo impression up front – metronomically increasing his lead over Zarco, as Oliveira ruthlessly shadowed the Frenchman in third. I knew that when Oliveira eventually passed Zarco, I would hear his big French heart break all the way in Singleton.
Mir had now beaten up Rins for fourth place, as Fabulous increased his lead to more than two-and-a-half seconds over Zarco. And then it was three seconds, as both Mir and Rins started to close in on Oliveira and Zarco.
Oliveira is no-one’s fool. He figured he’d have to put Zarco between himself and the chasing Suzukis as quickly as possible, but Zarco was not going to make that an easy thing, and for a few laps they just ground away at each other with little change.
But then eight laps from the end, Mir and Rins had caught them, and then Oliveira made the pass on Zarco, and left him in the hands of the two Suzukis. Mir suddenly began to look a bit like the reigning world champion and forged far enough ahead of Zarco to make the main straight a non-issue in terms of being overtaken by Ducati power.
And then Rins passed Zarco as well, just as Mir closed in on Oliveira.
With five laps left, everyone dialled it up a tad. Fabulous had disappeared into the distance, so the fight was for the remainder of the podium. Zarco flew past Rins down the straight, which was the only card he had left…but then how could he have known Rins has developed a habit of up-ending the whole card-table in the middle of the game.
As he did then, and ploughed off the track in Puccini (Turn 15), bringing his tally of Unfinished Racing Business to four. In a row. His team-mate was made of sterner stuff, and Oliveira looked doomed, but then he didn’t, fighting brilliantly to keep Mir at bay.
Fabulous crossed the line with a 2.6-second lead, and Oliveira kept Mir honest until the very end to secure second. And then Race Direction lost its mind, and demoted Miguel to third for exceeding track limits.
So it was Fabulous, Mir, and Oliveira for the podium. Except Race Direction was still bumping into walls, and promptly reversed its decision by penalising Mir for exceeding the same track limits (he was close on Oliveira’s tyre when they both touched the green), and the podium was again Fabulous, Oliveira and Mir.
Zarco hammered home a second ahead of Binder, and Jack settled for sixth – certainly a decent place, since he hasn’t finished a race at Mugello since it was built.
The next few weeks are going to be hard work. There are three races in four weeks, and we are in the part of the season where every point counts big-time.
Barcelona is next, and it should be hot, so the KTMs will work well. Jack likes it there, Marquez needs to validate the very existence of HRC, Rossi has some hard calls to make in the next few races, Morbidelli may well come out with an aerofoil on his helmet, Bagnaia will seek revenge, Zarco is determined to win something somewhere, Mir is looking stronger each race, Rins may stop crying by then, and Vinales will fight hard for fifth. Or eighth.
Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.
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