Mugello MotoGP Preview

Mugello Crowd after the race
Mugello Crowd after the race in 2014

Situated in the stunning Tuscan countryside, approximately 35km from Florence and surrounded by the imposing hills that tower over the track like mountainous spectators, Mugello is a favourite circuit with riders and fans alike. The spectacular location is a perfect backdrop to the fast and technical layout of the circuit, which will certainly be a challenging examination of Michelin’s tyres.

Mugello is almost a perfect combination of fast and slow corners over many elevation changes, allied to one of the fastest straights on the MotoGP calendar where the riders enter it off the last turn of the track at speeds of 350km/h.

Mugello Map and Tyre Statistics MotoGP 2016
Mugello Map and Tyre Statistics MotoGP 2016

Intense braking sections are also a feature of the 5,245m circuit, so good front tyre stability will be needed along with a balanced bike set-up.

Rear tyres will be made to work very hard as well, the centre of the tyre will need to give the best grip to help the riders accelerate and power out of the slow corners, while the fast flowing sections through famous curves such as Arrabbiata 1 and 2, Palagio and Casanova-Savelli will need impressive grip levels on the tyre-edge.

With the rigorous demands that are needed for the Mugello circuit, Michelin has worked tirelessly since the last race and will take a range of tyres to Italy that it believes will be suited to the demands that the track will put upon the rubber. The Michelin Power Slicks for the rear will both feature the new less stiff construction that was launched successfully in Le Mans recently.

Available in soft (white identifying band) and medium (no band) compounds, both tyres will have an asymmetrical design with a harder right-hand-shoulder to cope with increased stresses put on that side of the tyre. The Michelin Power Slick for the front will again be available in three compounds, soft (white band), medium (no band) and hard (yellow band). If wet weather should occur the Michelin Power Rain tyre in soft (blue band) and hard (no band) will be available, as will the Michelin Power Inter (silver band), which is designed to be used in changeable conditions.

Mugello Tyre Selections MotoGP 2016
Mugello Tyre Selections MotoGP 2016
Piero Taramasso – Manager of Michelin Two-Wheel Motorsport Group

“Mugello is one of a kind on the calendar, it is one of the events that has everything, a brilliant track that’s a very testing layout for the riders – with up and downhill sections, a very long straight and blind curves – superb scenery, a passionate crowd – especially at Poggio Secco – and exciting racing. All this with some amazing restaurants with great food and wines close by certainly makes this a must-go-to race. We are not here for the party though and we know we have a very tough task on our hands. Le Mans was good for us and the new rear tyre worked well, but Mugello is a completely different activity. We have to be prepared to have a tyre that works under very hard-braking, give good grip and has an impressive edge-grip to cope with the fast-flowing sections. All this and we also has to contend with extreme changes in temperature, due to the mountains it can be quite cool in the morning, but when the sun is at its warmest the track can exceed 40°C, so we have to be ready for all eventualities, it has even been known to rain at Mugello! With that in mind we have a range of tyres which we think will work well and give the riders what they need. As always we will be monitoring the situation all weekend and hope that on Sunday evening we can experience some of the party for ourselves and get a bit of the famous Italian ‘Dolce Vita’.”

Valentino Rossi sprays the elated Mugello crowd
Valentino Rossi sprays the elated Mugello crowd in 2014
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Teams and riders speak ahead of Mugello MotoGP

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Ducati

Mugello will be a special event for the Ducati Team riders, seeing as it is the legendary Italian factory’s home race, and as always they will feel the support of numerous Ducati fans, including the 2500 packed into the Ducati Grandstand at the Correntaio curve.

Twelve months ago Andrea Iannone notched up the first pole position in his MotoGP career, and he went on to finish the race in an excellent second place behind winner Lorenzo, while team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, after starting alongside on the front row, was forced to retire on lap 14.

Michele Pirro will also be present at Mugello as a wild-card entry on a third Desmosedici GP for the Ducati Test Team. The Italian, who comes off the back of a double win in the opening rounds of the Italian Superbike Championship at Vallelunga, will have his fourth outing this season at Mugello, after replacing Danilo Petrucci in Pramac Racing in three of the five previous rounds.

Andrea Iannone – 10th (25 points)

“Finally we are going to Mugello and I feel sure we can also be competitive at our home circuit. Last year’s GP was one of the best moments of my career: I set pole and finished runner-up in the race, and I really hope I can score a good result this year. With the performance and the potential we have shown so far, I am convinced that if we continue to work well, we’re going to get some good results soon.”

Andrea Iannone, Andrea Dovizioso
Andrea Iannone, Andrea Dovizioso
Andrea Dovizioso – 11th (23 points)

“We have to be happy with the work that we’ve done until now because we have shown that we are quick in both practice and qualifying at almost every circuit, but sometimes we are unable to keep the same pace in the race. Our aim now therefore is to be quick but also to spend less energy and be less aggressive in order to preserve the tyres. At Mugello we will all have that little bit of extra motivation to do well, seeing as it is Ducati’s home race.”

Michele Pirro – 16th (12 points)

“I am happy to race at Mugello with the Desmosedici GP and with my team, seeing as we’ve always done some good races together. My bike will have the same configuration as those of the factory team and so we will try and be quick and competitive, as we showed last year. Last Sunday everything went really well in the Italian Superbike Championship and it’s always a great satisfaction to win two races, but MotoGP is something totally different and I am also determined to do well here.”

Movistar Yamaha
Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo

Following his flawless race in Le Mans, Lorenzo has taken over the lead in the championship standings and the Mallorcan is determined to still brandish his number one ranking when leaving the Italian track on Sunday evening. Lorenzo has fought many sensational battles at Mugello before and is one of the best scoring premier class riders at the Tuscan track. The five-time World Champion boasts a seven-consecutive MotoGP podium streak, consisting of four wins in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, and three second places in 2009, 2010, 2014. He also took first place in the 250cc class in 2006 and a 250cc second place in 2005.

Jorge Lorenzo – Championship: 1st, 90 points

“We arrive in Mugello with the great satisfaction of the last race in France. At Le Mans we got an important victory and we are leading the championship so we are pretty motivated for the coming races, especially the one in Mugello, a track that I usually enjoy a lot and where I’ve had some fun in the past. It’s one of my favourite places to ride and one of the most beautiful tracks in the world. The lay-out is perfect for the YZR-M1 and for my riding style as well so let’s see what happen this season with the new electronics and tyres.”

Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo

Teammate Rossi also knows the challenging circuit inside out and can’t wait to delight the Italian crowd with another fierce battle for a top result and continue the climb up from his current third place in the championship standings. The nine-time World Champion will give his all to stand on top of the podium this weekend and add another victory to his previous record of seven back-to-back premier class victories at Mugello from 2002 to 2008. Besides this amazing achievement the Doctor also has two third places written to his name, for his efforts in 2009 and 2014, together with a 250cc win in 1999 and second place in 1998, as well as a 125cc win in 1997.

Valentino Rossi – Championship: 3rd, 78 points

“I love Mugello and its atmosphere. It’s very difficult for me to keep my concentration here because there are always so many of my friends and fans around, but the Mugello race is also special for me for that reason. I’ve had some victories here, many great battles and a lot of good memories. I think this year we can be competitive because our bike is good and I’m getting into a good shape. At the Le Mans GP we arrived late at achieving the right set up for the race, at Mugello we will not make this mistake again. After Le Mans I’m relaxed and now I’m ready to try to attain the maximum level of concentration for the Mugello GP.”

Valentino Rossi
Valentino Rossi
Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director

“We are heading to Mugello, our first home race of the season, and the team can’t wait to get started. The circuit’s layout is very nice, with a good mixture of uphill and downhill sections and slow and fast corners, which suits our bike. Both our riders really enjoy riding here, as is shown in the great results they secured here in the past, and we are looking forward to being part of another great battle this weekend. As always it will be important to hit the ground running in the first session in order to prepare for the race in the best way possible. Let’s make it another great occasion to remember in front of the Italian fans!”

Repsol Honda

Dani Pedrosa, who has just renewed his contract with Honda for an additional two years, celebrates a milestone achievement this weekend as he makes his 250th Grand Prix appearance.

Over the fifteen years following his debut race in 2001 at Suzuka aboard an Honda RS125R, Dani Pedrosa won 3 World Titles (1 x 125cc – 2003, 2 x 250cc – 2004, 2005) and achieved more podiums for the Honda Factory than any other rider, with a total of 142 including 51 victories (8 x 125cc, 15 x 250cc, 28 x MotoGP).

Dani Pedrosa, Aleix Espargaro
Dani Pedrosa, Aleix Espargaro

Both him and teammate Marc Marquez are ready to work hard with their respective crews this weekend to achieve a good result at the fast, flowing Italian track set in the rolling hills 30 km north east of Florence.

Dani Pedrosa – 4th in Championship – 53 points

“I’m very happy to arrive at the Italian GP having already renewed with Honda and aware I will be able to keep working with a team I know and trust. With our future well lined up we’ll be totally free to just focus on the work to do on track. Mugello has a very fast and flowing layout with many long corners so finding a good setup and a good grip will be crucial. So far my overall pace in races has been better than it could be expected from practices, in le Mans at least it was so in the second part of the race, so I’m hoping to start strong from Friday and to keep improving over the weekend. I’ll try to do better Saturday in qualifying and to get a better grid position so be closer to the front and not remaining stuck in the first part of the race”.

Dani Pedrosa
Dani Pedrosa

Marc scored his first GP win in career at Mugello, in 125 in 2010, and the following years saw him victorious also in Moto2 in 2011 and in MotoGP in 2014. In 2015 Marc crashed out on lap 18 of the race while fighting for second position after an amazing recovery from 13th on the grid while Dani scored a solid 4th place, his best result at that point of the season. Dani has scored eight podium finishes in Mugello including two victories, in MotoGP in 2010 and in 250cc in 2005.

Marc Marquez – 2nd in Championship – 85 points

“I look forward to the next two races: we need to focus and concentrate on Mugello and Montmeló which are two very different tracks from both Jerez and Le Mans. They require more corner speed and if two years ago I would have said that they were demanding tracks for us now I think that maybe they can be better. We have work to do but I believe that if we improve the acceleration, our bike is one of the best out there. Not easy to get it due to the actual rules that prevent us from working on the engine, but I know that Honda is working hard on every other area of the bike and I believe in them, so we remain positive and in Mugello we will go with the podium as a target but we will see how the situation will shape up and in case we will try to get the most the conditions will allow us to”.

Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez
Suzuki

Maverick Viñales arrives in Italy carrying the emotions of the previous race at Le Mans in France, where less than two weeks ago he scored his first MotoGP podium aboard the GSX-RR; Suzuki’s first since the team’s full-time return to the World Championship last season. The race showed the potential of both Viñales and also the machine, and where his crew were able to recover from a bad start to the weekend and deliver a more suitable bike. The event also left Aleix Espargaró with positive feelings as he managed to improve consistently during the weekend and only an issue with the front tyre in the race prevented him scoring a top-six result.

Last year in Mugello Team Suzuki Ecstar had a bittersweet weekend; the practice session was difficult for both riders as Espargaró had to go through the Q1, but recorded a positive fifth place on the grid. He struggled the whole weekend with pain at his right hand, recently operated on after the crash at Le Mans, and finally ended his race in the gravel due to a crash caused by another rider. Viñales, on his side, had a positive race to finish seventh, just 24-seconds from the race winner.

Maverick Vinales
Maverick Vinales

Mugello’s blend of slow and fast turns with sweeping curves, long straights and off-camber corners make it one of the most challenging circuits for the riders and engineers. Owned by Ferrari since 1988, the 5.245km track has been renovated to a high standard and has a growing reputation as one of the world’s most up-to-date, scenic and safest race circuits.

Maverick Viñales – 5th in Championship – 49 points

“I can still feel the emotions of 10 days ago in France, the first podium both for me and Suzuki was unbelievable and gave me even more motivation. The weekend hadn’t been easy at all, we struggled to find a good balance and efficiency, but finally with my crew, we found a new set-up for Sunday that allowed me to find some more confidence. It’s a good feeling, we keep on progressing day after day and this is a good reassurance. Of course we still need to work hard, we have so much potential to be exploited and we must stay focused. Mugello is a very nice track, so fast and technical, it should suit our characteristics. We have seen that by working hard we can fight and be close to the top; and this is still our objective.”

Maverick Vinales
Maverick Vinales
Aleix Espargaró – 7th in Championship – 47 points

“Mugello is a very fast track were we can exploit some positives with our GSX-RR, therefore I’m curious to get there soon. Last year we arrived here with some worries because we lacked in engine power, but this year the situation is different and we can count on more efficiency. Recently we have been making many steps forward, we’re finding good solutions for the set-up and my positive feeling has increased a lot. I’ve found back my joy for riding. In France we couldn’t finalise a good result because I lacked in feeling with the front tyre, but the improvements we did were very positive. Mugello will be fun, there is always a lot of people there and you can feel their passion.”

Aleix Espargaro
Aleix Espargaro
LCR Honda

Not only is it one of two home races for the LCR Honda Team, but it is almost a second home race for British rider Cal Crutchlow too, who spends time training from a base nearby during the summer months.

Crutchlow is also a massive fan of the circuit itself, which is famed for an undulating layout that snakes its way around the jam-packed hillsides. Having qualified within the top seven in every appearance at the track and taken a podium there in 2013, Cal and the team are hopeful of a positive weekend all round surrounded by the LCR Honda family.

Cal Crutchlow – 20th in Championship – 5 points

“Mugello is a special race for me and a place I really enjoy a lot, so I can’t wait to go there. I’ve got a lot of fans in Italy which is always good, and I’ve got a house not too far away from the racetrack so it’s almost like a second home race for me. It’s also one of my favourite circuit layouts, and have taken some good results there in the past. It’s an enjoyable circuit for anyone to ride, not just a MotoGP rider. I’m looking forward to the whole weekend with a positive frame of mind and am hopeful that we can have a much better weekend there.”

Cal Crutchlow
Cal Crutchlow
Tech 3 Yamaha

The Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team pair of Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith arrive in Mugello confident of obtaining two strong results at the iconic event in Italy.

Pol Espargaro fully intends to finish, for the third consecutive time, at the front of the battle for the top independent team position in Sunday’s 23 lap sprint. The young Spaniard plans to follow up his impressive placement of 5th, his best of the 2016 campaign, at the team’s Home Grand Prix in Le Mans, with another top tier result in Tuscany.

Meanwhile, Bradley Smith will seek to confirm his return to form by battling with his teammate for the top satellite position. The young Briton, who made significant progress at the previous round after experiencing a difficult start to the season, is keen to get back to action at a track which he truly enjoys riding at. The 25-year-old aims to take amends straight away with his target being a valuable finish at Mugello.

Pol Espargaro – Championship: 6th Points: 47

“As usual, I am looking forward to going to Mugello and racing at the world famous circuit. There really is no track like it on the planet and it is one of my favourite Grand Prix’s. Having said that, we know that this weekend will be a real challenge because the circuit demands speed, especially with the long straight. I truly believe that it won’t be easy to fight against the satellite Ducati’s who will certainly be strong because of their power on their home track. Yet, we will do our best to come out on top and we have to get another good result in order to continue the progression that we have made so far this year. The team and I have made some positive steps forward since the Jerez test and I feel confident on the bike now, so we need to get to work straight away in order to reach our target of being the top independent rider on Sunday afternoon again.”

Pol Espargaro
Pol Espargaro
Bradley Smith – Championship: 14 Points: 20

“This weekend we will ride on my favourite circuit and it goes without saying that I’m excited as always for the challenge. The track itself is truly breath-taking and I have ran well there in the past, winning in the 125 class and obtaining a memorable second place in Moto2 in 2011 aboard the Tech3 Mistral 610 plus also finishing in 5th last year. Therefore, it would be great to put another solid result on the score sheet on Sunday and get back to where I should be. Of course, the top speed factor will be vital at Mugello due to the main straight, and we expect big competition from the Ducati bikes who test there a lot. Nevertheless, the straight is just one section of the track, and the Yamaha is suited to the meandering corners so I know that we can be competitive especially after the constructive work that we have done recently. For sure, it was disappointing to fall at the Le Mans race, but I am fully confident of rectifying this in Italy and I can’t wait to get going.”

Bradley Smith
Bradley Smith
Hervé Poncharal – Team manager

“The next event is a favourite for all of the riders and MotoGP fans due to its spectacular layout and the guaranteed promise of some amazing racing. We have had some good memories at this track and there have been a lot of incredible races in the past so we look forward to adding another exciting show this year, hopefully with Pol and Brad being part of the main story. Pol did a great job in Le Mans and picked up his best result of the season after a fantastic qualifying performance. He made some great progress at the Jerez test and we are fully confident in his ability, so we are sure that he can once again, seize the top independent rider position. As for Brad, we are convinced that he can bounce back strongly and finish well in Italy. He has also made some really constructive work with the team at the test and at Le Mans and he now feels very confident on the bike. Therefore, we expect him to be right up there with his teammate fighting as close as possible to the factory MotoGP bikes. It will be an interesting weekend as always, but we are looking forward to racing at the Mugello circuit in the beautiful Tuscan hills.”

Avintia Racing Ducati

For Avintia Racing and Hector Barbera the Italian Grand Prix will be a special one, with the Spanish rider eighth in the championship standings and leading the Ducati squad after five races. It’s true that the factory riders had been unlucky, but it’s also Barbera’s consistency that made the difference, with top ten finishes at every race riding his Desmosedici GP14.2. In Italy he wants to keep reaching his goals, but if he can get closer to the top, on a “Ducati” track, he will do so.

Loris Baz heads to Mugello after a difficult home race at Le Mans. The Avintia Racing French rider is still trying to find the best set up to ride comfortable with the front Michelin that the tyre manufacturer introduced just before the start of the season. He has no extra hardware to test in order to reduce the chattering on his Desmosedici, so he will try different set-up options in Italy, hoping to find a solution for his problems and to return to the good feeling he had during the winter testing.

Hector Barbera – 8th in Championship – 39 points

“Mugello is a good track for me. I got my best MotoGP qualifying position in 2012 when I was third on the grid. Racing in Italy is always special, and even more so when you ride for Ducati. We arrive at Mugello as the first Ducati rider in the standings after five races; something that we could not even think of in Qatar, but as usual, we’ll keep giving the maximum. The track suits my bike and my style, and the goal will be the same, to get a top ten result on Sunday. But in Mugello you always want a little bit more. It is the home track of Ducati and, although I’m Spanish, I always raced for Italian manufacturers, and to me this race is like a home race.”

Hector Barbera
Hector Barbera
Loris Baz – 19th in Championship – 8 points

“The last time out was not good, but as usual I head to Mugello eager to jump on my bike, it’s a special race with a special atmosphere. The only positive thing at Le Mans was that we scored points on Sunday, because after having had the pace during the first races, we were slow in France, but lucky to see the chequered flag in a race that many other riders didn’t finish. Now we have to hope and see if we can put it all together at Mugello, a track I like and where I was competitive last season. I’m sure that we can be fast with Ducati, because the engine is the strongest point of the bike. But first we’ll need to find a solution to our problem with the front tyre, because I don’t think that they will bring version 36 of their front tyre back. So we’ll work hard to reduce the chatter and then we’ll see.”

Loris Baz
Loris Baz
Aprilia

Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl will have some upgrades available to them, but above all they will be able to benefit from the hard work done during recent race weekends. In fact, thanks to the information gathered, they will be able to focus on finding the best setup solutions for their Aprilias, striving for the best possible result on a rather demanding track.

The Aprilia Racing Team Gresini will therefore be attacking Mugello with an obvious dose of pressure, a positive element for an expert team working with a new and developing project.

Romano Albesiano – Aprilia

“For the Mugello weekend we will once again have new upgrades available, especially in terms of electronics, but more than anything, we want to take on each individual session effectively, focusing on the best possible performance straight away. In fact, up to now we have spent a lot of time during race weekends testing setups, often making drastic changes, and this is a necessary process for exploring the potential of the RS-GP and understanding the way the bike reacts to the various changes. This weekend, on the other hand, we will be starting from a stable base and focusing on the setup straight away on a track where smooth riding and agility are absolutely essential and where painstaking work on the chassis and electronics can really make the difference”.

Alvaro Bautista – 13th in Championship – 21 points

“We are coming to a very special race, playing on Aprilia’s home pitch, where we’ll be able to count on new developments for the bike. After the Le Mans race we will be able to start with a better base. In particular, on the race Sunday in France we found the direction we need to go in order to be faster. We will work on that setting and on the new components, that way we’ll be able to have a bike that is fast in direction changes and stable at the front end. Battling for a top 10 finish will be hard on such a difficult track, but we are willing to try”.

Alvaro Bautista
Alvaro Bautista
Stefan Bradl – 12th in Championship – 23 points

“Mugello is a track where we riders have fun racing. The circuit is fantastic, but most of all, the atmosphere and the Italian fans are really welcoming. In terms of layout, it has everything we need: direction changes, slope changes and a long straight stretch. This will be an important race for Aprilia – the first home race – so all eyes will be on us, but I am confident that if we stay focused and patient, we’ll continue to demonstrate how our potential is growing”.

Aspar Ducati

Aspar Team are determined to put on a good show in Ducati’s home race. Eugene Laverty and Yonny Hernández both know that the Italian machinery works well at this circuit, with the Colombian having claimed a top ten finish here last season – one of four Ducati riders to do so on that day. Hernández is hoping to use that memory as a springboard for a repeat performance this weekend. For Laverty this race is an opportunity to extend his run of points-scoring finishes to six. The Aspar Team rider had one of his best rides of last season here with a fourteenth place finish, but he has raised the bar this season and has made constant improvements since kicking off the season with twelfth place in Qatar.

Eugene Laverty – 9th in Championship – 33 points

“We’ve had five good races with points-scoring finishes so the important thing is to continue that run at Mugello. Having the Ducati horsepower this year will be a big help at Mugello; the engine is so important around there. The focus is on the points, which starts with qualifying better on Saturday, to try and make my job easier on Sunday and try to get in the top ten in the race. Mugello is a natural circuit like Phillip Island, rather than a computer animated circuit. It is up and down with fast changes of direction and different cambers; it’s really fun to ride. The Italian fans at Mugello are always pretty special and this will be my first time riding in Italy on a Ducati so I am sure we will have plenty of support.”

Eugene Laverty
Eugene Laverty
Yonny Hernández – 21st in Championship – 3 points

“I am really motivated for the Italian Grand Prix because Mugello is a circuit where the Ducatis usually go well. It has a long straight where we will be able to take advantage of the power of our engine. I have been working hard this week to make sure I am in the right shape to give it my very best this weekend. Hopefully with the hard work of the the whole team this weekend we can build a competitive bike and finish the race on Sunday with the top result we are all waiting and hoping for.”

Yonny Hernandez
Yonny Hernandez

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MotoGP 2016 coverage brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils
MotoGP 2016 coverage brought to you by Honda Genuine Oils and Chemicals