The Mamba Resurgent
Mugello MotoGP with Boris Mihailovic
One could be forgiven for thinking Gigi Dall’Igna might have snuck into the Yamaha garage, wheeled out Lorenzo’s 2015 Yamaha, stuck some Ducati fairings on it and let him go.
Such was the Mamba’s dominance on Sunday. From lights to flag, Lorenzo was his old self; a metronome of consistency – he ran 1.48s virtually the whole race and came home six-seconds ahead of his team-mate Dovizioso and a late-charging Rossi who almost pipped Andrea for second at the finish.
The fans at Mugello were overjoyed, but it had little to do with Lorenzo and everything to do with Ducati.
Mugello, as you know, is unlike any other MotoGP. But it is like every MotoGP should be – the atmosphere is insane, the venue (a perfect natural amphitheatre) is staggeringly beautiful, and the track itself is next-level fast – witness Dovi’s new record of 356.4km/h down the straight-that-isn’t-all-that-straight.
The corners carry some of the most evocative names in all of motor-racing – Scarperia, Corentaio, Arrabbiata 1 and 2, Biondetti, Materassi…
If you only ever get to see one other MotoGP outside of PI, then make it Mugello.
And the Italian fans – well, they’re Italian. Passion is what they do and Rossi is who they love.
They also don’t mind Ducati. If Rossi had won there on a Ducati, Italy would have sunk into the sea content its time upon this earth was complete.
The next best thing to Rossi winning there on a Ducati is Rossi winning there on anything. The third best thing is another Italian winning there on a Ducati, and a distant fourth is a filthy Spaniard winning there on a Ducati. Dead last is of course bastardo Marquez winning there on anything.
It is not Rossi’s home GP, but it might as well be – and Lorenzo is not popular there. Nor is Marquez, who is booed each time he appears on the big screen. The only time he is cheered at Mugello is when he bins it, which he did on Sunday, and suddenly the whole championship is interesting again. And he almost saved it. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
The weekend began with Ducati test rider Michele Pirro propelling himself into space at 350km/h, hitting the ground, knocking himself out, and then being rag-dolled by inertia. It was quite terrible to see and when the session was red-flagged and no replays shown, I feared the worst.
Pirro re-appeared in the Ducati pit on Sunday, sporting two black eyes and an arm in a sling. Concussion and a dislocated shoulder put paid to him being at the pointy end on Sunday’s race, because his practice times indicated that’s exactly where he would have been.
Still, it was shaping up to be a marvellous race.
The Doctor had blazed his way to pole position, something his new girlfriend looked to be very pleased with. And she was not alone. Mugello carried on as if he’d won the championship. The entire front straight was a haze of yellow smoke from flares his fans seem to have brought in by the pallet.
Vinales had levered himself into third and the factory Yamahas bracketed Lorenzo, who was sitting in second.
Behind them Iannone, Petrucci and Marquez were the second row, while Dovi, Zarco and Crutchlow were the third wave.
Practice had indicated Iannone, Rossi, Lorenzo and maybe Marquez would be quick, but it was all going to be about the race pace and of course, tyres.
The nature of Mugello demands a great start and a clear track for a good result. Get caught up dueling and Mugello will eat your tyres and break your heart.
Iannone was walking like a gunslinger at Mugello. He was quick, he was on a bit of a roll, and he was not going to be racing for Suzuki next year. His girlfriend was mega-hot, his Instagram game was top-notch, and he might yet secure a ride with Aprilia, who want Scott Redding out of the team right sharpish.
It is contract time, and there was clearly a bit of no-shits-given going on in the paddock.
Lorenzo had indicated he was done with Ducati, and rumours (along with Malaysians wearing Petronas pins) were circulating in the paddock that he would be joining young Morbidelli in a satellite Yamaha team next season.
Crutchlow had come to his senses and stopped declaring himself the next world champion, Rins was being obligingly consistent, Petrucci and Miller knew what was at stake now that Claudio Domenicali had eagerly signed the divorce papers with Lorenzo, Marquez was vulnerable at Mugello, and Dovi had a lot to make up for. As did Zarco, who had joined Dovi in the crying bus last race.
It really did look like anyone’s race. But it was Lorenzo’s from start to finish. All the interesting stuff happened behind him.
For me, the highlight was Marquez crashing out. But it’s not what you think. His amazing efforts to save his low-side in Scarperia, just like he’d saved so many of them before, were the stuff of legend. I’m no fan, but I can certainly appreciate his otherworldly skill.
Watching him hang onto the bike and try to force it back onto its wheels as it slid towards the gravel had me cheering him on – and I was burning his T-shirt two years ago.
At the moment, Petrucci has the I Hate Marquez hat firmly on his head. Marc, charging for the front, duffed him up good and proper on Lap Two, and sent him wide. Petrucci made a valiant effort to recover, but Mugello was having none of it and he finished seventh. He’s since been complaining that Race Direction has not penalised Marc for the overtake.
The first lap devoured Pedrosa, Abrams, and Redding (surprise!), while Miller, Luthi and Asparagus A also ended up among the rocks a bit later.
A couple of days later, it was announced that the Pedrosa and Repsol HRC partnership would dissolve at the end of the season.
But no-one was going to catch Lorenzo, and it was Marquez’s efforts to do so which put him into the cabbages. He did remount and ultimately finished 17th ahead of the hapless and rather hopeless Xavier Simeon.
Once again, tyres were the clincher. Lorenzo, with a clear track and no challengers, made no unseemly demands on his hoops. But the blokes behind him were forced to defend their positions while trying to catch him, and towards the end of the race, their tyres were going off.
Dovi almost surrendered second to Rossi – who had accumulated a staggering 5005 career points when the chequered flag appeared.
Iannone suffered badly and almost succumbed to Rins, and Crutchlow briefly looked like he wanted to prove something but settled for his customary “Somewhere south of fifth”.
Vinales continues to not understand why he’s not leading the championship by 100 points, but remains unable to find any form after the lights go off. Zarco was also somewhere mid-field, his broken French heart after Le Mans still obviously not healed.
But due to Marquez’s crash, the championship now looks very different to what it did coming into Mugello.
As I predicted, shit happened at Mugello, because shit always happens at Mugello. It also happens (or continues to happen) at Catalunya and Assen, which are the next two races.
These three races are the meat of the world championship. I am intrigued to see who will be gnawing on the bones when they’re over.
Mugello MotoGP Race Results
- LORENZO Jorge SPA Ducati 41’43.230
- DOVIZIOSO Andrea ITA Ducati 6.370
- ROSSI Valentino ITA Yamaha 6.629
- IANNONE Andrea ITA Suzuki 7.885
- RINS Alex SPA Suzuki 7.907
- CRUTCHLOW Cal GBR Honda 9.120
- PETRUCCI Danilo ITA Ducati 10.898
- VINALES Maverick SPA Yamaha 11.060
- BAUTISTA Alvaro SPA Ducati 11.154
- ZARCO Johann FRA Yamaha 17.644
- ESPARGARO Pol SPA KTM 20.256
- SYAHRIN Hafizh MAL Yamaha 22.435
- RABAT Tito SPA Ducati 22.464
- SMITH Bradley GBR KTM 22.495
- MORBIDELLI Franco ITA Honda 26.644
- MARQUEZ Marc SPA Honda 39.311
- SIMEON Xavier BEL Ducati 1’01.211
MotoGP Championship Points Standings
- MARQUEZ Marc 95 Repsol Honda Team Honda
- ROSSI Valentino 72 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha
- VINALES Maverick 67 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha
- DOVIZIOSO Andrea 66 Ducati Team Ducati
- ZARCO Johann 64 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha
- PETRUCCI Danilo 63 Alma Pramac Racing Ducati
- IANNONE Andrea 60 Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki
- CRUTCHLOW Cal 56 LCR Honda Honda
- MILLER Jack 49 Alma Pramac Racing Ducati
- LORENZO Jorge 41 Ducati Team Ducati
- RINS Alex 33 Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki
- PEDROSA Dani 29 Repsol Honda Team Honda
- RABAT Tito 27 Reale Avintia Racing Ducati
- ESPARGARO Pol 23 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
- BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 Angel Nieto Team Ducati
- SYAHRIN Hafizh 17 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha
- MORBIDELLI Franco 17 EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda
- ESPARGARO Aleix 13 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia
- NAKAGAMI Takaaki 10 LCR Honda Honda
- SMITH Bradley 7 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
- KALLIO Mika 6 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM
- REDDING Scott 5 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia
- ABRAHAM Karel 1 Angel Nieto Team Ducati