As Mugello readies itself for MotoGP and the #ItalianGP the series pays tribute to Nicky Hayden
Autodromo del Mugello, near the hills of Tuscany will receive the MotoGP paddock, in an event that is almost more a festival of speed, competition and motorcycling, than a simple MotoGP round. Packed with spectators, with a host of Rossi supporters, the Mugello round is one not to miss.
The paddock will not only be racing for 25 points in the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley, they will be racing with more than winning on their minds. Following the tragic loss of MotoGP Legend Nicky Hayden ahead of the event, this weekend MotoGP is racing for Nicky.
The work ethic, passion and commitment to racing that took Hayden from Kentucky to the MotoGP World Championship will be the goal of every rider on every grid, to celebrate the life of one of the finest figures ever to walk the paddock and grace the racetracks of the Championship. One of Hayden’s catchphrases was ‘Let’s Get It’, and that’s what MotoGP will be there to do.
Mugello staged its first motorcycle Grand Prix in 1976 and the stunning mountain setting gives the circuit a special atmosphere, which is heightened by the fervent and patriotic supporters that congregate on the banks and in the grandstands around the track. The 5,245m layout features an inviting recipe of fast and slow turns, elevation changes, sweeping curves and one of the fastest straights in MotoGP, which can see riders hit speeds more than 350km/h as they exit the last corner on to the start/finish straight. Heavy braking and off-camber turns are also features of this challenging circuit and makes the set-up of the bike, and the demands on the tyres, a complicated and demanding science.
For the first time this season the front Michelin Power slicks will feature a stiffer construction. This has been introduced following the recent test at Jerez in Spain where a comparison assessment was conducted between this tyre and the current incarnation of front tyre. After this test the riders were consulted on their preference and a majority chose to go with the stiffer construction. This different carcass will be available in soft (white band), medium (no band) and hard (yellow band) compounds and this will be the direction of the construction as the season progresses.
Located approximately 35km north-east of Florence in the beautiful Tuscan countryside, the weekend’s action at Mugello will commence on Friday with two Free Practice sessions, the first of which starts at 1755 AEST, the second at 2205. Qualifying for Sunday’s 23-lap race will take place on Saturday afternoon at 2210 AEST to decide the grid positions for the following day’s main event, which starts at 2200 AEST.
Piero Taramasso – Michelin Motorsport Two-Wheel Manager
“Mugello is an amazing event and a very complex circuit to overcome. We had a good race there in 2016 and set a race duration record, so we will certainly be looking to at least repeat that, if not improve on what we achieved last season and after the results last time out at Le Mans – where we had new lap and race duration records – we are in a determined mood to continue in that mode. This race will see us changing the construction of the front tyre to a stiffer version from what we have used so far this year. We had a request from several riders to test this tyre again after the decision had been made following the pre-season tests to use the current spec. So we supplied it at the recent Jerez test for a comparison – this stiffer construction tyre was originally used with a lot of success at the final race last season in Valencia and partly in the winter tests along with the current one, so the riders already had knowledge of it. Following this test all riders and teams were consulted by Dorna and a majority decision was taken to introduce this tyre from Mugello and onwards for the rest of the season. We are happy with this decision because it again gives us a clear direction for the year, and again highlights how Michelin is working to give the best solutions for the MotoGP field.”
Leading the charge at Mugello will be the home hero – in the truest sense of the word. The ‘Doctor’ Valentino Rossi commands a devotion from Mugello almost unseen on any other stage on Earth. The nine-time World Champion also has fantastic speed around the venue, and coming into the Italian GP after a difficult Le Mans could bring out the best of the number 46.
Pushing hard to catch teammate Maverick Viñales last time out, Rossi crashed out on the final lap – but the gap to the top is not insurmountable and the crowd will be out in force to back Rossi as he pushes for another win.
Viñales, now clear at the top of the table by 17 points, will be the man looking to stop him. With a true duel to the line denied the crowd at the French GP, the Spaniard will be preparing himself for a re-run on Rossi’s home turf – with more to prove than his speed.
The man now behind Viñales in the Championship, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) also has an advantage to defend – but has shown a different calling card so far in 2017.
A crash in Argentina aside, Pedrosa has consistently judged the limits of each race. From a stunning win in Jerez to a charge from P13 on the grid to the podium at Le Mans, the ‘Baby Samurai’ has only been getting better since a solid preseason passed some by under-the-radar.
“The Mugello weekend will be very emotional. It’s tough to lose a friend, especially one who became very close during three seasons as teammates and over the years afterwards. I remember how much Nicky pushed, how hard he tried, never giving up while chasing his dream to win the MotoGP title. I also remember when I was suffering with arm-pump in 2015 and I announced I was going to stop with racing for a while after the first GP. He immediately came to see me to understand what was going on and it was him who actually recommended the doctor I had the surgery with. He was such a nice person and I’m so sad and sorry especially for his family. We will think of him and feel him close in our hearts when we go on track in Mugello, as we did at the Montmelo test last week. In Catalunya we lapped on the revised layout and worked on the front Michelin tyre we’ll have to use from now on. We learn and we made some adjustments to the setup over the day of testing and in the end we could manage and get a better feeling. We confirmed that our base set up is good. We finished the test in a positive way”.
With hotter temperatures expected at Mugello akin to those of Jerez and tracks on the horizon where he has one of the best records on the grid, Pedrosa can be confident for the Italian GP as well as confident of concentrating on consistency. Teammate Marquez is the man who needs to hit back after a DNF in France.
“We were preparing to leave for Montmeló for a one-day test last week when we received the terrible news of Nicky’s passing. He was a great rider and an incredible person. I remember once, when I was a kid of 15 at the very beginning of my career in the world championship and he was the MotoGP World Champion: We took part in an event together and my English was very poor, so he tried to speak Spanish and he was very funny and easy-going, treating me as if I was his little brother. And then we shared the garage last year in Australia and had a great party together after the race. Like his amazing family, he had a great passion for motorcycling, and he will always be in our hearts. As for the test, we worked on the bike setup and we especially focused in trying the Michelin front tyre that we’ll use starting with the next race in Mugello. With this tyre I experienced less movement on the front, and the feeling was more consistent throughout the lap. It remains to understand how it will go for an entire race, but anyway, with my riding style I generally feel better with it and I’m confident that in Mugello it will help me a bit more.”
The number 93 took his first GP win at Mugello in the 125 Championship, however, and won the 2014 MotoGP race at the track. Dueling it out for the win last year with Jorge Lorenzo, Marquez showed his pace once again – and will be looking for points this year to move back up the Championship table, eager to avoid repeating his mistakes of 2015.
The man who won last year, Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team), has been first or second at the Italian venue every single season since his sophomore year in MotoGP – and most of those were victories.
Now facing a different challenge on a different machine, Mugello is a track that could see the ‘Spartan’ back into the front fight after a more difficult Le Mans – somewhere to add some more early glory to his journey in red after the rostrum finish at Jerez.
And the home crowd will be cheering the Borgo Panigale factory effort fielding both Lorenzo and teammate Andrea Dovizioso, giving the red machines an even bigger incentive to put together another impressive race weekend on home turf.
The Italian support doesn’t stop there. Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) took good points in France and will be pushing in Mugello – a track that his seen him at his spectacular best – and Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) will also be on the charge at home.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) is a constant Independent Team threat for the podium, and Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) is looking to add his name to that list after getting his first MotoGP rostrum finish last time out in France following a stunning ride to second.
“After the finishing on the podium in France, I have a high level of motivation for the Italian GP. Yet, I must keep my feet on the ground because I need to continue learning so that I can understand this bike well in order to finish as strongly as possible in all of the races. The Mugello circuit is very different when compared to Le Mans because there are a lot of fast corners and we need to use a smooth riding style. There is only one hard braking point which is at the first corner, after the long straight over the hill, and here, the bike moves a lot so it will be very interesting and exciting to experience this on a MotoGP bike. For me, the circuit is one that I like because I have achieved some strong results in the past so I want to keep pushing. I will continue to dream about scoring another podium, which would be just fantastic for the Tech3 team and me. The Yamaha has the potential to do this so I will give my all to see how far I can get.”
Jonas Folger hopes to build on his notable 7th place finish in France by advancing in Italy, as he hopes to conclude the weekend as the top independent rider.
“I am looking forward to racing at the legendary Mugello circuit because of the track that it is and also because we did a great job in Le Mans. Unfortunately, my qualifying result in France on Saturday wasn’t as high up the grid as what I had hoped for, so I have to try to be more confident over the weekend in Mugello. I am fully determined and I will do my best to fight nearer to the front and get a better position on Sunday. Mugello is a great track and the Yamaha suits the nature of the circuit well, so I am really excited and confident about the race in Italy.”
The aim for the Pull&Bear Aspar Team at Mugello is to fulfil on Sunday the potential shown by both Álvaro Bautista and Karel Abraham on Friday and Saturday. That was what they were unable to do last time out at Le Mans so they are both extra determined to put the record straight at Mugello. The Spaniard is hoping for a turnaround in his fortunes after an unlucky three races, as he aims to enjoy the delights of Mugello to their fullest this weekend. Key to that will be improving on his recent qualifying performances, in order to avoid incidents during the race. Abraham heads to Italy with his ninth place qualifying performance in France still fresh in the memory and like Bautista he also has the benefit of two days of testing in Barcelona last week under his belt.
“Our luck has to change at Mugello. I think we are working well but after the last race in France I was feeling down for a couple of days because I couldn’t believe we had come away with nothing from another weekend. The best way to deal with bad thoughts is to get back on the bike so the two-day test in Barcelona was good for me. It was a positive test, we were able to try out a lot of things that could be helpful over the coming races. Now we can think about Italy and Mugello, which is a difficult track with a lot of direction changes but it is nice and very fast. It is one of the most enjoyable circuits to ride on a MotoGP bike. Our objective is to keep working in the same way, to try and rediscover the feeling we had in previous races and finish the job off on Sunday. We have to find a set-up on Friday that allows me to be comfortable and to enjoy riding the bike. The main objective is to improve on our qualifying performance because I think that is where we are most struggling. If we can get a little higher up the grid we can save ourselves some problems at critical moments. I am motivated and excited to do well after the last few rounds, when luck has not been on our side. We will keep working and keep fighting to show our full potential.”
“I am really looking forward to Mugello. We go to the Italian Grand Prix on the back of a couple of days of testing in Barcelona, which didn’t go as well as we hoped, but we are ready to enjoy one of the best circuits for the Ducati and for me. I like Mugello, it is one of my favourites because of the fast corners and the top speeds you can reach. Over the past few days I have been able to continue my physical preparations in the gym and on the bicycle so I should be even more fit when we arrive in Mugello.”
Reale Avintia Racing riders Hector Barbera and Loris Baz head to Mugello highly motivated following an encouraging test at Barcelona. On the Spanish track, both riders improved the feeling with their Ducati and the new Michelin front tyres that will officially be introduced this weekend in Mugello. The first races of the year didn’t meet the expectations of Barberá, but the Spanish riders hopes that the Italian Grand Prix will be a turning point for the better.
“We head to Mugello in a confident mood. Our test last week at Barcelona was really positive which was a big boost to my motivation. The start of the season has been really tough for us, but I believe that we finally found the right way, and I look forward to confirm our progress at Mugello. The first five races were like a nightmare, and now we have to start from zero on a track I love.”
His Reale Avintia teammate Loris Baz also hopes for a good result on Sunday, because this would mean a head-start into this most challenging part of this year’s calendar in which the MotoGP World Championship tours to Mugello, Barcelona, Assen and Sachsenring in just five weeks.
“The most serious part of the season starts at Mugello, as we have four races in just five weeks. This will be a crucial month, but we have all reasons to be optimistic because things are going well and we have a good feeling with the bike. Our plan for Mugello is to maintain our momentum and to keep working well from the first pracice session on Friday in order to find the best settings for the race as early as possible. I like the circuit and Mugello is always good for Ducati, so I hope to get a strong result and bring home some championship points.”
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’ Aleix Espargaro and Sam Lowes will also be looking to fly the flag at home for the Noale factory after positive testing in Barcelona for the ever-evolving RS-GP, and fellow competitors on the road to progression Red Bull KTM Factory Racing will be pushing hard to get another bike into Q2 and take more points after managing both with both Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith last time out.
Australian Jack Miller is also sitting in 10th position overall, with 29 championship points to his name and will be aiming to avoid his 2016 Mugello experience where he was caught up in another riders crash. The 22-year-old Australian opted to sit out a two-day MotoGP test in Barcelona immediately after Le Mans to allow his right hand and right knee, both of which were swollen following his FP4 crash, time to heal. Having completed an intensive program of physiotherapy during the past week Miller is looking forward to a return to action this weekend in Italy where, once again, a top ten finish is his goal.
“As soon as I got home from Le Mans I had a scan on the hand and the knee just to make sure there was nothing broken and since then I’ve been working with the physiotherapist to reduce the swelling in both. I’ve been doing a lot of cycling this week, but I also managed to get out on the supermotard and had no problems with the hand or the knee, so it’s looking good for the weekend ahead.
“Mugello is one of those special circuits on the calendar and like a lot of other riders I really enjoy racing there. With the long straights it’s a bit of a horsepower track, but it’s also one that demands a lot of confidence in the front, and we’ve made big steps in this area since the start of the season. This means we should be able to make up in the corners and in the fast changes of direction what we lose down the straights, so I’m confident another top ten finish is a realistic goal for us this weekend.”
The ever changing and unpredictable weather in Le Mans caused problems for his Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Tito Rabat in practice and qualifying ahead of the French Grand Prix, but the former Moto2 World Champion showed his mettle by bouncing back to claim 11th place in the race, his best result of the season so far. Rabat heads to Italy buoyed by his Le Mans result and by a successful two-day test in Barcelona the following week. The Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider continues to improve his feeling with the 2017 Honda RC213V and is confident that he can further reduce the gap to the frontrunners this weekend in Mugello, a track at which he was twice a winner in the intermediate category.
“Mugello promises be a interesting weekend for me after the result in Le Mans and the two days of testing in Barcelona. We know where we need to improve; in the race our results are steadily getting better, but it is in practice and qualifying where we need to focus our attention now, especially when conditions are changeable as they were in Le Mans. At the moment it’s taking me too long to adapt to mixed conditions and find my rhythm and this is something we need to improve. Mugello is a special circuit, very fast, very technical and very demanding of both bikes and riders. Physically it’s tough, but you never really feel tired because the track is just so much fun to race on. It’s one of my favourite circuits and one where I’ve had some success in the past, so this weekend can’t come soon enough for me.”
The field is close, the venue is spectacular and the crowd one like no other. With so many riders in podium and victory contention so far in 2017 and incredible racing throughout the field, the show is sure to be one to remember. And this weekend, MotoGP is racing for 25 points as in every race – and also for Nicky Hayden, on one of the most beautiful stages on Earth.
MotoGP 2017 – World Championship Standings
- VINALES Maverick 25 SPA 85 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
- PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA 68 Repsol Honda Team
- ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA 62 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
- MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA 58 Repsol Honda Team
- ZARCO Johann 5 FRA 55 Monster Yamaha Tech 3
- DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA 54 Ducati Team
- CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR 40 LCR Honda
- LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA 38 Ducati Team
- FOLGER Jonas 94 GER 38 Monster Yamaha Tech 3
- MILLER Jack 43 AUS 29 Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS
- PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA 26 Octo Pramac Racing
- REDDING Scott 45 GBR 26 Octo Pramac Racing
- BAZ Loris 76 FRA 19 Reale Avintia Racing
- ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA 17 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
- IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA 15 Team Suzuki Ecstar
- BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA 14 Pull&Bear Aspar Team
- RABAT Tito 53 SPA 13 Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS
- BARBERA Hector 8 SPA 12 Reale Avintia Racing
- ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE 9 Pull&Bear Aspar Team
- RINS Alex 42 SPA 7 Team Suzuki Ecstar
- ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA 6 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
- SMITH Bradley 38 GBR 6 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
- LOWES Sam 22 GBR 2 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
- GUINTOLI Sylvain 50 FRA 1 Team Suzuki Ecstar
Moto2: Morbidelli marches on to home turf at Mugello
EG 0,0 Marc VDS are on a 100% win rate in 2017, but so far the man with the best hand has proved Franco Morbidelli. His four victories as the paddock arrives to round six – including Le Mans last time out, a track that usually favours key rival Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) – make for ominous reading for the rest of the grid as his home race appears on the horizon.
Morbidelli was pushed all the way in France, however. After a first podium in the intermediate class in Jerez for Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46), Le Mans showed it was no one off performance – ‘Pecco’ battled for pole and then kept the Championship leader honest in an impressive cat-and-mouse. Rookie he may be, but Bagnaia will want to continue establishing himself as a frontrunner at Mugello in his home GP.
The rider who won one of his home races so far this year – and the only man to have stopped Morbidelli – is the points leader’s teammate Alex Marquez. Suffering a small fracture in his foot after a highside on Saturday at Le Mans, France was an impressive performance nonetheless to come home fourth. With more time to recuperate ahead of the Italian GP, it could well still be EG 0,0 Marc VDS taking the win, but on the other side of the garage.
Tom Lüthi has an excellent record at Le Mans and took a podium, but the Swiss veteran will have wanted more. After showing fantastic form in races earlier in the season where the 2016 runner up traditionally found life more difficult, this season could be a different script overall – and there’s no reason why the CarXpert Interwetten rider won’t try and strike back quick.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was a rider who suffered in France, coming home outside the points after going into round five with a 50% podium record. He’ll want to leap back up the timesheets, as will Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), who was seventh at Le Mans.
Forward Racing Team have an even bigger bounce back to contend with at Mugello, after neither Luca Marini nor Lorenzo Baldassarri finished in France. Both the team and riders’ home race, they will be looking for much more at the Italian GP – and Baldassarri missed the win last year by only 0.030.
Aussie Remy Gardner will also be looking to take home points at Mugello, after a tough start to the season.
“It would be wrong to say that Mugello is just another race, because it’s far from that. For the first time this season we are racing in Italy in front of my home crowd and you can feel them pushing you, especially when you’re on track. What is true though is that our approach to this race will be the same as for every other race, as we know this works and it’s won us a lot of races this season. The approach will be important this weekend as Mugello is a fast track, with many fast changes of direction; it’s physically demanding and also very technical in places. We head there in good shape, which is important because this is a track at which I haven’t been particularly fast in the past. This is something I hope to change this weekend, so that we come away with a good result and more points on Sunday.”
“Le Mans isn’t a track that really suits my riding style, so I was happy to come away from there with a fourth place finish and enough points to move me up to third in the championship. Mugello though, with its fast corners and flowing nature, is a track I enjoy racing at a lot and I’m really looking forward to the weekend ahead. The injury to my foot is much improved; it’s still not fully healed but I’m confident that it won’t cause me any problems on the bike and that I will be able to push for a good result and, hopefully, the podium.”
Moto2 World Championship Classification
- Franco Morbidelli (ITA – Kalex) 100 points
- Thomas Lüthi (SWI – Kalex) 80 points
- Álex Márquez (SPA – Kalex) 62 points
- Miguel Oliveira (POR – KTM) 59 points
- Francesco Bagnaia (ITA – Kalex) 53 points
Advantage Mir as Moto3 fire up for Mugello – The Championship lead grew in France, but this is Fenati turf
After the drama punctuating the start of the Moto3 race at Le Mans, Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) used the shortened 16 lap race to grow his lead in the title fight to some margin – 34 points – as some of his key rivals faltered.
Polesitter Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) crashed out, and race leader Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers) also slid from in front of Mir to watch his rival disappear into the distance. But Mugello is Fenati’s home turf, and the hard-charging Italian will never give up without a fight.
Martin will be another aiming to stop Mir’s momentum in its tracks, as well as Jerez winner Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) – now third in the standings – and British Talent Team rider John McPhee.
Moving up after a slower start to the season is another home threat at Mugello – Del Conca Gresini Moto3’s Fabio Di Giannantonio – who has bounced back from a collarbone break in preseason to now sit sixth in the standings on a roll.
The Italians don’t stop there. Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) currently leads the KTM charge in seventh, and both he and teammate Nicolo Bulega will be searching for more on home turf.
Enea Bastianini (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Niccolo Antonelli (Red Bull KTM Ajo) are two more home heroes ready for a fight, and seek to write a different chapter in the story of their seasons so far – with no better place to begin.
The Italian presence on the Moto3 grid is a true army of talent, and Mugello is a home stage like few others. But will the locals fly the flag, or will Mir and Martin be able to spoil the party?
Moto3 World Championship Classification
- Joan Mir (SPA – Honda) 99 points
- Romano Fenati (ITA – Honda) 65 points
- Aron Canet (SPA – Honda) 63 points
- Jorge Martin (SPA – Honda) 53 points
- John McPhee (GBR – Honda) 53 points