Round Six – Mugello
Marc Marquez leads the MotoGP championship into Mugello, with Dovizioso hot on his trail and a DNF result has been the only thing ensuring Marquez couldn’t run away with the lead, with Rins and Rossi 20+ points off the leader.
“After Le Mans I am first of all hoping for good weather in Mugello! I like the circuit, even if we have not always had the best results there. If we keep working well from Friday as in previous rounds, I feel confident we can have a good race. Our rivals are always very strong and very close at this circuit, it can be a fun race on Sunday!”
Now this is now unmistakably enemy territory for #93, not only for the banks of yellow that trim the circuit every race weekend, but also for the swathes of red crowding into the track to support home factory Ducati – the most recent winners twice in a row. As venues for a pivotal point in the Championship go, it couldn’t be better.
Sculpted from the hills of Tuscany; fast, flowing and boasting perfect curves, Mugello is a special one even before the crowds roll in. And boy, do they roll in. Yellow is their colour, Valentino Rossi is their hero and the volume level is a record one. And they have good reason to come to worship at the alter of speed: Rossi won every year from 2004 to 2008, he was on pole last season…
Nestled in the Tuscan hillsides, Mugello is a 5,245m clockwise strip of asphalt, set out over 15 corners – 6 left and 9 rights – with elevation changes, flowing and fast curves, slow turns and a straight where riders can reach speeds in excess of 350km/h.
This complex circuit is one of the quickest and most demanding of the year, and one where the Michelin Power Slick tyres will have to handle hard-braking zones, heavy acceleration areas and off-camber corners, plus a medium-severity surface, all of which place specific demands on the tyres.
For the partisan crowd though, there’s more: Ducati were the ones who took the baton from the Rossi winning streak in 2009, but they have won the last two too: in 2017 with Andrea Dovizioso and last year with Jorge Lorenzo. It’s a venue the bike works well at, and it’s one that would provide the perfect stage for ‘DesmoDovi’ to fight back against Marquez – especially in his 300th Grand Prix.
The Italian has a lot more points at this stage in the season than he had last year and the year before, so Marquez’s form aside, it makes for good reading. But can he cut his seven point deficit to the number 93’s Championship-topping 95 points? And can and will teammate Danilo Petrucci, on the podium in factory colours for the first time in France, get in the battle too?
There’s also Jack Miller to consider. The Australian made Marquez work for it in the early stages at Le Mans and has been one to watch so far this season. With the bike underneath him, can he be another weapon in Borgo Panigale’s armoury? And likewise can wildcard and test rider Michele Pirro, who also makes his 100th Grand Prix start this weekend?
Behind the Ducati-riding army and Rossi, there are many more lining up to get in the fight too. Maverick Viñales showed serious speed at times in France, and, of course, man of the moment Fabio Quartararo has already proven he’s not a flash in the pan. Despite a tough start at his home race, the Frenchman had Marquez pace. If the cards fall differently in Mugello, can he convert that speed into a podium? Or will teammate and home turf contender Franco Morbidelli get ahead?
“Mugello is one of the most difficult circuits on the calendar but I’m still pushing for a strong performance. In France, I had a great fight back through the field and the fastest lap showed the pace we can have. For Mugello, I want to be further up the order on the grid and make a better start. If I can do that – and show the same race pace we had in Le Mans – it should be a happy race! If we put together a clean weekend from Friday to Sunday, we can get a good result, as our potential has shown at recent races.”
“I’m very happy to be going to Mugello. This is always a race with a lot of emotion for me. I also feel some pressure, because I haven’t had great results here, but it is always a fun Grand Prix in front of all of the Italian fans. We will try to be faster than ever and achieve my best result to date. The results have been very good at the opening races of the season and I feel confident on the bike. I’m looking forward to meeting all the fans and I hope to have a good race.”
Alex Rins, meanwhile, remains third in the standings despite his tough French Grand Prix. It never quite came together for the Hamamatsu factory there, so Mugello needs to be a turnaround if Rins is to continue to charge in the Championship.
That’s also true for compatriot Jorge Lorenzo after he suffered another tough round. There were encouraging signs for the five-time World Champion there though and he’s gaining experience every weekend, and now we’re into a run of venues that have all been Lorenzo’s Land – Mugello most recently last season as he took his first win in red. That adds to five more, making the 99’s record at the track the most enviable. A good place to start a challenge further forward and, if he can echo his 250cc days, a good place for a return of the king.
“We made good progress in Le Mans with the setting of the bike and were able to be much closer to the front. I’ve had similar success in the past in Mugello as to Le Mans, so I am hopefully of continuing to improve our position. The Repsol Honda Team has been working very hard and I am sure soon I will be able to achieve some results to thank them.”
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Johann Zarco is looking for a similar step forward too, although the Austrian factory more broadly had a top weekend at Le Mans. Pol Espargaro took an awesome P6 for the factory team, in the dry and with nothing else tipping the scales his way, and all KTMs scored points.
Following a successful home race for the Red Bull KTM Tech3 team, where both, premier class rookie Oliveira and Malaysian Syahrin inside the points, the entire team arrives in the Tuscan hills of Mugello highly motivated to progress even further. Syahrin was able to score for the first time this year, which gave the 25-year-old a huge boost for the upcoming challenges starting this Friday at 9.55 local time with the first Free Practice session.
Hervé Poncharal – Red Bull KTM Tech3 Team Manager
“Going to Mugello for the MotoGP weekend is always a great pleasure. This is a special place, the circuit is beautiful and the landscape in Tuscany is a unique area in the world and we enjoy being there, racing there. It’s a place where the fans are incredibly warm and this is one of the most exciting and nicest spots of the calendar, at least in the heart of the Red Bull KTM Tech3 team. Going there we also can not forget what Pol Espargaro and the KTM RC16 have achieved in the French Grand Prix, which was an incredible result for all of us and a big motivation, that is showing the whole team and mainly the riders what KTM can do and how hard KTM is working. Clearly, Pol was having some evolution in the chassis department and also in the engine department. These evolutions where obviously a step.
“The race he did was amazing and to finish so close to the winner was definitely a very big boost for everybody involved in this program. Now we have to race at Mugello, which is a very tough track for the riders and the bike, too. Compared to Le Mans it requires a lot more engine top speed. It’s a very fast circuit with a very long straight, so it will be interesting to see where we stand and how we are compared to the opposition. It’s a flowing layout, a lot of fast changing directions, so clearly, it’s a strong test for the bike and we can use it as a benchmark to see where we are standing. I believe both, Miguel and Hafizh delivered a strong result in Le Mans. Everything was difficult there, the track, the weather conditions, but I think after the stunning performance of Pol Espargaro and the fact that all four KTM bikes were inside the points for the very first time, we can look back to a fantastic achievement. Clearly, we see the project moving forward and we can’t wait to see, what is going to happen in beautiful Mugello. This is a very important time of the championship, races are happening every two weeks.
“We know this is the moment where you have to score points to position yourself in a good manner in the ranking. We also know, that the few seats available are gathering a lot of interest and the riders, who have these seats are under a lot of pressure, so this is clearly a key moment of the season and we hope we can be there, where people are expecting us. We would like to be, of course and as usual, closer to the front. We would also like to try to be closer to Pol Espargaro and carry on working. I think the fact that KTM has got four bikes and four different riders in the MotoGP class this year with different riding styles, has helped the development to speed up and has helped to test different and new directions, maybe to be more extreme in the way we are using the setting and the bike. So, overall, we are on the good way and we are proud to be in the KTM MotoGP project and as a lot of other teams and riders, I want to say, we can’t wait to be there and start FP1 in Italy!”
They’ll want more and Mugello will be an interesting one as home team Aprilia Racing Team Gresini push to close the gap in the constructor standings. They’re another gunning for further forward and that home turf boost will see many cheering for the Noale factory.
Mugello, in all its glory, awaits. Will Marquez’ form be enough to see him take another win? Or does the venue – and the awe-inspiring crowd – leave the likes of Dovizioso and Rossi walking a little taller into the Tuscan track?
The Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley could prove pivotal for those aiming to chase down the reigning Champion and it gets underway on Friday 31st May, with the lights out for racing on Sunday 2nd June.
Piero Taramasso – Michelin Motorsport Two-Wheel Manager
“Mugello is certainly one of the special tracks on the calendar, its magnificent location makes it stand out, but it is also one of the most demanding. The tyres really have to work hard through the whole weekend and we have to have a selection that can cover lots of eventualities. It can be cold in the mornings, before the sun gets above the hills and warms the asphalt, and then when it does the track can get very hot, so we need a selection to cover that. Plus, it has many different aspects, from hard braking to very high speeds, so we have to select tyres for the allocation to meet those demands, for stability, as well as giving consistency and good grip, which the new technology tyres have already proved they can do. We are looking forward to what Mugello has for us, as we are certainly up to the task.”
MotoGP World Championship Standings
It remains an all-or-nothing season for Championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarri as the dust settles after Le Mans, with the Italian suffering a second DNF of the season at another track where he’d struggled in the past. But with three out of three he’s finished being wins, 75 points is enough to keep him on top – and Mugello is somewhere he’s shone. It’s also home turf.
So are the grid to expect Baldassarri straight back at the business end? If Texas was anything to go by, the answer may well be yes. But it’s a deep grid this season and there are plenty who’ll be trying to get in his way. Fellow home heroes Mattia Pasini and Luca Marini are two who share his serious motivation, and Pasini especially could be a serious threat…
The men with some momentum after Le Mans, however, are winner Alex Marquez, newcomer to the front Augusto Fernandez, and Jorge Navarro. Navarro has three podiums in a row now, and he’s chomping at the bit to go one better. Putting all the pieces together to perfection so far, a win can’t be too far away.
But what of those needing, like Baldassarri, a bounce back? Tom Lüthi may have made some points gains in France but it wasn’t as much as he would have wanted after a tougher race, teammate Marcel Schrötter wants more, and early season pace man Remy Gardner has had two DNFs in a row…leaving him equal on points with Brad Binder as the South African starts to find some more traction for KTM.
After a start of the season that was almost the opposite of the great things he was able to show during winter testing, Sam Lowes arrives to the sixth event of the season at Mugello with fully-charged batteries thanks to last week’s two-day test at Montmeló.
“The two days of testing where really important and we managed to make many steps forward; we got a better understanding of the hard-compound tyres, which will surely be the go-to choice at Montmeló. We also tried some new interesting parts chassis-wise. Thank you to Kalex and obviously the team for the work done. We put in 190 laps in two days and now it’s time to focus on Mugello, a circuit a really like. I still hold the Moto2 lap record there and this test allowed us to forget the nightmare weekend at Le Mans and to find a little bit of serenity ahead of the team’s home GP.”
Moto2 World Championship Standings
|4||Jorge Navarro||Speed Up||44|
|17||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Speed Up||9|
|22||Dominique Aegerter||MV Agusta||5|
|23||Khairul Idham Pawi||Kalex||3|
|31||Stefano Manzi||MV Agusta||0|
|34||Gabriele Ruiu||MV Agusta||0|
|35||Dimas Ekky Pratama||Kalex||0|
Records broken, five riders wide into Turn 1, thousandths deciding the podium… that’s what Moto3 have to expect from the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley. Every season, it’s one of the most spectacular events on the calendar as the long, long main straight sees the masters of slipstreaming shuffle the order lap after lap.
Last year’s podium have all graduated to Moto2, and the top finisher from 2018 was Gabriel Rodrigo so he’ll want to fill the void left behind. After a tougher season than expected so far now would be a good time to begin the charge – and it would be a good time for the likes of Jaume Masia and Kaito Toba to flip their luck, but they’ll have some serious company.
Championship leader Aron Canet must be pencilled in as a favourite and for his team it’s also a home race, but key rival in the standings Lorenzo Dalla Porta will be gunning for home glory.
SIC58 Squadra Corse also race at home as a team and Tatsuki Suzuki is a man on the pace as late, but a lot of home hearts will be set on teammate Niccolo Antonelli on the other side of a garage; a home favourite and Grand Prix winner.
The list of Italians goes on: Andrea Migno is another – and a former winner at Mugello – and Celestino Vietti, top rookie as it stands, could well be up in the mix, as could Tony Arbolino. And what of his teammate Romano Fenati?
It’s been a tough year so far but the veteran has some serious form at Mugello having taken his second win there. Will the home crowd will them to glory? Or can Le Mans winner John McPhee join the likes of Rodrigo and Toba on a charge to stop them?
Moto3 World Championship Standings
|2||Lorenzo Dalla Porta||Honda||60|
MotoGP weekend schedule
Times in AEST