Round 6 Italian MotoGP – Autodromo del Mugello
As racing headed to the beautiful Tuscan hills for the 23 lap race at the Gram Premio D’Italia Oakley, GP riders were gearing up for the 5.245km long battle. The track itself boasts 9 right hand corners and 6 lefts with a straight a little over 1km in length that can see riders reach speeds around 350km/h. Despite the track being bordered by the picturesque Tuscan countryside, they may need to look hard to see it through the yellow smoke haze that always accompanies the Mugello GP along with the intense crowd support for Valentino Rossi.
Rossi is the most successful rider across all classes at the Mugello circuit, winning 9 races here and the crowd would be ecstatic to see a 10th on race day.
Friday’s free practice sessions got off to their usual start but a horrifying crash saw FP2 red flagged as Ducati test rider and occasional wild card rider Michele Pirro had a massive highside. Pirro was heading down the long main straight and lost control at around 350 km/h and was viciously thrown from the bike. He lost consciousness on impact and then tumble weeded through the gravel. He was attended to on track via medical staff and taken to the circuit medical centre where thankfully he regained consciousness. He was shortly after transported to hospital for further checks. It was confirmed that Pirro had concussion and a dislocated shoulder and one hell of a shiner that looked like he had been in a bar room brawl. It is amazing that his injuries were so minor given the severity of the crash.
Q 1 saw a few unusual strangers such as Dani Pedrosa, Jack Miller and Maverick Vinales head out in the hope of making it into Q2. Pedrosa laboured through the session appearing down the straight to be struggling to keep his head still. It was something I haven’t seen from him before and was distressing to watch. It was Vinales and Miller who emerged the victors of the session but not after some tough competition from Tito Rabat who narrowly missed claiming one of the two top spots.
In Q2 it was home town hero Rossi who claimed pole not only thrilling the crowd with the prospect of a race win from pole but with a new fastest lap on the Mugello track. Ducati rider Jorge Lorenzo seemed to just get better and better as the weekend went on and took second place on the starting grid with a best lap time only 0.035secs behind Rossi. Rossi’s teammate Vinales was the surprise package claiming the final front row spot after his battle in Q1.
On race day as the lights went out it looked like Lorenzo was on it, he took holeshot and lead the pack leading into turn 1. After a tough weekend Pedrosa went down in turn 2 of the first unintentionally bringing Taka Nakagami with him. Marc Marquez who started from the second row was up to his tricks that seem to becoming common place as the barged through pushing Miller out wide.
As lap 2 rolled around the front had settled in a bit with Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and Andrea Iannone led by Jorge Lorenzo. Lap 2 however, also saw Scott Redding crash out and Karel Abraham following in his footsteps shortly after at turn 15.
A lap later Marquez struck, taking second place from Rossi while Lorenzo was still comfortably in first.
Tom Luthi aboard his Marc VDS Honda was then next rider to exit the race crashing out at turn 15 of lap 4. Aussie Jack Miller also crashed in turn four ending his points grab, while Danilo Petrucci was putting in fastest lap after fastest lap.
With Lorenzo out in front Marquez, Rossi, Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso were close behind him and there was still hope for them to catch the race leader. Only a short distance behind them were Alex Rins and Petrucci and at this early stage of the race it still could be anyone’s win, except for Marquez who low sided into the gravel at turn 10. He almost saved it even trying to right the bike on the gravel but it was not to be this time and he was forced to remount. He headed back out on track but in 18th place.
In the next lap, it was Dovi who made his move stealing third from Iannone and by lap 8 the front of the field had changed slightly with Dovi now in second followed by Iannone, then Rossi, Petrucci and Rins with the gap to the race leader Lorenzo out to 0.431. However, Lorenzo was riding a steady race and the gap was increasing lap by lap. Behind him the places kept changing while Lorenzo kept pulling away and by lap 18 he was out over 2 seconds trailed by Dovi, Rossi, Iannone, Petrucci, Rins and now Cal Crutchlow who had joined the party. Vinales and Bautista also had the lead group in sight as they battled for 8th.
Aleix Espargaro had yet another disappointing weekend and was forced to retire with 4 laps to go, this allowed Marquez to move up a place and he now rode in 16th after passing Xavier Simeon in an earlier lap. However, his distance from Franco Morbidelli diminished his hopes of scoring points this round. This remained true and Marquez finished the race in 16th just outside the points.
As the final lap loomed Lorenzo was a sure winner and he crossed the line a whopping 6 seconds ahead of his teammate Dovi. Rossi and Iannone battled fiercely during the final few laps with Rossi taking the final podium spot. Rossi’s podium also saw the “Doctor” reach another career milestone becoming the first rider to reach more than 5000 premier class points. Iannone took fourth with Rins in fifth followed by Crutchlow, Petrucci, Vinales, Bautista and Johann Zarco in tenth.
Lorenzo was the clear winner and I bet it will take some time to wipe the well-earned smile off his face.
Racing next heads to Barcelona for the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya on June 17th.
1st Jorge Lorenzo:
“To win with Ducati in Mugello is a dream. But to win a race in MotoGP after a year and a half with no result, with so much criticism and hard work and finally you did it, it’s amazing. This is an example of never giving up, we can all do things if we keep working and go for it. You can achieve it.” “I changed my riding style completely to save the front tyre, and I made the biggest change from practice to race of my life,” he goes on to explain. “And after the race, I looked at the tyre and it was much better than I expected. I used my mind, I focused and I kept pushing till the last lap.”
2nd Andrea Dovizioso:
“I expected Jorge to be stronger today than in the past, I already saw in practice he had chance to drop less during the race,” said Dovizioso. “I didn’t expect it quite like this but the race was particular. He managed the race in a really good way, because both tyres he used were very soft so to keep that pace until the end was very difficult.”
3rd Valentino Rossi:
“I tried not to make any mistakes. The podium was the target, it remained difficult to secure it until the very last lap, because Iannone didn’t give up, but at the end it’s a great feeling in Mugello”
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