With an exceptionally close situation at the top of the FIM MotoGP World Championship standings, the premier class riders could be forgiven for focusing exclusively on their immediate rivals. However, Mugello is a special track for the 800cc competitors and merits added attention from them, as they explained on Thursday ahead of the Gran Premio d’Italia Alice.
The pre-event press conference for the Italian round brought five riders out of the pleasant sun present at the track and inside to face the gathered media. Sat at the centre of the table, World Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo was flanked by teammate and Mugello dominator Valentino Rossi, former titlist Casey Stoner and local stars Marco Melandri & Niccolò Canepa.
The quintet had unanimously positive opinions of the track, noting the impressive atmosphere and enjoyable layout. Despite this, nobody was making predictions on a final result for Sunday.
“We recovered 24 points in one race at Le Mans, with perhaps a bit of luck. To get a podium here would be great; to fight with Valentino would be amazing, but it’s not my objective,” said Lorenzo, leader of the series by a single point. “I want to finish races and improve my result from last year. I will try not to repeat what happened at Jerez (where he crashed out whilst fighting for the rostrum) but who knows? It could happen.”
Lorenzo was justified in his citing Rossi as a key rival on Italian soil. His Fiat Yamaha teammate has won the past seven visits to Mugello, and always has extra motivation for his home round.
“This Grand Prix is, from one point of view, more important than the others,” admitted reigning World Champion Rossi. “It’s Italy, there’s a huge crowd and a great atmosphere. But there are 25 points available like at any other race.”
Ducati rider Stoner dismissed any hopes of Rossi buckling under pressure by stating that “he normally performs,” before saying that he is, “confident of a good race –even if a win might be another matter.”
Expectations were left at the door for Melandri and Canepa, both hoping to spring a surprise at tracks where they have much experience. Pramac Racing rookie Canepa has more experience than anyone of the track over the last twelve months from his time as a Ducati test rider but, whilst he has the track knowledge, things haven’t been all good at Mugello. He reminded the media that the last time that he tested at the track, he left with two broken ankles and a broken elbow.
With the help of lower cylinder category riders Álvaro Bautista, Thomas Luthi and Julián Simon, the premier class five had opened the press conference by signing the FIM Environmental Charter to pledge to help make for a more eco-friendly championship. The stamping of approval was part of the 2009 World Environment Day.ç
In addition, the local ‘Sbandieratori’ flagsmen paid a visit to the scene of this weekend’s race decked out in full ceremonial dress, meeting up with the likes of De Puniet, Lorenzo, Vermeulen, Capirossi, Takahashi, De Angelis, Canepa and Edwards among other riders on the home straight to pose for photos and give a lesson in ‘flag throwing’ –part of the Sbandieratori’s traditional dance.