News 17 May 2016

Lorenzo leads into Rossi's home ground at Mugello

Intriguing title race continues with Italian Grand Prix.

Source: Supplied.

Source: Supplied.

It’s still anyone’s championship after a dramatic weekend in France, the Gran Premio d’Italia TIM is set for another fiery race as the MotoGP World Championship continues.

Marc Marquez’s (Repsol Honda Team) perfect podium record came to an end in France as he fell at the Musée corner, remounting for 13th. It might have been a disaster of a weekend, but it has set the remainder of the season up nicely.

Victory in Le Mans allowed Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) to retake the championship lead, edging five points clear of Marquez. While Lorenzo was untouchable, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) managed a safe second and the top three are subsequently split by just 12 points.

Mugello is a favourite circuit of almost every rider, the run down to San Donato something that very few circuits can match. It’s an even more special place for Valentino Rossi, the hills a sea of yellow.

Even when he doesn’t finish on the podium, chants of his name draw him out to greet the fans. On seven straight occasions Rossi has claimed victory in Mugello but hasn’t won there since 2008. The last six years have seen Spanish riders win at Rossi’s home and it’s time for ‘The Doctor’ to take it back.

In those six years four victories have gone to Lorenzo, his silky smooth style fitting the sweeping curves of the circuit perfectly. Since making his MotoGP World Championship debut, Lorenzo has only once missed the podium and has never finished lower than second place. It’s certainly an ominous historical record and fresh off his biggest win in the premier class, Lorenzo will be tough to beat.

Not only does Lorenzo have to contend with his teammate, he’ll also have to fight off Marquez. Le Mans saw him make his first mistake of the year and the young Spaniard needs to get right back on the podium.

This could be tough at Mugello, a track where Marquez has only once finished a MotoGP race. His one race finish was a victory in 2014, but Mugello still remains as one of his least successful circuits alongside Jerez and Phillip Island.

Marquez’s trouble in France was nothing compared to that of Ducati’s, neither of their factory riders able to finish the race. Not since Phillip Island have both Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) finished a race together.

What makes the crashes even harder to swallow is that in many of them the pair were in podium contention before falling. Mugello offers yet another chance of redemption, both riders having tested at the track before the French GP.

In 2015 Iannone secured pole in Mugello, his first in the premier class, despite riding with a recently dislocated shoulder, and go on to take third. Another podium would certainly help to get Iannone and Ducati back on track, but don’t rule them out of a win. The long straight should play into Ducati’s hands if the race becomes a race to the line. 2016 could very well see Ducati break their own top speed record again.

Recent years have seen Dovizioso struggle in Mugello, taking sixth in 2014 and failing to finish due to a mechanical issue in 2015. During Rossi’s Ducati years, Dovizioso was frequently the highest placed Italian in Mugello and delighted crowds with his podiums.

Three of Dovizioso’s last four races have been disturbed by other riders or issues outside of his control, his falls in Le Mans the first mistake of his own doing. Both Italians are eager to impress at Ducati’s home race, especially as only one seat remains in the factory team.

Race by race Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) and Honda have slowly been resolving their issues and getting closer and closer to a podium return. Only once in his premier class career has Pedrosa stood on the top step in Mugello, but he has taken a total of five podiums.

Like Pedrosa, Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) is out to return to the podium in Mugello, the young Spaniard having delivered on his potential in France and taken his first MotoGP™ podium finish. He also returned Suzuki to the box for the first time since 2008, Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) keen to do all he can to make it two in a row and prove he can match his teammate.

Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) arrives in Italy with an ever-increasing lead in the Independent Team championship, now eight points clear of Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing). Yamahas have almost always gone well at Mugello, Espargaro hoping to maximise the M1’s potential to stay ahead of Barbera and the other Independent Team riders.