“This morning was not Mugello weather,” joked Pramac Ducati team manager Francesco Guidotti when we went to speak to him on Friday evening. It was cold, wet, and overcast, with a track still damp from the overnight rain.
The Tuscan sun stayed hidden behind the clouds, lending no hand in burning off any water on the track. It was that horrible half-and-half weather that teams and riders fear so much, a completely lost session in terms of preparing for the race.
It was also precisely the kind of conditions that had prompted the return of intermediate tires. Fearing empty tracks – and consequently, dead TV time – Dorna had asked Michelin to produce tires that might tempt riders out on track, give TV viewers something to watch, and TV commentators something to talk about.
It didn’t really work. At the start of MotoGP FP1, a group of riders went out on the hard wet tires, switching to intermediates as the track started to dry out a little.
But it was still only about half the field, the rest preferring to remain safely ensconced in the pits, only venturing out at the end of the session to do a test start or two. Why, fans and journalists alike asked, did the riders not make use of the tools they had been given?
For sheer, stunning beauty, it is hard to beat Mugello. ‘Nestling in the Tuscan hills’ is an overused cliché precisely because it is so very true.
The Mugello circuit runs along both sides of a beautiful Tuscan valley, swooping up and down the hillsides as it flows along the natural contours of the land. Like Phillip Island, and like Assen once was, it is a truly natural circuit.
It does not feel designed, it feels as if it was left there by the raw overwhelming natural forces which hewed the landscape from the limestone mountains, discovered by a man with a passion for speed, who then proceeded to lay asphalt where the hand of nature dictated.
It is fast, flowing and challenging. It demands every ounce of speed from a bike, and courage from a rider. It lacks any really tight corners, keeping hard acceleration in low gears to a minimum. Corners flow together in a natural progression, with a long series of left-right and right-left combination corners.
The riders call them chicanes, which they are only in the very strictest sense of the word. In reality, they are way, way too fast to be what fans call chicanes, more like high-speed changes of direction.
What they do is allow riders to line up a pass through one part of a turn, and the rider being passed to counter attack through the second part of the corner. That makes for great racing.
Since we already reported earlier this week that Maverick Viñales had signed a two-year deal with Yamaha Racing, riding alongside Valentino Rossi in the Movistar Yamaha team for 2017 and 2018, we won’t rehash the details again for you.
Instead, for those who doubted the initial report, this post is merely a note in the official record that Yamaha has now officially confirmed the addition of Viñales to its factory MotoGP, just ahead of the Italian GP in Mugello. Officially.
Together with the contract-signing news of Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, and Andrea Iannone, this confirmation solidifies most of the silly season rumors for the top factory teams in the MotoGP Championship.
The MotoGP silly season has been rapidly developing this week. First, Dani Pedrosa renewed his contract with Repsol Honda, and then we heard that Maverick Viñales would be headed to the Movistar Yamaha team for the next two years.
Next, we got confirmation that Andrea Dovizioso would continue with Ducati Corse, with Jorge Lorenzo as his teammate for next year, which meant that Andrea Iannone would be leaving the Italian squad.
Iannone’s future was quickly decided though, as the Italian rider has just inked a two-year deal with the ECSTAR Suzuki squad, taking the seat of the departed Maverick Viñales.
The pre-event announcements for the Italian GP seem to keep rolling in. First, it was Dani Pedrosa re-signing with Repsol Honda for two years; then, we got word that Maverick Viñales had done the same with the Movistar Yamaha team.
Now, we get news from Ducati Corse that Andrea Dovizioso will be with the Italian team for the next two years, with Andrea Iannone making his departure from Ducati, as well.
With this news, good money in the MotoGP Silly Season betting pool would place Iannone in the ECSTAR Suzuki garage for the foreseeable future, but time will tell on that speculation.
There has been a great deal of smoke around this fire, but Maverick Viñales has finally inked a deal with the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team.
Though there has been chatter on the subject since Friday, the news was confirmed to Asphalt & Rubber today. Together with the news of Dani Pedrosa staying at Repsol Honda, all of these reports should end one of the largest focal points of speculation in the GP paddock.
There is more to Mugello than just MotoGP. Being so large and so fast, the track makes for great racing in all classes, though each with a decidedly different character.
While the MotoGP race saw one rider escape and a tense game of cat-and-mouse behind, the Moto2 race was a game of chess with riders gaining and losing over twenty-one laps, and the Moto3 race turned into a spectacular battle, with the outcome uncertain to the end.
On the day after the Italian Grand Prix, the MotoGP riders were back testing at Mugello. This time, however, it was only the factory riders who remained, to give the Michelin tires another run out.
The last time they took to the track on the Michelins was at Sepang, and Michelin had brought the latest iteration of their tires to test.
Due to the commercial sensitivities involved, there was no official timing, and the riders were not allowed to speak to the media about the test.
Unsurprisingly: Bridgestone holds the single-tire contract for the 2015 season, having spent a lot of money for the privilege, so they do not want Michelin stealing their PR thunder.
Nor do Michelin really want to be subject the intense scrutiny which official timing would impose while they are still in the middle of their development program.
That does not mean that the small band of journalists who stayed at the test did not learn anything, however.