What did we learn from the first day of practice at Mugello? We learned that Jorge Lorenzo is still at the same steamroller pace he was at Jerez and Le Mans. That Valentino Rossi is following a plan, rather than chasing a lap time.
That the Ducatis are fast, almost obscenely so, and that’s before they put their special Mugello engine in. That Aleix Espargaro is one tough son of a gun. That the Hondas are still fast, when the conditions are right. And that Mugello might just be one of the places the conditions are likely to be right.
Why would the Honda be good at Mugello when it was so bad at Le Mans? Marc Márquez explained in a little more detail after practice on Friday. The biggest problem of the Honda RC213V is the aggressive nature of its engine, both in acceleration and braking.
In braking, the bike is sliding more than the riders want it to, and in acceleration, the riders are having to fight the bike’s willingness to wheelie and spin out of the corner.
Because Mugello is such a fast track (more of that later), the teams have to gear the bikes longer, both for the main straight and for the more flowing corners. Longer gearing means that the engine has to work harder to try to lift the front wheel, taming the power a little.
“It looks like here the character of the engine is smoother, also because the final sprocket is longer and then the gearbox is longer,” Márquez told us. “The bike is pushing less, the corners are faster and don’t have that big acceleration and that helps us.”
Announced today at Mugello, Dainese is making its D-air airbag technology available to other race suit manufacturers.
Calling the integrated airbag, electronics, gas generator, wiring, battery, and GPS the Dainese D-air Armor “open platform”, the Italian firm hopes to begin protecting all the riders in the Grand Prix World Championships with this new business strategy.
At its core, the D-air Armor technology is the same that Dainese-sponsored riders have been enjoying this season, and arguably the Dainese system is the best airbag system currently available use for motorcycle racers.
Rivaling Alpinstars in protecting GP riders with airbags, today’s announcement will mean that riders with other leather suit brands, will be able to get airbag protection. Dainese has already signed deals with Vircos and Furygan.
I shall spare you the “rolling Tuscan hills” patter. That cliché will be trotted out in most of the press releases and previews you will read. Indeed, it is one I have done to death in many of my own previews of the race.
Like all clichés, it is based on an underlying truth: the Mugello circuit is a breathaking track, set in a stunning location, and scene of some of the greatest racing over the thirty Grand Prix which have been held here since 1976.
So good is the track that it has remained virtually unchanged, with only minor tweaks to improve safety. There are still a few spots which could use some improvement. The wall at the end of the main straight could use being moved further to the left, and the gravel trap on the exit of Poggio Secco is terrifyingly small, but fixing these would require moving some serious quantities of earth.
But this is Mugello, and so we look away and carry on. At least the astroturf has been removed, removing one possible source of danger.
The setting and the racetrack mean that this is always one of the highlights of the year, but 2015 could be even better than usual. It might even live up to the hype, of which there is justifiably plenty. But where to begin?
Pol Espargaro has had surgery on his right arm to fix a problem with arm pump, the rider’s management team announced in a press release.
The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider was operated on in Madrid by Dr. Angel Villamor, widely regarded as one of the top authorities on treating compartment syndrome, and the surgeon who treated Dani Pedrosa.
The surgery is judged to have gone well, and Espargaro is due to be examined again at the end of the week.
Aleix Espargaro is to have surgery on the hand he injured at Le Mans. The Spaniard had a massive highside during FP3 at Le mans, falling heavily and injuring his hand.
The scans he had at the time showed no sign of fractures, but examinations on Monday by Dr. Mir turned up a torn ligament in his right thumb, a condition more commonly known as skier’s thumb.
When the calendar for the 2014 MotoGP season was announced one race immediately jumped out, Mugello.
This would probably not be for the reason that everyone would assume, after all Mugello is one of the most popular races on the calendar. It stood out as it was bang in the middle of the Isle of Man TT races.
While I really enjoy photographing MotoGP, my passion is, and always will be, the Isle of Man TT. In fact had it been any race other than Mugello, I may have decided to stay at home. But it wasn’t, so the decision was made, after all, how could I shoot a MotoGP season and not go to Mugello?
It is a common complaint among MotoGP riders after the race on Sunday afternoon: the track never has the grip which the riders found on previous days during practice and qualifying.
The riders are quick to point the finger of blame at Moto2. The spectacle of 33 Moto2 machines sliding around on fat tires lays down a layer of rubber which adversely affects grip during the MotoGP race.
Andrea Dovizioso was the latest rider to add to a growing litany of complaints. After finishing sixth at Mugello, the Ducati rider told the media that the rubber laid down by Moto2 made it hard to obtain the same level of grip as they found during practice.
“Everybody complains about that,” Dovizioso said, “the rubber from Moto2 makes the grip less.” Because free practice and qualifying for Moto2 always takes place after MotoGP, but the Moto2 race happens before the premier class, it meant that track conditions were different.
One circuit, three races, all of them utterly different in nature. The wide, flowing layout with a long straight, fast corners, and multiple combinations of turns present very different challenges to Grand Prix racing’s three different classes.
For Moto3, escape is impossible, the race coming down to tactics and the ability to pick the right slipstream. In Moto2, it is possible to get away, but it’s equally possible to chase an escaped rider down.
And in MotoGP, the fast flicks make it possible to both defend attacks and launch your own counter-attacks. Mugello is a wonderful circuit, and it served up a spectacular portion of racing on Sunday.