There are a lot of things that make Mugello special. Its location, in the heart of Tuscany, a sumptuously beautiful part of the world; its layout, fast, flowing, winding naturally up and round the valley it is set in.
The wide open nature of the track, all third and fourth gear combinations which require the perfect combination of intelligence, talent, and sheer courage that make it close to the perfect test of skill. It is fast, it is flowing, and it is undulating.
Even the front straight isn’t really a straight, but a rolling sinew of asphalt that winds down to the first corner. You come down out of the last turn, hammer on the gas, shifting up to sixth as you go, and ride up the rise towards the crest.
Drift right then left through the slight kink in the straight which becomes something resembling a 330 km/h chicane, then just as your front wheel floats free over the crest, you need to get it back down again and get on the brakes for the first corner, the 90 km/h San Donato.
The straight and the braking area are immensely difficult to get right, and a simple error can leave you hurtling into the gravel. Or, in the case of Marc Marquez, drifting towards a wall.
Each rider has their own technique, but subtlety is the key to getting it right. Jorge Lorenzo told the press that he does not really brake over the crest, nor does he use rear brake to keep the front down, but instead Lorenzo rolls off the throttle a fraction.
This puts the front tire back in contact with the tarmac, and allows him to brake at full force for San Donato. Dani Pedrosa’s technique is slightly different, but achieves the same result. “You never really hit the brake at once,” he said, “you squeeze and put the pressure a little after.”
I don’t know why Ducati Corse is calling this video “Ducati Team 2013 Presentation Video” on YouTube. Maybe it is because the team has been absent from the top of the time sheets for so long that Ducati thought we might have forgoten that Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso are the team’s factory riders. I kid, I kid…but really…no, I kid.
Already two practice sessions deep at Mugello for the Italian GP though, Ducati Corse is making quite the impression with all five of its riders: Hayden (4th), Iannone (6th), Dovizioso (7th), Pirro (10th), and Spies (16th). Mugello is Ducati’s home track event on the MotoGP calendar, and the 2013 Ducati Desmosedici GP13 has turned more than a few laps at the Tuscan circuit.
For Ducatisti, Sunday could be a very good day, though the weather remains a huge variable. But still, in the dry the Ducatis seem to be going very well, and for Ducati podiums, we all know you just add water. Chewy.
Mugello is a spectacular setting. Even when it absolutely pours down, so badly that a river starts running through the Mugello paddock, the setting remains spectacular. It makes navigating the paddock without a life vest fairly treacherous, but at least the view is stunning. The rain looks set to stay for the duration, though the forecast appears to be improving day by day, but the riders need not fear a lack of wet track time.
As always, the riders waxed eloquent on the circuit, almost universal in their praise. Most entertaining simile of the day was from Bradley Smith, who compared Mugello to a motocross track: all undulating surfaces, blind crests and banked corners. He is right, of course, but it is not the first comparison that springs to mind when describing a track as physically large and magnificent as Mugello.
MotoGP’s Claiming Rule is set to be consigned to the history books. At the next meeting of the Grand Prix Commission at Barcelona, a proposal will be put forward to abandon the claiming rule altogether.
With the advent of the new distinction, between MSMA entries and non-MSMA entries, the need to claim an engine ceased to exist. The demise of the claiming rule opens the way towards the leasing of Yamaha engines to private teams without fear of those engines being claimed by other factories.
The claiming rule had been instigated at the start of 2012, to allow the grid to expand. At the end of 2011, with the departure of Suzuki, and both Honda and Ducati cutting back the number of satellite bikes they were prepared to provide, numbers on the MotoGP grid looked like falling to as low as 13 or 14 bikes.
The switch back to 1000cc engines meant a rich spectrum of engines was available to custom chassis builders, to produce affordable race bikes. To allow such teams to compete with the full factory efforts, such teams were allowed extra fuel (24 liters instead of 21), and double the factory engine allowance, 12 instead of 6.
To prevent new factories from taking advantage of the loophole, the MSMA members – the factories involved in MotoGP – retained the right to claim the engine of such teams. Hence the name, Claiming Rule Team or CRT.
Mugello is arguably MotoGP’s crowning glory. The location is stunning, in the verdant hills of Tuscany, a few miles north of Florence, one of the most beautiful ancient cities in the world. The track itself is gorgeous and beautifully laid out, rolling round the valley in which the circuit is set.
It is one of the few tracks left at which a MotoGP bike can fully stretch its legs, even a 260+ horsepower fire-breathing 1000cc Honda RC213V. At the end of the front straight, as riders drift right then left for the slight kink of the pit lane exit just before the track drops off for the spectacular first corner at San Donato, the bikes approach the magical barrier of 350 km/h. An obstacle that has not yet been cleared, but one which must surely fall in the near future.
A lap of the circuit passes in under 1’48, an average of 175 km/h, or nearly 110 mph. It is verily a temple of speed.
It may seem odd, then, that the fastest bike does not necessarily win at the circuit. Of the past ten editions of the race, seven have been won by Yamahas, a bike which has never been the fastest in a straight line.
While speed is not the secret to the circuit, a glance at the list of winners over the years reveals exactly what is: Valentino Rossi has won seven times at the circuit in the premier class (as well as twice more in the support classes), Mick Doohan won here six times, Jorge Lorenzo won twice, and the list of one-time winners includes Dani Pedrosa, Kevin Schwantz, Loris Capirossi and Casey Stoner.
To win at Mugello is simple: it is merely a matter of being one of the very best riders in the world.
Ducati is on the verge of a large-scale overhaul of a major part of its MotoGP strategy. In 2013, its approach to satellite teams is set to change radically, with its satellite structure set to receive factory-spec Desmosedicis that will have a much closer relationship with the Borgo Panigale factory, says Ducati boss Alessandro Cicognani. “The main goal is to have a more competitive bike,” Cicognani said, speaking to us after the race at Mugello. “In this scenario, we are thinking that the satellite team could be a help to achieve more effective results more quickly for the factory team.”
The idea is to take a leaf out of Yamaha’s book, Cicognani explained. “The strategy we are thinking about is like a Tech 3 but with factory-spec bikes, something like that,” he said, while emphasizing that the plans had yet to be finalized. “We are thinking about it. We have some ideas.”
You’d be hard pressed to know that Part 3 of Monster’s little video series on the Mugello helmets of Valentino Rossi featured The Doctor at all (Part 1 & Part 2), as the short video clip watches more like a highlight reel of all of MotoGP’s Monster-sponsored riders. Maybe that’s because Rossi wasn’t fighting for the front at the Italian GP (though it was his best dry-weather outing thus far with the GP12), while Monster Yamaha Tech 3′s Andrea Dovizioso found himself sipping the bubbly after the race.
The truth is probably more along the lines of the fact that the energy drink manufacturer had to shell out big bucks for the video rights from Dorna, and a marketing manager at the company needed something to justify that huge expense to his boss. Anyhoo, our big takeaway from this final installment: the view of fans rushing the track post-race is something worth experiencing first-hand, especially when it involves Teletubbies riding pit-bikes. Video after the jump.
The somewhat thin crowds at Mugello this past weekend were in a way reflective of the lack of Italian domination in Grand Prix racing over the last few seasons. With Spaniards taking all 3 GP Championships in 2010, three non-italian nations doing the same in 2011, Valentino Rossi unlikely to win a race for the second season in a row, and inconsistent results for Italians in the lower classes, things look bleak for Italia in 2012 as well.
And while this didn’t stop those present from showing the energy and passion that this racing mecca is so well known for, it shouldn’t be too surprising that despite the incredible Moto2 win by Andrea Ianonne and the endearing swagger and impassioned ride to 2nd of Romano Fenati in Moto3, I pick a non-Italian rider to spotlight after attending the Gran Premio D’Italia TIM.
That rider is the reigning Moto2 World Champion, and MotoGP rookie sensation Stefan Bradl.