If there is an axis around which every MotoGP season revolves, it has to be the sparkling jewels in the crown at Mugello and Barcelona.
From the glory of the Tuscan circuit, all high-speed and rolling hills set just an hour down the road from the heart of Italian sports motorcycles, the circuits heads to the magnificent track at Montmeló, just outside Barcelona.
A stone’s throw away from the cradle of Spanish motorcycling, and with a third or so of the grid (and the paddock regulars) having been born within an hour’s drive, Barcelona is MotoGP’s true home race.
Like Mugello, it is a track worthy of MotoGP, where the big bikes can properly stretch their legs. A massive front straight, exhaust noise booming between the great wall of a grandstand, with a tricky right-left chicane at the end of it.
Lots of long fast corners, allowing differing lines and offering up chances to try to pass. A couple of hard braking sections with more opportunities to pass.
After the chicane at Turn 1 and 2, the next favorite passing spot is into Turn 5, a tight left hander. If you’re feeling cheeky, you can have a sniff at Turn 7, though that can leave you open at Turn 9.
Turn 10 is prime passing territory, a fast approach with a long downhill braking section, before you flick it left round a long, wide corner. Care is needed, though, as it is easy to lose the front on the greasy off-camber corner, or run wide when passing.
That allows the rider you just passed to come back underneath. If the pass does not stick there, all is not quite lost, but it will require every gram of skill and bravery you can muster. Passes are possible at the final corner, as Valentino Rossi so stunningly demonstrated in 2009, but they are far from easy.
Yamaha have issued an official explanation for the problem they suffered at Mugello, which saw Valentino Rossi’s engine blow up during the race, and Jorge Lorenzo’s engine blow up during warm-up on Sunday morning.
The cause given is exactly in line with the reasoning in our Mugello Sunday post-race round up: the engine overrevving as the rear wheel lifted at the end of the Mugello straight.
At that point in the track, with the bike hitting 350 km/h and nearing peak speed at top gear and at full throttle, when the rear wheel lifts over the crest at the end of the straight, the engine spins up too quickly for the rev limiter to catch.
News from Catalunya today is that Pol Espargaro and Yamaha Racing will go their separate ways at the end of the 2016 MotoGP Championship season, effectively also ending the younger Espargaro’s tenure in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 garage.
It is not clear yet where Espargaro will go for the next season, though that decision and announcement could happen as swiftly as this race weekend in Barcelona. Similarly, it is also not clear who will replace Pol Espargaro with a Yamaha contract in the Tech 3 garage, for next season.
Forgive us as we play into Alpinestars’ marketing game, as the video we are about to show was made strictly to help sell more motorcycle leathers. But still, it is also a great insight into a MotoGP rider that has been hogging headlines recently, Maverick Viñales.
Tipped by many in the paddock as the next alien, Viñales was the major roadblock in this year’s MotoGP contract negotiations, as the young Spaniard had a difficult time choosing to leave the factory Suzuki MotoGP team for the factory Yamaha outfit.
Viñales even tells of his thought process for that decision in the video, which is remarkably candid of him to do, especially considering that the media is a sponsor’s marketing video.
Other items of note is how Maverick Viñales nearly found himself racing MX bikes, instead of GP bikes. He also talks about how he trains on the motocross track with his girlfriend, Kiara Fontanesi, who also happens to be a four-time Women’s Motocross World Champion.
Long story short, the video is well worth a watch. Check it out after the jump.
American race fans will see a familiar face during next weekend’s World Superbike races at Donington Park, as its has just been announced that MotoAmerica’s Cameron Beaubier will be ridng with the Pata Yamaha factory team.
Cameron Beaubier will be filling in for the injured Sylvain Guintoli, who fractured his ankle during the Superpole session at the Imola round – an injury that is taking longer to heal than expected.
While it’s bad news for the Guintoli, the move is a boon for Beaubier, as the weekend will likely serve as a public audition for the young American in the World Superbike paddock.
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.