Great tracks produce great racing, even in the MotoGP class, where the combination of fuel limits, extremely advanced electronics, and stiff Bridgestone tires mean that the way to win races is by being absolutely inch-perfect on every lap.

And Mugello is a great track, there is no doubt of that, despite the fact that the usual Mugello atmosphere had been muted by a combination of a dismal Italian economy and sky-high ticket prices at the circuit, the only way for the circuit to recoup some of the sanctioning fee it must pay Dorna to run the race.

The hillsides were very sparsely populated, perhaps in part a result of the total Spanish domination of qualifying, putting three Spaniards on the front row in MotoGP, and another two on the Moto3 and Moto2 poles as well.

The Italian fans that stayed away missed not only some great races, but also some sterling performances from local Italian riders. There were Italians on the podium in all three classes, even one Italian winner, with Andrea Iannone winning the Moto2 race. The people sitting at home who had intended to fill those empty grandstands may well have regretted not going.

The Moto3 race turned into a war of attrition, with the best riders left at the end. Maverick Vinales proved he is the class of the field taking another convincing win, while Sandro Cortese clung on to third, scoring solid points for the Championship, and making the most out of a weekend when the bike wasn’t fast enough to give him the edge. The Championship is coming down to a straight fight between the sheer talent of Vinales and the guile and cunning of Cortese — and it is turning into a very nice little fight.

The star of Moto3 was Romano Fenati, however. After a few tough weekends, the Italian youngster showed once again that what he is mainly missing is experience. Learning his way round tracks he has never seen before, in conditions which are usually mixed, with little dry track time, is hard and easily overlooked. Fenati is coming along nicely, and should be a genuine title contender next season.

In Moto3, Andrea Iannone pulled out one of his usual brilliant rides, taking victory from Pol Espargaro after the Spaniard had dominated all throughout practice. Iannone stalked the front group, waited his chance and then pounced, conserving tires for the part of the race he wanted them.

That is the kind of maturity which Iannone has often been missing, but he will need to show it more often if he is to make progress. Iannone’s problem is that although he is in with a shot of winning 10 races a year, he is often nowhere in the other 7, inexplicably finishing outside the Top 10. Whether Iannone’s maturity is permanent or temporary will be the key to the rest of his career.

Though Pol Espargaro’s injured ankle may have played a minor role in the outcome, he seemed pretty unaffected by it during the race. The foot was badly swollen on Saturday night, yet a bit of magic from the Clinica Mobile and a lot of courage and determination from Espargaro put the Spaniard on the podium, benefiting also from Marc Marquez, who struggled to stay in the Top 5. Espargaro got 9 points back at Mugello; the title fight is still very much open.

In the MotoGP class, there was plenty of action in the race, though the winner was obvious from the beginning. Jorge Lorenzo had dominated proceedings to such an extent that his teamboss Wilco Zeelenberg had tried to get him to relax a little. Lorenzo had done four race distances at race pace, Zeelenberg said, nearly exhausting himself in the practice. “There’s no need to do lots of 1’47s during qualifying,” Zeelenberg said. “Just one fast lap is more than enough.”

It was the style of his victor which most impressed, the Spaniard putting on a peerless display of fast, smooth riding, while keeping your concentration at 100% for 45 whole minutes. So far this season, barring the accident caused by Alvaro Bautista, Jorge Lorenzo’s worst finish is 2nd.

Behind Lorenzo, the racing was pretty good, with Dovizioso dicing first with Pedrosa, and then with Stefan Bradl for most of the race. Nicky Hayden, Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow joined the party too, but only right at the very end of the race. Places – and paint – was swapped in the effort to score a podium, providing decent spectacle for most of the race.

Paint swapping went on further back down the field, when a frustrated Casey Stoner made a tough pass on Alvaro Bautista, only for Bautista to close the line on the Australian. The two riders touched, Stoner’s front wheel painting Gresini’s leathers, and Bautista getting shoved off the line for his pains. Though Stoner expressed his apologies to Bautista for the pass after the race, Bautista was not inclined to listen, flipping Stoner the bird on the cooldown lap as the bikes headed back to the pits.

Naturally, incidents involving one of the most loved (Nicky Hayden) and least loved (Casey Stoner) was bound to generate debate, but what was surprising was the black-and-white opinions on both moves. The fans were mainly behind Hayden, yet attacked Stoner for putting a similar move on Bautista. The fact that no action was taken by Race Direction was seen by some as a sign of inconsistency and weakness, by others as a sensible decision, to ensure that riders don’t become too scared to pass.

Hayden’s move on Bradl on the last lap was very aggressive, but Bradl immediately gave it back as good as he got it. Stoner’s move on Bautista was not so much aggressive as overly optimistic, trying to outbrake Bautista on the inside at a corner where Bautista was coming back onto the line.

To me, all these moves were just race incidents, with riders taking an extra chance when it counts. The moves were hard and aggressive, but all the riders involved left the other party in the fight with enough room on the track to survive. There was room to pass, and room to avoid the pass, and nobody was run off the track. If any of these passes had been penalized by Race Direction, that would have been the thin end of a very slippery slope leading towards an era where top-flight riders are told when and where they can overtake.

The mood at Ducati was positive for once, though neither man was particularly well satisfied with their position. Nicky Hayden believed he had a shot at podium, which is why he tried the aggressive pass on Bradl. He came to his press debrief looking rather depressed, despite having had a good race.

Hayden had lost some time fiddling with his fuel maps, looking for the right one to prevent the rear tire from spinning quite so badly. He found one which he liked, and used that one to run down the fight for the podium. He was not going to settle 5th, however. Hayden kept his eyes on the prize of his first podium of the year, and failed while trying to achieve it.

The best news for Hayden, though, was the fact that he was 2 seconds a lap faster than his times from last year. There are real signs of progress at Ducati, though, the bike still needs help to make the engine more rideable, and something to cure the chronic understeer which the bike has suffered from its inception.

Rossi, too, believed he had the pace for the podium. His problem, however, is that he and his crew cannot get up to speed on the soft qualifying tire, leaving him struggling well down the grid. Race pace for the Italian was pretty strong, but the first few laps on fresh tires made it hard to follow the group leaving at the start. With new parts to be tested on Monday, things are starting to look up every so slightly for Ducati.

Seeing Andrea Dovizioso on the podium immediately raised the question of Ben Spies, and why Yamaha are still considering keeping him. That judgement should not be made on the grounds of Spies’ Mugello performance, for a quick glance at the timesheet tells you something was wrong. Spies had been suffering from food poisoning during the race, the Texan having dizzy spells and an inability to focus. Spies’ lapchart varies wildly, times dipping into the 1’48s one minute then dropping to 1’53s a few laps later. That is not the lapchart of a normal, healthy man, and it’s clear that Spies was anything but. One day, Spies’ luck will change; it is merely a question of when. He really needs it to happen as soon as possible.

Photo: © 2012 Jules Cisek / Popmonkey – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • Tim

    Nice post, thanks! One question: the circuit organization has to pay Dorna for having a race? And this is more than the money that they receive from the tickets? This seems kind of strange to me.

  • TexusTim

    I like the report for the most part but I disagree with your opinion on the passes.
    1- hayden made a clean but close pass that didnt knock bradl off line. but the pass that bradl made back on hayden was unsafe by any standard, he not only made contcat with hayden but shoved him nearly off the track hayden lost three places and a clear shot at the podium..bradl’s finish should have been removed, my belife is that didnt happen because he is the only german doing well for years but hayden had the line bradl didnt.
    2- stoner…what an ass the pass he made was clerly out of anger, his bad attitude is like a spoiled child.
    he was so much faster than Bautista he could have made that pass much safer he wasnt going to finish any better…..he did it and now has no credability when he complains about other riders making unsafe passes. Just sayin stoner was wrong bradl was wrong, hayden is a fantasic rider and it shows how he managed to stay on the track after what bradl did.

  • TexusTim

    let talk about spies.I have heard every excuse for him but none hold water…he just cant get it going on the neww “litre” bike even when he is fine he holds up other riders that are faster or crashes pushing to hard to keep up.dovi on the satalite bike has kicked his but at nearly every race and on the podium every time……spies won his first race when simoncceli took out lorenzo and thew crash gave him a big lead on the rest of the pack.I think edwards on the factory ride could go time for dovi to get his ride send spies back to tech three this year and next year send him home so he can pay all the people back he owes money too.what an unethical person

  • Jonathan

    Despite the top step of the podium having Lorenzo’s name on it all weekend I really enjoyed the race – plenty of racing everywhere you looked. Just for a couple of laps it looked like Dani had a little left in reserve, but Lorenzo had it all under control. Still, Pedrosa’s is a candidate for “ride of the day” for me. He kept it tidy and never gave up, despite being on second best machinery on the day.

    Was Stoner’s pass on Bautista the result of petulance, or the same inability to get the bike slowed up that saw him take to the gravel a few laps earlier? I’m not normally minded to give Casey the benefit of the doubt, but on this occasion I’ll agree with the verdict of “racing incident”. Likewise the tussle between Nicky and Bradl was just two guys pushing hard for the line.

    Highlight of the day was seeing Rossi sneaking onto the podium to salute the fans (who were going absolutely nuts). An audience with His Holiness! Ducati are testing at Mugello right now, so hopefully the improvments will continue.

    And there were no tyre dramas this weekend either…

  • Neil

    I agree with TexusTim…

    Nicky was on a charge and got screwed, Rossi and Crutchlow got by him because of this….
    Two Honda’s (Stoner & Bradl) making very suspect moves, no penalties, ridiculous

  • SBPilot

    @ TexusTim: I agree with you on Spies whole heartedly. Every journalist or article gives him excuses but in the racing world, a rider can fall off the map due to many reasons. Spies was fast, was, he just isn’t there any more. Something may have happened, we don’t know, but he’s not fast any more. Could very well be that legal mess he’s in!

    I don’t agree on the Bradl being too aggressive on Hayden at all. Bradl pulled completely alongside Hayden during braking well before either tipped in. It was a clean aggressive out braking block move and I don’t think Hayden saw it coming. Likewise, Hayden’s move on Bradl was completely inline as well, and not even close to being “very aggressive” as the article states.

    Stoner on Bautista on the other hand was pretty ridiculous. Stoner just had no chance. When the rider in front is already tipped and you’re trying to pass on the inside, you’re asking for trouble. Either you pick it up and try not to T-bone the bike in front or force yourself in and hope somehow escape with some paint exchanging and not going down. Luckily for Stoner (and Bautista) neither got knocked down. Stoner admitted there was no where he could go, he made a mistake and shouldn’t have tried to overtake but it was too late for him to do anything.

    I still think Dovi should go to factory Yamaha, and Rossi should take his place at Tech3. I’m sure Monster would gladly pay for parts to make that Tech3 a factory spec bike for Rossi. Plus wouldn’t it be sweet to beat factory boys on a “satellite” bike, I’m sure Rossi would love that.

    Hayden deserves to stay at Ducati, Rossi needs to jump on that M1 so Cal can get that Duc ride and all the guessing is over! Herve needs to tell Smith that his GP contract is out the window.

  • SBPilot

    Herve is willing to go to court with Smith to tear up that contract I read. I’m sure if he spoke to Rossi and said “Hey if I tear up this Smith contract and come to a settlement where I need to pay X amount of money, will you cover (some of) that?” Im’ sure Rossi would say “yes (or Yes, Monster will) as long as you get a factory spec M1 for me don’t charge me full for upgrades that come”. Herve would be happy either way with the amount of sponsorship money the team got and attention his team would get with Rossi on board.

    That would great, and if Smith doesn’t have a Monster logo on his helmet next year you know why. haha!

    Top level motorsport politics I can see something like this happening.

  • smiler

    looking at the footage. the difference with hayden passing Bradl was that there was space between them right thru the corner. Bradl cut Hayden off and took his racing line over. Hayden nearly came off. Difficult call but a shame for Hayden.

    As for riders. Cannot see Rossi moving from Ducati for next yr given what he has said and his comments about Audi. I reckon Audi and Ducati want him and Hayden to stay for next yr. Continuity for getting the bike sorted. Hayden and Rossi make a good team as well. If Cal comes in it is a huge risk for him. If he waits a year then he will be certain of his choices and will have put in 2 solid years. The development path will be diverted and interupted with a new rider and Rossi having been 1 sec from a podium at Mugello will be seen to have given up before getting the job done.

    Last lap was a good un, from Mugello.

  • Damo

    I really hope Ducati keeps Hayden around. The dude has been on race pace lately, I have truly been enjoying his races.

  • SBPilot summed it up beautifully on all counts for me. Rossi on the Tech3? Hmmmm. I like it.

  • I hope Rossi and Hayden stick it out with Ducati. What a feather in Rossi’s hat if he can retire from MotoGP with championships with Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati. Ducati needs to get their bike handling properly and then give the motor a boost in HP. Stoner raced the Ducati a few years back when it had a big HP advantage over the field. And that was with a bad handling bike. I hope they can find that advantage again.

  • Westward

    Rossi needs to stop adapting the bike to his needs and start adapting to the bike. The results of Hayden are starting to show this to be true, add to that the front row achieved by Barbera, Rossi is beginning to lose a little credibility. Rossi’s own performance at Mugello also eludes to this being a little true…

    Dovizioso has earned the right to be on a Factory Yamaha M1, If he were smart, it should not matter if it was still at Tech3. Spies being retained on the factory team has more to do with his sponsorship draw being more than Dovi’s (lesson learned with Rossi’s departure), otherwise they should switch places.

    Personally, I think Yamaha’s procrastination to finalize things is somewhat linked to the Rossi’s not having made a decision yet. Rossi on a factory spec M1 at Tech3 is not so far fetched (history will show)…

    At Ducati, if Hayden is not in the future plans, they still would like and American, and I think Spies would be a great choice. Maybe all the bike really needs is a set of elbowz…

    I would much rather see Rossi on a sorted Ducati than the Yamaha. Ducati I hope, finds a way to keep the Pramac team intact and running a two bike squad. Then what could be of use is placing four factory bikes on the grid to pull as much data as possible…

  • Westward

    As for the passes, I don’t really understand why there is much of a question regarding Bradl and Hayden. However, Stoner no longer has any right to be self righteous and indignant when it comes to aggressive maneuvers. Stoner was clearly in the wrong, and his comment about the matter was immature.

    When ones front tyre comes in contact with the leathers of another on the backside, yeah, you are at fault. Rocks in the head my friend, rocks in the head…

  • irksome

    What again was Stoner’s quote to Rossi last year..?

  • Stoner (smiling): “How’s your shoulder? Is it okay?”

    Rossi (helmet still on): “I’m very sorry.”

    Stoner: “Okay. You have some problem with your shoulder?”

    Rossi: “I make a mistake”

    Stoner: “Yeah. Obviously your ambition outweighed your talent.”

    Rossi: “Eh?”

    Stoner: “Ambition is more than the talent.”

    Rossi: “I’m very sorry.”

    Stoner: “No problem.”


    A memorable exchange, but not relevant to dusting Bautista’s leathers, IMO. Two words: Racing Incident. Stoner apologized. Bautista flipped ‘im the bird. Tempers in the heat of the moment and all that.

  • Ramji

    Stoner is such a worst fellow. He never respects other riders and talks as though he is perfect. :@:@:@ i hate stoner

  • Ramji, that’s a ridiculously incorrect comment. All of the top riders in MotoGP have a great deal of respect for each other. All it takes is watching the last race with an open mind to see how trusting both Stoner and Lorenzo are of each other.

    As for hate, such a waste of emotional potential.