Mugello is a special place, and a special race. One of the things that makes it so special is the atmosphere, the massed crowds that arrive on Thursday and Friday, and party noisily until Sunday night, filling the Tuscan skies with the sound of fireworks, engines being held against their limiters, popping exhausts, and very, very loud Italian pop music (or as was the case on Saturday night as we left the track, Jingle Bells composed entirely of fart noises).
They aren’t here. The hillsides are not exactly empty, but the sparse scattering of tents that dot them are a very pale imitation of the wall of color that used to cover the grass at Mugello. The roads are relatively quiet, bikes fairly few and far between, and travelling to and from the circuit is not the nightmare that it has been in previous years.
So why haven’t the crowds come? There are lots of reasons. First and foremost the state of the Italian economy, of course. As in Spain, unemployment in Italy is rising, and those who still have a job are more careful about spending money. High ticket prices don’t help, of course — a general trend at racetracks around the world. Holding the race in mid-July, when the locals would rather be heading to the beach, rather than in early June was another reason.
And then of course there is Valentino Rossi. The Italian legend qualified in 10th on Saturday, and realistically, his chances of battling for the podium are virtually non-existent. And it’s not just Rossi, competitive Italian riders provide thin pickings for the locals to support. There is certainly a chance of seeing an Italian victory on Sunday, but the odds are stacked against it.
It is a tall-order to beat the rapid-succession qualifying we had at the German GP, which saw a stream of riders dropping pole-position laps one-after-another for nearly 5 minutes straight – but this is Mugello, and the MotoGP riders hate to disappoint when they are in Italy. With perfect racing conditions, the qualifying session had its fair share of crashes, fast laps, and surprise moments. Featuring three manufacturers on the front row, and three manufacturers on the second row, the Italian GP is also shaping up to be a good race, for all the parties involved.
I wish I could take credit for having such a deep understanding of Italian culture that the meaning behind Rossi’s Mugello helmet was self-evident, but the credit belongs to Ducati Corse’s PR man, Chris Jonnum. After seeing Alex Brigg’s tweet that featured Rossi’s new helmet design, CJ was kind enough to connect the dots for us on the meaning behind the special Mugello helmet. And let me tell you, as non-Italian, the trail would not have been easy to follow without his help. Get the inside scoop on Rossi’s lid after the jump.
“I don’t really want to look at the timesheet,” Cal Crutchlow said at the end of the first day of practice at Mugello, “because Lorenzo’s run was an absolute joke.” Crutchlow is well-known for his colorful language – in every sense of that phrase – and his words are easy to misinterpret. But a glance at the consistency of Lorenzo’s times soon makes you understand exactly what Crutchlow meant. On the hard rear tire, Lorenzo was running mid to low 1’48s, with many laps within a few hundredths of each other. On the evidence of Friday alone, Lorenzo is not just going to win this race, he is going to embarrass the entire field.
Monster’s series on Valentino Rossi’s Mugello helmets continues (Part 1 here), with this second installment just teasing out the nine-time World Champion’s signature special Mugello helmet. The video is certainly less wordy than the first, and from what we can gather, Rossi will have a ring of flowers on his head for the Italian GP.
With MotoGP to take to the historic Italian track for FP3 and Qualifying in just a few hours, we shouldn’t have too long to wait to see the final product from Aldo Drudi. Until then, this video will have to suffice. Check it out after the jump.
It’s a good job that we are here in Mugello. Normally, at the end of three back-to-back race weekends, riders, team members and journalists are all just about ready to strangle each other – some paddock insiders have colorful tales of intra-team punch-ups, which they will tell if plied with a few drinks – but this is Mugello, the one weekend each season which everybody looks forward to.
There is something very special about the setting, the track, the weather, the location which mellows everyone out. Maybe it is the spectacularly located Tuscan villas most of the teams stay in for the weekend – there is nothing quite like taking a dip in a private pool as the sun goes down behind the beautiful hills of Tuscany to calm the spirits. But the truth is that everyone seems to wear a smile around the Mugello paddock, no matter what hardship they have suffered in the weeks before the weekend.
It is to be a special weekend, just as every race at Mugello is special. And it will be important too, with several big announcements already made, and more to come. The biggest – and least surprising – was the announcement that Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez will ride for the factory Repsol Honda team for the next two season. Both signings had been long expected, despite some rumors that Valentino Rossi would be moved into the Repsol team in Pedrosa’s place. HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto explained to the press that the decision to sign Pedrosa had been because of the experience of the Spaniard. “A good rider with good experience,” is how Nakamoto described Pedrosa, saying that his signing was good for Honda.
And Honda was not Pedrosa’s only option. He had had other options on the table and been able to decide freely where he wanted to go, Pedrosa told Spanish media, the implication being that he had an offer from Yamaha, though Pedrosa refused to go into details. He had been a Honda rider throughout all of his career, Pedrosa said, and so to continue had been the best option.
It looks like Monster Energy has a nice video series cooking with Valentino Rossi, just ahead of the nine-time World Champion racing in front of his home crowd this weekend at the Italian GP. Of course, Rossi is known for his special helmets at the Mugello round, and 2012 will be no different, as The Doctor once again has trusted Aldo Drudi to paint him a special AGV lid for the race.
Usually a surprise to race fans, the last few years we have been getting peeks of the Drudi’s work on Twitter, usually from Rossi’s mechanics Alex Briggs. But for this year, Monster and Rossi have teamed up to make a special multi-part promo video to promote the helmet, and the race.
Yeah sure it’s a promotional work for Monster (a personal sponsor of Rossi), but it is actually pretty interesting to hear Valentino, in his own words, explain the significance and meaning behind his and Drudi’s collaborations.
If this first part is any indication of what is to come, we should be in for a nice little web series this race-weekend, though no one is expecting a miracle from Rossi and the Ducati Corse team in their results. Check the video out after the jump.
With MotoGP returning to Mugello for the Italian GP, the San Carlo Gresini Honda team is reverting back to its customary white livery scheme, a decision made by both Fausto Gresini and the Simoncelli family. Hoping to invoke some memories of Marco Simoncelli lapping around that famous Italian track, Gresini Racing’s time of mourning for its fallen Italian rider appears to be over as it retires its all-black livery, and has painted Alvaro Bautista’s Honda RC213V in the team’s customary all-while livery for this weekend.
HRC has today confirmed the news that has been expected for several weeks now. Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez have both signed up to race in the Repsol Honda team for the next two seasons, 2013 and 2014. Both riders are long-time protégés of the Spanish petroleum giant Repsol, so the combination of Marquez and Pedrosa in the factory team was the logical choice.
Once the Rookie Rule had been removed – at the request of the Honda satellite teams, for whom Marquez would have caused problems with crew members and sponsors – Marquez’s move into the factory Honda team was inevitable. As for Pedrosa, the Spaniard has consistently won races every season he has been in MotoGP, and has been in the title race most seasons, though injuries have prevented him from mounting a serious challenge.