Episode 104 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and in it we see Neil Morrison and David Emmett joined on the microphones by French journalist Thomas Baujard, as we discuss the happenings at the Italian GP at Mugello.
As usual, the guys cover the on track action at the race, as well as the goings on behind the scenes in the paddock.
Obviously, the main topic of conversation is about Danilo Petrucci, who took his first MotoGP race win – a career highlight that is added to by being on an Italian bike at the Italian grand prix.
All is fair in love, war, and motorcycle racing. When the racing is close, and the rivals are strong, then riders, teams, and even manufacturers will go to extraordinary lengths to try to win.
There have already been veiled accusations of cheating at Mugello – Aleix Espargaro wondering aloud how the bikes from some factories seem to be able to do things which should not be possible with the spec electronics – though things are rarely quite that blatant.
But mind games, intimidation, getting in people’s way, putting them off their stride, trying to instill doubt in their minds, all these things are common.
Sometimes, those tactics can backfire. In Q1, for example, Valentino Rossi and Alex Rins found themselves caught in a classic case of Prisoner’s Dilemma. In the dying minutes of Q1, while Andrea Dovizioso was chasing a quick lap to put him through to Q2, Alex Rins found Valentino Rossi behind him.
At that point, Rins was clinging onto second place, behind Michele Pirro, but he knew that Dovizioso was on a charge. If Dovizioso went faster than he did, he would be out of Q2.
Stark choices lay ahead. Push for a lap and risk giving Rossi a tow, and having Rossi beat him to Q2. Try to force Rossi to pass him, then hope that Rossi would push for a lap, and use the speed of the Yamaha to gain a few extra km/h along the front straight, and bag a spot in Q2.
And so the rookies conquered Mugello. After a motley crew topped the timesheets in the morning – Marc Márquez taking top spot, ahead of the Ducatis of Danilo Petrucci and Michele Pirro (Ducati’s test rider, who is rapidly closing on a light year or so of laps around Mugello, and is immediately up to speed), followed by Fabio Quartararo, Aleix Espargaro, and Jack Miller – the rookies shone in the afternoon.
Pecco Bagnaia sat atop the timesheets after FP2, fractionally ahead (0.046 seconds, ironically) of Fabio Quartararo, with Danilo Petrucci taking third, the first of the veterans to cross the line.
For Quartararo to head the timesheets is not much of a surprise. The Petronas Yamaha SRT rider has consistently been fast, already having a pole and a fastest race lap to his name. But Bagnaia’s name was something of a surprise.
The Italian had been heavily tipped before the start of the season, but once racing got underway, he had slowly slipped back into obscurity.
That is part of the learning process, figuring out what you need from the bike at each track, learning from your crew how to get the best out of your package, understanding how the bike behaves in a variety of conditions.
Bagnaia and his Pramac Ducati team had made a big step forward at Le Mans, the Italian said. And the lessons learned had been a big help at Mugello. “The nice thing was that I did not push so much,” the Italian said on Friday afternoon.
“The time came easier compared to other races and I’m really happy about that. I think the key was the work we made in Le Mans. Now we have something I wanted in the front and I think it will be easier to start in every circuit.”
“Mugello is a fantastic track,” Valentino Rossi told the pre-event press conference at Mugello, a sentiment echoed by every single rider and just about everyone in the paddock. “When you ride the feeling is great.” It really is a magical place, and a magical experience.
But it is not without its dangers, chief among them the brow of the hill the riders take at over 350 km/h just before they have to brake. “It’s also an old style track,” Rossi said “So in some points it’s also dangerous because you are very fast, not a lot of space around and the braking for the first corner is at the limit.”
“It’s very good to ride, but if you arrive at 340 or 350 km/h, it starts to be dangerous because of the jump, the hill. So maybe we have to modify a little bit, but I think it’s not very easy. Maybe we try to arrive at little bit slower. Or we try to cut a little bit the jump and make it a bit more flat, if it’s possible.”
It is a constant topic in the Safety Commission, where the riders meet with FIM and Dorna officials to discuss how to make the racing safer and better.
Marc Márquez explained that the end of the straight, where the track snakes right and left up a slight incline, until reaching the brow of the hill before plunging down towards San Donato, the first corner, was something under continuous discussion.
The wall on the left is too close, the crest itself is dangerous, and speeds generally are very high at that point of the track.
Once upon a time, every Mugello press release started with the same words: “Nestled in the Tuscan hills, Mugello is the jewel in the crown of MotoGP race tracks.”
After a few years, that cliche became too much even for the writers of press releases. And yet the basic statements in those press releases are as true today as they ever were. There is, after all, a reason cliches come about.
For Mugello is arguably the most beautiful race track on the MotoGP calendar. The circuit is wedged in a valley, the track snaking its way around one side up towards the head, then off along the other side, and down toward the dip between the Arrabbiatas, and the track entrance.
It is set against a backdrop of steep Tuscan hills, covered in a mixture of woodland and pasture. It is a bucolic setting for one of the greatest race tracks in the world.
What makes it truly great, of course, is the fact that it is large enough for the MotoGP machines to stretch their legs. The official top speed recorded at the track is 356.5 km/h last year, but the speed trap is at a point where the bikes are starting to brake.
Dorna don’t like people to talk about just how fast the bikes really go at Mugello, and Brembo are said to be reluctant to state the real speeds reached. There is good reason to believe they are hitting around 360 km/h already, and it could easily be even faster.
Episode 74 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and recorded straight from Tuscany region of Italy. On the mics are David Emmett, & Neil Morrison, and they are joined by Adam Wheeler of On-Track Off-Road.
The trio discuss the happenings of the Italian GP, which extends beyond just the on-track action. Not only did Mugello show us the return to form of Jorge Lorenzo, but significant movements have occurred in the MotoGP riders market.
Of note, today’s episode was recorded before the news that HRC announced the departure of Dani Pedrosa, and reliable reports that Jorge Lorenzo is set to replace Pedrosa at Repsol Honda. We will update you with what’s happening for next year in a soon-to-come MotoGP Silly Season.
Of course the show ends with the guys picking their biggest winners and losers from the weekend’s events, which isn’t as obvious this week as one would think.
We think you will enjoy the show. It is packed with behind-the-scenes info, and insights from teams and riders in the paddock.
As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to the show on iTunes and SoundCloud – we even have an RSS feed for you. If you like the show, we would really appreciate you giving it a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!
Mugello is many things: Majestic, magical, magnificent. It is also mendacious. It can catch you out, lead you down the wrong path, make you think you’ve found the right direction, only to find it is a dead end. It rewards sleight of hand too.
There are many different ways to skin a cat at Mugello, if you will excuse the expression, so you have to keep your cards close to your chest. To win at Mugello, you need to be fast, you need to be brave, but you also need to have a good poker face.
Qualifying on Saturday was both magnificent and mendacious. Pole was won through a combination of sublime riding and a good deal of meddling, subtly controlling rivals to keep them from any chance of a counterattack. It was a masterclass, but then what else would you expect at Mugello?
Another year, another Italian GP. That’s right, it is another special AGV Pista GP R helmet from Valentino Rossi at Mugello. This year’s design though is rather fetching, and riffs on the Italian tricolore flag – which seems fitting for the big MotoGP round in Italy, right?
The graphics continues Rossi’s SoleLuna (sun & moon) theme, which have been the symbols of choice for the 2018 MotoGP Championship. Aldo Drudi’s design here is clean and basic, helping end the rather graphic-intensive motifs from the past.
Check out the high-resolution photos after the jump, and expect AGV to make this special helmet available to the public in due time.