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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.

Mugello is many things: majestic, magical, magnificent. Beautifully set, with a natural flow unmatched almost anywhere else.

It was made to host the fastest, most powerful motorcycles in the world, giving them room to stretch their legs and challenging the rider’s skill and bravery, and the bike’s handling, horsepower, and braking.

Unfortunately, this challenge is what makes Mugello so dangerous. During the afternoon session, Andrea Dovizioso hit 356 km/h on the Ducati Desmosedici GP18. Shortly after, his engine spewed a huge cloud of smoke at the end of the straight, causing the red flag to come out.

A little while previously, the session had also been red flagged, after a huge, vicious crash by Michele Pirro just over the crest at the end of the straight, the fastest and most dangerous part of the track.

It made for some harrowing moments at Mugello. The track fell silent, a pall descending on pit lane as the teams feared the worst. Having learned their lesson at previous tragedies, Dorna were not showing either the crash or the rider on the ground.

The mood only lifted when word reached us that Pirro was conscious, and moving his arms and legs. MotoGP dodged a bullet on Friday. But there are still rounds in the chamber.

Usually we have to wait until Friday for the action to hot up at Mugello, but there was an almost hysterical vibe at the Italian circuit on Thursday.

We appear to have entered what can only be described as peak Silly Season, with the rumblings of a series of rider and bike changes likely to explode into the public consciousness between now and Barcelona.

By the time the MotoGP test finishes on the Monday after Barcelona, we should know where Andrea Iannone, Jorge Lorenzo, and Joan Mir are riding, and have a solid clue as to what Franco Morbidelli, Dani Pedrosa, Danilo Petrucci, and Jack Miller will be doing in 2019. It’s going to be hectic.

There is no such thing as an ideal race track. Circuits are bound by the iron laws of reality: Grand Prix level tracks have to fit a given distance (between 3.5km and 10km) of track into the available space, in a layout which will allow powerful vehicles to stretch their legs.

They have to be somewhere where noise is not an issue, either as a result of being isolated from the general population, next to another source of noise such as an airport, or situated near a willing and enthusiastic town or city.

They need to have space for the fleet of trucks which transport the paddock from circuit to circuit, and they have to be accessible to those trucks via roads wide enough to let them pass.

Last but not least, they have to provide an attractive setting which fans want to visit, and good viewing over as much of the track as possible.

All these things militate against the existence of the ideal circuit. Find a space which is away from hostile neighbors, and it may be too small to create anything other than a tight, contorted track layout unsuitable for MotoGP bikes.

Or it may be on a hilltop, with few natural viewing opportunities. Or it may be too far from large population centers to make it easily accessible for fans, or lack the space for a usable paddock layout.

Yet something approaching the ideal circuit truly exists. A track where the bikes can use all of the 270+hp at their disposal.

A track which challenges every aspect of the rider, from managing their reactions at 360 km/h, to braking late and entering corners hard, to sweeping through fast combinations of turns carrying as much speed as you dare without washing out the front or having the rear come round and bite you.

A track with a roomy paddock, near a major highway, and several large population centers. In a country full of bike-mad fans. Set in a valley among some of the most enchanting scenery on the planet.

Oh yes, and the food in the paddock restaurant is some of the best you will eat all season.

Episode 54 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees David Emmett and Neil Morrison doing double duty, as they cover the last two rounds for the MotoGP Championship’s – the Italian GP and the Catalan GP.

The show’s focal point is obviously the double-win for Ducati Corse and Andrea Dovizioso, as the Italians are clearly finding their stride this year with the GP17. Dovizioso’s double also means a shake-up in the MotoGP Championship standing, which David and Neil discuss at length.

The brings up a conversation about what is happening inside the Honda and Yamaha garages, as both factories seem to be struggling this season, though at different times, at different tracks, and under different conditions.

The show also covers the events of Monday’s MotoGP test at Barcelona, which sees some talk of Yamaha’s different chassis, and what tires Marc Marquez prefers from Michelin.

The conversation then turns to the Moto2 and Moto3 championships, before the guys talk about their winners and losers of the two weekends.

As always, be sure to follow the Paddock Pass Podcast on FacebookTwitter 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!

You may have noticed during the Italian GP at Mugello, that Valentino Rossi was once again wearing a special AGV Pista GP R helmet for the event. Created by designer Aldo Drudi, this year’s Mugello’s helmet pays homage to Nicky Hayden and Francesco Totti.

To remember the American motorcycle racer, Rossi’s #46 morphs into the shape and colors of Hayden’s #69, complete with the star that precedes Hayden’s number.

The top of Rossi’s helmet also portrays a soccer pitch, where the nine-time world champion is wearing the blue jersey of the Italian national team, and saying “Mo’ je faccio er cucchiaio” which translates (with a Roman accent) to “I made it spoon” – the spoon referring to a type of penalty kick that sees the ball arching into the goal.

This scene too pays tribute to another athlete – Francesco Totti, who played his last match with the A.S. Roma team last week. On the back of the helmet are “Un capitano…C’è solo un capitano!”, which translates to: “One captain… There’s only one captain!” 

This is another nod to Totti, as the chant is something his fans would yell to him while he was playing.

Each MotoGP event has its own character. Ostensibly, most Grand Prix are the national races of a particular country. The Grand Prix of Great Britain. The Czech Grand Prix. The Grand Prix of The Americas.

Most, however, are only the national Grand Prix by virtue of taking place in a particular country. A few, a very few, are much more than that.

There are only really two races which fully embody the national character of the country which holds them though: the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, and of course, the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.

This year, Mugello was rendered even more Italian by virtue of the fact that it started on the Festa della Repubblica, the day on which Italy celebrates its founding as a republic at the end of the Second World War. It was a moment for Italian teams and Italian riders to break out Tricolore-themed liveries and helmets.

The Sky VR46 team added a tasteful green, white, and red pinstripe to their mainly black fairings. The Forward Racing team clad their bikes and riders in a particularly well-done green, white, and red fairing and leathers.

Valentino Rossi added a homage to an Italian soccer legend which was only really comprehensible to those steeped in the Italian language and Italian sport.

Imagine you find yourself at the start of a 40-minute session of track time, at one of the greatest racing circuits in the world, sat astride one of the most sophisticated racing motorcycles in the world, with the Tuscan sun beating down from clear skies, and the hillsides echoing to the roar of tens of thousands of delirious fans. What would you do?

If you’re a Moto3 rider competing at the Italian Grand Prix, then the answer is simple: you sit in your pit box for five minutes, then pootle out into pit lane, spending all your time looking backwards.

You are finally persuaded to head out of pit lane over the crest and down towards one of the most challenging corners of the season, so you potter around at a miserable 30 km/h, constantly looking behind you in the hope of finding a faster rider coming up behind you at speed. You repeat this for the full session, interspersed with the odd hot lap.

The situation got so bad that in one of the hospitality units after the day was over, one person came over to us and asked if the Moto3 qualifying session had been red-flagged. They had been working through the session, and had noticed that the track had gone completely quiet.

But it was not red flags that stopped the action, it was the desperate search for exactly the right tow. The trouble is, when all 31 Moto3 riders are waiting for a tow, there is no one left to be giving them.

Riders never really know how badly injured they are until they get on a MotoGP bike and try to ride. That was what happened to Valentino Rossi at Mugello on Friday.

He had expected to have a lot of pain breathing from the exertion of hustling a MotoGP machine around Mugello. “This track, Mugello, with a MotoGP bike, with this temperature is already very difficult physically even if you are at 100%,” Rossi said.

It turned out that it wasn’t the pain from the chest and abdominal injuries which were giving him the most problems in the morning.

“This morning, I had a problem with my arm, especially in acceleration. When I open the throttle and I had to hold onto the handlebar with all my strength, I had a lot, a lot of pain,” he said.

When you open the throttle on a MotoGP bike, though you push yourself forward on the balls of your feet as hard as you can, you still need to hang on to the handlebars with every ounce of your strength.

The battering Rossi’s body took in the motocross crash just over a week ago took its toll, and made him suffer. “Sincerely, I didn’t expect this, maybe I expected something else.”

Painkillers and physiotherapy, the paddock’s magic medical mix, made a big difference in the afternoon. Doing much more than five or six laps was still beyond him, but the improvement on Friday left Rossi optimistic.

“Usually, Friday is the worst day. After that, your body adapts to the temperature, to the stress, and we hope that I can improve.” He will almost certainly race, and he will almost certainly exceed any expectations he may have had a week ago. But it won’t be easy.