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The measure of a rider’s importance is the number of journalists which turn up at their media debriefs, held every day over the course of a MotoGP weekend. There is more than one to define importance, of course.

Factory riders garner more media attention than satellite riders. Riders battling for the championship draw bigger crowds than riders at the tail end of the title chase. And sometimes, an incident can create a lot more interest in a rider than they usually draw.

All of these factors came together on Thursday afternoon to draw a huge pack of journalists, photographers, and TV crews into the Movistar Yamaha hospitality unit.

They came to hear, and more importantly, see Valentino Rossi speak publicly for the first time since he was hospitalized by a motocross crash a week ago today. The sport’s biggest star, battling for the championship, risking serious injury while training. No wonder the place was heaving.

Rossi wandered into the hospitality through the back door as always, and walked across to stand in front of the sponsor backdrop used for TV interviews (in the world of MotoGP media, TV is king. The TV always goes first).

He moved a little more stiffly than usual, not as supple around the waist, clearly still not fully recovered. But when he sat down to talk to us mere mortals of the written word, he was fairly optimistic.

“I’m not so bad,” Rossi started, using a phrase he employs to cover a range of meanings, most of which are positive.

“I feel quite good. Especially in the last few days my condition improved, fortunately, because it was a bad crash. Very painful. Especially in the stomach and all the front. I stayed one night in hospital because it was difficult to breathe, but also when I came home I had two or three days that were very painful. I was quite negative about the race.”

If you feel an unexpected breeze all of a sudden, that might be the collective sigh of relief emanating from Italy today, as Valentino Rossi was declared fit to race at this weekend’s Italian GP, at the Mugello circuit.

A&R readers will remember that Rossi injured himself while training on his motocross bike, mostly damaging his liver and kidneys during the crash (there is talk that he may have broken some ribs as well).

A very painful injury to sustain, coupled with Yamaha’s vague PR management, the situation had caused some worry that the nine-time world champion would not be at his home grand prix.

There are a lot of reasons to love Mugello. First, there is the setting: a dramatic backdrop of Tuscan peaks and dales. A place so fecund you need only stretch out your arm to grasp the riches of the earth: nuts, fruit, wild mushrooms, stag and boar.

To the south, Florence, one of the marvels of the Renaissance and a city so beautiful it breaks your heart to look upon it alone. At every bend in the road on the way to the circuit, the view takes your breath away. And there are a lot of bends. Hypoxia is a real concern.

Then there’s the track itself. It snakes across the landscape like a discarded shoelace, a thin filament of tarmac hugging the hillsides of the valley into which the track is wedged.

It has everything a motorcycle track needs to make it truly majestic: long, fast corners like the Arrabbiatas; fast combinations like Casanova/Savelli or Scarperia/Palagio; a terrifyingly fast front straight where the braking point is blind; and a corner where front brakes and front tires are tortured, as riders dump their speed into San Donato.

No pass at Mugello is ever a done deal, there is always an opportunity to counterattack. No bike has outright superiority at the track, for the nature of motorcycle dynamics is compromise, and each manufacturer chooses to make their compromises in different areas.

Mugello rewards only perfection, and perfection is almost impossible to sustain for 23 laps at such blistering speeds.

When Valentino Rossi crashed his motocross bike while training last Thursday, he triggered a wave of speculation on just how serious his injuries were.

It was clear that there was reason for concern, as the Italian had been taken straight from the motocross track at Cavallara to the emergency room at Rimini hospital. The fact that he was kept in overnight made it even more worrying.

Initial reports from local newspapers and websites validated such concerns. There were reports that Rossi had fractured one or more ribs, that he had injured his shoulder, even that he had taken a blow to the head, and had picked up a concussion as a result.

That presented the Movistar Yamaha team with a serious problem. One which they have handled with considerable subtlety and expertise, it has to be said. Their first and major priority was to control the narrative around Rossi’s injury, giving the media the information they wanted, while keeping their options open.

Last week during International Women's Day, my colleague Tammy Gorali - the first female commentator ever in the MotoGP paddock, I should point out - tweeted some timely statistics about female attendance at MotoGP races.

In short, here tweets showed that over the past four years, the number of female spectators has declined an astonishing 19%. That's no small drop, and the timeliness of that revelation should be noted.

On its face, this tweet showed that MotoGP was seemingly hemorrhaging female fans. But, the reality isn't as clearcut, and this is also where things get weird.

Intrigued by Gorali's info, I dug into the numbers a bit further to see what was behind this startling statistic. What I found was that if you pulled the scope back further by just one more year, then over the past five years female attendance at MotoGP races has actually increased by 33%.

If your brain is hurting right now, that's ok, but it is difficult to understand how the number of women attending MotoGP races declined by 19% over the past four years, but increased somehow also increased 33% over the last five?

Keep on reading, and I will try and shed some light on this curious case of female MotoGP attendance.

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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.

Episode 27 of the Paddock Pass Podcast sees Steve English and Neil Morrison catching up mostly on the MotoGP happenings at the Italian GP in Mugello.

Wrapping up what has been an eventful week with the riders’ contracts for the 2017 season, the show then focuses on the racing action in Italy, with mentions about the Moto2 and Mot3 races, which were equally enjoyable to watch.

The guys also give some attention to the World Superbike paddock, talking about the series’ recent racing in Sepang, and looking ahead on the calendar for WSBK at Donington Park.

With the Isle of Man TT starting this weekend as well, there is plenty of racing action to fuel the Paddock Pass Podcast, so keep your ears tuned for more shows.

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!

The Moto2 class has not had a lot of luck with their starts in 2016. First there was Qatar, where a mass jump start saw some riders called in for a ride through, some issued with a time penalty, and few people very happy about the way it was handled.

That situation was all down to a problem with some of the high-speed starting grid cameras which check for false starts.

In Mugello there was more starting grid misery. This time, though, the problem was not with jump starts, but with restarts. An interrupted race and a quick start procedure ended up causing chaos, the first running of that procedure catching a lot of teams out, which in turn caused problems for Race Direction.

As is their wont, unforeseen circumstances managed to catch everyone out, causing the first quick start procedure to be abandoned, and a regular restart instituted.

The reasons for red-flagging the race were sound. Xavi Vierge crashed at the entry of the Biondetti chicane, his bike piercing the air fence, and deflating it. Without an air fence in place, the track was simply too dangerous to continue.

The 2016 Italian Grand Prix at Mugello was many things, but above all, it was memorable.

It’s not just that the three races ended up with incredibly close finishes – the margin of victory in Moto3 was just 0.038, and that was the largest winning margin of the three races – but how they were won, and what happened along the way that will leave them indelibly imprinted on the memories of race fans.

There was drama, a bucketful of heartbreak, and plenty of chaos and confusion thrown into the mix. If there was a script for Sunday, it was torn up and rewritten a dozen times or more before the day was over.

The drama started during morning warm-up. As the final seconds of the MotoGP session ticked away, Jorge Lorenzo suddenly pulled over and white smoke started pouring out of the exhaust of his Movistar Yamaha. His engine had suffered a catastrophic failure.

This was a worry, as it was a relatively new engine, first introduced at Jerez, with twelve sessions of practice and two races on it. The other two engines Lorenzo had already used had 21 and 23 sessions of practice on them, and had also been used for two races each (including the flag-to-flag race at Argentina).

Though the engine allocation has been increased from five to seven engines for 2016, losing engine #3 at just the sixth race of the season could end up cutting things rather fine by the time we reach Valencia.

Losing an engine so soon before a race seemed like a stroke of incredibly bad luck for Lorenzo. In fact, it would prove to be exactly the opposite.