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The first person you have to beat is your teammate. It is a truth universally acknowledged in the paddock. After all, they are on the same bike as you, with the same support, so the only difference between your results and theirs is down to ability – in theory at least.

Beat your teammate, and your team will prioritize you over them when it comes to contract renewal time, will pay you more money, will send more resources your way. If you’re in a factory team, the engineers will listen more carefully to you, and more likely to follow the direction of development you set out.

Teams use this same philosophy to motivate their riders. They encourage internal competition, hoping the two riders will push one another on to greater heights, to risk more for better results. Trying to win a race is motivation enough, but adding the frisson of showing up your teammate adds that little bit extra, the icing on the cake.

And reward enough should a rider fall short of winning. So far does this internal competition go that for most teams, the order in which rider quotes appear in the press release is determined by who is ahead in the championship, or who finished ahead during practice, qualifying, or the race.

Promoting internal rivalries is also playing with fire, however. Despite the smiling faces in the team launch photos and at PR events, the friendship is often feigned, the relationship often strained, teammates going out of their way to avoid one another.

That can lead to arguments over shared data, over updated parts, even over who goes first when speaking to the media. If the rivalry between teammates is not handled right, it can quickly become counterproductive, boiling over into internal warfare, hostility, and teammates actively working to sabotage each other, rather than serving the interests of the team.

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.

I am not quite sure what makes the following a “concept” in the eyes of the Italian manufacturer, as the Ducati Hypermotard 950 is already a production model (it’s quite good too, by the way), and the example we see here differs only in paint and parts.

But still, the attraction that the Centro Stile Ducati has poured into this Hypermotard 950 is lurid, for sure.

The judges at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este would seem to agree with us as well, as this Hyper won first place in the ”Concept Bikes: New Design and Prototypes by Manufacturers and Independents” category at the prestigious event.

Episode 102 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and this one is a WorldSBK show. As such, this means that we see Steve English joined by Gordon Ritchie on the mics, as they are now our WorldSBK reporting duo for the 2019 season.

Recording straight from Italy, the guys talk about the on-track action at Imola, where we saw a surprising turn of events.

First there is the race result from Saturday to discuss, and unbeknownst to the fellas, racing for Sunday would be canceled (we remind our listeners that our WorldSBK shows are recorded mid-race weekend).

While motorcycle sales in the United States continue to slip, this is not the case across the pond (and in the world at large), with the European Union quoting a nearly 10% increase during 2018 in the number of motorcycles registered.

In total, 1,004,063 motorcycles were registered last year in the EU,  according to the figures published by the European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers (ACEM). This represents an increase of 9.9% compared to the figures from 2017.

It is hard to believe that the RSV4 superbike from Aprilia is 10 years old now…but then again, maybe it isn’t so hard to believe. The bike hasn’t change that much physically when you look at it (though, changes abound internally), and even the new latest-and-greatest version of the bike can only be really identified by its new aerodynamic aids.

That being said though, the RSV4 is still at the top of the heap, and with the RSV4 1100 Factory, Aprilia is looking to keep its crown in the superbike category. I won’t bore you with riding details now, but feel free to read our exhaustive riding review of this machine.

Getting a chance to snap some photos of the Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory after riding it at Mugello, we spent some one-on-one time with this 214hp superbike, winglets and all.

I wasn’t going to double-dip on stories for the Aprilia RS 660 concept this week, but well…these photos were too good not to share ASAP. If you haven’t read our report that the Aprilia RS 660 will be showing up for the 2020 model year, well then…started getting excited party-people.

Ahead of our ride time on the new Aprilia RSV4 1100 Factory, the folks from Noale invited us to their “Aprilia All Stars” event at the Mugello circuit last week, which is where we spotted the RS 660 on display.

The bike hasn’t changed from its debut in Milan late last year, which is fine by us, as it looks like it could roll right onto the showroom floor already…and apparently from yesterday’s news, that is the point.

Still, spending some time up-close with the Aprilia RS 660 concept provides us with some interesting insights to this machine.