Posts Tagged ‘Italian Grand Prix’

MotoGP Mugello Results 2017

June 4, 2017

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Dovizioso Leads Ducati Charge; Rossi Fades 

Sunday at magnificent Mugello was that rarest of days, when one gets to hear the Italian national anthem played three separate times.  Italians placed 1-2 in a mind-bending Moto3 tilt.  Italian heartthrob Franco Morbidelli didn’t win in Moto2 today, but beloved countryman Mattia Pasini did.  In the main event, homeboys on Ducatis took the top and third steps on the podium.  

National idol Valentino Rossi, trying to fight through injury on his Yamaha, kept it interesting, but was beaten to the podium by teammate Maverick Vinales and the Ducati GP17s ridden by Dovi and Danilo Petrucci, looking hungry and lean himself.

A good day to be Italian, i.e., any day ending in the letter Y.  If only Vale could have…you know… 

Ducati placed five bikes in the top nine today, buttressing the argument that speed is of the essence here, and the Ducati Desmosedici is built for nothing if not speed.  Crutchlow had been quoted early in the weekend saying the race was Dovizioso’s for the taking.  Personally, it is my favorite circuit on the calendar, none of this stop-and-go drag racing, holds 100,000 unapologetic, raving, nationalistic fans, and annually features the #1 sports figure in the whole country, Valentino Rossi.  It is impolitic to observe that Rossi hasn’t won at Mugello since 2008.

Practice and Qualifying

Friday’s practices in ideal conditions produced some strange-looking timesheets. FP1 was Ducati Day at Mugello, with red bikes led by Andrea Dovizioso occupying five of the first seven spots, punctuated by the factory Yamahas.  FP2 was held Through the Looking Glass, with Aliens (or recovering Aliens) at 11th (Jorge Lorenzo), 12th (the injured Rossi), 13th (Vinales) and 14th (Marquez), Cal Crutchlow sitting astride the lot.  On Saturday, FP3 ended with Rossi, looking good, in P1 followed by Marquez and Lorenzo.  Fine.  But Alvaro Bautista in 4th? And Tito “One Fast Lap” Rabat, a Tranche Five stalwart, sitting 6th?  The Usual Suspects, the factory Yamahas, Hondas and Ducatis, made it into Q2 joined by Rabat on the Marc VDS Honda, Aleix Espargaro on the factory Aprilia, and the satellite Ducati delegation of Bautista and Pirro.

Q1 saw a very casual Johann Zarco, who waited until the session was more than half over, stroll out on the track and easily pass through to Q2 along with a slightly more frenetic Danilo Petrucci, who was making hay while the sun shines for once.  Q2 was the usual last-minute cluster, ending with the factory Yamahas up front (Vinales on pole) joined on the first row by a dangerous looking Andrea Dovizioso, with the second row consisting of Pirro followed by the two Repsol Hondas, Pedrosa in 5th.  Three Italians in the front four; the locals be habbin’ dat.

Lorenzo could manage only P7, while Zarco, perhaps a little too relaxed, started the race Sunday 11th, not what he had in mind when he left France.  Tech 3 Yamaha teammate and fellow rookie sensation Jonas Folger crashed out of Q1 and started the race 15th.  Crutchlow, bad karma having tagged him, missed out moving on to Q2 by 8/100ths, started in the 13 hole today, deep in the weeds.  He would get collected by Dani Pedrosa late in the day and was seen shoving the diminutive Spaniard while Pedrosa was trying to apologize.  As if Cal hadn’t been running 11th at the time, in hot pursuit of five points.

What About the Race?

Exiting Turn 1 of Lap 1, it was Rossi and Vinales, with Lorenzo (!), Dovizioso and Marquez chasing.  The high point of Jorge Lorenzo’s day was Lap 2, as he briefly took the lead before being passed, excruciatingly, one at a time, by at least seven other riders, finishing 8th with few visible excuses.  The top six coalesced, by Lap 7, as Vinales, Dovizioso, Rossi, Petrucci on the Octo Pramac Ducati GP 17, a struggling Marc Marquez and a gripless Lorenzo.  Marquez spent much of the last half of the race jousting with Alvaro Bautista and his GP 16, and was unable to close the deal, finishing sixth, staying in the 2017 game but not helping himself.

Dovizioso went through on Vinales on Lap 14 for keeps, but was unable to get away.  Vinales and Petrucci gave valiant chase, but didn’t have it, not even at Slipstream City, the front straight at Mugello that is a racing wonder.  (In the Moto3 race you could be leading crossing the line and enter Turn 1 in eighth place.)  Rossi, the crowd-generated clouds of yellow smoke serving as incense in the cathedral of Italian racing, was unable to compete at the end, one assumes, due to injury.  The Italian press will call him a hero for simply showing up.  Just sayin’.

Dani Pedrosa on the #2 Repsol Honda lost his grits late on Lap 23, performed an awesome low slider, and took the pins right out from under Crutchlow.  In the process, Dani took himself out of second place, replaced there by Dovizioso and his shiny new 25 points.  The rest of the top nine, in addition to the Ducs, consisted of three Yamahas—Johann Zarco making something of a late charge after a poor start from 11th—and Marquez’s lonely Honda.  The second Honda to cross the line?  Tito Rabat on the Marc VDS wreck.

The MotoGP tranches took a beating today. We will look closely at them this coming week, as Catalunya is the second of back-to-back weekends.

The Big Picture

Vinales finished second and extended his championship points lead to 26 over Dovizioso.  Rossi sits at 75, Marquez and Pedrosa tied for fourth with 68 points, and Zarco sixth with 64.  Lorenzo, Petrucci, Jonas Folger and Crutchlow complete the top ten.  So, a third of the way through the season, young Maverick leads the entire Sioux nation by more than a full race’s margin.

Zarco and the remaining Aliens are fighting for second place, hoping #25 would be kind enough to crash out in Catalunya next week.  Until he does crash—and, statistically, he will—the world is his oyster.  The Repsol Honda team is in relative disarray.  The Ducs are only competitive at places like here, Brno, Austria, Phillip Island and Sepang if it don’t rain.  Suzuki is not a good fit for Andrea Iannone.  The Aprilias and KTMs will probably do better at the tighter, slower tracks yet to come.

Maverick Vinales is calmly, methodically working toward his first MotoGP championship.

Quick Notes

The continuing tributes to Nicky Hayden in all three classes and the circuit itself fail to make it easier to accept that he is really gone.  Another serious blow to American bike racing.  So many kids have grown up wanting to be like Nicky Hayden.  Not so many, I expect, are coming along wanting to be like Ben Spies.

Regarding Michele Pirro’s wildcard on the Ducati GP17, reporting elsewhere refers to his becoming the third full factory GP17 on the grid, which, in turn, suggests Petrucci may not be on a full factory 17.  Which could help explain his relative lack of success until today, as I accused him of underachieving last week.  My acknowledged non-golden touch at work.

Herve Poncharal has already re-signed his two rookie wonderkids, Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger, to contracts for 2018.  The world expects Zarco to get scooped up by a factory team for the two years following.  Jury is still out on Folger, whom Poncharal describes as “careful,” citing the amount of data he produces.  That’s what known around here as a backhanded compliment.

Back at y’all on Wednesday.

Lorenzo ruins Italian clambake at Mugello

May 31, 2015

MotoGP 2015 Mugello Results, by Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com 

Jorge-Lorenzo-Smile-HDFor the third round in succession, Movistar Yamaha stud Jorge Lorenzo jumped out to an early lead, switched on the autopilot on his YZR-M1, cranked up Kings of Leon on his MP3 player, and never broke a sweat in winning the Gran Premio d’Italia TIM.  What was suspected after Le Mans has now been confirmed at Mugello—Jorge Lorenzo is the man to beat for the 2015 MotoGP championship.  The only way things could get any worse for Honda’s double defending world champion Marc Marquez would be if Lorenzo were to steal his girlfriend. 

Let’s face it.  Other than Ferrari’s periodic dominance in F-1 and the salad years of Agostini and Rossi, Italians haven’t had much to cheer about since the days of da Vinci and Michaelangelo.  The European Union has done little to dispel the rampant nationalism extant in most of the continent, and the motorsports rivalry between Italy and Spain has never been greater, with Spain having dominated MotoGP for the last five years.  The rejuvenation of Rossi and the resurgence of Ducati in 2015 have given hope to Italian racing fans, 91,000 of whom were in attendance today hoping for an Italian victory, whether by man or machine.  Were it not for Lorenzo, as strong as he’s ever been, they’d have fished their wish, as Andrea Iannone took second from pole on his Ducati GP15 while Valentino Rossi, the #1 athlete in the country, finished third on his Yamaha for his 10th podium in a row dating back to last year.

For Honda Racing Corporation and poster boy Marc Marquez it was another wretched weekend in a season of wretched weekends, the lone exception being Round 2 in Austin.  Saturday may have been the single worst day of Marquez’ premier class career, as he finished FP3 in 11th position, the meaningless FP4 in 5th, suffered the ignominy of consignment with the dregs to Q1, and failed to advance into Q2, resulting in his starting the race from 13th position, the only time in his MotoGP career he has failed to start from the first two rows.  But as the race started, he looked like the Marquez of 2013-14, climbing to 3rd place by Lap 3, looking loose and dangerous perched on Iannone’s pipes.

Iannone, Monty Python’s Black Knight of MotoGP, racing with a bad left shoulder and fractured right elbow, would marquez_crashbecome a brick wall around which Marquez was unable to navigate while Lorenzo was cruising off into the ether.  After 15 laps of trying, Marquez went after the Italian again in Turn 3 of Lap 18 where the front of his RC213V washed away, sending him into the gravel for his second DNF of the young year.

For HRC, Lap 18 would get worse.  Moments later, Rossi went through on the tough Dani Pedrosa, looking recovered from his arm pump surgery early in the season, and who had spent much of the day in fourth place.  Rossi, having started eighth and faded to 11th early in the day, outraced much of the field on his way to yet another podium.  Despite leading the 2015 championship, Rossi knows that he will ultimately fall to Lorenzo unless he can get his merda together in qualifying, something he has generally been unable to do since the advent of the two-15 minute QP sessions in 2013.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Andrea Dovizioso, who qualified 3rd on Saturday and spent a good part of Sunday running with the group challenging for second place, retired with a mechanical issue on Lap 14 described as “rear wheel chatter.”  The chatter may have been about Iannone challenging him for the #1 seat on the Ducati team; Dial A Nickname Joe does love himself some GP15.  Pedrosa finished fourth—bravo Dani—in front of up-and-coming Bradley Smith, who flogged his Tech 3 Yamaha from the 11 hole at the start to another credible 5th place finish, following the #1 rule in motorsports which is “Beat your teammate by half a second”, Pol Espargaro crossing the line sixth.

Suzuki girlsSteadily improving Maverick Vinales, on the #2 Suzuki Ecstar, finished seventh for his best result in MotoGP while teammate Aleix Espargaro, still struggling with injuries suffered at Jerez, had another “sorely” disappointing DNF.  Spots 8 through 10 were occupied by Ducati, with wildcard Michele Pirro driving a GP15 to eighth, Danilo Petrucci finishing ninth pending an inquiry from Race Direction concerning an incident on Lap 3, and Yonny Hernandez closing in tenth place.  Constructor-wise, Round 6 produced another top ten comprised of four Yamahas, four Ducatis, one Honda and one Suzuki.

In addition to Marquez, other high profile crashers today included Jack Miller, enduring his indentured servitude on the CWM LCR production Honda, aging Nicky Hayden on the Aspar Honda, Stefan Bradl, heading for oblivion on the Forward Racing Yamaha, and Cal Crutchlow, who banged up a thumb in the morning warm-up and, like Marquez, chose the hard option front tire, which let him down on Lap 21 as he fought Smith for fifth place.

I would be remiss if I failed to suggest that part of Iannone’s success today, under extremely painful conditions, may have been due to the radically upgraded brolly girl assigned to keep him in the pre-race shade.  She, in turn, may have been to blame for Joe coming this close to jumping the start as the lights were going out.  Let’s just leave it at that.

The Big Picture

Movistar Yamaha owns the top two spots a third of the way into the season, with Rossi still leading Lorenzo by a scant six points; those two warriors could easily trade places in Barcelona.  Tranche Two, The Ducati Strata, finds Dovizioso two points in front of teammate Iannone, Iannone having the momentum leaving Italy.  In fifth place sits the dejected Marquez, on the bubble.  Difficult to say at this point whether he will rally back into the top three or, instead, go all immature and find himself sulking with the Tech 3 and CWM LCR entries.  My prediction of his return to prominence this weekend looked good early, but it’s pretty clear that Honda will not win a title this year in MotoGP.  The two Suzukis and Danilo Petrucci on the Pramac Octo Pramac Ducati close out the fight for top ten status.

Although Jorge Lorenzo is clearly one of the more popular riders in MotoGP, he doesn’t seem to inspire the rabid podium-mugello-2014fascination of fans the way Rossi and Marquez do.  Fortunately for you, the reader, I have discovered why this is.  When Lorenzo is dominant, as he has been for the last three trysts, the race becomes dull, at best a fight for second place.  When Rossi or Marquez is winning races, it’s almost always some kind of dramatic, come-from-behind, paint-trading, barely-under-control affair that sets fans’ blood boiling.  Watching Lorenzo win is like watching iron rust.  Watching Rossi tracking down some unfortunate frontrunner or Marquez barging his way into the lead brings on head-bobbing, body-twisting gesticulation, full of “oh nos” and “oh yesses”, punctuated by grunts, groans and shouts.  Put another way, watching Rossi and Marquez win is like having sex with a partner, while watching Lorenzo win is like being, um, home alone.  Fun, but not nearly as satisfying.

On to Barcelona!

Mugello Race Results

2015 Championship Standings Year to Date

2012 MotoGP Mugello Results

July 15, 2012

An edited version of this article will appear on Motorcycle.com later today, complete with high resolution photographs.  Until then, please enjoy this, hot off the presses.

Lorenzo Rules to Extend Championship Lead

On a picture-perfect Tuscan Sunday afternoon, Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo gave an object lesson to his rivals for the 2012 world championship.  The Spaniard seized the lead in the first turn of Lap One and held it, unchallenged, to the checkered flag.  Repsol Honda poster boy Dani Pedrosa spent a lonely day in second place.  What little joy there was for the 64,000 Italian fans came in the form of Andrea Dovizioso, who took his third consecutive podium on board the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha.

Lorenzo looked fast and smooth during the weekend’s practice sessions, other than a brief loss of power at the end of qualifying that may have kept him from the pole.  Pedrosa, who spent the entire weekend inhaling Lorenzo’s exhaust fumes, looked geared up to attempt a reprise of his win a week earlier in Germany, and snatched the pole late in the QP.  That Round 9 would hold a few surprises was made clear on Saturday, when Pramac Racing’s ”Hectic” Hector Barbera qualified third, thus becoming the first satellite Ducati rider ever to start a MotoGP race from the front row. In the process, Mugello 2012 became the first premier class race ever to feature an all-Spanish front row, a fact I find incomprehensible, due to the recent domination of Spanish and Italian riders, both in quantity and ability.

We may have just broken another MotoGP record, by failing to mention Repsol Honda lame duck Casey Stoner until the third paragraph of the story.  The Australian, who just two weeks ago was tied for the lead in the 2012 race, qualified a dismal 5th, blaming, in order, the Bridgestone tires, his bike’s setup, the slow WiFi in his hotel room, and the wacky arrangement of gates at the Bologna airport.  At the start, he got caught in traffic, falling to 8th place.  Furiously working his way back from those unfamiliar reaches into 5th on Lap 10, he went hot into the Correntaio corner, known to most of us as Turn 12, went walkabout, fell back to 10th place, and finished a nondescript 8th.

Fine.  What About the Race?

Once the riders had put some heat in the tires, the first group consisted of Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Dovizioso, rookie interloper Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda, and a determined Nicky Hayden, The Other Guy on the factory Ducati team.  Dovizioso spent a few laps running second, and the surprising German Bradl a good number in third, appearing to be on headed for his first premier class podium.  Pedrosa went through on the Italian on Lap 5, and Bradl, incredibly, followed suit on Lap 10.  But Dovizioso eventually tracked the rookie down on Lap 21 to secure the final podium spot.  In the process, he again delivered for his Tech 3 team, and added to the mounting pressure on the factory Yamaha team to pull the plug on Ben Spies.  Spies qualified 9th and finished 11th, the last prototype to take the flag, some 57 seconds behind teammate Lorenzo.

Once Stoner left the building, the second group, which would end the day fighting for 4th place, included Hayden, who had given up some ground, Ducati teammate Valentino Rossi, Barbera and Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow.  This group traded shots with one another for much of the afternoon.  By Lap 14, Barbera had dropped back, apparently with tire issues.  On Lap 20, Crutchlow and the Ducatis had climbed back within sight of Dovizioso and Bradl, setting up the best competition of the day.  By Lap 22, Hayden had clawed his way back to within tenths of both Dovizioso and Bradl, running flat out, trying to achieve his first podium since last year at Jerez.  Rossi and Crutchlow were hovering less than a second behind Hayden.  Five riders entered the last lap in contention for the final spot on the rostrum, with the crowd, as they say, going crazy.

With Dovizioso in third refusing to concede anything, Hayden attempted to go through on Bradl into fourth, and the two made contact, causing the American to run wide, the rookie somehow holding onto his line.  Rossi and Crutchlow went all carpe diem and sailed past the luckless Hayden into fifth and sixth, respectively.  At the flag, Rossi had his best dry race finish of the year, and Hayden could only grind his teeth, having outraced his fair-haired teammate all day, only to falter at the end.

The Big Picture

Midway through the 2012 season, Jorge Lorenzo has stretched his lead in the standings over Pedrosa to 29 points, with Stoner, his swan song in ashes, another 18 points behind.  The ascendant Dovizioso, campaigning hard for some respect and a seat alongside Lorenzo next year, sits in fourth place, 13 points on top of teammate Crutchlow, who is apparently playing hard to get with the brass at Ducati.  Rossi leads the next group comprising the top nine, just ahead of Alvaro Bautista, Bradl and Hayden.  Bradl’s 13 points today put him a single point ahead of the American for the season.

On the Lighter Side

As the riders lined up on the grid for the customary Pre-Race Sitting Around Period, the photo of the day was in the eight spot, where Bradl sat, surrounded by his team and the sycophants that clog the grid immediately before the start.  The breathtaking young woman attending his umbrella obviously works for sponsor Playboy, as she wore the tiny, trademarked company costume.  Bradl’s Bodacious Blonde Brolly Bunny will hopefully be featured in this week’s Grid Girls segment on the MotoGP website.  If you’re into that kind of thing, make sure to watch the video.  Worth the price of admission all by herself.

Not certain if this is the one, but she’ll do.

Apropos of nothing in particular, I couldn’t post this article without noting my favorite moment of the day.  It occurred on the last lap of the race, up front, where Jorge Lorenzo was sailing in clean air, footloose and fancy-free, as he passed in front of The Ducati Grandstand.  This is the section reserved for the most rabid and delusional of the Ducati/Rossi fans, where the attendees are given posters to wave in unison, creating pictures of their heroes, the Ducati logo, etc., etc.  Back in the day when Rossi was winning at Mugello every year, this section was the epicenter of MotoGP fandom.  Anyway, as Lorenzo rolled by, he lifted his left arm and gave an extended, friendly wave to the seats where he is Public Enemy #1.  Had he not been concerned about a possible post-race assault, he might have blown a few kisses their way.  Hilarious.

Valentino Rossi’s Helmet

Why we’re discussing Rossi’s headgear at this juncture is somewhat beyond me.  Regardless of what anyone says, The Doctor has lost a step.  Nonetheless, he is still a Big Deal in MotoGP, and especially so in Italy.  One of his traditions is to bust out a special helmet for the Italian Grand Prix, which he did again today.  It featured a tribute to Gianni Morandi, the Tony Bennett of Italy.  Bennett’s signature song is, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”, and Morandi’s is called “Let’s Stay Together.”  The inference from the media-savvy Rossi is that the marriage with Ducati is not yet over, and that he will return next year.  Hope springs eternal.

It might have been more, um, suitable had Rossi saluted the band Citizen King, whose 1999 hit “Better Days” contained the following lyrics, repeated endlessly from beginning to end:

“I’ve seen better days, I’ve been the star of many plays.

I’ve seen better days, and the bottom drops out.”

Next stop, Monterey.  If you see Kevin Duke there, please tell him I said hello.