The din of cheers and shouts at Mugello almost drowned out the distinctive blast of exotic MotoGP machinery for the sixth round of the FIM World Championship and where one of the best stages for racing saw Andrea Dovizioso quench the thirst for a Italian glory. Movistar Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales extended his advantage in the standings to more than a full race with a 26 point gap over ‘Dovi’ after finishing second.
The enclave for the 3.2 mile asphalt strip of speed and sweeping corner arcs was surrounded by a capacity crowd (a sold-out 100,000 on Sunday) and where MotoGP has been a keen and welcome visitor each year since 1991. Yellow plumes of smoke covered the site that was very much expecting a special show from Valentino Rossi. The Yamaha legend confessed he was lucky to be at Mugello after a motocross crash necessitated an overnight hospital stay for torso and chest complaints only a few days before the paddock gathered in Tuscany.
Rossi made it through practice and qualification with competitive pace and was among the leaders in a frantic spell of opening laps on Sunday until the battle narrowed to a quartet with Dovi, Viñales and Danilo Petrucci. At one stage holding a podium slot, #46 had to take fourth by the flag.
“The podium is always the target…but here in Mugello it is more important with the crowd,” Rossi said. “I honestly thought I could do it because in practice I was quite fast. Inside I knew that twenty-three laps would be difficult because I suffered more than normal, and five laps during practice is one story that you can recover from. Eight laps to go in the race I was already finished and I could not suffer more. When you ride this bike and you are not 100% with [your] movement then everything becomes more difficult. I tried not to give up but I was not strong enough to attack. Considering on Tuesday I thought I might not be here…it was a good race.”
It was left to Viñales to blast the M1 at almost 350kmph to a fourth rostrum appearance in 2017. “I’m happy,” he said. “It is important to always be on or close to the podium as much as possible during the season and today was a day to stay on the bike,” Viñales added with reference to his speedy crash on Friday when he hit the floor at more than 200k, thankfully without injury.
This scenario befell Cal Crutchlow who was punted out of the race by a tumbling Dani Pedrosa on the final lap. Jorge Lorenzo shone brightly in the formative stages but drifted back to eighth place on the Ducati. Monster Yamaha Tech3 duo Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger came in seventh and thirteenth.
EG 0,0 Marc VDS Moto2 supremo Franco Morbidelli faced his home round with four victories from five in the bank and his own growing legion of fans hungry with expectancy. #21 satisfied the palate with Pole Position on Saturday but was powerless to interrupt an entertaining three-way tussle for the top step between Mattia Pasini, Alex Marquez and Thomas Luthi. The squabble was won by the Italian with two sensational moves on the final lap. With ‘Morbido’ in fourth, teammate Alex Marquez was still able to gain some silverware for the VDS squad with his second podium celebration of the year.
Moto3 followed a familiar formula: a chaotic dash in the opening minutes to form a (unbelievable) group of twenty podium hungry youngsters to a tense countdown through the laps until the last and decisive circulation where champagne spoils were divided by centimetres and fractions of a second. Emerging first from the bevvy was Sky Racing Team VR46’s Andrea Migno who produced a superb, quick and defensive twentieth lap of twenty to claim an emotional home success and the first of his career.
“It is unbelievable I don't know what to feel at the moment! My lap-time was not so fast but I was feeling good. In the final part I was strong and really tried. I don't know what else to say: I am finished!”
From one iconic venue to a (slightly re-modelled) other: the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya sees MotoGP land at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya next weekend.