MotoGP Mugello Insider

June 1, 2009
By Martin Heath

Monster Energy was nice enough to give Martin Heath shelter from the storm during a rainy weekend in Mugello. 

I stood under the Monster Yamaha umbrella of brolly babe Kate (who happens to be the girlfriend of BSB friend Simon Andrews if you’re wondering…) as the rain came bouncing down in pit lane during morning pit walk at Mugello. I was looking up into the mist above the green rolling Tuscan hills that surround this angelic circuit thinking “What have you got against us MotoGP boys?”

After the deluge in Qatar and Japan, canceled the race and qualifying respectively, then a bike swap wet-to-dry race a few weeks ago at Le Mans and now more rain after three glorious days of blue skies and ambient temperatures in the 80s, I was feeling really deflated. But how wrong I was!

After another cliff-hanger of a race, I’m beginning to think that it should be mandatory to have a mid-race bike swap.

Lorenzo crashed during the sighting-lap prior to the race. The Spaniard initially fell way back in the pack on his second bike, but by the end of the race he had redeemed himself and his nickname Gorgeous George.

The drama started before the lights went out as Jorge Lorenzo slipped off his Fiat Yamaha on the sighting lap on the new section of tarmac at the penultimate series of corners. The track was wet but the rain had stopped and a dry line was expected to start appearing a few laps into the race. He fortunately was able to drag his M1 out of the dirt and return to pit lane where his mechanics had his spare bike ready. He did cut it fine though, leaving the pit lane with two seconds to spare to take up pole position rather than a pit lane start after the field had left the grid.

Arriving at the grid by now very late, he was covered in dirt head to foot, almost unable to see through his face shield. When the race got under way his team worked feverously to ready his crashed bike as the ‘dry bike’ with slicks and a stiffer dry setting. By the time most of the field started coming in around Lap 10 for their dry bikes, Lorenzo’s team had his bike ready to roll in show room spec again.

While this drama unfolded, Casey Stoner, the almost forgotten man, was quietly chipping away and hit the front again on Lap 13. A lead he was able to defend until the flag, scoring Ducati’s first victory at the home track only a stone’s throw from the Bologna factory and in front of a big proportion of those Ducati factory workers and suppliers.

Valentino Rossi had a real fight with fellow Italians Andrea Dovizioso and Loris Capirossi just to make the podium. Vale hadn’t been defeated at his spiritual home track (Misano is nearer his home in Tavullia, but there wasn’t a Grand Prix held there when Vale’s premier class career started in 2000) for eight years. He fell in a wet race on the penultimate lap in that Premier class debut in 2000 while trying to win from Biaggi and Capirossi.

The Mugello podium had to the two youngsters, Lorenzo and Stoner, vesting the veteran Champ Rossi. They grow up fast.

So not only has Rossi been defeated by Stoner, young upstart and Yamaha’s “future boy” Gorgeous George and his crew have once again beaten the seemingly invincible VR/Burgess combo. Since practice has been limited by an hour over the weekend this year to quell credit crunch costs, Lorenzo seems to be setting his M1 up quicker and smarter than the Italian half of the garage, or the Spanish are making fewer mistakes as a team. In Le Mans Rossi crashed on his first lap out on slicks after his bike change then the team forgot to set his pit lane speed limiter resulting in a ride through penalty and any chance Vale had of a rescue plan. Here VR said: “When we changed bikes we made a mistake and chose a front tire that was too hard, so it took me a long time to be able to put enough temperature on it and lost a lot of time.”

We now pack up and move onto Barcelona in two weeks time, Lorenzo Land proper, and the top 3 of Stoner, Lorenzo and Rossi separated by nine points. I’m off now to rain-dance class!

The 250cc class replacement for 2010, ‘Moto 2’ (600cc 4-strokes with Honda as engine supplier based on its CBR600 Inline Four, housed in a prototype chassis), moved a step nearer this weekend with 47 teams requesting entries for a total of 91 riders! The final amount to be decided on is reckoned to be 34-ish. And also rumors circulate that Dorna would like to see competition between two tire suppliers, bucking the recent cost cutting trend of control tires in MotoGP.

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