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A lap of the Mugello circuit

A lap of the Mugello circuit

A lap of the Mugello circuit

At 5.245km the Mugello circuit is one of the longer contemporary MotoGP circuits, in no small part due to the fact that, unlike many other classically sculpted tracks, it has retained its original length and layout. Running across two sides of an impossibly scenic Tuscan valley, Mugello also differs from other super fast circuits in its frequent changes of gradient and the speed of its chicanes. There is a mix of slower and high-speed corners, although even the slowest corners are wide, allowing several ‘ideal' lines.

Having foregone the modern tendency to reduce speeds by creating ‘bus stops', Mugello's four significant chicanes are taken at a relatively high pace. Balancing out the need for firmer suspension on the high-speed sections, which compress front and rear suspension due to centrifugal forces, is the requirement for enough pliability to give tyre side grip and traction around the slower off-camber corners.

The suspension set-up quest is further complicated by the fact that on one section of the track the approach to the corners is uphill, on the other half downhill, altering the parameters in the search for ideal spring and compression damping rates.

Top speed is a significant factor for the first time this year, with the long Mugello straight a possible passing place for those who enjoy a peak horsepower edge. Top speeds of well over 300kmph are expected to be commonplace, with the magic 200mph barrier also set to be breached repeatedly.

Good top speed aside, the rideability and balance of the machines has to be second-to-none at Mugello, such are its spread of corners. A magnificent but stern test of the complete machine, Mugello demands perfection lap after lap, but rewards precise and spirited riding.

As far as tyres are concerned, Michelin are confident their 16.5in front and new profile 16.5in rears will be enough to seal their its eleventh successive premier-class at the Italian circuit.

"There are a lot of high-speed esses at Mugello," says Nicolas Goubert, Michelin's chief of motorcycling competitions. "And the 16.5in front should be good for these sections because it's a lighter tyre, so riders should be able to change direction faster than they could with the 17in front.

"Riders also tell us that the 16.5 gives more confidence when flicking into corners, which will help them in both the first and second parts of each esses. The front is always very important at Mugello because there are a lot of high-speed corner entries, several of them downhill, like Casanova and Savelli, Palagio, Correntaio and Bucine. "The new profile rear delivers more sidegrip, which allows riders to carry more corner speed through turns, so it should be particularly good in Mugello's three 180 degree corners – Turn One, Correntaio and Bucine. Pretty much all our riders are now on the new profile, and I think that everyone will be using the tyre 100 per cent of the time fairly soon.

"Of course, Mugello isn't only about corners. The track has the fastest straight in GP racing, along which bikes could exceed 340kmh this weekend. Also, Mugello's surface isn't really aggressive. The asphalt is quite old and smooth, so endurance should not be a problem."

Tags:
MotoGP, 2004, GRAN PREMIO CINZANO D'ITALIA

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