As MotoGP™ heads to Mugello for what is always one of the most anticipated rounds on the calendar, Valentino Rossi is all set for his 300th Grand Prix appearance - having achieved his 150th premier class podium last time out at Le Mans.
Following the race in France, in which Rossi finished second to the victorious Marc Marquez, he was already looking forward to the Gran Premio d'Italia TIM and another chance to battle with the in-form World Champion and standings leader, this time in front of the passionate Italian crowd.
With his victory at the French GP Marquez became first rider to win the opening five races of the year, all from pole position, since Giacomo Agostini in the 500 class in 1971.
Marquez leads the standings by 42 points from Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa and will aim to extend his winning run at round six – at a venue where he crashed out last year.
Marquez will know, however, that Pedrosa will be hungry for his first win since Malaysia last year and that Rossi will be doing everything in his power to add to his nine victories at Mugello, seven of which have come in the premier class. It is fair to say that a win for Rossi in his 300th GP would certainly be popular with the home crowd.
Another strong contender for maximum points in Tuscany will be Rossi’s Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team-mate Jorge Lorenzo. Although the 2010 and 2012 MotoGP™ World Champion is not currently in his best form Lorenzo has won the race at Mugello for the last three years, enjoying a circuit where Yamaha have a good record.
Just ahead of Lorenzo in the standings in fourth place at present is Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso, who is sure to enjoy massive support this weekend. Thousands of faithful Ducatisti fans will gather at Correntaio corner once again to will Dovizioso towards the podium and to support his colleague Cal Crutchlow as the Englishman strives to move up the standings from 16th.
The likes of Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP) and Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Honda Gresini) go in search of further top five results from sixth and tenth respectively in the championship table. Bautista arrives at Mugello on a high, having recovered from his early season dip by racing to third at Le Mans.
Another excellent performer at Le Mans was Pol Espargaro and the rookie will aim to build on his fourth place in France with another solid performance in Italy. Having adapted quickly to MotoGP in the first five rounds, Moto2™ World Champion Espargaro is just ahead of his brother Aleix Espargaro (NGM Forward Racing) and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team-mate Bradley Smith in the overall classification.
Just outside the top ten in the standings is another Italian in Andrea Iannone.
The Pramac Racing rider looks to bounce back from two consecutive DNFs after showing his speed in practice and in the opening three races of the year.
Iannone’s compatriot Danilo Petrucci (IodaRacing Project) makes a welcome return at Mugello, having missed the trip to France with the fractured left wrist he sustained at Jerez.
This weekend’s Gran Premio d'Italia TIM is the 29th occasion that a GP has been held at the Mugello circuit, including 24 times in the consecutive years from 1991.