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Mugello is set to host another epic battle as home hero Valentino Rossi comes to the legendary track as championship leader.
The MotoGP™ paddock heads into the Tuscan hills for round six of the World Championship at the Autodromo del Mugello. Local hero Valentino Rossi comes to the Italian track at the head of the championship standings, the first time he has done so since 2008. This was also the year in which he took his last win at the Italian track after claiming seven successive victories in MotoGP at Mugello.
Yamaha have overall been the most successful manufacturer of the MotoGP era at Mugello, with Rossi dominating from 2004 to 2008 and teammate Jorge Lorenzo winning in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The Spaniard had a difficult start to the season with visor and health issues hindering his first races but has now claimed two dominant back-to-back victories in Jerez & Le Mans, and will no doubt be a threat again at Mugello. Lorenzo has been able to break away in the last two races, but Rossi will no doubt be even more determined to win in front of his home fans which may make life difficult for Lorenzo.
It is not just Yamaha in contention at Mugello, the factory Ducati team of Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso completed a private test there prior to Le Mans and the extra data could give Ducati the boost they need to claim their first win of 2015, a main aim of the new GP15. 2009 saw Casey Stoner win the Italian GP for Ducati, the only time Ducati have claimed victory at Mugello. Le Mans saw Andrea Dovizioso return to the podium and claim third, cementing him in third overall in the standings and showing once again that Ducati are back to fighting at the front with the new Desmosedici GP15.
Despite a recently dislocated shoulder, Andrea Iannone was involved in a fierce Moto2™ style battle during the French GP, as he and Marc Marquez sparred for fourth. The exciting battle was even more impressive when you took into account Iannone’s injury, as the Italian was clearly riding through the pain barrier. The trio of Rossi, Dovizioso and Iannone all have a solid chance of winning on some soil and an all-Italian podium, as in Qatar, is not out of the question.
Le Mans was not an ideal weekend for Honda with Marc Marquez achieving their best result in fourth while Crutchlow, Redding and Pedrosa all suffered crashes. Honda had introduced a new swing arm at Le Mans designed to help in long fast corners, ideal for Mugello and hopefully the Italian track will prove Le Mans was just a small dip for the Japanese manufacturer. With just 69 points and one win, 2015 has not seen Marquez repeat his brilliant 10-win streak of 2014.
Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa returned from his arm pump surgery and despite a crash in the race he felt the weekend as a whole went well. He heads to Mugello with the aim of continuing to return to full fitness as he tests his arm over race distance and under the pressures of race conditions.
For British riders Cal Crutchlow and Scott Redding, Mugello will be an important weekend as they look to recover from their crashes during the French GP. Crutchlow received the new swing arm alongside Marquez in France whilst Redding continues to adapt to the factory Honda, having ridden the Open Class specification bike last year.
Team Suzuki Ecstar's Aleix Espargaro underwent surgery on his thumb after his massive FP3 crash at Le Mans and is aiming to be fit for Mugello. Brother Pol Espargaro joined him in going under the knife, the younger Espargaro having the common operation to cure arm pump.
Nicky Hayden took his first victory in the Open class of 2015 as he attempts to chase down Hector Barbera in the standings. Rookies Loris Baz and Eugene Laverty took their best MotoGP™ results to date last time out and will be looking to once again score points as they adapt to their new bikes and learn new tracks such as Mugello.
The MotoGP™ on-track action at the Gran Premio d'Italia TIM kicks off with FP1 on Friday at 9.55am local time.
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