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The big question: Can Iannone keep that pace over 23-laps?

The big question: Can Iannone keep that pace over 23-laps?

To say Andrea Iannone and Marc Marquez had contrasting fortunes in Mugello today is the understatement of the century...

With nineteen years of experience reporting on MotoGP™ for Motorcycle News, Matthew Birt knows the championship inside-out. For the 2015 season he joins the team to bring you exclusive news and opinion from inside the paddock.

To say Andrea Iannone and Marc Marquez had contrasting fortunes in Mugello today is the understatement of the century.

Nobody would have contemplated Iannone securing his first premier class pole position, while reigning World Champion Marquez was left languishing down in 13th after not even advancing into Q2.

Everything that Iannone did today turned to gold. Everything that Marquez did turned to dust.

It was a momentous day for Iannone. Not only did he set the fastest ever lap of the Mugello track with a breathless 1.46.489, but he was in the record books for clocking the fastest ever top speed when he set an eye-popping 217.97mph in this morning’s FP4. Not bad for a rider who could barely pick up a pen with his left arm just a couple of weeks ago.

The big question is how long Iannone can sustain his challenge in the 23-lap race.

His left arm and shoulder are still well below normal strength after his crash at the frighteningly fast Arabiatta 2 corner in a private Ducati test in Mugello recently. Not only did he dislocate his shoulder in the crash, but also he suffered a small fracture to his left humerus bone.

The pain is bad enough, but the big issue is a lack of strength. Hardly the recipe for success at Mugello, which is one of the most physical tracks on the calendar as it snakes around the spectacular Tuscany landscape.

Fast changes of direction at Luco and Poggio Secco, Casanova and Savelli and Arabiatti 1 and 2 will see fatigue quickly creep in and make his Ducati GP15 feel like he’s trying to steer a cargo ship.

What we do know is that Iannone will fight like tomorrow is his last race. Adrenaline, courage and skill got him through a brutal experience in Le Mans where he engaged in a brilliant fight with Marquez after considering retiring at one point.

And what of Marquez?

He starts from his worst ever MotoGP grid position on a day that just added to the misery of what’s been a nightmare defence of his world crown.

With one win in five races, a late crash in Argentina and no podium finishes in Qatar and Le Mans, Marquez probably felt it couldn’t get any worse. But it did today. A blunder by not using a new soft tyre at the end of FP3 meant Marquez missed out on automatic slot into Q2. Confident he could then progress through Q1 by using only one tyre, his tactic backfired when Yonny Hernandez denied him.

The pressure is mounting on Marquez. He’s already 33-points adrift of Valentino Rossi in the title hunt and is not happy with the performance of the RC213V. He’s making mistakes galore and he crashed again today in FP4. Bad calls are being made on and off the track and his frustration was clear for all to see when he stormed out of the Repsol Honda garage when he slumped to third in Q1.

He might be starting from the front the fifth row of the grid, but nobody dares write Marquez off.

And don’t forget Rossi. He starts from eighth on the grid and we know what happened in the last three races he did that!

MotoGP, 2015, GRAN PREMIO D'ITALIA TIM, Q2, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP

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