Mugello: hoist the colours

Be it yellow, red, blue or tricolore, the Italian GP awakes the passion in everybody

After the French GP and another pivotal weekend in the title fight, it’s time for MotoGP™ to head to more important home turf: Italy, a land of legends and home of the stunning, high-speed Mugello. For the likes of Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Ducati and Aprilia, there really is no place like home.

The Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley arrives at a pivotal point in the title fight. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was faultless in Jerez and did it again in France to make it three wins in a row for the Spaniard for the first time since 2014 – an ominous sign? That it may be, but rivals falling by the way side has played its own part – and Mugello has more often been a hurdle for Marquez rather than a talisman venue. Last year, he was sixth.

His 2017 title rival Andrea Dovizioso will be banking on that. Not only did ‘DesmoDovi’ get collected in the three-rider collision in Spain, he then also crashed out in Le Mans – from the lead. That leaves him well down the order but the season is long and the Italian made history at Mugello last year as he took the first premier class win for an Italian on an Italian bike in Italy since 1974. It was a stunner and it kicked his campaign into gear, but that first win doesn’t overshadow two of the men with whom Dovizioso shares the grid, both of whom have impeccable records at Mugello.

One of those is Jorge Lorenzo, his teammate. Winner From 2011 to 2016 every year with the sole exception of 2014, Mugello really has been Lorenzo’s land. And after leading in Jerez and again in Le Mans, the number 99’s season is looking up – as is Valentino Rossi’s (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), the other CV of note.

Rossi was back on the podium in France for the first time since Qatar and although the Italian said the venue was an especially good one for the M1, that’s a good boost ahead of Mugello – where Rossi was king from 2004 to 2008 and has seven wins at the track. And as much as the crowd show awesome support for many home riders and manufacturers, there’s no one quite like the ‘Doctor’ for Mugello. The air is heavy with yellow haze when Rossi is in town; the fans like nowhere on Earth and the stands packed with 46-emblazoned merchandise.

It was Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales who got the podium last year, however, coming home second and putting in an impressive performance on the Yamaha for the first time at the venue. He was, however, slightly upstaged by the man in third, Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), who took the Independent Team not only to the podium but to the podium at home in Italy – something that left them somewhat speechless in the aftermath. Petrucci is fresh from the rostrum in France, too, and looking to add to his CV.

That enough contenders yet? There are even more. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) has won at Mugello, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) should be better recovered from his Q1 highside in Le Mans, Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) needs to bounce back after taking pole at home and then crashing out – the fate also suffered by Andrea Iannone on race day, who has a point to prove and has been on pole at Mugello as well as winning in the intermediate class there twice. Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) will want to be top rookie on home turf, and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini are racing at home, too – looking to add some more good points after a top ten for Aleix Espargaro in France.

It’s time for round six in the Tuscan hills, and time for Mugello to welcome its prodigal sons back home – with home glory, 25 points and 2018 momentum up for grabs on race day, this one will be a showstopper.

Tune in on Sunday at 14:00 (GMT +2).