Just the mere mention of Valentino Rossi and Mugello is enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider has a special relationship with the Italian circuit and its fans; a relationship that helps generate an atmosphere like no other at the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley.
Seven consecutive premier class victories from 2002 to 2008 confirmed The Doctor as a home hero and made certain he will forever be remembered within the hills of Tuscany. Eleven years on and Mugello hasn’t been the most successful hunting ground for the number 46, with that victory from pole position in 2008 the last time he stood on the top step of the podium.
Since then, Rossi has clocked four third place finishes with the most recent coming 12 months ago. But, after missing out on second by just three tenths of a second to Mission Winnow Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, it should fill the 40-year-old with the belief he can challenge at the front once again this weekend.
“I'm glad it's time for Mugello, it‘s a special weekend and a special race for all the Italian riders,” said Rossi, as he prepares to try cut the 23 points separating himself and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in the World Championship. “It has a fantastic atmosphere, but it's also a bit tricky to manage with all the fans, but it‘s really great.
“This is one of the most beautiful race tracks of the year. It‘s a track I really like, but it will be hard because everybody is very fast. Mugello does have less acceleration from a low speed, so I think we could be faster than in Le Mans, but it is also true that there is a very long straight. Surely this will be our weak point, but if we work well, we can defend ourselves. We need to try our best to be competitive and give the maximum.”
It’s nearing on two years since we last saw Valentino Rossi jump on to the top step of a MotoGP™ podium, if he was to end the drought in Mugello there’s sure to be a few parties in and around Bologna on Sunday night.