We aren’t far away from seeing bikes back on track at Mugello but before we hear the rumble of engines filling the surrounding Tuscan hills, Championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was joined in the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley Press Conference by home heroes Andrea Dovizioso, his Mission Winnow Ducati teammate Danilo Petrucci and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi, with Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and Moto2™ title leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (FlexBox HP 40) also joining the conversation.
And the conversation on a lot of people’s lips is a familiar story: who will be the ones stopping Marquez this weekend? More specifically, can Ducati turn up the wick on home soil and spoil Marquez’ early season momentum? The reigning World Champion won convincingly last time out in Le Mans but the Italians will be more determined than ever to beat him at Mugello, a track that hasn’t been too kind to the number 93 in recent years.
“We know that here in Mugello, it’s one of the tracks we’ve struggled at in the past but we have done very good races,” said Marquez, who recognises he had good pace last year before crashing. And the Honda is also stronger this year.
“Last year we were not so bad, really good pace but we crash in the race. We have another bike and another engine this year, this should be better, we start from FP1 to analyse everything and try to fight for the podium on Sunday.
“We just need to analyse the opponents. We know it’s important for Ducati here and it’s important for Italian riders and they will like to win the race because you know it’s important for them but for me, it’s another way. We are leading the championship, this is important, and we will try to focus on our box.”
2017 Mugello winner Dovizioso is the man closest to Marquez in the title hunt. Eight points are the deficit, but his win and Jorge Lorenzo’s Ducati win last year – with Dovi second – means the Bologna factory are aiming got a hattrick of wins in their back yard. What a way to celebrate 300 GPs for Dovizioso that would be.
“This is our goal this weekend. In the last two years we did something really, really good,” explained Dovi, but the Italian is expecting the level of his competition to be higher this year – and that’s more than just Marquez.
“I think all the Ducatis can be competitive here this weekend, but I expect the competition to be stronger than last year. Everybody – Rins, the Yamahas and Marc, for sure. A lot of riders are able to fight for the podium and the victory. Anything can happen. It’s important to start with a good base and work well during the weekend, that makes the difference because I think our base is good. The goal is to win but just in the race you need to understand if you can fight for the victory. Everybody expects a Ducati victory, but we have to be smart and take the maximum.”
Dovizioso mentioned Yamaha and the rider who has enjoyed the most wins at Mugello in the MotoGP™ era was present in his home Grand Prix Press Conference to discuss his thoughts ahead of what is always a special weekend for The Doctor.
“Yes, its always difficult to understand before the weekend because every year is different,” commented Rossi. “Last year was not too bad, I was quite strong during the weekend. It looks like we have improved in some areas but all the bikes have improved so much. So it would depend on a lot of things. All the small details from the weekend and we’ll see.”
So that’s two Italians out to get on that number one step, but there’s a third in the ranks. Petrucci is gearing up for his first home Grand Prix as a factory Ducati rider and, after a Le Mans rostrum, his confidence is high.
“The podium two weeks ago helps me to find a good way to concentrate and to be more relaxed to arrive here. It was the first weekend where I was able to build in a proper way. I’m happy to have this confidence. For sure, it will be very, very emotional on the grid on Sunday but the whole weekend is very, very emotional here in Mugello.
“2017 was amazing, I remember I was crying on the podium because it was an image that I had dreamed of for a lifetime, to be on the podium in Mugello. It’s something I’d like to repeat, a lot.”
With Miller also raring to go on a GP19, Marquez certainly has his work cut out if he’s to stand on the top step for a fourth time this season. You don’t need us to tell you that you’re in for a treat at Mugello this weekend, so don’t miss any of the track action. The MotoGP™ riders will head out on track for FP1 at 09:55 local time (GMT+2) on Friday morning.