With a second-place finish in the Qatar season opener followed by back-to-back wins at Jerez and Le Mans, Jorge Lorenzo should arrive at Mugello in good spirits this weekend for round four of the Moto GP Championship.
The Spaniard’s strong finishes equal 70 points in the championship, the highest count by a rider since his Fiat Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi had the same amount after three rounds in 2005.
Lorenzo’s standings place him nine points ahead of the reigning World Champion, but Rossi has quite an impressive record at the 3.259-mile, 15-turn Florentine circuit in his native Italy.
Although the nine-time world champion only placed third there last year behind Lorenzo and winner Casey Stoner, Rossi has won there nine times in 14 years, including a run of seven consecutive victories to 2008.
Rossi has been in pain at the last two rounds due to injuring his shoulder in a motocross-training accident, but is hoping to be in top shape aboard his YZR-M1 for Mugello.
Valentino Rossi says: "After another rest I hope my shoulder is fully recovered and that I will be back to full strength for Mugello, my home race. We had some problems in Le Mans so we will be working hard from the first session to make sure that we’re back to our best. Mugello is an incredible place to ride a motorcycle, there is nowhere else like it in the world with all the tifosi around the hills and when you go out for the first lap the sound is something amazing. I always look forward to racing there and I hope we will be in good shape this weekend."
Also, the 31 year old will be chasing the pole position, and if he is successful, it’ll be his 50th pole position start of his premier-class career. But the third-year MotoGP rider Lorenzo is coming off the back-to-back victories that combine for seven overall premier-class wins, and has won at Mugello in 2006 while chasing his first of two 250cc titles. In the premier class, the 23 year old crashed out during his rookie year in 2008, but beat out Rossi for second during last year’s race.
Jorge Lorenzo says: "Last year Mugello was one of my best races! I crashed in the warm-up lap, but otherwise it was almost perfect and I was so happy to get on the podium. The sessions and the race were amazing because the weather kept changing. For me, Mugello is the best circuit in the world, joint with Phillip Island. It’s a classic circuit with many ups and downs and an incredible atmosphere. I have had a great start to the season and once again our aim will be to be strong from the first day and get on the podium."
Trailing Rossi by 19 points is Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso, who already rode his RC212V to two podium finishes this season, a pair of thirds in Qatar and Le Mans. The former 125cc World Champion dueled with Rossi during last year’s race, missing the podium by a mere 0.053 of a second. The Italian’s best finish at Mugello was third in 2006 while competing in the 250cc Class for Honda.
Andrea Dovizioso says: "We’re arriving at Mugello in a good situation. Two weeks ago at Le Mans I was able to ride fast, we had a good race and I ended up with a great podium finish – plus we were quite close to the two Yamahas. I think that if I had been able to qualify further forward, we could have got an even better result. So that result has set us up well for Mugello which is a very special track for me. The circuit is really fascinating to ride – it’s so challenging and demanding to get right and this is what makes it so appealing. Plus the support of the Italian fans is incredible. I like everything here: the people, the circuit, Tuscany, Firenze, the food… I really look forward to racing at Mugello. It’s also a special appointment also for my fans gathered at the Casanova Savelli turns, so I’ll do everything I can to put on a good show for them this weekend."
Sitting in fourth just two points behind Dovizioso is the other Repsol Honda rider, Dani Pedrosa. The Spaniard has five podium finishes there across all classes, including a win in the 250cc Class. Although he didn’t finish during last year’s race, he set the highest recorded speed at Mugello during practice, 217.06 mph.
Dani Pedrosa says "Mugello is one of the circuits you always look forward to because the atmosphere is incredible. It’s very similar to Spain, people are very passionate, the viewing areas are normally full from the first day of practice and it helps you to get quickly in the mood for the Grand Prix. We will have to work hard this weekend, for sure, but we are very motivated to improve on the final result we got in France. We are working well with the team, adapting the bike to get the best package possible for each track, and we need to get it absolutely right for the race. I hope we can do that in Italy. This season we go there in much better shape than last year and that’s important because Mugello is a physically demanding track to ride, especially in the fast direction changes. The strategy for the weekend is simply to be totally focused and get the maximum out of every session."
With three consecutive fourth-place finishes, Ducati Marlboro rider Nicky Hayden sits in fifth place in the championship with 39 points, just behind Pedrosa. The Kentucky Kid’s best finish is third in 2006 while riding for Repsol Honda. During last year’s Mugello meeting, he finished in 12th, almost 40 seconds behind race-winner and teammate Stoner.
Nicky Hayden says: "I can’t wait to go to Mugello and banish the memory of last year, when I was quite slow in front of the Italian fans and so many people from Ducati. Actually things went better in the race than they had done in practice but then I suffered a problem with my rear brake and the result was anything but good. We’re going into a run of races that could be quite decent for us and we’re confident. Mugello is a circuit that can be really nice to ride or really tough, depending on whether you can get your bike working well and have a good set-up. If you manage that you can have some serious fun. I’m expecting to see a lot of Ducati fans so hopefully I can have fun and they can too."
As for Hayden’s teammate, Stoner’s season so far has been anything but successful. The Australian crashed out of two races, and has a best finish of fifth at Jerez. He currently sits in 13th position with 11 points.
Casey Stoner says: "Obviously Mugello hasn’t come at a positive moment for us but this is our situation and we have to try and look forward, taking things race by race and not worrying too much about the championship. That is what I am most interested in right now and we want to get the bottom of this problem we’re having with the front end. We have a few things to try at Mugello and we will be working as hard as always to achieve our goals. Generally the bike is working well and we have the pace to fight with the guys at the front so it is just a case of continuing to work hard to solve this issue."
Tied with Stoner at 11 points is MotoGP rookie and reigning World Superbike Champion Ben Spies. The American had a strong start to the season with a fifth-place finish at Qatar, but two DNFs dropped him from the points dramatically.
As for injured riders, Rizla Suzuki rider Álvaro Bautista is still recovering from a broken collarbone sustained while motocross training for the French Grand Prix at Le Mans. The Spaniard had a plate surgically inserted into his collarbone, and competed at Le Mans, but an early high-side forced him to withdraw from the race. His best finish this year was 10th at Jerez, and he DNF’d at Qatar. While competing in the 250cc Class, Bautista started on the pole twice at Mugello, and won in 2007.
Álvaro Bautista says: "I am feeling a little bit better and I am getting stronger every day. I still have some bruising around my ribs, but that is starting to ease now. I am training to get myself up to fitness in time for Mugello, I think I am about 95% now, but it is that extra 5% that will be the hard bit, so I know I’ve still got a bit of work to do. Mugello is a great track and I have had some good results there and we need to start getting some points, I’ve only finished one MotoGP race and feel like I haven’t really got going yet, so let’s look to Mugello as the start of better things to come."
The Gran Premio D’Italia will air on SPEED TV at 8 a.m. Sunday, June 6, and then again at 6 p.m. Moto2 will air on SPEED TV at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 6, and the 125cc Class at noon on Tuesday, June 8.
C. Stoner (Ducati) 2008, 1’50.003
V. Rossi (Yamaha) 2008, 1’48.130
1. C. Stoner (Ducati) 45’41.894
2. J. Lorenzo (Yamaha) +1.001
3. V. Rossi (Yamaha) +2.076
MotoGP Standings after Round 3:
1. Jorge LORENZO, 70
2. Valentino ROSSI, 61
3. Andrea DOVIZIOSO, 42
4. Dani PEDROSA, 40
5. Nicky HAYDEN, 39
6. Randy DE PUNIET, 26
7. Marco MELANDRI, 21
8. Colin EDWARDS, 16
9. Marco SIMONCELLI, 16
10. Hector BARBERA, 15
11. Hiroshi AOYAMA, 13
12. Mika KALLIO, 12
13. Casey STONER, 11
14. Ben SPIES, 11
15. Aleix ESPARGARO, 8
16. Loris CAPIROSSI, 7
17. Alvaro BAUTISTA, 6
More from Dorna Communications on Moto2 and 125cc Class
Toni Elías will be going for a third straight win in the Moto2 class as he attempts to defend and even extend his 18-point Championship lead. Elías’ victory at Le Mans has handed him a Championship lead for the first time since 2001, when he led the 125cc standings after 12 rounds.
Mugello is one of three circuits at which the Spaniard has not finished on the podium in any of the classes he has raced in however, and he will be targeting an improvement in that statistic as he looks to protect his lead. Shoya Tomizawa will be a threat as he looks to cut the deficit to Elías, at a track at which the Japanese rider has raced just once – a non-finish in the 250cc class last season. The Technomag-CIP rider enjoyed a rapid start to the campaign with a win in Qatar and second place at Jerez, but a crash at Le Mans means he will want a return to top-three form as the early-season battle at the top unfolds.
Simone Corsi’s first podium of the season at Le Mans lifted the Italian to third spot in the standings, and the JiR Moto2 man has experienced victory at Mugello before. He will be hopeful of repeating his 125cc win from 2008 in his home GP and edge closer to the top spot currently occupied by Elías.
Julián Simón (Mapfre Aspar), Sergio Gadea (Tenerife 40 Pons) and Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Moriwaki Moto2) complete the top six as it stands heading into the weekend, and with six different chassis manufacturers inside the top ten positions the competition is fierce. Added to the 40-strong field will be wild card rider Xavier Simeon (Holiday Gym Racing), who will once more be riding a Moriwaki chassis following his entry at Le Mans.
Looking to make his mark after an eventful start to the season will be Alex de Angelis (RSM Team Scot) who will be going for a fourth career podium at the track, whilst Mashel Al Naimi (Blusens-STX) will be replaced by Anthony Delhalle for this race after the Qatari rider underwent an operation for compartmental syndrome in his arm last Friday.
The fantastic contest that is playing out in the 125cc World Championship will also continue and at present it is Nico Terol who leads the standings with a narrow two-point advantage over Pol Espargaró. Terol finished second in last year’s race at Mugello having qualified down in 12th, whilst Tuenti Racing rider Espargaró has finished third and fourth in the past two seasons and comes into this race off the back of two straight wins at Jerez and Le Mans.
Esteve Rabat (Blusens-STX), Efrén Vázquez (Tuenti Racing) and Marc Márquez (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) will all be candidates for at least the podium and all three will have aspirations of challenging for first wins not only of the season, but of their careers. Bradley Smith felt much better on his Aprilia of the Bancaja Aspar team at Le Mans, and returns to a track where he won last year. He will hope for a similar result to lift him from his current place of sixth in the standings.
Enforcing the regular 125cc field will be a quintet of Italian wildcard riders. Junior GP Racing Team FMI will enter the trio of Luigi Morciano, Alessandro Tonucci and Armando Pontone, with Tommaso Gabrielli (Racing Team Gabrielli) and Faenza Racing’s Mattia Tarozzi all taking part.