Italian track, Italian bike, Italian rider – there couldn’t possibly be a better MotoGP venue for Valentino Rossi to deliver his first win aboard the Ducati.
And Rossi is lucky at the modified Mugello circuit; the 31-year-old pilot has as many wins there as World Championships – nine. There are two major stumbling blocks for Rossi, though, as he heads into Round 8 of the 2011 MotoGP Championship.
First, VR46 and his team have to find an optimal setup on the revamped Ducati GP11.1. At last weekend’s Assen debut on the updated Ducati, Valentino Rossi struggled with finding correct setup due to only having two hours of dry time before the dry race. Nevertheless, Rossi finished fourth.
The second problem for Rossi will be without his main man in the paddock, crew chief Jeremy Burgess. The Australian is back home with his wife, who had to undergo a “series of medical exams and a possible urgent surgical procedure,” Ducati says. Burgess is expected to return to the MotoGP paddock at Round 9 in Sachsenring.
Filling in for Burgess will be Ducati Marlboro Team’s Techincal Manager, Max Bartolini. And taking over for Bartolini this weekend at Mugello MotoGP will be Team Pramac’s Fabiano Sterlacchini.
The Ducati Team “thanks Team Pramac, which always works very closely with the manufacturer, for making Sterlacchini available. He normally works as Team Technical Manager and Track Engineer for Loris Capirossi, who will miss the Italian GP due to injury.”
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team GP.11.1 MotoGP) says: “First of all I’d like to wish good luck to Jeremy, who won’t be able to join us this weekend due to very important personal reasons. We’ll miss him very much in the garage, but we look forward to seeing him at the Sachsenring. In the meantime, we must try to do well at Mugello.
“We’ve ridden there with the GP12, but because our bike is an 800, it responds a little differently to adjustments, and it’s also in its first phase of development. It will be vital to quickly find the right path for the setup, as it’s important that we improve in every session in order to qualify in a good position.
“The track is one of my favorites, and I’ve always done pretty well there. Returning after last year’s accident is no problem for me, because I enjoyed riding there during the recent tests, as I always do. I hope there will be a big crowd and that I’ll be able to do better than we’ve managed until now, because this is a very important race.”
Valentino Rossi’s MotoGP teammate, the American Nicky Hayden, has never won at Mugello, but took a podium there en route to his 2006 MotoGP Championship. Hayden will be using a modified “step 2” frame on his Ducati, which the team couldn’t use last weekend due to rain conditions.
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team GP11.1 MotoGP) says: “Even though we’re probably not at our finest moment, Mugello is going to be special for the team. I know the Ducati MotoGP fans are going to come there and support us, especially now with an Italian rider.
“I love the track, although it’s not one where I’ve had great results, so I’m not planning on an easy weekend. I know I’m going to have to come out there on Friday and get going. We’re going to have plenty of expectations, and it should be a busy weekend with all the hype going on. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden will be on the Mugello circuit Friday for the first free practice sessions.