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2016 Mugello MotoGP Upside/Downside

Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo wins Mugello MotoGP 2016
Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo

It was a day of Upsides and Downsides for the racers and the fans at the Italian Grand Prix. The Moto3 race at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello in Tuscany, Italy, was full of excitement, but crowd favorite Romano Fenati went out with a broken chain. Moto2 was a travesty of disorganization, and many top riders suffered, along with fans being robbed of watching all of the fastest racers contest for the lead. Still, it was a good race and worthy of an opening act.

Over 100,000 people were waiting for the Gran Premio D’Italia TIM with high expectations. Nine-times World Champion Valentino Rossi was on the pole and nearly everyone in Tuscany was pulling for him to win at this most favored track. The crowd was going wild as Rossi and his Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Jorge Lorenzo battled like gladiators, until one was silenced, along with the boisterous crowd. Upsides and Downsides, indeed.

2016 Mugello MotoGP Upside

1. Jorge Lorenzo, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP: No doubt about it, Lorenzo fought off all comers and ended up on top, even if he didn’t think he was going to win. After Rossi’s Yamaha went down in a cloud of smoke, it looked like Lorenzo was going to have a free pass to the top of the podium. However, much to (almost) everyone’s surprise, Marc Márquez caught Lorenzo, passed him, and led coming out of the final corner.

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Lorenzo’s Yamaha had more drive however, and Márquez was passed just before the checkered flag. Certainly, it was one of Lorenzo’s toughest wins of his career, and it doubles his lead in the MotoGP standings to 10 points. Had he not re-passed Márquez, they would have been tied on points with Márquez in front via the most-wins tiebreaker.

“The pace wasn’t very fast so I couldn’t escape like I wanted,” Lorenzo explained. “Márquez stayed strong all the race and I used a lot of energy to go at the front in the race. I thought Márquez would have more energy at the end when he passed me. I thought to stay in 2nd place and take the points, but finally I remembered a little bit 2005 when I was in 250 and I passed De Angelis in this corner in the last chicane for second, and I thought maybe I could do the same. I tried a crazy move and it was okay, but I was going right in the second corner of the chicane. Finally, my bike was quite fast and I could get past Marc for an unexpected victory.”

Honda's Marc Marquez second at Mugello MotoGP 2016
Honda’s Marc Marquez

2. Marc Márquez, Repsol Honda Team. Although he didn’t win, Márquez exceeded all expectations at Mugello—except on the final sprint to the finish. Still, it was an amazing come from behind ride, as Márquez was in fourth for the first two laps, and didn’t move up to second until Rossi’s bike expired on Lap 9.

From there, Márquez slowly marched toward Lorenzo, though few watching the race thought Márquez would ever head him. Yet, on the final lap, riding with the intensity that has made him MotoGP World Champion twice, Márquez put two passes on Lorenzo before surrendering to the Yamaha’s superior acceleration.

“For the first time in my career, I know what it is like to lose the race in the last 50 meters,” Márquez revealed. “This race, the old Márquez came and I forgot about the championship and just attacked.” Sure, Márquez would rather be tied in points and leading the series, but nabbing 2nd definitely satisfied him.

3. Andrea Iannone, Ducati Team. Although Iannone was visibly frustrated after the race, a podium finish for him will always be an Upside—this is his second podium of the year. The clutch on his Ducati caused him to drop to eighth on the first lap after starting on the front row of the grid, but he didn’t let it get to him—another upside.

He steadily worked through the field, putting his final pass on teammate Andrea Dovizioso on Lap 17, and you know that gave him great satisfaction. Márquez’ teammate Dani Pedrosa made a run at Iannone, attempting to deny him the podium, but Iannone prevailed by less than a quarter of a second.

“I have a big disappointment because in the start the clutch was slipping and the bike started with a big wheelie,” Iannone said. “For me it’s difficult to control, and everyone passed me and I arrived late to the first corner. I thought it was going to be a disaster for me, but okay. I push very hard for all the race, and I ride fast and I have a good feeling with the tires. In this track, the tires work really well and this is good because Michelin improve race by race and this is important for us. The disappointment is the result because, yes, the podium in Italy is great, but I have the potential to fight for victory.”

4. Bradley Smith,Monster Yamaha Tech 3.  After two eighths to start the year, it has been tough going for Smith, with two finishes outside of the top 10 and a retirement. He returned to form at Mugello, earning his best finish of the year—a seventh, a one-position improvement over his grid position. He didn’t make it easy on himself, after having reached 6th on the first lap, he dropped back to 10th by Lap 4. From there, he regrouped, passed Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), moved up a spot when Rossi’s bike expired, and finally, passed factory rider Aleix Espargaró (Team Suzuki Ecstar) for seventh as he held off a charge by Danilo Petrucci. Still 12th in the standings, maybe this will get Smith’s season back on track after a good start.

Ducati's Andrea Iannone Wheelie at Mugello MotoGP 2016
Ducati’s Andrea Iannone

“I am very happy to finally be the top independent rider plus back to where I need to be,” Smith said. “It has taken us until the sixth round to get to where we were last year, which is quite a long time, but we have plenty more races to go to make up the points we lost at the start of the season. Altogether, I wasn’t as fast at adapting to the Michelin tires when compared to some of the other riders, but we can see that we are getting there and I’m confident, plus looking forward to the next round.”

5. Danilo Petrucci, OCTO Pramac Yakhnich Ducati. After starting the year with a dislocated bone in his right hand, which forced him to miss the first four races, Petrucci is coming on strong.

With two top 10s to his credit in the last two rounds, he’s carrying the flag for Pramac, who has had two DNFs with Redding in the same two races.

“It was a good race. My team always did a great job giving me the best bike, finding the best solution for every little thing,” Petrucci said. “I am very happy with how the bike goes and how competitive it is. My regret is to have not been the best Independent rider, as Bradley passed me yesterday and he did it again today for very little, but I’m happy. I will take my revenge in Barcelona.”

2016 Mugello MotoGP, Downside

1. Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP. It was a dream Mugello for Rossi, starting from the pole in front of 100,000 of the faithful. Rossi was battling with his nemesis, World Champion Jorge Lorenzo for the lead when disaster struck. Just as Lorenzo’s motor had gone south in the morning, Rossi’s M1 engine grenaded on Lap 9, ending his day in a cloud of smoke. As important as sucking all of the oxygen out of Mugello, Rossi has now had two DNFs so far this year (the other an unforced crash in Austin) and he now trails Lorenzo by 37 points in the 2016 MotoGP standings.

“It’s a great shame, because it’s always a pity when you have a problem with the bike in the race,” Rossi said, “but here even more so because it was in Mugello in front of all the crowd. I was very competitive in the race and very fast. I had a good start and I was there. I think I could have fought for the victory because I had a very good feeling and a strong pace. It’s also a great shame because this zero points score for the championship weighs very heavily.

“Lorenzo and Márquez finished 1st and 2nd, so now the distance is hard, but it’s like this. The positive thing is that I was competitive over the whole weekend and I was strong. I could have fought for the victory, so now we wait for the next race in Montmeló (Spain). Catalunya is one of my favorite tracks. I like to race there a lot, so I think we will have a good potential, but now we have to wait ten days and after that we will see.”

2. Pol Espargaró, Monster Yamaha Tech 3. He was pushed wide at the start and dropped back to 16th (not a disaster, as he was 14th on the grid), fought to 12th place, only to go down and pick himself up. Espargaró found himself fighting with Yonny Hernandez before finally pulling away to take just one point in Mugello. With that, he relinquished sixth place in the 2016 MotoGP standings to his brother, Aleix, who finished ninth.

Valentino Rossi Engine Explodes Mugello MotoGP
Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi

3. Tito Rabat, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda. Before arriving at Mugello, Rabat said, “I go to Mugello feeling positive and excited to ride a MotoGP bike at one of the fastest and most beautiful tracks in the world. It is a track I really like and I’ve had some success on in the past, but it will be a completely different challenge on a MotoGP bike.”

Unfortunately, he broke his collarbone in Free Practice 3 and has had to have surgery. It has been a tough year for the reigning Moto2 champ, as he scored just 11 points in the first five rounds.

4. Scott Redding, OCTO Pramac Yakhnich Ducati. Redding’s Pramac Ducati has failed him two weeks running, which can’t do much for his confidence. At Mugello, technical issues struck on the same lap that ended Rossi’s run.

Scoring no points in four of the six races this year, Redding has just 16 championship points and sits 17th in the standings, a point behind teammate Petrucci who missed four races due to injury.

“I have not made a mistake and from a certain point of view, I am satisfied with my performance,” said a cautiously upbeat Redding. “I also have to thank the team because the pace was very good. The problem? I saw the red light flashing, and I tried to slow down to see if the problem could be solved. But, there were no signs of improvement, so I preferred to stop to avoid damaging the engine. I am disappointed because the weekend had been good even if with some ups and downs. We will try again in Barcelona.”

5. Jack Miller, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda. Miller simply cannot catch a break. In the first corner, he was caught in the three-rider pile-up with Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Loris Baz (Avintia Racing) and that was it for his day at Mugello. Six rounds in, Miller has scored just two 2016 MotoGP Championship series points.

Photos by Alessandra Marovino