Round Six – Mugello
Four weeks on from an awesome French Grand Prix at Le Mans, where the 1,000th race in MotoGP history attracted the championship’s largest-ever crowd (total attendance: just under 280,000), riders return to action this weekend for the season’s sixth clash, the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley at Italy’s famous Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello.
Located in the vicinity of the Tuscan capital Florence, Mugello has played host to international motorcycle racing’s top flight since 1976, two years after it became a permanent facility.
The passage of time has done nothing to dim its appeal, as its spectacular backdrop and tree-lined layout make it a favourite amongst not only riders but also fans, with a sizeable turnout anticipated over the weekend of June 8-11.
The 5.245km lap comprises nine right-hand corners and six left-handers, as well as a long main straight stretching 1.141km. This makes the venue one of MotoGP’s biggest high-speed challenges, with Jorge Martin having established a new championship speed record there of 363.6kph there in 2022. The race winner that weekend though was Francesco Bagnaia and he established a new race-lap record with a time of 1m46.588s.
MotoGP riders use the brakes 10 times per lap at Mugello, for a total of 25 seconds, a value corresponding to 24 per cent of the total duration of the race, one of the lowest percentages of the championship together with the Australian GP at Phillip Island.
The hardest braking is for turn one at San Donato which is preceded by a downhill section, the MotoGPs approach at at least 337 km/h (209 mph) even with no slipstream and start the turn at around 89 km/h (55 mph). To do this, the riders apply the brakes for 5.6 seconds and cover a distance of 320 metres. There is massive deceleration (1.6G), the brake fluid reaches 11.5 bar and the temperature of the brake discs 660 °C (1220°F).
MotoGP action is going to come thick and fast in the next three weekends as we head into the triple header of Mugello, Sachsenring and Assen. There’s just one point in it at the top between reigning Champion Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) and challenger to the throne Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), both have form at Mugello… and it’s home turf.
“Racing at Mugello in front of our fans is always a great emotion, and I can’t wait to get on track! The ankle is fine and shouldn’t bother me. We did a test with Enea a few weeks ago at Mugello with the Panigale V4 S, and before that, I had also ridden at Misano without any problems. It will be an important weekend for us, and certainly, the great charge of our public will give us extra motivation to do well in our home Grand Prix.”
“I can’t wait to get back on track: this track is out of the ordinary and this time it will be particularly special, perhaps even more than usual. We are living a unique moment with the whole Team. At Le Mans we were really strong on Sunday, proving that we know how to manage the weekend well, staying focused and working hard. The goal is to start from there and rediscover the same feelings right from the first free practice. It’s our GP: the support of the fans, the emotions and the home atmosphere will make the difference.”
The Ducati is a mighty machine at Mugello. And there are a fair few of them. Bagnaia and Bezzecchi lead the charge, but fellow home hero Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) will be desperate to get back in the podium fight now he’s known that rostrum-finish feeling. And Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing), arriving from a Sprint win and a podium, will want to ruin the home hero party. As will his teammate Johann Zarco, who was back on the box in France but is still seeking that maiden MotoGP win…
“I am very happy to arrive at Mugello, in front of such a special crowd as that of the Italian fans, with this potential and with the possibility of being able to fight with the strongest riders during the weekend. This track is one of the most beautiful in the world, one more reason to give our best and leave the Le Mans crash behind us. These three weeks have been tough, I thank all the medical team that supported me, we had to work hard to better fix the hand injury. Despite everything, we can really do well and start this three races in a row in Europe in the best way possible before the summer break.”
Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP), meanwhile, is looking for a little bit of luck having found a fair bit of speed in 2023, and teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio knows good vibes at Mugello, having taken a stunning pole position last year in a headline-grabbing qualifying.
“This very long break allowed me on one hand to rest mentally and on the other to prepare at my best on the fitness side of things for these three back-to-back rounds. These weekends will be intense, and we’ll need to bring the best versions of ourselves just like at Le Mans, and I’m sure the bad luck streak will end up soon. I’m eager to make amends and we’ll start at Mugello, a track that can be very favourable for both me and the Ducati.”
Fabio Di Giannantonio
“Normally when we talk about three back-to-back races, we usually refer to extra European ones, so this time it will be easier to tackle. Travelling will be less demanding and without time-zone changes. In any case it will be quite an intense tour, in which training will leave some room for recovery. The good thing is that we’ll have plenty of track-time, which is not a bad thing considering the lack of testing. The upcoming three events will be very important as they’ll take place at venues where I’ve always been competitive before. Mugello is my favourite, but I also like Assen and last year I scored my so-far best MotoGP result at the Sachsenring. We’re charged up!”
We’re also expecting Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) to be back in action. It’s now been a little longer to recover and he’s been back out training in the meantime, so we can hope to see the Beast complete the weekend. How much of a threat will he pose? He’s playing catch up on fitness and, crucially, time on the GP23 to really get dialled in, but he’ll be one to watch.
“I like Mugello very much! In the past, I didn’t get great results, so the goal is to be able to do it this year. Definitely, after all this time away from racing, it won’t be easy. I rode a few weeks ago with the Panigale V4 S, and it felt good, but with the Desmosedici GP, it will be another thing. In any case, I’m motivated. It’s our home race, so I hope I can do well.”
There’s also a dark horse in play as Michele Pirro returns as a Ducati wildcard. He’s had some solid results at Mugello especially, and could well complicate, at the very least, the battle to get into Q2 on Friday. Does anyone know Mugello better than Pirro?
Ducati may be intent on stealing some Mugello limelight, but the Italian GP is also a home race for Aprilia. Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) has already been on the podium this season and was on a charge in France before that dramatic coming together with Bagnaia, and both he and teammate Aleix Espargaro will be expecting much – likely to fight for the podium as a minimum.
Meanwhile, their fellow Noale machinery of CryptoData RNF MotoGP Team’s Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez are on a fitness test. Oliveira has been sidelined for a couple of rounds now and still reported some issues on the bike at the Aprilia All Stars Day, whereas Fernandez will be hoping more time to recover from his arm surgery will see him able to get back on track.
Razlan Razali – CryptoDATA RNF MotoGP Team Principal
“As we refreshed and reset during the three weeks break, we look forward to the first European triple header of Mugello, Sachsenring and Assen. It’s going to be a test of strength of all teams, especially our team with the physical condition of Miguel and Raul. We believe during the three weeks break both of our riders have done their maximum to recuperate and to strengthen, to rejuvenate from their previous injuries and surgeries. We have had glimpses of both riders at the recent Aprilia All Stars event in Misano, where Miguel tested his physical condition for one lap on the RS-GP. Not at 100% still, the injury has restricted his movements and we can only fully understand the actual situation from Practice one this week. Still after the All Stars, he had two weeks to recover and go for specific treatment based on his feeling at this event. So, we hope he will be better this week. Raul is very happy with his progress. He rode both days at the Aprilia event, he had fun, no tiredness feeling in his arm. For him, it all looks positive. We approach this first of three weekends with a bit of caution and we have to wait until the first session to see how both of our riders go. Again, I’m not overly positive, but cautious.”
Aprilia, like Ducati, also field a wildcard for their test rider, in Noale’s case Lorenzo Savadori. After a tougher first part of the season than pre-season seemed to promise, the extra information will be welcome.
A little bad luck returned for KTM in France, but the Austrian factory will be reloaded as the paddock returns to Mugello. Despite that bad luck too, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) is now third in the Championship… and only 13 points off the top. The South African was known as a Sunday rider in the best way before 2023, and now he’s also won two of the five Sprints. It’s far from difficult to imagine Binder leading the way after Mugello and spoiling the home hero party. KTM have rostrum form here too.
For team-mate Jack Miller, meanwhile, the speed was very much there in France, but the Australian didn’t manage to convert it into points. We know he can though, so he can be expected in that fight near the front once again – elbows out, just like Binder, as the two are truly always ready to race.
At GASGAS Factory Racing Tech 3, so another red corner, really, there was a lot to celebrate in France as rookie Augusto Fernandez made a stunning charge up to fourth. It all clicked and he’ll want to keep that ball rolling at Mugello – with the added good news of having scored in every single Grand Prix race so far, which is no mean feat by itself.
“I am really happy and excited to finally go back racing. These three weeks have been really long for me, especially after the race in Le Mans, because all I wanted to do after that was continuing racing. I can not wait to go to Mugello, to get back on my bike, to continue with all the work we have done until now. We have been doing a great job with the team, so I am excited to start from where we left things in France.”
On the other side of the garage we also now know it’ll be Jonas Folger back out as Pol Espargaro continues his recovery, but the Spaniard is close to making his return, according to the team.
It’s not been the easiest start of the season for Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), but the 2021 Champion has already been on the podium, and has scored consistently in every Grand Prix race, one of only three riders to do so. The Frenchman likely has a bit less drama and a bit more luck in the Sprint on order, and some tougher qualifyings haven’t made life easier either. Can that change at Mugello? The track traditionally suits the Yamaha more, so will that remain true in 2023?
“We start the Mugello weekend determined to work hard. It‘s the first race weekend of the triple header, so these will be busy weeks for us. In Le Mans, we decided on a setting that always seems to work best for us. So, we will start with that on the Friday and try to go as fast as possible in every session. I feel that starting more towards the front will be key, so that‘s my goal for Friday and Saturday morning. And then on Saturday afternoon and on Sunday I will do my best as always.”
Team-mate Franco Morbidelli, meanwhile, is looking for that Argentina magic after some tougher races again thereafter. Can home turf bring another boost? He also, along with Quartararo and Augusto Fernandez, has scored in every GP race so far.
“We are continuing our work this weekend. Mugello is a beautiful track, and it‘s very fast. Our top speed has improved compared to last year, which comes in handy at a track like Mugello with its long straights and hills. It‘s my home GP and also for the team, so we will put in the work in every session.”
The two pole positions Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) has contested so far have seen him take the first and miss out on the second by just 0.058. In Sprints he has a podium and a fifth… and he was only a few more kilometers away from a first Grand Prix podium of the season at Le Mans. All that says the number 93 cannot be counted out, as if anyone would truly dare. So what about Mugello?
“Time to get back to work. We start in Mugello which is always a very demanding weekend, the track is very fast and flowing. I’ve had some great battles there in the past and pushing the top speed of a MotoGP bike down the straight is always enjoyable. We of course need to see what possible this weekend and see what we can do together with the team to get the maximum from the bike and keep trying to make steps forward.”
It’s not a venue where Marquez has a huge roll call of wins – at Mugello it’s old rivals Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo who top the count. But he has, of course, reigned it. Given the work that continues to get Honda back to the very top though, it’s likely more fighting at the front that’s the goal this weekend… more track time, more information, more battles. Just in time for the Sachsenring? Whether that’s being acknowledged inside the box or not, it’s definitely a weekend everyone else will be eyeing as a Marquez special. Still, the count goes on. On race day at Mugello, 595 days will have gone by since he won in Emilia Romagna 2021. Germany will be 602. But counting the days also speaks to the fact that most expect that count to come to an end… so there’s seemingly a consensus that it’s when, not if.
On the other side of the Repsol Honda box, Joan Mir will want a lot more at Mugello. It’s been an exceptionally tough run so far, and the number 36 wants some points and progress.
“It seems a long time since we were last on the MotoGP bike, but I have been able to do some good riding and training during this time away. We have one more push before the mid-season break, so of course I want to achieve my maximum during this triple. A lot of time on the bike is something I am looking forward to as I think we can keep making progress forward and unlock what we have been missing. Mugello is the first of the three races in a row, I was on the podium there in 2021 and it’s a spectacular circuit to ride. Maximum effort, maximum focus and maximum determination.”
Alex Rins (LCR Honda Castrol) is also on a tough although shorter run, having failed to score in Jerez or at Le Mans after topping the table at COTA with 34 points all in. And then, for Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), it’s a gentle opposite as the Japanese rider has now finished in the top ten in the last two GP races. Can he keep that trajectory going?
Two Italians, two Ducatis, one single point… it’s tight at the top as Mugello arrives on the horizon. And it’s very unlikely to be a two-horse race as even more than our 22-strong cast of permanent entries line up in Tuscany. Check out the schedule below and join us for the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley!
MotoGP Championship Points
It was parity on the way in, but there was one winner on track and one winner in the standings at Le Mans: Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team). The Italian was unbeatable as key rival Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) crashed out, and we can surely expect more fireworks between the two at Mugello – with one the home hero and the other looking to bounce back.
Alonso Lopez (MB Conveyors SpeedUp), however, is now up into third overall and can’t stop racking up those podiums… and as of Le Mans, we’re now into venues where he’s actually ridden a Moto2 bike before, in this case twice after a replacement ride in 2021 on a Kalex and last year’s second race out with the Boscoscuro. He did, after all, join the World Championship quite late in 2022… not that you could tell!
Moto2 Championship Points
|22||KELLY Sean Dylan||USA||0|
Championship leader Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3) is even more so now, with the Spaniard taking a statement home win for Tech 3 at Le Mans. After that, it’s an impressive 21-point margin he has at the top, now ahead of Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team), with Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) dropping down to fourth after nil points in France.
Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing), however, is equal on points with Ortola – and says Mugello should fit the characteristics of the Honda the best so far, with its fast and flowing layout, and he’s been on the podium at Mugello twice already. Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP) is gaining ground too, and now he’s only seven points off Xavier Artigas (CFMoto Racing PrüstelGP) on the fringes of the top five.
Joel Kelso has had more time to recover from his early season injuries and will be chomping at the bit to get going this weekend.
Moto3 Championship Points
|9||RUEDA José Antonio||SPA||37|
2023 Mugello MotoGP Weekend Schedule
Times in AEST
2023 MotoGP Calendar
|9||Jul-09||Kazakhstan, Sokol (Subject to homologation)|
|10||Aug-06||Great Britain, Silverstone|
|11||Aug-20||Austria, Red Bull Ring|
|13||Sep-10||San Marino, Misano|
|14||Sep-24||India, Buddh (Subject to homologation)|
|17||Oct-22||Australia, Phillip Island|