This weekend, the MotoGP circus returns to the Mugello circuit, but it’s under very different circumstances from last year.
Last year, Yamaha teammates Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were surprising everyone. Rossi was far surpassing everyone’s expectations, with a string of podiums by that point. Lorenzo, on the other hand, was experiencing a terrible start to his season, one that shocked everyone expecting him to mount a serious challenge to Honda’s Marc Marquez.
But last year at Mugello, Lorenzo managed to finally turn things around, finally getting to the point where he could battle Marquez. He went on to maintain a high level of performance for the rest of the season, and he’s kept up the pace so far in 2015. His latest victory at Le Mans showed him he’s still got what it takes to be tops in MotoGP.
“Le Mans was a confirmation that I‘m feeling stronger and that I‘m in a great shape,” Lorenzo said.
Part of the blame for Lorenzo’s early-season slump in 2014 went to conditioning. Supposedly, Lorenzo was beat physically going into the start of the season last year, and it took a while for him to get back into top racing shape. This year, he worked hard to get into top condition for the early races, and he’s been rewarded with a string of podiums – a string he’s anxious to continue in Italy this weekend, coming off two consecutive wins.
“In Le Mans we were able to do a perfect job during the whole weekend, as in Jerez, and now we look forward to racing again in Mugello,” he said. “The track is maybe one of my favorites throughout the MotoGP calendar so I‘m eager to race there.”
There’s a good reason why the track is one of his favourites – he’s dominant there. Lorenzo has six consecutive podiums in MotoGP’s premier class at Mugello, including three straight wins in 2011-2013. He also took a second place in 250 two-stroke GP racing in 2005, and won the 250 race in 2006. He knows how to win at the Italian track, and his competition will have their work cut out.
Lorenzo’s teammate Valentino Rossi might be his toughest challenge. He won seven straight races at Mugello from 2002 to 2008, and earned third-place podiums in 2009 and 2014. Rossi also won the 250 race in 1999 and the 125 race in 1997. If anyone has history at Mugello, it’s Rossi, but he isn’t resting on past wins for reassurance this weekend – he says it will take hard work.
“At Mugello we must not make mistakes with the setup of the bike, starting from the free practices,” Rossi said, “Jorge and I will try to put our Yamaha‘s on top again, but this time I hope it will be in a reverse order.”
Rossi is still atop the standings with 102 points to Lorenzo’s 87. Although Marquez was the overwhelming favourite to dominate the standings again in 2014 after last summer’s amazing performance, he’s currently languishing in fourth with 69 points.
But Marquez shouldn’t be ruled out. Despite the great history Rossi and Lorenzo have at Mugello, don’t forget it was the Repsol Honda rider who won the event last year. Marquez is perfectly capable of getting out in front and dominating the way he did through most of 2014. In some ways, that could set up a very interesting storyline for the rest of the MotoGP season. Last year, Lorenzo was the comeback kid, who started slow and turned up the heat in the second half of the schedule. Maybe for 2015, that will be Marc Marquez’s story?
Marquez said that he was “motivated” after his results at the Le Mans race, and doesn’t expect things to be easy this weekend. “We know Valentino will be very strong at his home race,” he said. “Jorge and Dani (Pedrosa) have a good history there and Ducati were testing there just a few weeks ago, so we will have to be focused all weekend.”