Photo: LCR Honda/Facebook
AUTODROMO del MUGELLO, Firenze, Italy – LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow called it the day before the race, saying “this one is Dovi’s to lose.” The tough Brit was right, as Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso took his third Moto GP victory (and first in the dry) in front of more than 98,000 hysterical fans in Italy. The victory came in spite of a bout of food poisoning so bad he couldn’t even complete the morning warm-up.
“Very strange day!” smiled Dovi. “I woke up at 4 a.m. and I was sick. We didn’t make the warm-up. Fortunately, we didn’t have to try anything on the bike because our situation was really good. Ten laps to the end I decide to overtake Viňales, but without a strategy. I saw that we are four riders in the group and I think it’s better to be in front.
“Most of the time Valentino has something for the end of the race, and here he is very strong, so I had that question mark. Maverick (Viňales is very, very strong and when I saw him two laps to the end, +1.2 seconds, I said ‘f**k!’
“Just at the last corner I realised I was able to win. In the last lap I have eight tenths, but I couldn’t understand if Maverick would close the gap during the lap and if he was able to try to overtake me in the last corner. I didn’t know.
“I want to say thank-you to a lot of people because they helped me a lot. Ducati, my team, all the fans.”
While most were cheering for local hero Valentino Rossi, based on the amount of yellow in the crowds, having another Italian on an Italian bike win the biggest race of the year in Italy didn’t exactly dampen anyone’s spirits. The fact that another Italian, Danilo Petrucci on a Pramac satellite Ducati, grabbed third (his second Moto GP podium), and Rossi collected fourth in spite of being hospitalized earlier this week for a motocross training accident, certainly gave the Italian crowd lots to cheer for. So did Alvaro Bautista collecting fifth on yet another satellite Duke.
It also didn’t hurt that Italian racers won the Moto 2 and Moto 3 races …
With the factory Ducatis clocking an almost unbelievable 350 km/h on Mugello’s long uphill front straight – followed by the spine-chilling downhill braking while turning required to make the 85 km/h San Donato corner – it was a forgone conclusion that drafting would be a big part of the race, true for the smaller classes as well. The first half-dozen laps of the main event were perhaps the best racing seen in Moto GP in the last five years, as Yamaha riders Rossi and Viňales, Ducati’s new hire Jorge Lorenzo, and Dovizioso traded the lead with the next half-dozen competitors all looking capable of contending for the front as well.
In the event, Viňales, Rossi, and Dovisioso slowly pulled a slight gap, while Danillo Petrucci made an inspired dash through the field to catch the group, eventually getting past his great friend Rossi to take third, which he held to the finish.
Another rider making a great race was Alvaro Bautista on the Aspar satellite Ducati, who climbed through the field to pass defending world champion Marc Marquez (Honda) and hang on despite Marquez’ best efforts to collect an excellent fifth. It was a superb result for Bautista and the Aspar team after a serious run of bad luck in the first races of the year.
Speaking of bad luck, the above-mentioned Cal Crutchlow had some on the last lap of the race. After a relatively poor showing compared to his early practice pace, the Isle of Man resident was set for a top 10 finish when he was collected by Dani Pedrosa on the second factory Honda, who made a rare mistake and crashed trying to pass the Brit, only to take them both out. Pedrosa ran over to apologize, only to be met by a rude gesture from the upset and perhaps overly honest Crutchlow.
The top 10 was rounded out by Johann Zarco in another fantastic ride in his Moto GP debut season, then Ducati’s hyper-expensive Jorge Lorenzo, doing his now almost-patented fade during the race and coming up with even more excuses. The guy who signed his (gigantic) contract must be hating himself.
Next up was Ducati test rider Michele Pirro (who, amusingly, is also acting as Lorenzo’s riding coach this year) only half a second behind the big-bucks star new hire, with Andrea Iannone on the factory Suzuki finishing the top of the roster.
It was touching to see that most, if not all, of the riders had some sort of tribute to former Moto GP rider Nicky Hayden on their helmets, leathers, or bikes. Also, there were many tributes to Hayden from the fans in the various grandstands around the circuit – very nice to see.
The secondary class provided a more entertaining contest than usual, although the usual suspects at the front were upset by Italian Mattia Passini grabbing the win instead of the favoured Franco Morbidelli.
Second went to Swiss ace Thomas Luthi, coming out on top of a fierce battle for the podium, with Morbidelli’s team-mate Alex Marquez grabbing the final rostrum step. Morbidelli finished fourth, keeping him ahead of the championship ahead of Luthi – albeit with a smaller margin – while Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira, taking more time out from his dental technician studies, grabbed fifth on the new KTM machine.
Fast track, long straights, Moto 3 race – expect crazy drafting moves. And the race in Mugello delivered that in spades, with 16 riders starting the final lap within a second of each other! Victory went to first-time winner Andrea Migno on a KTM, riding for the VR46 team (that would make him a student at Valentino Rossi’s VR46 academy). He was followed closely – 3/100 of a second – by fellow Italian Fabio Gianantonnio on a Honda,
Series leader Joan Mir managed a seventh, getting beaten up in the last-lap drafting, keeping his series lead, while Mir’s fellow Spaniard Aron Canet moved into second with a fifth-place finish.
World Moto GP Championship Standings after six of 18 races
1. Maverick Vinales, Spain, Movistar Yamaha, 105 points
2. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 79
3. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Movistar Yamaha, 75
4. TIE, Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda / Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 68
6. Johann Zarco, France, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 64
7. Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team, 46
8. Danillo Petrucci, Italy, Pramac Ducati, 42
9. Jonas Folger, Germany, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 41
10. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., LCR Honda, 40.
Next race, June 11, Catalunya, Spain