Moto GP + Mugello = WOW


Photos: MotoGP

In a season of superlative Moto GP racing in all classes, the fabled Mugello circuit in Italy’s Tuscany area delivered in spades June 1. In Moto GP, yes, Marc Marquez took pole and won again – seven on the trot for the kid, counting the last race in 2013 – but for a change he had to work desperately hard for the win, barely squeaking out victory over a resurgent Jorge Lorenzo, who’d won the last three years at the track.

As veteran scribe Julian Ryder put it, “You have to see this one. No really, you have to.”

The Moto 2 race was gripping in a different way, more for strategy than for action, as championship leader Esteve Rabat extended his series lead, but only after a crafty race, his pace determined by a tire choice different from any of the other front-runners.

The Moto 3 race was frickin’ insane. Mid-race, there were 15 bikes in the lead draft; on the last lap there were still 10 in the draft for the win, no lie. Three crashed out, and the top three were within 1/100 of a second as they crossed the line. Now THAT’s a race.

There was no question that Jorge Lorenzo was back. He held a considerable lead for a while, then ended up in a terrific back-and-forth scrap with Marquez, ultimately losing on the final lap.
There was no question that Jorge Lorenzo was back. He held a considerable lead for a while, then ended up in a terrific back-and-forth scrap with Marquez, ultimately losing on the final lap.

The Moto GP race saw Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo back on form. Getting back into better physical shape every weekend after two operations in the off-season, plus bigger brakes now allowed, plus a return at Mugello to the tire construction he favoured last year, made a huge difference. He led most of the race on his factory Yamaha, and the last quarter of the event was spent swapping positions with Marquez, who admittedly doesn’t like Mugello that much. His 250+ km/h crash in practice last year, plus crashing out of the race, probably reinforce that feeling. Still, the two Spaniards put on a great show in front of the Italian crowd, only for Marquez to clinch a sixth successive victory in 2014 by 0.121 sec on the final lap.

Marquez said, “I am very happy with this win; Jorge and I had a really good battle and had a lot of fun out there! I wasn’t expecting the victory, because it has come at a circuit that I had marked on the calendar as being one for picking up championship points – not thinking about winning the race. However, I saw that it would be possible and took more risks than at other races, because Jorge and Vale were very fast and we were finding it difficult to keep up the same pace.”

Rossi tries to get past Andrea Iannone here; it was #46's 300th GP, and he got third.
Rossi tries to get past Andrea Iannone here; it was #46’s 300th GP, and he got third.

Lorenzo’s response was, “I’m happy, I could be more happy if I had won but I tried my best. Probably in the last corner I should have stayed more in the inside to try to overtake him on the inside line but I made a mistake and went wider and it was impossible to overtake him on the straight. When I feel physically strong and the bike has a small improvement I can be there and fight with him.”

The two are notoriously not overly friendly, so the next meeting in two weeks at their home circuit in Barcelona should be highly entertaining.

Rossi's fans were out in force.
Rossi’s fans were out in force.

Valentino Rossi was entering his 300th Grand Prix (“I’d rather it was 100. I feel too old!”), and had a bad qualifying session when he chose the wrong front tire, ending up 10th. Mugello is his spiritual racing home, and his unbelievable first couple of laps reinforced the magic. He went from 10th to fourth in two laps, and two laps later had gotten past his good friend Andrea Ianonne into third. But by then Lorenzo and Marquez were a second ahead, and although Rossi could run the same lap times he couldn’t close up. Still, the result puts him in second in the world standings, ahead of Marquez’ Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who is still suffering from the after-affects of recent surgery for arm pump problems.

Rossi commented, “Mugello is one of the greatest race tracks in the world; a lot of people around and the race was very funny with a great battle between Jorge and Marc. I wasn’t too far from them and all the people were happy for my podium … the podium in Mugello is always fantastic, it’s the most special moment of the season, it’s like a great concert. It’s a great party for Moto GP and motorcycling because the passion in Italy is amazing. This is my 300th GP, so I’m in the middle of my career, another 300 before the end!”

Stefan Bradl was taken out in the aftermath of Cal Crutchlow's crash.
Stefan Bradl was taken out in the aftermath of Cal Crutchlow’s crash.

Pedrosa still managed a fourth in the race, just ahead of Pol Espargaro, continuing his superb first year in Moto GP with the Monster/Tech 3 Yamaha team. Next up were the two Ducatis of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Ianonne – Ianonne having opted for the softest rear tire, which predictably went off as the race progressed – followed by Alvaro Bautista on the Go&Fun Honda, Aleix Espargaro on the first non-factory bike, and Columbian racer Yonny Hernandez on another Pramac Ducati.

Nicky Hayden didn’t enter, his right wrist still causing him intense pain. He’s got more surgery scheduled for early this week.

Rabat took the Moto2 win, but it wasn't a slam dunk.
Rabat took the Moto2 win, but it wasn’t a slam dunk.

Moto 2

Pole-sitter and series leader Rabat got pushed back at the start, then used his astute choice of the harder rear tire to gather in his rivals and take a reasonably comfortable win, easing off to a couple of tenths victory at the finish.

Salom and Folger finished in that order behind him, while fouth went to Simone Corsi in what was undoubtedly the ride of the race, going from 22nd on the grid to nearly making the podium! The top five was rounded out by Dominique Aegetter of Switzerland after a race-long battle with Rabat’s team-mate Mika Kallio, who still holds second in the championship.

Fenati won in Moto3, but you can't get any closer than this.
Fenati won in Moto3, but you can’t get any closer than this.

Moto 3

The typically – or perhaps in this extreme case atypically – mad Moto 3 race went to Italian teen Romano Fenati, riding for the Sky/VR46 team run under the aegis of Valentino Rossi. It was Fenati’s third win in three races, moving him to a close second in the series behind Aussie Jack Miller.

Fenati beat out Isaac Vinales and Alex Rins, the three covered by 1/100th of a second at the finish.

The end of the Moto3 race saw a tight pack battling it out.
The end of the Moto3 race saw a tight pack battling it out.

The last few laps had no fewer than 13 riders in the draft for the lead, and on the final go-around there were still 10. Then championship leader Jack Miller made an over-optimistic passing attempt and he, Alex Marquez, and Enea Bastianni all went down. Miller got assessed two series penalty points for the incident, which infuriated the Australian teen. His point was that previous last-lap-incidents had been overlooked by Race Control, and it certainly looked to this observer that this incident wasn’t much different from others.

Miller admitted he was at fault for the incident, but was seriously angry about the penalty, saying, “I’d go for it again, but I do it a little bit smarter. If you see a gap, you go for it. If you don’t do that, then what the hell are you doing out there? I’m here to win races.”

Jack Miller's moves caused him to crash out and earn penalty points.
Jack Miller’s moves caused him to crash out and earn penalty points.

Next event, June 15, Catalunya, Spain.

World championship Moto GP standings after six of 18 races

1. Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 150 points
2. Valentino Rossi, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 97
3. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 96
4. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 65
5. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 63
6. Pol Espargaro, Spain, Monster / Tech 3 Yamaha, 49
7. Aleix Espargaro, Spain, NGM Forward Mobile Yamaha, 44
8. Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 39
9. TIE, Alvaro Bautista, Spain, Go&Fun Honda / Bradley Smith, U.K., Monster/Tech 3 Yamaha /  Andrea Iannone, Italy, Pramac Ducati, 34


  1. I finally managed to see the Mugello races and, dang, Moto3 and MotoGP were spectacular. JL99 and MM93 were at it hammers and tongs. For me, that was the best premier class racing of the season.

    • ‘Arris and Michael Uhlarik and I watched it in a hotel while on tour. Fantastic race, edge-of-the-seat stuff!

  2. RE: Moto 3
    Proof positive yet again that you don’t a bzillion horsepower to have a great race and put on a great show.

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