There is only one place to be on Sunday if you’re a motorbike fan – The Oakley Grand Prix of Italy at the Autodromo Mugello, high in the rolling Tuscan hills above the magnificent City of Florence. 100,000 patriotic fans packing the hillsides producing a cacophony of noise and passion that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand rigid. It’s an atmosphere and venue that is what MotoGP™ is all about. Four British MotoGP warriors step into the amphitheatre this weekend for round six of the MotoGP World Championship around the undulating 3.259 mile circuit that follows the contours of those green wooded hills.
Isle of Man-based Midlander Cal Crutchlow got back to points scoring ways with a hard fought fifth place at the previous round in Le Mans. The LCR Honda rider is seventh in the championship and has one podium finish at Mugello but has also suffered too many crashes there.
Gloucestershire’s Scott Redding is a Mugello Moto2™ winner and pole setter but slipped to 12th in the championship after retiring at Le Mans with gear shift problems after qualifying in an impressive seventh.
Oxfordshire’s Bradley Smith is another Mugello winner and pole setter. He won the 2009 125cc race from pole and has an excellent Mugello record. In 2011 he was third in the Moto2 race and has also fifth and seventh MotoGP finishes. He picked up more world championship points at Le Mans finishing 13th in Red Bull KTM’s fifth grand prix.
Lincolnshire’s Sam Lowes also arrives into the cauldron with some confidence. He has been on Moto2 pole for the last two years and finished third in the race last year. He picked up his first ever MotoGP points on the Gresini Aprilia in Le Mans and has just completed a successful test with the team in Barcelona.
Former Moto3™ World Champion Danny Kent returns to the Moto2 Championship after a brief return to Moto3 in Le Mans. The Wiltshire-based rider replaces the injured Iker Lecuona on the Garage Plus Interwetten Kalex. Twenty-one-year-old Tarran Mackenzie makes just his second grand prix appearance after a fall on his debut from the Kiefer Racing Suter ruined an impressive debut in Le Mans.
Scotland’s John McPhee slipped to fifth in the Moto3™ World Championship after finishing 12th at Le Mans. The British Talent Team Honda rider will be looking to improve his qualifying to give him a proper chance of repeating those two second places in the opening two rounds.
But who is most likely to win the big prize at Mugello? Last year just 0.019s split Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez – and of course there is the local hero Valentino Rossi. The Movistar Yamaha rider dropped to third place in the Championship when he crashed duelling with team-mate and championship leader Maverick Vinales on the last lap at the previous round in Le Mans. The 38-year-old has won nine times in front of his adoring fans including seven MotoGP™ victories but that last win came in 2008.
Lorenzo has won five MotoGP races at Mugello, including that epic battle with Marquez last year, and he returns with the support of the patriotic crowd for the very first time making his Italian racing Ducati debut. He was a disappointing sixth in Le Mans after problems in qualifying, after finishing on the Jerez podium two weeks earlier. He will fancy another podium in the 23 lap race on Sunday.
Vinales arrives with a swagger after his third win of the season gives him a 17 point advantage over the in-form Dani Pedrosa. Vinales is a Moto3™ winner and finished sixth at Mugello last year. Fellow Spanish rider Pedrosa arrives with a similar swagger after three successive podium finishes including a Jerez win on the Repsol Honda. His team-mate World Champion Marquez was another Le Mans faller and slipped to fourth, 27 points behind Vinales and just three points ahead of rookie sensation Johann Zarco. Both Pedrosa and Marquez are Mugello MotoGP winners.
The Frenchman Zarco, who won the Moto2™ race last year, faces just his sixth MotoGP race on the Monster Tech3 Yamaha with a confidence which is reflected by his start in the premier class culminating in his second place in his home grand prix at Le Mans. There is no reason why he can’t be challenging for a second successive podium finish on Sunday. Just one point behind him is Andrea Dovizioso who will unleash the power of the GP17 Ducati on the one kilometre start and finish straight.
Other Italians to check out include Danilo Petrucci on the Octo Pramac Ducati and former Mugello pole setter Andrea Iannone who’s having such a wretched time on his Ecstar Suzuki debut. Zarco’s team-mate Jonas Folger has given Tech3 an amazing start to the season and is ninth while Australian Jack Miller defies all pain barriers in tenth place on the Marc VDS Honda.
BT SPORT 2
Friday 2 June: 8.00 – 15.00
Saturday 3 June: 8.00 – 15.15
Sunday 4 June: 7.30 – 15.00
Tuesday 6 June: 19.00 (highlights)
talkSport2 will also have live commentary of the race on Sunday.