Spanish fly . . .

MotoGP Mugello, Italy, 3rd July 2011

Words: Simon Bradley, Pics as credited

Valentino Rossi and his all seeing eye. It actually is his eye, or a copy of it anyway. Cool design, it just didn't help much... (Pic: Ducati)Mugello. Home of the fastest, scariest straight on the calendar. And, co-incidentally, home of the fastest, scariest crash I've ever seen without being a participant. It's a cracking circuit, with a near perfect combination of fast straights, sweeping corners and tight technical sections. It's also got lots of elevation change which always make things interesting. Traditionally, this has been Valentino Rossi's track, the multiple world champion having won here on every visit until, I think, last year. It favours both power and handling, with the more powerful bikes gaining on the straight but then suffering from tyre wear problems later on, playing into the hands of the slower, sweeter handling machines. So it really is a mixed bag.

Marco Simoncelli started the way he meant to go on, opening the first practice session comfortably ahead of Stoner and Dovizioso, with Lorenzo and Ben Spies tucked in behind, followed by Colin Edwards and Dani Pedrosa, making his return after breaking his collarbone a few weeks ago.

The second practice session was an interesting turnaround. Toni Elias set the second fastest time from Valentino Rossi, with Dovizioso at the front by, frankly, a country mile. Alvaro Bautista put the Suzuki in an extremely impressive fourth while Randy de Puniet was fifth. Stoner, Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Simoncelli didn't come out at all for this session. That's something we've seen more of this season, and I have to be honest and say I don't get it. You can surely never have too much data, never get too much practice on a circuit. Or can you? Pedrosa I can understand - the lad has just come back from an injury and he'll not be wanting to push his luck. But the others? Perhaps I'm just too behind the times or just wasn't precious enough when I was racing. Hmm. Maybe that's where it all went wrong? That and a slight lack of talent, of course. But I digress. Nothing unusual there.

So the third and final practice session before tings got serious saw Lorenzo top the timesheets from Simoncelli and Stoner. Ben Spies and Colin Edwards were next, to the chagrin of sixth placed Dovizioso. Hayden was just ahead of Rossi, which won't have pleased the Italian very much.

Ben Spies on his way to another solid qualifying. The man really is very good... (Pic: Yamaha)But practice doesn't mean much when qualifying starts. Karel Abraham opened the scoring, turning in a quick lap which was beaten a few seconds later by Valentino Rossi. No shame there. Rossi was in turn ousted by Cal Crutchlow who gave best to Dovizioso and Lorenzo before Rossi got back on top. This was in the first six minutes. Then it was Crutchlow again, Hayden, Dovizioso and Stoner, before steadying to a straight fight between Simoncelli and Stoner. And at the end it was Stoner who took pole from Ben Spies, who had never sat on top but clearly was pretty close, then Simoncelli. The second row had Dovizioso ahead of Lorenzo and Edwards, while Cal Crutchlow headed row three from Pedrosa and Hayden. Hector Barbera rounded out the top ten, heading the third row from Abraham and Rossi.

Warmup. I know, I know. It doesn't mean anything significant. But I still have to report on it, OK? Warmup was topped by Marco Simoncelli on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. Dovizioso was next, ahead of Stoner and Ben Spies. Lorenzo sat just ahead of Pedrosa, with Nicky Hayden, Colin Edwards, Valentino Rossi and Hiroshi Aoyama following in fairly short order.

On to the racing, then. Warm and sunny, with barely and breeze. It certainly wasn't going to be a problem getitng heat into the tyres, though it also didn't seem to be so hot that problems would arise. Lights out and it was Casey Stoner who made the most of his pole position to take the lead, extending it to nine tenths of a second in the first lap. Behind him there was really very little drama. Lorenzo and Dovizioso scuffled very briefly before the world champion slipped through into second place. Behind Dovizioso, Ben Spies held off the persistent attention of Marco Simoncelli, both having been mugged off the line, while Nicky Hayden, who had got off the line well, sat just ahead of Toni Elias who performed miracles in getting from dead last to seventh in the space of just one lap. Valentino Rossi had a miserable first lap, at one point being as far back as second from last before recovering to twelfth, the same position he started in.

Lap two and Simoncelli got past Spies while Lorenzo and Dovi scrapped and Stoner kept on the pace. Alvaro Bautista was riding the wheels off the Suzuki, climbing to seventh on the second lap from his fourteenth place on the grid and locked in a battle with the Tech3 Yamahas of Colin edwards and Cal Crutchlow. Rossi and Hector Barbera were behind them, the privateer rider holding out against the multiple world champion, while Nicky Hayden took runing wide to a new level, taking about twenty metres of the gravel trap at the end of the straight and rejoining at the back of the field.

Alvaro Bautista ahead of a lot of people who aren't used to seeing the back of the Suzuki. Now if only they could make the tyres last... (Pic: Suzuki)Lap six saw Barbera get ahead of Edwards and leave the Yamahe between him and Rossi. At the same time, Cal Crutchlow was running into major front end problems and, mindful of the fact that he's still carrying injury, the Coventry rider sensibly decided to let discretion rule the day and retired. In his words, "I can't afford to crash right now, and I was going to crash so I had to stop." Difficult to argue against that, though it's very disappointing to see tyre problems cause two DNFs in two races after such a strong start to the season.

Lap ten and Bautista had clearly used up his tyres as he started to drop back while Rossi was clearly getitng into the groove and starting to move up the field. A couple of laps earlier, Dovizioso had got past Lorenzo though there was still no sign of him breaking away, while ahead of them there was now a massive two and a quarter second gap to Stoner, who was riding wheel perfect as ever.

Just as we were starting to settle down to another rather boring MotoGP procession, though, something potentially interesting happened. Lorenzo got back past Doviziozo and then started to gap him. Not because the Honda rider was slow, but because Lorenzo was riding like a man posessed. By a tenth of a second, sometimes two tenths every lap, the Spaniard reeled Stoner in until he was right there with him. And on lap eighteen he shot past, opening a third os a second gap straight away and pulling clear to take a safe but well earned victory. It got worse for Stoner as Dovizioso passed him on the last lap, demonstrating that there are no team orders at Repsol Honda. Behind the lead group, Ben Spies mugged Simoncelli almost at the line to take fourth while Valentino Rossi bought the Ducati home in sixth place, a staggering fifteen seconds behind Simoncelli.

Next round is Sachsenring. I really hope Ducati can bring something new to the table because I hate seeing Rossi and Hayden struggling to get past, or sometimes even stay with, privateer riders in the middle of the field. When only two or three riders are in with a chance it frankly makes the whole race pretty boring. The field is too small for it to be really close out ther emost of the time and we're at the silly stage where if you finish, no mater where, you're almost guaranteed a point. Compare that to Moto2 with a field of thirty plus bikes and a few tenths of a second across the top ten and then wonder whch you'd rather watch.

Talking of Moto2, by the way, congratulations to Bradley Smith on his third podium on the trot. There's a lot of talent in that lad, and I hope he gets the opportunity to develop it and take it to the top...


Jorge Lorenzo definitely deserves man of the match for a staggering, almost unimaginable comeback... (Pic: Yamaha)

1 Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
2 Andrea Dovizioso (Honda)
3 Casey Stoner (Honda)
4 Ben Spies (Yamaha)
5 Marco Simoncelli (Honda)
6 Valentino Rossi (Ducati)
7 Hector Barbera (Ducati)
8 Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
9 Colin Edwards (Yamaha)
10 Nicky Hayden (Ducati)

Championship Standing after eight rounds:

1 Casey Stoner 152
2 Jorge Lorenzo 133
3 Andrea Dovizioso 119
4 Valentino Rossi 91
5 Nicky Hayden 77
6 Ben Spies 74
7 Dani Pedrosa 69
8 Hiroshi Aoyama 56
9 Colin Edwards 53
10 Marco Simoncelli 50



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