The Mugello GP proved to be one for the books, and in a most dramatic fashion. My prayers for a last lap battle as witnessed at Catalunya in 2009 were answered most graciously. As the riders lined up at the grid, the tension was palpable and heavy. The lights went out and Andrea Iannone bogged down at the start, while Rossi and Lorenzo took off down to turn 1 with Lorenzo edging ahead into the lead with the tighter inside line. Vinales and Iannone made a hash of the start and dropped backwards, followed by Baz, Miller and Bautista crashing out all at once at turn 1. Aleix Espargaro and Marc Marquez slotted in behind the two factory M1 Yamahas as the riders tore around the Italian hillside. Hernandez jumped the start and was issued a ride through penalty.
Mugello’s main straight leads downhill into turn 1. On the second lap, Rossi overtook Lorenzo before going wide, followed by Marquez and the two Ducatis. Lorenzo held the line and wasn’t sucked into the turn, a point that would prove crucial as the race progressed. Vinales and Ianonne had dropped from 2nd and 3rd on the grid to 11th and 10th on the second lap, while Dovi made good progress from 13th to 6th behind Pedrosa.
Rossi continued to press Lorenzo at every turn, trying to pass on the inside and outside to no avail. Lorenzo stuck to his lines and was smooth as ever while riders repeatedly ran wide into turn 1 all around him. Dovi made up more places until the order was Lorenzo, Rossi, Marquez, Dovi and Pedrosa by the 9th lap. On the same lap occurred that which silenced the crowd at Mugello- Rossi ran wide and sat up, looking down at the engine. A few turns later, smoke was billowing from the exhaust of his Yamaha, indicative of a catastrophic engine failure that ended his race. A visibly shattered Rossi had to dejectedly park the bike and hitch a ride to the pits. This was the second engine failure for Yamaha in the day after Lorenzo’s blew up during the warm up. The uncharacteristic engine failures for both riders should see some words being exchanged during the race debriefs. Redding retired too with yet another mechanical problem on the same lap.
The tenth lap saw the maniac Iannone in fourth place behind Dovi, with Marquez gaining on the infallible Lorenzo up ahead. Dovi ran wide on the entry to turn 1 on lap 17 and ceded third place to Iannone. Dovi recaptured third place on the following lap at the same spot he lost it a lap earlier. Their spat allowed Dani Pedrosa to make up the gap by leaps and bounds. Dovi ran wide again on lap 19 at turn 1, losing too much time and ending his podium challenge. Marquez began to reel Lorenzo in, setting the stage for their epic last lap battle.
Marquez briefly passed Lorenzo on lap 20. Pedrosa passed Iannone on the following lap and was repassed on the straight. Marquez overtook Lorenzo at turn 1 on lap 22 but ran wide yet again. Then on the epic last lap, Marquez passed Lorenzo at turn 4. Lorenzo bided his time and overtook Marquez at turn 13 and ran onto the kerb, losing drive and was overtaken by Marquez in turn. Marquez looked to pull off an upset victory in Italy, but wheelied over the crest leading up to the finish line. Lorenzo out dragged him to the line and won by less than a bike length and 0.019 seconds, to pull off a win from the brink of defeat.
I spoke about the importance of lines on race day in the qualifying results article, and Lorenzo epitomized fast and accurate lines. The only time he wasn’t on the fastest line was on the last lap when he picked up some kerb during the battle with Marquez. Everyone trying to make up positions repeatedly ran wide at turn 1, but Lorenzo refused to be sucked in and stayed ahead as a result. He also was able to make the perfect start and lead into turn 1, making the tires work well on the very first lap. Lorenzo’s clever and controlled race, final dash to the finish and the perfect timing of his shift up to sixth gear just a fraction before Marquez make him the rider who ticked all the right boxes on race day.
High praise is due for Marquez, who put his inferior Honda which is now losing to the Yamaha on the straights in contention for the win. A worthy successor to Casey Stoner, Marquez had to use the length and breadth of his skill and experience to catch and pass Lorenzo on the superior Yamaha. If Honda doesn’t win the championship this year, they have only themselves to blame. His superb last lap effort was a reminder of his awesome riding ability and new found maturity.
Rossi’s unfortunate DNF knocked him back in the championship standings and would have dealt a severe blow to his morale. He is on the back-foot going into Catalunya and has two DNF’s to his rivals’ one DNF each. If he can make a comeback as the season progresses, it will only add to his GOAT status. We can be sure to seem some brilliance from the Doctor in the coming races.
Iannone finally picked up a podium finish for Ducati and Pedrosa picked up a well fought for fourth place. Iannone clearly had the pace to challenge for the win but his bad start let him down. Vinales too will be kicking himself for his poor start and unremarkable finish despite his blistering race pace.
The most important thing however, is that Italy is now Lorenzo’s Land. Even if the Italians don’t like him, they will have to respect his win at Mugello and treat him likewise. Going into his home tack Catalunya, Lorenzo will be looking to become the undisputed king of the world and Rossi will be on a mission to dethrone him.
MotoGP Mugello 2016 results
1. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 41m 36.535s
2. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 41m 36.554s
3. Andrea Iannone ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP) 41m 41.277s
4. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 41m 41.445s
5. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP) 41m 42.791s
6. Maverick Viñales ESP Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 41m 45.205s
7. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 41m 49.875s
8. Danilo Petrucci ITA Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP15) 41m 51.133s
9. Aleix Espargaro ESP Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 41m 55.178s
10. Michele Pirro ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP) 41m 58.833s
11. Cal Crutchlow GBR LCR Honda (RC213V) 42m 4.471s
12. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) 42m 12.247s
13. Eugene Laverty IRL Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP14.2) 42m 14.567s
14. Stefan Bradl GER Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 42m 16.629s
15. Pol Espargaro ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 42m 36.346s
16. Yonny Hernandez COL Aspar MotoGP Team (Desmosedici GP14.2) 42m 40.932s
Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) DNF
Scott Redding GBR Octo Pramac Yakhnich (Desmosedici GP15) DNF
Jack Miller AUS Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) DNF
Alvaro Bautista ESP Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) DNF
Loris Baz FRA Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP14.2) DNF