15 Jul 2012

MotoGP - Race Report - Lorenzo Lights Up Mugello

The Mugello circuit in Tuscany played host to Round 9 of the Moto GP World Championship. 19 riders taking to the track in the resplendent Italian summer sunshine in front of an unusually sparse Italian crowd (62,000 estimate) who would be giving their voices to cause Ducati to their second podium of the year.

Dani Pedrosa lined up on pole ahead of Jorge Lorenzo who suffered an electrical glitch which saw the engine mapping system get itself into a muddle on where exactly it was on the track. The surprise of qualifying was Pramac Ducati’s Hector Barbera, who had been the quickest man in the speed traps yet it was rare to see the speed translate into an ultimate lap time. On the second row was the factory Ducati of Nicky Hayden, reigning World Champion Casey Stoner and on his outside was Cal ‘the honey badger’ Crutchlow. Dovizioso, Bradl and Spies made up the third row whilst Valentino rounded out the top 10. The quickest of the CRT’s was Aleix Espargaro and at the back of the field was the bog standard IodaRacing Project bike of Danilo Petrucci.

The race itself was a relatively tense affair in the opening laps, with Jorge getting the edge on Dani off of the marks yet the slightly smaller frame of the pocket rocket meant that he retained the lead heading into the first corner. Steaming into the first corner was Dovizioso who managed to grab four places into third heading into the left right of Luco. Luckily for the leading bunch Hayden managed to grab a slightly rebellious wiggle from his Ducati that could have seen him taking out a number of competitors.
The biggest loser on this opening lap was Stoner who was the only rider in the field who opted for the extra hard rear tire, a prototype which Dunlop has developed specifically for the higher deg tracks such as the Sachsenring and Phillip Island. Thus, his pace was notably slower than those around him for the opening few laps as the tire warmed up.

Spies performed his seemingly frequent disappearing act, sinking back behind Randy dePuniet at one point although his pace picked up once again towards the end of the race. Otherwise the first two places, occupied by Lorenzo and Pedrosa were all but confirmed even in this early stage of the race. Such was their pace that they opened a comfortable gap over the determined Tech 3 rider, Dovizioso, and Lorenzo began to open a constant three second gap over Pedrosa for the majority of the race.
Dovizioso was pushed hard by Bradl, the young German rookie even occupying the podium position for a number of laps after a mistake saw Dovizioso run wide. Their pace was strong, although towards the end they began to fall back into the clutches of Hayden, which would suggest that their early sparring resulted in a high level of degradation. Hayden brought along with him the ever present Rossi and he had plucky Brit Crutchlow hounding him for the entirety of the race; yet ‘the Doctor’ managed to prescribe him a sixth place finish.

One of the key scuffles of the race were between these five riders, which saw Dovizioso pipping Bradl on the penultimate lap into the first corner. Hayden slid up the inside of the young German heading into the third and looked to have the place set, the American opted for the standard line; yet Bradl had other ideas and sent a late move on the inside into four and pushed Hayden wide, nearly onto the grass. This lack of momentum allowed his team-mate, Valentino, and Crutchlow through up into fifth and sixth positions respectively. Leaving Hayden to perhaps muse what could have been yet again.

Stoner had an unusually poor performance. He had been scrapping for a top five position before a trip through the gravel saw him pushed down into tenth, behind Bautista. However with his tire now heated up, if not a little dusty, he put on a charge for eighth position. His move on Bautista however was slightly contentious, seeing him literally driving into the seemingly unawares Spaniard - and it was a lucky thing that they both remained on two wheels. It was rightly speculated that it would have been a different thing if such a move had been put on Stoner, yet both escaped unharmed.

Barbera finished a respectable ninth, a place which is more fitting for a satellite bike and resulted in the factory Ducati team leading their ‘field’. His qualifying pace did him a good cause however, showing there really is pace even in the chassis which both Hayden and Rossi despised. Bautista finished an otherwise quiet tenth, the Gresini team removing the black from their bikes after a period of mourning for the late Marco Simoncelli. Sadly Pirro on their CRT competitor was excluded for using the chicane, and thus tenth was all they could manage.

Spies recovered for eleventh, ahead of the leading CRT of dePuniet. We have yet to know of his lack of pace; but the pace of the other category of machinery is surely a boost for the organisers.
Espargaro, Ellison, Pasini and Silva rounded out the finishers.

The retirements included Colin Edwards who’s Suter seemed to suffer yet another lack of pace, and thus either the Texan pulled it into the pits in frustration or perhaps for a mechanical gremlin. Yonny Hernandez fell off the track on lap 9 and Petrucci also suffered a mechanical hiccup.

In conclusion, another dominant display by Yamaha puts a marker down for Honda who are testing a ‘completely new’ bike tomorrow, which they hope will be the answer to Lorenzo’s relentless pace.  With Marquez signing up with Repsol for next year, it looks like Ducati will keep a hold of Rossi and there is enough speculation concerning who his teammate will be. Thus that leaves the dominant marquee of Yamaha with question marks over Spies, why exactly is his pace so irregular? Why can’t his Saturday pace translate to a strong Sunday finish?

Hopefully all of these questions will have been addressed before the next round of the Moto GP which takes place at Laguna Seca in two weeks time.

Race Report by Liam Stroud aka @ScuderiaStroud