Add legend, myth, fable and the world’s fastest motorcycle racing championship and you get the recipe for spectacle with MotoGP at Mugello.
Ladies and gentlemen, Mugello. That’s it, that’s the introduction. Or it could be, with the Italian venue so steeped in character, legend and myth – in the best way – that barely a word need be written. And yet, there is plenty to say as the FIM MotoGP World Championship heads for Tuscany and the rolling hills of the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley, so let’s say it.
Starting in Beast mode would be where Le Mans left off, with Gresini Racing’s Enea Bastianini coming into his first home race of the season as a three-time winner, serious title contender and an extremely fast MotoGP rider. Home glory would be something even more special, and with the form seen at Le Mans it’s hard to find a reason to rule him out… and Ducati have seen plenty of recent glory on the hallowed ground of Mugello.
Ducati Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia will be well aware of that and, despite crashing out at Le Mans, was fast once again. Too fast for everyone except Bastianini. So was it Pecco under pressure? A freak fall? A mistake that looked incredibly unlikely after his performance in Jerez? We’ll start to find out at Mugello. Teammate Jack Miller, meanwhile, arrives from another podium just not the top step this time around, and he’ll want to keep reasserting his authority as a surefire contender at the front – with some bad luck and a tougher start to the season seemingly behind him.
At Pramac Racing, there are two sides to the coin. Johann Zarco put in a solid ride on home ground, whereas Jorge Martin suffered another DNF in a difficult 2022 run, the Spaniard still suffering from the after effects of his big crash last year. What can they do on the team’s home turf? The same question can be asked of Mooney VR46 Racing too, as Marco Bezzecchi continues to lead the fight for Rookie of the Year and continues to impress. What will he and teammate Luca Marini have in the locker at Mugello?
Home turf also comes into the equation for Aprilia. Maverick Viñales continues his learning curve, but the Noale Factory continue to impress pretty much everyone with Aleix Espargaro. Concessions somehow seem a distant memory already as the Spaniard and the RS-GP continue fighting for and taking podiums, and Mugello will be an interesting one with the long, long straight. Espargaro’s run is such that he can join only two other riders on the grid if he takes a fourth podium in a row too, with only eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) and former sparring partner Andrea Dovizioso (WithU Yamaha RNF) having achieved that in the current field.
Speaking of Yamaha, we can take a look back to 2021 for what they can do at Mugello. And then back to Jorge Lorenzo’s incredible record there, and before that back to Valentino Rossi’s five in a row. Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) is on form too – fighting as he said he would for every position – and he remains in a lonelier postcode compared to his fellow YZR-M1 riders. So does 2021 offer any portents of 2022? Or is it the tougher return to the likes of Losail that offer more clues? We’ll find out, with the long straight one thing likely on El Diablo’s mind, as well as those of teammate Franky Morbidelli and Dovizioso.
The ballad of the inline four is also sung by Suzuki Ecstar, and we’ve already seen both Alex Rins and teammate and 2020 Champion Joan Mir go well at the venue even up against the V4 grunt down the straight. Mir was on the podium last year too, which could bode well as the factory return to Tuscany looking to bounce back from a difficult French GP with two DNFs. Can they get back into the podium fight?
Honda, meanwhile, arrive still looking to find the zone for man and machine, as does Marquez. What can the factory get out of the new RC213V at Mugello? The number 93 has continued his record of finishing as top Honda of late and fought for the podium at Jerez, but then Le Mans was a tougher one. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Idemitsu) was the closest though as he made a step forward in France, with Repsol teammate Pol Espargaro and Alex Marquez (LCR Castrol) now looking for the same. Is Mugello, another new venue, another chance to make a step?
Finally, at Red Bull KTM the tougher 2022 continues, but so does the work to get back to the front. Brad Binder has impressed nearly every weekend so far, and the South African seems to be able to wring every last drop out of Sunday. Can he do that at Mugello? Teammate Miguel Oliveira is also looking to find more speed and consistency in the dry, but the Austrian factory already know what it takes to win and they’re looking to return to the rostrum ASAP. Can Mugello offer a chance to move forward again after a podium for Oliveira at the venue last year?
We’ll find out on Sunday, with the spectacular Tuscan hills ready to receive the world’s fastest motorcycle racing championship in style. Fans are back, the legend awaits and there’s nothing quite like Mugello for a date with a difference.