Casey Stoner returned to type in this morning's second session of free practice at Mugello, seizing control early and not relenting. Stoner had cracked into the 1'49s before the first 10 minutes of the session were over, and a lap later he set the fastest time of the session, an astonishing 1'49.323. Valentino Rossi held 2nd for much of the ssession, but his pesky team mate Jorge Lorenzo sneaked ahead of him again with less than 5 minutes to go. Toni Elias caused a surprise by leaping up into 4th in the dying seconds, just squeezing out Loris Capirossi and Colin Edwards.
The Aspar team dominated the second session of free practice for the 125cc class once again. Julian Simon was fastest, as ever, with this time Bradley Smith in 2nd, ahead of Sergio Gadea. German rider Sandro Cortese was fourth quickest, ahead of Nicolas Terol, who was the last man to be within a second of Simon's blistering time. Local youngster Lorenzo Savadori impressed once again, taking the 7th fastest time, ahead of De Graaf Racing's Danny Webb. The final Brit, Scott Redding, finished down in 11th.
Results of 125cc FP2:
After the cold drizzle of Le Mans, MotoGP hit Mugello under a sweltering Tuscan sun. The heat met with no complaints, however, as everyone in the paddock is sick to death of the wet weather which seems to follow them wherever they go.
As the bikes took to the track, Valentino Rossi did his best Casey Stoner impression, being fastest out of the gate, and staying on top for the first 20 minutes of the session. At that point, the rest of the Fantastic Four started to catch up, and leapfrogged each other for the lead. First Casey Stoner took the top spot, then with 32 minutes left Jorge Lorenzo took back the fastest time for the Fiat Yamaha team, only for Stoner to take it back again 5 minutes later.
With a quarter of the session left, Valentino Rossi reasserted himself atop the timesheets as Master of Mugello, but his team mate refused to be impressed. The young Spaniard took top spot again with 11 minutes to go, smashing the race lap record in the process and cracking into the 1'49s. Lorenzo then continued to set a string of lightning fast laps, eventually running three laps inside the 1'49s.
Valentino Rossi was left down in 2nd spot, just under 2/10ths off his Fiat Yamaha team mate, but capable of about the same kind of race pace. If The Doctor planned a spot of psychological warfare at Mugello, by coming out fast and trying to dominate practice, he ended up hoist by his own petard, coming up against a truly remarkable Jorge Lorenzo. But Rossi always has something special at the Tuscan track, so no doubt he'll be even faster tomorrow.
Results of the 250cc FP1 session:
Results of the MotoGP FP1 session at Mugello:
Results of the 125cc FP1 session at Mugello:
It's hard to overstate just how important motorcycling is both to Italian culture and the Italian economy. Originally adopted as cheap transport, Italians almost literally grow up on two wheels, transported about as children on Vespas before graduating to small-capacity Aprilias, Piaggios, Vespas, Derbis, Gileras and even Yamahas, Suzukis and Hondas when they hit their mid-teens. Eventually, as Italians grow older, they end up with either a Piaggio or a Suzuki Burgman to commute on, or a Ducati Monster, or perhaps a Triumph Speed Triple to cruise the country's city streets and beautiful beachfronts.
This passion has produced hundreds of businesses scattered around the north of the country. The old centers of boot and saddlemaking turned their skills with leather to gloves, boots and protective clothing, while the dozens of motorcycle manufacturers - now reduced to just a handful - spawned a vibrant industry building parts and accessories for every conceivable shape or form of two-wheeled vehicle. The chances are that if you own or ride a motorcycle, you have something Italian either attached to or associated with it, be it Brembo brakes, Marchesini wheels, Alpinestars leathers, Sidi boots, Nolan helmets, Arrow or Termignoni exhausts, or Pirelli tires. Or perhaps you just own a Moto Guzzi, an Aprilia, a Moto Morini or a Ducati. Motorcycling without Italy is simply inconceivable.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello is an event that captivates both the hearts and the minds of the Italian people. Mugello and the Italian Grand Prix are at the heart of Italy, both physically and metaphorically. The breathtaking track, surrounded by the beautiful, bucolic Tuscan hills, lies in a fold of Italy's Apennine mountains, just north of Florence. Glorious winding roads thread through the surrounding mountains, and at each mountain pass or major crossroads, there's a cafe where you can stop for a coffee and a bite to eat. In every one of these establishments hangs a shrine to motorcycling: helmets, leathers, signed photos of Italian motorcycling legends - Valentino Rossi, Giacomo Agostini, Marco Lucchinelli, Luca Cadalora - cards, folders, maps, gloves; All the regalia of motorcycling hang here. And as you sit nursing your espresso, your reverie is interrupted every couple of minutes by the rumble, roar or shriek of bikes as they chase that perfect zen moment of motorcycling, dancing to the rhythm of the Passo Sambuca, or the Passo di Raticosa, or the legendary Passo di Futa.
On The Road
It is no coincidence that this latter pass leads from Borgo Panigale, a nondescript outer suburb of Bologna, through the outskirts of the city, then south towards Florence, up and over some of the most magnificent motorcycling roads on the planet, before arriving some 80 kilometers later in the village of Scarperia, past that town's beautiful bell tower, and then down winding, tiny local roads until a giant red crash helmet marks the entrance to the Mugello circuit. In Borgo Panigale, Ducati builds the motorcycles it sells to support its racing habit, then tests those bikes on that illustrious pass, on the grounds that if a motorcycle performs well on the Passo di Futa, it will perform well on any road on the planet.
The one motorcycle which Ducati has not tested over the Passo di Futa - or at least, not that they will admit to - is the Desmosedici GP9. Instead, the weapon that won the 2007 championship for Casey Stoner and the Bologna factory is tested mainly just over the other side of the Passo di Futa, at the Mugello circuit. But the Mugello track has all the elements you will find on the Futa pass and more: The 320 km/h front straight kinks, then dips right at the point you need to get hard on the brakes to slow the bike up for the double apex right hander at San Donato. The track then climbs up through a series of left-right flicks before heading over the blind crest into Casanova, and down towards the double right of Arrabbiata 1 and 2.
Troy Bayliss concluded the three-day test at Mugello today, and the question on everybody's lips has finally been answered: How fast would Bayliss go? 1'51.2 is the answer.
Of course, 1'51.2 is fairly meaningless without any context. Bayliss' lap was faster than regular Ducati test rider Vito Guareschi, who improved his own lap record with a time of 1'51.4, but beating a test rider, while impressive, is not that significant. More important is to compare it to the times set during the dry sessions here last year:
A whole range of factors make it very hard to compare times from a race weekend to times set during testing: Troy Bayliss has not ridden a motorcycle since the launch of the 1198 at Portimao last year; Bayliss has not ridden the 800cc Ducati before; And Bayliss hasn't ridden at Mugello for a while. On the plus side, Bayliss gets three full days aboard the Ducati on a relatively empty track, and a chance to put a significant number of laps on the bike.
This is the final, official version of the 2009 MotoGP calendar. After being in doubt for a long time, the Hungarian Grand Prix was eventually canceled over problems with the track. It will now make its debut on the calendar in the spring of 2010.
The FIM announced a minor change to the 2009 MotoGP calendar today. The Misano round of MotoGP will be held a week earlier than previously scheduled, moving it to the week after the Indianapolis MotoGP round.
|May 17th||France||Le Mans|
|July 5th***||United States||Laguna Seca|
|July 26th||Great Britain||Donington Park|
|August 16th||Czech Republic||Brno|
|September 6th||San Marino & Riviera di Rimini||Misano|
|October 18th||Australia||Phillip Island|
|November 8th||Valencia||Ricardo Tormo - Valencia|
* Evening race
** Saturday race
*** Only MotoGP class