Non-stop MotoGP schedule moves on to Mugello
The pace of the 2011 season refuses to let up as the MotoGP World Championship heads to the Tuscan countryside for Round 8 of the campaign, the Gran Premio d’Italia TIM.
The second wave of back-to-back rounds will be completed this weekend as the eighth instalment of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship takes place at the Mugello circuit. The Gran Premio d’Italia TIM takes place immediately after the Assen outing, as the campaign maintains its intense pace.
Having stretched his Championship lead to 28 points after seven rounds, Casey Stoner’s position at the head of the standings continues to look ever stronger and the Repsol Honda rider will aim to continue his impressive form in Italy. Second place at Assen was Stoner’s 49th premier class podium, and the Australian will become only the 12th rider of all time to make 50 the next time he steps onto the rostrum.
The man in pursuit of Stoner is Jorge Lorenzo, and the Yamaha Factory Racing rider is already contemplating a sizeable gap to his rival. The reigning World Champion managed to salvage sixth place in Assen having crashed on the opening lap through no fault of his own, and a timely first premier class win at Mugello would boost Lorenzo’s challenge. Aiming to impress a home crowd however will be Andrea Dovizioso, and the Repsol Honda rider has finished the last two rounds on the podium to close the gap to Lorenzo in second to just nine points.
Sharp focus will fall on Valentino Rossi and his Ducati Team this weekend as the Borgo Panigale factory and Italian rider approach a hugely significant home race together. Having finished 30 seconds off race winner at Assen Ben Spies, there is still plenty of work to do, but Mugello is a track at which Rossi has an unparalleled record – between 2002 and 2008 he won for seven successive years. Last year’s Mugello GP was the site of the leg injury which brought to an end Rossi’s 230-race starting run, and the scene is set for a special weekend for the Italian.
Another major point of interest at Mugello will be the return to action of Dani Pedrosa. The Repsol Honda rider, who fractured a collarbone at Le Mans and who has subsequently missed the previous three rounds, confirmed on Monday that he would ride in Italy and Mugello was the scene of the first of his four wins in 2010 as he took a flag-to-flag victory from pole position.
Ben Spies arrives in Italy fresh from celebrating his first MotoGP win at Assen, a victory which marked a number of milestones, one of them being that he became the first American to win a race since Nicky Hayden did so at Laguna Seca in 2006. The Yamaha Factory Racing rider also became the first rider to take a maiden MotoGP win since Dovizioso (Donington, 2009).
Spies’ compatriot Nicky Hayden will aim for a strong home display for Ducati, whilst Hiroshi Aoyama returns to the San Carlo Honda Gresini garage after filling in for Pedrosa at Repsol Honda in Assen. Aoyama’s team-mate Marco Simoncelli will be desperate for a first premier class podium in front of a fervent home crowd (for both rider and team), a result that has so far eluded him despite having started from the front row for the past five races (including poles at Catalunya and Assen).
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 pair Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow have both been in impressive form, the latter will be riding at Mugello for the first time in his rookie season, whilst Toni Elías’ LCR Honda team are preparing for their home race. Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar), Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) and rookie Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) will all seek improvements in fortunes and results after Assen, whilst for Pramac Racing Randy de Puniet will fly the flag as the sole representative in the team’s home race, after Loris Capirossi was deemed unfit to ride due to fractured ribs and a shoulder injury sustained in a crash in qualifying at Assen which forced him to miss the race.