MotoGP, Mugello: Hoist the colours! Preview and schedule for the Italian Grand Prix

Mugello: hoist the colours. Be it yellow, red, blue or tricolore, the Italian GP awakes the passion in everybody.

After the French GP and another pivotal weekend in the title fight, it’s time for MotoGP™ to head to more important home turf: Italy, a land of legends and home of the stunning, high-speed Mugello. For the likes of Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Ducati and Aprilia, there really is no place like home.

The Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley arrives at a pivotal point in the title fight. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was faultless in Jerez and did it again in France to make it three wins in a row for the Spaniard for the first time since 2014 – an ominous sign? That it may be, but rivals falling by the way side has played its own part – and Mugello has more often been a hurdle for Marquez rather than a talisman venue. Last year, he was sixth.

His 2017 title rival Andrea Dovizioso will be banking on that. Not only did ‘DesmoDovi’ get collected in the three-rider collision in Spain, he then also crashed out in Le Mans – from the lead. That leaves him well down the order but the season is long and the Italian made history at Mugello last year as he took the first premier class win for an Italian on an Italian bike in Italy since 1974. It was a stunner and it kicked his campaign into gear, but that first win doesn’t overshadow two of the men with whom Dovizioso shares the grid, both of whom have impeccable records at Mugello.

One of those is Jorge Lorenzo, his teammate. Winner from 2011 to 2016 every year with the sole exception of 2014, Mugello really has been Lorenzo’s land. And after leading in Jerez and again in Le Mans, the number 99’s season is looking up – as is Valentino Rossi’s (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), the other CV of note.

Rossi was back on the podium in France for the first time since Qatar and although the Italian said the venue was an especially good one for the M1, that’s a good boost ahead of Mugello – where Rossi was king from 2004 to 2008 and has seven wins at the track. And as much as the crowd show awesome support for many home riders and manufacturers, there’s no one quite like the ‘Doctor’ for Mugello. The air is heavy with yellow haze when Rossi is in town; the fans like nowhere on Earth and the stands packed with 46-emblazoned merchandise.

It was Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales who got the podium last year, however, coming home second and putting in an impressive performance on the Yamaha for the first time at the venue. He was, however, slightly upstaged by the man in third, Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), who took the Independent Team not only to the podium but to the podium at home in Italy – something that left them somewhat speechless in the aftermath. Petrucci is fresh from the rostrum in France, too, and looking to add to his CV.

That enough contenders yet? There are even more. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) has won at Mugello, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) should be better recovered from his Q1 highside in Le Mans, Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) needs to bounce back after taking pole at home and then crashing out – the fate also suffered by Andrea Iannone on race day, who has a point to prove and has been on pole at Mugello as well as winning in the intermediate class there twice.

Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) will want to be top rookie on home turf, and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini are racing at home, too – looking to add some more good points after a top ten for Aleix Espargaro in France. It’s time for round six in the Tuscan hills, and time for Mugello to welcome its prodigal sons back home – with home glory, 25 points and 2018 momentum up for grabs on race day, this one will be a showstopper. Tune in on Sunday at 14:00 (GMT +2).

Bring it on home: Bagnaia, Baldassarri and Pasini reload. Italy is ready for the intermediate class – but are they ready for Mugello?

Last time out at Le Mans it was a duel at the front once more – with Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) escaping the field before Bagnaia was able to pull away for another stunning win. Now it’s time for the very different Mugello, a haven of speed in the Tuscan hills – home turf for the Italian. That will be a special kind of motivation on Sunday, the kind that goes beyond the normal will to win – and Marquez will know that, and know the value of winning in ‘enemy’ territory.

In Spanish GP, it was Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP 40) who did that and took the spoils with his first win of the year – and first since 2016 – but he’s now the one needing to bounce back after crashing out in France. Although friends with Bagnaia off track, one will surely do everything to defeat the other on track and on home turf – as well as whoever else gets in his way.

The man chasing Championship leader Bagnaia could have something to say about that, however. Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Miguel Oliveira is, despite some tougher races so far, second in the standings and looking for his first win of the year after ending 2017 with three on the bounce. His teammate Brad Binder has some serious pace, too, and KTM will want to hit back against Kalex. Then there’s Xavi Vierge fresh from his stunning ride through the field in France, with the Spaniard forced to start from the back after a technical problem and then rounding out the top five. With the pace to do that from the back, what could Vierge do starting from the front?

The headline act at Mugello, however, is veteran Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team). He may have only had one podium this season so far, but that podium was a win as he took the Argentina GP in style. And last year? Pasini put on an incredible show at Mugello, fighting it out from the first lap to the last to take his first win since 2009. That year, he also won at the track in the 250 World Championship and in 2006, he did it on a 125. The field could have their hands full through ‘Casanova’ and ‘Savelli’ once again.

The cast of home heroes and title contenders is ready for the Italian GP, with the battle set to commence on Sunday at 12:20 (GMT +2).

Bezzecchi in charge on the road home. Despite his crash in France, the Argentina GP winner remains ahead as we head for Mugello.

Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PrüstelGP) had a heartbreaker of an end to the French GP after the Italian highsided out at the final corner on the final lap, but in a strange twist of fate, what happened afterwards means he still heads to Mugello as the points leader – because the crash also collected key rival Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3). Bezzecchi will be gunning for nothing but glory on home turf, and Martin has some scores to settle with lady luck.

The drama wasn’t done there in France, either, as Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3), who crossed the line first, was given a penalty and it became an Angel Nieto Team 1-2 for Albert Arenas and Andrea Migno, and Arenas’ first win. Speaking of first wins, that’s what Mugello was for Migno last season after a spectacular race that saw more than 20 riders fighting for it – so the Angel Nieto Team will be very high on confidence heading into the weekend.

Di Giannantonio now wants what he thought he had at Le Mans, Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) needs big points and to bounce back, Dennis Foggia (Sky Racing Team VR46) will want to be top rookie at the very least – and the long straight at Mugello means it will be a true classic once more, with neither those riding at home nor those in enemy territory able to escape the slipstream.

Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PrüstelGP) may just about have come back down to earth after his stunning save but there’s no need to at Mugello, with the Moto3™ race always out of this world. Tune in on Sunday from 11:00 (GMT +2).

The complete schedule for the Italian Grand Prix

Friday, 1st June
09:00 – 09:40 Moto3 FP1
09:55 – 10:40 MotoGP FP1
10:55 – 11:40 Moto2 FP1
13:10 – 13:50 Moto3 FP2
14:05 – 14:50 MotoGP FP2
15:05 – 15:50 Moto2 FP2

Saturday, 2nd June
09:00 – 09:40 Moto3 FP3
09:55 – 10:40 MotoGP FP3
10:55 – 11:40 Moto2 FP3
12:35 – 13:15 Moto3 Qualifying
13:30 – 14:00 MotoGP FP4
14:10 – 14:25 MotoGP Q1
14:35 – 14:50 MotoGP Q2
15:05 – 15:50 Moto2 Qualifying

Sunday, 3rd June
08:40 – 09:00 Moto3 Warm-up
09:10 – 09:30 Moto2 Warm-up
09:40 – 10:00 MotoGP Warm-up
11:00 Moto3 Race
12:20 Moto2 Race
14:00 MotoGP Race

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