Gran Premio d'Italia 13-16 july 2012

Race report from Harry Lloyd (more on Harry)

Mugello is always a highlight of the year for any fan of MotoGP, no matter their nationality. The Autodromo del Mugello drips passion, every ride has a swathe of devoted fans cheering them on as they fly past at the fastest track on the calendar. While the crowd may have thinned this year they were just as loud as any other year.

The Friday saw one of the nicest days of the year, the Tuscan sunshine blazing hot as the Moto3 riders went about finding their setup for the track, a lifetime away from the setup required at last weeks tight and twisty Sachsenring. Maverick Vinales immediately bounced back from his torrid time at Sachsenring by setting the fastest times in both FP1 and FP2. Jakub Kornfeil continued his form from Sachsenring by finishing 12th overall in combined times aboard his FTR-Honda. Brad Binder overcame engine troubles to finish within the top 20 in combined times as he adjusted to riding around Mugello on something other than his Red Bull Rookies 125cc KTM. Danny Webb showed impressive pace in the first practice session, especially considering the Mahindra’s lack of top end speed and Mugello’s impressive straight. Sadly a bike problem meant that Danny had limited time during FP2 to continue to work on his setup.

Vinales was not the only Spaniard to bounce back from a less than stellar time in Germany as Pol Espargaro too showed his form in Moto2. The younger of the Espargaro brothers topped both of Friday’s practice sessions and demonstrated to everyone that he is going to try his hardest to stop Marquez winning the Moto 2 world title, something that looks like it’s going to be tough to do.

Saturday saw the temperature rise yet again, getting into the high 30s during the day. The weather was a welcome change from the previous GPs which saw rain on at least one day. The temperatures were perfect for qualifying as the track was hot, giving good grip for the tyres and allowing for quicker laps. This meant that fans were expecting some VERY quick laps as each class had broken their respective lap record by FP3. Fp3 saw big drama in Moto2 as Zarco took out Pol Espargaro, resulting in a trip to a Florence hospital for Pol and doubt being cast over whether or not he would be able to participate in qualifying.

The Moto3 bikes were the first to brave the heat in qualifying. Vinales stormed to pole position, continuing his staggering weekend pace almost half a second ahead of anyone else, and his race pace wasn’t far off his pole time of 1.57.980. Jakub Kornfeil was able to improve his lap time yet again and qualify in 13th, with Brad Binder just 1 second behind in 18th. The heat got to the Mahidra as it struggled to reach top end speeds under the Tuscan sun, Danny over 13 km/h down on the top speeds. Due to this Danny was only able to qualify in 32nd.

GP looked as though Jorge, the Black Mamba, would dominate the session after having broken the lap record earlier but technical problems in the closing minutes of QP meant that it would be little Dani Pedrosa who secured pole. A surprise to the front row was Hector Barbera, causing several people to question who he had gotten a slipstream from.

Sunday was slightly cooler than the previous days, a breeze meant that those sitting on the hill or in one of the many metal grandstands of Mugello wouldn’t melt into where they sat. The grandstand and hills had filled, but there was still a distinct empty feeling to Mugello, a symptom of Italy’s economy and the lack of domination by Italian riders, the fans however hoped the latter would change today.

Their first chance of this came in the Moto 3 in the form of Fenati and Antonelli. Fenati got off to a blazing start, in the warm up lap, sitting on the line with his arms folded while everyone else slowly made their way around. When the others did eventualy join the race got off to a brilliant start, Vinales, Fentai, Kent, Antonelli and Vasquez immediately fighting for the lead. Sadly at the end of lap one Brad Binder left his breaking too late and ran into the gravel, finishing his race before it began. Brad spent the rest of the race fighting hard to make up as much time as possible, his pace would have put him in the top ten. Meanwhile Fenati and Vinales dived up the inside, and outside, of each other at almost every oppurtunity, those who had questioned Fenati’s form after the opening rounds saw that the hype was deserved. It came down to the final laps which saw Cortese, Fenati and Vinales swap places at every corner, eventually ending in a stunning photo finish. Moto3 once again delivered one of the best races in many years as the combination of angry teenagers and small bikes made for a stunning display. One of the more stunning displays was Danny Webb’s final lap. Danny had been working hard to catch up with Grotzkyj, Pedone and Miller and had caught them with 5 laps to go. On the last lap Danny struck, passing each of them in three succesive corners and finishing in 20th, 12 places higher than his qualifying.

Moto2 saw Iannone take a decisive victory at home over his rivals while Marquez struggled with chatter issues. Pol Espagaro looked as though the win was his until ‘Fireman Joe’ began hunting him down in the closing laps, much to the pleasure of the commentators and the crowd. The atmosphere was electric as Iannone slipped past Pol and began to instantly pull away. Thomas Luthi completed the podium in third after beating Marquez and Bradley Smith who found his form from last year aboard the Mistral 610. Scott Redding made it two Brits in the top 6, an impressive ride when taking into account the massive disadvantage he is under due to his size and Mugello’s need for high speeds down the straight.

MotoGP looked set to be a stunner, Jorge and Dani were sure to be fighting it out from the word go and Hayden was looking keen to take top Ducati honours. Rossi looked as though it would be a tough race as he started from 10th on the grid. The race got started and within just a few laps The Black Mamba had began to pull away with pedrosa behind him. An impressive battle for third saw Dovi and Bradl fight for the majority of the race, each rider taking their turn at leading the other. Meanwhile Hayden was being chased down by Rossi and Crutchlow as Stoner and Spies had torrid races. Stoner ran on several times, frustrating him and causing him to put a rough move or two in on Bautista. Spies suffered from a virus which meant he was drained of any strength and continued his season of terrible luck. The final lap saw Hayden go for it, he was either going to get third or nothing. He dived up the inside of Bradl with half a lap to go, but ran it too deep and allowing Dovi to pull ahead. Bradl then pushed Nicky wide, allowing Rossi to take top honours. Jorge’s advantage was so great that on the second last lap he waved to the crowd. This race demonstrated that Mugello truly is a magical track, hosting magnificant battles in all classes and last lap thrillers, pulling the crowd to their feet on multiple occasions.

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