MotoGP Mugello 2019 Preview

© Bruce Allen

Rossi’s Last Stand 

With Repsol Honda stud Marc Marquez off and running again in 2019, and since they’re racing at Mugello this week, it seems like a good time to pay some attention to Valentino Rossi. Between 2002 and 2008 he won his first seven (7) premier class races at this, his home crib. It’s where he became an immortal in Italian sports lore. He owns this place. 

valentino-rossi-argentina-2019-motogp-5

Rossi celebrating a podium in Argentina earlier this year.

It is not an overstatement to say he has a sense of the moment. Could this be his last credible chance to win the Italian Grand Prix in MotoGP? Despite not having won an actual MotoGP race since Assen in 2017 (and that one was controversial), Rossi has been competitive in 2019—two seconds, and top six in the other three. His main issue continues to be qualifying, where he has missed out on Q2 twice. If he makes it to Q2 he remains a threat to podium every time out, rear grip or no.

But here’s the other thing about Mugello and Rossi. Since 2009, he’s been a bitter disappointment to his homeys and their yellow 46s. Three third-place finishes and three DNFs, one the DNS in 2010. Despite everyone’s hometown hero racing just down the road, the bells announcing a win for Rossi at Mugello haven’t rung on Sunday afternoon in Tavullia in over a decade. Meanwhile, since 2013 that stronzo Marquez has been in full “win or bin” mode here, with a win and a second to go along with two DNFs and last year’s futile 16th place finish.

[Digging the fact that the winningest rider of late in Italy has been El Gato, Jorge Lorenzo, including last year’s breakthrough on the Ducati. Six wins here since 2011, five of which came when Yamaha was the perfect bike for him. Alberto Puig, formerly Pedrosa’s Svengali, now in charge of defending Lorenzo, tells us prosperity with Repsol Honda is just around the corner. If it is, he should win here on Sunday. El futuro es ahora, Alberto.] 

It is a foregone conclusion that Suzuki whiz kid Alex Rins, not Maverick Vinales, is preparing to take Rossi’s place in the Alien firmament. One suspects that Rossi may be thinking about putting his stamp on Mugello forever, with bookend wins in his first and last seasons. If that’s the case, and he makes it into Q2 either automatically or by coming through Q1, Sunday could be a big day in Italy. 2020, should he choose to continue for another season, could then be a farewell tour amidst clouds of yellow smoke, The Doctor blowing kisses to the fans, finishing eighth for the year. But people would talk about Mugello 2019 for a long time. As they said so often in the cult classic Office Space, that would be great.

Recent History at Mugello

2016 featured the infamous blown engines for Lorenzo and Rossi, the second of which I judged to be the most important moment of the 2016 season.  After chasing teammate Lorenzo madly with full fuel tanks, Rossi pulled off, white smoke pouring out of his M1 like the Sistine Chapel upon election of a new Pope.  Marc Marquez picked up the baton and chased Lorenzo to the finish, but at the end it was Lorenzo by 1/100th over Marquez, with Andrea Iannone on the Ducati GP16 third.  Arguably one of Lorenzo’s best rides ever, one he is unlikely to repeat this year on the Honda. Other than his win at the Red Bull Ring, this may have been Iannone’s favorite career race. On the podium at Mugello, with no Rossi looking down on him.

In the 2017 main event, homeboys on Ducatis took the top and third steps on the podium. National idol Rossi, trying to fight through injury on his Yamaha, kept it interesting, but was beaten to the podium by teammate Maverick Vinales and the Ducati GP17s ridden by Dovi and Petrucci, looking hungry and lean himself. For the fans, other than the wrong Yamaha being on the podium, it was cause for celebration. You know, like every other day of the year.

Nature abhors a vacuum, as last year proved. On a day when Marc Marquez uncharacteristically slid out of the mix, Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi stepped up to fill it. With the Italian icon and two Ducatis on the podium, it was, indeed a great day to be Italian. The 2018 standings tightened up a little bit. Enough, at least, to hold our attention for a few more rounds. By the time the circus rolled around to Germany it was pretty much over.

The Point, After All, is Points

The modern era of MotoGP racing has, with the exception of a number of outstanding seasons from Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner, been about Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. Rossi holds the MotoGP record for points in a season of 373, set in 2008, the high-water mark of his career. He would take his last premier class title in 2009; many of his supporters say he was robbed by the evil Iberian axis of Marquez and Lorenzo in 2015. Marquez, amongst the long list of records belonging to him, reached “only” 362 in 2014. Had he not crashed out at Motegi he would surely have broken that record, too.

This year, with 95 points to date, Marquez is trending at around 360, which would put him within reach of Rossi’s record, since there are 19 rounds these days. One shudders to think what might have happened had Marquez not dropped the RC213V in Texas. Suppose Marquez had gone on to his usual easy win at COTA and sat currently with 120 points. He would be trending for an unthinkable 456 points. Shows the dangers inherent in straight-line projections. But any suggestion that he is not dominating 2019 is ridiculous.

Before Getting Silly, Let’s Get Stupid 

Interesting that the “stupid season,” the one preceding the “silly season,” has begun. Jack Miller wants to move up to a factory ride, be the next Casey Stoner. Thus, hard luck Danilo Petrucci appears to be getting forced out. Alex Marquez (?) is in discussions with Pramac about a 2020 contract, lending weight to the Miller-to-factory rumors. Good luck with that, Alex. And brother Marc, perish the thought, has allegedly expressed interest in riding the Desmosedici at some unforeseen time. Several riders are openly considering taking their marbles to WSBK, which has to be loving this*. Gigi D’Alligna must have some serious motowood going on; everyone wants one of his bikes. Alberto Puig, recall, tells us all is well with Lorenzo. Unless it rains. Unless it’s hot. Unless it’s cold. Unless he breaks another bone or two…Would Honda or The Spartan bail on his 2021 contract if things don’t get turned around? And don’t you hate paragraphs that end with a question mark?

*Tranche 3 MotoGP defector Alvaro Bautista, riding for Ducati in WSBK, has won 11 of the first 13 races this season.

Your Weekend Forecast

The weather forecast suggests scattered showers on Friday and Saturday, clearing and warm—mid-70s—on Sunday. According to the Encyclopedia of Rider Complaints, under Sunny & Perfect on Race Day, the top whine from riders, with Cal Crutchlow sporting the individual trophy, is, “Not enough dry practice time.” Let’s just say that weather should not be a factor for the race. Whether it interferes with qualifying remains to be seen. Now, more than ever, it seems races are won and lost on Saturday, those riders excluded from Q2 generally unable to crack the top six.

Assuming Rossi qualifies in the top six, I look for him to share the podium with Marquez and Dovizioso, the Usual Suspects. Should The Doctor falter in qualifying, throw Alex Rins on the podium. For some reason, the Suzuki does well at tracks seemingly better-suited for the fast-moving Hondas and Ducatis. It seems unlikely that Jorge Lorenzo will be a factor in the race; ditto for Maverick Vinales, lost in the sauce. Jack Miller would love to impress the suits from Ducati Corse on Sunday and may contend early. His habit of punishing the tires almost always precludes his actually winning many races (one to be exact). As usual, the sentimental favorite, on multiple counts, is my boy Danilo Petrucci, who may decide to let it all hang out on Sunday. To get his maiden premier class win at Mugello on the Ducati could possibly be Danilo’s Ultimate Two-Wheeled Fantasy. For the locals, if Vale can’t pull it off, they will root for Danilo. If he can’t pull it off, root for Dovi. And if he can’t pull it off, pray for that piccolo scroto Marquez to slide out of the lead late in race, when it really hurts, to suffer at Mugello as he did in 2013 and 2015.

Personally, I don’t have a favorite rider, although watching Marquez make his impossible saves gives me goosebumps. For the sake of an easier race summary to write, it would be the bomb if Rossi could pull a rabbit out of his hat. Endless story lines therein. Otherwise, we’re at risk of watching #93 enter his patented low-earth orbit and run circles around everyone else. We’ll have results and analysis here sometime Sunday—may be late due to real life getting in the way. Ciao.

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32 Responses to “MotoGP Mugello 2019 Preview”

  1. Old MOron Says:

    Ciao, Brucey! Excellent preview. I’m not Italian, but I’m in your profile. I hope the Doctor will give us a show for the ages. If I can’t have that, I hope that the most unassuming guy on the grid will make good. Go, Petrux!

    Well, I guess I don’t fit the profile, exactly. I’d prefer to see Miller be the thriller instead of Dovi. Oh, and I’d love to see Quartararo continue to be the next big thing.

    Ha ha ha, stupid season. HA HA HA, Alex Marquez to MotoGP. That’s the biggest non sequitur since Karel Abraham made his move.

    • Bruce Allen Says:

      I’m hoping to get a rise out of some of your motobrothers with the Rossi stuff. Thanks, as always, for your prescient comments and editorials.

  2. Barry_Allen Says:

    I would love to see Petrucci win. If that doesn’t happen, then let the bells ring!

  3. Barry_Allen Says:

    You already know this, but I’ll say it anyway….

    A tiny face, wearing an expression of curiosity and wonder, lets us know that we have done something right, and reassures us that everything we’ve done to get to this point was and is all worthwhile.

    I hope her first words are “Pop-Pop”.
    Now go spoil ’em all, Bruce. It’s great revenge on their parents.

    • Bruce Allen Says:

      Spoken like a true grandfather. Thanks for being a part of this conversation.

      • Old MOron Says:

        Pardon me for barging in: congrats, Brucey!

        • Barry_Allen Says:

          Have you checked the Le Mans results article on MO lately? Bruce put up a picture that 1000 words could never begin to do justice. Just be ready for cute overload if you haven’t seen it yet.

      • Barry_Allen Says:

        I guess I should also mention the other side of that coin which includes a kind of panic that asks, “Did I do enough? Did I teach enough? Was I a good enough parent that MY child is ready to raise THEIR child?” Thankfully, that part eventually subsides and we get to more fully enjoy the first. 🙂

        Have a good weekend.

        • Anonymous Says:

          For me, the answer to all three questions is a ringing “no.” I was fortunate enough to marry up, and my wife checked off all three boxes along the way. Were it not for the hideous condition in which we’ve left the planet, I wouldn’t have a care in the world about how our kids, and theirs, will fare once we’re gone. (Rather than wasting your time on all this motorcycle stuff, you should spend a little time at my other site, http://www.sacredembrace.org.)

          • Old MOron Says:

            Very interesting, Brucey. So where do you think you and your MOronic readers are? When MO slowed down their MotoGP coverage, that was kind of like kids leaving the nest. And many readers came here to find you. That smacks of: Devotion – I could never leave…

            We’re all so devoted!

          • Barry_Allen Says:

            How do you think I knew to call you PopPop?

  4. Old MOron Says:

    Hey Brucey, let’s consider Moto3. I really, really hope that Naughty Fenati will make good this weekend. So far his exemplary behavior has gone unrequited. Andiamo, Romano!

    Of course I also hope that John McPhee will continue his success. He’s paid some dues. Deserves his good form.

    • Bruce Allen Says:

      I am constantly amazed by the things you guys say. Words fail to express my gratitude. You are the reason I think these books could sell. In Australia, UK, Kiwi land and Spain, for starters.

  5. Vrooom Says:

    I’d say Go Rossi,, end transmission, but that’ taken. I really don’t want to see Marquez make the season inevitable so early, so go anybody but Marquez.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    The Ant Man is obviously on a mission this year to take pole and run away at the front with metronomic precision like the boring Black Mamba used to. A couple more 25 point scores and it will be all over except the crying. Did everybody snivel about boring championships when say, Methuselah or Doohan won everything? I can see why he has a chip on his shoulder.

  7. Mad4TheCrest Says:

    Illuminating preview, Bruce. I always hope for a Rossi win here, or at San Marino, which I believe is even closer to Rossi’s home town. As you said though, for Rossi Mugello is hugely important.

    I will check back here and at MO for the wrap-up post race, although I may not be able to contribute to any comments on MO. Some sad soul over there has taken it upon themselves to follow me around and flag every discus post I make as spam. I’ll be reading and if possible post anything I have worth sharing here. Keep on keeping on Bruce, and congrats on the lineage extension 🙂

    • Old MOron Says:

      Talk to Evans E. Neuman about that spam flag situation. I think Rockhead was in the same boat for a while. Maybe talk to him, too.

      • Mad4TheCrest Says:

        Thanks – not sure how to contact Evans, as I can’t find contact info on the site. I did send a request to Discus help though and they seem to be slowly unlocking some of my posts. I might be OK – we’ll see how it goes.

        What do you think happened to Spiff?

        • Bruce Allen Says:

          evans@motorcycle.com. No idea about Spiff.

        • Barry_Allen Says:

          Spiff hasn’t posted anything to DISQUS since the “Gear Deals For Women Riders” article where the comments went off the rails. That was over two weeks ago. He did upvote the pic of John Burns in the unicorn boat under “‘Motorcyclist’ Magazine Bites the Dust” a day ago so he’s still around, just in stealth mode. Maybe when the dust settles he’ll start commenting again.

          • Mad4TheCrest Says:

            Well, I hope he’s not having the same posting problems I did. Mine are fixed now – turns out Dennis was in the process of wiping out spamming bots and a Discus algorithm served up a suggestion that my account might somehow be related. He recognized that was incorrect and he thought he’d dismissed the connection but it didn’t work and I got thrown into spam hell. He got it fixed today. Maybe same thing’s happening to Spiff?

  8. Old MOron Says:

    Uh-oh, looks like Vale had a shitty day today.

    • Gruf Rude Says:

      He and his crew will dial in the set-up – as always.

      • Old MOron Says:

        Ha, I’m getting up at 05:00 tomorrow to watch qualifying. I hope he and his crew don’t make me wait until Sunday before they dial something in.

  9. Old MOron Says:

    On the other hand, the top two spots are held by rookies. Fooking awesome! Tomorrow morning looks to be warm and dry. There’s going to be quite the shootout to go straight to Q2.

    • Gruf Rude Says:

      Rookies on soft tires. Marquez stood pat on his opening laps and worked on race pace with used tires. Ominous given that he has the flu.

      • Old MOron Says:

        It could be that he simply didn’t have the strength to go for a fast lap. Riding at 100% is much more taxing than riding at 93%. Tomorrow he could feel better, or worse. Will 05:00 never get here?!

  10. Old MOron Says:

    Crap, the people who might challenge Marquez in the championship all had bad days. And Marquez kind of stole pole position.

    Fabio has good pace on the medium rear and hard front. I hope he goes well tomorrow.

    But the guy I’ll really cheering for tomorrow is Dovi. He’s the only championship challenger who is anywhere close.

    • Mad4TheCrest Says:

      I’m giving up and will now root for Marquez. Maybe that’ll slow him down. My fanship hasn’t helped Rossi any …

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