By Dan Moakes
June 5 2015
Yamaha were looking strong and Jorge Lorenzo was on a roll, comfortably winning the fourth and fifth rounds of the 2015 FIM MotoGP World Championship, whilst team-mate Valentino Rossi led the standings. Round six of the series was Rossi’s home race at Mugello.
Valentino Rossi has achieved a lot of success in front of his home fans in the Italian Grand Prix, with seven wins in the premier class, but the last of those had come back in 2008. He was looking strong again in 2015, but now with a renewed threat from Lorenzo, winner here in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 events. And in qualifying it was once again the Spaniard who had the advantage, with Jorge lining up second on the grid and Valentino back in eighth.
Ducati were looking strong for their home race, with three works bikes in the top six. Andrea Iannone took his first pole position in MotoGP, with regular partner Andrea Dovizioso in third and wildcard entry Michele Pirro - the team’s test and development rider - in sixth. Suzuki’s pairing showed continued promise with the new bike, with Aleix Espargaró fifth and Maverick Viñales ninth; and in amongst these machines were the leading Honda riders.
Dani Pedrosa was getting back up to speed for Repsol Honda in seventh, but team-mate Marc Márquez failed to appear on one of the first two rows for the first time in his MotoGP career: he was only in P13. This left Cal Crutchlow on the customer LCR-run machine as the fastest of the Honda men in fourth. The Tech 3 Yamahas were together, with Pol Espargaró tenth then Bradley Smith, and in P12 was Yonny Hernández for Pramac Ducati. Team-mate Danilo Petrucci was right behind Márquez.
Héctor Barberá (Avintia Ducati) led the Open class in P15, from Stefan Bradl (Forward Yamaha), Scott Redding (Marc VDS Honda), Loris Baz (Forward Yamaha), Nicky Hayden (Aspar Honda), Karel Abraham (AB Honda), Álvaro Bautistá (Gresini Aprilia), Mike di Meglio (Avintia Ducati), Jack Miller (LCR Honda), Eugene Laverty (Aspar Honda), Alex de Angelis (Ioda ART) and Marco Melandri (Gresini Aprilia).
Form guide: GP wins at Mugello
Rossi 9; Lorenzo 4; Márquez 3; Iannone & Pedrosa 2; Bautistá, Melandri, Redding, Smith & Viñales 1
At the start of the race, Iannone seemed to get away marginally before the other leading qualifiers, but he was not judged to have jumped the start - unlike Abraham, who would soon have to serve a pitlane ride-through penalty. Dovizioso led away, in front of team-mate Iannone, but with Lorenzo quick to move past for second position. Smith was fourth, with Márquez making amazing progress and overtaking Pol Espargaró for fifth position. Then it was Crutchlow, Aleix Espargaró, Pedrosa, Pirro, Rossi and Viñales.
The first lap saw Lorenzo overtake Dovizioso for the lead, and Márquez similarly on Smith to go fourth. The order began to settle with Pedrosa now seventh, from Crutchlow, Rossi, Aleix Espargaró, Pirro, Petrucci, Hernández, Viñales, Bradl, Miller, Hayden, Baz, Redding, Barberá and Bautistá. There were early exits for Aleix Espargaró, Miller and de Angelis. Miller crashed on his own and de Angelis stopped in the pits - whereas Aleix crashed in turn one, San Donato, when he took a hit from Petrucci on the inside line.
San Donato is a right-hander with heavy braking following a fast and lengthy main start-finish straight, Rettilineo; it often invites out-braking duels. Márquez was really on the move and he passed Iannone on the inside at San Donato, and not long after did much the same to Dovizioso. Marc then set a couple of new fastest laps, but he was unable to shake off the Ducatis, and meanwhile leader Lorenzo was able to start edging clear.
Pedrosa got past Smith to run fifth, with Dani then starting to catch the contest ahead of him. Whilst Lorenzo got clear, Dovizioso was able to get back past Márquez for second, the Spaniard then having to fend off the efforts of Iannone - out of San Donato and heading for the next left at Luco. Marc tried to retake second on the outside for San Donato but ran well wide and almost lost out to the number 29. Lorenzo was by now three-seconds clear and getting further out of reach.
There was excitement for the supporters as Rossi got past Smith and then Crutchlow, the latter running wide at San Donato. Valentino was up to sixth now and moving clear, leaving the two English riders to their own battle. Meanwhile, it was of course at San Donato where both Márquez and Iannone got past Dovizioso at the same time, and soon Iannone used the Desmosedici’s straight line speed along the Rettilineo to get through into second. Pedrosa joined in and passed Dovizioso on the inside of the final left-handed loop Bucine, before Rossi also got ahead.
Dovizioso’s drop from second to sixth was soon explained when he pulled into the pits, seemingly looking at a problem at the rear of the Ducati. There were seven laps to go, with Lorenzo eight-seconds in front, but it was still close between Iannone, Márquez, Pedrosa and Rossi. Marc made a couple of attempts to regain second position, getting it right at the right-handed Arrabbiata 1, although on the straight Iannone went back past.
Then there was drama at the right-handed Poggiosecco corner, where Márquez lost the front of his Honda and went down. There were audible cheers from the local supporters, no doubt looking for success for the Italian riders and the Italian bikes, but preferably Rossi. The man himself would be further forward not long after as he passed Pedrosa on the inside through the left-hander at Palagio. Iannone remained second and Rossi was unable to get close enough to challenge, but with Dani beginning to lose touch behind.
So the race finished with Lorenzo first, then Iannone, Rossi and Pedrosa. Crutchlow had got in front of Smith for fifth, but three laps from the end the LCR rider lost the front at Arrabbiata 1 and crashed. Bradley retained position ahead of team-mate Espargaró, with Viñales getting the better of Pirro for seventh. The Pramac pair remained closely matched, with Petrucci next then Hernández, then it was Redding in P11. Baz led home the Open runners, from Barberá, Bautistá, Laverty, di Meglio, Abraham and Melandri. Hayden and Bradl failed to finish. Iannone, Pedrosa, Smith, Viñales, Pirro, Petrucci and Bautistá all recorded their best results of the season to date.
Valentino Rossi was again on the podium at his home race, and with a 100% record for this season, but with team-mate Jorge Lorenzo making it three wins in a row the margin between them was reduced to just six points. There was another strong performance from Ducati, with Andrea Iannone achieving a best-yet second in MotoGP in the absence, at the flag, of his team leader. Dani Pedrosa had missed three races, finishing sixth and sixteenth in the other two, but was a more representative fourth in Mugello; whilst Honda team-mate Marc Márquez went down and set himself up with an even taller order in terms of his title defence - now with a 49-point deficit. What will be the next twist in the story?
Standings after six races: Rossi 118; Lorenzo 112; Dovizioso 83; Iannone 81; Márquez 69; Smith 57; Crutchlow 47; P.Espargaró 45; Viñales 36; Petrucci 32 ·· Open leader: Barberá.
Yamaha 141; Ducati 106; Honda 98; Suzuki 47; Forward Yamaha 10; Aprilia 5.