Mugello, Italy

The Comprehensive Silly Season Update: Mugello Madness Sees Lorenzo Go Repsol, Petrucci To Ducati, And More

Secrets are hard to keep in the MotoGP paddock. When it comes to contracts, usually someone around a rider or team has let something slip to a friendly journalist – more often than not, the manager of another rider who was hoping to get a particular seat, but lost out. It is not often that real bombshells drop in MotoGP.

So the report by Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport that Repsol Honda were in talks to sign Jorge Lorenzo came as a huge shock. The assumptions which almost everyone in the paddock had been making – that Lorenzo would be riding a full factory Yamaha M1 in a Petronas-funded satellite team operated by the Sepang International circuit – turned out to have been nothing more than a useful smokescreen. Instead, Lorenzo has signed a two-year deal with HRC to partner Marc Márquez. The announcement was originally due at Barcelona, but the publication by La Gazzetta forced Honda to make a hasty and brief announcement..

The Petronas rumors had plenty of fire to provide the smoke. In an interview with Crash.net, Sepang International Circuit CEO Dato' Razlan Razali openly discussed the possibility of running Yamahas with Lorenzo and Franco Morbidelli. Everyone I spoke to – including other team managers, rider managers, riders, journalists – believed that Jorge Lorenzo would be riding a Yamaha in 2019.

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2018 Mugello MotoGP Sunday Round Up: The Prodigal Son Returns And Wins

A circuit as magnificent as Mugello creates a certain level of expectation. The crowds pack the banks and grandstands expecting their favorite riders to triumph. The riders expect to be able to use skill and bravery to make up for some shortcomings of their bike, but they also expect to suffer on top speed if they are down on horsepower. The manufacturers expect to showcase their engineering prowess, at a circuit which demands the utmost of their machine in almost every aspect. The bike has to brake well, turn well, accelerate well, and be so fast it takes your breath away. Something which the front straight at Mugello does quite literally at MotoGP speeds.

Were expectations fulfilled this year at Mugello? Some were, perhaps. The massed sea of yellow spectators who made the pilgrimage to Mugello were not disappointed, though their joy was not unalloyed. They came to see a race which featured Valentino Rossi as a protagonist, one in which he would emerge triumphant and vanquish his rivals (especially those from the Iberian peninsula), and they got some of what they wanted. Rossi was involved in a thrilling battle for the podium for most of the race, there was an Italian victory to celebrate, and the failure of Rossi's arch rival to take pleasure from.

The weight of expectation lay heavily on Rossi's rivals, too. Marc Márquez came to a track where he has struggled in the past, knowing that the tire allocation would mean he would struggle. Andrea Dovizioso came to the place where he won last year, but on the back of crashes in the last two races, risks were even less of an option. Maverick Viñales came to Mugello after a successful test at Barcelona, where he believed the team had solved the problems he had suffered through the first part of the season. And Jorge Lorenzo came to Ducati's home track for his 24th race on the Ducati, one for every million his contract paid him, without having lived up to reasons the Italian factory had signed him: to win races, and contend for the title.

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