The FIM today issued a revised and updated version of the provisional 2017 MotoGP calendar. The calendar features just a single change: the date of the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring has been moved forward two weeks, and will now take place on 2nd July.
In two races, Valentino Rossi has cut his deficit to Marc Márquez by 35 points. He now trails the Repsol Honda rider by 42 points. All of a sudden, Márquez' lead in the championship looks a good deal less dominant, despite the Spaniard already having wrapped up the 2016 title at Motegi. Márquez' crashes at Phillip Island and Sepang have kicked off a whirlwind of "what ifs" among Valentino Rossi fans. The elusive tenth title suddenly seems a good deal closer than it was four or five races ago.
The one "what if" on the tip of fans' lips is the engine blow up at Mugello. The two Movistar Yamahas had a small but comfortable gap over Marc Márquez, and Rossi was clearly stalking Jorge Lorenzo. It was a matter of when, not if Rossi would pass his teammate. But on lap 8, Rossi's engine let go, just as Lorenzo's had in the morning. He was out of the race, and went from trailing Márquez by 7 points to being 27 points behind the Spaniard. Had Rossi won at Mugello, he would have gained 29 over Márquez (25 for the win, plus the 4-point differential between second and third for Márquez). That would have given the 2016 title a very different aspect.
There is a current fashion in moviemaking, of taking proven formulas from the past, giving them a light makeover and then relaunching them, then trying to spice them up by referring to them as a "reboot" or "reloaded". Dorna executives must have been to see Ghostbusters, Mad Max, and many more, as the 2017 MotoGP calendar is best described as 2016 Reloaded.
The 2017 MotoGP calendar is almost identical to the 2016 calendar, with a couple of minor tweaks. Those tweaks are a clear improvement on 2016: there are fewer large gaps, and there are fewer back-to-back races. There have been some changes to help with logistics, and some to help with race organizations.
Yamaha have issued an official explanation for the problem they suffered at Mugello, which saw Valentino Rossi's engine blow up during the race, and Jorge Lorenzo's engine blow up during warm up on Sunday morning.
The cause given is exactly in line with the reasoning in MotoMatters.com's Mugello Sunday post-race round up: the engine overrevving as the rear wheel lifted at the end of the Mugello straight. At that point in the track, with the bike hitting 350 km/h and nearing peak speed at top gear and at full throttle, when the rear wheel lifts over the crest at the end of the straight, the engine spins up too quickly for the rev limiter to catch.
The Moto2 class has not had a lot of luck with their starts in 2016. First there was Qatar, where a mass jump start saw some riders called in for a ride through, some issued with a time penalty, and few people very happy about the way it was handled. That situation was all down to a problem with some of the high-speed starting grid cameras which check for false starts.
In Mugello there was more starting grid misery. This time, though, the problem was not with jump starts, but with restarts. An interrupted race and a quick start procedure ended up causing chaos, the first running of that procedure catching a lot of teams out, which in turn caused problems for Race Direction. As is their wont, unforeseen circumstances managed to catch everyone out, causing the first quick start procedure to be abandoned, and a regular restart instituted.
The 2016 season has only just started, but 2017 is already looking good for VR
So silly season is over. And it’s not even June. Now that all the major title players (with one exception) have inked their contracts for next year, it seems like the right time to write a 2017 preview. In May 2016.
Next year MotoGP’s balance of power will shift more dramatically than it has done since the arrival of Marc Marquez four years ago. What this means is that 2017 could be Valentino Rossi’s best shot at the title since his 2010 effort went west at Mugello; though obviously I’m not suggesting he’s already out of the 2016 hunt.
Jorge Lorenzo’s move to Ducati is the biggest factor in the 2017 scenario. Lorenzo’s sweet, neutral riding technique goes together with the sweet, neutral handling of Yamaha’s M1 like fish goes with chips, so it’s a huge deal that the reigning champion and current championship leader won’t be riding the bike that has brought him so much success.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin after the Italian Grand Prix:
Lorenzo Seals Yamahas 100th MotoGP Win in Remarkable Mugello Race
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello:
Podium joy for Mahindra in Italian thriller
Mugello, 22 May 2016:
Aspar Mahindra rider Pecco Bagnaia took a third podium finish in the sixth race of the 2016 season, finishing only seven hundredths of a second from a first race win after 20 breath-taking laps in today’s thrilling Italian GP.
The 2016 Italian Grand Prix at Mugello was many things, but above all, it was memorable. It's not just that the three races ended up with incredibly close finishes – the margin of victory in Moto3 was just 0.038, and that was the largest winning margin of the three races – but how they were won, and what happened along the way that will leave them indelibly imprinted on the memories of race fans. There was drama, a bucketful of heartbreak, and plenty of chaos and confusion thrown into the mix. If there was a script for Sunday, it was torn up and rewritten a dozen times or more before the day was over.
The drama started during morning warm up. As the final seconds of the MotoGP session ticked away, Jorge Lorenzo suddenly pulled over and white smoke started pouring out of the exhaust of his Movistar Yamaha. His engine had suffered a catastrophic failure. This was a worry, as it was a relatively new engine, first introduced at Jerez, with twelve sessions of practice and two races on it. The other two engines Lorenzo had already used had 21 and 23 sessions of practice on them, and had also been used for two races each (including the flag-to-flag race at Argentina).
Though the engine allocation has been increased from five to seven engines for 2016, losing engine #3 at just the sixth race of the season could end up cutting things rather fine by the time we reach Valencia. Losing an engine so soon before a race seemed like a stroke of incredibly bad luck for Lorenzo. In fact, it would prove to be exactly the opposite.
Standings after the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello: