Mugello, Italy

Gibernau At Mugello: Approaching Melandri's Times After Just 40 Laps

The news that Sete Gibernau would be returning to MotoGP to test the Ducati Desmosedici bikes raised a flurry of interest when it was announced last week. It launched a veritable firestorm of speculation about a possible return to racing, and whether the arrival of Gibernau made Marco Melandri's position at Ducati even more precarious. There was also the question of whether nearly two years away from racing would have dulled Gibernau's race reflexes so much that he would no longer be competitive. Only test times from Mugello would tell.

After two days of testing, we finally have times to base a judgment on. Frustratingly, though, weather conditions in Mugello are more British than Italian, meaning that so far Gibernau's track time has been limited to just 20 laps on both Tuesday and Wednesday, and even those laps have been ridden under track conditions which are far from ideal.

Despite the damp, Gibernau is still apparently in good shape. On Wednesday, the Spaniard set a fastest lap of 1'52.6 on the GP9, which uses the new carbon-fiber chassis. Although still 4 seconds off the pole record, and 2 seconds slower than the fastest race lap, that's a perfectly respectable time for a rider who hasn't ridden a MotoGP bike for 21 months, and has only ridden an 800cc MotoGP bike in a few tests at the end of the 2006 season, especially under less than perfect conditions.

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2006 Mugello Race - The Titans Meet in Tuscany

Motorcycle racing is a sport haunted by injustice. Chance lies waiting at every corner, turning a dream race into a nightmare, where engines can blow, tires can tear themselves apart, or an overcooked corner can end in the gravel traps. But sometimes, Fate takes a step aside, and races turn into a direct reflection of the real strengths in the paddock. That this should happen at Mugello seemed only fitting: great races belong at great racetracks.

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2006 Mugello Round Qualifying - The Honorary Italian

It should come as no surprise that the Italians are highly motivated at Mugello this weekend. Valentino Rossi had already jumped up the qualifying rankings at Le Mans, after setting some very poor practice times in earlier races, and had dominated both Free Practice sessions on Friday. Not to be outdone, Ducati's Loris Capirossi had set the fastest time in Saturday morning's free practice session, slashing a second off Rossi's time. The only Italian missing from the party was Marco Melandri, who seemed to settle for running around 7th or 8th place.. So all eyes were on the Italians before qualifying, with much pressure on them to get a pole in front of their home crowd.

As qualifying opened, just about everyone took to the track to try and set a semi-respectable time, yesterday's semi-wet FP2 session still fresh in their memories. The weather seems destined to be a factor this season, and with this in mind, no one was taking any chances. It was clear that the Italian riders were serious right from the start, with Loris Capirossi setting the weekend's fastest time so far at 1:50.133 with over 53 minutes of the session left. Four minutes later, Capirossi broke into the 1:49s, setting a 1:49.819. Most riders having set a time they were comfortable with, the session quietened down, riders concentrating on finding tires and a bike setting to last the distance of tomorrow's race.

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2006 Mugello Round Preview - A Tuscan Tale

Motorcycle racing, like life, is full of little ironies. One such irony is that despite the fact that three of the five favorites for this year's MotoGP title, the current five-time World Champion and one of the leading factories taking part are Italian, this weekend's Italian Grand Prix at Mugello is the only MotoGP race in Italy this year. And this in spite of the fact that Italy has so many glorious circuits with a long and rich history: Monza, with its majestic and insanely fast Parabolica, the tree-lined Imola, Misano's sweeping Curvone Veloce, and this weekend's venue, Mugello.

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