Marco Simoncelli

2011 Mugello MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Italy Awaits

If you want to know what the attendance at a racetrack is, you have two options, the official channel, and the unofficial one. If you want the official tally, you have to wait until Sunday, when the circuit, together with Dorna, publish the number of spectators over the three days of the track. Those numbers are based on ticket sales, though how precisely they are reflect the numbers at the track is a frequent topic of speculation.

If you want a more accurate assessment of how busy a track is, then the best thing to do is to canvas a few of the regular photographers who shoot MotoGP. They spend all day wandering around the track, seeing most of the grandstands and hillsides which overlook the circuit. A trained eye for detail and an excellent memory are key assets for a professional photographer, so they generally have a pretty good idea of how many people are at the track. Their estimates are usually much more accurate than the official numbers, and can differ by a surprisingly large amount from them.

So when several photographers report that the hillsides at Mugello seem emptier again this year, then it would appear that MotoGP has a problem. And given the nature of MotoGP's audience in recent years, that problem has one major cause.

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2011 Mugello MotoGP Friday Roundup: Wet Weather, Fast Hondas, Pedrosa vs Simoncelli, And The Prospect Of More Tires

Herve Poncharal joked at Assen that if the MotoGP series wanted to find an extra source of income, it should offer to organize events in drought-stricken areas, as a MotoGP race appears to be a guarantee of rain this year. Mugello is no different: the locals say there has been no rain for weeks now - though the rich verdant green of the countryside would appear to suggest otherwise - and as soon as the MotoGP circus rolls into the Tuscan hills, the heavens part and rain falls.

The day started well enough - stunningly so, hot temperatures, clear skies - but as the morning neared an end, the clouds started to roll in. The 125cc class started with a few spots of rain, getting heavier as the MotoGP class started then drying out towards the end. So the MotoGP riders lost the best part of a session, while the wily Andrea Dovizioso posted a positively scorching time on the very last lap of the session, just as the track had dried enough to put in a good time.

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2011 Mugello MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Italian Expectations, Prodigal Pedrosa, And MotoGP's Bad Boy

Due to technical issues (internet connection problems in the accommodation we are staying in at Mugello), Thursday's round up is late, for which you have our sincere apologies. We hope you will bear with us through this.

MotoGP rolls into Mugello with what looks like being the hottest weekend of the year ahead of it. And from the events of the first day, that's hottest in every conceivable sense of the word.

That this is going to be something special came as we rolled into the car park at the spectacularly situated Italian circuit. Where normally, Thursday afternoons are a relatively quiet affair, the paddock was bustling with people and the paddock car parks were filling up quickly. Valentino Rossi riding a Ducati is a big deal anywhere, but at Mugello, it is something akin to seeing the Beatles in the Cavern Club or Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. Crowds have been down at every track so far this season - economies around the world continue to suffer - but Mugello could be on course for a record attendance.

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