MotoGP

Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - Could 2017 be Rossi’s year?

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.

2016 Mugello MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Of Engines, Disappointment, and Blistering Battles

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.

2016 Mugello MotoGP WUP Result: Viñales Quickest, Lorenzo Blows an Engine

Maverick Viñales was comfortably fastest in morning warm up for the MotoGP class. Jorge Lorenzo blew an engine at the end of the main straight. So far, he had only been using the third of his seven available engines, so he is in no danger of exceeding the limit just yet.

Results:

2016 Mugello MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Of Improbable Alliances, and Saving Italian Racing

Every year at Mugello, Valentino Rossi and Italian designer Aldo Drudi come up with a special helmet design for Rossi's helmet. They vary in originality and ingenuity: my own personal favorite by far was the helmet from 2008, which featured Rossi's face on the top, wide-eyed with the terror he felt braking for the first corner at San Donato, one of the highest speed approaches on the calendar. Others have varied from the obscure and personal, to the entertaining or passionate. Most people have their own personal favorite, a few curmudgeons find the whole idea rather pointless.

Rossi's helmet for this year features a simple design, based on a pun in Italian. His AGV Pista GP helmet is yellow, featuring an outline of the Mugello circuit, and the word "MUGIALLO" around the front. "Mugiallo" is a play on the words Mugello, the name of the circuit, and "giallo", the Italian word for yellow. Rossi's tribal color is yellow, his fans call themselves "Il popolo giallo", or The Yellow People. The press release from Dainese described it as a tribute to the circuit, and to Rossi's fans.

Is that what it means to Rossi himself, though? On Saturday, Rossi made his helmet look more like an act of appropriation than a tribute. Rossi's searing qualifying lap laid bare his intentions: Valentino Rossi laid claim to the Mugello circuit. He came here to win.

2016 Mugello MotoGP FP4 Result: Iannone Leads Rossi as Pace Heats Up

Andrea Iannone ended the final session of free practice for MotoGP at the head of the timesheets. Iannone took a big lead early on, but Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales chipped away at his lead, until there was only around a tenth of a second left. Andrea Dovizioso finished in fourth, six tenths of a second behind his teammate, and just ahead of two more Ducatis, the Pramac of Scott Redding and the Aspar bike of Yonny Hernandez.

Results:

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