Mugello truly is a spectacular setting for motorcycle racing. Truth be told, Mugello is a spectacular setting for any kind of activity, from a leisurely picnic to a high-speed chase through the scenery. But it really is an amazing place for a motorcycle race. The track sits wedged in a valley between a couple of hills, and this generates a huge amount of elevation changes as it snakes its way up and around the valley. To try and give you an impression of the differences in elevation, I took a wander around the track on Thursday evening, and took a few photos to try to capture the circuit from the asphalt, rather than from trackside. You can follow the way around the circuit with this track map, or on Google maps.
Pit lane at Mugello. Makes you want to just keep going.
Pit lane exit, and the end of the straight, before dropping down to San Donato.
It's a steep drop down into San Donato, the first long hairpin corner. It's hard to do justice to just how steep it is in a photograph.
Freshly painted kerbstones through the first corner.San Donato starts the climb out of the valley.
The exit from San Donato up to the first left-hander at Luco. Like so many of the corners at Mugello it's steep and blind. In this case, steep uphill, then left.
Mugello is notorious for track invasions. The fans sweep down off the Italian hillsides and crowd into pitlane like a swarm of locusts, picking the track clean of any memorabilia they can find, whether bolted down or not. This year, the track management has a double row of fencing around the track, reinforced with razor wire to deter the foolhardy.
There is even more razor wire on the inside of the track, protecting the paddock from further invasion.
Over the crest of Luco and down to Poggio Secco
Out of Poggio Secco, and another blind crest towards Materassi
Alex de Angelis laps the track on foot, combining fitness with circuit familiarization
A slight downhill swoop through Materassi and then right through Borgo San Lorenzo. Typical of the double combinations which make Mugello so challenging, and produce such great racing.
Another blind crest, this time before sweeping left through Casanova.
Riders often spend time reconnoitering the track on a scooter. Doubly so for riders who are coming to the track for the first time. Here, Kenny Noyes and his Jack&Jones Banderas teammate Joan Olive is given a guided tour on his scooter by an Italian rider.
The group stopped at the top of Casanova for about 5 minutes, and sat discussing in a mix of Italian and Spanish how to tackle one of the most challenging sections of the track.
The discussions were accompanied by the traditional language of motorcycle racing, hand gestures and engine noises, indicating the consequences of taking a corner in a particular gear. Noyes said he was really looking forward to riding this track.
The discussion continued as the headed off down the steep run through Casanova towards Savelli.
One of the reasons this part of the track is key. After heading down through the left at Savelli, you reach the bottom of the hill just before Arrabbiata 1 and start heading up the other side of the valley toward Arrabbiata 2.
Arrabbiata 1: It's all uphill from here until you start dropping again at Scarperia.
Up the hill through Arrabbiata 2.
Another blind crest out of Arrabbiata 2 and on towards Scarperia.
The track drops off again on the way into Scarperia, dropping deceptively steeply down to the left at Palagio.
This is what I mean by "deceptively steeply." Looks pretty flat, and it's anything but.
One of the things that makes Mugello unique: You can see right across from one side of the track to the other.
Yet more blind corners: Another crest just before dropping down the steep, tight right of Correntaio, and past Ducati Corner.
This is how steep it is: with 150 meters to go, you wouldn't know there was a corner there if you didn't see the marker.
Correntaio: Ducati Corner.
The last of the left-right flicks: Biondetti 1 and 2. Time to get ready for the big one.
The long, flat run into the final downhill corner, the Bucine hairpin.
Bucine. Technically, it's a hairpin, but like all of the hairpins at Mugello, it's not tight at all. It's fast and sweeping, with enough lines through it to pass, ready for the long run to the straight.
Looking back at Bucine, you can see just how steep it is.
The run out of Bucine is downhill into a dip, which marks the start of the front straight, which is long, fast and scary.
The front straight. Though "straight" is something of a misnomer. It snakes subtly left and right, before dropping off the hill into San Donato once again.
The view from the back of the grid shows just how much the track snakes back and forth. Even on the straight, you can't afford to lose your concentration.