Features

2017 Mugello Sunday Round Up: Il Canto Degli Italiani

Each MotoGP event has its own character. Ostensibly, most Grand Prix are the national races of a particular country. The Grand Prix of Great Britain. The Czech Grand Prix. The Grand Prix of The Americas. Most, however, are only the national Grand Prix by virtue of taking place in a particular country. A few, a very few, are much more than that. There are only really two races which fully embody the national character of the country which holds them though: the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, and of course, the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.

This year, Mugello was rendered even more Italian by virtue of the fact that it started on the Festa della Repubblica, the day on which Italy celebrates its founding as a republic at the end of the Second World War. It was a moment for Italian teams and Italian riders to break out Tricolore-themed liveries and helmets. The Sky VR46 team added a tasteful green, white, and red pinstripe to their mainly black fairings. The Forward Racing team clad their bikes and riders in a particularly well-done green, white, and red fairing and leathers. Valentino Rossi added a homage to an Italian soccer legend which was only really comprehensible to those steeped in the Italian language and Italian sport.

Back to top

2017 Mugello MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Moto3's Towing Madness, And Rossi's Miraculous Recovery

Imagine you find yourself at the start of a 40 minute session of track time, at one of the greatest racing circuits in the world, sat astride one of the most sophisticated racing motorcycles in the world, with the Tuscan sun beating down from clear skies, and the hillsides echoing to the roar of tens of thousands of delirious fans. What would you do?

If you're a Moto3 rider competing at the Italian Grand Prix, then the answer is simple: you sit in your pit box for five minutes, then pootle out into pit lane, spending all your time looking backwards. You are finally persuaded to head out of pit lane over the crest and down towards one of the most challenging corners of the season, so you potter around at a miserable 30 km/h, constantly looking behind you in the hope of finding a faster rider coming up behind you at speed. You repeat this for the full session, interspersed with the odd hot lap.

The situation got so bad that in one of the hospitality units after the day was over, one person came over to us and asked if the Moto3 qualifying session had been red-flagged. They had been working through the session, and had noticed that the track had gone completely quiet. But it was not red flags which stopped the action, it was the desperate search for exactly the right tow. The trouble is, when all 31 Moto3 riders are waiting for a tow, there is no one left to be giving them.

Back to top

2017 Mugello MotoGP Friday Round Up: Unexpected Injuries, Crashes Galore, And The Tire Controversy Lives

Riders never really know how badly injured they are until they get on a MotoGP bike and try to ride. That was what happened to Valentino Rossi at Mugello on Friday. He had expected to have a lot of pain breathing from the exertion of hustling a MotoGP machine around Mugello. "This track, Mugello, with a MotoGP bike, with this temperature is already very difficult physically even if you are at 100%," Rossi said.

It turned out that it wasn't the pain from the chest and abdominal injuries which were giving him the most problems in the morning. "This morning, I had a problem with my arm, especially in acceleration. When I open the throttle and I had to hold onto the handlebar with all my strength, I had a lot, a lot of pain," he said.

When you open the throttle on a MotoGP bike, though you push yourself forward on the balls of your feet as hard as you can, you still need to hang on to the handlebars with every ounce of your strength. The battering Rossi's body took in the motocross crash just over a week ago took its toll, and made him suffer. "Sincerely, I didn't expect this, maybe I expected something else."

Back to top

2017 Mugello MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Rossi Draws A Crowd, And Tires Cause A Storm

The measure of a rider's importance is the number of journalists which turn up at their media debriefs, held every day over the course of a MotoGP weekend. There is more than one to define importance, of course. Factory riders garner more media attention than satellite riders. Riders battling for the championship draw bigger crowds than riders at the tail end of the title chase. And sometimes, an incident can create a lot more interest in a rider than they usually draw.

All of these factors came together on Thursday afternoon to draw a huge pack of journalists, photographers, and TV crews into the Movistar Yamaha hospitality unit. They came to hear, and more importantly, see Valentino Rossi speak publicly for the first time since he was hospitalized by a motocross crash a week ago today. The sport's biggest star, battling for the championship, risking serious injury while training. No wonder the place was heaving.

 

A post shared by David Emmett (@motomatters) on

Back to top

2017 Mugello MotoGP Preview: The Glory And Danger Of Tuscan Tracks

There are a lot of reasons to love Mugello. First, there is the setting: a dramatic backdrop of Tuscan peaks and dales. A place so fecund you need only stretch out your arm to grasp the riches of the earth: nuts, fruit, wild mushrooms, stag and boar. To the south, Florence, one of the marvels of the Renaissance and city so beautiful it breaks your heart to look upon it alone. At every bend in the road on the way to the circuit, the view takes your breath away. And there are a lot of bends. Hypoxia is a real concern.

Then there's the track itself. It snakes across the landscape like a discarded shoelace, a thin filament of tarmac hugging the hillsides of the valley into which the track is wedged. It has everything a motorcycle track needs to make it truly majestic: long, fast corners like the Arrabbiatas; fast combinations like Casanova/Savelli or Scarperia/Palagio; a terrifyingly fast front straight where the braking point is blind; and a corner where front brakes and front tires are tortured, as riders dump their speed into San Donato.

No pass at Mugello is ever a done deal, there is always an opportunity to counterattack. No bike has outright superiority at the track, for the nature of motorcycle dynamics is compromise, and each manufacturer chooses to make their compromises in different areas. Mugello rewards only perfection, and perfection is almost impossible to sustain for 23 laps at such blistering speeds.

Back to top

Reading The Tea Leaves: How Serious Is Valentino Rossi's Injury?

When Valentino Rossi crashed his motocross bike while training last Thursday, he triggered a wave of speculation on just how serious his injuries were. It was clear that there was reason for concern, as the Italian had been taken straight from the motocross track at Cavallara to the emergency room at Rimini hospital. The fact that he was kept in overnight made it even more worrying.

Initial reports from local newspapers and websites validated such concerns. There were reports that Rossi had fractured one or more ribs, that he had injured his shoulder, even that he had taken a blow to the head and had picked up a concussion as a result.

That presented the Movistar Yamaha team with a serious problem. One which they have handled with considerable subtlety and expertise, it has to be said. Their first and major priority was to control the narrative around Rossi's injury, giving the media the information they wanted, while keeping their options open.

However, despite their careful information strategy, if you read between the lines, there was clearly more going on than met the eye. In all of their press releases, Yamaha were treading a fine line between being as honest as possible about Rossi's injuries, while leaving underlying questions unanswered.

Back to top

Nicky Hayden Retrospective Part 2: The Winding Road To The Top

As a tribute to Nicky Hayden, who tragically died last week, succumbing to the injuries sustained in a cycling accident, we have been running a series of three articles over the past couple of days, by WorldSBK commentator and Paddock Pass Podcast member Steve English. You can read his tribute to Nicky here, and the first part on Hayden's early years in racing here.

The final part of Steve's tribute to Nicky Hayden examines the American's path through racing, from flat track to road racing, and his success in the AMA series. The lessons learned there, and the determination and talent he showed would eventually take Hayden to MotoGP. Written before Hayden's tragic death, the quotes from Nicky and from his father Earl are both still in the present tense. But Hayden's story is such a powerful one, it deserves to be heard as it was told.

The winding road to the top for a champion

The choices we make can have consequences for years. Nicky Hayden's choices as a teenager led him on a path to a world championship

In all walks of life the decisions that you make at an early age can have untold consequences in later life. Whether it's the college you decide to attend or your first job there are certain moments that become cornerstones of your life. For most people the choices can be corrected over the passing of time but for a motorcycle racer with a short career they can have huge consequences.

The pressure on young shoulders once racing transitions from a hobby to a career are huge. Families stake their financial future on a child in the hope rather than expectation it will all work out. In the current economic climate this risk is huge but it has always been the case. The Hayden family rolled the dice on their sons' racing careers and with a world championship trophy on the mantle back home in Owensboro, Kentucky it has worked out well for Nicky Hayden.

Back to top

2017 Donington Park WorldSBK Round Up: Kawasaki's 100th, A Streak Broken, And Silly Season Stirs

The WorldSBK paddock and the racing community came together at Donington Park to pay tribute to Nicky Hayden but after two great races in the Superbike class, a Supersport race that saw great battles and a Supersport 300 race that saw a three rider scrap for the win, it was the racing that paid the biggest tribute to The Kentucky Kid.

The weekend started and ended on an emotional note but it was Kawasaki that took the spoils with a dominant weekend that saw the Japanese marque claim Superbike, Superstock and Supersport honors. With victories for Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea the manufacturer also clocked up their 100th victory in WorldSBK.

In parc ferme after the race the release of emotion was clear to see with both riders enjoying the moment with the team. The celebratory mood started with Rea giving his son, Jake, a lift into the closed area on the tank of his ZX10-RR and from that point onwards it was clear how much the win meant for the world champion.

Back to top

Nicky Hayden Retrospective Part 1: A Journey Through His Past

As a tribute to Nicky Hayden, who tragically died last week, succumbing to the injuries sustained in a cycling accident, we will be running a series of three articles over the next couple of days, by WorldSBK commentator and Paddock Pass Podcast member Steve English.

After Steve's tribute to Nicky Hayden posted earlier, the second article is part one of a long look back at Nicky's early years, and the passion for racing he developed in childhood. It explains some of the motivation which drove the American to such great heights of success. Written before Hayden's tragic death, the quotes from Nicky and from his father Earl are both still in the present tense. But Hayden's story is such a powerful one, it deserves to be heard as it was told.

Nicky Hayden, a journey through his past

Growing up in Kentucky Nicky Hayden was a motorcycle racing protegé from an early age but winning hasn't come easy to the Hayden family

Over the last 15 years Nicky Hayden has become on of the most recognisable faces in the motorcycle racing world. He's morphed from the Kentucky Kid to an old hand of the paddock and now the Kentucky Legend.

But where did that legendary status come from? Hard work, dedication and an insatiable love of racing are the traits that have made Hayden famous but the cornerstone has always been family and loyalty.

Back to top

A Tribute To Nicky Hayden, By Steve English

As a tribute to Nicky Hayden, who tragically died last week, succumbing to the injuries sustained in a cycling accident, we will be running a series of three articles over the next couple of days, by WorldSBK commentator and Paddock Pass Podcast member Steve English.

The first piece is Steve's moving tribute and memories of Hayden from working with him in both the MotoGP and WorldSBK paddocks.

I've always been a fan of racing and from my earliest memories all I can remember is watching racing and loving it. From when I started watching motorcycle racing, I was drawn towards Flat Track racers from the United States. Perhaps it was because the risks they take are so similar to Road Racing in Ireland, or just their style on a bike. There was always an attraction for me towards Flat Trackers and as a child the riders I admired were Americans who grew up on the dirt. Whether it was hearing stories of Kenny Roberts and Freddie Spencer or watching Wayne Rainey and Kevin Schwantz, the Americans held a certain mystique for me.

Back to top

Pages