The ‘Doctor’ rides a stunner through the yellow haze of the Tuscan hills for his 65th pole position
Frenetic, electric, high-octane, tense and down to the absolute wire: that was qualifying for the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley. And as the yellow haze clears, it’s Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) who’ll be starting from pole, the ‘Doctor’ putting in an electric 1:46.203 to take to the top and master the stunning Autodromo del Mugello once again. Sometimes, there really is no place like home.
Starting alongside the number 46 is the other man with a comparable winning record at the track – Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team); also the rider whose 65 career poles Rossi equals, with the two now equal second of all time. And that stat was on a knife edge, with the number 99 only 0.035 off pole. Lorenzo has also taken the holeshot in both Jerez and Le Mans, but it won’t just be Rossi he’s fighting into San Donato once the lights go out at Mugello – the Ducati rider splits the Yamahas, with Q1 graduate Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) completing the front row after an impressive Q2.
The home hero who had led the way for much of the weekend so far was the man to just miss out on the front row, with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) taking P4 and just shuffled out in the incredible hot lap shootout. He’s just ahead of top Independent Team rider Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), a podium finisher at the venue last year, with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) down in sixth.
One on attempt, Marquez had been almost half a second up by halfway round the lap but it wasn’t to be. Losing time, the Championship leader wasn’t able to put it all together and push himself up the order – despite an impressive save around the final corner in classic self-named style. He’s in good company, however, with key rival and 2017 Mugello winner Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) in seventh and less than a tenth off.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) make for two more riders looking for more on Sunday as they start eight and ninth, with the top ten completed by Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) as he competes at the venue for the first time in the premier class, having sat out the Italian GP due to injury in his rookie year.
Second Q1 graduate Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) will be gunning for his ninth consecutive top ten result from P11 on the grid, with top rookie Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) in P12 after his first automatic graduation to Q2 at his home race. In contrasting fortunes, it’s been a tough weekend so far for former Mugello winner Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), who’s not yet back to fully fit and will be starting the Italian GP in P20.
So that’s it – the 46 flags are flying high on Saturday. Will it be the same on Sunday? With such pedigree both at the front and looking to move forward, the battle between the veterans, the hard chargers and the fresh challengers is going to light up Mugello once again – tune in for the race from 14:00 (GMT +2).
Cal Crutchlow will start Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix from eighth position on the grid after his best lap time was taken away from him, with Race Direction having deemed he exceeded the limits of the Mugello Circuit during qualifying.
The LCR Honda Castrol man made it comfortably through to the final qualifying session with his lap time in the morning free practice, and then looked on course for a second row start in the 23-lap race. However, he soon realised from his dashboard that his lap hadn’t counted, so dug deep to continue on the same set of tyres and claim eighth place on the grid, with hopes of picking up positions in the race.
Cal Crutchlow – 8th
“Today has been a disappointing day because I made a mistake and lost my best lap time. It would have been on the second row of the grid and the fastest Honda. Unfortunately, I touched the green paint on the exit of turn five and absolutely gained no advantage at all, but this is the rule. I am very sorry to the LCR Honda Castrol Team for that.”
“Then I made another lap with the same tyres that was only good enough for eighth place on the grid. It seems a difficult weekend for us at the moment, but we will do our best, and try our hardest and look forward to a good, clean race tomorrow.”
Zarco primed for Mugello battle from third row – Syahrin equals best Qualifying performance
Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider Johann Zarco initiated the second day of action at the Italian GP this morning with a superb improvement of 1.409 seconds from the first to the third Free Practice to comfortably sit in fifth spot. During the second Qualifying session, the French star was fighting hard in the ultra-competitive premier class and will have to start from the third row on Sunday, after he missed out on the top by only 0.622 seconds.
MotoGP rookie Hafizh Syahrin found a great pace from the word go this morning. In FP3 he impressively lowered his practice time by incredible 2.381 seconds from FP1 and showed up in strong form during Q1. With a fastest time of 1’47.188 minutes, he was able to snatch a fantastic fourth position and will launch off the line from the middle of the fifth row of the grid when the red lights will go out for the Italian Grand Prix at 14.00 local time tomorrow afternoon.
Position: 9th – Time: 1’46.830 – Laps: 7
“It has been a quite difficult day, overall. We couldn’t find the improvement we were looking for before the Qualifying and I was not able to ride well on this tricky track. In the fourth Free Practice I had a crash, which didn’t help for this afternoon. I tried to be focused, but I feel we were missing a step to be really close to the top and that’s why I couldn’t get any extra. Anyway, the race is tomorrow and I hope to keep calm and find the pace during the race to make up positions step by step. When my pace is good enough, I would like to be back in the top 5, which would be fantastic.”
Position: 14th – Time: 1’47.188 – Laps: 8
“I’m very happy about the Qualifying in Mugello. I got the same result like in Le Mans, P14, but Morbidelli as the best rookie sits in P12, which is not too far. I’m also truly close to the top, it’s just 0.9 seconds, which makes me very proud. This is my best Qualifying at the moment, because it’s less than one second to the pole position. For tomorrow I try to deliver a good start and aim to make a step forward in order to be closer to the front, because my overall pace was not bad. This track is very long, if you follow one rider, you can take an advantage for a quick lap time, but anyway, I did a great time by myself and I’m very satisfied with this. A huge thanks to my team, because from this morning, we were very fast and I will give my best to bring home as many points as possible tomorrow.”
Scarperia (Italy), 2nd June 2018
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP‘s Valentino Rossi made the crowds go wild as he grabbed pole position at the Autodromo del Mugello, setting a new circuit best lap. Teammate Maverick Viñales also gave a heroic performance at the second day of the Gran Premio d‘Italia Oakley. He went through a hard-fought Q1 to secure a third place front row start in the Q2 session.
Rossi waited for most of his rivals to leave pit lane before he made his way onto the track. His initial lap moved him into fourth place. He then improved his time but not his position on his second attempt, but was pushed back to fifth as his rivals upped their speed.
With seven and a half minutes of the session remaining, the Italian headed back to the pit box and was out one and a half minutes later. With 0.399s to the benchmark pole position, he knew what he had to do. Cheered on by the passionate Italian fans, the local hero completely went for it and pushed out four red sectors to clock a 1‘46.208s. The lap was unbeatable for the rest of the MotoGP rider field, giving the fans’ favourite his 65th career pole position, with a 0.035s margin. It’s his first pole since the Japanese Grand Prix in 2016.
Viñales was quick to head out in Q1 and went straight to the top of the timesheets with a 1‘47.105s which he further improved upon with his second lap. He had to dig deep and bettered his time once more to a 1‘46.806s, but was pushed back to second position as the Q2 session turned red hot in the final minutes. However, his lap was fast enough to keep him in second place and let him advance to the next session.
The Spaniard followed his teammate out of pit lane a couple of minutes later to continue his qualifying fight in Q2. He set the sixth fastest lap on his first try and held on to this position as he bettered his lap time on his second flyer, before heading back to the pits.
Viñales was quick to return, as he knew the long Mugello track wouldn‘t give him many more opportunities to set a hot lap. With a good six minutes left he started his second run. Multiple riders were in contention for pole position and the young Yamaha rider was keen to put his name into the mix. On his sixth attempt he set two red and two personal best sectors, to temporarily secure third place. As the pace quickened, the number 25 rider raised his game. He set a 1‘46.304s, 0.096s behind his teammate, to keep his third position and make it a double front row for the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team.
An incredible second day at the Italian GP! Today the team really pulled together to get some strong results. Vale couldn‘t have made his fans happier than by securing pole and setting the new circuit best lap at Mugello with an astounding 1‘46.208s. It will make the atmosphere tomorrow, at the team‘s home GP, all the more special. Maverick had a difficult start today, but he and his crew turned it all around before qualifying. Despite having to take part in Q1, he scored a really important third place. This double front row start is very encouraging for the team, but the points aren‘t distributed until Sunday. We expect the race to be full-on, because the level is high. Even though it won‘t be easy, we‘ll try to make further improvements tonight as we prepare the last fine-tuning for tomorrow’s warm-up. We have to keep in mind that it will be colder and more humid in the morning, but we‘ll do our best to make a final step before the race.
After yesterday, I was hoping for a better day, but it‘s not about how the day starts it‘s about how it ends. I think we did a good job in the box. We followed the wrong direction this morning and got a bit lost. It was difficult to keep my concentration and remain positive, but I kept on fighting and I will continue to keep pushing, as always, and we‘ll see. I think we can improve the bike for tomorrow in some areas. At the moment we‘re on a good level to make one fast lap, let‘s see if we can do the same throughout the race.
It gave a great emotion, especially facing the crowd the lap after the pole was fantastic. It‘s great, because it‘s also a surprise. This year in qualifying I always suffered, but today the lap was great and I thought it would be enough for the front row, but in the end it was pole position. It‘s been a long time since I was on pole, so it‘s important and it’s a great feeling. I think tomorrow will be more difficult, but for sure I‘m enjoying this moment.
Front row start for Jorge Lorenzo, who places second in Italian GP qualifying. Andrea Dovizioso finishes Q2 in seventh place and will start from row 3 at Mugello
Ducati Team rider Jorge Lorenzo will start tomorrow’s Italian GP at the Mugello Circuit in Tuscany from the front row of the grid after a terrific qualifying session. The Spanish rider was second quickest in Q2 with a time of 1’46.243, just 35 thousandths away from Rossi’s pole time.
This morning Lorenzo had set a time of 1’46.782 to slot into third place in the combined times and go directly through into the afternoon’s crucial Q2 run.
Seventh quickest time and a row 3 start went to Andrea Dovizioso (1’46.500). the Italian rider had finished the morning’s FP3 session with the tenth time and he also went through directly into Q2.
The Italian Grand Prix, held over a distance of 23 laps, will get underway tomorrow afternoon at 14.00 CET.
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99) – 2nd (1’46.243)
“I’m very pleased with this second position, but above all with the positive feelings I’ve had ever since I arrived at Mugello. I just missed out on my first pole position with Ducati by a few thousandths, but in any case I’m satisfied with the work that we’ve done and I think the new fuel tank is helping me a lot to make the difference. For tomorrow the important thing will be the choice of front tyre, which at this circuit and in this heat, suffers a lot, and it’ll be a hard-fought race because there are many riders with a good pace. The most important thing however is that we can be there and fight for the win!”
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 7th (1’46.500)
“I’m satisfied with today: yesterday unfortunately we didn’t manage to work well and as a result this morning we started behind quite a lot. In the end however we were able to get inside the top 10 and go through directly into Q2, and this afternoon we confirmed we have a good pace with the soft used tyres. We’re all rather on the limit and tomorrow I expect a race in a group, but I know that we are very fast. Also in qualifying I did a good lap, and even though I’m only seventh on the grid, I believe I have a good pace and I can’t wait to do the race.”
MotoGP reconvened in one of the most spectacular, scenic and challenging circuits on the Grand Prix trail for the Italian round and the sixth appointment of nineteen in 2018. Mugello shimmered in temperatures touching nearly thirty degrees and the long fast corners were a different type of test for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing for only the second attack for the KTM RC16 around the rapid layout.
Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith pushed for the fastest lap-times and optimum set-up through the four Free Practice sessions and in a steady climate and weather conditions. Both the Spaniard and Brit started Q1 aiming to improve on their previous efforts set during the weekend and succeeded; marking better chronos compared to 2017 and sit just over a second from the record Pole lap set by Valentino Rossi.
Espargaro: “Last year we were very far from the top, much further than what we did today. The bike has improved quite a lot and we are a bit closer to the top guys compared to last year. I made a few small mistakes on the fast lap but I was happy and it was quicker than what we managed through the weekend. This is a tricky track for us because of the fast turns and here we have plenty! We will fight tomorrow and it will be important to stay focussed. The tyres will degrade, especially with the graining, and we need to stay on the bike and see what happens. We still have tomorrow to improve a few tenths but we are better with race rhythm than the fast lap.”
Smith: “We are already a good bit faster than last year and this is what we have to base ourselves on and how we have improved and we are definitely getting closer. This track is really technical and this is one of the reasons I love it but the weaknesses show and that’s why we are struggling a little bit. I got held up a bit in the last sector of the qualifying lap and it would have been nice to be fifth-sixth with Pol. The fact that we are starting tomorrow ahead of our normal fighting group is good for us. Normally we get good starts with the KTM so we should be able to launch forward. Then it will be a case of who is managing the tyres a bit better and who has the grip.”
Sebastian Risse (Technical Director MotoGP): “Overall a big thank you and fairplay to the riders; they did a great job in qualifying. The position doesn’t look brilliant but the lap-times were quite good compared to where we were coming from a year ago and compared to the gap to the top so we cannot complain. For sure we want to be better and it isn’t our target to be P15, it’s the top ten, but this is the reality and on this track and because of these chicanes our turning issues are exaggerated and you carry the consequence over the whole next straight and this hurts. We try to get the maximum out of this package – and there is maybe not so much room to improve with what we have here today – but we have a lot going on in the background and I hope soon we can improve in these areas. Tomorrow and the full race distance could be a different story and when it comes to the front tyre.”
Moto2 & Moto3
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Miguel Oliveira registered a lap-time to sit in 11th place in the Moto2 ‘QP’ with Sam Lowes in 14th and Brad Binder 19th on the KTM Moto2 bike. In Moto3 Redox PruestelGP’s Marco Bezzecchi was the highest-ranked KTM RC250 GP rider and captured 5th place on the grid.
Oliveira: “After yesterday, we had planned to make changes and take a step forward in FP3, but unfortunately the changes didn’t work out as expected. Luckily, we were able to turn the situation around and in qualifying I felt much better riding the bike. I’m happy and confident ahead of tomorrow’s race. It’s been a tricky start of the season, in terms of qualifying. We’re finding things a bit more difficult, partly because our rivals have also improved a lot. Today we saw that the times are very tight, since going a tenth faster could have put us fourth. That’s what I’ll take away from today. Tomorrow I will go all-out and try to recover positions as we always do. We know that we are strong in the race and we can achieve a good result. In addition, in the warmup we will try to take another step forward. Finishing in the Top 5 would be a good result with how the weekend has gone, although of course we aren’t setting limits for ourselves.”
Close second-row start for Marquez in Mugello, tough qualifying for Pedrosa
On a hot, sunny Saturday at Mugello, Marc Marquez set the sixth-fastest time at the end of an incredibly tight qualifying session in which the top seven finished within less than 0.3” of each other.
After topping FP3 and ending FP4 in a very close fourth place, Marc set the provisional pole record at the end of his first run in Qualifying, but a small mistake during his second attempt, when he was further improving his performance, dropped him to sixth overall, though just 0.246” off the top.
On the other side of the garage, Dani Pedrosa faced a very tough qualifying day. After missing the passage to Q2 by just 0.141” in the morning session, he suffered a crash in FP4 and had to switch to his second bike for Q1.
Not at ease with a different setup, and having only managed to finish 10th in Q1, he will have to start tomorrow’s 2 p.m. Italian GP from the seventh row of the grid.
“I’m happy with today, even if we’ll start sixth tomorrow, as I wasn’t able to put together the best lap. Actually, I was doing a very fast one during my second exit but then I made a mistake. Here, we have a tyre allocation that’s a bit too soft for us and that’s why we struggle a bit, especially in the afternoon, when the temperature is higher. In qualifying we ran out of the front spec option I prefer, and when I started pushing hard I overheated the front in the space of three corners. I had to be really smooth. We’ll see what conditions we’ll have tomorrow, but in any case we’ll have to adapt to them as well as possible and try and get some good points.”
“So far we’ve had a very difficult weekend here at Mugello, constantly struggling with the lack of grip. I was never able to be fast on track. Besides that, after a crash in FP4, I couldn’t use the bike in the following Q1, and the second one had a different setup. We didn’t have time to modify it, and I wasn’t able to do a good lap. The only thing to do now is remain focused on the race and do our best tomorrow.”
SEVENTH AND EIGHTH ROW AT MUGELLO FOR ESPARGARÓ’S AND REDDING’S APRILIAS
The Italian coloured Aprilia RS-GP machines ridden by Espargaró and Redding will start from the seventh and eighth rows on the grid tomorrow in the GP of Italy, the sixth round of the MotoGP Championship.
For Aleix Espargaró, expectations were quite a bit higher, especially after his good performance in the morning session (FP3), where he battled for a spot in the top ten which would have taken him straight through to Q2.
Aleix had finished that session thirteenth (with a time of 1’47.248) just 162 thousandths behind the tenth place time. The final practice session had also confirmed the rider’s good feeling astride his RS-GP- However, a crash toward the end of FP4 forced him to switch bikes in the decisive qualifying session. His decidedly poor feeling with the second bike kept Aleix far from the times he had done in the morning, relegating him to the seventh row with a time of 1’48.286.
Scott Redding was unable to find the right feeling with this bike once again at Mugello, qualifying with a time of 1’48.744 that places him in 23rd place, therefore at the centre of the eighth row.
“This morning I was able to be rather competitive. We just missed going through the Q2 by barely over a tenth and overall I am happy with our performance. In the afternoon during FP4, we worked on pace, turning some good laps with used tyres, but unfortunately I had a crash toward the end, making the bike unusable for the qualifiers. In Q1, I used the second bike and I did not have the same feeling, both in terms of grip and in terms of engine power output so, even pushing to the limit, I was unable to better my time. We are starting from the seventh row. It isn’t an ideal position, but I am rather confident that I’ll be able to ride a race similar to the one in Austin, recovering a lot of positions. Especially in the second half of the race: it will be hot, the tyres will be stressed and we know how gentle the RS-GP is on the rear tyre.”
“Unfortunately, we were unable to improve as much as we would have liked once again today. We tried a few changes, but the right feeling with the RS-GP here at Mugello is still not there. Tomorrow the race will be hard, starting from way back, so all we can do is give it our very best effort and bring home the best possible result.”