Magnificent Mugello the backdrop for next MotoGP thriller
The scenic setting of Mugello welcomes the MotoGP World Championship to the Florentine circuit for round four this weekend, as Jorge Lorenzo aims to extend his nine-point lead over Fiat Yamaha team-mate and rival Valentino Rossi at the top of the standings.
With victory at Le Mans last time out Lorenzo secured his first back-to-back wins in the premier class, and his 70 points so far is the highest points tally by a rider in the MotoGP class after the opening three rounds since Rossi amassed the same amount in the same number of races in 2005.
Lorenzo finished on the podium last season (second) at the Italian circuit, and if he goes one better this year and wins ahead of Rossi it will be the first time since joining the premier class in 2000 that the reigning World Champion will have finished behind a team-mate in three successive races.
Mugello however is a circuit that Rossi has enjoyed immense success at previously. The Italian finished third there last season on his way to the title, having won the previous seven years on the bounce. Rossi will also be going for a 50th premier class pole position start at the weekend.
Another Italian hoping to impress his home fans will be Andrea Dovizioso, and the Repsol Honda rider has produced a strong start to the season that has already seen two podium finishes. Last year at Mugello he just missed out on a top-three placement having led at stages of both the wet and dry parts of the race. His team-mate Dani Pedrosa sits just two points behind in the standings and has enjoyed success at Mugello before. Last year he failed to finish the race, but in his three premier class rides there before that he never finished outside the top four, two of which were podium results.
Nicky Hayden and Ducati Marlboro will be looking for a good result in the team’s home race, with the American seeking an improvement on his recent form at Mugello. A best placement of third came back in 2006, and Hayden’s form this season indicates that a first podium of 2010 is imminent. His team-mate Casey Stoner’s season has gotten off to a difficult start, but the Australian won here last year and broke Rossi’s dominance so will be confident that he can score his first notable points of the season at Mugello.
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) is the highest placed private team rider in the standings and enjoyed his best MotoGP finish at Mugello last year with eighth place, and the Frenchman will continue his battle with Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech3). Rookies Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Hector Barbera (Paginas Amarillas Aspar), in their first premier class outings at the track, will look to consolidate their impressive starts and top ten positions in the standings, with fellow newcomer Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP Team) and Pramac Racing’s Mika Kallio hot on their trail.
Ben Spies (Monster Yamaha Tech3), Loris Capirossi and Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) will all be looking to bounce back after Le Mans, whilst Aleix Espargaro (Pramac Racing) will want to build on his promising result from the last round.
The opening MotoGP practice session of the Gran Premio d’Italia TIM is due to begin at 1.55pm local time on Friday.