…and “mugiallo” it could have been. With Rossi introducing yet another special helmet design for his home race with a play on words design on the helmet using the track name Mugello and “Giallo” which is Italian for yellow. Mugello was truly yellow as well with over 100 000 fans filling the stands and grass embankments, yellow smoke billowing all around over the sea of yellow shirts and caps with the famous #46 printed on them.
It was turning out to be a fairytale story with Rossi making pole, his new team mate for 2017, Maverick Vinales, close behind him and another home rider, Andrea Iannone, third on the grid proving to his Ducati team that they may just have made the wrong choice in the same week they gave him the sack.
Let’s just hold that thought though as leading up to the main race there was some absolutely outstanding racing in both Moto3 and Moto2, the first time I’ve seen such close riding and great battles in all three classes on the same weekend. Starting it all off with Moto3, man oh man what breathtaking racing! This is in my opinion is the most exciting class of racing out there at the moment, these guys racing at high speeds within inches of each other even touching and bumping through the corners and down the straights which was evident on a number of occasions in this race. Brad Binder at one point making solid contact with two other riders down the end of the start, finish straight, how not one of the three riders went down I don’t know but this was a theme of the race as around only 3 seconds separated the top 23 riders and the top 10 to 15 constantly swopping positions lap after lap.
Two of the top contenders to Binder, the championship leader, Romano Fenati and Jorge Navarro, then crashed out within a few laps of each other and that was green light for Brad to really open up a good gap in the championship with not much to lose and go for it he did! Brad never really let himself fall out the top 4 through out the race and timed his move to the front to perfection. Leading into the first corner on the final lap, Binder charged forward and brought it home for the 3rd consecutive race. We have a potential world champion on our hands South Africa! This guy is talented!
Then it was time for Moto2. It started off pretty routinely and no incidence to really speak of, that until Alex Marquez and Luca Marini, Rossi’s half bother, crash out together (Rossi and Marquez families keeping an eye on that I’m sure). Then Xavi Vierge crashed out, his bike puncturing one of the airbag barriers causing the race to be red flagged. The race then took a strange turn. With the new rules in place for restarts the riders had only 60 second to exit pit lane once it had opened however many, not being fully aware, missed this window and were then penalised and had to start the warm up lap from the pits, this all being communicated to them on the grid causing mass confusion and frustration eventually leading to the entire race being restarted for a second time and many riders having to start from the back of the grid including championship leader Alex Rins.
The race would eventually restart and without Simeon as he crashed on the sighting lap.
An unfortunate turn of events for Alex Lowes who was looking strong at the front before the red flag and eventually settling for third after the restarted race, Johann Zarco taking full advantage finishing in first ahead of Lorenzo Baldassarre, a very exciting young rider who battled Zarco right to the bitter end. Rins fighting his way to a solid 7th from near the back of the grid.
The main race, tensions high but so were the hopes of the Italian crowd with two of their men on the front row. Off they went and out of nowhere Lorenzo shot to the front with an astonishing start from the second row while Vinales and Iannone found themselves falling back into the clutches of the pack with disappointing starts. Rossi however was not letting Lorenzo get away, showing that even at 37 he can still keep a race and championship winning pace. Then there was silence as Rossi pulled up, smoke billowing and not the yellow kind from the crowd but white from the Yamaha M1, Rossi’s race was over and Lorenzo pulled ahead, there race now seemingly a formality. Boy was I wrong though, Iannone fighting his way back to beat out his still team mate Andrea Dovizioso to 3rd, Dovi falling back behind Pedrosa after pushing to hard to run the pace of Iannone.
Marc Marquez then showed signes of his old self, riding the hell out of his Honda RCV and for the first time in a long time challenging Lorenzo corner for corner producing one of the most exciting ends to a GP race, Marquez losing it right at the line showing the Honda’s current troubles for power out the corners.
Lorenzo showing yet again how “down to earth” he is in yet another planned celebration that clearly was aimed at Rossi and Yamaha, well that’s how I saw it anyway.
A great ride though from Lorenzo proving that maybe he is up for a fight and doesn’t just win from the front.
This is my word on a truly amazing day of racing!