Sunday at magnificent Mugello was that rarest of days, when one gets to hear the Italian national anthem played three separate times. Italians placed 1-2 in a mind-bending Moto3 tilt. Italian heartthrob Franco Morbidelli didn’t win in Moto2 today, but beloved countryman Mattia Pasini did. In the main event, homeboys on Ducatis took the top and third steps on the podium.

Mattia Pasini demonstrates that crashing on a podium is much better than crashing out of a podium.

National idol Valentino Rossi, trying to fight through injury on his Yamaha, kept it interesting, but was beaten to the podium by teammate Maverick Viñales and the Ducati GP17s ridden by Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci, looking hungry and lean himself.

A good day to be Italian, i.e., any day ending in the letter Y. If only Vale could have…you know…

It was a good day for Italy (and Ducati), indeed.

Ducati placed five bikes in the top nine today, buttressing the argument that speed is of the essence here, and the Ducati Desmosedici is built for nothing if not speed. Crutchlow had been quoted early in the weekend saying the race was Dovizioso’s for the taking. Personally, it is my favorite circuit on the calendar, none of that stop-and-go drag racing, holds 100,000 unapologetic, raving, nationalistic fans, and their favorite son, Valentino Rossi. It is impolitic to observe that Rossi hasn’t won at Mugello since 2008.

Practice and Qualifying

Friday’s practices in ideal conditions produced some strange-looking timesheets.

FP1 was Ducati Day at Mugello, with red bikes led by Andrea Dovizioso occupying five of the first seven spots, punctuated by the factory Yamahas. FP2 was held Through the Looking Glass, with Aliens (or recovering Aliens) at 11th (Jorge Lorenzo), 12th (the injured Rossi), 13th (Viñales) and 14th (Marc Marquez), Cal Crutchlow sitting astride the lot. On Saturday, FP3 ended with Rossi, looking good, in P1 followed by Marquez and Lorenzo. Fine. But Alvaro Bautista in 4th? And Tito “One Fast Lap” Rabat, a Tranche Five stalwart, sitting 6th? The Usual Suspects, the factory Yamahas, Hondas and Ducatis, made it into Q2 joined by Rabat on the Marc VDS Honda, Aleix Espargaro on the factory Aprilia, and the satellite Ducati delegation of Bautista and test rider Michele Pirro.

Michele Pirro doesn’t often get to race, but he does make the most of his opportunities. Pirro was fast all weekend, qualifying fourth and finishing ninth as a wildcard.

Q1 saw a very casual Johann Zarco, who waited until the session was more than half over, stroll out on the track and easily pass through to Q2 along with a slightly more frenetic Petrucci, who was making hay while the sun shines for once. Q2 was the usual last-minute cluster, ending with the factory Yamahas up front (Viñales on pole) joined on the first row by a dangerous looking Dovizioso, with the second row consisting of Pirro followed by the two Repsol Hondas, Dani Pedrosa in 5th ahead of Marquez. Three Italians in the front four; the locals be habbin’ dat.

Lorenzo could manage only P7, while Zarco, perhaps a little too relaxed, started the race Sunday 11th, not what he had in mind when he left France. Tech 3 Yamaha teammate and fellow rookie sensation Jonas Folger crashed out of Q1 and started the race 15th. Crutchlow, bad karma having tagged him, missed out moving on to Q2 by 8/100ths, started in the 13 hole today, deep in the weeds. He would get collected by Pedrosa late in the day and was seen shoving the diminutive Spaniard while Pedrosa was trying to apologize. As if Cal hadn’t been running 11th at the time, in hot pursuit of five points.

Cal Crutchlow was furious with Dani Pedrosa after they both crashed out on the final lap. Pedrosa took full blame and apologized. Crutchlow, who reported dislocated his shoulder in the crash, accepted the apology after he cooled down.

What About the Race?

Maverick Viñales, Andrea Dovizioso, Valentino Rossi and Danilo Petuccio – a Spaniard and three Italians – established themselves in the lead pack of the Italian Grand Prix.

Exiting Turn 1 of Lap 1, it was Rossi and Viñales, with Lorenzo (!), Dovizioso and Marquez chasing. The high point of Jorge Lorenzo’s day was Lap 2, as he briefly took the lead before being passed, excruciatingly, one at a time, by at least seven other riders, finishing 8th with few visible excuses. The top six coalesced, by Lap 7, as , Dovizioso, Rossi, Petrucci on the Octo Pramac Ducati GP17, a struggling Marquez and a gripless Lorenzo. Marquez spent much of the last half of the race jousting with Bautista and his GP16, and was unable to close the deal, finishing sixth, staying in the 2017 game but not helping himself.

Dovizioso went through on Viñales on Lap 14 for keeps, but was unable to get to far away. Viñales and Petrucci gave valiant chase, but didn’t have it, not even at Slipstream City, the front straight at Mugello that is a racing wonder. (In the Moto3 race you could be leading crossing the line and enter Turn 1 in eighth place.) Rossi, the crowd-generated clouds of yellow smoke serving as incense in the cathedral of Italian racing, was unable to compete at the end, one assumes, due to injury. The Italian press will call him a hero for simply showing up. Just sayin’.

Valentino Rossi missed out on a Mugello podium but the hometown crowd was still happy to see him finish fourth after his injury last week.

Pedrosa on the #2 Repsol Honda lost his grits late on Lap 23, performed an awesome low slider, and took the pins right out from under Crutchlow. In the process, Dani took himself out of second place, replaced there by Dovizioso and his shiny new 25 points. The rest of the top nine, in addition to the Ducs, consisted of three Yamahas – Johann Zarco making something of a late charge after a poor start from 11th – and Marquez’s lonely Honda. The second Honda to cross the line? Tito Rabat on the Marc VDS wreck.

The MotoGP tranches took a beating today. We will look closely at them this coming week, as Catalunya is the second of back-to-back weekends.

Marc Marquez looked less than extraordinary this weekend, finishing sixth behind Alvaro Bautista, of all people.

The Big Picture

Viñales finished second and extended his championship points lead to 26 over Dovizioso. Rossi sits at 75, Marquez and Pedrosa tied for fourth with 68 points, and Zarco sixth with 64. Lorenzo, Petrucci, Jonas Folger and Crutchlow complete the top ten. So, a third of the way through the season, young Maverick leads the entire Sioux nation by more than a full race’s margin.

Andrea Iannone managed a 10th-place finish but was the last of the Italians, finishing just behind Michele Pirro.

Zarco and the remaining Aliens are fighting for second place, hoping #25 would be kind enough to crash out in Catalunya next week. Until he does crash – and, statistically, he will at some point – the world is his oyster. The Repsol Honda team is in relative disarray. The Ducs are only competitive at places like here, Brno, Austria, Phillip Island and Sepang if it don’t rain. Suzuki is not a good fit for Andrea Iannone. The Aprilias and KTMs will probably do better at the tighter, slower tracks yet to come.

Maverick Viñales is calmly, methodically working toward his first MotoGP championship.

Quick Notes

#RideOnKentuckyKid

The continuing tributes to Nicky Hayden in all three classes and the circuit itself fail to make it easier to accept that he is really gone. Another serious blow to American bike racing. So many kids have grown up wanting to be like Nicky Hayden. Not so many, I expect, are coming along wanting to be like Ben Spies.

Regarding Michele Pirro’s wildcard on the Ducati GP17, reporting elsewhere, refers to his becoming the third full factory GP17 on the grid, which, in turn, suggests Petrucci may not be on a full factory 17. Which could help explain his relative lack of success until today, as I accused him of underachieving last week. My acknowledged non-golden touch at work.

Having extended Johann Zarco’s contract last month, Tech3 did the same with Jonas Folger, keeping the two in the fold for the 2018 season.

Tech3’s Herve Poncharal has already re-signed his two rookie wonderkids, Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger, to contracts for 2018. The world expects Zarco to get scooped up by a factory team for the two years following. Jury is still out on Folger, whom Poncharal describes as “careful,” citing the amount of data he produces. That’s what known around here as a backhanded compliment.

Back at y’all on Wednesday.

  • Starmag

    Great race. I hope we’re headed for another season like last year. It seems like the ECU rule finally leveled the playing field a bit.

    Great to see Dovi win. It seems like he’s had a bull’s eye on his back with how many times he’s been taken out by another rider.

    I like Mav but I’m hoping he doesn’t turn this season into a snoozer.

    • spiff

      On point. If Dovi could have chosen a race to win it would be this one.

  • Old MOron

    Wow, three fantastic races today. As exciting as Moto GP was, I’m glad I watched it before Moto 3. Blimey, as the English commentators say. That really was a knife fight in a phone booth.

    I’m happy to see Dovi win. I think of him as sort of an Italian version of Nicky Hayden. Always a nice guy. Always willing to put in the work. Never throws anyone under the bus. Interesting that he has assumed 2nd place in the championship, too.

    Good luck sorting the rider tranches, Brucey. We’ll flame you when you put them up! 🙂

  • john phyyt

    KTM +50 seconds. Still 2 seconds a lap. All on track for their first win then!

    • spiff

      Less then .2 behind the Aprilia which is in their 3rd season.

      Can’t watch stocks everyday either.

      It will be interesting to see KTM’s new chassis. Also, Aprilia had a strong showing, and they a seamless gearbox in the pipe.

      • Vrooom

        Well, to be fair Aleix Espargo had crashed out on his Aprilia, and he’s been much faster than Lowes.

        • spiff

          Aleix would have done well to take some time and relax. He is trying to do too much. As you said though, he had some good results this weekend. Aprilia can solace in the the upgrades they brought.

        • john phyyt

          Mr Allen should apply his tranches to Manufacturers. I would say
          Tranche 1 ( alien status) Yamaha Honda: Tranche 2 Ducati:
          Tranch 3 Suzuki. Then the rest .. Thing is KTM is always saying it is gunning for Alien status then ……….. Nothing.!!. Perhaps they are awaiting a, superbike like, capacity or other cheat.

          • spiff

            I think Ducati may already be implementing the capacity cheat. Those thing sure do like straight aways.

          • MR. Allen? Not enough to tranche, although I would have Yamaha alone at #1 with Duc and Honda 2nd.

  • Old MOron

    Hey Bruce, your boy, Crutchlow, put in a gritty performance when it came to complaining bout front tires this week. I hope you’ll factor that into your tranche calculus.

    • Tune in tomorrow at MO.

      • Old MOron

        Uh-oh, I’ve seen the preview. Gonna be a flame fest tomorrow 🙂

  • JMDGT

    I know nothing.

  • Kos

    Those with long memories will note that Pedrosa did a fine job of reprising his past takeout of a late, great, recently-departed champion, who is now circling the track in a place where the pavement is perfect, and Race Direction is a kind, even-handed entity.

    Since spiff missed it below, I’ll add Go Rossi!

    Question for the experts: Does anybody else think Jorge lost his nerve early in the race when the Duc bucked him around pretty good (I think he was expertly moving back to third place, at the time)?

    • Vrooom

      It looked like he stopped by pit lane after that to leave his balls. He seemed to go from competing to settling. Dovi had a similar rear end shake, but didn’t let it bother him.

      • Old MOron

        To be fair to Jorge, I think he did what he could for the whole race. Look at his lap times: http://resources.motogp.com/files/results/2017/ITA/MotoGP/RAC/Analysis.pdf He was in the mid-to-high 1’48s for the entire race.

        I think everyone started out around that pace, but when the front runners turned it up after about five laps, Jorge could not go with them.

        • Five Ducs in the top nine, and Lorenzo is #4 of 5, ahead of Pirro by half a second. He had it going on early; the rest of the fast movers got faster as their fuel loads dropped. Lorenzo stayed about the same. Not all of Lorenzo’s issues are mechanical.

          • spiff

            I think that Pirro is a team player, and played wingman.

            It would be interesting to see what Innone could do with a GP17, and Lorenzo could do on the Suzuki.

          • Yes. I think Iannone would crash unassisted and Lorenzo would finish a game fifth. Iannone could actually become airborne at Mugello–according to the FAA, “takeoff speed” is 230 mph.

          • elgar

            Indeed. The announcer said it best: ” Dovizioso did what Lorenzo was paid to do”. Ouch… kinda says it all…

          • Patriot159

            Lorenzo’s Yamaha DNA is deeply entrenched in his riding style and the Ducati donor stem cells from Stoner have not had much effect on his genome yet.

          • This is a great comment. Keep ’em coming.

  • Vrooom

    Nice job Dovi, I put him on my fantasy team in lieu of Crutchlow, good decision. Don’t know how much Rossi was playing mind games with his injury, but I’m sure he was sore and that was a nice run. Vinales is looking unstoppable, and Lorenzo might have gone up one too many tranches Bruce.

    • Old MOron

      The late, great motogpnews.com used to have a fantasy game. Where are you playing nowadays?

    • Miller, Redding, Baz, A Espargaro, Iannone, Bautista↑ are my Tranche 3 this coming week. Rule is if you drop Lorenzo down to three you need to promote one of these riders ahead of him. Whom might that be? Not Bautista on the basis of one nice ride.

      • Old MOron

        You could move the Maniac Joe up, since he hasn’t taken anyone out lately. Or Redding. He’s been improving, hasn’t he? Or maybe Miller, because he bounced back from the scariest crash ever.

  • mugwump

    I look forward to watching these races again this winter.

  • Gruf Rude

    Once again, Michelin shows up with less-than-MotoGP-class tires. Good grief, the ‘hard’ tire was softer than the ‘medium’! Everybody on the grid was guessing about tires. Interesting race and hooray for Ducati but it would be nice if tires were not playing such a huge role in this year’s championship.

    • Old MOron

      What, do you expect Michelin to build tires for Honda? AFAIK, their riders are the only ones complaining.

      • Gruf Rude

        Actually, I expect them to build tires that work with the bikes on the grid. I’ve never seen such a scramble to chose a tire by ALL the teams as we saw last weekend. Zarco sat out most of Q1 just so he would have enough tire to do Q2 and the race with the limited allocation of his favored tire. Looking at the Mugello lap record and race record times, all of those marks were set 2 to 4 years ago on Bridgestone tires. The bikes are better and faster; the tires clearly are not.

        • Old MOron

          A scramble to choose tires? Isn’t this a good thing? It means that several choices were viable, and the riders had to experiment and choose the best combination.

          I’m a big Zarco fan, but I acknowledge that he is unique for liking the soft tires so much. Since he is French, I’m sure Michelin would like to see him do well, but I doubt they would change their tire allocation just for him.

          The Mugello record laps were set 2 to 4 years ago? Oh, you mean after Bridgestone and the bike OEM had 5 and 7 years of experience working together? This is hardly unexpected.

  • I received the following comment from Old MOron on my blog, https://motogpindy.wordpress.com and thought it was worth bringing here:

    “What? Honda’s bike is so bad that Marquez should use a frame that’s three years old, yet it’s somehow Michelin’s fault? No, no, no.

    “The Lorenzo/Ducati cabal won the hard vs. soft carcass debate…”

    What? Wrong on both counts: Lorenzo railed against the harder carcass. He pouted, held his breath, wept bitter tears, he tried everything to keep the softer tires. It was not Lorenzo’s cabal that won. Similarly, 20 of the 23 riders voted for the harder carcass, hardly a Ducati cabal, either.

    “Michelin can’t be the tire of choice for two manufacturers and the tire of last resort for the other four.”

    I haven’t heard any of the Aprilia, KTM, or Suzuki riders wail about the tires. I think Honda simply got it wrong. The albatross goes on their neck, not Michelin’s.

    I responded to him

    At the time I was writing this I had this nagging feeling that I had the sides reversed. Unfortunately, as I was under deadline, and therefore TBTDTR (too busy to do the research) I let it slide. None of my MO editors noticed. I do remember the score, just not the teams. You’re right, of course–it’s Honda with the problems. But I do get the sense that Michelin is constantly scrambling to get rubber on the track without being the center of attention. As well as the sense that the other three teams still have bigger fish to fry than to kvetch about tires.

    * * *

    One of the many good things about writing MotoGP for MO is that readers are generally civil even when I’m completely wrong. I thought about writing for Bleacher Report back in the day but never enjoyed the fact-free blistering I took even when I was right. I’m no longer certain there is much point to stressing myself out to meet a self-imposed deadline of two hours after the race when it doesn’t get published until much later in the day. As for the blog, about 30 people a day visit, and two leave comments. Those two hang out here a lot. If I take another hour or so to watch pieces of it again, I might avoid these humbling occasions. Even if Ducs took 5 out of 9 with the hard carcass.

    As I’ve told every teacher I’ve ever had, at one point or another, I’ll try to do better next time. Thank you for the mild roasting.

    • Old MOron

      Bleacher Report? Naw, keep it right here, Brucey!