What a couple of weeks for Valentino Rossi it has been as after losing his friend, crashing during a Motocross training incident and topping the timesheets in Free Practice 3. He finished the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley, at one of his home rounds at the Autodromo del Mugello in Italy, in an extraordinary fourth.
Rossi looking to make up for Le Mans result
After crashing out of the final round two weeks previous in Le Mans, just corners from the end of the race and ending up with no points when he had the potential of receiving a podium, he was determined to make up for things on home turf.
He was quickest during Free Practice 3 which meant that he automatically progressed through to Qualifying 2, saving himself having to endure another intense 15 minute session beforehand. He crashed out at the end of Free Practice 4 however just before; fortunately he did not pick up any further injuries.
Fantastic start in the yellow fog
After qualifying fourth he made a fantastic start powering away from the line and gained the lead heading into the first turn of the race under a cloud of yellow fog. He soon came under pressure from his teammate, Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) and then as they made their way down the start-finish straight to begin the second lap, was mobbed by the Ducati Team riders, and Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) took over in front.
At run seven he made a spectacular move, taking a tight line that allowed him to overtake Lorenzo on the inside of the left hand turn. But, once again on the straight, Lorenzo regained the lead using the acceleration of the Ducati to his advantage. Rossi forced his way past once again causing Lorenzo to sit up which in turn allowed Vinales to pass through also.
Rossi came under pressure from the podium finishers
Then on lap four, it seemed that the chest and abdominal injuries sustained in his training incident got the better of him, and both Vinales and Dovizioso were able to bypass him. On the fifth lap Rossi out-braked Dovizioso on turn one, but Dovizioso retaliated on the following lap then was able to continue in pursuit of Vinales before passing him and winning.
A podium for Rossi in Italy would have been like a win to the 98,000 plus fans, mainly dressed in yellow that surrounded the Italian track. He wasn’t safe however, as Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing), who qualified 13th was on a surge through the pack. Most Ducati riders had chosen the medium compound on the front and rear, and the Yamahas opted for the hard compounds, but Petrucci chose a combination with the hard front and medium rear.
He was unstoppable and when Rossi learnt of his presence, he responded and closed the gap between him and Dovizioso. But he missed out on his podium to an apologetic and emotional Petrucci who passed him on the inside of the left hand turn on the 14th lap, and then went on to attack those in front.
Fourth for Rossi in Mugello
Rossi was safe to finish fourth should he get to the end of the race. He finished just 3.685 seconds off race winner Dovizioso who became the first Italian to win in Italy on Italian machinery since 1974 with his second MotoGP win. He was over two seconds ahead of fifth place, Alvaro Bautista, who was the highest placed independent team rider with Pull & Bear Aspar Team.
Rossi picked up 13 points in Mugello, but combine that with Dovizioso’s win and Vinales’ second, he lost a place in the championship. Vinales is on top of the leaderboard with 105 points and now Dovizioso is now second with 79 points, four ahead of Rossi on 75.
Rossi admitted he was struggling
Rossi “knew” that the race in Mugello would “be more difficult than usual” for him. He explained that while on the bike he “rode well and didn’t have pain”, he found that he was “struggling a bit” and so knew that “23 laps would be long and hard”.
Still he, “tried [his] best” and after a “perfect start” he went on and “led the race for some laps” however found that he “couldn’t really ride the way [he] would have like to”. Instead, in the end he “tried to stay close to the riders in front” after finding that he “did not have the power to attack Danilo”.
Rossi saw his presence in Mugello as a gift
He explained that he “would have like a lot to be on the podium” in Mugello although explained “there was nothing [he] could do”. He admitted that it was “a bit disappointing” that he was “not on the podium at Mugello” but explained that after “seeing where [he] was a few days ago” and with “the big hit [he] took”, overall he felt it had “been a positive weekend all in all”.
He then went on to say that being in Mugello and “riding in front of so many fans was a ‘gift’”. Knowing there was just a few days before Catalunya where they will meet for round seven, he hoped to “try to recover and be in perfect shape in Barcelona.”