Mugello Moto GP 2017
It just so happens that I am in Italy, Tuscany, at the time of the 2017 Italian Moto GP at Mugello. With the greatest of all time being one of this years title protagonists, how could I live with myself if I did not go. All grandstand tickets were sold out but I managed to buy a "prato" ticket, at a reduced price because I bought it so late. Prato means field which is the general access, should be ok. I have been fortunate enough to have been to four Moto Gp races in my life, 75% have been at Mugello so I know where to go for the best view/atmosphere/bar combo. Its basically anywhere with a view of the screen and a track, which is practically everywhere.
I decided to drive there which seemed like a good idea but by the time I was 10km away the traffic was at a crawl. People were abandoning cars and taking to their feet. Using Google maps I navigated my way into Scarperia San Piero, found a small prato where people had dumped their cars. I took advantage of the Land Rovers abilities and plonked it right in the middle, set a pin on Google maps and took to my feet. I was not far and the Moto 3 race had already started as the chopper was up and you could hear the honda & KTM engine drone bouncing through the valley.
I had intended to watch the days action on the big bank at Cassanova however given the traffic and subsequent dumping of the car I found myself at the Arrabiata entrance opposite.
Now there are few events on earth that compare to a partisan motorcycle race, fortunately I have been to a few but this year at Mugello the crowd were hungrier than ever before ! The place was packed, there was no way to get to the bank and besides there was no space at all . Walking along the path it was busier than London rush hour on the tubes (10,000 times better of course!). Plenty of engines in shopping trolleys being revved to an inch of their life, klaxons going off, instruments banging, 35 degree sun, a helicopter flying low, dust everywhere, people passed out flopped over beer kegs, flags and banners flying the sea of yellow and of course the buzz of the bikes racing. Yes please.
Moto 3 started a theme for the day with Italian Andrea Mignio taking a thrilling win. Often watching at home on tele is a better race experience but not here, with an Italian in contention you cannot beat the atmosphere. There was much emotion as the laps counted down and when Andrea took the win the crowd went wild. Post Moto 3 I decided to buy a selection of merchandise then I could settle down for the rest of the action. All the merchandise tents were pretty empty, because everyone was at the one stand, the same one I needed to go to. VR46 of course. 30 minutes and 80 EUR later I found a spot on the prato ready for Moto 2.
Moto 2 didn't disappoint either. They say your home race gives you an extra tenth but the Italian riders appeared to have had tre Weetabix for breakfast today. Being a race commentator at Mugello is a hard ask, they work non stop and often just end up croaking out one or two words after thirty minutes of galloping garble. This time we were treated to a "gara merivgiloso" thanks to the "magico Mattia". Matia Pasini rode what can only be described as balls out. He felt the crowds spirit drop as he fell away from the lead mid race then he fought his way up to the front with some "magical" overtakes through Cassanova and Arrabiata 2, Magico indeed. Once more the fans went wild when Mattia crossed the line in primo posto. You cannot replicate this atmosphere.
A tactical placement saw me at the arrabbiata turns for the big one. The tension mounting as fans tussle for a view. The Moto GP bikes head out to the grid and there is rapturous cheers across the valley when the number 46 circles round to take his place. Just a few days ago the great one, Valentino, suffered internal injuries sustained in motocross accident yet today he is up on the front row after qualifying second, his young team mate and Movistar Yamaha rookie taking pole position. The 2017 title fight was shaping up to be between both Yamahas and Marquez with an outside chance of Jorge Lorenzo but with Jorge yet to gel with the new Ducati we are likely to see the European riders on Japanese machines fighting it out for the title. Back to the race. Lights out and away we go, Valentino get the hole shot and the crowd go ballistic. We can hardly see the start with all the flares going off. Facing the Casanova bends we see the train of factory machinery flop right then left to head into the Arabbiata turns, a moments "silence" (read "less noise") and then boom, 24 of the worlds fastest most powerful bikes roar past. Hard to see who's where due to the speed and smoke but a look at the screen opposite confirmed that Valentino held the lead through the first lap yet onto the long straight the Ducati unleashed its power and through come Jorge Lorenzo, only for a few laps as back through came the pair of Yamahas, cue crowd madness. The next lap Andrea Dovisioso joins the passing party and it looks like we are in for another race long battle but where are the Hondas ? Its a bad year for them so far ! The pace continues and the crowd frenzies for another Italian victory this time from the great one himself. The leading trio of Rossi, Vinales and Dovisioso break away from the pack and start planning on how to take the victory. Jumping the gap from the pack Danilo Pettruci joins the party with Vinales and Dovisioso now looking to break Valentino, this just got even more interesting.
Its now a four horse race for the podium with Marquez leading the chase in 5th with Alvaro Bautista hot on his heels.
The race at the front intensifies as it is clear that Vinales and Dovisioso are planning the win, Valentino is still there and ready to clean up if any disaster for the front two yet with his injuries its unlikely he will challenge for the win. Then comes Danilo, looking strong, he could take third from Valentino. 10 laps left all to play for and with that Andrea Dovisioso takes the lead down the straight. The pin has been pulled on the Desmo grenade and he is off. A few tuns later Pettruci takes Valentino for third, the cards are down on the table now. Vinales has nothing in response to Dovisioso and it looks like the battle is for the rest of the podium. Dovisioso hasn't fully cleared off however as Pettruci takes second and Valentino starts to fall away, tyres coming into it now at this stage (unless you are Jorge Lorenzo). Could this be an Italian one two. Maybe a one two three !?! How mad will the place be if that happens ?! I may not get home. I send a message home warning them of the potential chaos if its an italian 1 2 3. With the crowd urging their heros on, the intense race long battle looks to have settled with each rider squeezing every second, every ounce of grip (is this how you measure grip?) out of their machines . Four laps left and Vinales retakes Petrucci for second place. Danilo has no response it appears the Pramac Ducati has given all it can. This fight has helped Andrea Dovisioso of course and he is now clear at the front, He crosses the line to take the victory as the first ever Italian rider on a Ducati to win the Italian Grand Prix. Vinales second and Pettruci third. Cue the madness. The place erupts. OK Valentino didn't win but boy did he put on a show. One of the best Moto GP races i have seen (and I have seen them all). I surf the tide of madness out of the gate, klaxons and engines blasting in my ear, the commentators horse with over excitement. Once more Mugello does not disappoint. See you again soon.