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May 28, 2014 - 06:15 AM
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Preview Italian Grand Prix, Mugello
Posted by: newsla on May 28, 2014 - 06:14 AM
MotoGP
Preview Italian Grand Prix, Mugello


Repsol Honda RC213V rider Marc Marquez has his sights set on yet another “youngest-ever” record at next weekend’s Italian GP at the magnificent Mugello circuit. Should the defending World Champion succeed in continuing his scintillating run of form, it will be his sixth win in succession – total domination for the first third of the 2014 World Championship season.

 

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The 21-year-old factory Honda rider from Cervera, Spain has been undefeated at every race so far this year, winning every time from pole position, to secure a significant 42-point lead in the early stages of the 2014 World Championship – a towering start in his quest to win a second successive MotoGP title.

In only his second season in the premier class, the former 125cc and Moto2 World Champion has been ably backed by experienced Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who lies second overall after his own consistent start to the season.

Their combined results have given the Repsol Honda team an enormous 82-point lead in the Team Championship; while six straight wins put Honda well ahead in the Constructor points table. The team and factory have won both categories for the past three years.

This year, the official Honda squad has shown its strength at a variety of venues. Now the test begins again at a circuit with a strong character of its own. Set in scenic countryside overlooked by the Mille Miglia route over the Apennine mountains, Mugello boasts one of the fastest straights, as well as a technically challenging combination of fast ess-bends with the added complication of sharp climbs and steep descents.

For Marquez, Mugello offers mixed memories. In 2010 it was the scene of his first GP win. He won nine more 125 races that season to dominate the series. Switching to Moto2, he won at Mugello again the following year, dropping to fifth in 2012, the year he secured the Moto2 crown.

Last year he walked away from the fastest-ever crash in racing, after losing control of his Repsol Honda RC213V in practice at around 330 km/h. He bounced back for a podium challenge in the race, only to fall again after taking second place. It was his only such non-finish of his triumphant rookie season.

In his second year, adding premier-class experience to his natural speed, he has been even stronger.

Mugello has been a happy hunting ground also for fellow-Spaniard Pedrosa, with a 250 win in 2005, his second year of winning the mid-class title, having already succeeded in the 125 class. In eight attempts in MotoGP, he numbers victory in 2010 among five podium finishes, and has started the last two races from pole position, finishing second on each occasion.

Pedrosa has made a strong start to 2014, with four podiums in five races, including two second places. Arm-pump issues occasioned remedial surgery after the Jerez race, start of the European season. Still recuperating, he managed a top five two weekends ago at the French GP at Le Mans.

The Repsol riders are backed by two satellite riders. The better of these so far is Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda RC213V), lying sixth overall. After crashing out of the lead of the first race, the German has added strong top-ten finishes including a fourth and a fifth. He too underwent surgery to alleviate arm-pump surgery after the Spanish GP.

Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Gresini Honda RC213V) has made a strong come-back after a troubled start to 2014, crashing out of the first three races. He bounced back to sixth in Spain, then stormed to his first rostrum since 2012 at Le Mans, where he finished third. The Spanish former 125cc World Champion has a special role: he and rookie team-mate Scott Redding are race-testing Japanese Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, made by companies associated with Honda.

Redding is one of four riders on Honda’s new production-racer RCV1000R, a close replica of the hugely successful 1000cc V4 RC213V. In his first MotoGP season, the Briton – Mugello winner and runner up in the Moto2 championship last year – has made an impressive start as he adapts to more than double the horsepower of his previous mount. A best of seventh in the opening round at Qatar has been followed by points scored at all but one of the other races.

Leader of the production Honda pack, however, is the vastly experienced American Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R), in spite of a non-finish at Le Mans, where he was innocent victim of a first-corner crash. Hayden won the 2006 World Championship on a Repsol Honda; and his 2014 return to the marque sees him 12th overall.

His team-mate, former Honda 250 champion Hiro Aoyama (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R), is close behind in 13th. Redding is next in 14th, three points adrift.

The fourth RCV1000R is ridden by Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham; the Czech rider also in the points at all but one race, is currently 17th overall. As well as adapting in his first season on a Honda, Abraham is gaining physical strength after a lengthy recuperation from major shoulder surgery.

The middleweight Moto2 class riders all use Honda power, with race-tuned Honda CBR600 engines provided by the organisers to ensure close and reliable racing. Different chassis and suspension solutions are fine-tuned in search of any slender advantage.

With last year’s Moto2 title rivals both gone to MotoGP, last year’s third and fourth-placed finishers are locked in close combat for the honours so far.

Tito Rabat from Spain and Mika Kallio from Finland are on identical Kalex chassis, as team-mates in the Marc VDS Racing Team. Each has two wins this year, with Rabat leading by seven points overall, with two other podium finishes to Kallio’s one. Rabat’s best results were in the first three races, Kallio has won the last two in a row. The in-team struggle resumes at Mugello.

Class rookie Maverick Vinales (Pons HP 40 Kalex) won a tight Moto3 title last year, with close rival Luis Salom now joining him in the all-Spanish team. Both have made a strong early impression. Vinales lies third overall after taking a surprise win at his second attempt, at Austin, Texas; Salom claimed a podium third place at the following round in Argentina, and is placed seventh, just ahead of another strong ex-Moto3 class rookie Jonas Folger (AGR Team Kalex).

The places between third and seventh are held by experienced class veterans. Swiss rider Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert Suter) is fourth, with a best of second; then Italian Simone Corsi (NGM Forward Racing Kalex) and Swiss former 125 champion Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Suter).

In Moto3, Honda’s new NSF250RW competes against rival manufacturers. The four-stroke entry class, with machines powered by strictly controlled 250cc four-stroke engines, is in its third year, and the racing is dependably fiercely competitive and breathtakingly exciting.

Honda’s new NSF250RW has played a leading role in the opening rounds, with at least one and often two Honda riders on all five podiums, and the first win within touching distance after a series of inch-close battles.

Top Honda scorer is Spanish veteran Efren Vazquez (SaxoPrint RTG Honda), lying a close third overall with three podium finishes including second in round four at Jerez. Vazquez was fighting for victory two weeks later at Le Mans in France when a controversial last lap attack by another rider pushed him wide and dropped him to sixth, his worst result so far. The Spaniard reliably coaxes the best top speed out of Honda, and is relishing the prospect of Mugello’s long straight.

Two Spanish Estrella Galicia 0,9 Honda team-mates have also been strong front runners, with Alex Rins one place and one point behind Vazquez after a best-so-far second at Le Mans. Racing out of the same pit is Marc Marquez’s younger brother Alex, fifth overall, with a pair of second places in the opening rounds.

French rider Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda) is in the thick of a big battle for the remaining top-ten positions, currently a close ninth, with a best of sixth in a perfect points-scoring record this year. John McPhee (SaxoPrint RTG) is 12th in a strong second season; and Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Ongetta-AirAsia Honda) lies 19th after adding five points to his total in France.

The Italian GP is the sixth of 18 rounds, and third in the European season. The venue is spectacular, set in a narrowing valley packed with passionate fans, in an iconic venue for Grand Prix racing.

Sweeping across both sides of the valley in a lap of 5.245 km (3.259 miles), there are nine right-hand and six left-hand corners, forming a series of loops and high-speed chicanes. It is most famous for its 1.1-km “straight”, undulating past the pits to finish over a blind brow at more than 350 km/h, followed directly by a hard braking for a 120-km/h corner.

Used fitfully in the 1970s and 1980s, the track outside Florence underwent a major refit for new owner Ferrari, and joined the calendar full time in 1991. In 23 years Honda has taken 12 wins in the Tuscan foothills.


Honda MotoGP Rider Quotes

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda
“Le Mans was a great weekend for us and although it may look easy from the outside, it is a result of a lot hard work with the team over the weekend to set the bike up. Mugello is a tricky circuit – one of the hardest on the calendar – and we struggled a lot last year. I had many crashes over the weekend and then crashed out of the race also. Now I have an extra year’s experience and I hope it will go more smoothly for us! I know that Valentino will be very strong at his home race, Jorge has won there for the past three years and Dani is also very fast there, so we will need to stay focused, and if we cannot challenge for the win then we must take important points for the championship.”

Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda
“Mugello is a very fast track with many long corners so finding the optimum set up and grip is essential. The atmosphere is also very special in Mugello and the weather usually perfect so I look forward to going there and racing in front of a full crowd! In the past few races my overall pace has been good but I’m hoping to improve in qualifying.”

Stefan Bradl, LCR Honda MotoGP
“I am very excited about next weekend in Mugello. This is one of my favourite race tracks: I like the layout and the fast corners and I hope that we can for go for a better result because we struggled too much at Le Mans. In the last two years I finished the race in fourth place and it would be great to gain the podium amongst all the LCR supporters. This race is very important for Lucio and his team and we must regain our standard placement up in the pack.”

Alvaro Bautista, GO&FUN Honda Gresini
“At Le Mans we had a great race, but we want to keep our feet firmly on the ground, so we look at Mugello with the same attitude as always, working step by step. The podium in France, however, allows us to be more relaxed on a track with long, fast corners which might be difficult for us. Our bike has improved in several areas after the Jerez post-race test, especially regarding suspension and brakes: improvements which helped us on a track like Le Mans. If they will work as well also at Mugello, we can say that we start from a really good base. It will be difficult to get on the podium, we have to be realistic, but we will try to stay as close as possible to the factory bikes, as always. This Grand Prix is also really important for all the team, so it would be nice to get a good result in front of so many people who will come to support us, for the sponsors and for all the guys in the squad.”

Nicky Hayden, Drive M7 Aspar Honda
“Mugello is one of my favourite circuits. I love riding there and the races are always different – the atmosphere is incredible. The track itself is awesome, so are the fans, so overall it’s one of the best races of the season. Mugello is a technical track, it’s not easy at all, with a lot of blind corners and some bumps. I always have fun riding it though and I hope that continues this season. We will try to get the best out of our bike and tackle the circuit as best we can. I am looking forward to getting started and seeing how competitive we can be at Mugello. Hopefully we can have a good weekend and put the bad luck from the last race behind us. This is an incredible circuit so hopefully we can do a good job there for the team and the sponsors.”

Hiroshi Aoyama, Drive M7 Aspar Honda
“Mugello is one of the most challenging circuits on the calendar. It has some very technical corners and a long straight. But every time I ride the bike I feel more comfortable and I am highly motivated for this next race in Italy. I guess the long straight will not be good for us but on the other hand we have a great handling bike for the corners. Mugello is difficult but in general I love it. We will keep working in the same direction as the last few races to try and get the bike turning better. We are doing a great job here and the results are coming, but we would like to take that next step and start finishing races in higher positions.”

Scott Redding, GO&FUN Honda Gresini
“I won the race last year at Mugello in Moto2 quite comfortably: I enjoy the track a lot and I’m sure that it’s going to be even more exciting on a MotoGP bike. I’ve tested there with a MotoGP machine in the past, so I already know the reference points a little bit. Mugello is a very physical circuit, with many changes of direction, and also it’s going to be hot there, so I’m going to prepare myself for that, in order to be ready to fight again. Finally, the track needs you to be smooth and flowing, so it could be a little bit more difficult for our bike. But we never know what can happen, so we will see how it goes.”

Karel Abraham, Cardion AB Motoracing Honda
“I was a bit lucky to get the final point in France, and I expected better of myself, because my shoulder is well recovered now. Mugello is a great track and I look forward to riding the Honda there, but I am not sure what to expect. The aim is to keep on getting stronger race by race, and I will be trying as hard as ever to do that.”


Moto2 Rider Quotes

Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Esteve Rabat says:
“We go to Mugello with the same aim as we’ve gone to every race so far this season: to win. I like the track, it’s one of my favourites on the Grand Prix calendar, but it hasn’t always been so kind to me in the past. This year is different though, as I feel better prepared than ever and we head to Italy off the back of two race wins and two podiums, which means the confidence is high. Mika has had two good races and has closed the gap at the top of the standings, but it’s still too early to be thinking about the championship. With 13 races still to go, we need to remain focused on the race by race approach that has worked well for us so far this season.”

Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Mika Kallio says:
“I don’t know what it is about Italian tracks, especially Mugello, but I never seem to get the results I was expecting there. I like the track a lot, with the changes in elevation and the fast corners, but many times in the past we’ve had problems at Mugello. I hope this time will be different, as I feel more confident going into this race off the back of the two wins in Jerez and Le Mans. We just need to continue working as we did during the last few races and, hopefully, I will finally be able to add Mugello to the list of tracks at which I’ve finished on the podium.”

Pons HP 40 Kalex rider Maverick Vinales says:
“I like Mugello and I always had good results there in Moto3. I was third in my first year, 2011, and third again last year – but in 2012 I won the race, so I have good memories. It will be a different challenge on a Moto2 bike, but I feel I am adapting well, and learning how to get the best out of the bike.”


Moto3 Honda Rider Quotes

Saxoprint-RTG Honda rider Efren Vazquez
“I am looking forward to getting back on the track, to work with more determination than ever. After the incident at Le Mans I am hungrier than ever: I had the win in my hands, but it slipped from my fingers. If I have the same opportunity in Italy, I will not miss the chance this time. I want to thank my whole team and also Honda. At Le Mans they gave me a bike that was capable of winning, but it was not so. I promise this will not happen again.”

Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda rider Alex Rins
“Mugello is a tricky circuit and we don’t know yet how the Honda is going to perform there. However, from Friday onwards we shall be working like we did at Jerez and Le Mans to try to get the same results ? or even better. We go there with an improved Honda after the private test at MotorLand, and I hope that we can take another step forward at Mugello.”

Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda rider Alex Marquez
“Mugello has fast corners and ones taken at medium speed, and I think that this could be good for the Honda this year. Last season was my first Italian GP and I placed fifth in the race. I think that Mugello is one of the most difficult circuits on the calendar; last year I found it tough to ride on the Friday, but by Sunday I was up into the leading group and had a good race ? so this year I am feeling good about the weekend. After two races in which we’ve struggled a little, I want to go back to being competitive and out in front again.”

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