MotoGP is ready to enjoy one of its most celebrated events this weekend, the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.
Mugello is situated in the heart of a country that’s renowned for its love of motorcycles and is famed for its enthusiastic fans, who will throng the hillsides around the circuit for the first time since 2019.
Team-mates Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) hope to be fighting at the front of the pack on Sunday, entertaining the thousands of fans trackside and the millions watching on TV around the world.
Mugello is the eighth race of this year’s longest-ever 21-round MotoGP World Championship and marks the start of one of the most intense parts of the season, with four races over five weekends. The Italian Grand Prix is followed by the Catalan GP on June 5 and the German and Dutch rounds on June 19 and 26.
Marquez was in the battle for a podium finish at the Spanish GP earlier this month and took at sixth-place finish at the French GP a fortnight ago.
At the moment the six-times MotoGP World Champion is dedicating himself to continuing development of the 2022 RC213V, Honda’s first all-new MotoGP bike in a decade. He understands that this process takes time, as new parts arrive from Japan, designed to unlock the full potential of the machine.
Mugello may well suit the latest RC213V better than the last few tracks. Marquez says the bike currently works better at faster, flowing circuits, and few MotoGP venues are faster and more flowing than Mugello, nestled in a picturesque Tuscan valley a short ride from the beautiful Renaissance city of Florence.
The 29-year-old Spaniard has a heroic record at Mugello, with victories across all three classes. He won the 2010 125cc Italian GP, the 2011 Moto2 race and the 2014 MotoGP race.
Mugello’s fast, flowing character has created some of MotoGP’s most thrillingly close races of the last few decades, highlighted by Marquez’s two runner-up finishes at the track – in 2016 he took the chequered flag 0.019 seconds behind the winner and in 2019 he was 0.043 behind the winner! Last year he slid off during the race, which was his fourth outing since his comeback from a nine-month layoff through injury.
Espargaro scored the new RC213V’s first podium at the season-opening Qatar GP and hopes to be back in the hunt this weekend, after a challenging French GP, which he finished in 11th place.
The 30-year-old Spaniard is confident his results will improve as the RC213V gets up to full speed. He has podium form at Mugello, albeit a while ago. In 2012 he finished second in the 2012 Moto2 race, just 0.090 seconds behind the winner, and in 2008 and 2010 he finished third in the 125cc race. In 2010 he shared the podium with his current team-mate! His best MotoGP results at the track are a fifth place in 2014and a sixth in 2015.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) chased home Marquez at Le Mans, crossing the finish line less than two seconds behind his fellow RC213V rider. This was his second seventh place in a row and the 30-year-old from Chiba plans to use these results as a platform to take the next step forward.
Like the vast majority of riders Nakagami adores Mugello, because it’s a layout that really rewards talent and commitment. He scored his best result so far at the track in 2019, when he led home the second group in fifth place, only six seconds behind the winner.
Team-mate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) has scored points in the last three races, with a best result so far this year of seventh at last month’s Portuguese GP. He too cannot wait to enjoy Mugello’s challenging curves. The 26-year-old former Moto2 and Moto3 World Champion climbed to the top step of the Mugello podium in 2019, when he won the Moto2 race.
Mugello is a hugely challenging circuit for riders and engineers, with plenty of fast corners, high-speed direction changes and changes of elevation. The track also features one of MotoGP’s longest straights. In fact the straight isn’t quite straight – the left-hand kink towards the end of the start/finish has riders leaning left with the front wheel in the air at over 320kmh/200mph!
Honda has achieved some remarkable premier-class successes at the track, which hosted its first Grand Prix in 1976.
Honda won its first Mugello victory in September 1984, when Randy Mamola topped an all-Honda podium. In 1985 Freddie Spencer won his first 250cc/500cc double at Mugello, on his way to a unique double championship success in the intermediate and premier categories.
Since then Mick Doohan, Alex Barros, Loris Capirossi, Alex Criville, Valentino Rossi, Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez have also won MotoGP premier-class races with Honda at the track.