The following is from Honda…The MotoGP paddock looks forward to arguably its greatest event of the year in Italy this weekend.Magnificent Mugello has it all – an undulating ribbon of a racetrack that wends its way up and down a picturesque Tuscan valley, presenting a unique challenge to both riders and engineers who must use all their talent and know-how to unlock the track’s secrets. With good reason Mugello attracts one of the best crowds of the year, the venue a natural amphitheatre filled by a noisy army of fans who bring something of a football-style atmosphere with them.This year’s event also has a special historic significance because it marks Honda’s 50th anniversary in World Championship competition.Exactly half a century ago Honda’s pioneer Grand Prix riders Naomi Taniguchi, Junzo Suzuki, Giichi Suzuki, Teisuke Tanaka and Bill Hunt were on the Isle of Man, readying themselves for Honda’s first Grand Prix event, the 1959 Ultra-Lightweight TT, the opening round of that year’s 125 World Championship. Although Honda were absolute newcomers and not expected to feature strongly in the race (staged on June 3), Taniguchi won the final World Championship point and the Honda squad won the coveted team’s prize, proving that Honda machinery was already fast and reliable.The 2009 Italian GP is the fifth race of a season that’s already shaping to be a classic with four riders currently separated by just nine points at the top of the MotoGP points table. Going into Mugello, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) is fourth on points, having made an astonishing start to 2009, bravely shrugging off the effects of preseason injury to score podium finishes in three of the first four races. A second-place finish at Jerez and third-place results at Motegi and Le Mans have thrust the Spaniard into the championship battle. Pedrosa can’t wait to get to Mugello where he has winning form; he won the 2005 250 GP at the track and has finished on the podium during his last two visits on MotoGP machinery.This is a big weekend for Italian star Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) who is looking forward to his first home GP as a factory Honda rider.After finishing a strong fourth at Le Mans two weeks ago, Dovizioso couldn’t think of a better place than Mugello to score his first podium of 2009. The former 125 World Champion has only once made the top three at his home race, finishing third in the 2006 250 GP, riding his Scot Honda RS250RW.Frenchman Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) had a difficult home race at Le Mans and is determined to the brilliant form he showed at Jerez, where he finished a strong fourth. Like most riders, Mugello is one of de Puniet’s favourite racetracks.September’s San Marino GP may be the official home GP of San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alex De Angelis, but this weekend’s event is nonetheless a home race for the up-and-coming star who enjoyed a brilliant MotoGP race at Mugello last summer, charging through the pack to claim a superb fourth-place finish aboard his RC212V. San Carlo Honda Gresini team-mate Toni Elias is another fan of Mugello and will be hoping that his right arm will be nearing full strength following intense physiotherapy treatment. Elias underwent an operation following the Spanish GP to fix arm-pump problems in his right arm.Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda) continues to improve during his rookie MotoGP season and is keen to tackle his team’s home race with the new base set-up which his crew developed at the recent French GP.In the Italian 250 GP Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) will be hoping the sweet handling of his RS250RW will put him in with a chance of another podium finish. The Spanish GP winner has never made the top three at Mugello, but this year he needs all the points he can get to keep him in the title fight. Aoyama currently lies second overall in the 250 chase, just one point behind Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia).Aoyama’s Scot Honda team-mate Raffaele De Rosa is flying high in his rookie 250 season, currently fifth on points, so the Italian will be aiming for a best-ever performance in front of his home crowd at Mugello, where last year he scored pole position for the 125 race.Team-mates Hector Faubel (Valencia CF – Honda SAG) and Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) are both building moment following brilliant results at Le Mans where Faubel took his first 250 podium finish and Wilairot his first top-five GP finish.Mugello will be another step on the World Championship ladder for teenage GP rookie Shoya Tomizawa (Team CIP Honda), who has so far impressed the paddock with his fighting spirit, scoring points at three of 2009’s first four GPs.Mugello has a reputation as a tough venue to master, both for riders and their engineers. Its first few hundred metres alone contain more excitement than many lesser racetracks: an ultra-fast main straight, scene of many a hair-raising slipstreaming battle, and an awesome 300kp/h first turn. This left kink isn’t even officially numbered as one of Mugello’s 15 corners because a decade and a half ago, when machines were significantly slower, it wasn’t even considered a corner. Nowadays, aboard a 330km/h MotoGP bike it most certainly is a corner! The remainder of the track features some epic turns that sweep and undulate across the valley, putting the emphasis on fine handling, artful riding and maintaining momentum. Mugello’s many negative-camber corner entries demand perfect machine set-up and front-tyre grip.Finally, the track’s bumpy surface presents another conundrum.Mugello has hosted Italy’s round of the motorcycling World Championships on and off since 1976, becoming a regular feature on the calendar in 1992. It also hosted four San Marino GPs from 1982 to 1993. The track has staged a total of 23 elite-class GPs, 14 of them won by riders using Honda machinery. American legend Freddie Spencer won Honda’s first success at the track with his NS500 in 1982, Mick Doohan won five Italian GPs on his NSR500 from 1993 to 1998 and Valentino Rossi won his first two Mugello MotoGP victories with his RC211V.HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTESDani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) says: “The race at Mugello is always a special one because the circuit is really challenging and the fans are so passionate about racing. I’m going there in a good frame of mind. We’re heading into the busy part of the season and our position in the championship standings, considering the problems I had over the winter, really isn’t too bad. Plus I was pleased with my pace in France, which proved to me that my physical condition is improving and I can go fast right to the end of the race. That’s an important point for Mugello because it’s a physically demanding track to ride, especially in the fast direction changes, and you want to be at full strength to be able to ride aggressively there – which you have to do in some parts of the track. I think it will be a tough race because it’s the home event for my team-mate and for many of our rivals – plus some teams have tested here quite a lot. But I’m looking forward to the challenge. We must continue to work on our machine package and get the maximum possible result.”Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) says: “I really look forward to the GP of Italy. Mugello is a unique place in terms of atmosphere and, although it’s part of the World Championship, for me it’s an event that stands alone. It’s like a kind of ritual with so many memories from previous years: Tuscany, the colours and smell, the people, the food and the passion of the fans. Mugello itself is a track that requires a lot of respect. It’s important to get into the right rhythm from the very beginning of the lap, but that’s not easy.
You need to find the correct flow from chicane to chicane and then you’re faced with the most demanding part of the circuit: the three turns Casanova Savelli, Arrabbiata One and Two.Although I’m Italian I don’t actually ride much at this track because we don’t test here, so we come back after a full year away. We know the key places where we have to get the set-up right but it always takes a while to master the track again. There are a lot of fast changes of direction and that means riding here requires a lot of physical energy. It’s bumpy too which complicates things further. As an Italian rider, the support of the fans gives me an extra drive, and the hour before the race is really special.
It’s important to use that boost to lift your performance and that’s what I’ll be aiming to do on Sunday.”Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) says: “The Mugello racetrack is one of my favourites and I usually have fun riding there. There’s the longest straight of the season and you need to have a really good bike set-up to exit the last corner because otherwise during the race you can easily get passed by other riders. For us it will be really important to have a good engine management set-up and a good chassis set-up. There are many high-speed corners at Mugello that I like very much. Our engine is better than last year and I feel confident ahead of the Italian GP. After our bad weekend at Le Mans I must focus and go ahead trying to finish in the top ten.”Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) says: “I’ll be in much better physical shape at Mugello. Since Le Mans I’ve been undergoing physiotherapy twice a day so the arm feels much better. Hopefully my strength is back too because I need to be riding this bike on the limit in order for us to make the necessary progress with the set-up. We have made gradual progress since the start of the season and have taken positive lessons out of every race, so I really hope this weekend we can make that definitive step in quality that will propel us into the battle at the front. This is the team’s home race so it is important we put on a good show in front of the Italian fans and it would be fitting if this was the turning point for our season.”Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) says: “Things haven’t gone our way recently but the Grand Prix of Italy is a special occasion for us and I am determined to turn things around. The new setting we gambled with in the second half of the race at Le Mans worked well, so hopefully we can take some positives to Mugello and start out with a good base setting on Friday afternoon, which is what we really need. I was on the podium at this circuit for three seasons in a row in the 250cc class before moving up to MotoGP and I had the best race of my rookie season last year, when I finished fourth. It would be great to put on a show like that again because even though my real ‘home race’ is in San Marino I have a lot of fans at Mugello too and I want to do well for them.
I’m sure their presence will give me a little extra motivation to produce my absolute maximum.”Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda) says: “I loved this circuit when I was a 250 rider. It has everything you want to enjoy when riding: uphill and downhill sections, fast corners and a flowing layout. Last season I crashed with four laps to go when I was in fourth position. I have never ridden Mugello on a MotoGP bike; nevertheless, I think it should suit our Honda better than Le Mans. I would really like to get a good result, next Sunday, as Mugello is our team’s home race.”The following is from Yamaha…The Fiat Yamaha Team head to the spectacular Italian circuit of Mugello this weekend flying high at the top of the championship after a formidable start to the season. Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi lie first and second in the riders’ standings while the team, which is based at Gerno di Lesmo, just outside Milan, is leading the team table and Yamaha the Manufacturers’.22-year-old Lorenzo comes to Italy this weekend in stunning form, lying first in the championship after two wins from four races, with the second having come at the last round in Le Mans. The Spaniard has a good record at Mugello and took victory there from pole in 2006 on the way to his first world championship, but he has a score to settle with the track this time around after sliding out on lap seven on his MotoGP debut there last year. This time he is fully fit and determined to continue the momentum of his season with another trip to the podium.Rossi shares an unmatched relationship with this Tuscan track, having won there an incredible nine times in thirteen years. The last seven victories have been consecutive, including the last five with Yamaha and this weekend he will be more determined than ever to add another victory to his stunning record. Last time out saw a rare error from Rossi when he fell at Le Mans and he eventually finished last in a race for the first time in his career, meaning he took zero points and surrendered his championship lead to his team-mate, albeit by just one point. This weekend he will put all that behind him in pursuit of more home glory and a second win of the season, when tens of thousands of his passionate Italian fans fill the Mugello amphitheatre and turn the hillsides yellow.Mugello is one of the fastest and most spectacular circuits in the world, with the 1,141m main straight seeing the 800cc machines reach speeds of over 320km/h before braking into the fearsome downhill right-hander. The track differs from other fast circuits in its frequent changes of gradient and the speed of its chicanes. There is a mix of slower and high-speed corners, although even the slowest corners are still wide – allowing plenty of scope for overtaking as the riders get a choice of line, putting the emphasis as much on their skill as on the precision of their chassis set-up and generally leading to some spectacular racing in an unrivalled atmosphere.Jorge Lorenzo – “A beautiful circuit”
“Mugello is, along with Phillip Island, the most beautiful circuit that we race at; I love it! Plus I am feeling very confident after our good race in Le Mans. We have had some very strange races with the weather conditions and I would never have expected to recover 24 points in one go. Now we arrive in Italy (where the weather I hope will be better) as leaders, but the most important thing is that I am confident and feeling fit. Last year was not easy for me; I already had problems with my ankles and then I crashed when trying to pass Andrea Dovizioso. Mugello and Montmelo are horrible for me and finished that period of the season having taken no points. This year, just to take some points at this track and at Catalunya will be an improvement and that’s my aim! On Wednesday I will be in Rome, watching Champions League Final with my team, Barcelona, against Manchester United. I hope the weekend begins perfectly for me with that title!”Valentino Rossi – “Something incredible”
“Racing at Mugello is something incredible for me, but every year it gets more difficult to keep my record going and seven wins in a row is already a lot! I do feel pressure going there, but at the same time it is always amazing and the fans give me an extra motivation that helps me to perform in a different way there. I hope it’s the same again this year, because after Le Mans I really need a good result! It was disappointing but everyone has the occasional bad day and that was ours. Everything possible went wrong but hopefully that is all our bad luck for now and this time, at our home race, we will be back to our best. I always look forward to this race; it’s very busy for me but I have so many amazing memories. Let’s hope to create some more this weekend.”Daniele Romagnoli – “Motivation is high”
“Heading to race in Mugello after the great victory in Le Mans gives high motivation to Jorge and the entire team. This year the top riders are very close and to stay at the top of the championship we are going to have to make sure we’re always on the podium, so we have to keep a high level of concentration and our feet on the ground. Last year Jorge crashed in the race when he lost the front but we feel confident of a good result this time around because our technical package has been improved and Jorge is much stronger and of course fully fit. It’s the home race for a lot of the guys in our team so we’re looking forward to a great weekend.”Davide Brivio – “Excited by the challenge”
“Mugello is of course a great and important race for us, but each year it gets a bit harder to keep the winning record. Now we try for Valentino’s eighth in a row but it will be tough because everyone will be out to stop him – he is the man to beat there! It will be difficult but we’re excited by the challenge. After Le Mans we need to get back to the form we showed in Spain; we’re close to the lead but we need to keep the momentum going and try to get as many points as possible. Let’s hope for another Mugello party!”The following is from Suzuki…The Rizla Suzuki MotoGP team is on the way to the Tuscan region of Italy for the fifth round of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship, to be held at the picturesque Mugello circuit.Loris Capirossi will certainly be aiming to impress as he returns home for the Italian GP. The highly experienced racer qualified his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R on the front row at Mugello last year, but was unable to make that advantage tell in the race, something that he is planning to put right this year as he goes in search of the team’s first podium of the seasonChris Vermeulen had an impressive ride at Mugello last year despite only finishing 10th. He was boxed out on the first corner and found himself down in 17th at the end of the first lap, but he fought his way through the field to finish in a very respectable position.
The beautiful 5,245m Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello is located near the town of Scarperia in the Tuscan region of Italy, approximately 25kms north-east of Florence. It is one of the fastest circuits on the calendar and also has the longest straight of the year where riders will hit speeds in excess of 300km/h.Rizla Suzuki MotoGP takes to the track on Friday afternoon for the first free practice session followed by another hour of free practice on Saturday morning. The afternoon will then see the riders battle it out during an hour of qualifying for the best grid positions for Sunday’s race. The 23-lap race gets underway on Sunday 31st May at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).Loris Capirossi:
“Mugello is always a special place for me and I was not happy with last year’s result so I am planning to put things right this time around. I managed a seventh after starting on the front row and I struggled a bit in the race. This year’s GSV-R is certainly better than the 2008 bike and I really believe if we can get the set-up right and have a couple of good day’s testing we can be pushing at the front. We need to work out why we don’t seem able to get the most from the tyres at the moment; our competitors certainly seem to be getting a lot more out of their rubber, so it is something we really have to focus on and keep pushing to the maximum.”Chris Vermeulen:
“The result at Le Mans last time out was a bit better, but it is still not what we are looking for. We need to keep working hard and try to get the full potential from the GSV-R. I really enjoy racing in Mugello – it is such a unique atmosphere and the track is amazing It’s always a tough race in Mugello but we will be doing all we can to keep improving and we’ll certainly be aiming for our best result of the season so far!”The following is from Ducati…The old fashioned layout of Mugello makes it one of the favourites for the MotoGP riders. Technical but fast, with a main straight measuring over a kilometre in length and without the stop-and-go sections that break up the rhythm and flow of modern circuits, the Tuscan venue has yet to be mastered by a Ducati Marlboro Team rider despite four podiums and two fourth places out of six visits there in the premier class.With the Desmosedici 800cc machine having crossed the line in third place in 2007 with Alex Barros and second last year with Casey Stoner, there is no reason why the upward trend cannot continue this weekend. The World Championship standings are as close as they could possibly be after four rounds, with the same four protagonists as last year – Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, Stoner and Dani Pedrosa – covered by just nine points. Ducati Marlboro Team rider Stoner also has nine points more than he did at the same stage last season.Both Stoner and his team-mate Nicky Hayden will have plenty of support as they fly the factory colours this weekend, cheered on by 3,000 Ducatisti who will once again pack out the Correntaio corner in Ducati red.LIVIO SUPPO, MotoGP Project Director
“Mugello is a special race for us. The atmosphere is unique and we have lots of great memories. It will be tough, like always, but I think we can do well – as the impressive lap times recorded by Troy and Vitto in the recent test demonstrated. Let’s hope the weather doesn’t play games with us like it has on so many occasions already this year so that we can really prepare well for our home race!”CASEY STONER, Ducati Marlboro Team (3rd in the championship on 65 points)
“I can’t wait to race again Mugello – a circuit where I’ve had good results and some unforgettable moments, such as my first ever pole position in 2003 (125cc) and my first pole for Ducati in 2007, even though we just missed out on the podium in that race. Last year I finished second and considering the progress we’ve made since then, I’m sure we can be fighting for it again this time. It will be a tough race because the level of the competition is so high, as you can see from the championship standings, and all the home riders will be more determined than ever to do well, but I also like Mugello a lot – it is one of my favourite circuits. The fans are really passionate and even though they may get behind one rider more than others you can see that in general they have a passion for the sport above anything. Hopefully we can pick up a good result because this is Ducati’s home circuit and that always makes it extra special.”NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati Marlboro Team (15th in the championship on 9 points)
“It is going to be really nice for me to race at Mugello as a Ducati rider because I can remember from past seasons seeing all the fans dressed in red and cheering on their riders from the grandstand. It is an honour and a privilege for me to now be a part of this team and this tradition. I hope with all my heart that I can be competitive because those fans don’t deserve to see a Ducati at the back. The track is awesome – there are maybe a few too many bumps but the layout is incredible and in general it is one of the best GPs of the whole championship. I’d really like to have some better results on the board and be going into the factory’s home race with some more experience under our belts but we are making progress and now I hope we can make a good step on Friday so that we can build on it over the rest of the weekend.”