The 2011 Italian Grand Prix at the magnificent Mugello Circuit has been honored for a record fifth time as the the winner of the prestigious IRTA ‘Best Grand Prix.’
The key to Mugello’s success is that it strives to be the best. The track has made continuous improvements every year since 1995 when it won the first of three consecutive awards, a feat no other track has accomplished. The fourth award came in the Millennium year of 2000, with this year’s fifth prize early in the new decade. And it certainly won’t be the last. Following the successful running of this year’s race the track signed a contract with Dorna to continue to host a round of the world championship through 2016.
“I consider this award a recognition to Italian excellence in the world,” track CEO Paolo Poli said. “This is proof that Italy is able to answer – with the strength of tradition and the quality of innovation – to the big global challenges defining this difficult historical period. The Italian Grand Prix will remain the most important event of our sporting calendar in years to come. In addition we will continue our positive relationship with Dorna and IRTA, whose professionalism has allowed motorcycle racing to be more successful and popular than ever.”
There is no question that Mugello is one of the highlights on the MotoGP calendar. The riders look forward to the challenging and fast layout, which in 2011 produced the fastest grand prix of the year. The teams look forward to working in the paddock, which has modernized to handle the demands of a world championship. The knowledgeable and partisan fans, nearly 85,000 of whom showed up on a sunny race day in early June, look forward to the great racing a fast track produces, the magnificent sight lines, and the sounds emanating from the natural amphitheater where the track is situated amid the cypress trees of the Sieve Valley. And everyone enjoys spending a long weekend in the Tuscan countryside, where the food and warmth of hospitality is unparalleled.
The 2011 race wasn’t blessed with the typically warm Mugello weather. Instead there was intermittent rain for much of the weekend, before the sun came out on race day to bake the track and crowd. The changeable conditions made it imperative that the track be prepared, which it was; the weekend went off without a hitch.
Much of that was because of a recent repaving. The track undertook a massive works project following the 2010 race to lay down a smooth layer of tarmac. The praise for the new surface was nearly unanimous and helped contribute to the race winner’s average speed increasing by almost 2.6 kph, from 2010 (170.437 kph) to 2011 (173.016 kph).
“I liked the new asphalt a lot,” crowd favorite Valentino Rossi said after a test on the new surface in May. “The surface is smooth, those holes that I knew so well are now gone, and the grip is fantastic. I must say they’ve done a great job, because if it’s possible, riding here at Mugello is now even better than before.” Added teammate Nicky Hayden, “The new asphalt is definitely a big improvement, especially in some spots, like the two Arrabbiata corners, which are really fun now.”
The first 500cc World Championship race held at Mugello in 1976 was won by double world champion Barry Sheene. Back then the race was run as the Grand Prix of Nations, which it ran as again in 1978 and 1985. It was also run as the San Marino Grand Prix in 1982, ’84, ’91, and ’93. The first Italian Grand Prix was held at Mugello in 1992 and it has been the permanent home of the Italian round of the World Championship continuously since 1994.
That the track brings out the best in riders is unquestioned. Sheene went on to win the 500cc World Championship, as did 1978 Mugello winner Kenny Roberts and 1985 winner Freddie Spencer. Wayne Rainey won the 1991 500cc crown after winning Mugello and Mick Doohan won the race in each of his five 500cc World Championship years, 1994 through 1998. Alex Criville continued the tradition by winning the race en route to the 1999 title. Local hero Valentino Rossi, the most prolific winner in the history of the race, continued the tradition in 2002, ’03, 04, ’05, ’07, and ’08. He also won in 2006, giving him an unparalleled seven wins in a row in the premier class, to go along with wins in the 125cc (1997) and 250cc (1999) races. Other world champions who’ve won in the senior class at Mugello include Loris Capirossi (2000), Casey Stoner (2009), Dani Pedrosa (2010), and the 2011 winner Jorge Lorenzo.
IRTA President Herve Poncharal noted “the best grand prix is voted by the teams, and the teams are talking to the riders, the mechanics, the press officers. So it’s not only the track, it’s everything, how everybody feels about the grand prix and everybody feels at home there. So I’m personally very happy that they’ve won it for the fifth time. I’m delighted to think we’re going to go back there quite soon and this is well-deserved.
“We all know Italy, like Spain, is a place where motorsports and especially MotoGP is very, very popular. Clearly, Mugello is one of the rare venues where everybody feels at home. This track is very special. I think the organizer is always trying year after year to improve, although this is quite difficult. And they are showing incredible good will, an open mind. Safety is a key point and it’s very good. The track itself, the layout, all the riders love it. It produces, most of the time, really close and exciting racing. Of course, the atmosphere with all the fans around there, it’s like a circus. You really can feel the pressure and the madness and the interest of the spectators there. At night it’s an incredible show. And, basically, this is a beautiful part of the world. We love to be there. And I tell you, even when they were not winning they were always very, very close to the winner. Every time they are setting the benchmark in every department, they are setting new levels.
“The fact that they repaved it and made it a success made it even better. I don’t like to give lessons to anybody, but the way they handle the Italian Grand Prix is the way a lot of people should look to as an example. They are always asking, ‘What can we do? Are you happy? What can we do to make it better in the future?’ They are not resting on their laurels. And, basically, this is a place everybody loves to go. As a team, you can be sure this is one of the grand prixs where you have one of the highest requests for passes. All your sponsors, all your VIPs, they want to be at Mugello. This is the one place to be on the calendar. I’m very happy, because I love Italy and I really love Tuscany and Mugello, and they deserve it.”
IRTA Trophy Roll of Honor.
1984: Silverstone / GB
1985: Hockenheim / Germany
1986: Nurburgring / Germany
1987: Assen / Netherlands
1988: Suzuka / Japan
1989: Donington Park / GB
1990: Jerez / Spain
1991: Donington Park / GB
1992: Catalunya / Spain
1993: Eastern Creek / Australia
1994: Eastern Creek / Australia
1995: Mugello / Italy
1996: Mugello / Italy
1997: Mugello / Italy
1998: Phillip Island / Australia
1999: Brno / Czech Republic
2000: Mugello / Italy
2001: Catalunya / Spain
2002: Valencia / Spain
2003: Valencia / Spain
2004: Brno / Czech Republic
2005: Valencia / Spain
2006: Catalunya / Spain
2007: Brno / Czech Republic
2008: Losail / Qatar
2009: Jerez / Spain
2010: Motorland Aragon / Spain
2011: Mugello / Italy
Mugello / Italy – 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2011
Catalunya / Spain – 1992, 2001, 2006
Valencia / Spain – 2002, 2003, 2005
Brno / Czech Republic – 1999, 2004, 2007
Jerez / Spain – 1990, 2009
Donington Park / GB – 1989, 1991
Eastern Creek / Australia – 1993, 1994