For both of the Movistar Yamaha riders – Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo – Mugello is a special place. Obviously so for Rossi, who has almost god-like status at the Italian Grand Prix. The Italian has also had a lot of success in front of the adoring home crowd – most notably his seven-straight win record from 2002 to 2008.
Last year wasn’t one of those glory moments, however, after he ended up in the gravel trap just three corners into the race due to an error made by the man sitting to his right in today’s pre-race press conference - Alvaro Bautista.
This year Rossi comes to Mugello much more confident than last year and is happy with the start of his season. But, after Le Mans, he’s maybe not so sure he can stop Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, who remains undefeated.
“I was more optimistic after the race in Le Mans before see the race on television,” Rossi said. “Because I think that Marc [Marquez] was behind but like in fifth or sixth place but, looking at the race [on TV], he was in 11th place and he did two mistake when he go wide. But anyway he had enough pace and enough speed to come back and overtake me before half of the race. So it means that he was very, very fast. Unfortunately, I did small mistake in the crucial moment but also without the mistake I think is difficult win.
“But this is not very important. The important for me is to continue like this, to work on the bike with my team, and improve my speed, my pace. For me what is important is to make another good weekend like Jerez and Le Mans.”
Rossi’s teammate Lorenzo, on the other hand, comes to Mugello with far less confidence than he did a season ago. But while the Italian Grand Prix doesn’t have the same sentimental appeal to Lorenzo as his Italian counterpart, his win record at Mugello does. And a fourth straight victory at the circuit at the Tuscan circuit would be just the jumpstart he needs.
“Yeah the moment we arrive last year is not the same as the moment we arrive this year, but I think we are more competitive than we show in the race,” Lorenzo said. “But for some circumstances we couldn’t make the results we expected. Also I need to recover my physical condition. I think we are every race better and better. I feel much better than in Le Mans. At a track [Mugello] that normally suits very well for Yamaha and for myself. With the new big discs that we have now I think the circumstances can be more in favor for us.”
And traditionally Mugello is a favorable track to the Yamahas. And while both of the Yamaha men acknowledged it was a track that they should have an edge, they both pointed out that the Hondas have improved and maybe there aren’t really any Yamaha tracks anymore.
“This year looks like the Honda improve a lot, especially where last year they had the problem,” Rossi said. “Looks like they raise the level of the bike at all the tracks. And also Marc, in this moment, in this year, ride more than 100 percent. So on the paper is a good track for Yamaha, but I think that will be very hard to beat Marquez.”
Lorenzo concurred, but voiced some optimism.
“Historically Mugello, Montmelo [Catalunya] and Assen suits good for Yamaha because have lots of chicanes, lots of change direction, no so many first-gear corners,” Lorenzo said. “And this the theory says that for Yamaha is better at these type of tracks. But Honda also, as Valentino [Rossi] say, improve a lot in the areas that they were weaker. So now it’s also difficult in these type tracks to stay competing with them, but we are not so far I believe. Especially better here than in Austin for sure.”
So what happens if Marquez grabs his sixth-straight win at Mugello?
Rossi laughed. “He improve the advantage in the championship,” he answered. “But anyway I think we continue to race, no?”
Besides beating Marquez, a topic of discussion today was the allowance to run the larger disc brakes. It’s something that Lorenzo and others in the paddock have been asking for. Lorenzo ran the bigger discs last year at Catalunya and Sepang, and although he didn’t finish well at Sepang, he still felt they would help.
“In Sepang I did not make a good race, so for sure I can make also bad races with the big discs,” Lorenzo said. “It doesn’t matter. But the moment I try I felt much better to stop the bike. And also is not the best point on the Yamaha - the breaking point - we struggle a little bit to stop the same as Honda. And every time that we try the big disc we found an improvement.
“But we didn’t ask for the big discs for this reason - but mainly for safety. If we can improve the safety and also for Yamaha, it’s a small advantage to stop the bike. I think it will be much better for everyone, but especially also for Yamaha.”