Before the grid head out on the circuit on Friday, the pre-event Press Conference for the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley got us in gear for another spectacular weekend at Mugello, with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) joined by a veritable armada of home heroes: Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati), teammate Danilo Petrucci, nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Moto2™ Championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40), as well as Australian Borgo Panigale representative Jack Miller (Pramac Racing). Top of the agenda? The stunning Mugello circuit and a weekend with plenty of partisan fans present for the home riders.
Marquez spoke first. “From Qatar until Le Mans we kept improving and we arrive in Mugello with a good feeling and a good way. We know how to ride the bike now and I feel good so. We know that here in Mugello, it’s one of the tracks we struggled in the past but we have had very good races. Last year we were not so bad, really good pace but we crashed in the race. We have another bike and another engine this year so this should be better and we’ll start from FP1 to analyse everything and try for fight for the podium on Sunday.
“2014 was a very nice victory and then in 2016 I lost on the last straight, but since that in ’17 and ’18 I was struggling to manage the front tyre. But this year the allocation has changed so it should be a bit better. Plus it looks like we are able to manage to front in a different way this year. We just need to analyse the opponents. We know its important for Ducati here and its important for Italian riders and they will like to win the race, but for me it’s another way. We are leading the championship, this is important and we will try to focus on our box.”
Next up it was Dovizioso, who won in 2017 and wasn’t far off a repeat of the feat last season. “In the last two years we did something really, really good. I think all the Ducatis can be competitive here this weekend, but I expect the competition to be stronger than last year. Everybody – Rins, the Yamahas and Marc, for sure. A lot of riders are able to fight for the podium and the victory. Anything can happen. It’s important to start with a good base and work well during the weekend, that makes the difference because I think our base is good. The goal is to win but just in the race you need to understand if you can fight for the victory. Everybody expects a Ducati victory, but we have to be smart and take the maximum.
“Fortunately, in the last two, three years I won a lot of races and there have been a lot of important moments. There wasn’t one better than the other. The victory here in 2017 was one of the first that I felt something bigger and to do it at your home race, in front of a lot of fans, was amazing.”
After the flurry of camera noise for Dovizioso, it then ramped up another notch as Rossi took the mic. “Yes its always difficult to understand before the weekend because ever year is different. Last year was not too bad, I was quite strong during the weekend. It looks like we have improved in some areas but all the bikes have improved so much. So it would depend on a lot of things. All the small details from the weekend and we’ll see!
“Mugello is the most special race of the season, for me and for all of the Italian riders, I think. It’s historical, the Italian GP and Misano is also great and closer to home but here is more special, because the track is fantastic and its something different compared to the others. Also the atmosphere, all the fans around the track. What you see on Sunday is very emotional so it’s important to give more than the maximum.”
Petrucci spoke next, and he comes into the home weekend on a high after his first podium in factory colours last time out, something he says is important on the way in to Mugello. “The podium two weeks ago helps me to find a good way to concentrate, and to be more relaxed to arrive here. It was the first weekend where I was able to build in a proper way. I’m happy to have this confidence. For sure, it will be very, very emotional on the grid on Sunday but the whole weekend is very, very emotional here in Mugello for the Italian riders. We will try our best. We cannot compare here to another, everywhere is a different story. I think this year there are more stronger challengers, so it’ll be more tough, but we arrive ready. We arrive in a very good way, with a lot of confidence, so we are ready.
“2017 was amazing, I remember I was crying on the podium because it was an image that I had dreamed of for a lifetime, to be on the podium in Mugello. It’s something I’d like to repeat, a lot. Last year was much more difficult, I tried to recover but in the end, I drop some positions but this year I am stronger and I want to be fast from the beginning so I have good feeling for the race.”
The mic then went to Australian Jack Miller who, although not strictly a home hero, certainly represents a home factory. “In Le Mans, tt was nice to be there from the start more or less. It’s is a track that normally suits my style I get along with it really well. But coming after Jerez it was necessary, because I really struggled there so it was decent to get some points on the board. And like the boys said, it’s nice to come here. It’s a really important weekend for Ducati, we were fast here last year but a small mistake on the second lap put me out of it. It’s a track I’ve not had the best luck at in the past but it’s a track I’ve always been fast at so I’m looking forward to this year. We’ve got a really decent package under us this year in terms of the bike and the setup we’ve got, our plans throughout the weekend have been working really will and like I said I learned so much last weekend in the race. It was nice to be battling with Marc even if it was just for a lap and a half. It was nice to be there and we’ll try to make it longer next time!”
Finally, Lorenzo Baldassarri was under the spotlight. The Italian has won three races of five so far, but crashed in the other two…how does he feel about Mugello?
“For now, the strategy has been to win or crash but it’s not my style. For now, winning is okay but when I can’t win, to stay on the bike would be better for sure. I arrive here almost at 100% and I’m lucky because I had a bad crash in Le Mans. After that, I feel good with the shoulder and my head. Maybe my head was not ever 100%! I’m happy to be here in one of the world’s best tracks, with my home fans. This is one of the greatest races of the calendar and I’m ready to fight.
“I have great memories here in Mugello because I was very close to my first win. In 2016 and also last year I was very, very close on the last lap with Miguel. This year is another year, another challenge. We have to be focused and concentrated. There are many riders who can compete, let’s see what happens in the races…”
We’ll see what happens in the races at Mugello on Sunday, tune in on the 2nd June for another spectacular Italian GP – with practice beginning on Friday.