Mugello is a special race track, and it often throws up some special races when MotoGP visits for the Italian Grand Prix. That was no different for the 2019 edition, which saw Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) claim his first Grand Prix victory.
The race started dimly, as Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) hit the front from the beginning of the race, which he started from an intelligently-won pole position. The championship leader led from Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL) early on, but before the end of the first laps, the factory Ducatis of Petrucci and Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati) had scythed their way through the Briton and set their sights on Marquez.
Marquez was expected to have the pace to get away, hence the dim prospects in the initial stages. However, it soon became clear that this would not be possible for the Spaniard, and the front group remained as large as ten riders for the first half of the race. Whilst the group was big, there was a lot of fighting, like a 1000cc Moto3 race.
Over time, though, the group thinned, to eight bikes, then six, and finally we were left with four riders: Marquez, Petrucci, Dovizioso and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar).
They were clear of the rest coming into the final lap, onto which Petrucci led. However, when they arrived at San Donato for the final time it was Marquez who made it to the apex first. Unfortunately for the #93, he then steamed straight past the corner, and allowed Dovizioso underneath him. Unfortunately for Dovizioso, he had his teammate underneath him. The #04 backed out, which let Petrucci off the hook in the lead, and Marquez into second round the outside.
When you watch MotoGP, things are very visual, and two of the most visual things on the final lap in Mugello were the different characteristics of the Ducati and the Honda, and the riding styles of their pilots; and that Marquez had run out of edge grip, as a result of the characteristics of the Honda and his riding style. Marquez was running visibly more lean angle than the Ducati riders all race, because Ducati don’t use the edge of the tyre, and minimise their mid-corner speed, whilst Marquez on the Honda maximises his corner speed, and thus sacrifices his edge grip. By the final lap, there was little for Marquez to fight with. He tried to set up a pass in Palaggio, to run round the outside of Scarperia to put himself on the inside for Palaggio, but he couldn’t carry the speed, and throughout the lap Marquez’ Honda was wildly out of line on the right-hand braking zones.
Those issues for Marquez, combined with a fantastic final lap for Danilo Petrucci, handed the ex-Superstock rider his first race win since the final round of the STK1000 championship at Portimao in 2011. To win your first GP in Italy, at Mugello for the Italian Grand Prix, on a factory Ducati, to make it three wins in succession in Mugello for the Desmosedici, is an incredibly special achievement, one which was worthy of Petrucci’s emotional explosion in the moments after the race. He told the post-race podium press conference that he wanted to dedicate his debut MotoGP win to his teammate, Dovizioso, as he had “adopted me like a brother” since the start of the year when Petrucci began life as a factory Ducati rider.
Dovizioso’s hesitation in San Donato on the final lap was all it took to secure Marquez second place, and to extend his championship lead over the #04 by four points to carry a twelve-point advantage into his home Grand Prix at Montmelo, where it is going to be exceedingly difficult for Dovizioso to take points from Marquez.
Whichever way you look at it, it was a stunning race from each of the riders on the podium, and the rider who finished just off it – Alex Rins. The Spaniard had a go at Dovizioso in the final corner, but couldn’t make it stick. Some more horsepower could have seen Rins win quite comfortably, as he was so fast with the GSX-RR throughout the lap. It was just the straight where he was losing out, but when the races are so close, the straights are perhaps more important than the corners when it comes to a dogfight on Sunday.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU) took the top ‘independent’ spot with fifth place, his best finish in MotoGP, to return to the top ten after missing it for the first time in Le Mans where he crashed. The Japanese also had the satisfaction of beating the factory Yamaha of Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) who was limited to sixth by a bad start, a bad first lap and the poor straight line performance of the M1. Similarly limited as Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), who started second but was ninth by the end of the first lap, and tenth at the end of the race.
Between Vinales and Quartararo were the wildcard Michele Pirro (Mission Winnow Ducati) in an impressive seventh, Cal Crutchlow in an eighth place likely the result of a hole in his rear tyre, and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing).
Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) finished eleventh, although felt that a top ten was possible without contact with Johann Zarco (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) recovered from some contact with Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), which caused both riders to go off the track at Materassi/Borgo San Lorenzo, to finish twelfth, ahead of Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team), Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing) and Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) who took the final point in fifteenth.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) was sixteenth, but ahead of the factory KTM of Zarco in seventeenth, who wad the final classified rider.
Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing) had to start from pit lane, and was out before the end of the first lap; whilst Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) crashed on lap five. Valentino Rossi’s miserable home GP was over two laps after Morbidelli’s when he crashed at Arrabbiata 2; then Hafizh Syahrin (Red Bull KTM Tech3) retired with fourteen laps to go, two laps before Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) ended a strong home race in the gravel of Bucine. Finally, Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) crashed out at Materassi, eight laps from the flag.
Featured image courtesy of Ducati