Mugello was more than just another race. Will Barcelona be another work of art?
A four-way fight on the final lap, a freight train battle of the ages before that…Mugello showcased the best of MotoGP™. And when all was said and done, Danilo Petrucci (Mission Winnow Ducati) may have been the man making the history, but Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was the man making the gains. A P2 for the points leader, ahead of closest rival Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati) despite the defeat, means he’s 12 points clear heading into the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya and however much a win in enemy territory means, a win on home turf is something different. The number 93 will be gunning for glory and revenge all at the same time at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and on a very special occasion: the 70th anniversary of the Championship.
The good news for the competition is Ducati were back on the top step in Mugello and last year a win in Tuscany preceded one next time out. In addition, Catalunya isn’t a track where the number 93 has been imperious to the point of competitors needing to start the Jaws music. Even more good news is that some serious smart racing in the front group at Mugello – with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) in the mix – made it hard work for Marquez at the front and gave him no chance to escape. Can the likes of Miller, Rins, Dovizioso, Petrucci take on the reigning Champion once again this weekend? Rins and Dovizioso in particular will be focused on better grid positions to try and do just that.
The man who made the most famous move in the history of the circuit in Montmelo, meanwhile, has a top record at the track and he’ll need to add to it. For Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) it was a nightmare home weekend, but the ‘Doctor’ has been a master of the comeback on many given Sundays and he’s now the one with that extra incentive of winning in ‘enemy’ territory. Teammate Maverick Viñales has that home venue extra motivation, however, and so the battle between the two should be a highlight. And, as always, there will likely be Iwata marque Independent Team runners Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and teammate Franco Morbidelli to contend with. Quartararo may have had surgery for arm pump before Barcelona, but he’s also a record-breaker despite being a rookie and has form at the track.
Speaking of form, Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) is another man of the moment. Impressive in Italy – as ever – and taking the fight forward for the Austrian factory, Pol Espargaro – along with brother Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) – is a true home hero. The two are from just up the road and that adds something extra special to the Catalan Grand Prix. Add to that the battle between KTM and Aprilia in the standings and it’s a fight with a lot on the line.
For Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) that’s also true as the number 99 continues to struggle on the Honda, but with injuries now playing much less of a role in his races and his record in Barcelona a shining one, a turning point could be just around the corner. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) also wants a turnaround of sorts after a tougher run, and he’ll want to hit back against sophomore teammate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) after the Japanese rider was top Independent Team rider at Mugello and took his best premier class finish yet in fifth.
So many questions remain ahead of Barcelona. Can Marquez strike back? Did Petrucci begin to turn the tide? Can Dovi capitalise in the title fight? Will Rins be an even bigger threat if he gets a better Saturday under his belt? Can Quartararo last the distance? And can Rossi and Viñales, two of the fastest men in the world, come out swinging in Catalunya?
Mugello showed it’s far from a done deal in 2019, no matter what script was written the race before. This weekend everything could change again – so be ready when the lights go out at 14:00 local time (GMT +2) on Sunday.
1 – Marc Marquez (SPA – Honda) – 115
2 – Andrea Dovizioso (ITA – Ducati) – 103
3 – Alex Rins (SPA – Suzuki) – 88
4 – Danilo Petrucci (ITA – Ducati) – 82
5 – Valentino Rossi (ITA – Yamaha) – 72