With track temperatures soaring in the Italian sunshine, MotoGP qualifying in Mugello had a finale to match.
As usual at his home race, all eyes were on Valentino Rossi who had crashed in FP4 after losing his footing. Luckily, the Italian didn’t add to the motocross injuries that he was already battling this weekend.
The session started off fairly steady with Marc Marquez initially leading, before being bettered by Danilo Petrucci, while Aleix Espargaro fell at the fast right-hander of Arrabbiata 2 early on. By the midway point the MotoGP field entered its usual lull in the action, but when the riders headed back out for their final run things really started to heat up.
Pramac’s Petrucci continued to hold the provisional pole, until first Alvaro Bautista and then Maverick Vinales took over at the top. But Petrucci wasn’t finished, pushing hard despite only having 1 bike available to him due to earlier crashes and with 1 minute remaining he moved to second.
Rossi moved to third as the chequered flag came out, while Petrucci had his lap cancelled for exceeding track limits which moved the Italian back to 9th and moved The Doctor into second behind his Yamaha team-mate, with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso completing the front row.
Fellow Ducati rider Michele Pirro put in a great qualifying performance to secure 4th, while the Repsol Honda duo of Pedrosa and Marquez will line up in 5th and 6th.
If anyone can can stop Vinales, it’s Valentino.
The high track temperatures undoubtedly played a part in qualifying, with the track becoming a bit greasy. Although the race will be held at a similar time of day it is expected to be slightly cooler tomorrow.
Maverick Vinales has shown strong race pace throughout the weekend so far and with his third pole position of 2017 he is perfectly placed to take his 4th victory, but if there’s one man who will be going all out to stop him it will be Valentino Rossi. Rossi has the home advantage with a record crowd expected at Mugello on Sunday, but the question mark over him will be whether or not he can push himself through his discomfort for 23 laps around a very physical track… but if anyone can, it’s Valentino.
Andrea Dovizioso secured some honour at home for the Ducati team, backed up by test-rider Michele Pirro. Both have shown good pace, with Dovi, in particular, demonstrating that he can be very consistent on used tyres. Team-mate Jorge Lorenzo is slightly further back in 7th, but a good start could easily move him up into the front group.
Despite, the brilliant showing from the front two rows, it’s Tito Rabat that gets the award for best performance in Mugello today; making it into Q2 for the first time and qualifying in 10th, giving him a great opportunity to have a good race tomorrow. Another rider who turned their fortunes around was Alvaro Bautista who secured top independent in 8th. They both needed a confidence boost coming into this weekend, so hopefully, today will provide them with just that.
Tomorrow’s race is guaranteed to be action-packed and the atmosphere of Mugello is unrivalled. Tyres will play their part, although Michelin say all options are race-able and they expect a later drop-off than we’ve had in the last couple of races, with it coming 4-5 laps from the end.
Can Maverick Vinales extend his championship lead with win number 4? Will Valentino Rossi stand on the top step at Mugello for the first time since 2008? Or will it be Honda or Ducati that take home the honours?
When the lights go out tomorrow afternoon we’ll be one step closer to knowing and it’s a race you really don’t want to miss.