2023 Mugello MotoGP Results

Rarely do victory celebrations seem more apt. Less than a minute after winning his home Mugello MotoGP for the second year in succession, Francesco Bagnaia (Lenovo Ducati) stopped his Desmosedici, handed it to a marshal on the outside of Casanova and joined members of his fan club who had set up an impromptu table and barbeque in the gravel trap. His victory margin of 1.067 seconds didn’t tell the full story; Bagnaia had just made this look like a casual stroll in the park.

By Neil Morrison

Francesco Bagnaia was out in front all weekend at Mugello. Photos: Gold & Goose

It really shouldn’t have been this straightforward. After noting a nagging pain in his right foot in the days after the French Grand Prix collision with Maverick Vinales (Aprilia Racing), medical checks confirmed Bagnaia had cracked the talus bone in his right ankle. He arrived at Mugello on a crutch and sported a hobble. Yet it’s hard to recall a weekend as dominant for the current number one. He shook off a pesky Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) in qualifying to bag pole, before easing to a comfortable victory in Saturday’s Sprint and leading every lap of Sunday’s main race.

Mugello has been a happy hunting ground for Ducati in the past. But never to this extent. Had Alex Marquez (Gresini Ducati) not carelessly crashed out of third place in the feature race, the Bologna bikes would have occupied the top five places on both Saturday and Sunday. The other manufacturers couldn’t get close. “The thing I like but hate the most is how easy you see them ride,” said Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) of the Ducati men. “Even Pecco’s pole position lap, he had no movement at all. He looked like an F1 car, the stability that they have, the amount of power they’re able to put on the ground. It’s crazy.”

Marco Bezzecchi was second in the Sprint race.

But Bagnaia still had to outperform the seven other Bologna bikes. Yes, Jorge Martin (Pramac Ducati) kept him honest throughout race two to prevent this from being a total whitewash. But the outright victory was never in doubt once the reigning champ clicked another gear on lap 14. With Honda and Yamaha, once again, floundering in what was a desperate weekend for the Japanese factories, it appears Bagnaia will retain his crown if he keeps a number of Satellite Ducatis at bay. On this evidence, he’s more than up to the task.

And Saturday had indicated Bagnaia’s biggest threat would be Marco Bezzecchi (VR46 Ducati), rather than Martin which could put the number-one’s hopes of victory in jeopardy. It soon became clear that wouldn’t be the case, as Jack Miller’s (Red Bull KTM) got the jump into turn one from fourth on the grid with Bagnaia second. Luca Marini (VR46 Ducati), Martin, Marc and Alex Marquez followed, with Bezzecchi eighth. “From that moment, I understood that my race was going to be very, very difficult,” he said as the front-end stability that carried him to second in the sprint deserted him.

Knowing Miller, Martin and the Marquez brothers had chosen Michelin’s soft rear tire as opposed to his medium, Bagnaia acted decisively, re-passing the KTM immediately into Luco. He was determined to set his own rhythm up front. “With Miller ahead I just said, ‘No! I have to be first.’ Many were with the soft, but I didn’t want to be with anyone early on.” He would not be headed in the 22 laps that followed.

Jorge Martin got on the podium in both races.

That said, for 13 laps Martin gave it a good go. First, he moved past Miller on the entry to San Donato on lap two before holding station behind the Ducati rider ahead. It soon became clear there were others behind the KTM with superior pace. The Australian’s scrapping with Marini through Poggio Seco and Materassi gave the lead pair some real breathing space before the race’s big scare came at the start of lap three.

Braking from 225mph to 80 into San Donato represents one of the bigger challenges on the calendar; doing so when gaining the slipstream makes it even more so. Pulling out of the slipstream from three men ahead, Alex Marquez found his back tire off the ground. Carrying greater speed than those around him, he just cut a way through the men ahead before running wide into turn one. Disaster was narrowly avoided. “I was shitting my pants,” he said of the moment.

That gifted Marini third, Marc Marquez fourth and allowed Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) and Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati) into the mix, the pair pouncing on Alex Marquez and hovering over Miller’s rear.

Soon it was clear Marc Marquez was working minor miracles just to stay among the hoard of Ducatis. Once again, he used a Ducati tow (this time it was Bagnaia) to snatch a place on the front row by qualifying second. But his nervous RC213V provided a warning of its limitations early as the first lap, when he nearly tucked the front entering Scarperia. Like the previous outing at Le Mans, his front tire cried enough when attempting a cut-back on Marini at Bucine on the sixth lap. His disbelieving pose in the gravel—arms out, head bowed—perfectly summed up Honda’s woes.

This is what happened when Marc Marquez tried to chase the Ducatis. He walked away unharmed.

Like Honda, the KTMs soon realized the Ducatis couldn’t be touched on home soil, with Marini, Alex Marquez and Zarco eking clear of Binder and Miller in the fight for third. After unsuccessfully attempting to outbrake Marini at San Donato on lap 12, Marquez made the pass stick at the same spot the following time around. Yet a crash out at Luco on lap 15 compounded a miserable day for the Marquez family and opened the door to Marini and Zarco for the final podium spot.

The odds were heavily stacked against the Italian, however. The effort of riding up front with the right thumb he injured at Le Mans would soon tell, leaving the Frenchman clear to chase after the lead duo.

Up front and Bagnaia’s lead was hovering between 0.4s and 0.6 seconds, with Martin riding out of his skin to just keep up. Yet soon, the World Champion’s medium rear tire was always likely to translate to superior late speed over Martin’s soft. After the Pramac man had closed to within 0.3 seconds on lap 13, Bagnaia really went to work on the following circuit, stretching his lead out to just under a second. He controlled the lead from there for a third win in six. “Pole position, winning the sprint, winning the grand prix—for me it’s the best weekend in Italy,” he said. The 77,921 in attendance roared their appreciation.

Martin was a fine second around one of his weaker tracks, with Zarco eventually closing to within 9/10ths of his teammate at the flag. Marini capped a dream day for Ducati in fourth. “In the last four or five laps, I didn’t have enough strength to keep the grip tight,” he said of his heroic efforts.

Binder was the best of the rest in fifth, in what he described as KTM’s toughest race of the year so far. A lack of rear grip held him back here. Espargaro fought through to sixth, a solid effort after he damaged his right heel in a careless bicycle crash on Thursday. He just held off Miller late on. Bezzecchi was devastated with eighth, hinting a dodgy front tire was the cause of his woes, while Enea Bastianini (Lenovo Ducati) was ninth in his comeback from injury. Franco Morbidelli was the fastest of the Monster Energy Yamahas in 10th, a place ahead of listless teammate Fabio Quartararo.

Bagnaia’s (131 points) perfect weekend puts distance between himself and Bezzecchi (110) in the World Championship. Martin (107) strengthened his third place with Binder (92) losing ground in fourth.

For eight minutes, it appeared the racing gods weren’t going to play ball. Spits of rain peppered the track in Arrabbiata 1 and 2 during the first four laps, raising the possibility of the first-ever flag-to-flag Sprint race. Understandably, Bagnaia rolled off, allowing Martin through, while Marini, Bezzecchi, Miller, Zarco and Marquez hovered behind. Binder initially had a hand in, but was soon handed a Long Lap Penalty after tagging Alex Marquez in the race’s first turn, dropping him back to 14th.

Soon the rain subsided. And Bagnaia never fell below second. By the fourth lap, he was back in front and maintained a steady gap to second from there. Bezzecchi was by Martin for second on lap five and ably gave chase to his compatriot. But Bagnaia always had a few tenths in hand and won by 0.3s. Bezzecchi was second, admitting “Pecco was simply faster today,” while Martin and the hard-charging Zarco made up the top four, covered by 1.009s. Marini was fifth in another Ducati whitewash, with Miller sixth.

Moto2

Chances are Pedro Acosta (Ajo Kalex) would have won this no matter what. Even if he was pipped to pole by Aron Canet (Pons Kalex), practice demonstrated the teenage sensation had a clear jump on everyone else. But the 19-year-old’s job was made all the easier when his two closest challengers—Alonso Lopez (Speed Up Boscoscuro) and Sam Lowes (Marc VDS Kalex) – fell away almost immediately.

Pedro Acosta was all smiles after win the Moto2 race.

Acosta had got the jump from the middle of the front row, with Lowes and Alonso slotting in behind. But the latter’s crazy lunge on the former at Turn 11 took the Englishman down and earned the Spaniard a Long Lap Penalty. His first attempt on lap three was botched as he ran over the edge of the track, meaning he had to try again the following lap. Now Acosta had 1.3s in hand, an advantage which only increased to the flag. His dominant margin of 6.1s was the perfect response to his Le Mans faux pas.

While Acosta’s third victory in six was expected, the names fighting behind were anything but. Tony Arbolino (Marc VDS Kalex) pulled off his now customary heroics on the first lap to rise from tenth on the grid to fourth. After Alonso’s first penalty, he was second, ahead of Filip Salac (Gresini Kalex), Canet, Sergio Garcia (Pons Kalex) and Jake Dixon (Aspar Kalex). Like Acosta, the Italian shrugged off the challenges from behind for a safe second. Dixon reeled in Canet—tiring after injuring his hand in a qualifying spill—for third late on. Slow-starting Celestino Vietti (Fantic Kalex) was fifth, ahead of Lopez and Salac.

Arbolino stays clear (119 points) in the World Championship, but Acosta (99) is just 20 points back.

Moto3

What more can a rider do to win? Deniz Oncu (Ajo KTM) topped every weekend session, scored a dominant pole position, and appeared to time his last lap attack to perfection. There was even a scintillating move on Dani Holgado (Tech3 KTM) into Arrabbiata 2 to take control of a five-way fight on the final lap. Yet somehow the Turk, who had come so close to a debut triumph in races gone by, finished runner-up once again.

Daniel Holgado (96) used the draft perfectly to win Moto3.

The lead quintet, which also included Ayumu Sasaki (IntactGP Husqvarna), David Alonso (Aspar GasGas) and Jaume Masia (Leopard Honda), benefited from a raft of penalties handed out to eight riders on Saturday, including title contenders Diogo Moreira (MSI KTM) and Ivan Ortola (MTA KTM). All eight had to start from the back of the grid and complete a long lap penalty, which led to a smaller lead group at Mugello than in years gone by.

Oncu clearly had the superior speed to his rivals but always appeared on the ragged edge, as underlined by a terrifying rear wheel slide on the exit of Arrabbiata 1 on the sixth lap. On occasion, he threatened to break clear through Mugello’s twists, only for his four competitors to reel him back in down the 0.7-mile front straight.

Having risen from third to first on the final lap, he was perfectly placed entering the track’s final straight, only for Holgado to draft by on the run to the line. A third race in six was achieved by 0.051 seconds, with Sasaki five-thousandths of a second back in third. Alonso was fourth, Masia fifth.

Holgado’s (109 points) lead in the World Championship is now 35 points, with Masia (74) climbing to second, ahead of Ortola (68), Moreira (64) and Sasaki (59).

 

MOTOGP Results

Sprint Race

1.
Francesco Bagnaia
(Duc)

2.
Marco Bezzecchi
(Duc)

3.
Jorge Martin
(Duc)

4.
Johann Zarco
(Duc)

5.
Luca Marini
(Duc)

MotoGP

Sunday

1.
Francesco Bagnaia
(Duc)

2.
Jorge Martin
(Duc)

3.
Johann Zarco
(Duc)

4.
Luca Marini
(Duc)

5.
Brad Binder
(KTM)

Moto2

1.
Pedro Acosta
(Kal)

2.
Tony Arbolino
(Kal)

3.
Jake Dixon
(Kal)

4.
Aron Canet
(Kal)

5.
Celestino Vietti
(Kal)

Moto3

1.
Daniel Holgado
(KTM)

2.
Deniz Oncu
(KTM)

3.
Ayumu Sasaki
(Hus)

4.
David Alonso
(GG)

5.
Jaume Masia
(Hon)

Click here for complete 2023 MotoGP Mugello results.

Briefly…

The Honda Curse

Honda’s miserable record of losing riders to injuries continued apace at Mugello. Factory rider Joan Mir withdrew on Friday after a spill at turn one in P2 damaged the fifth finger on his right hand. Of greater concern was what happened to Alex Rins. Crashing out of the Sprint race at the high-speed Arrabbiata 1, the Spaniard fractured the tibia and fibula in his right leg as he awkwardly bounced through the gravel. “The rider will undergo a first surgery this evening at the Careggi University Hospital (Florence), where doctors will attach an external fixator to stabilize his right leg and reduce swelling,” said an LCR spokesman. “He will remain under observation, and once cleared, he will return to Spain to undergo a final surgery.”

Why So Many Injuries?

Alex Rins was the 10th rider to have been injured at a MotoGP event this year, in just under six rounds. Why so many injuries? Most riders stated it’s due to every single session now counting toward a place in qualifying, increasing risk. “Maybe FP1 could be free so we can at least think about the race, because now it’s crazy,” said Jorge Martin. “Every time we need to attack, attack, attack.”

“A Stupid Thing”

Aleix Espargaro was walking wounded on Friday thanks to “a stupid thing,” he admitted. The Catalan was guilty of checking his phone when riding his bicycle around Mugello on Thursday when he suffered a “big, big crash.” He was in visible pain throughout Friday after suffering significant damage to his heel and shed tears after securing ninth place in the closing moments of P2. “I decided to go out to do two hours,” he explained. “It was super foggy yesterday morning, so I said to myself, ‘Stay on the track, it’s safer.’ And being on track, you are more relaxed. And I was using the telephone, like stupid. And I had a big, big, big crash. My heel is destroyed, I have a lot of pain. I have a lot of blood inside. We remove the blood for the second session, I had infiltration [to drain the heel], but it was not really working. I have a lot of pain and I cannot use the rear brake.”CN

 

Click here for all the latest MotoGP news.

 

Click here to read the 2023 Mugello MotoGP story in the Cycle News Digital Edition Magazine.

 


Full Story »

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments