Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli is bursting with colour. Nestled on the Adriatic coast of Italy, the track’s rebirth since we began to race it the other way has seen vibrant artwork splashed across the run offs to create one of the most beautiful circuits on the calendar – and the crowds continue to pour in, partisan as ever. Plenty of classics have been staged at Misano in recent memory, but one thing remains the same: here, Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) is king.
It’s hard to overstate the love the crowd has for their home hero from nearby Tavullia, and it’s a true spectacle to look out over the seas of yellow in the grandstands. So will this year be a glorious homecoming for the ‘Doctor’? It could prove so, but there is some serious competition. Starting with, of course, the man in enemy territory: Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team).
The reigning Champion and Championship leader will want to win for the points, for the Championship fight and for the sheer competition – but it’s also always nice to take home some bragging rights. With a staggering 78-point lead despite having been beaten to the line twice in a row, Marquez doesn’t need to play it safe. There’s surely some serious motivation for the number 93 to go weapons free this weekend. So will he?
Whether he does or not, some big rivals will be ready to try and make it three defeats on the bounce. Last year’s winner Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) – the man responsible for Marquez’ loss in Austria – will be back on track on home turf after his crash out at Silverstone, and the man who took victory in the UK, Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), now has a similar string to his bow after HIS last lap defeat of Marquez. They’re also second and third in the Championship, although for Rins it’s not by much – and it’s Mugello winner Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) doing the lurking in fourth. Can he get back to the form that saw him reign supreme on his first visit to home turf in factory colours? The three seem likely candidates to join Rossi and Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) in that fight at the front.
Viñales, fresh from a return to the podium, isn’t to be counted out at a track where Yamaha have shown some serious form. But neither is Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT), who crashed at Silverstone in only his second rookie mistake…and then raised some eyebrows at the Misano Test. The Frenchman was within hundredths of the lap record as he topped the timesheets, so it will be interesting to see how some extra track experience affects his incredible form. Could now be the time…? He’ll want to get back ahead of Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and get some breathing space on Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) in the fight for top Independent Team rider as a minimum.
The Misano Test is, of course, something to take into account. FP1 is no longer first recent contact for the field and it could prove crucial – especially for rookies or those with a little less experience. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) will be hoping so as he was close to Quartararo in the test, and the likes of the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini doubtless value the track time too. No one goes into Misano blind, and KTM also have feedback on the venue from the man who obliterated the opposition in 2016: test rider Dani Pedrosa. Will that help the Austrian factory continue their form?
Before the British Grand Prix, Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was beginning to look infallible. But an uncharacteristic error as he crashed out of the lead early at Silverstone left an open goal for those on the chase, and it was Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40) who scored the full 25 points for a win. What that does is shake up everything near the front, as Fernandez is now second in the Championship but equal on points with Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP) in P3 and Jorge Navarro (+Ego Speed Up) in P4, with each of the three now 35 points off the top. Will it be a switch of momentum at Misano or a bounce back?
It’s hard to bet against Marquez being strong. One mistake doesn’t wipe out a summer of domination and his huge points lead, but it does make the light at the end of the tunnel seem a little brighter for the rest. Many had a tougher time at the venue last year, although Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) is one for whom that’s not true, and track records don’t tell much of domination from anyone – but there are two key names in the 2019 title fight who’ve mastered the track before: Lüthi and Lorenzo Baldassarri (FlexBox HP 40).
Baldassarri will be heading into his second home round of the year dead set on the top step, and the Italian was the class of the field early on in 2019. Can he fight back now where he has before? Or can Lüthi pull clear in the fight for second again? And can the likes of Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) get back in the battle? Binder has been on a roll of frontrunning pace of late, but the four men ahead of him in the Championship will be hard to beat.
After a few rounds of the lead see-sawing between Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) and Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), Silverstone broke the deadlock as some bad luck early in the race saw the Spaniard facing a fight through the field to score points. That he did, but it wasn’t enough to stop him losing some serious ground as Dalla Porta came home third and took command at the top.
So where are we now? Dalla Porta leads by 14 points heading onto home turf at Misano, and to make for even worse reading for Canet, the Riviera di Rimini classic is the venue where the Italian took his first Grand Prix win, last season no less. But Championships are a long game and home pressure, risk vs reward and even luck are far from an easy conundrum to navigate – something to which the riders who are just behind in the title fight can also attest.
Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers), third overall, will have a lot of home support – as will the man just behind him in the standings, Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse). They’re both Grand Prix winners and will be pushing for the top step, keen to mix it up with Dalla Porta and Canet and try to gain back some points. And Silverstone winner Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) has now moved to within a handful of points of Antonelli, so he’s far more than an idle threat. Then there’s the likes of John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers), the latter of which is a previous winner at the venue…
Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46), meanwhile, will be aiming high – and not just in the fight for Rookie of the Year, where he’ll want to pull out more distance ahead of Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia). Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) could be another to watch as the Japanese rider has shown some serious pace this season too, and Italy is akin to home turf for him – and IS home turf for the team. The field is full of winners and potential winners, and Misano is a big prize for so many.
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