It’s a good few weeks since MotoGP raced on Italian soil but the fans have surely kept the home fires burning since Mugello. As we head for Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli for the Gran Premio Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini there is plenty to fan the flames, too – with local, national and international hero Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) back on the bill after missing the event through injury last season, and Ducati remaining a very key presence at the top. The weekend is a guaranteed spectacular, with the home heroes lining up and those who want glory in enemy territory – like reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) – eager to stand in their way.
Marquez is the title favorite with his 59-point lead, but he won’t go into the event as favorite for the race – especially if it’s dry. The number 93 has a good record and some wins throughout the classes, but has only been victorious in the premier class in more difficult conditions. Those gunning to cut down his lead will be more than aware of that – but then, they also know Marquez can play it safe. More than two race wins clear in the points is a prime position with seven rounds remaining.
Seven rounds mean those on the chase must now be magnificent in every race remaining if they stand a chance of catching the Spaniard. For Rossi – the man with a good record on home turf and the man closest in the standings – it would be a glorious homecoming. Without a win since Assen last year, the drought continues for the Italian and for Yamaha, who also lost out on the chance to race at Silverstone – a venue they’d had good pace at in the dry. The stands will be drenched in yellow at Misano, where the rider from just up the road in Tavullia took his most recent win in 2014, and Rossi will be pushing hard at home.
It’s not just yellow that’s the home color, however. The red of Ducati will also be a home favorite, especially for Italian Andrea Dovizioso. ‘DesmoDovi’ hasn’t ever won at the venue, but now would be a good time to start. Between him and teammate Jorge Lorenzo, it’s just one point – so it’s not only home glory on offer, but also a chance to hit back in their rivalry. Lorenzo, however, has one of the best records at Misano and won in 2007 in the 250 World Championship before three second places in MotoGP and then three premier class wins in a row. That’s a record he’ll want to add to and after winning this season at another of his talisman venues – Mugello – the signs could be good…
Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) wants to gain back ground though, and Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) is racing at home and wants to pull ahead in his first for top Independent Team rider against Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) and Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), who was back on the front row at Silverstone. Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro and Scott Redding have home team glory to go for too – and Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) is another with a lot to race for. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) could be an even bigger dark horse – having taken a stunning win in 2016.
The stage is set for an unforgettable 27 laps of the now clockwise Misano, with the lights going off on Sunday at 14:00 (GMT +2).
Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) took the points lead in Austria, but it’s by just three – so will that prove a magic number as we head for Misano? It may well do, with that leaving the Championship lead open to attack from key title rival Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who can take over if he wins. But the stakes will be high for Bagnaia to increase the advantage, with the paddock now headed onto his home turf for the Gran Premio Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini.
For Oliveira, meanwhile, there are a few wounds to lick following Silverstone. The qualifying struggles that earlier plagued the Portuguese rider looked to be behind him but in the UK they were back and he had been set to line up outside the top twenty. Although there was no racing on Sunday, that’s something to think about – although, again, on the other side of the coin, the conditions had been difficult.
Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) is another man to watch, racing, like teammate Bagnaia, on home turf and retaining his roll. Alongside MotoGP points leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), he’s one of only two riders across all classes to have taken a podium in the last three races. He’s been all-in even without the added motivation of racing at home. Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) could also be a threat as he continues his search for his first win of the year, and Sachsenring winner Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Catalunya winner Fabio Quartararo (Speed Up Racing) and Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) can’t be counted out.
That said, there are more home heroes who will do anything to get in their way. Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) and Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP 40) will have their sights set on nothing short of glory, and for Baldassarri it’s the scene of one of his most impressive races when he dueled Alex Rins – and took his maiden win – in 2016. History won’t repeat itself exactly, but the Italian knows he can because he did, so he’ll likely prove a force to be reckoned with.
Find out if he is on Sunday 9th September from 12:20 local (GMT +2) when the intermediate class go racing.
Jorge Martin’s (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) ride through the pain barrier in a superhuman performance in Austria left him only 12 points behind winner Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP), but despite the extra time to recover for Silverstone, it was nevertheless going to be a challenge. With tools downed after the conditions proved impossible to race in, however, everyone is left pressing reset for the Gran Premio Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini – and Martin has a little more time to recover before there are points in play.
He’d taken pole at Silverstone in another impressive display too, but now it’s home turf for Bezzecchi and key rival Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing). Bezzecchi wants win number three of the season and Bastianini took his maiden win at the venue so knows he has some serious pace there – with some serious glory up for grabs if they can get the job done at the Adriatic venue. In contrast though, that also means that a victory for Martin would likely taste even sweeter…
Then there’s Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3), another home hero who’ll be hunting for glory and shouldn’t be underestimated, and Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) – another in enemy territory looking for that to give him an extra push of motivation. They both lost out big in the points race in Austria too, and need to fight back as the rounds remaining tick down.
Away from the squabble at the very top though, there are many more names who could get in that battle and one team who will be pushing particularly hard are SIC58 Squadra Corse. For the team, run by the late Marco Simoncelli’s father Paolo, it’s the most important weekend of the season – raced as it is around the track named in honour of the late Italian, at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.
Moto3 head out for battle at 11:00 (GMT +2) at the classic venue, so make sure to tune in for another classic race.