5 facts about the Italian Motorcycle Grand Prix
This weekend will see the Italian Motorcycle Grand Prix at the Mugello Circuit in Tuscany, Italy. Ahead of the Grand Prix, which kicks off with the first Free Practice session on Friday, the 29th of May, here are some interesting facts in the history of the circuit:
It used to be a road car-racing circuit
The first race held here was a road race in 1914 and this was designed to be a regular circuit. However, World War I broke out that same year. The race returned post-war, however, with the 66-km distance covered through the hills, in Scarperia uphill to Firenzuola, and then through the Futa Pass downhill to San Piero.
Several legendary names are attached to this circuit: among them the iconic Italian opera singer and racer Giuseppe Campari, winner of several Grands Prix of the time. He won the Mugello Grand Prix two years in a row in 1920 and 1921, the French Grand Prix in 1924 and then again in 1933, and the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 1931, a venue that would unfortunately be where he died racing two years later after his vehicle crashed after skidding on a patch of leaked engine oil. Two other racers would die the same way right behind Campari that same race.
Another notable name at the race was a then 23-year-old son of a carpenter, who won riding in1921 driving an Alfa Romeo class 4.500. His name is now iconic among vehicle enthusiasts, motorsports fans and almost everybody else. That young man was Enzo Ferrari, who would go on to found what is today one of the world’s most recognised automobile companies.
It’s owned by Ferrari
The track itself, Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello, is the property of Scuderia Ferrari, the racing company Enzo founded in 1929, which initially raced in Alfa Romeos ..until Ferrari began to make their own cars in 1947! Ferrari bought the track in 1988 as its owners suffered severe financial trouble, and refurbished it completely. The team uses the track for practice and testing its Formula One cars all year round, and the route is not only scenic, but also known as one of the safest in the world.
Home favourite for riders:
The track at Mugello is the favourite of riders across sport – MotoGP, Formula One and Moto3. It is said to be the favourite track of Valentino Rossi, who has had immense success at the track across disciplines – in addition to several wins at the Moto2 and Moto3 level, Rossi won the premier class of the Italian MotoGP 7 times in a row, from 2002 to 2008. It is said to be riders’ favourite track due to the balance and racing experience it provides; a mix of slow and fast turns and its demanding nature with respect to bike set-up.
It is not just a MotoGP favourite, however. Formula 1 legend Mark Webber, driving with Red Bull Racing at the time, describing the circuit as a ‘real track’, said “10 dry laps today around Mugello.... is the same as doing 1000 laps around Abu Dhabi track in terms of satisfaction.” These sentiments were echoed by Sebastian Vettel, a few years prior to being signed to the Prancing Horse in 2014, who thought it was “unfortunate(ly) we don’t have this track on the calendar,” he said. “It’s an incredible circuit with a lot of high-speed corners”.
Rossi will be racing this weekend.
Fan favourite, too:
It is not just participants who enjoy the track – so do spectators. The track’s construction enables spectators to be very involved with the action, but also extremely safe. In addition, there is a bonus for home fans: there has been a minimum of 1 Italian rider on the podium at the Italian MotoGP every single year for the past 20 years. The most recently successful Italian rider at the track is MotoGP icon Valentino Rossi, although Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo has also won 3 races in a row here. Incidentally, Lorenzo is Rossi’s teammate at Movistar Yamaha MotoGP. Fans at the track generally turn out in large numbers, dressed in yellow to support their hero, Rossi.
The track is open to the public:
Members of the public who have riding and biking experience can purchase tickets that permit them to ride on the track when there is no testing ro racing on; they are given practice sessions and a ‘race day’ mockup in order to truly ‘feel’ the track.