The hills that line Mugello may be turned yellow by the anticipated bumper crowd for this weekend’s Italian MotoGP, but will their hero Valentino Rossi be fit to fight for the win?
The nine-time world champion is still recovering from injuries sustained in a motocross crash last Thursday that forced him to spend the night in hospital. Rossi was cleared of broken bones but sustained mild thoracic and abdominal trauma.
“On Saturday and Sunday, it only needed a cough or even a little laugh in Vale to cause some annoying little pain,” reported Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport.
While there is no doubt he will try to ride and to race — it’s Mugello, after all — he won’t know how his body will cope with the physical demands of riding a MotoGP bike until opening practice on Friday morning.
“He has sore abdominal muscles and so he is only doing light training. He will have to undergo a medical examination on Thursday (to be cleared to ride) but this seems a formality,” reported Sky Italia’s Guido Media.
“The real limit is his pain threshold. He will discover riding on Friday morning if these pains will be a nuisance or not.”
Rossi heads to the Italian GP looking to put a disastrous final lap at Le Mans behind him.
‘The Doctor’ handed his new Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales the victory in the French GP with a pair of mistakes on the last lap, the latter seeing him crash out of the race just three corners from home.
A victory would have seen him arrive on home soil with an increased points lead. Instead he now sits third, 23 points behind Vinales and six behind Jerez winner Dani Pedrosa.
Rossi’s motocross mishap couldn’t have come at a worse time.
This weekend marks the first in a run of four races in five weeks: Mugello is followed immediately by Catalunya, with a weekend off ahead of back-to-back races at Assen and the Sachsenring.
None of this year’s quartet of title contenders have escaped a poor weekend so far this year, with Rossi, Vinales, Pedrosa and Marc Marquez all having crashed out of at least one race.
Vinales has enjoyed the most consistent run so far, notching up three wins plus a sixth at Jerez but crashing out early in Austin.
Pedrosa book ended his popular win at Jerez with a pair of podiums, starting the season with a fifth at Qatar before crashing out in Argentina.
Marquez also crashed in Argentina and again at Le Mans; his win in Austin plus a second at Jerez and a fourth in Qatar leaves him 27 points adrift of Vinales in the standings.
Rossi is the only one of the top four yet to stand on the top step of the podium this year, and would dearly love to do so in front of his adoring fans at Mugello.
Ticket sales were already 20 per cent up on last year’s figures, with a crowd of over 100,000 expected to flock to the circuit hoping to see the Italian hero notch up his first win at Mugello since 2008.
Rossi always turns on something special for the Italian GP, evidenced by his tradition of special Mugello-only helmets throughout his time in the premier class.
Should he end his Italian GP drought on Sunday evening despite his injuries, it may just go down as one of his greatest home triumphs.