Mugello is special for many. It surely is for all Italian riders, but it certainly has a different flavor for Valentino Rossi, the undisputed idol of the crowd when the world championship will be presented on the Tuscan circuit. During a chat with Guido Meda on Sky Sport on the Thursday of the Italian GP, Rossi touched many topics, from Yamaha's problems to the situation of the MotoGP, from the historic turns at Mugello to his experience on the Tuscan track with Formula 1.
The main problem for the Yamaha is acceleration from low speeds, and Le Mans has certainly disadvantaged the team from Iwata. But here, at Mugello, no one goes slow, so could Valentino encounter less problems?
"Mugello could be advantageous, but it's all theoretical. Let's wait to get on the track tomorrow. We lose a lot in acceleration exiting slow bends and, at Le Mans, there were many. This year, we've improved, but the others accelerate more than us. Once, the Yamaha was the fastest bike in corners. Now we're all there, and the others have gotten much closer.”
MotoGP is increasingly growing. After the electronics, the aerodynamic issue is also entering the paddock. Is the world championship at the top now?
"Times have changed, just like in all other sports. 2 years ago, everything was more romantic. Now we work more on all aspects. On Thursday, we used to play soccer in the paddock, but now we study. The level has really risen. And it's really tough this year because are so many strong riders on the grid here. I like to understand everything, I also try with the electronics, which is increasingly important in today's MotoGP. I spend a lot of time reading the data and comparing it with my sensations about the bike. Then there's also Gavira, my new coach, who watches me from outside and observes the others too. Then we talk to him and we talk to the technicians and we understand what to do."
After its disappointment in 2017/2018, Yamaha has invested to try to reduce the gap with the other bikes. There's already a 2020 bike planned to test, and there's talk about Brno as a possible date for this test.
"It was a normal thing until a few years ago. We tried the bike and the improvements during the Brno tests. In recent years, however, something has changed.We didn't do it, and we began to lose. What's good is that our ideas are clear, and there will be a lot to do and lots of new things to try, something that we have rarely done in the last few years. But to know more, you have to talk to the Japanese. I try to understand some stuff, but I don't know much."
Valentino talked about data and electronics as being the stars of the MotoGP, but does the rider still make a difference?
"The rider counts a lot in any case. Everyone has his own working method. I always like to analyze things with all my technicians."
For Rossi, Mugello, is also synonymous with victory and celebrations in the city center. A veritable city of fans in yellow. What were the funner celebrations over the years. We remember an inflatable doll used to tease Biaggi...
"Our ideas came about in a caffé among friends and, at that time, we were told to do something absurd. I didn't want to make fun of Biaggi with that inflatable doll, at least not initially. Then someone wrote to us about Claudia Schiffer and there, obviously, we thought of Max and his relationship with Campbell, but the idea wasn't that. One of the most amusing was in 2002 when we took the uniforms of the Tavullia police and they fined me for speeding."
Valentino has won at Mugello 9 times. What are the secrets of the track?
"You start off on the straight, then there's the "bump" everyone is arguing about. Then you enter Turn 1, the San Donato. It's a very long turn, and you ride it in second gear. Braking is important. You have to try to stay long on high speeds without going wide and try to exit as tight as possible.
Luco-Poggiosecco is the first "S". Those are Turns 2 and 3. The first is a blind left, very difficult, and the fan club is there, and it's important to do it well because they're there watching me.
The second "S" is the Materassi-Borgo San Lorenzo. It's faster than the Luco-Poggiosecco and you always ride in second (just like 2 and 3), so you're okay with one or the other.
After this variant comes the best point of the whole season: Casanova-Savelli-Arrabiata1. It's always very exciting because there's a fast downhill run and all the fans on the sidelines. You can ride them all in third. At the Arrabiata 2, you can't see anything, there are many bumps, and it's a really tough turn. You have to do it the way you remember it.
9 and 10 is the third "S" at Mugello. It's similar to the first, you ride it in second gear, and it's important to keep a bit of a margin in 9 to exit strong and really take advantage the "short" straight. Then you get to the Correntaio. It doesn't seem like it, but it's a very round turn, it bends a lot.
Then you enter the fourth sector, which is where I struggle the most. It's very important to keep the line because the bike moves. The Bucine is the last curve. It's very difficult because it's still downhill. You have to eyeball it and enter it blindly."
But besides bikes, Rossi has also ridden with Formula 1 at Mugello.
"I did a test with Ferrari here. It's a scary circuit: you ride Casanova, Savelli, and the Arrabbiatis in fifth and then sixth gear. You exit at 270 without seeing a thing."
Valentino also leaves us with some news this Thursday at Mugello. He won't be at the Monza Rally but will race an Endurance in Abu Dhabi.
"I won't be at the Monza Rally this year. I'll be racing in Abu Dhabi with a Ferrari 488 of the Kessel team along with Uccio and my brother, Luca Marini."