It’s a few months since MotoGP raced on Italian soil but the fans have surely kept the home fires burning since Mugello. As the series heads 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 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 – eager to stand in their way.
Marquez is the title favourite with his 59-point lead, but he won’t go into the event as favourite 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 colour, however. The red of Ducati will also be a home favourite, especially for Italian Andrea Dovizioso. Dovi 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 on a 250 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 wants to gain back ground though, and Danilo Petrucci is racing at home and wants to pull ahead in his first for top Independent Team rider against Cal Crutchlow and Johann Zarco, 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 is another with a lot to race for. Dani Pedrosa could be an even bigger dark horse – having taken a stunning win in 2016.