By Bruce Allen
Mugello used to be, for Valentino Rossi, what Phillip Island was for Casey Stoner. During his salad days, between 2002 and 2008, Rossi stood on the top step of the podium at his home track seven straight times, while Stoner won the Australian Grand Prix six times from 2007-2012. On race days, the two old priests at the Catholic church in Tavullia, Rossi’s home town, would watch the race, get a load on with the locals, and ring the church bells afterwards. The bells have been silent after the Italian Grand Prix for the past seven years.
A number of factors have conspired to deprive Rossi of a home win during this time. In 2009, Stoner was still enjoying success wrestling the Ducati Desmosedici until lactose intolerance sidelined him during the second half of the season. He won a three-way shootout at Mugello that year, beating sophomore sensation Jorge Lorenzo by a second and Rossi by two. 2010 was the year Rossi crashed hard in practice, resulting in the only serious injury of his career and a DNS at Mugello. 2011 and 2012 were The Lost Years at Ducati, during which he finished sixth and fifth in Italy, a complete non-factor.
Rejoining the factory Yamaha team in 2013, there was the Bautista incident described below. In 2014 Marquez and Lorenzo were faster. Last year it was Lorenzo again, with Andrea Iannone adding insult to injury by inserting himself into second place. Yes, he’s Italian, but he’s not Rossi.