Ducati head to Mugello for Sunday’s MotoGP given impetus by both history and recent form.
The Italian manufacturer, which views Mugello as its home race, has won last three Italian MotoGPs and Jack Miller has won the last two races, in Spain and France, while teammate Francesco Bagnaia is second in the standings.
Frenchman Fabio Quartararo leads the standings for Yamaha but has three Ducatis in close pursuit.
Australian Miller, who this week extended his contract through the end of 2022, is fourth while quasi-Ducati teammate Johan Zarco who rides for the Pramac satellite team is third.
Last year’s race in Mugello was cancelled because of Covid-19 but Ducati, based 80 kilometres away in Bologna, won in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and has been on the podium each year since 2015.
The ‘Bologna bullets’ are ideally suited to the fast, smooth circuit in the Tuscan hills.
In five races this season, Ducatis have nine podium places and finished first and second in the last two races in Spain and France.
Championship leader Quartararo, believes he can crash an Italian party at Mugello even though his Yamaha will face a speed deficit on the one-kilometre long pit straight.
“On the straight we know it’s not a strong point for us but there are many corners here, and the fast corners are where I feel good,” he said at the press conference on Thursday.
“We need to just start the weekend like a normal weekend, not thinking about the last three wins of Ducati or the big straight here, just go for it, do our pace and see on Sunday.”
After winning in Doha and Portugal, Quartararo was leading in Spain when his right forearm seized up.
He had to undergo arm pump surgery but returned at Le Mans to finish third, behind Miller and Zarco, in wet conditions.
Bagnaia is just a point behind Quartararo even though he has yet to win in the class.
“It would be great if I could win my first race here but at the moment it’s not my objective,” he said. “It’s more important to be constant and then competitive.”
In six MotoGP races at Mugello, Miller has only finished once, coming 15th in 2017.
“My report card of Mugello is not the most pleasant one,” he said. “I’ll try to put that right this weekend.”
Italian hero Valentino Ross, now 42, has struggled at the Yamaha satellite team SRT sparking speculation that this will be his last season.
“We have four races in five weeks,” he said. “Everybody will start to think about 2022… in that point I will make my decision. But also it’s not only my decision, I have also to speak with the Petronas team and also with Yamaha.”
There was evidence at Le Mans that six-time world champion Marc Marquez is returning to fitness after nearly a year out after breaking his arm. He briefly led but, pushing for a statement victory, slid off twice.
“We showed our potential in the wet in France,” he told the Honda web site. “I now we arrive at two back-to-back races, which is a first for me this year. It will be more physically demanding, but we can manage it.”
In Moto2, the focus will be KTM Ajo teammates Remy Gardner, the championship leader, and Raul Fernandez who is just one point behind.
Gardner, a 23-year-old Australian, has yet to win in 2021 but has not finished worse than fourth. Spanish debutant Fernandez has won twice, in Portugal and France.
In Moto3, Spanish “rookie” Pedro Acosta, who turned 17 on Tuesday, will again be the centre of attention after three wins in five races.
He leads the standings by a massive 54 points, on 103 points with another Spanish teenager, Sergio Garcia, on 49.