With generally the highest top speeds of the season … and the thrilling end-of-straight jump, Mugello puts a special emphasis on aerodynamics, and in MotoGP it showed.
Nowhere more clearly than on the factory Aprilia, with a brand-new biplane fairing, taking up the option of a single modification for the year.
According to the team, this improved stability without affecting top speed, and lead rider Aleix Espargaro managed to place an impressive fifth in morning free practice, in spite of losing time after a flaming top-speed blow-up forced him to park his bike.
At Yamaha the move was in the opposite direction, with the latest aerodyne shelved in favour of the original more slippery fairing. Apparently to little effect, with the bikes still lagging at the end of the straight.
Team manager Massimo Meregalli confirmed the problem, and that with engine design frozen for the season, they were stuck with it. “We expect Mugello, Brno and Catalunya will be difficult tracks for us,” he said.
Typically Ducati left rivals scratching their heads, with another somewhat puzzling innovation on test-rider Michele Pirro’s Desmosedici – side-plates in carbon-fibre covering the lower rear quadrant of the rear wheel.
Enigmatically, he was testing these in the morning, but without the similar and already familiar front-wheel side-plates.
At the end of the first day, top speed figures from the faster afternoon session showed that Rossi on the fastest Yamaha was almost 10 km/h down on Dovizioso on the fastest Ducati, at 340.4 km/h to 349.9; while Crutchlow on the fastest Honda (behind five Ducatis) ran 344.6. However, top speed is not everything. The fastest time was set by Pecco Bagnaia, whose Ducati top speed of 340.3 put him only 17th in the flat-out league.
by Michael Scott