Nestling in the hills just to the north of Florence lies the motor racing circuit of Mugello. Each year this is the venue for the Italian round of the MotoGP series. Probably you will all be familiar with the car racing series of Formula 1. MotoGP is the equivalent series for motorcycles.
The Italian rider, Valentino Rossi is one of the all time greats in motorcycling history with nine world championships to his name, seven of which are in the premier most powerful class. As such Rossi or ‘il dottore’ is a folk hero to the tifosi. I was therefore expecting an electric atmosphere for my visit this year to Rossi’s home GP for my first experience of MotoGP and I wasn’t disappointed.
The race meeting itself runs over three days. In addition to the MotoGP race there are other races for less powerful motorcycles where aspirant racers seek to impress and hopefully graduate to the senior series with one of the big manufacturer teams like Honda, Suzuki, Ducati or Kawasaki. Day 1, the Friday, is for practice and only the most dedicated fans attend. Day 2, the Saturday is for qualifying which will decide grid positions for the races and the races are on the Sunday.
We chose not to watch from the grandstands but to use the ‘prato’ or the lawn, a large area surrounding the majority of the circuit. The track itself is in a natural amphitheatre so fans with a well chosen position can see much of it. Those in the know exploit this to the full. One or two of an organised group will attend on the Friday and set up camp. They erect pergolas and sunshades, seats and cold boxes and mark out their territories with bright plastic tapes ready for their mates to arrive on the Saturday and the Sunday. Another difference from other motor racing events that I have attended is that fans can bring their motorcycles into the prato amongst the crowds. Food and souvenir stalls and fans in yellow wearing Rossi’s number 46 are everywhere. The result on the prato is chaotic and the atmosphere electric. Fans show their appreciation by making as much noise as possible and two techniques are the most effective. The first consists of revving a powerful motorcycle engine to its absolute maximum. The second involves petrol driven chain saws with the chain itself removed and the exhaust amplified. To these are added yellow smoke flares. When on the Saturday Rossi qualified his machine on pole position the resulting celebration was unique in my experience.
The racing itself is amazing. Unlike in car racing, the fans can see exactly what the rider is doing. The angles that the bikes lean at are unbelievable. Riders frequently enter corners three or four abreast and live to tell the tale. Their skill level is incredible. Overtaking is frequent. The noise is beyond description.
Sadly on race day Rossi was unable to translate his Saturday success into a race win which would have been the icing on the cake. The only downside to the two days we attended was getting out of the carpark after the race. The small country roads around Mugello are ill equipped to deal with 90,000 fans leaving together.
If you want to add a little something extra to your vacation in Tuscany and you enjoy any form of motor racing this is a real possibility- but you will need to plan in advance. Tickets are on sale from the circuit direct from the beginning of the year.
This would be the perfect trip to take from Montisi.