The Fiat Yamaha team head into their home Grand Prix at Mugello in Italy this weekend looking to continue the most successful ever start to a MotoGP World Championship for the Japanese factory. Yamaha riders have won three of the first five races of the year, having taken pole in four of them, and have racked up nine podiums - including a top-three lockout at the last round in France. Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo currently occupy the top two positions in the championship, while Yamaha are leading both the Constructors' and Teams' standings.
The 300km trip to Mugello from the team's current base in Milan has traditionally been a successful one for the factory, who have dominated for the last four seasons with Rossi. The Italian's record at his home race is second to none, with an unbeaten run of six seasons in MotoGP to add to victories in each of the 125cc and 250cc classes. Back-to-back successes in the last two rounds of this season mean that for the first time in over a year Rossi leads the World Championship, although just three points separate him from team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who is tied on points with Dani Pedrosa.
Lorenzo's tally of 94 points is the highest ever score after five races by a rookie and whatever the result in Italy the 21-year-old plans to make more history as the youngest rider ever to reach the milestone of 100 Grand Prix starts. Lorenzo has a strong record at Mugello, having gone from his debut 250cc pole to second place in 2005 before taking victory from pole in 2006. However, last year he started from 20th place following a rain-affected qualifying session and then slid out of the lead on the final lap, re-mounting to finish eighth.
One of the fastest circuits on the calendar, with the 1,141m front straight last year tempting the new 800cc machines towards top speeds in excess of 320km/h, Mugello differs from other fast circuits in its frequent changes of gradient and the speed of its chicanes. There is a mix of slower and high-speed corners, although even the slowest corners are still wide - allowing plenty of scope for overtaking as the riders get a choice of line, putting the emphasis as much on their skill as on the precision of their chassis set-up.
Valentino Rossi; "Le Mans was fantastic and I am still feeling very happy when I think about it! We had a good test afterwards and did a lot of hard work with Bridgestone and on the general setting of our bike, so hopefully we have been able to improve our package even further. Everyone knows that Mugello is one of my favourite tracks; I've won there six times in a row and now I want to make it seven! It's my home race and also the home race for a lot of our team and to race there is always something very special. It's fast and technical and we know it suits our bike so we will be aiming to be quick right from Friday morning. I hope the weather is good - for us and for all the fans - and then hopefully we can have a big Italian party!"
Jorge Lorenzo; "I have to be really grateful for the fact that I have recovered so quickly from my injuries and to have had such great professionals making sure that was the case. Obviously we're still not going to be at 100% for Mugello but with every race that passes I'm able to put more weight on the footrests. I'm going to Italy with high hopes because it is one of my favourite circuits, with lots of fast and flowing corners. We have some favourable tracks coming up but we can't rely too much on that because in sport, and especially in motorcycle racing, you never know what can happen. This is a special race for me because it will be my hundredth appearance in the World Championship. It has all gone really fast and if I ever make it to 200 then I hope it goes just as fast - that would mean I'm having just as much fun as I have up to now and hopefully I'll have helped the fans enjoy it too!"