2012 Mugello Moto3 Race Report: Viñales' Winning Strategy Was His Own Sheer Speed
After Sandro Cortese had won the Moto3 race in Germany the week before, it was logical to expect more of the same from the championship leader at the ultra fast racetrack of Mugello. Even more so if you believe the not yet fully proven myth of KTM's supersonic engines, as they have appeared to be at some tracks this in this first season of Moto3.
After Viñales' wet nightmare at the Sachsenring just a few days ago - unable to gain even a single point in the race, something very difficult to understand for such a road racing talent as Viñales has already demonstrated he is-, the Spaniard on the FTR Honda looked to be ready to fight for victory again at a dry Mugello.
Viñales was the fastest rider on the track during the free practice sessions, gradually getting closer to Bradley Smith's best pole position in 2009 with the Aprilia 125 two stroke. The British rider's fastest lap time back in 2009 -1'58.134- was finally beaten by Viñales' 1'57.980 during qualifying.
With only Viñales lapping in the 1'57, plus Cortese, Spanish rookie Alex Rins and Vasque Efrén Vázquez doing 1'58, Mugello's fast layout definitely helped twelve more riders who were running 1'59s –from Danny Kent in 5th to Miguel Oliveira in 16th - to grow the front group to 15 riders at the start of the race.
Slipstreaming strategies started as soon every rider in the front realized that escaping from the group would be a difficult option. Zulfahmi Khairuddin tried hard at the start, but even having the fastest bike on the track during the race (236 km/h), the Malaysian could not resist the deadly battle between Viñales, Cortese, Romano Fenati, Niccolò Antonelli, Vázquez and Rins, and lost contact with the front a few laps later.
In terms of top speed, the KTMs were again the fastest Moto3 bikes at Mugello – Khairuddin topped out at 236 km/h, Cortese, Sissis, Ajo and Kent all hit 235 km/h. But the next fastest rider –Viñales on the FTR Honda- just made 234 km/h. And the difference between Khairuddin and Martin -18th fastest in top speed for the whole event- was just 4 km/h. The KTMs were faster once again, but not by so much. If there is any right place to test the top speed of the Moto3 bikes, Mugello's 1.1 km main straight is for sure the prime candidate.
If the first few laps had been stressful for the riders, with constant overtaking in the front group, the rest of the race was going to be very similar. As soon it was clear that the race lead would be changing hands from Viñales to Fenati, Cortese, Antonelli to Vazquez, the idea of escaping became more important for Viñales, Cortese and Fenati, who achieved this goal in the final part of the race. Slipstreaming could disguise the lack of top speed while in the larger group, but with just three riders in front for the final laps, it was the moment to find out if Cortese's top speed was going to prevail.
Viñales started the last lap with total determination to win by his own speed, as he was riding during every practice session in the weekend. When the three riders came to the last corner, Cortese made his late attack over Fenati but was already unable to pass Viñales, who exited onto Mugello's main straight first and praying not to be passed by Cortese and Fenati in the final metres.
Viñales had taken his pole position on Saturday by making a fantastic lap time in qualifying session, especially by being extremely fast in the last sector of the track on his fastest lap. On Sunday he put his trust in himself again and also his FTR Honda to win the race by his own speed. Meanwhile Fenati finally passed Cortese, who finished third. Behind the battle for the win, Antonelli, Kent and Vázquez finished 4th, 5th and 6th, with Rins last of the group in 7th.
For sure Mugello's Moto3 race was as thrilling as the class always is. Victory was open for three different riders but, in a clear contrast with the Sachsenring's nightmare ending for Viñales, this time the Spaniard got the win. Fenati's second place gave Viñales four additional points in his chase of series leader Cortese, third at Mugello.
The Moto3 championship standings are getting closer at the top. Cortese is still the leader with 164 points and Viñales second with 155. The biggest loss at the Italian Grand Prix was for Luis Salom (104), still third in points after crashing at Mugello, but now further behind Viñales and Cortese for the title race.
Now it is the summer break for the Moto3 riders. Riders and teams will enjoy some free time to analyse, reflect and prepare for the last part of the season, starting again on August 17th at the Indianapolis Grand Prix. The new "quarter litre" category is now at halfway mark, and it is a good time to take a look back and see where each rider and title contender is at this moment, in order to face this second and decisive part of the season. But that's another story we will soon publish at Motomatters.com