The Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello is a 3.25 mile serpent of asphalt nestled within the Tuscan Appenine Mountains just north of Florence. The circuit is owned by Scuderia Ferrari and used for testing and development of their Formula 1 race cars, but the track also plays host to the Gran Premio d’Italia MotoGP race — the home race for Ducati Corse. With only one world championship to its name (2007) and zero dry-weather victories during the 2013 season, the Ducati Team had the eyes of a nation following its every move this past weekend at the fastest track on the calendar.
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The track’s stands hold some 50,000 spectators, but as the race weekend roared to life the number of onlookers stationed on the lawns alone broke into six figures. The streets, farms and open plots of land leading into the track became a gauntlet of cars, bikes and people primed for the excitement only motorcycle racing can deliver. Nine-time World Champion, Valentino Rossi — now back astride a Yamaha and competing in his 300th grand prix — still commands the bulk of Italian fans’ amore, but Ducati riders from both home and abroad are also embraced as native sons. Italian rider on a foreign bike, foreign rider on Italian bike: these fans weren’t picky.
WHEELS AND GEARS: DUCATI X TUDOR
Timekeeping and motorsports have a connection that far outstrips mere lap times. The two share a mechanical connection: engines turning gears, gears turning wheels. Since 2011 Tudor Watch and Ducati Motor Holding S.p.A. have joined forces to combine their passions for performance and design with impressive results. The Tudor Fastrider Black Shield (along with a choice looking custom Ducati Diavel Carbon) represents the latest tangible culmination of their partnership.
The Fastrider Black Shield is bathed in matte black ceramic. Its monobloc case is ceramic-injected, making it virtually scratch-proof. This technique also enables Tudor to fabricate each case as a single-piece production — a fairly unique operation in the world of chronographs. Red accents on the hands, indices and chapter ring give the Black Shield presence and legibility contained within 42mm of wrist real-estate. Powered by a 27-jewel, Tudor-tweaked Valjoux 7753 automatic movement, the Black Shield features a power reserve that would outlast any rider we know: 46 hours. The crown and pushers are fabricated from steel and feature a matte black PVD treatment, in keeping with the muted theme.
Thanks to its misfortunes during last year’s campaign, Ducati Corse finds itself as the only factory entrant grouped into the Open Class of motorcycles competing in MotoGP this year. That means Team Ducati faces fewer restrictions on fuel and seasonal engine allowances. Tire choices are also more flexible, with a softer compound made available to riders seeking extra grip. And the less stringent rules have started to pay off. Factory rider Andrea Dovizioso (an Italian) managed an exciting podium finish in Austin earlier this year and had finished in the top ten at every race so far in the season.
But it would be Pramac Racing’s satellite Ducati rider Andrea Iannone who electrified Italian fans and outshone the factory-backed Ducati Corse team. During practice on Saturday the twenty-four year old Vasto, Italy native set a blistering new top-speed record. His Desmosedici GP14 tripped the radar guns at 349.6 kmh (217.2 mph), making him and his Ducati the fastest combo ever at Mugello and in all of MotoGP. This performance earned him a spot in the front row of the grid.
So there were high hopes for the race itself — but unfortunately, no Ducati riders would be bathed in Prosecco after the checkered flag. But, like we said, the Italian fans weren’t solely counting on Ducati, and their patriotism was rewarded by Valentino Rossi, who celebrated his 300th grand prix by finishing on the podium in typically dramatic fashion. To keep the eyes of every Mugello fan glued, the Doctor worked his way up from tenth on the grid with surgical precision, passing Iannone and Dovizioso in the process. The podium placement resulted in clouds of flare-smoke from the stands and grassy knolls. Despite their native son finishing behind the unbeatable Marc Marquez and his teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, Italy had obviously won the race.