Mugello’s MotoGP party went flat – not just because of Rossi

For years, the semi-official motto of the MotoGP Italian Grand Prix has been “al Mugello non si dorme” (no sleep in Mugello), thanks to the incredible atmosphere that emanates from a race that is undoubtedly imposed as the jewel in the crown on the calendar.

But, with worrying turnout so far in the post-COVID and post-Valentino Rossi run of the Mugello race, it looks like that special status is in jeopardy.

There have always been two types of circuits on the MotoGP calendar. There are those where fans seem to filter daily from the surrounding area, only coming for the races and returning home in the evening, such as Silverstone, Barcelona or Misano. They often have good attendance and a fun atmosphere, but somehow they manage to feel a little civilized about it all.

Then there is the other type; circuits where you don’t just come for Sunday, you come for a week. You see it in places like Jerez, Le Mans, Assen and (formerly, at least) Mugello, where people start packing their bags on the circuit on Wednesday, stay for the four or five days of the event and watch the bikes all day while partying. night.

These are the races that, when asked for a recommendation (as I often do) which GP to attend, I suggest. Mugello has always been on this list for many reasons. Incredible atmosphere, most scenic spot of the year, amazing Italian food and free flowing local wine. What’s not to like?

Well, there’s one thing not to like about Mugello in particular, something that partly comes from its location nestled in the Tuscan hills. It’s not the easiest race on the calendar to get to or find accommodation (if you’re not brave enough to attempt the campsites).

Located about a 45-minute drive from Florence (minus the race-day traffic), it’s also not particularly well served by public transport, meaning it’s normally local hotels too expensive or a rental car and a long daily commute. inside and outside.

But, in 2022, this is not the case. Arriving at the track in the morning, there was no traffic on the rather narrow local roads. Even on race morning today it was easy to get in without queuing.

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As you enter, the hills around the track (which are nestled at the bottom of a narrow valley) are empty, devoid of the usual chorus of dreadful Italian pop stars and two-stroke engines (which normally sound like they’re be beaten within an inch of their life).

It’s such a shame, because without the symphony of noise and smoke that normally greets you every morning when you stand on the paddock stairs and look across hills that normally look like the aftermath of a field of Napoleonic-era battlefield more than a racing circuit, it all feels a bit… flat.


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There is of course a very obvious elephant in the room as to why this might be. This is the first Italian Grand Prix at Mugello without Valentino Rossi since 1996, and the nine-time world champion’s ability to attract fans was undeniable even in the final years of his career as his results on the track dwindled. .

That’s why the show’s promoter, Dorna, did everything in his power to lure him back into the race in any capacity, choosing to retire his number 46 not in the boardroom. press as usual for ceremonies like this, but rather on the main straight on the right. ahead of qualifying – an event that even then couldn’t gather many people, taking place in front of a not exactly full grandstand on the main straight.

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But it would be foolish (and a bit insulting, to be honest) to pin all the blame on Rossi’s absence when there is a much more egregious reason. We are in the midst of a cost of living crisis as the world tries to pull itself out of two years of pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drives up the price of basic necessities – which was particularly felt in Italy with its dependence on Russian natural gas.

And, with its location meaning Mugello isn’t normally one of the cheapest races at the best of times, 2022 has driven that cost even higher. Flights are expensive, hotels are expensive, and rental cars are at the next level by the minute, orders of magnitude more than in previous years.

Even if you live down the street and can stay home every night and get in, ticket prices might just put you off attending. A general admission ticket without a grandstand seat (not that you need it at Mugello) costs €169.

That’s almost double a similar price at Le Mans two weeks ago, where you could attend all three days for just €90 – and where, as a result, the French GP crowded 225,000 people from Friday to Sunday. .

The pricing is a choice that was made, of course, by tour operators no doubt keen to claw back two years of dramatically reduced revenue amid the COVID pandemic. But this begs the question: what is the right business model? Is it better to have 50,000 people on Sunday at €200 each or 100,000 at €100?

Both might ultimately yield the same income, but they also create a very different atmosphere – and the atmosphere is certainly what Mugello should be looking for to protect the future of racing in the new post-Rossi era.

About Joseph Minton

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