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MotoGP: Italian Grand Prix Storylines

The 2013 MotoGP World Championship continues May 31-June 2 with the Grand Prix of Italy, with action in all three classes – MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.

The 18-round World Championship includes the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Aug. 16-18 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Here’s a look at four storylines after the first day of the Grand Prix of Italy:

Playing Hurt: Four races have been contested so far this season, so the number of riders competing while injured continues to grow.

American Ben Spies returns to his Ignite Pramac Racing Ducati at this event after missing the last two races due to lingering effects of reconstructive surgery on his shoulder last October. Spies has missed four of the last six MotoGP races, dating back to last season, due to the injury.

Spies said he still is not at 100 percent, as shoulder injuries are among the most difficult for motorcycle racers to rehabilitate due to the stresses placed on the joint during racing. Many eyes will be on Spies to see how well his shoulder holds up in Mugello’s mixture of hard braking zones and rhythmic corners.

Rookie phenom Marc Marquez, fellow rookie Bradley Smith and veteran Andrea Dovizioso also are nursing fresh bumps and bruises after crashes during practice Friday at Mugello, possibly hampering their performance in the race Sunday.

Marquez suffered a deeply bruised chin and other bumps and scrapes when he lost control of his Repsol Honda while braking from 210 mph while approaching Turn 1, after arguably the fastest straightaway in MotoGP. Marquez veered toward the outside wall under braking and bailed out from his bike to avoid hitting the concrete barrier.

Smith crashed and suffered a broken left wrist after crashing in Turn 7, but he said he will continue on his Tech 3 Yamaha this weekend.

Dovizioso crashed on his Ducati in the morning and said he cannot bend his neck backward. That will pose a problem in corners and while balling the upper half of his body into an aerodynamic tuck on Mugello’s long front straightaway, possibly jeopardizing his participation the race.

Cal Crutchlow continues to recover from the broken shinbone he suffered two weeks ago at Le Mans. But Crutchlow already has displayed an incredible capacity to perform in pain, as he finished a career-best second on his Tech 3 Yamaha one day after suffering the leg fracture.

Yamaha Needs Win:
The pendulum of power has swung away from Yamaha to Honda since last June, as a Honda rider has won 12 of the last 15 MotoGP races aboard an RC213V factory bike.
But the Grand Prix of Italy could be the place for Yamaha to strike back.

Yamaha Factory Racing teammates Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were first and second, respectively, overall in practice Friday, just 34-thousandths of a second apart. Cal Crutchlow was third overall on a satellite Tech 3 Yamaha.

The top Honda rider was series points leader Dani Pedrosa, fifth overall and 1.008 seconds behind Lorenzo.

Yamaha has dominated at Mugello since the four-stroke era started in 2002, with seven victories. Lorenzo has won this race the last two years, and Rossi won five years in a row on a Yamaha from 2004-08 after winning on a Honda in 2002-03.

Ducati Getting Closer: The maligned Ducati Team, winless since 2010, continues to nose closer to respectability since German auto giant Audi bought the iconic Italian motorcycle manufacturer last summer.

Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Grand Prix of France on May 19. It was only the second time since the start of the 2012 season that two Ducati factory riders have finished in the top five of a MotoGP race.

Dovizioso also qualified an impressive third two weeks ago at Le Mans, and Hayden was fourth quickest overall in practice today for this event despite not being content with the setup on his GP13 bike.

A neck injury suffered in a qualifying crash today will test Dovizioso’s tolerance for pain this weekend. But can Hayden earn Ducati’s first podium finish since Valentino Rossi finished second in the Grand Prix of San Marino last September? Hayden’s last podium finish came in April 2011 when he finished third in the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.

This is the home race for Ducati, as the company’s headquarters are located about 60 miles from Mugello, in Bologna, Italy.

Big Speeds: Expect to see the fastest speeds of the season this weekend at the Grand Prix of Italy, with riders tickling the 215-mph mark on the front straightaway, which is nearly three-quarters of a mile long.

Rookie Marc Marquez was fastest on that straight during practice today at 212.5 mph on his Repsol Honda.


Race:             Grand Prix of Italy
Date:            Sunday, June 2
Round:        Fifth of 18 races in 2013
Circuit:         Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello, Scarperia, Italy
Distance:         23 laps on 15-turn, 3.259-mile circuit
2012 Winner:        Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha
U.S. Riders:    Nicky Hayden, Owensboro, Ky., Ducati Team; Ben Spies, Longview, Texas, Ignite Pramac Racing; Colin Edwards, Houston, NGM Mobile Forward Racing.
TV:     MotoGP: 7:30 a.m. (ET) Sunday, June 2, SPEED. Moto2: 5 p.m. (ET), Sunday, June 2, SPEED. Moto3: Noon (ET) Tuesday, June 4, SPEED.
Twitter:        @MotoGP


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MotoGP: Italian Grand Prix Storylines
MotoGP: Italian Grand Prix Storylines
The 2013 MotoGP World Championship continues May 31-June 2 with the Grand Prix of Italy, with action in all three classes – MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3. The 18-round World Championship includes the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Aug. 16-18 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
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