It may not guarantee Grand Prix wins but sheer speed still fires the soul. When I heard that Andrea Dovizioso had disappeared in a snarling red flash racing over the rise before using every part of his body to brake for the dreaded Mugello San Donato right-hander at a record-breaking 356.7 kph (221.6 mph) on Saturday morning I was fired up. I’m sure I was not alone. We are fascinated by top speed in all sport.
How fast was Mo Salah’s penalty travelling when it hit the net in the second minute of the Champions League final on Saturday night? What speed was Rafa Nadal’s serve at Roland Garros over the weekend? All the talk and media hype surrounding the Cricket World Cup that started in England and Wales last week has been about the speed of the fast bowlers who have already inflicted plenty of damage on batsman.
MotoGP™ and all motorsport at any level are no different. Lap times, race strategy and tyre choice win races and World Championships but the most asked question by the public is just how fast do these bikes go?
Just how does it feel to be in charge (hopefully) of a motorcycle at that speed. It’s a sensation that the majority of us will never have the privilege of experiencing. The riders will tell you anything over 300 kph does not feel different although at Mugello, in particular, I don’t totally believe them. Having witnessed through the fingers covering my eyes Shinya Nakano and Marc Marquez walk away from separate frightening crashes coming over the Mugello rise between the safety walls you need no reminding just how fast they were travelling.
It’s always been the same in the 70-year history of Grand Prix racing. I remember the excitement when Shinchi Itoh was reported to have raced past the speed trap in practice for the 1993 German Grand Prix through the Hockenheim forests at over 200 mph (321.8 kph). Riding the fuel injected NSR 500cc Honda two-stroke it was the first time a speed of over 200 mph had been recorded. I had to check that it was his team-mate Daryl Beattie that won the race but I remembered Itoh because of that new record top speed.
Danilo Petrucci showed with that magnificent first Grand Prix win in front of his home crowd at Mugello on Sunday that the top speed of the Mission Winnow Ducati played its part in the triumph that proved a couple of other things. Never give up chasing your dream. It was Petrucci’s 124th Grand Prix race and nice guys can win the top prize. We always said that Danilo used to be a policeman but honestly, I can’t imagine him ever arresting anybody. Perhaps they put him in charge of the radar gun to check the top speed of the motorists, not that it would have registered team-mate Dovizioso’s 356.7 kph on Saturday morning. Even Danilo would have to have arrested him after that.