Then came round six at Mugello, with the longest (0.71 miles) straight of the year, and furthermore the Bologna-based Ducati’s test track, where the V4 Desmosedici has clocked up thousands of laps. And they’d won the last three races straight.
A Ducati victory seemed a given. A view reinforced by overhead camera views showing the desmos (two factory and two satellite 2021 bikes, and two older private-team bikes) surging past especially the Yamahas, Suzukis and Aprilias on the straight. Although not (the first disquieting note) the Austrian KTMs, one of which narrowly edged the top-speed charts.
The Ducati race triumph not happen. Instead Quartararo’s Yamaha took his fourth pole in a row with a new outright lap record, and then romped home for his third win, to extend his impressive early championship lead to 24 points, almost a full race in hand.
The numbers underline the surprise. In qualifying, current title runner-up Johann Zarco was the fastest of the Ducatis crowding the top of the list, at 223.7mph. (Binder’s KTM had obviously enjoyed a good slipstream to go 1.5mph faster, the other KTMs were further down).
Quartararo’s Yamaha – all the Yamahas – were significantly slower: the Frenchman’s best was just 217mph. The equivalent of a fair run, all the way down the long straight. And yes, after factory Ducati rider Bagnaia crashed out early, Zarco several times demonstrated how he could just ride past to reach turn one first. But then he would have to do it again next time… until finally he wasn’t close enough any more.
Later in the race, champion Joan Mir’s Suzuki, similarly down on top speed, took another podium place off the Ducati, underlining the proof of the simple truth about racing. Top speed is not everything.