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Vinales takes Mugello MotoGP pole, Rossi second despite injuries

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Maverick Viñales picked up his third MotoGP pole position of the season on Saturday after edging out home favorite Valentino Rossi in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.

Viñales arrived in Italy leading the riders’ championship by 17 points following his victory from pole position two weeks ago at Le Mans, and continued to turn the screw on his rivals by once again leading the way on Saturday at Mugello.

Viñales turned in a fastest lap of 1:46.575 to finish two-tenths of a second clear of Yamaha teammate Rossi, who took second on the grid despite riding with injuries sustained in a motocross accident late last month.

Andrea Dovizioso led Ducati’s charge in third place, 0.021 seconds back from Rossi, while wildcard teammate Michele Pirro took fourth on the grid for his one-off appearance this season.

Dani Pedrosa qualified fifth for Repsol Honda ahead of teammate Marc Marquez, with three-time champion Jorge Lorenzo finishing the session seventh. Alvaro Bautista ended Q2 eighth on the Aspar Ducati, with Danilo Petrucci and Tito Rabat rounding out the top 10.

Michelin appoints new North American motorsports director

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Michelin North America has named Tony Ménard as director of motorsports, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Ménard is succeeding Chris Baker, who has held the role for the past eight years. Baker is scheduled to retire in March of 2020, ending a lengthy career that began with Michelin in 1982.

“Chris has played a vital role in the growth and success of our motorsports program, both for BFGoodrich and Michelin in North America,” said Matthieu Bonardel, global director for Michelin Group’s motorsports business entity. “His passion and understanding for motorsport fueled growth in the organization and established credibility in the market. Chris’s leadership propelled the Group, which experienced tremendous success with race wins, and advanced the way the brands leveraged our motorsports participation to benefit the overall business.”

A native of Le Mans, France, Ménard has served in several positions during his 30-year career with Michelin, most recently serving global business leader for Michelin brand in the passenger-vehicle category. Ménard has worked closely with the North American motorsports team since early July in preparation for the transition.

Baker oversaw the development of the motorsports function for Michelin and BFGoodrich Tires brands as a single business unit in North America. He also directed the expansion of Michelin’s involvement in IMSA sports-car racing as the “Official Tire of IMSA” and BFGoodrich Tires partnership with SCORE International Racing as the “Official Tire of SCORE.”

During Baker’s tenure, BFGoodrich achieved an unprecedented 650 off-road class wins, including five overall victories in the Baja 1000. The brand also demonstrated performance in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing, Ultra4 King of Hammers, and provided strong support of grass roots racing across North America with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and Super Production Challenge in Canada.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michelin for the opportunities and support throughout my career, and to all the folks that I have worked with and continue to work with,” Baker said. “I want to thank all the teams, partners, officials and fans who have made our relationships so successful and are essential to the brands’ successes. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of our motorsports programs under Tony’s leadership, as well as the contributions of the Michelin Motorsport North America staff and volunteers, who are completely dedicated and invested in representing our brands in competition.”