MotoGP 2022 Round 17: Buriram

October 2, 2022

We here at Late-Braking MotoGP have admittedly become something of a clanging gong on the subject of Fabio Quartararo and the likelihood of his repeating as world champion in 2022. Such concerns arrived in full force today in the steam bath that is Buriram, in a part of the world that offers one a choice of climatic conditions. Not a range, mind you, but a choice–heat found only on hell’s front porch or torrential downpours that raise the humidity above 100%. These come and go with reckless abandon, causing events such as we saw today in Round 17.

Doesn’t the editorial We above sound better than some mope sitting at his kitchen table clattering away about stuff he doesn’t really understand?

Screenshot (476)

I suppose I should mention somewhere that Miguel Oliveira won the race.

I have our crack research staff examining 2022 records for help answering the following question: Is a rider’s fate on Sunday largely decided by the events in FP3 and Q1, or are you stupid? Of course it’s decided on Saturday, from top to bottom. I’ve decided I love the current qualifying format in that it is progressively Darwinian. You have to make the top 10 in the combined FP1 – FP3 sessions. If you fail to do so, it is imperative that you battle through Q1 to make it to Q2. [When was the last time a rider won in MotoGP starting outside the top 12? The nerds are looking into that, as well. No they’re not.] Once in Q2, it is ultra-helpful if the rider can finish the session above the 50th percentile, i.e., in the first two rows. Only then does one get a credible chance for the win.

One example of this (not a very good one) was Johann Zarco today, who got pistol-whipped at the start from P5 and spent his day trying to get his wipers to work in traffic, with a notable lack of success. Until Lap 15, when he laid down the first of five consecutive fastest race laps and put himself up with the big dogs for the last half dozen. He would overtake Marquez, who appeared to develop grip issues late in the day, but was unable to penetrate Bagnaia for a place on the podium. Likewise, Marquez missed a decent chance to capture his 100th career podium, but he looked fit doing it. He barged into a couple of riders along the way today, but escaped penalty, unless he’s the rider given three extra seconds for bashing directly into Marco Bezzecchi without so much as a by your leave on Lap 8. Just sayin’.

I guess what I’m suggesting is that my idea back in 2008 when the Indianapolis round was busy failing due to Hurricane Ike that new venues, like the IMS at the time, offer free admission on the first Saturday of racing. Give the uninitiated a dozen or so sessions during the day, saving the best for last. In the absence of a tropical depression, such a promotion could have brought 150,000 paid admissions on Sunday; it would have instantly become the best-attended race on the calendar. A full day of MotoGP, all three classes, is enough to get any 4 wheel gearhead interested in two-wheeled racing. Although the thought of offering free admission on Saturday during the dubious India round could result in six or seven million people crashing the gates. Not a great idea after all, I suppose.

Today’s race was highlighted by the fact that the riders had virtually no practice time whatsoever, at all, no how no way. None. A couple of extra sighting laps before the race. The notable mudders on the grid–Miller, Oliveira, Marquez, Alex (!) Marquez, Zarco–were going to have a good day, being veterans comfortable on rain tires. Oddly, rookie and Valentino Rossi protégé Marco Bezzecchi took pole on Saturday, joined by Jorge Martin and Pecco Bagnaia for an all Ducati front row. Duc Duc Duc. Young Marco took the hole shot and proceeded to get mauled by pretty much everyone, ending his day in P16.

By Lap 4, Jack Miller had established a clear but unconvincing lead, with KTM wet weather ace Miguel Oliveira sniffing around his tailpipe. Oliveira took P2 from Bezzecchi on Lap 7 and seized the lead from Miller on Lap 8 as Aleix Espargaro was being assessed a long lap penalty for, as I understand it, “being kind of an asshole all day,” as it said in the FIM press release. I overheard the announcers say that someone had been assessed a three-second penalty for conduct unbecoming, but missed the rider’s name. One of you, I’m sure, will inform me. Wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was #93.

Quartararo’s day was awful in several ways. He gave up 16 of his 18 point lead and now is in a dogfight with Bagnaia for the title. Aleix sits in third, any momentum he enjoyed early in the season largely gone. EBas had a quiet P6 today, his ten points taking him to within 18 of Bagnaia. And along comes Jack, suddenly, having secured 45 points in the last eight days, sitting in a somewhat menacing P5. Conceding the win to Oliveira late in the race, Miller appeared somewhat circumspect about the prospect of trading paint with the rider he will replace on the KTM factory team next season.

For me, the highlight of the day occurred after the conclusion, when Simon Crafar, World’s Worst Interviewer, was sufficiently at sea, all deer in headlights, such that he could only manage to ask Pecco, “How happy are you?” I suspect Simon is moonlighting for some magazine, maybe Us or Forever21, and that he bootlegs these clips into articles about relationships and feelings and leather.

OK. I heard Matt Birt allude to the possibility the 2022 title could be decided in Valencia. So, we Dummies, we Morons, can look forward to that prospect today, when six weeks ago it seemed unlikely. Reality, it seems, has caught up with your boy Fabio and I’m afraid it’s downhill from here. Phillip Island and Sepang are happy hunting grounds for the Ducati phalanx. As usual, the primary question remains, “Who is composed enough to stay out of the gravel during the last four rounds?” Which is why we watch this stuff. I wish I had it in me to share my thoughts on Moto3 and Moto2 today. All I can say at this time is that the Moto2 race was shredded by the weather and, accordingly, for the first time in my memory, awarded half points to the riders of the truncated fiasco. The main beneficiaries of this decision, it would appear, are the bookmakers who can now avoid pushes using full point spread increments. There’s a sentence in there somewhere.

A week off before heading out to Australia and Malaysia. It appears plausible to believe 2022 will be one of those years when two riders head to Valencia within three points of one another, perhaps with a third another ten points back. A race in which the three riders will push all of their chips into the middle of the table, look each other in the eye, and say, “All in.” The guys who are making the videos recapping each MotoGP season will get their teeth into the jangling nerves and rampant obsessive compulsive disorders on display behind the scenes in Valencia on Friday night. One guy on the team stress-refreshing the Accuweather forecast. Fabio getting his roots done. Vinales on the phone for two hours with his infant daughter discussing race strategy. Jack Miller getting well into the beer before arm-wrestling members of his team. The young VR46 guns, Marini and Bezzecchi and Bastiannini, sitting with The Great Rossi listening to stories about 2008, barely able to keep their eyes open other than the breathtaking number of, um, encounters with, ahem, female admirers.

The hits just keep coming in MotoGP. Stay tuned for more up-to-date expressions of wild speculation.

MotoGP 2022 Round 16: Motegi

September 25, 2022

Jack Miller dominates; Quartararo extends series lead

The 2022 Japanese Grand Prix, after getting skipped by The Powers That Be for the last two years, gave the fans an odd little race. The kind of race it was today: Series leader Fabio Quartararo, stuck in the mid-pack mud all day, finished in P8 and extended his series lead. Everyone’s favorite underdog, Aleix Espargaro, got undone on the sighting lap, something terminal with the electronics on his Aprilia, forcing him to pit, drop his bike, jump on his #2 bike, and start from pit lane in a distant P25. Aleix rode his ass off all day only to finish in P16, pointless.

Factory Ducati pilot Pecco Bagnaia, he of the gi-normous expectations heading into the season, found himself slugging it out in the aforementioned mud with his rival, series leader Quartararo, on the final lap. Young Pecco choked on the lowside, trudging through the gravel, clapping his hands in mock appreciation for what he later implied was an error by someone on his crew. Oh, and factory Ducati #2 pilot Jack Miller owned the place all weekend, seized the lead in today’s race on Lap 3 when he went through on Pramac brother-in-arms Jorge Martin and proceeded to lay down a Marquez-esque vapor trail on his way to his fourth win in the premier class.

Ducati did well, as expected, today. Placed five machines in the top ten and two on the podium. Gigi–gotta love this guy–sitting in the garage during the race, looking relaxed, wondering whether he should order more tiramasu. There was a point in the race when Matt Birt stopped to observe that he had just seen a Ducati turn inside a Yamaha for the first time ever. Having seen the results before watching the tape, on Lap 23 I wrote, “KITTENS COMING,” in anticipation of the meltdown Matt and Louis would suffer watching Pecco coming unglued on the last lap. Sure enough, right on cue, here they came. I could only be thankful that Steve Day is no longer in the booth, as he was always the one having kittens.

Fabio may be The Blessed Rider again this year; if so, it would represent a truly great season-long body of work on a sadly inferior machine. But really, he struggled all day to manage P8 which would have been P9 had Pecco not surrendered to the laws of physics. Aleix had the best qualifying of the four contenders in P6 prior to the debacle at the start. EBas started from P15 before finishing in P9. And Bagnaia hamstrung himself today by slogging to a P12 during Qualifying #2. It appears that most of our fearless leaders are feeling the pressure of having a premier class championship within their reach. The answer, in all likelihood, will lie, as we have been saying all year, in the number of crashes/DNFs the riders accumulate, as follows:

Rider Points DNF

Fabio Quartararo 219 2

Pecco Bagnaia 201 5

Aleix Espargaro 194 1*

Enea Bastianini 170 4

*mechanical failure at the start

Looking at things this way, it’s entirely possible to project Espargaro winning the title. Fabio spending his entire days on the limit is a blueprint for disaster. Bagnaia has people wondering why he doesn’t get it, that if he would only keep the shiny side up a little more often he would be leading the championship. That he doesn’t should great hope to the Espargaro family. Here’s what the season would look like if Quartararo and Bagnaia were to crash out in Thailand, allowing Aleix to win and EBas to place second:

Quartararo 219

Espargaro 219

Bagnaia 201

Bastianini 190

With four rounds left, I’m confident both Fabio and Pecco will slide out of one of them. The question is whether Aleix can keep his nose clean for an entire season. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t enjoy seeing him take the title after so many years of fruitless toil.

Marc Marquez seized pole on Saturday, just to remind folks how extraordinarily successful he has been here in the past. He took the hole shot and held the lead for three or four turns before getting swallowed up by a gaggle of riders not riding with one arm. He sat in P5 pretty much all day before taking Miguel Oliveira’s lunch money on the final lap for P4.

The factory KTM operation had things going their way today, placing Binder on the podium and Oliveira in the top five, too. Another guy I’ve been ignoring, but who is getting harder and harder to ignore, is Luca Marini. The sophomore has scored points in 13 of the 16 rounds to date. He worked his way up front and was tagging along with the lead group by the end of the day. The grid these days seems absolutely packed with fast young Italian riders, another node of The Rossi Effect. Another example–Marco Bezzecchi, late of the VR46 Academy, will be the runaway winner of the 2022 ROY award aboard his Desmosedici. The future is bright for Ducati pilots in the years to come. Ecstar Suzuki, on the other hand, had one rider out injured, a second retired with a mechanical issue, and their test rider/wild card had to make a hasty exit from his GSX-RR which was, at that moment, engulfed in flames. Doing a Zarco is what we call that around here.

So it’s off to Thailand to see how riders under extreme pressure perform in an autoclave. I think such conditions favor the younger riders who are physically more able to withstand the heat. But the veterans have been here before and to Sepang and know how to hold up over race distance. For Fabio, Pecco and Aleix, the season is now. Young Bastianini is going to have to ignore the championship, keep his head down, and score as many points as possiblle each time out. Oh, and remember not to crash.

Marc Marquez: Love Him or Hate Him

September 20, 2022

Events at Aragon this past weekend have re-ignited the firestorm that has surrounded Marc Marquez since he rode in the 125cc class back in 2008 (the year I started covering MotoGP). The eight-time world champion, his boyish good looks having been displaced by a steely persona, has as many fans as detractors. Let’s see what’s at the root of this split.

First, whenever we see a rider win his first grand prix or his first championship, there is almost always an outpouring of emotion, often tears; such celebrations have obviously come at a cost to the rider and his family. The winnowing process in motorcycle racing is as brutal as it is in pretty much everything that calls itself a sport. For every first-time winner, at any age, there are hundreds of boys and young men who’ve had their hearts broken. The thought crossed my mind at one time that these dramatic, emotional reactions were put on for the cameras. But, in truth, these riders would probably prefer their fans not to see them in tears. So the emotions and the drive to win we see in every rider, including Marquez, is to be expected. (By the way, the process also occurs in golf, which calls itself a sport despite the fact that you can smoke and drink while playing.)

A number of Kool-Aid drinkers, who have the number 46 tattooed on their asses, hate Marquez for having allegedly cost Rossi the title in 2015. It seems to be an unwritten law of the universe that haters are going to hate. There have always been fans who despised Rossi for one reason or another; the same is true for Marquez. And, to be fair, pretty much all the great riders going back to 1949. Along with the emotion and drive to win, the great riders learned that to win in grand prix racing a rider will have to be, on occasion, ruthless. There will be charged moments in races in which it becomes him or me. One of us is going down, and it’s not going to be me. Is such thinking less than charitable? Undoubtedly. Is it necessary if one aspires to champion status? Absolutely. The same people who call Marquez a bully were the ones cheering Rossi as he put Stoner’s dick in the dirt at Laguna Seca in 2008, cutting a corner through a sand trap in the process, not bothering to rake afterwards.

One thing Marquez supporters can always say to his critics: Scoreboard. See below.

All that yellow. His first seven seasons in the premier class were incomparable. Of course, the eye is drawn to the single disqualification at Phillip Island in 2013 which came his way because, having clinched the title by then, it didn’t matter and he therefore didn’t care. (Like skipping high school classes after being accepted to college: Who wouldn’t?) People also need to recall 2014, when he won the first ten races of the season, then loafed to an inexplicable P4 at Brno before winning again at Silverstone.

One last point from me before you guys get your teeth into this. Let’s assemble a list of MotoGP riders one would be well-advised to give wide berth, in addition to Marquez who, at age 30, is witnessing a deterioration in his reflexes and, one suspects, a heightened sense of self-preservation, having entertained the prospect, now several times, of becoming blind in at least one eye. Here’s ten off the top of my head:

Barry Sheene Kenny Roberts

Freddie Spencer Eddie Lawson

Mick Doohan Kenny Roberts Jr.

Wayne Rainey Kevin Schwantz

Valentino Rossi Casey Stoner

The fact is all these guys won MotoGP titles, most of them more than one. Given the fact that a collision on track provides both riders an opportunity to get seriously injured, or worse, and is, under normal circumstances, to be avoided if possible, none of these guys went out to deliberately cause a crash. Shit happens at 250 kph. Unless the intended victim were a teammate, none of these guys would back down from a fight, if only to keep their reputations. Marquez, with his massive presence, is another of these tough guys who welcomes contact and who has initiated it in the past. What occurred on Sunday last was not Marquez initiating either contact, but Marquez trying to bully his way through the pack–all the way through the pack from P15–on the first lap. His comportment on Lap 1 at Aragon was not his finest moment. If, as is possible, he comes back to chalk up a few wins at season’s end, I think most of the moto racing world will welcome him back.

Marquez makes the riders around him better at taking evasive action. That’s the most charitable thing I can think of to say at this moment. It’s like hating the sin, loving the sinner. It’s like hating what a fellow citizen says but defending his right to speak freely. Marquez, despite his movie star good looks, with never a whisker out of place, has been bred to race this way. He has experienced unmatched levels of accomplishment. He has been disqualified exactly once and that was arguably intentional. As Kevin Hart says, “It’s what I do.”

Love him or hate him, Marc Marquez has been an incandescent talent in this sport, just the guy to make people stop mourning the loss of Valentino. Will one of the young guns at Ducati take the reins of the premier class in the next season or two and peel off 10 wins to start a season, maybe collect six or eight titles?

Unlikely.

MotoGP 2022 – Aragon Round 15

September 19, 2022

Fabio crashes, the championship tightens up, and Marc Marquez is getting flamed

Looking back over the season this coming winter, (I know, right?) one may conclude that Round 15 was the decisive race in a terrific season in which, with five rounds to go, there are still four riders with a genuine chance to title. My original thesis this season–that consistency (not crashing) would be the determining factor–is proving true. Almost. Somehow, somewhere, the law of averages is beavering away, tagging each rider with the “likely to crash again” label, others with the “hasn’t crashed enough, is long overdue” tag. Yes, that means that the law of averages is of absolutely no help in predicting the 2022 champion.

The race itself, in a nutshell, went something like this. Aleix, a few of the Ducatis, and rugged KTM pilot Brad Binder got off to quick starts. Marc Marquez, in his latest return to racing, failed to make it out of Q1, starting in P15. When the lights went out, #93 decided to damn the torpedoes and head for the front, carving up the field, elbows out, narcissistically unconcerned about the fortunes of the riders actually competing for the championship. (This is early on Lap 1, friends, with a full tank and cold tires.) In the thick of things (P7) surrounded by contenders, Marquez had a moment which resulted in championship leader Fabio Quartararo piling into the rear of his bike, parting company with his YZR-M1, going boom on the asphalt, down and out.

Poetic justice saw to it that the collision would render the #93 bike unrideable by Lap 2. Marquez discovered an issue involving his rear tire and a crumpled fairing by clattering Takaa Nakagami out of the race later in Lap 1. Having knocked Quartararo off his safe perch in the title chase, with virtually nothing to gain, he retired from the race, changed into regular clothing, and returned to the pits, to the catcalls and jeers of everyone not wearing Repsol black, red and orange.

Anyway. Most of the race had Pecco Bagnaia blazing the trail, with EBas, Aleix and the gritty Binder in hot pursuit. Mostly processional until the last two laps, when the prospect of the two fastest riders in the game on the fastest machine in the game becoming teammates next year came into sight, the 2023 team championship having become a foregone conclusion. With both riders able to summon fast laps late in the race, both able to conserve rubber at full race distance, MotoGP 2023 is looking a lot like F1 back in the day when Schumacher and Barrichello owned the world. Italian engineering on full display.

Essentially, Bastianini calmly put Bagnaia in his rearview midway through Lap 23 after dogging him all day. Aleix and his Aprilia passed Binder for the final podium spot on Lap 22. Bastianini, it seems, likes the effect he has on other riders when he’s on their rear wheel with two laps left. Pecco is as fast as fast gets, the second coming of Jorge Lorenzo in appearance and riding style. But he doesn’t seem to have the fire in the belly that his new teammate possesses. My money will be on EBas to win the 2023 title.

Here are the before and after shots of the 2022 MotoGP title, post Aragon:

Rider Points after Austria Points after Aragon 2022 DNF/DNS Manufacturer

Quartararo 211 211 2 Yamaha

Bagnaia 181 201 4 Ducati

AEspargaro 178 194 0 Aprilia

Bastianini 138 163 4 Ducati

All season long we have been saying, along with the entire Sioux nation, that Fabio would have to have what amounts to a perfect race every time out in order to repeat as world champion. And he has been riding the wheels off his vastly inferior Yamaha. But he faltered at Assen and got skittled yesterday, events which the Brits currently refer to as “wet lettuce.” Again, as predicted, we are sticking with Pecco Bagnaia as the 2022 world champion. Despite four DNFs, he has the wind at his back, while Fabio has contusions all up and down his torso from yesterday.

Looking at the upcoming tracks (not sure about Thailand) it appears the Ducati phalanx will enjoy Motegi (stop and shoot) as well as Phillip Island and Sepang, both long and wide. Fabio, being the Yamaha phalanx, may have a bit of an advantage at Buriram and Valencia. Unfortunately, I suspect that his performance in Round 20 will have little to do with the title. And then there’s Aleix, still in the hunt, still not having turned his RS-GP over after 15 tries. Overdue? Cautious? Blessed? A great dark horse for a wager if you’re into that sort of thing. If he maintains his season-long consistency, and both Quartararo and Bagnaia have another off between now and November, it could be an Espargaro wearing the crown in 2022. THAT would be fun.

I watched both races on the undercard. My only real interest these days is trying to identify future Aliens amongst the array of teenage prodigies toiling in the “lightweight” classes. In Moto3, I really like Izan Guevara, who is going to win the title this year and just turned 18 in June. Another fast kid is this David Munoz, #44, who just turned 16 in the spring and has begun terrorizing the grizzled veterans.

In Moto2 it was Vote for Pedro day again, as Acosta made a convincing case for returning to the presumptive Alien class in the foreseeable future. Despite breaking his femur at Assen, he has come back and, at least yesterday, looked again like he did in Moto3 last year, when he was tagged as a phenom. He will likely win the Moto2 title next year for KTM and get bounced up to MotoGP in 2024.

The first Asian flyaway rounds are coming up starting this week. Imagine having raced in Aragon and having five days to prepare/pack to travel to Japan and Thailand. Then a week off, then freezing at Phillip Island and, broiling at Sepang, where Pecco will clinch the title, before finishing, as usual, on the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

Damn, this is fun.

This from our mid-season report after Assen: The GasGas duo of Garcia and Guevara is, once again, putting a thorough Teutonic beatdown on the grid, same as Gardner and Fernandez did last year in Moto2. I fully believe Guevara is a future Alien and perhaps the most impressive of the impressive crop of young riders passing through the intermediate classes in the past 3-4 years. Young Izan should continue this trend, as it appears both he and teammate Garcia will graduate into Moto2 for 2023.

MotoGP 2022 Round 14 Results: Misano

September 4, 2022

Spoiler Alert. Although you, the reader, may be hard pressed to find them, the results from all three of Sunday’s MotoGP menu items are buried in here somewhere. I’m looking out from the porch of my oceanfront condo, ogling “…all the tourists covered with oil.” Since you’ve probably already watched the races and are up to speed on results and 2022 standings, this vacation piece will be even more superficial than usual, just a recordkeeping device until October, when I start giving MotoGP my full attention as titles are decided.

In Moto3, we saw an all-day joust between rising stars Dennis Foggia (winner at Misano for the last three years), baby-faced Jaume Masia, NKIT Izan Guevara (my bet as the second coming of Marc Marquez), and Dennis Oncu, who has two dots on top of the O and rode today with 1.0 shoulders and 1.5 arms, doing well to not pass out from the pain and heat. Although teenager Guevara led for most of the day, he ended the day in P3 because it’s Moto3. He did manage to take the lead in the 2022 championship, which must have assuaged his pain somewhat. A fascinating season continues.

Moto2 was won by the seventh first-time Moto2 winner this year, one Alonso Lopez. Left without a ride at the start of the season, he sat around, doing sit-ups, until someone like, say, Romano Fenati self-destructed after Round 4, allowing Lopez to return from exile, with a future so bright he has to wear shades. At one point the lead group in today’s race was comprised of five riders, all of whose first names begin with the letter A:

A Lopez

A Arenas

A Canet

A Fernandez

A Ogura

This is the type of razor-edged reporting you can’t find just anywhere.

Incidentally, series leader Celestino Vietti crashed out again, today from P4, as his dream season in April has turned into a September nightmare. 70 points in the first three rounds; 86 points in the last 11. Bummer, dude. Augusto Fernandez, his ticket punched into MotoGP next season, now leads his only contender, Ogura, by a scant four points with six rounds left. Ogura, too, has his ticket punched to the premier class next season, presumably on an LCR Honda.

In MotoGP, Pecco Bagnaia became the first Ducati pilot EVER to record four wins in a row, putting him smack dab in the middle of the championship conversation. He held off future teammate Enea Bastianini for most of the day and looked to have things wrapped up, until EBas tipped his bike to the left heading for the flag and came within .03 seconds of catching Bagnaia. Fabio Quartararo’s Yamaha was not up to the task today, but FQ was able to limit the damage to his championship hopes, with a number of friendly tracks yet to come. At the flag it was Pecco, EBas and Maverick Vinales, standing on the podium a year after making his Aprilia debut, Cole Trickle having, at least for now, the last laugh. For the year, Fabio now leads Bagnaia by 30 points and Aleix by 33. Someone is going to have to figure out a way to slow down Bagnaia unless they want to keep hearing the Italian national anthem week after week.

For the record, Andrea Dovizioso’s MotoGP career came to an unceremonious end today with a P12 in his final ride. I could be wrong, but I don’t recall hearing his name called one during the race. For all veteran riders, the formula for determining when to retire looks like this:

BYR (Best Year to Retire) = AYR (Actual Year of Retirement) -1. Reference Valentino Rossi, Colin Edwards, etc.

MotoGP 2022 Round 13 – Spielberg

August 21, 2022

Sunday was a lovely day for racing at what must be considered one of the finest stops on the MotoGP calendar. The immaculate circuit, as fast as any, despite the layout which keeps most riders out of 6th gear all day. The postcard quality scenery. World-class brolly girls. A microclimate enriched by the thousands of pine trees in the vicinity. Seeing Carlos Ezpeleta, The Big Boursin of MotoGP in lederhosen, looking like Wally from Dilbert. Three exciting races. Championships tightening.

This is how racing is supposed to be. Fans on first-name bases with the riders. Longstanding rivalries renewed every week. Rampant nationalism. Racing margins so thin they make the blink of an eye seem like a long time. Riders separated by thousandths of a second at the flag. All coming to us at breathtaking speeds. And all on two wheels.

We will cover the high points of all three races but not in our usual depth. I have things to do.

Moto3: Sasaki Wins from Waaaaaay Back

The Crazy Boy, Ayuma Sasaki, was having a bad day. Two long lap penalties early in the race saw him fall to as low as P24 on Lap 5. 18 laps later he was firmly lodged in P1 and on his way to his first grand prix victory ever. Research indicates that riders with the name “Crazy”, by itself or in combination with other words, in their “track name” correlate highly with truncated careers. Over the long term, Crazy typically morphs into “retired.”

First Japanese 1-2 at any level since 2001.

Today’s race: Sasaki Suzuki Munoz (16 years old!)

2022: S Garcia 193 Izan Guevara 188 Dennis Foggia 144

Moto2: P2-OK

Today’s Moto2 race was plodding along, minding its own business with Honda Team Asia riders Ai Ogura (ticket to MotoGP next year already punched) and Thai speedster Somkiat Chantra having carved out a considerable lead on the field, Chantra running as Ogura’s wingman. Over the last five laps of the race it appeared Chantra was having to rein in his bike, that he had better pace than Ogura in addition to the expectation from every member of the team and the media that he would never (NEVER) challenge Ogura during this race, possibly removing him from the lead in the 2022 championship.

So what happened on the last lap. Did young Chantra lose his effing mind? Yes, it was Chantra muscling up on his teammate and good friend, taking the lead on Turn 8 of the final lap before surrendering it again on Turn 9, getting up close and personal and causing team principal Hiro Aoyama to blow a head gasket, oil and smoke pouring from his ears. And though the race ended well for the Honda team, young Chantra will probably be headed to the woodshed with Aoyama and some Asian guys in expensive suits to discuss his comportment in an atmosphere of free and frank conversation.

Personally, I believe Chantra intended to keep it clean and intended to yield the lead to Ogura at the end. The two are good friends; to me it looked like one friend saying to the other, “Congratulations on a great win. I could have beat you any time I wanted. Your mom said to tell you hi.”

Today’s race: A. Ogura S. Chantra J. Dixon

2022: A Ogura 183 A Fernandez 182 C. Vietti 156

MotoGP: Fabio Takes on Five Ducatis, Beats Four

Today’s premier class tilt saw French heartthrob Fabio Quartararo lined up at the start in the middle of row 2, with Bologna Bullets going all Charge of the Light Brigade on him, (Desmosedicis to the left, Desmosedicis to the right, Desmosedicis in front), the Italian brutes occupying five of the top six spots on the grid. By the time he saw the checkered flag, young Fabio had dispensed with Jack Miller, Jorge Martin, Enea Bastiannini and Johann Zarco; given an additional lap, he might very well have tracked down Pecco Bagnaia for the win, as the Italian’s final margin for the win was a mere 4/10ths.

Other than Bagnaia taking the hole shot and holding the lead for almost the entire race, there didn’t seem to be a key moment that changed the course of things. Joan Mir crashed out early as his season of horrors continues. EBas, in some early race contact I missed, left with a damaged rim on his front that allowed air to escape, rendering the bike unrideable. Luca Marini enjoyed his best day in the premier class, finishing in P4 after overtaking a number of more experienced riders from P13.

Today’s race: P Bagnaia F Quartararo J Miller

2022: F Quartararo 200 A Espargaro 168 P Bagnaia 156

The graphic below is chock full of information. Someone—what all does this tell us?

San Marino in two weeks. Andrea Dovizioso’s swan song.

Lots of info here.
One long-stemmed rose.
Low rez, terrible.
Where does Monster find them?
Very orderly Teutonic devotees.
Aryan beauty on display.

MotoGP 2022 Round 12: Silverstone

August 7, 2022

Vinales blinks, Pecco wins British Grand Prix

There are people who don’t like racing at Silverstone, for whatever reason. The cafeteria in the press room is inferior? The air conditioning lacks gusto? It’s flat as a board? Its military roots are offensive to the universe? Silverstone is long and fast and wide, allowing for more overtakes than you see in any other race on the calendar. The result is what we saw today, 20 laps of brilliant riding, strategies working and failing, five Ducatis in the top ten, and Pecco closing the gap to Fabio by 17 points.

After a warm weekend of practice and qualifying, the view from here, waiting for the lights to go out, was that Fabio’s Yamaha would be at a decided disadvantage versus the Ducs and Apes. Pecco Bagnaia, everyone’s pre-season favorite, was likely to continue his recent form of either winning or crashing out. Aleix and his Aprilia looked fast all weekend until it launched him into a low Earth orbit during FP4, causing him to race with one leg/ankle/foot combination and one leg/etc. He managed a respectable P9 in a race most mortal humans would have mailed in. Johann “Bridesmaid” Zarco, still looking for his first premier class win, and looking swarthier than ever with the elegant full beard, won pole with another seven riders who broke Marc Marquez’s previous track record set in 2018. And, lo and behold, who comes lurking around the upper echelons of the racing food chain but one Maverick Vinales, aka Cole Trickle. He appeared to be preparing for a stirring comeback to the top step of the podium in merry England, but was unable to mount a successful challenge to Bagnaia on the final lap, appearing to come slightly unglued in the process. P2 is a nice result for Pop Gun as he attempts to resurrect his once promising career with the Noale factory,

Zarco took the holeshot on his Pramac Ducati and led the race for five laps until bad luck, the only kind he knows, undid him, sliding out of the lead into a general Gallic funk. Jack Miller, the forgotten man in MotoGP, spent most of (qualifying and) the race in P3, ultimately securing 16 points for his day’s work. Alex Rins appeared to have good pace all weekend and looked strong early today, but developed what appeared to be grip issues before fading to P7 at the flag.

So, after Zarco led at the start, Rins took over the lead until he was passed by Pecco on Lap 12, who was never seriously challenged thereafter. Vinales moved up the leader board over the last few laps, creating the anticipated Bagnaia vs. Vinales challenge on the last lap. But Pop Gun’s resurrection will have to wait, as he was unable to bring the fight to Bagnaia due to several twitches. Pecco never blinked.

Fabio ended up limping home in P8. EBas, who started in P8 and had nothing going on most of the day, rallied late to secure P4 and feel good about himself heading to Austria in two weeks.

Silverstone Top 10

Bagnaia

Vinales

Miller

Bastiannini

JMartin

Oliveira

Rins

Quartararo

Espargaro

Bezzecchi

2022 top 10 after 12 rounds

Quartararo          180

Espargaro            158

Bagnaia                131

Bastiannini            118

Zarco                     114

Miller                     107

BBinder                   98

Rins                          84

Vinales                     82

Oliveira                     81

Screenshot (24)

MotoGP 2022 Round 11 – Assen

July 2, 2022

One of the joys of writing about MotoGP for nothing is that it frees me from the shackles of editorial restraint which often chafe and prevent me from expressing my true feelings, at least regarding subjects for which I have feelings, which aren’t many.

Let’s use Assen as an example. Instead of doing my sworn duty as a mototrashjournaist, I spent the weekend driving 1400 miles and speaking briefly at the memorial service for my oldest childhood friend, since 2nd grade. Had I been slaving away under the heartless Evans Brasfield things would have gotten complicated, Evans might have been inconvenienced, my wages could have been garnished, John Burns might have elected to flame me on MO. Nothing good, and my boy Bobby B is well beyond caring. But if we blow off these milestones, especially the exits, who are we? If we decide that the details of our lives are more important than the people who comprised them, who are we indeed?

So, here are the facts. Top ten at Assen. Top six year to date.

Assen MotoGP Race:

         pts

1        25      63 Francesco Bagnaia

2        20      72 Marco Bezzecchi

3        16      12 Maverick Viñales

4        13     41  Aleix Espargaro

5        11     33  Brad Binder

6        10      43 Jack Miller

7        9        89 Jorge Martin

8        8        36 Joan Mir

9        7        88 Miguel Oliveira

10      6        42 Alex Rins

Year to date

  1. 20   Fabio Quartararo     172   NC = 1
  2. 41   Aleix Espargaro       151   NC = 0
  3.   5   Johann Zarco          114   NC = 1
  4. 63   Francesco Bagnaia   110  NC = 4

     5  23   Enea Bastianini        105  NC = 3

     6  33   Brad Binder               93  NC = 1

Moto2 Race:

1        25      37 Augusto Fernandez

2        20      79 Ai Ogura

3        16      96 Jake Dixon

4        13      13 Celestino Vietti

5        11      64 Bo Bendsneyder

6        10      21 Alonso Lopez

7        9        14 Tony Arbolino

8        8        16 Joe Roberts

9        7        18 Manuel Gonzalez

10      6        12 Filip Salac

Year to date:

1       C Vietti              146

2       A Fernandez       146

3       A Ogura             145

4       A Canet              116

5       T Arbolino           104

6       J Roberts              97

Moto3 Race:

1        25      71 Ayumu Sasaki

2        20      28 Izan Guevara

3        16      11 Sergio Garcia

4        13      24 Tatsuki Suzuki

5        11      43 Xavier Artigas

6        10      96 Daniel Holgado

7        9        82 Stefano Nepa

8        8        6 Ryusei Yamanaka

9        7        53 Deniz Öncü

10      6        27 Kaito Toba

Year to date:

1        S Garcia                182

2        I Guevara              179

3        D Foggia                118

4        A Sasaki                113

5        J Masia                  107

6        D Oncu                    98

One thing I’m sure to comment on, under the paragraph entitled “Parity” is the dead heat among the top three contenders in Moto2. Never seen three riders separated by a single point at the top of any chart. Another thing will be your boy Aleix shattering, on lap 15 of the race, the existing all-time lap record at Assen, NOT JUST THE RACE LAP. Up until the moment the all-time record was broken later in the race, Aleix posted the fastest lap ever recorded at Assen, DURING THE RACE. Pretty amazing.

That’s all for now. Need to get started on the mid-season report coming your way on Motorcycle.com in the near future.

MotoGP 2022 Round Ten – Sachsenring

June 14, 2022

Once again, this article will start out as a place for comments and my notes from practice and qualifying, if any. I will then do my usual Sunday purgative and we can get the comments ball rolling on what has become just a dandy 2022 season.

I should be able to do a respectable job in Germany as my home schedule is bad but not terrible. But for the Assen round I am simply screwed. Driving across country to Delaware on Saturday, attending a wake for my oldest friend and our friends on Sunday. I might stay on in DC on Monday if I can find a reason for doing so. Anyway, driving back across the country on either Monday or Tuesday. So, y’all had better take your shots this week and make them count. Next week you’re pretty much on your own. The good news is that Evans’ Mid-Season Recap will post pretty early in the summer vacation, I hope.

Back in the day when Cole Trickle was playing with his hair and mustache, he always reminded me of this guy.

Moto3 notes: Izan Guevara is the next Next Great Latin Rider. The second coming of Pedro Acosta. Acosta won at Sachsenring last year. Today young Izan eclipsed wonderkid Acosta’s time over 27 laps by 24 seconds, almost a full second per lap. So, we are left with the conclusion that Guevara has more mojo than Acosta. Both will be plying their trade in the premier class in the next few years. Not an exciting race.

Moto2 notes: The pool I organized to predict that lap on which Sam Lowes will crash–the number 14 kept coming up. Whatever. Augusto Fernandez won by 10 seconds, the second lousy race of the day. Celestino Vietti did Moto2 a favor by crashing out, allowing the title chase to tighten up a little.

Race Day notes: Three snoozers in one day. Moto3 was a rarity, a wire-to-wire win from pole by the impressive Izan Guevara. The championship tightened up. Lots of other stuff happened.

Moto2 was another forgettable race, Augusto Fernandez putting on a show with teammate and Alien-in-waiting “Vote for Pedro” Acosta taking forever to move through the field to claim P2 in another glorious day for the KTM outfit. The championship tightened up. Lots of other stuff happened.

In MotoGP, the reigning 2021 winner and 2022 champion-in-waiting, Fabio Quartararo did it to us again, ran off and hid from the rest of the field. Took Zarco with him in a blatant display of nationalism. Jack Miller out-dueled Aleix for P3. The championship did not tighten up, and not much else happened.

Next week’s report may not get done at all. The logistics are simply overwhelming. I will try to put a little something together later in the week. But do not despair! Our Mid-Season Review will post during the summer break. Mentally, I’ve already awarded the 2022 title to Fabulous, but we need something to keep us off the streets at least until the NFL resumes.

MotoGP 2022 Round Nine – Catalunya

June 3, 2022

The 2022 season is unfolding about the way we had hoped back in February. Five or six riders who present credible threats to podium each week. Major moves up and down the leader board based upon the rider’s ability to stay out of the gravel. Two weeks ago I was burying Pecco Bagnaia for crashing out of races too often; today he is right back in the championship conversation.

Had you tried to tell me that 2022 would finally be Aleix Espargaro’s year to win a premier class title for Aprilia back in February, you would have had trouble getting me to listen. What has emerged in 2022 is a few circuits which can be rightfully considered Aprilia tracks. So far, they include Argentina and Catalunya. There will be a few more–tweeners–neither Sachsenring nor Phillip Island. But their mere existence is emblematic of the order of magnitude-scale changes which have taken place with Aprilia during the past 18 months.

Friday’s practice sessions found both Aprilia riders–Aleix, and the other guy–sitting atop the combined sheet for the day. People are saying (I love using that, so lame) the Aprilia will be untouchable this weekend, perhaps causing more tightening at the top. All I’ve got by way of silly season stuff is Jack Miller heading to the KTM factory team to join Binder, with Miguel Oliveiras being shown the door. LCR Honda is going to do something; standing pat does not appear to be an option. Pedro Acosta may, in two or three months, demand a promotion to the premier class, further complicating things amongst the large herd of prospective KTM riders looking to move on up. Too many young, skillful riders; there’s a nice problem to have.

For the record, qualifying ended up with Amazing Aleix on pole, joined on the front row by Bagnaia and Quartararo. Row 2 includes Zarco, FDG and “Crash” Martin. Hard cheese for Marco Bezzecchi and Enea “Big Boursin” Bastiannini, who were unable to pass through Q1. One of our readers mentioned Maverick Vinales as a possible race winner today. He led the warm-up, passed through Q1, and will start the race from the middle of the third row. [Whence he will likely drop back to P18 before bravely fighting his way back to P10.]

Moto3 today was another good old-fashioned knees-up as my boy Izan Guevara, who recently turned 17, won going away after spending the first half of the race slicing and dicing with the likes of teammate Sergio Garcia, Tatsuki Suzuki, Dennis Oncu, and polesitter Dennis Foggia, who lost the key to his roller skates and had to retire. Suzuki had a nice day, slamming the door on series leader Sergio Garcia at the flag for P3 on the podium. When the dust settled, the top of the Moto3 standings YTD:

S Garcia 150

I. Guevara 134

J. Masia 103

D. Foggia 95

D. Oncu 82

A. Sasaki 75

These seasons in which teammates are fighting one another for the championship are extra fun. The drive they have to, above all else, beat their teammates ranks right up there with oxygen and a warm jelly roll. Last season it was fun to watch KTM studs Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner go at each other all year. This year it is grizzled veteran Sergio Garcia (age 18) and GasGas teammate Guevara (age 17). Young Mr. Guevara appears to be the real deal. Not to mention the remarkable debut of one David (Davin?) Munoz, who, riding as a substitute, placed himself on the second step of the podium at age 16. He created a legitimate look at the win with perhaps three laps left, but could not close the deal against all these other old men. BTW, if I weren’t so lazy, I would tranche these riders. What I can do is to designate Moto3 Aliens–Sergio Garcia, Izan Guevara, Dennis Foggia and Jaume Masia

Today’s Moto2 tilt was the best in recent memory, said the guy whose short-term memory is, well, a memory. Until he slid out unforced on Lap 11, it looked like American Joe Roberts was going to win his first Moto2 race. Later, series leader Celestino Vietti shoved hard-luck bridesmaid Aron Canet out of his way late on the last lap to take the win. Today’s race looked more like Moto3 with a big lead group and beaucoups lead changes. At the end of the day the top six riders in Moto2 were Vietti (133), Ogura (117), Canet (109), A Fernandez (96), Arbolino (89) and Roberts (86). A golden opportunity for Roberts and Amerian racing blown.

And, for the record, the Moto2 Alien set currently includes Celestino Vietti, Ogura, and Canet.

The Catalan MotoGP race today will go down in history as the one in which Aleix Espargaro, in the midst of a dream season, lapsed briefly into nightmare, having lost count of his laps, entering the final lap in the midst of the lead group, sitting up, blowing kisses to the crowd, while his rivals disappeared down the road, discovering, appalled, he had just given away nine championship points and a P2 for Aprilia, not to mention gagging in front of his homeys, while little brother Pol was finishing out of the points, some 46 seconds behind Quartararo. All in all, a terrible day for the family, who had probably made potato salad and fried chickens to celebrate their local boys making good.

So the podium included Fabio on the top step, Crash Martin on P2 and Johann Zarco P3. Joan Mir followed in P4, in front of Aleix, who would undoubtedly sack up and take responsibility for his obvious and inexcusable mistake. It would be better if he were a rookie or second year man. A rider with his experience; I suppose all one can say is that he clearly had a lot on his mind.

This was another of those Quartararo races in which absolutely everything went right–

  • friendly circuit, dry conditions
  • able to grab the lead early in the first lap and run unchallenged in clean air
  • terrible day for Ducati–Bagnaia DNF, Bezzecchi DNF, FDG DNF, EBas DNF
  • a once-in-a-career brain fart by one of his top challengers

Props to Crash Martin for showing us again why it is too soon to write him off. He strikes me as the second coming of Dani Pedrosa in a sport that favors small, light riders. And we are happy to announce the recipient of this season’s first Dennis Rodman Award, for hanging around the basket looking for rebounds and easy put backs, is Johann Zarco, the primary beneficiary of Espargaro’s momentary, imaginary side trip to Turks & Caicos.

The 2022 top ten after nine rounds looks like this:

Quartararo        147

Espargaro          125

Bastiannini          94

Zarco                   91

Bagnaia                81

Binder                   73

Rins                       69

Mir                         69

Miller                     65

(M Marquez)          60)

Suddenly, or nor so suddenly, the title seems to be Quartararo’s to lose. Aleix seems to have lost some of the magic we’ve come to expect from him. Same with Bastiannini, with DNFs in his last two outings. I read somewhere that a number of writers had written off Bagnaia until his win at Mugello, then put him squarely in the midst of the title conversation until today’s skittling, after which he has been written off again. (As it turns out, I read it at the top of this page.)

Lest I forget, our current crop of premier class Aliens includes Fabio, Aleix, EBas and Pecco.

This should be a week featuring lots of sharing from readers, given the unlikely nature of 2022. To me, it feels like an NBA game in which the opponent hits 11 of their first 13 three-pointers, and they have you by 14 at the half. My point is that I doubt everything is going to go perfectly well for your boy Fabio during the entire season, that he will not have one or two DNFs by the time they start putting up Christmas decorations in the stores. Once again, depending upon who stays upright and who doesn’t, the standings could easily look way different during the Asian part of the schedule.

As always, I’m still singing the same sad old song:

“Oh Lord, please let it get decided in Valencia.”

MotoGP 2022 Round Eight – Mugello

May 29, 2022

So. fellas and Allison, I had more surgery this past week, in on Monday, home n Tuesday. I’ve been getting my act grouped relatively quickly, but haven’t had what it takes to do more than watch stuff so far, it’s being Sunday 4:30 am. I’ve been watching warm ups since 3:30. This ends, for the foreseeable future, my planned encounters with the medical/industrial complex. This surgery had originally been scheduled for mid-July, but I was in a hurry to get it done and get it behind me. So, there’s that.

My personal goal for the next 12 months is to not get admitted to a hospital.

As most of you know, including today there are four MotoGP rounds in the next five weeks. In a normal year, the championship would be mostly decided after Round 11; we would be in the teeth of the season with one rider in recent years, Marc Marquez, usually leading the way. A number of teams will, by Round 11, have revised their rosy estimates from the preseason. For example, see the post that will appear on Motorcycle.com short after the Assen round. Moreover, the crowded field at or near the top of the standings adds another layer of stress on the riders–one mistake could drop them two or three spots in the standings. The riders who can keep the shiny side up will be competing for the title on the back nine of this year’s schedule.

It pleases me to think about the cranky, jingoistic old Tuscan men who’ve lived their entire lives in the shadow of Ducati around Bologna. Italy. Yesterday, for example, they watched on TV as five Ducati pilots, four of whom are Italian, put a choke hold on the first five spots of the Sunday grid, at Mugello, the monument to speed, one of the world’s great layouts. Plus, this year the folks over at Aprilia are punching above their weight, Aleix a legitimate threat to title. More Italian joy. Plus, being handed the keys to the WithYou RNF team which will bail on Yamaha and fly the colors of the Noale factory. It has been determined elsewhere that 2022 will be shown to have been Andrea Dovizioso’s final season in MotoGP (how’s that for some serious verb conjugating?). The last year, for now, that once-proud Yamaha fielded a satellite team. Ascendant programs at Ducati and Aprilia, the European builders finally getting their own after years, decades of eating Japanese dust. Programs at Suzuki ending, with disarray at Honda and Yamaha.

Anyway, for those old men, qualifying at Mugello on Saturday, May 28, 2022 was righteous.

I watched qualifying in the lightweight classes, but am not inclined to include it in this report. Perhaps there are some old morons out there ready, willing and certainly able to give us, the readers, 150 words on qualifying in both Moto3 and Moto2. Not sure why I have to do everything around here. I need to outsource some of this stuff. It’s not like any of us is getting paid.

[Dorna showed video from the US Grand Prix in 2008 at Laguna Seca. This was the first race I ever “covered” = watched on TV, and it just happens to have been one of the all-time greats. Rossi passing Stoner in The Corkscrew, both wheels in the gravel, pressuring Stoner into a crash late in the day. Who knew? I always try not to get too carried away with the play-by-play, and there certainly seemed to be a lot of shouting in the Rossi vs. Stoner epic that marked my introduction to the sport. I gave Motorcycle.com 1500 words, with a heavier-than-normal dose of my usual meanderings, since I didn’t know the first thing about motorcycle racing. The suits in Toronto liked it. The real MOrons, Kevin, Sean, John and Evans and Dennis, etc. hated it, recognized me as a fraud masquerading as a motojournalist and knew instantly that I wasn’t a real rider, wasn’t one of them. 13 years later, we are friends. I still don’t know much about motorcycles, but they do like some of the laugh lines. For instance, I probably told them that I misunderstood the phone call with Joe, thought he said ‘writer.’]

So teenager Izan Guevara, the next Next Great Latin Rider, won the Moto3 race at the flag–three hundredths of a second separated the top step from the third step on the podium. Moving up the standings. A post-race penalty, for exceeding those pesky track limits, dropped Guevara to P2 and elevated series leader and teammate Sergio Garcia to the win*. The two GasGas riders thus occupy P1 and P2 in Moto3 for 2022.

Moto2 saw the public debut of The Next Great Latin Rider who, after having torn up Moto3 as a rookie last year, was suffering a failure to launch in 2022 until Le Mans, which he led for a dozen laps before crashing out, and today when he went out and schooled the grid, wire to wire, for his first win in the intermediate class. His win today was facilitated by Aron Canet, he of the laughable paint job, who was considerate enough to crash out of a threatening second place on Lap 13, essentially handing the win to Acosta.

The MotoGP race was Exhibit A in our argument, since before the season started, that the close quarters at the top would make crashing out of a race very expensive. The corollary to this is that a win will occasionally give the rider a big boost. After underachieving for most of 2022, Pecco Bagnaia goes out and sets the pace at Mugello, gives young EBas that come hither look, then looks away as the swarthy sophomore crashes out at Turn 4 of Lap 14. His 25 points today vaulted him from P7 to P4 for the year. He’s baaaaaaaaaack. Meanwhile, EBas slides into a 28 point deficit to Quartararo.

Pecco, Fabio and Aleix comprised the podium. Zarco, Bezzecchi, Marini and Brad Binder followed. As is becoming routine, bikes made by Ducati and Aprilia continue to dominate recent proceedings, the Suzuki team is crumbling right before our eyes, with suits from Yamaha and Honda dropping broad, unfunny references to ritual suicide. Marc Marquez’ announcement that he was folding the tent on 2022 in order to have another surgery, one with a six month recovery time frame, was met with further gnashing of teeth, frantic smiling and nodding of heads.

Y’all can talk amongst yourselves. Catalunya beckons. Plus, I’ve gotta go ice myself down. I really want to hear opinions relating to silly season speculation and the #2 spot on the factory Ducati team moving forward. Although the futures of Frankie, Dovi and Darryn deserve some conversation

Another Crackpot MotoGP Theory Validated

May 22, 2022

I’m pretty sure I told you so. I’m pretty sure I told you that a long lap penalty. or having a last lap waved off for getting in the green, an untimely DNF. Any of these could decide the championship in a race that, in the words of my late Aunt Frannie, is tighter than a tick.

I’d like to think that I called it when I suggested an inverse relationship between the number of DNFs recorded by a rider and his rank in the chase. These top ten YTD standings are current as of 05/21/2022.

Rider                                                Points                                  #DNF

Quartararo                                          102                                       0

A. Espargaro                                         98                                        0

Bastianini                                               94                                       1

Rins                                                       69                                         1

Miller                                                     62                                         2

Zarco                                                      62                                        2

Bagnaia                                                   56                                        2

B. Binder                                                  56                                        1

Mir                                                           56                                         2

M Marquez                                               54                                        2

This illustrates, once again, that, as the expression goes, in order to finish first, one must first finish.

The four riders leading the 2022 chase have averaged, over the first seven rounds, half a DNF, with neither Quartararo nor Aleix haven’t  crashed once. Riders five, six and seven–Miller, Zarco and Bagnaia–have all crashed out of two races, returning us briefly to the days when the Desmo was considered unridable by anyone other than Casey Stoner. In fact, of riders five through eleven, all have crashed out twice other than Brad Binder, whose numbers suggest he is too stubborn to stay down, that he may have remounted once or twice.

The current poster child for this “win or bin” mentality is Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin, with DNFs in four of his first seven. Earlier in the season he looked ready to assume the second chair on the factory Ducati team. Lately, however, Mo Mentum, the famous sixth man in basketball, the 12th man in the Seattle Seahawks’ crazy home field advantage, seems to be smiling on your boy EBas, at the expense of Jack Miller, who would look good in KTM colors. Honda must be sweating  bullets trying to get Mir signed now that PEsp is feeling unwanted. Mir, one supposes, is not looking forward to wrestling the RC213V, at least the 2022 iteration. Neither of the LCR boys, Nakagami nor Little Brother, can ride the Honda. PEsp will have his moments at his tracks but is nothing like consistent. And, if you were a betting man, um, person, who would you rather have a grand on right now–Marquez, with 54 points or Bagnaia with 56.

Interesting that Maverick Vinales has a clean DNF record but only 33 points, suggesting he is not riding the Aprilia hard enough. Much the same could be said about PEsp. Oh, and just for the record I expect Ducati to crush Mugello, lock out the podium, and convince Fabio that his future does not lie with Yamaha, that he’s caught them with the OEM pendulum swinging in the wrong direction. Is this the weekend Zarco finally achieves liftoff speed? Can Marquez continue trying to catch a tow into Q2? Will young EBas continue his poised, efficient efforts to winning a premier class title as a sophomore in the Marquez era, or at least the close of it. Fabio knows he has to remain perfect in order to remain in contention, putting massive pressure on himself. And my boy Aleix is sitting there making it look easy on an Aprilia that finally does what it’s told.

One of the few things I remember from five years of university-level economics is the tendency of large numbers to regress to the mean, all things being equal, which they never are. In the immediate case, as is almost always the case, you have a new group of Aliens. It’s true. Your present group of Aliens includes EBas, Pecco, Fabio, Aleix. The jury is officially out on #93; we may be witnessing the end of an era, the emergence of Italy, fast young Italian Riders and the, ahem, iconic Italian brand, the Really Big Red Machine. Europe, in Ducati and Aprilia, seeming to enjoy the upper hand in recent times, Fabio and Yamaha holding on for dear life. The Suzuki boys, Rins and Mir, appear disillusioned, watching their teams disintegrate beneath them.

And so it goes in grand prix yachting. I expect that latest division amongst the racing cognoscenti is whether Marquez can bring it back home again, like, in 2023, 2024? He needs a better bike, which Honda has generally provided. No sense in gathering input from PEsp any longer, as his head is unlikely to still be in the game. Nor does he appear to be at all effective as a wingman. Anyway, I think the top three riders at this moment–Fabio, Aleix and EBas–will not be the same three at the top of the heap heading to Valencia. In my unsolicited opinion, I think Fabio is in trouble at tracks like Mugello and Red Bull Ring. Assen is the fastest track on the calendar. He is so unlikely to maintain his clean slate, and when it goes, there goes his lead in the series. Aleix is making it look easy, a third of the way through the season, and EBas is threatening to run away with things.

Somewhere in me resides the thought that the guys who’ve avoided gravel traps thus far are due for a visit. That once Fabio loses his grip on the title, his successor will have a brief ride at the top. The greatest movements, the worst movements, are a DNF at this point. The figures would argue that the riders most at risk of a DNF at this time are Fabio, Aleix, EBas and Rins. This is the type of season in which the MotoGP announcers begin wetting themselves,  waxing euphoric about “those precious _____ points.”

Similar to their race strategy at certain tracks, perhaps the riders don’t actually want to be in the lead this early in the season, especially since there is no runaway winner who needs stopping. It is simply vital that the riders gathered at the top of the heap today remain upright on race days, that they continue to gather points no matter what, that they know who and what is ahead of them and behind them. That they take no stupid risks that would jeopardize another rider.

So far, IMHO, this season is shaping up exactly the way fans want it. There are three Aliens at this moment. There is a host of challengers waiting for someone in front of them to fall. There is just so much riding on every turn, the race, the season, the silly season, which brand is on the upswing, which brand is heading down? Competition amongst the teams–first and foremost, beat your teammate.

It’s fair to expect financial pressures to force teams to cut costs, a process well beyond the scope of this effort. We’e been down this road before and have been breaking all-time track records along the way. If I were a betting man I would be that all the money spent on winglets is all the money that will get spent, i.e., no more R&D on winglets with wind tunnels and etc. Beyond that I don’t know, other than them that has, gets.

Some teams are scratching their heads this year.l LCR Honda. Factory Suzuki. Gresini, current employer of EBas. Jack Miller needs to pull a rabbit out of his hat to keep his current seat. Why does Alex Rins appear to be odd man out during this silly season? Riding Aprilia for Leopard Racing, that could work.

This week is Mugello, one of the great venues in this sport. So much history, none of which I can remember, but I know it’s out there. Perhaps the best slipstream anywhere, adds a whole new dimension to bike racing. The noise. As we like to say out here in Hoosierville, “MotoGP is one of God’s great gifts to mankind. It. Just. Is.

So go tell your friends. Tell them it’s the best sport on two wheels. Ever.

MotoGP 2022 Round Seven–Le Mans

May 14, 2022

[Sorry guys and Allison. This is going to happen occasionally with Catholic grandfathers. One of my grandsons is getting confirmed this weekend, which entails an all-day retreat on Saturday and a full slate of activities on Sunday. I will get up early on Sunday and watch the races, but practice and qualifying are mostly a lost cause. I will do a brief write-up of the MotoGP race, probably Sunday night.

Thank you for hanging with me.]

Let’s talk about race day.

Moto3 was a victim of a two-minute rain shower during the first two laps of the race, leaving almost a dozen riders dazed with gravel in their underwear, a red flag, and a 14 lap sprint as a result. Young Jaume Masia, the latest Pride of KTM, persevered against Ayuma Sasaki, Izan Guevara (the next great MotoGP rider) and Dennis Foggia, taking the lead in Turn 13 of the last lap for 25 points, gaining 12 points on series leader Sergio Garcia and cutting his lead for 2022 to 17 points. Foggia and Masia are tied, with young Guevara only 6 points farther back. The Hondas figure to have an advantage at Mugello, but, seriously, who can predict what will happen week-to-week in this, the best racing in MotoGP.

Moto2 was a two man procession led by the factory KTM duo of Pedro Acosta and Augusto Fernandez. Acosta, a disappointment for 2022 after tearing a new one in the Moto3 championship last year, looked like he would finally begin to return to his dominant 2021 form, leading from the holeshot until an unforced error on Lap 11 took him out of the race, handing the win to teammate Fernandez. Bridesmaid Aron Canet took P2 yet again, with Thai sensation Somkiat Chantra stealing the final podium spot ahead of erstwhile American Cam Baubier, who came as close to his first grand prix podium as one can get. After an atrocious qualifying and early race, series leader Celestino Vietti salvaged eight points with a late charge, leaving him 16 points in front of Ai Ogura for the year, with Canet another three points back. Not the best Moto2 race I’ve ever seen, but they can’t all be barn burners.

MotoGP was eventful, especially for the Ducati contingent, which thrives at point-and-shoot layouts like Bugatti. From gasping Yamaha pilot Frankie Morbidelli running off track during the sighting lap to Pecco Bagnaia crashing out of the lead on Lap 21, ceding the win to Enea Bastianini, there was something for every taste and budget. Alex Rins continued his recent return to MotoGP hell, crashing out on Lap 2 after going for a long walkabout in the gravel. Herve Poncharal’s KTM boys crashed out within three laps of one another early in the race. Joan Mir joined Suzuki teammate Rins on the sidelines after crashing out on Lap 14.

Bastianini moved past Jack Miller into P2 on Lap 12, setting up an Italian Ducati duel with Bagnaia, which took shape on Lap 19. Bastianini is my current favorite to take the 2022 title, having won three out of seven outings, consistently having plenty of rear tire left late in the race to scare the crap out of anyone still in front of him. Today it was Pecco who folded under the pressure, giving him two DNFs in 2022 and putting a serious dent in his title hopes. Miller held on for a rather quiet P2, with plucky Aleix Espargaro and his newly-competitive Aprilia keeping his chances alive with another impressive P3. Fabio Quartararo salvaged P4 after struggling early. Had the 100,000 French fans been sober at the end of the race, they would have been disappointed by their young heartthrob; as it was, P4 probably felt like a win. Johann Zarco, the other French pilot, looking increasingly like a caricature of the swarthy villain in an animated French movie, followed Fabio to the finish in P5, having disposed of the increasingly irrelevant Marc Marquez on Lap 17.

So, for the season, Quartararo sits on top with 102 points, followed by Aleix at 98 and EBas at 94. I’d have to go back and look, but my earlier-in-the-season projection for the 2022 podium had two of these guys, plus Joan Mir, slugging it out for the year. Mir and Rins appear to be completely scrambled by having their team collapse beneath them, withdrawing from the chase at the end of 2022. Pussies! I think it’s a safe bet that the Ducatis are going to enjoy another clambake at their home crib in Mugello in two weeks. Fabio is going to have to rely on some serious slipstreaming to keep up. I’ve stopped worrying about Espargaro, as he seems to do well everywhere after over a decade of futility; he must have a permanent erection these days.

A Little Eye Candy for Youse Guys

The girls from Moulin Rouge

Screenshot (752)

Vive la France. Downtown Sarthe.
Jack Miller’s brolly girl.
Quick–Pecco Bagnaia or Jorge Lorenzo?
France’s #1 sporting hero, 2022.
The raffish Johann Zarco.

Rumors 5/8/2022–quick hitters

May 8, 2022

Motorsports.com reports that the Mir for Espargaro exchange is in the works.

https://www.motorcyclesports.net/articles/farewell-pol-espargaro-honda-opens-doors-for-joan-mir

Even better–Leopard Racing has made clear its intention to secure a two bike slot on the MotoGP grid, with Aprilia machinery, giving the world its much-desired Aprilia satellite team. This would fill the hole left by Suzuki’s departure at the end of the season. From motorsports.com.

https://www.msn.com/en-ca/sports/motorsports/leopard-racing-interested-in-replacing-suzuki-in-motogp/ar-AAWXhnc

At issue is HRC’s intention not to continue with the services of Pol Espargaro for 2023 and then create the conditions for a new rider to enter the team’s garage. The Spaniard is in his second season with Repsol Honda and, despite the improvement in his results compared to 2021, the truth is that the Catalan is still not impressing, with only two podiums and one pole position. 

Dubai Autodrome Racing bikes action as captured by KTdrones!

https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.513.0_en.html#goog_1557719161

00:00% Buffered

Espargaro, it should be remembered, signed for two years with a third option from Honda, but Gazzetta dello Sport reports this Friday that that clause will not be activated, leaving the rider free to choose his future in 2023.

At the same time, this situation opens the door to the entry of Joan Mir, a long time wish of Alberto Puig and who has already been in negotiations with the Japanese giant in the past. Mir was due to renew his contract with Suzuki, but an alleged decision by the manufacturer to pull out of MotoGP eliminated any chance of a renewal. However, now the window of opportunity has opened for the Mir/Honda marriage to finally move forward.

It should be remembered that Joan Mir is 24 years old and is one of the most hyped riders on the grid, much to the credit of the world titles won in 2020 in the premier class and in 2017 in Moto3, at the time riding a Honda.

Suzuki Departure Scrambles MotoGP Grid

May 3, 2022

Monday’s shock announcement that Suzuki will withdraw from MotoGP at the end of the current season has rattled a number of cages amongst the jet set in the grand prix motorcycle racing community. It puts to rest my conjecture that they would field a satellite team at some point in the foreseeable future; consider my personal cage rattled. It leaves riders Joan Mir and Alex Rins facing homelessness come November. It applies pressure to the Aprilia organization to field a satellite team in the foreseeable future, lest conjecture about their own future starts to circulate, causing jangling nerves amongst their current and prospective riders. Finally, it throws a spanner in the works of an already unclear silly season for 2023.

One thing Suzuki’s withdrawal means: the essential Theory of MotoGP is flawed. To wit, participation, and doing well, in MotoGP appears not to increase demand for the street bikes the OEMs are desperate to sell. Otherwise, the Dorna monster is simply a hole in the ocean where CEOs of the manufacturers go to throw away their money, in addition to getting massive hard-ons when they win a title.

The first bit of scuttlebutt to emerge from this developing debacle is the likelihood that Pol Espargaro will lose his seat on the #2 Repsol Honda to Mir. The permutations and combinations following this likely move will occupy MOrons for the remainder of the season.

Readers are encouraged to speculate/theorize/ take wild ass guesses below. This is one of the biggest developments in our sport in a decade. As usual, please keep it civilized as you let your wild imaginations run free. Once we start preparing for Le Mans, I will collect all of the comments, wad them in a big ball, and toss them over the rail.

2022-suzuki-launch-mirrins5_1643999608-e1644000200988

MotoGP 2022 Round 6: Gran Premio Red Bull de España (Jerez)

May 1, 2022

Practice and Qualifying

Alex Rins and Joan Mir dominated the proceedings on Friday, to a resounding “Who cares?” from the rabid, mostly Spanish crowd. FP3 on Saturday morning saw Pecco Bagnaia and his Ducati GP22 rise from the ashes of a miserable start to the 2022 season to lead the combined practice standings, trailed by Fabulous Fabio and (who?) Takaa Nakagami, making a cameo appearance, along with his satellite Honda, near the top of the time sheets. Marc Marquez continued his epic struggles in 2022, needing a tow from Jack Miller to scrounge P4, with Miller the last of ten riders to move directly into Q2..

Q1 saw rookie Marco Bezzecchi (a continuing surprise to me) hovering near the top for the entire session, ending up in P2 and moving on to Q2 after Johann Zarco, who seems to do something like this every time out, laid down a late burner to take P1 and bump hard-luck Pol Espargaro to P13 on Sunday’s grid. Alex Rins and Brad Binder looked capable of moving through but were unable to reach deep enough.

Q2 was, as always, a heart-stopper. With crashes from Jorge Martin, Joan Mir and Enea Bastianini bringing out a bevy of yellow flags, the battle for pole went like this:

Rider             Time left when taking the lead

J. Mir                               10:30

J. Miller                              9:00

P. Bagnaia                          8:50

F. Quartararo                      8:45

Bagnaia                              2:45          1:36.170 new track record

Bagnaia’s lap was half a second faster than Quartararo, which equates to an hour in dog years. The first three rows in Sunday’s race, from which the winner will doubtless emerge given how tight the layout is, include Quartararo, Aleix Aprilia, Miller, M Marquez, Zarco and the pesky Nakagami, punching above his weight, along with Bezzecchi and Mir. The weather forecast for Sunday looks perfect.

Race Day

Once again, Jerez failed to disappoint the thousands of sober, drunk and/or stoned Spaniards in attendance. Speaking from experience, the combination of hot weather and stimulants can often cause unconsciousness. Not today, as all three of the internal combustion-powered races had something for every taste and budget. In Moto3, seventeen year-old sophomore sensation Izan Guevara showed remarkable race craft as he swept from P4 at the end of LP 21 to take the win away from countrymen Sergio Garcia and Jaume Masia. KTM Turk Deniz Oncu led the majority of the race, but got de-pantsed at the end by the Spanish trio. Today’s top finishers occupy four of the top slots in the 2022 race, with the mysterious Dennis Foggia finishing out of the points. His deficit to series leader Garcia grew from a single point to a discouraging 21. With last year’s rookie sensation Pedro Acosta having a difficult go of things up in Moto2, Guevara seems to have seized the title of The Next Great Spanish Rider. Dude doesn’t look old enough to shave.

The Moto2 tilt featured a wire-to-wire exhibition by Ai Ogura, who has been tipped for greatness for a couple years despite never having stood on the top step of the podium. That all changed today, as he opened a can of whup-ass on the grid and was never seriously challenged. Joined on the podium by Aron Canet, riding with a freshly broken arm, and an increasingly impressive rookie Tony Arbolino, Ogura seized the title of The Rider Most Likely to Unseat Takaa Nakagami on the MotoGP Idemetsu LCR Honda next year. The Moto2 championship after Round 6 features leader Celestino Vietti (100 pts), Ogura with 81, Arbolino with 70, tough-as-a-$2-steak Canet at 69, and the Great American Hope, Joe Roberts, barely in the picture in P5 with 57 points, possibly in contention for The Next Colin Edwards award.

The MotoGP race was billed all weekend as a showdown between Ducati pilot Pecco Bagnaia and smooth as silk Fabio Quartararo, the only one of four riders able to get a single frigging thing out of the Yamaha YZR-M1. The race, indeed, featured #63 and #20 in a daylong battle, with Quartarao unable to put his front wheel in front of Bagnaia for even a split second. The two ended up, like, 10 seconds in front of eventual P3 finisher Aleix Espargaro, who will get the blame for Aprilia having lost its treasured concessions going forward. Aleix took advantage of a mistake by Marc Marquez on Lap 22, eating Jack Miller’s lunch at the same time and moving from P5 to P3, where he remained for the rest of the race. Marquez took out his anger on Miller on the last lap to take P4, a surprisingly robust finish given the fact that he was unable to turn a fast lap all weekend without stealing a blatant tow from several faster riders. It appears that Marquez has regained his previously dominant form while the 2022 RC213V is a dog. Marquez fans can hope that next year’s iteration of the bike will be up to their previous standards; there appears to be nothing wrong with the eight-time world champion.

Today’s P2 for Quartararo allowed him to establish a lead in the 2022 championship of seven (7) points over the now-scary Aleix Espargaro, who finally has a competitive ride beneath him and is showing the race craft of a veteran of 13 frustrating premier class seasons. Suzuki enigma Alex Rins slipped from a tie for P1 into a tie for P3 with Enea Bastianini, whose early-season magic has faded somewhat of late. Bagnaia’s haul of 25 points today puts him at 56 for the season. Last year, he waited until Round 13 at Aragon to make any noise; he appears to have started early this season, and must be viewed as the most serious challenger to Quartararo for the 2022 championship.

The fervent nationalism found in MotoGP left a number of fans cursing today, with a Japanese rider and a cursed Italian standing on the Moto2 podium and another cursed Italian and a cursed Frenchman occupying the top two steps of the MotoGP podium. Everywhere else it was all Spaniards, cold consolation for having a single Spanish race winner at (one of) the Spanish Grands Prix (out of a total of four on the calendar). The premier class appears to be a lost cause for Spain this year with only Aleix and Rins in serious contention; neither has been close to a MotoGP title in a combined 19 premier class seasons. Perhaps the Aprilia is enough bike to propel Aleix to a championship in 2022; the smart Euros, however, are being bet on Bagnaia, with Quartararo attracting a healthy number of French wagers.. The season is unfolding as expected, with a half dozen credible threats to win it all in 2022.

Le Mans beckons in two weeks, followed by Mugello. Life is good in MotoGP. Plus, the brolly girls are back. There’s also an image of the massive Jerez Cathedral for your pleasure.

MotoGP 2022–The Grand Prix of Portugal, Round 5

April 25, 2022

Hello, MOrons. I’ve taken the offensive comment by Steve Day and moved it just below this one. Please rake a look and reply to his comment as appropriate. You guys are the best.

* * *

It’s now Saturday afternoon. All of the action from Friday and today is complete. As race day approaches, the weather is improving and the times are dropping. Friday was Crash Day for the Ducati contingent, as four of their six stalwarts ended up in the gravel. Marc Marquez set the pace on Friday in the wet, showing us again that he has a big pair. Alex Marquez and Luca Marini, of all people, passed from Q1 into Q2, leaving names like Martin, Bastianini, Rins and Bagnaia behind. Bagnaia was shaken, not stirred, by a big high side in Q1; it appeared he may have lost consciousness, and my guess is he will be declared unfit to race before the lights go out tomorrow.

Q2 was run in bright sunshine, the track almost completely dry. Plenty of yucks in the last few minutes. Alex Marquez, celebrating his 26th birthday, held pole with 4 minutes left in the session; he would end up in P7. In order, the pole sitter parade featured, Johann Zarco, then Quartararo for an instant, followed by Joan Mir, Zarco again, and Jack Miller. Pol Espargaro was left chewing asphalt with less than two minutes remaining; the yellow flag accompanying his off cost Quartararo, then Marquez, pole. Once the clock hit all zeroes, the fun really began, as Mir, then Aleix, then, finally, Zarco, put down fast laps, although none came close to challenging Bagnaia’s track record lap from last year.

Tomorrow’s race promises to be madness, with Zarco, Mir and Aleix on Row 1, Miller, Quartararo and Bezzecchi (?) on Row 2, the Marquez brothers and Luca Marini (??) on Row 3, and Pol Espargaro and the factory KTM boys on Row 4. Farther back in the pack and newsworthy are Jorge Martin (off the first row for the first time this year), series leader Bastianini in P18 (???) Lorenzo Savadori (what the hell is he doing here this week with both Aleix and Vinales running?) and Alex Rins, sucking canal water in P23. Perhaps Savadori is racing this weekend because the Aprilia team has been hoarding soft rears and had so many they decided to waste a dozen or so on the hapless Italian.

Despite the troubles they had on both Friday and Saturday, Team Ducati still placed four riders on the front three rows. Martin and Bastianini, both in the conversation for the title this year, will have their work cut out for them on Sunday. My Magic 8 Ball tells me to keep an eye on Joan Mir, #93 and Aleix, upon whom my money is riding for podium honors for Round


Sunday’s race saw Fabio Quartararo become the first two-time winner this season, having taken the lead from Joan Mir on Lap 4 and cruising to an easy 5.4 second victory over fellow countryman Johann Zarco, with Aprilia Boss Aleix Espargaro taking yet another podium in his happy season. The chase for the 2022 championship is tight as a tick after five rounds, Quartararo tied at the top with the suddenly formidable Alex Rins, who carved his way from P23 at the start to P4 at the end. Aleix sits pretty in P3, a mere 3 points separating him from the leaders, A suddenly mortal Enea Bastianini sits in P4, five points “in arrears”, as the Brits say, to Espargaro.

Buried in the footnotes to today’s race–

  • Pecco Bagnaia, who tried to break his collarbone on Saturday and came damned close, hanging tough on Sunday, starting from P25 and finishing in P8. He and Zarco were the sole bright lights for Team Ducati, Jorge Martin having crashed out around Lap 6 and Jack Miller, chasing a podium, sliding off the track on Lap 19 and collecting Mir in the process. Luca Marini did finish in the points, while Marco Bezzecchi, starting from P6, worked his way down to P15 at the finish.
  • Marc Marquez, starting from P9, got lost in the sauce early, worked his ass off all day, and just barely beat little brother Alex by 2/100ths at the flag for 10 points. What the hell is Alex Marquez doing fiddling around just behind the lead group(s)?
  • With Miller and Mir getting skittled late, everyone trailing them got promoted two spots. Marquez, who could have started on pole were it not for teammate Pol Espargaro bringing out the yellow flags in Q2, might as easily have finished in P8. He thumped his noggin on the asphalt again on Saturday, but his diplopia, which may be becoming chronic, did not appear.
  • The first 1-2 finish for French riders since the Earth cooled.
  • Miguel Oliveira, the Great Portuguese Hope, finished in P5 at his home crib, but his name was only called two or three times all day.
  • Fabio is starting to resemble former Yamaha pilot Maverick Vinales. He is dominant when running in clean air at the front, but unable to slice and dice his way through the field like Marquez, Rins and Bagnaia. Accordingly, I make him a long shot to take the 2022 title.
  • Valentino Rossi showed up at today’s race, the first time he has graced the paddock since his retirement at the end of last season.

Loyal readers of this column will notice a comment recently affixed (approved by me) to the post about Simon Crafar and Steve Day from last year, in which I cast some aspersion on both gentlemen. Simon, since then, has impressed me, especially when he is in the booth during practice sessions. But it’s Steve Day who took time out of his busy schedule yesterday to insult me and, by extension, the loyal readers who follow this column. This after getting tossed from the booth by Dorna or whoever. I expect you MOrons to respond to Mr. Day on my behalf, defending me from the slings and arrows, etc. Mentioning the fact that he resembles Flounder in Animal House would be helpful as well. If you choose to defend me, might as well do it below, rather than paging back through piles of gibberish. I hope Steve will see that he started a bit of a MotoGP shitstorm.

Next week Jerez. I attended the race there in 2010; it was one of those memorable Lorenzo moments.

Cheers.

Simon Crafar and Steve Day

April 24, 2022

© Bruce Allen              June 4, 2018

If you have some real miles on your odometer, this will make more sense.

Simon Crafar2

 

Steve Day

Flounder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Dylan Gray. Not Nick Harris.

I get it that Simon Crafar was kind of a big deal in motorcycle racing some years ago, and is a SME regarding motorcycle racing in general. He is nervous, and doesn’t possess a great reservoir of questions when he’s conducting an interview. Despite his wealth of knowledge, he consistently asks riders these squishy “how does it feel” questions that many are reluctant, unprepared or unable (in a second language) to answer.

On Sunday, Simon conducted possibly the worst interview EVER of Valentino Rossi, a task which is usually a lay-down, as Rossi is usually happy to have a mic stuck in his face. It took place in the midst of a riveting Moto3 race in which Rossi had some pronounced interest in several of the riders up front. Simon gets in his grill, delivers his “I’m here with nine-time world champion…” opener, and asks, “Who do you think will win?” Rossi, confused, thinking he’s still the MotoGP guy, stammers about how Jorge is strong and Iannone… when Simon interrupts, saying “No, the Moto3 race!” Rossi: “No idea.” Simon, equipped this time with a follow-up, asks, “How’s it feel to win pole here at Mugello?” “Rossi: “Is good.”  Simon: “Back to you, guys.”

As I was getting over this mess, it occurred to me that Matt and your boy Steve need to bring Simon up to speed, as it were, on a few of the finer points of MotoGP announcing:

  • They switched from 125s to 250s in Moto3 in 2012. They no longer run 125s.
  • The word is “best,” not “bist.”
  • He needs to focus on more technical questions, which will require that he employ the open probe “when,” as in, “When did you know you could win the race?” or, “When did you feel your front tire starting to melt?”
  • The season is a third over. Time to move on from “How does it feel?”

As for Steve Day, I saw him on camera for the first time and could not shake the image of Flounder, from Animal House, from my head. Here I expected a buff, English kind of jock who happened to have a high voice. Instead, it’s Stephen Furst in his mid-30’s, appears to possibly never have been on a motorcycle, and who gets his panties in a twist at the slightest provocation. OK, it’s fine to try to inject some excitement, but, for the most part, the action is exciting on its own. He needs to speak more calmly, as if he’s been there before, and in a lower register. They appear to be under orders to sound as utterly British as possible–rough treatment in a turn is “naughty.”  Both Matt and Steve are excellent at identifying riders during the heat of battle. But, whatever MotoGP does, it should keep Steve Day off TV. Better to put on Otis Day and the Nights.

Not Dylan Gray. Not Nick Harris.

 

2022 MotoGP Circuit of the Americas, Round 4

April 8, 2022

There was a bit of a kerfuffle when yellow flags came out at the end of FP3, interrupting hot laps for a number of riders and resulting in a Q1 featuring eight MotoGP race winners out of the 12. Q1 was mostly a non-event, with wonderkid Jorge Martin bitch-slapping the field on his way to an easy entry into Q2 with Alex Rins only slightly behind.

Q2 was pretty exciting for Ducati fans, as Jorge Martin took pole away from Jack Miller on his last flying lap (by 3/1000ths of a second!) with the big red machines occupying the top five slots on the grid, a scene we may see more often, courtesy of the genius of Gigi Dallig’na. The top five also included Pecco Bagnaia, who appears to have figured out the GP22, along with Zarco and The Beast . This was the first top five lockout in qualifying for Ducati since they entered the premier class in 2003. The fact is, none of the other teams even field five bikes, so if anyone is going to post five for five it’s going to be Ducati. The rest of the front three rows, the only guys with a real chance to win tomorrow’s race, were Quartararo, Rins, Mir and Marquez, who, at this point in his career, is looking like Just Another Fast Rider who will win at some tracks and won’t be a threat to podium at others. This is a rough sport.

For the record, sitting on pole in Moto2 tomorrow will be the great American hope Cameron Beaubier; Andrea Migno occupies the top slot in Moto3.

Here is a comment from loyal reader OldMoron who watched the race before I did:

Wow! Fantastic race. Waiting for Moto3 to start, but in no hurry as I’m still enjoying the MotoGP afterglow.

I needed a great MotoGP race to make up for the disappointment of Moto2. That was a good race, too. But I wanted better for CamBeaub. Oh well, very happy to the Moto2 podium, with most of them getting up there for the first time.

Don’t know what the heck happened to MM at the start. Would’ve loved to see him and Beastie cutting each other up. The consolation was watching Marc and Fabio going at it. Full credit to Quarty. The other Yamahas are nowhere. He’s riding the wheels off that bike. If the Yam is not stronger on the Euro tracks, they might lose Quarty next year.

Thank you, sir, for your loyal readership for 13 years. You are THE MAN!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

This will be the race people remember owing to Marc Marquez having a major technical issue at the start, falling from P9 to P24 in the first three turns. Any chance he had had of winning on Sunday was summarily dismissed. He then proceeded to slice up ts the field, with winning pace, on his way to a heroic P6 finish. A helluva lot of work for 10 points.

Jack Miller took the lead on Lap 1 and held it for most of the day, dueling first with Jorge Martin, who faded to a P8 finish as the Pramac Ducatis seemed to lose grip mid-race; Zarco, who was in the lead group for most of the first half of the race, finished in P9. Later in the day, Miller would have his lunch money stolen by new series leader Enea Bastianini, who has established himself as a legitimate title contender in only his second premier class season. One of the many things he has going for himself, in addition to being very gentle on his tires, is that he sits on a Ducati GP21, probably the best bike on the grid, certainly superior to the GP22. I expect Ducati will iron out the wrinkles on the 22 in time to make next year’s GP23 ferocious.

Alex Rins had an impressive weekend, overtaking Miller late on the last lap for a P2 podium, 2021 was a total disaster for the Spaniard (everyone should watch MotoGP Unlimited on Prime, the gritty documentary covering the 2021 season, warts and all), but he appears to have solved his Suzuki this year, finishing in the top ten in all four rounds, and lately on the podium twice. When he was coming up through the junior classes there rumors that, as a teenager, he was faster than #93, but his premier class career has been one continuous disappointment. Trailing series leader Bastianini by a mere five points in P2 for the year, he has established himself as contender in 2022.

Bastianini had a fabulous weekend, hanging around near the top of the charts during the practice sessions, and slotting himself into P5 during Q2 while Jorge Martin established an all-time lap record. He sat in P3 and P4 during most of the race, dispatched Martin on Lap 12 and Miller on Lap 16, taking the lead he would hold without too much trouble until the checkered flag waved. This gives him two wins in four rounds, leading a ridiculously competitive field. At 5’6″ he is the right size to compete in motorcycle racing. The world, at this point in time, appears to be his oyster.

Jack Miller finished the day in P3 and on the podium, a frustrating outcome in a race he might have won if he had taken better care of his rear tire. He and teammate Pecco Bagnaia are in the midst of a forgettable year. And while Bagnaia still smells like a title contender (perhaps not this year but certainly in the future), it looks all but certain that Miller will lose his factory seat to Jorge Martin for next year. Whether Miller will accept a demotion to the Pramac team or seek greener pastures remains to be seen.

It seems likely that a good number of riders are going to change teams, and manufacturers, before next season. The Rider Most Likely to Abandon Yamaha is undoubtedly Fabio Quartararo, as the M1 can barely get out of its own way this season. Quartararo, riding like a demon, has amassed 42 points for the year. Morbidelli, Dovizioso and D. Binder have, between them, a total of 23 points. Dovizioso and Morbidelli are sucking canal water this year, with Morbidelli likely to leave Yamaha and Dovizioso likely to leave MotoGP altogether. It’s too early to tell whether Brad Binder’s little brother has anything going on. And, as an afterthought, the satellite Honda team (Takaa Nakagami and Alex Marquez) needs to be turned upside down and shaken hard; Marquez is hopeless, and Nakagami, the current Great Japanese Hope, isn’t getting it done, either.

Championship standings after 4 rounds:

1        Enea Bastianini       61

2        Alex Rins                56

3        Aleix Espargaro      50

4        Joan Mir                 46

5        Fabio Quartararo    44

6        Brad Binder            42

7        Jack Miller              31

8        Johann Zarco         31

9        Miguel Oliveira       28

10      Jorge Martin           28

Noteworthy is how Suzuki has quietly placed both riders in the top four. Rugged KTM pilot Brad Binder sits in P6 and must still be regarded as a title contender. We will learn in Europe whether Aleix Espargaro is a one hit wonder or a true contender after most of a decade spent as an afterthought. In two weeks the flying circus returns to Europe at Portimao, where it will begin the process of separating the men from the boys.

I’m out.

2022 MotoGP Argentina, Termas de Rio Hondo – Race Results

April 4, 2022

Originally posted by Crash. net

Aleix Espargaro makes history with his and Aprilia’s first-ever MotoGP win, in his 200th premier-class start, after a tense race-long duel with Jorge Martin at Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina.

Espargaro had been fastest not only in qualifying but also free practice and warm-up, presenting the Spaniard with a perfect chance to finally break his victory drought.

But when the red lights went out, Espargaro got a shaky getaway and lost out to fellow front-row starters Jorge Martin and Luca Marini, plus younger brother Pol by turn two, before recovering to second behind Martin by the end of the lap.

It also threatened to put Espargaro within range of the pursuing Rins, but the Aprilia rider regrouped with the fastest lap of the race to clamp back onto Martin’s rear wheel.

With 8 laps to go Espargaro slipstreamed ahead of Martin along the back straight to lead for the first time, but promptly ran wide at the following hairpin allowing Martin to casually return to the front.

Espargaro repeated the attempt, with the same result, soon after. But it was a case of third time lucky as Espargaro held his line into the hairpin with five laps to go.

Martin wasn’t done, clinging persistently to the RS-GP until the final lap, where Espargaro finally edged out of reach for an emotional victory. 

Until today, Aleix had been the only rider on the MotoGP grid without a grand prix win, in any class, to his name while the RS-GP had taken just one prior podium,with Espargaro at Silverstone last year. A dream day was made complete by Espargaro now also leading the world championship standings.

Pol was among those flocking to congratulate Aleix, his brother’s triumph helping soothe the disapointment of crashing out of fourth place with 11 laps to go, leaving Rins to complete the podium ahead of Suzuki team-mate Joan Mir.

Starting 13th and 14th after a problematic Saturday, factory Ducati team-mates Francesco Bagnaia and Jack Miller failed to gain early ground. Bagnaia then chipped his way up the order to fifth but Miller couldn’t make an impression on the race and finished 14th.

Maverick Vinales, who had also enjoyed his best Aprilia weekend heading into the race, lost a few places from fifth on the grid before stabilising in seventh.

Reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo was shuffled from sixth on the grid to 13th in the early laps. The Monster Yamaha star gained a place when countryman Johann Zarco slid off ahead of him, but could only recover to eighth.

Marco Bezzecchi was the top rookie in ninth for VR46, with team-mate Marini fading to eleventh.

Qatar winner and world championship leader Enea Bastianini began the race twelfth on the grid, reached a peak of eighth, but then ran wide and dropped to 13th. Bastianini completed the top ten by the chequered flag.

The RNF Yamaha team seemed to suffer tyre warmer generator problems on the grid for both Andrea Dovizioso and Darryn Binder. Dovizioso then entered the pits at the end of the opening lap before re-joining the race.

Dovizioso wasn’t the only Yamaha rider in technical trouble with Monster’s Franco Morbidelli looking to suffer some kind of rear tyre issue as he entered the pits with 18 laps to go.

All riders chose to race with the hard front and soft rear tyre combination.

Marc Marquez, who suffered a new episode of double vision in the aftermath of his huge warm-up accident in Indonesia, missed this weekend’s event and was replaced by HRC test rider Stefan Bradl.

After a medical check last Monday, Marquez’s Ophthalmologist Dr Sánchez Dalmau said there had been a “a very favourable evolution in the paralysis of the fourth right nerve affected by the fall that occurred at the Indonesian Grand Prix.”

But he added: “Recovery is not yet complete, and Marc Marquez must follow the established therapeutic regime with conservative treatment.”

It is thus not yet known if Marquez will return for COTA next weekend, one of his most successful circuits, or re-join sometime during the European season, which begins in Portimao on April 22-24.

Fellow Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami also looked set to miss this weekend after testing positive for Covid-19 and being unable to leave Japan. However, the cancellation of Friday combined with subsequent negative Covid results meant Nakagami was able to get to Termas in time for Saturday’s start.

MotoGP was returning to Termas de Rio Hondo for the first time since March 2019, with the event cancelled for the past two years due to the Covid pandemic. That also meant the current ‘standard’ rear tyre construction, introduced in 2020, had not previously been used at the track.

Barring any freight issues, MotoGP will be back on track in Austin, Texas on Friday.

Mandalika–The “Fires of Hell” GP Quenched

March 20, 2022

Miguel Oliveira won the first Indonesian Grand Prix in 25 years on Sunday, holding off French challengers “Fabulous” Fabio Quartararo and Johann Zarco. The podium celebration featured a KTM, a Yamaha and a Ducati. Notably absent were representatives from Honda; it looks like it’s going to be another difficult year for the Suzuki and Aprilia contingents.

After two rounds, there are four riders within six points of series leader Enea Bastianini, with another four riders tied at ten points back. Pre-season fave Pecco Bagnaia and his GP22 have accumulated a total of one (1) point; a couple more outings like the first two and his unvarnished optimism is going to get shellacked. And please don’t get me started about Marc Marquez, whose dramatic high-side during the morning warm up came close to cracking his head wide open and led to his being declared unfit for the race.

Practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, appeared to be taking place inside an autoclave. The oppressive heat wreaked havoc with the riders, their machines, and the racing surface itself. Soft tires became the only viable choice for most of the teams, and on Saturday’s qualifying sessions they were going through them like salted nuts

Q1 was the most interesting such session I’ve seen since the qualifying format changed in 2013. A number of high-profile riders, including names such as Bagnaia, M Marquez, P Espargaro and Mir, had failed to pass through to Q2, due in no small part to surprisingly competent practice session from Oliveira and FDG. Exhibit A for the radical competition in Q1 was the fact that Marquez went through a passel of soft tires and crashed twice, subsequently landing in P15. He actually would have started the race in P14 but for the picky sanction applied to Frankie Morbidelli for violating some obscure rule about practice start procedures at the end of FP3.

During Sundays warm-up, Marquez went airborn in the most spectacular high-side I’ve seen since Jorge Lorenzo practically achieved a low earth orbit in China in 2009.

Naturally, Sunday was a frog strangler, with rain holding up the proceedings in the premier class for an hour. It was still wet when the lights went out. Since most of you have access to the results of the race by now (the MotoGP website has an excellent summary) I have virtually nothing to say about the race. The season-to-date standings are something else, though. The Beast added 5 points to the 25 he earned in Lusail (when did Losail become Lusail?) and still sits at the top of the standings, followed in close order by the surprising Brad Binder, a dangerous Quartararo, and today’s race winner Miguel Oliveira. Of particular interest is Marquez sitting down in P12 and, as mentioned above, Pecco Bagnaia resting in P20 with the likes of KTM rookies Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner. Amazingly, rookie little brother Darryn Binder, enjoying a jump shift (for you bridge players) from Moto3 made his way into the Top 10 today.

Since this post is only for record keeping, that’s it for now. My buddy OldMoron is going to take this post apart in his inimitable style, which is fine with me. And, for the record, somebody named Somkiat Chantra won his first grand prix in Moto2, while Dennis “The Menace” Foggia won the Moto3 tilt in comfortable fashion.

Next stop: Another dirty track in Argentina in two weeks. This season is going to be a blast.

Errata from Canadian correspondent Allison Sullivan. Posted completely without permission of the author.

THAT.HIGHSIDE. was gnarly. You could tell it was so unexpected that Marc basically had no idea what had happened. That he got up and walked away is testament to the technological marvels those suits are, but that has to mess with his already fragile head.

(Speaking of which, is anyone watching MotoGP Unlimited on Amazon? I’ve just finished Ep 3 where Jorge Martin comes back from his broken leg, and he’s matter-of-factly talking about how his suit recorded 26G of force and he should have been dead. O_O)

I’m a fan of the The Beast, but I wouldn’t have picked him to be leading the series after 2 races. Fabio looks strong again this year, the rest of the field can’t afford to be spotting that boy points (cough, cough, Pecco). Style points for this week go to Alex Rins for his very undignified bail of his flaming Suzuki, and the bad luck award goes yet again to Jorge Martin (if that boy didn’t have bad luck, he’d have none).

I’m passing on the main race (rain races are never good watches), but I did watch Moto3 because I have to cheer for Ana Carrasco this season. Foggia and Izan Guevara definitely look to be the class acts of that field this year. Tatsu stayed upright, huzzah. Looks like Pedro is not finding Moto2 to be the cakewalk everyone predicted – it will be interesting to see if he finds form once they get to Europe.

Thank you, Allison.

Marquez on his way to the medical center.

Miguel winning his fourth GP in the premier class.

Watching MotoGP–broadcast, video feed

March 8, 2022

By Bruce Allen

Lots of conversation amongst you motorheads about watching the races, TV vs. the Dorna video feed and so forth. The only race I’ve ever watched on TV was the 2008 classic at Laguna Seca, where Rossi out-raced Casey Stoner, eventually putting his dick in the dirt. I remember this one, because my write-up of that race earned me the lofty title of MotoGP correspondent at Motorcycle.com for the next 10 or 12 years. I was unaware that it was one of the most exciting races in MotoGP history. I remember not appreciating the TV commercial breaks and thought the announcers were new at their jobs, too.

Fourteen years later, I’m starting to get this sport figured out. I’ve purchased the video feed during the entire period and have never regretted doing so. There’s so much more content available on it–all four classes (counting e-bikes), practice sessions (where FP3 is occasionally more interesting than the race itself.) Moto3 is usually the best race on Sunday. Then there are the announcers.

I can’t speak to the TV announcers, but am happy to talk a little bit about the crew on the video feed. I’ve always been a fan of Matt Birt, even though he jocks the sport way too hard, in my opinion. He often describes a win as “a famous victory,” which is a hoot, given the fact that MotoGP is a parlor game in the world of sports. Famous wins take place around the world in soccer and in the three or four major sports in the U.S.

For 2022, color man Steve Day has been relieved of his duties for this season, replaced by the obscure but capable Lewis Suddaby. One thing I won’t miss about Mr. Day is the incessant high-pitched shrieking he brought to every overtake in every race, raising my hackles. Appearance-wise, he reminded me of Flounder in Animal House (“You f**cked up, Flounder. You trusted us.”) Then there’s Simon Crafar, the former rider stationed in the pits.

Opinions on Simon’s skill set vary widely. Having been a rider, he can and does provide useful insights as to what’s happening on the track. This part of his job he does very well. But no one can argue that his interviewing skills are non-existent. He seems incapable of framing good questions for the guys he interviews, and doesn’t appear to be at all familiar with what are generally referred to as “follow-up questions.” It appears he also doesn’t do his homework and comes unprepared for the interviews. Most of the time, he flails around making a comment about the subject at hand, appears to give up, and asks the interviewee, “So, what did you think?” or something equally inane. “What do you think?” “What are you thinking?” Here he is, supremely qualified to pose technical questions to riders and team bosses, and he consistently drops the ball, going instead with his dopey question, as if he’s taking a survey.

For those of you either too cheap or insufficiently interested to spend $125 on the feed–which works out to about $6 per round–I’ve posted the TV schedule for the entire season. You will notice that most of the races are tape-delayed, meaning you will often know the outcome of the race before it is shown. If that works for you, be my guest. Spend your $6 on a large frappuccino with an extra shot, heavy on the whipped cream. Enjoy the commercials and the lightweight commentary. And don’t worry about taking part in the conversations about Moto2 and Moto3, (I suppose you could visit Crash.net to find out what happened in the lightweight and intermediate classes. If that’s the case, prepare to get flamed by guys like OldMoron and Starmag for bringing opinions similar to the North Platte River in Nebraska–a mile wide and an inch deep.)

Let’s discuss.

Qatar MotoGP–Nothing to See Here

March 6, 2022

I’m using this space to record my notes from Round One. This is not intended for public consumption, just a place to keep records to be used in the mid-season summary article.

Moto3–Ayuma Sasaki had the race all to himself until he saved a high-side in the middle of the race, causing the left side of his fairing to come unglued and leading to his eventual retirement. Once he was out of the picture, five riders slugged it out for the win–Andrea Migno for his first win since 2017, Sergio Garcia, who came back from a long lap penalty for P2, and Kaito Toba, who raced his ass off and eventually captured a podium. Dennis Oncu and John McPhee were in the lead group but failed to podium. The top five reflected the nationalistic nature of grand prix racing, and featured Italy, Spain, Japan, Turkey and Scotland. Not the best Moto3 race ever, but good.

Moto2–Celestino Vietti led wire to wire, with Aron Canet riding a lonely second place, Action in the final turn of the race saw Ai Ogura lose the front of his bike, bumping Augusto Fernandez off the podium and allowing a very lucky Sam Lowes to climb the third step. Rookie Pedro Acosta got swallowed up at the start (from P10) and had to fight like hell all day to eventually finish in P12. 16 year old rookie Fermin Aldeguer sounds like a rider to watch, although he could manage no better than P16 today.

MotoGP–the big bikes featured the race of the day. Pol Espargaro took the early lead and held it until his rear tire went south around Lap 19. His chasers went on to some success, headlined by sophomore Enea Bastianini, who recorded his first premier class win and looks way stronger than I have given him credit for. Brad Binder rode the hell out of his KTM and took the second step on the podium, followed by Pol Espargaro, Aleix, Marc Marquez and Joan Mir. It was a brutal day for the Ducati contingent. Jack Miller retired early with an electronics issue. Rookie Marco Bezzecchi crashed out on Lap 7. The worst moment of their very bad no good day occurred on Lap 12, when Pecco Bagnaia, my pick to win it all, lost the front, taking himself and polesitter Jorge Martin out of the race. Aside from Bastianini’s win, the other Ducati finishers were Johann Zarco in P8, sophomore Luca Marini in P13, and fellow rookie FDG in P17. Sadly for Yamaha, defending champion Fabio Quartararo finished in P9, while teammate Franco Morbidelli took the flag in P11. The satellite team barely showed up at all; the announcers didn’t mention either of them all day. Maverick Vinales ended the day in P12, Andrea Dovizioso in P14. Looks to be a long year for those two. Aleix Espargaro kept his record of never having won a grand prix race, in any class, intact, although he appears to have more juice this year than usual. Marc Marquez never challenged for the lead after the first couple of laps and settled for 11 points on the day.

Next time out the riders head for Indonesia, another outlier. But for Ducati, their putative top three riders recorded zero points on the day. In 2022, with so many fast movers, zeroes in Week 1 are going to hurt their chances for the entire season.

THUNDERATION—MotoGP 2022 Cleared for Takeoff

February 27, 2022

By Bruce Allen

[Note: The scurrilous opinions, mis-statements of fact and otherwise actionable slurs below do not represent the views of Motorcycle.com. In fact, we are surprised if they represent the views of anyone at all.]

MotoGP, the fastest sport on two wheels in the known universe, is back for what promises to be one of the most competitive seasons in history. Twelve well-financed teams. 24 riders, of which only a handful can be excluded from consideration for multiple podium appearances during a 21-round campaign stretching from the streets of Indonesia to the jungles of South America to the Gulf of Finland. And the machines, hand-built to inconceivable tolerances, with power-to-weight ratios comparable to strapping a pair of big Evinrudes on the ass end of a dinghy.

In the past ten seasons, only four men have claimed the title of MotoGP world champion. Jorge Lorenzo, gone but not forgotten, won it all during his Yamaha days in 2012 and 2015. Joan Mir, the young Spanish speedster with the girl’s name, claimed his win in 2020*, winning a single race in a season decimated by Covid. French heartthrob Fabio Quartararo became a world champion in 2021*.

The asterisks signify seasons in which Spanish king of kings, Marc Marquez, who won the other six titles during the period, was injured or trying to return from injury. It doesn’t require much imagination to suggest that, had Marquez been healthy, both Mir and Quartararo would have watched him claim his seventh and eighth premier class crowns. For those of you new to the sport, he is the Michael Jordan, the Tom Brady of grand prix motorcycle racing. Those of us who watched him during those years remain unworthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.

In 2022, having returned to full health (or close to it) Marquez will have his work cut out for him. There is more talent on the grid today than there was in 2013, and, despite his boyish good looks, he has a lot of miles on his odometer and is, in fact, a veteran rider. Not a grizzled veteran like my boy Cal Crutchlow, but a veteran nonetheless. He turned 29 in February, in a sport where eyebrows begin to raise at anyone over 30.

When Last Seen

The 2021 calendar was goofed up, again due to the Covid pandemic. There were a full 18 rounds, but it was cobbled together, with two each at Losail, Red Bull Ring Portimao and Misano. Quartararo won five rounds—Losail II, Portimao I, Mugello, Assen and Silverstone, coasting to the championship at season’s end. Upstart Pecco Bagnaia, the second coming of Jorge Lorenzo, captured four of the last six rounds to make the final standings look closer than they were. Ducati pilot Jack Miller won two early rounds, at Jerez and Le Mans, but failed to launch thereafter, going winless over the final 13 rounds.

Other winners included KTM’s Brad Binder at his home gym in Austria, and the wounded Marc Marquez, who, riding with one arm, managed wins at the Sachsenring and COTA, both of which he basically owns, and Misano II. In a harbinger of great things yet to come, rookie Jorge Martin, the second coming of Dani Pedrosa, recorded a great win at Austria I. And, in a footnote, the bedraggled Maverick Vinales, once considered the next great thing, won Round One in the desert and was hardly heard from thereafter. He switched teams in mid-season, falling out of grace from the factory Yamaha team and landing in a heap with Aprilia. He has gone from the next great thing to a trivia question, all due to the size of his ego.

The Off-Season

Since the final 2021 round at Valencia up until this week, actually, teams have been installing new riders and scrambling to come to terms with the 2022 iterations of their bikes. Rules governing what goes on in the off-season have been tightened drastically in recent years in an effort, I guess, to cut costs. Personally, what I learn each year from testing and the race at Losail is essentially nothing. IMO, Losail, for me anyway, marks the end of pre-season testing, but with the riders able to score points. Winning at Losail in March counts for about as much as the Cincinnati Reds winning their opening game in March. It has no predictive value.

The Grand Prix of Qatar has always been a strange choice for the season opener. They run it at night under gigantic lights, with sand blowing across the track. The racing surface is wide enough to tow a fifth-wheel trailer. March is one of the few months where local air temperatures are under 150 degrees. And attendance usually runs to about 1500 fans, most of whom are oil sheiks, crypto miners and political assassins. Not normal.

New Faces

This season starts with seven underclassmen, three sophomores and four freshmen. New to the premier class last year were Italian speedsters Luca Marini (half brother of the legendary Valentino Rossi) and Enea Bastianini, along with rising Spanish star Jorge Martin. The 2022 crop of rookies includes a pair of KTM guys, apparently chained at the wrists and ankles—Australian Remy Gardner and Spanish fast mover Raul Fernandez. These two don’t like each other, causing us to hope for a repeat of the hilarious scene back in the day when Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi shared a garage and had a wall built down the middle to keep them from gouging each other’s eyes out.

Two more Italians complete the 2022 grid, starting with Fabio di Giannantonio, repping the Gresini Ducati team. (We will be forced to refer to him this season as FDG in order to conserve our dwindling inventory of lower case N’s.) Last, and perhaps least, is young Marco Bezzecchi, filling the #2 seat on Valentino Rossi’s Mooney VR46 Racing Team. Marco’s coiffure suggests he thinks of himself as the second coming of the late Marco Simoncelli; I prefer to consider him the MotoGP version of Sideshow Bob.

The Machines

Oh, what a different couple of paragraphs this would be had motorcycle whisperer Gigi Dall’igna not defected from Aprilia to Ducati in 2013. Over the past ten years he has transformed the Ducati Desmodici from a rocket sled into the best bike on the grid. Anyone who wishes to question this statement should seek counseling. At present, were we to tranche grand prix motorcycles, the ranking would look as follows:

Tranche 1: Ducati

Tranche 2: Your mother

Tranche 3: Honda

Tranche 4: Yamaha, Suzuki

Tranche 5: KTM

Tranche 6: Aprilia

This season there will be eight (8) Ducatis on the grid. Were it possible, there would probably be 18. Seems every rider wants a Desmo, wants to blow up his rivals on the long straights. It’s as fast as it’s aways been, only now the riders can wrestle it through the turns without giving themselves colitis. And it appears to improve each year. By 2025 Ducati Corse could conceivably sweep the top three or four spots for the year. Wow.

Despite winning the 2021 championship, Yamaha appears to have slipped a bit; Fabio is the only rider able to coax results out of the M1, with Morbidelli starting to smell like an underachiever. The aging Andrea Dovizioso and whippersnapper Darryn Binder, called up from Moto3 where he wasn’t all that, on the #2 team appear destined for the lower links of the food chain.

Honda appears to have similar problems. Clearly, the RC213V has been designed around Marc Marquez; what manufacturer in his right mind wouldn’t? Pol Espargaro, the #2 rider on the factory team, keeps talking a good game and keeps not winning races. Sure, he managed a second place finish last year at Misano II. Big whoop.The riders on the satellite team, Alex Marquez and Taka Nakagami, show occasional flashes of mediocrity, but are second division contestants. The day either of them wins a grand prix I will buy all of you a good cigar. (How you split it up between youse is your problem.)

Suzuki, to my way of thinking, can’t really be taken seriously as a championship-level outfit without a second team to generate more data. Sure, someone is bound to point out that Joan Mir won the 2020 title for Suzuki, and most people I know were happy for him and them. But 2020 was a crazy, one-off year. And, in winning the title, he managed the top step of the podium exactly one (1) time. Nicky Hayden won the Taller Than Danny DiVito Award in 2006 for Honda with two wins. Just for the love of the game, allow me to compare Marc Marquez’ points haul in 2019 with Mir’s in 2020:

Marquez 2019: 420 pts  (19 rounds)

Mir 2020:         171 pts  (14 rounds)

Where was I? Right. KTM, which appeared to be an ascendant MotoGP organization in 2020, took a definite step backward last year, despite the rugged Brad Binder having captured his maiden premier class win at Red Bull Ring, his home crib. In 2020 the two teams managed 200 points in 14 rounds of racing. In 2021, over 18 outings, they scored only 205 points. There has been plenty of sturm and drang during the off season. Another year like last year and there’s going to be some serious Teutonic ass-kicking going on in Mattighofen. Just sayin’.

Which brings us to Aprilia, the racing organization made famous by having let Gigi Dall’igna defect to Ducati. Just think about what this tranche might look like had they had the sense to pay him. But without a satellite team, their brave annual pronouncements about this finally being their year generate choruses of yawns from the racing press. Please don’t tell me what you’re going to do. Tell me what you’ve done.

Everyone’s Favorite Segment

At this point in the 2022 season, tranching the riders is a fool’s errand. And I’m just the fool to take it on. But I’m only willing to separate the riders into sheep and goats. If you have a problem with this, I suggest you write your congressman.

Tranche I—Pecco Bagnaia, Marc Marquez, Fabio Quartararo, Joan Mir, Jack Miller, Johann Zarco, Jorge Martin, Aleix Espargaro, Brad Binder, Pol Espargaro, Raul Fernandez, Andrea Dovizioso

Tranche II—Alex Rins, Miguel Oliveira, Franco Morbidelli, Taka Nakagami, Alex Marquez, Enea Bastianini, FDG, Luca Marini, Remy Gardner, Maverick Vinales, Darryn Binder, Marco Bezzecchi

Our mid-season report will revert to the traditional format. Until then, I welcome your taunts and hoots.

Short Takes

Fabio Quartararo should have his leathers re-worked. Listening to him talk, he’s no more Spanish than I am. El Diablo needs to become Le Diable…Raul Fernandez is my pick for Rookie of the Year…MotoGP will change when teenager Pedro Acosta, The Next Really Great Rider, moves up next year. If he doesn’t title in Moto2 this year it will only be due to his having spent some serious time in traction…Jorge Martin is a rider to keep one’s eye on. Fearless and fast. He needs to concentrate on spending less time getting launched over his handlebars…Between his right arm and his damaged vision, we may have already seen the best Marc Marquez has to offer this sport. His lizard brain, the part firing the synapses behind his “Oh, my!” saves, may be slightly hesitant on the heels of two serious accidents…Pecco Bagnaia is my pick as the 2022 world champion, in case anyone asks.

The American FAA lists 234 miles per hour as “takeoff speed,” the speed at which an airplane leaves terra firma and begins its ascent. This is equal to 376 kmh. During FP4 at last year’s opener in the desert, Johann Zarco recorded 362.4 kmh on the main straight. The Ducati contingent, with their various winglet designs, will probably approach takeoff speed in the next two seasons. This could mark the invention of a new term in motorcycle racing—the overpass.

“Have a Take, and Don’t Suck”

This, for decades, has been the mantra of your boy Jim Rome. For internet journalists like myself (okay, internet hacks) our currency in trade is reader engagement. Late-Braking MotoGP has, for years, hosted informed, civil conversations, without the vitriol, insults and foul language found in most online forums. You, the faithful reader, have the choice of simply consuming our work or helping to create it by sharing your opinions, insights and reactions.

We don’t need lurkers. We need full-throated voices from riders, whether you agree or disagree with the silly, semi-informed opinions you find here. Are you friends with a Saudi assassin? Defend him here. Are you okay with me talking about your mother? Take me down a peg. This stuff is not the war in Ukraine. This is pure entertainment, offered to whet your appetite for MotoGP and to generate myriad requests to Motorcycle.com management to assign me more work. And trust me, I need work. So keep those cards and letters coming, kids.

I will return after Round 11 with some cheeky mid-season analysis. Until then.

* * *

In memory of Nancy P. Gillespie 3/19/1952 – 8/17/2021


 [BA1]

I’m back.

February 23, 2022

Y’all have pestered Evans and me sufficiently that he has agreed to bring me back into the fold for some guest shots this year. We’ve agreed on three posts for now—pre-season, mid year and a wrap up in November.

I will endeavor to provide all your favorite stuff—tranches, slander, half-baked opinions and old jokes—and to stay on top of what promises to be a hellified good season.

A round of applause for Evans Brasfield, who went up against the suits at VerticalScope, all David vs Goliath-like, to make this happen.

Now if I can just get my ass out of the hospital we’ll be in business.

Hanging up my laptop, for now UPDATED

October 3, 2021

© Bruce Allen  October 3, 2021

It’s race day. At what’s left of COTA, in Austin, the racing surface so bad there was talk of the riders boycotting the round. Maverick Vinales is absent due to the tragic death of his cousin? nephew? racing a motorcycle. Although your boy Fabio has the championship pretty well wrapped up, Bagnaia has finally started performing up to his potential and Marquez is showing renewed signs of life, so the 2021 race remains interesting. There has been a horde of young fast movers making their way into the premier class. Paging KTM and Ducati. Someone somewhere is comparing the average age of the grid in 2011 with the average today, discovering, no doubt, that the field is getting younger and, according to Methuselah, more reckless.

All of which is meant to distract you, the reader, from my decision to quit writing about MotoGP for now, as it has dropped sufficiently down on my list of priorities, since Nancy died in August, to make the work seem trivial, inconsequential, undeserving of my mental energy when I have so much else I need to think about. Sure, I intend to keep watching races and probably a few qualifying sessions just to keep my oar in the water. I need to maintain interest in my hobbies and avocations lest one of these doctors declares me clinically depressed. We wouldn’t want that.

I’m having some minor health issues–some hernias to repair, the sudden need for a crown on a back molar–and one serious one, in that I am no longer able to manage my blood sugar adequately with meds and will probably end up shooting up insulin, showing the younger grandkids how to tie it off, heat the spoon, the whole deal.

Part of my current problem is that I tend to come a bit unglued each day very early in the morning, at the time I used to do my writing about racing and a few other topics. I can’t type through my tears, which leads me to the edge of the journalistic abyss, questioning why I’m even trying to do this stuff when I feel so bad. I did some writing about Nancy a month ago and it made me feel absolutely no better.

My counselor says that until I can tell Nancy’s story without losing my shit I will not be on my way back to feeling normal. She says I should go to group therapy and practice telling Nancy’s story, over and over, every two weeks, until practicing doing so makes it easier to do actually get through it intact in the world. I’m going along with everything so my daughters don’t accuse me of being difficult or recalcitrant, which I’m usually not anyway.

I was going through the mail yesterday, doing fine, when I opened an envelope from American International Group which contained a check payable to me, the proceeds of the life insurance contract I insisted she buy years ago. It was, by far, the largest amount of money I’ve ever held in my hands. Despite the fact that I bought the policy before she was diagnosed, the fact that it paid a death benefit, to me alone, seems unfair and selfish. Imagine having had that money, money we could simply blow, back when she was healthy and vibrant. Back to Ireland and Spain, travel to Italy and Austria, Scandinavia, wherever.

So. On to just being a spectator and fan. For now. Once I get her ‘estate’ settled and get my health under control–in other words, when I have absolutely nothing to do–I may return to this site and grace you with my petulant observations. Perhaps in time for the season opener in 2022 under the lights. Until then, you must know that the only thing that has kept me doing this thing since Motorcycle.com broke up with me is you guys and your comments–sometimes prescient, always informed–telling me you enjoy my work. Otherwise, I might have been outta here last year. Anyway, thank you all for the kind words over the years and may the farce be with you forever.

Bruce stock photo 2021jpg

Top 10 Riders after COTA:

Quartararo 254* *mortal lock

Bagnaia 202

Mir 176

Miller 148

Zarco 141

Binder 131

M Marquez 117

A Espargaro 104

Vinales 98

Oliveira 92

Dispatches from the front updated my

October 2, 2021

Reports on the Grand Prix of the United States, or whatever, from our erstwhile reporters in the field.

Screenshot (557)

Maverick Vinales, will miss the race due to a death in the family.

Buzz Says:

Day 1: The gully washer storm turned into blistering heat and humidity. I missed FP1. FP2 was great to watch because, as the announcers were saying, the Saturday forecast was for more heavy rain so they were going to try to turn their best times in FP2.

Marquez went straight to the top in the early stages and then the tops spot became Fabio, Miller, Pecco but it was all for naught. At the end of the session 93 turned in a fast lap and finished FP2 #1.

Rossi finished the session with a wave and a wheelie as the fans cheered. 46 gear is everywhere as usual. What will MotoGP do without him?

Saturday morning: Wake up to bright blue skies! No rain in the forecast but it is Texas so wait 15 minutes as they say. Gonna be smoking hot today but hopefully not as humid.

Buzz Says:

Picked a Pecco of pickled peppers. Kaboom! Great Q2 session today. It was 93,93 93 at the top of the board and then Pecco turned up the heat and came flying by our turn 15 grandstand and snagged the pole as time was running out. The first Italian to claim 3 straight poles since Methuselah in 2009.

Many more people at the track today compared to yesterday. No rain. Just blistering heat and humidity. Can someone please tell Texas it’s fall now and it’s ok to cool down? It’s amazing what these guys can do riding this hard in full leathers in this heat. I was in shorts and a t-shirt and feeling Verklempt.

Moto2 qualifying has been awesome. My small group even agreed the triples sound better than the diesels at speed. Awesome shrieking sound and incredibly fast.

Overall, another great day. The vendors and other activities are naturally reduced compared to previous years but everyone here is so cheerful and so pleased we get to experience this again.

MotoGP returns, sort of

September 14, 2021

© Bruce Allen    September 14, 2021

MotoGP Round 13: Aragon

OK, so I can’t do this yet. I did watch all three races Sunday and have this to offer.

In Moto3, Pedro Acosta has assumed the mantle of The Blessed Rider of 2021, crashing out of the proceedings, only to be followed later in the race by a gagging Sergio Garcia, who, tampered with no doubt by The Racing Gods, crashed out of a podium spot and a chance to make the 2021 Moto3 championship competitive. The race tightened up behind Garcia, but who cares? Acosta’s lead stays at 46 points with five rounds left. This was his first, and probably last, DNF of the season. He’s been promoted to the best team in Moto2 for next season. The world is his oyster, as it were.

In Moto2, it was all Raul Fernandez up front, once Sam Lowes crashed out of the lead on Lap 13, which our erstwhile reporter predicted on Lap 2 (see notes). Remy Gardner (P2) and Fernandez will remain teammates next year in the big leagues; it’s almost as if they’re joined at the wrists and ankles. Of the two, all of my money is on the 20-year old Fernandez in the Most Likely to Become an Alien poll. There just aren’t any great Anglo riders, besides which I have a distaste for nepotism in all its forms.

IMG-4327

Lots of crashers on Sunday, one of whom, Marco Bezzecchi, waved goodbye to his last remaining title hopes. He may still get promoted to MotoGP, if not this coming year then the th year following.

The MotoGP race devolved into one of the great two-man chases of recent memory, with 6-time MotoGP champ Marc Marquez, still on the mend from an injury suffered last year, chasing young Alien-in-Waiting Pecco Bagnaia and his Ducati all day, from the holeshot won by the Italian to the last three laps, which were stunning. Seven times Marquez showed Bagnaia his front wheel, and seven times Bagnaia denied him. Bagnaia, the second coming of Jorge Lorenzo without the bluster, has the high squeaky voice you want in your Italian race winners for their post-race interviews, in which they often sound like they’re on helium. Bagnaia was due, anyway. I look forward to watching these two battle for the next few years.

Have I mentioned sometime this year that there is a s**tload of fast young riders out there these days, on great machines. Marquez and Fabio, Bagnaia and Jorge Martin and Franco and Miller and Mir and even old Aleix. Pedro Acosta just turned 17. Knowing that at least one of you will, I haven’t bothered to look at total race times this year compared to years past, but I expect they’re going down gradually, but consistently.

If you look at point totals since Germany and divide the grid accordingly, you get as close to a legit tranche as anyone. Here are the standings since Sachsenring:

1.       Quartararo             99

Mir                        79

Binder                    74

Bagnaia                  73

2.       M Marquez             63

A Espargaro           52

Martin 52

3.       Rins                       45

Miller                     39

Zarco       36              

Oliveira                  33

Nakagami              33

4.       P Espargaro            26

Lecuona                 25

A Marquez              24

Vinales                   20

5.       Bastianini               16

Marini                    15

Rossi                     14

(Morbidelli)

There’s a little weirdness going on in these ranking, but facts is facts. And it doesn’t really matter what you might have done early in the year if you’re not doing it now.

Vinales and Rossi are done and dusted. The MotoGP neighborhood has changed over. Parties on the weekends are going to keep getting better.

Sorry Folks, it’s Too Soon

August 29, 2021

I expected to do my usual slovenly job this weekend, covering all three MotoGP races, and there was plenty of material to work with. I watched “Peccorino” Romano Fenati dominate everything all weekend in Moto3. I got thrown off the MotoGP site for the entire premier class race–awesome–but watched your boy Fabio put his boot on the throat of the 2021 championship later in the day. I tuned into the Moto2 race just in time to catch the order of finish–Gardner, Bezzecchi and Navarro–minus Raul Fernandez who, I’m told, crashed late, putting a big old suppurating gash in his championship aspirations.

But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t write it. Sure, I’m happy Dovi is re-employed at Yamaha where he had success earlier in his career. I’m happy Pol got a Pole and Aleix got himself a podium. But compared to what we have going on here, it just seemed somehow inappropriate. As in, what am I doing cracking jokes about motorcycles when our three daughters just lost their mom? If I were a serious writer, writing about serious subjects, using serious words, perhaps I could cobble up something. But the cheap laughs just aren’t working for me this week, and without them, I’m just another scribbler.

So, on to Aragon. I will keep trying this until it starts working again. Thanks for your patience.

RIP Nancy Porter Gillespie

August 18, 2021

© Bruce Allen

Grateful No Matter What

March 19,1952 – August 17, 2021

Nancy Gillespie, 69, died peacefully at St. Vincent Hospice on August 17. She was born in Woodbury, New Jersey, and was preceded in death by her parents, Edward and Elizabeth (Harper) Gillespie. She is survived by a sister, Mary (Volk), Audubon, PA, brother Ed Gillespie, Glade Valley, NC, husband Bruce Allen, daughters Liz (Pearce), Seattle, WA, Ginger (Edwards), Carmel, IN and Cate (Collins), Chicago, IL and her six grandchildren, upon whom she doted. She will be greatly missed.

Nancy graduated from high school in Woodbury, NJ in 1970 and attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, graduating in 1974. She and Bruce were married in 1975. Daughter Liz was born in 1977, Ginger in 1980 and Cate in 1984. Nancy spent a dozen years as a full-time mom before re-entering the workforce in 1990. She worked at both Carmel High School and the Carmel Public Library and ended her career at OneAmerica as an Organizational Development leader.

After retiring in 2016, Nancy continued to pursue her love of travel, visiting Mexico, Hawaii, Arizona, Mackinac Island, New York City, Seattle, New England and the Atlantic coast. During this same period she beat all the odds in a battle against Stage IV pancreatic cancer. She credited the combined prayers of her family, friends and complete strangers for her lengthy survival. She was an avid reader, loved her book club members, and stayed in close touch with old friends from Woodbury, Cincinnati, and Annapolis. She loved birds, especially hummingbirds and cardinals, and beaches.

Nancy was an active member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish for 37 years, volunteering for and leading a host of ministries over that time. A calling and eulogy will be held in the church narthex (14598 Oak Ridge Rd, Carmel) on Thursday, August 19, 2021, from 6 to 8 pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, August 20 beginning at 10 am. Interment will follow at Our Lady of Peace cemetery (9001 Haverstick Rd., Indianapolis). In lieu of flowers, the family requests your support of pancreatic cancer research through donations to The Lustgarten Foundation.

    Nancy2007-12x12in            Nancy Gillespie, circa 2007. Photo by Douglas Pearce

August 2021–on hiatus

August 10, 2021

We are having to take a break while dealing with some health issues at home.

Congratulations to Jorge Martin for popping his premier class cherry. Dude is going to win a lot more races. Congratulations to Raul Fernandez for his promotion to the bigs. Congratulations to Petronas Yamaha for approaching the end of the silly season with no riders signed for 2022, once Frankie leaves. Congratulations to Vinny for taking his career in his hands and giving it a good, solid whack. Adios to Danilo and Iker, see you in WSBK.

I look forward to things returning to the new normal later in the season, whence I will re-commence this patter in hopes of a championship race tightening up, and generating more of your always-entertaining comments.

Peace.

MotoGP: 2022 Rider Lineup SWAG

June 29, 2021

© Bruce Allen  June 29, 2021

Screenshot (557)

Maverick Vinales, managing his career.

Making the turn on the 2021 season with a long break until Round 10 at Red Bull Ring in August. We have a pretty good contest in the premier class, although your boy Fabio appears to be feeling it. Perhaps the break will cool him off. Or perhaps while laying around sunning himself in Cadiz he’ll contract some kind of, um, social disease. There are riders whose stars are rising and others who are visibly falling. Talk amongst y’selves. I want to talk about the rider lineup for 2022. Not 2023, not looking beyond the one year.

Repsol Honda appears to be set with Marquez and Espargaro. Pol will have to show more next year than he has this year if he intends to keep that seat, as every team on the grid wants a shot at Pedro Acosta after next season, meaning the 17 year-old Moto3 phenom will be signed mid-2022. By someone.

Monstar Yamaha will have Quartararo and A Rider to be Named Later, given Maverick Vinales’ curious defection to Aprilia. Rider ego again, as previously demonstrated by Rossi and Lorenzo–if I’m not The Man, and none of the three were/are–I’m going elsewhere and will show them what they lost. And going to Ducati, as Rossi and Lorenzo did, is a helluva lot different than running off to Aprilia in order to extract vengeance. These ego-driven moves generally don’t work out. Jorge Lorenzo, one of the great riders, was out of the sport two years after making his move.

Lenovo Ducati is set with Miller and Bagnaia.

Suzuki is set with Alex Rins and Joan Mir, although Rins will need to stay on his bike in the first half of 2022 if he wants a new contract thereafter. After an impressive run during his wonder years in the premier class his trajectory was highly positive. It is now flat, accompanied by a host of excuses. Joan Mir is an excellent rider who still needs more bike under him to compete for wins. Podiums, yes; wins, no. When you’re measuring thousandths of a second, a few extra horsepower can make a difference.

Aprilia is “set” with Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales. My expectations for the team, once again, are minimal. Aleix is good but not great, and I’m glad someone wants Vinales on their team. It says here Aleix Espargaro will be out of MotoGP by the end of 2023.

Red Bull KTM is totally set with Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder, with a pipeline of formidable riders building behind them. The same cannot be said for the Tech 3 KTM team, with Remy Gardner on his way up from Moto2, to be joined, in my Sophisticated Wild Ass Guess (see headline), by Iker Lecuona, whose future is not terribly bright but who at least has some experience. It appears my boy Danilo Petrucci is on his way out of MotoGP, which is a shame.

LCR Honda is set with Takaa Nakagami and Alex Marquez, both of whom show occasional flashes, neither of whom is going anywhere in a macro sense. Ai Ogura appears likely to be the next Japanese rider on the MotoGP grid, whether as a replacement for or in addition to Nakagami. It’s too soon to give up on Alex Marquez, but he has a long row to hoe in the next year.

As for the host of satellite Ducati teams, the Gresini Ducati effort appears to be set with Enea Bastianini and a newly-promoted Fabio di Giannantonio. Bastianini is paying dues this year that FDG will be paying next year. Not convinced about either rider at this early stage, but the ghost of Fausto Gresini will be smiling at finally having secured two Italian riders, rather than those stronzo Spaniards he was stuck with for so many years.

Pramac Ducati is set with Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin, fall and spring, experienced and inexperienced, calculating and rookie reckless. Zarco could win himself a championship this year; Martin’s best years are yet to come and he has a world of talent. Not to mention stones the size of manhole covers.

The new Aramco VR46 Ducati team will feature sophomore Luca Marini, brother of the team principal, and another Italian rider, most likely Marco Bezzecchi, up from Moto2. I expect Rossi to field a competitive team in the next three years. We shall see if Marini’s expected job security allows him to search out his potential in a win-or-bin mode, which is easy to do on the Ducati.

Finally, it is hard to watch Marquez struggle in his comeback. Certainly, his crash at Jerez has cost him two seasons. We shall find out whether the bill will be ultimately be bigger than that. I personally hate to think that such a transcendent talent as Marc Marquez would have his time at the top truncated by an injury. Perhaps fans should be grateful he’s not in a wheelchair. Next year, I expect, will tell the story.

I’ll get back on the blog during break if anything worth discussing takes place. Enjoy your summer.

 

MotoGP 2021 Journal Round Seven: Catalunya

June 6, 2021

© Bruce Allen   June 6, 2021

Heading into Sunday, Round Seven looked like it could be a Yamaha clambake. So how come there were no Yamahas on the MotoGP podium on Sunday afternoon? Plus it looked like Fabio had a major itching issue late in the race. Is it possible he picked up something over the weekend?

Wednesday

Remy Gardner from Moto2 to KTM Tech 3 next year; unemployment looms for Petrux and Lecuona. KTM will promote Gardner’s teammate Raul Fernandez, too, before the end of the season if he continues his winning ways. These Austrian guys are serious about motorcycle racing.

Turns out the new improved KTM machines like Mugello, delivering all four riders to the checkered flag—Oliveira P2, Binder P5, Petrucci P9 and Lecuona P11. Five riders, some likely to have beaten these guys, crashed out. In order to finish first…

Tranches after Mugello:

T1:     Quartararo, Mir, Bagnaia, Miller

T2:     Vinales, Zarco, Binder, Nakagami, Morbidelli

T3:     Rins, A Espargaro, M Marquez, P Espargaro, Oliveira

T4:     Rossi, A Marquez, Bastianini, Petrucci

T5:     Savadori, Lecuona, Marini, (Martin)

Of the winners of the last ten races in Barcelona, only three (Marquez, Rossi and Quartararo) will be on track this Sunday. Stoner, Lorenzo, Dovizioso all gone home, Rossi fixing to leave. The neighborhood has turned over; it’s the young guns who’ve begun to assert themselves, especially with Marquez wounded. Johann Zarco, who will be 31 in July, is an outlier. Aleix Espargaro, plucky as always, will be 32 in July. Whereas Fabio turned 22 in April, Pecco Bagnaia 24 in January. Jack Miller turned 26 in January. Joan Mir is 23. All this sounds like a good prop bet: Predict the combined age of the three riders on Sunday’s podium. Over/under is 75½. [The actual number on Sunday would be 83.]

Thursday

I just can’t deal with Alex Rins. Why can’t this guy stay on his bike (bicycle in this case), the sweetest-handling bike on the grid? He is Mr. Inconsistency in a sport that reveres consistency, the ability to turn laps less than a second apart for over half an hour. One of you said Frankie M could be taking Rins’ seat next year, with the Spaniard having to find new digs. And if I were Maverick Vinales, I would have to be worried about Frankie taking MY seat and having to confront the possibility of riding something other than a Yamaha M-1 (shudder) in the foreseeable future. Vinales raised everyone’s expectations so high during the first five rounds of his 2017 season that he will never—never—live up to them. Dude could use a change of scenery. So Rins is out for a few rounds—he’gotta be thinking about this stuff.

Friday

OK, so perhaps I’m tripping here at 4:30 am, but I’m confused about the all-time track record here at Catalunya. Looks to me like they re-configured a turn during the off-season, which negated all the previous track records, including, it appears, Jorge Lorenzo’s 2018 ATTR of 1:38.680. Along comes Aleix Espargaro, the elder, on an improved Aprilia RS-GP in 2021, who leads FP1 with a time of 1:40.378, and now the website (which is down, apparently fixing this glitch) shows Aleix with the ATTR. I offer this up in the hope that one or more of you will reply with a solution to this puzzle. As you know, our crack research staff, which thinks of itself as our Crack Research Staff, is notoriously unreliable when it comes to actual, um, research. They can, however, go on at unbearable length on the comparable qualities of rock vs. powder.

Otherwise, FP1 was just another FP1. #93 pedaling hard in P13. Rossi just another rider. The timing, for the young guns aiming at the title, couldn’t be better. The king has been wounded, and the previous king doesn’t have much game left. Joan Mir took advantage of the same situation last year. So The Usual Suspects have different faces than they did last year. Other than the Espargaro brothers, showing off for their homeys in Granollers, it was The New Usual Suspects at the top of the FP1 sheet. Ain’t nobody care.

Saturday

Valentino snuck directly into Q2 late in FP3, bumping Jack Miller back into the corral with the rest of The Great Unwashed—Nakagami, #93, Pol Espargaro. Rookie Enea Bastianini had some quicks on Friday but nothing on Saturday. Is it just me, or is it becoming customary for the factory KTMs to make it directly through to Q2? Binder and Oliveira appear to be coming into their own. Not Aliens, but Binder, especially, seems to be on the right track. On the other hand, take Alex Rins. Please.

Some other publication carried an interview with Maverick Vinales in which he implied, depending upon who’s doing the translation, that he could be leaving Yamaha, that his next contract could be with another builder. In doing so, he is doing a decent impression of my father’s career, during which he would periodically inform his boss that, in his opinion, his position was redundant, and his boss would then, reasonably, let him go. Is it too early to call Maverick a bust? If he didn’t burn bridges, could he conceivably re-appear with Suzuki as Mir’s teammate in 2022? Of course, this could all be a Samson & Delilah thing, that marriage and fatherhood have cut his hair, making him more aware than usual of the need to remain ambulatory and in one piece.

Just sayin’ that, upon further review, the observation (mine) concerning the similarity of surfing and slipstreaming was, I think, superb. One of my few interests is watching guys surf big waves on YouTube, 80-footers. There is what they call in physics a ‘moment’, the Moment of Truth, when, heading straight down the face of the wave, your speed is accelerating. You’ve caught the wave and you couldn’t get out if you tried without a disaster of possibly life-threatening proportions. On the track, these guys try to get in that stream, not always succeeding, but when they do, doing so in almost magical style, passing six, eight, ten riders into Turn 1, as at Mugello, Losail, places like that. It doesn’t appear Barcelona offers too much in the way of slipstreaming opportunities. Or surfing.

In Moto2 Remy Gardner, MotoGP-bound in 2022, led 14 riders into Q2. As usual, there were plenty of familiar names that made the cut and several more that didn’t. (The competition is so tight in Moto2 that there is little point in getting wound up about where a rider starts on the grid. Anywhere in the first five rows is fine.) Meanwhile, Gardner, rookie Raul Fernandez and Marco Bezzecchi are the three serious contenders for the series title this year. Fernandez has Alien, as they say, written all over him.

Looking at Moto3, young Pedro Acosta again failed to pass GO, forcing him to participate in Q1. This seems to happen more frequently than it should. Given his youth and inexperience, is it even possible that he dogs it in practice, in order to get the extra laps in Q1, on his way to Q2? This may be evidence of over-thinking on my part, but the boy does seem to love to ride and is 16 years old. If he passes through Q1 to Q2 and starts on the first three rows I’m calling BS, saying he’s sandbagging. There’s nothing to stop him, but it’s risky behavior. It may be that, during practice sessions, he has trouble locating a Spotify channel that moves him, and fiddles with his headset during the sessions. Once he’s dialed in, as it were, he’s ready for qualifying. I dunno, but I’m rooting for him. It’s my damned blog.

So Pedro will start Sunday from P25. That wasn’t the plan. John McPhee, Xavier Artigas, Jaume Masia and Riccardo Rossi graduated to Q2. Gabriel Rodrigo, Jeremy Alcoba and Nico Antonelli put themselves on the front row.

The lights would go out in Moto2 on Sunday with Remy Gardner, Raul Fernandez and Bo Bendsneyder on the front row.

When the Q2 smoke cleared in the premier class, it was Fabio Quartararo, once again, claiming his fifth pole in succession, tying a record dating back to when dinosaurs roamed the earth. A long time. He is joined by Johann Zarco and Jack Miller, the latter barely beating the clock to slot his Desmo in P2. Row 2 would be comprised of Miguel Oliveira, Frankie Morbidelli, and Mr. Who Cares?, Maverick Vinales. [This is an intentional dig designed to infuriate Pop Gun and make him work harder.]

Sunday

Clear and warm in Barcelona on Sunday morning.

Warm-up practices were on too early for me. We’ll just turn to the races.

Moto3 was its usual frenetic self. Lead group numbered up to 18 bikes. The final placements had only a rough correlation with the body of work for many of the riders thus far. There were several instances of what I like to think of as ‘motorized shuffleboard’ in which a bike is launched, sliding sideways, minus the rider, and takes out another rider or riders. John McPhee high-sided out of the lead on Lap 10, his bike, on the slide, removing Migno and Suzuki from the board. Late in the race, after the flag, I think, Ayumu Sasaki launched himself, his bike showing initiative in seeking out both Xavier Artigas and Dennis Foggia, among others. At the end it was Sergio Garcia, Jeremy Alcoba and hard-working Dennis Oncu, who dreams of the day he will hear the Turkish national anthem from the top step. Jauma Masia lost his podium spot to Oncu after exceeding track limits—what else?—on the last lap and having three seconds tacked on to his time, dropping him to P4. Pedro Acosta, the teenage wonder, held the lead for a few whiles before ultimately finishing in P7 after a bad shuffle in the last corner. He lead for the season stands at 52 points, not giving too much to his chasers, led by Masia and Sasaki.

Watching the MotoGP race today would have been a good use of your time, had you failed to do so. Miguel Oliveira, bucking for a new KTM contract like the one Brad Binder signed last week—three years with the ascendant Austrian brand—took the lead from Fabio Quartararo on Lap 14 and never looked back, beating that pesky Johann Zarco and Jack Miller to the flag. Actually, Fabio beat Miller to the flag, but was given his own three second penalty for Conduct Unbecoming after he stripped down to the waist late in the race, tossed his chest protector aside, and finished the race with both his engine and himself air-cooled. These bikes don’t have radiators, right? Crashers today included Petrucci, Marc Marquez, the Espargaro brothers, Valentino, and Iker Lecuona.

As of this weekend, it is no longer verboten to speculate on Rossi’s successor on the Petronas SRT team next season. After today’s crash, it’s getting sad.

So, anyway, for the season, it’s:

1        Fabio QUARTARARO        Yamaha          118

2        Johann ZARCO                 Ducati           101

3        Jack MILLER                      Ducati             90

4        Francesco BAGNAIA         Ducati             88

The Moto2 race was shown last today, and for good reason, as it was one of the dullest processions in recent memory. The Ajo KTM teammates, Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner, went off and had their own little race today, won by Gardner in a strategic tour de force. Xavi Vierge returned, at least briefly, from the riding dead to claim P3, on the heels of three DNFs in the first six rounds of the season. The two KTM teammates also lead the season series (Gardner by 11 over rookie Fernandez) followed at some distance by Marco Bezzecchi, who could end up favored for the 2022 title if both Gardner and Fernandez get called up to the bigs.

That’s all I got for today. And I’m mostly taking the next two rounds off at the beach—not taking my laptop. So keep those cards and letters coming and we’ll ‘dialogue’ until summer break. Ciao.

MotoGP 2021 Journal Round 6: Mugello

May 30, 2021

© Bruce Allen   May 30, 2021

What beats riding a Desmosedici in Tuscany?

Thursday 

How can anyone think the homeys with Ducati colors on their leathers aren’t going to occupy a couple of steps on the podium on Sunday? I’m inclined to give the nod to Bagnaia, the younger and more Italian of the two factory riders, with Miller and/or Zarco up there too, at one of the shrines of racing. Mugello is perhaps the best example on the calendar of the power of sling-shotting—sorry, slipstreaming—on the main straight. The track design also amplifies the noise in the same area, driving the already-loopy fans insane. Makes for a nice Sunday afternoon if you don’t mind breathing a lot of yellow smoke.

This, and Misano, are Valentino’s Last Stand, Rossi’s last chances to strut on the podium, in SRT teal and yellow, and bask in the adulation of his thousands of Italian fans. He has given them two decades of HOF performance and an Italian presence on the international sports stage. I expect, beginning next year, he will field a SKY VR46 MotoGP team that will be crushing it in the near future. Assuming he ends up with Ducati or Yamaha. If nothing else in 2021, the two brands have established themselves as the clear leaders in the premier class. The championship may remain in healthy doubt, but the hardware not so much.

One of these two brands will win the 2021 title, as it appears our perennial favorite, Repsol Honda legend Marc Marquez, is in poorer shape, racing-wise, than we expected. Looks like he hurried his return in order to have a shot at the title which, it says here, he never really had. I expect him back at 98% of himself next year, the missing 2% coming from the fearlessness he has shown his entire career. His lizard brain is going to try to interrupt during high-stress situations, causing him to pause for a small part of a second. I think he’ll lose a few close races he would have won three years ago. But it’s still going to be fierce to see him back at something approaching complete health.

Regarding 2022, let’s get ready to rumble.

Friday

Just like the old days, watching Rossi and Marquez battle it out, except that today it was an FP1 and they were battling for P16. OK, I get it, it was FP1 and they were sorting things out. But while they were sorting things out, four Ducati guys, three Yamaha guys and both of the Suzuki guys were top tenning it, 1.7 seconds ahead of #93. Oliveira in P10 was the top KTM. Weather was perfect, if a little cool; track 86F. I wonder if Rossi doesn’t find all of this somewhat embarrassing. He seems to be trying.

In Moto2, FP1 was again with the Anglos. What gives in Moto2? Roberts, Gardner and Lowes top three? Again, it’s FP1, I’m just sayin’.

In Moto3 my boy Pedro Acosta was loafing in P14 while Andrea “Fast on Friday” Migno led FP1. Watching Acosta reminds me of watching high school soccer games with two good teams and one exceptional player who stands out, who dominates midfield and wins games. Acosta appears to be that player. In a sport full of great riders, he seems to have, at age 16, focus, the ability to instantly measure openings, to know how much throttle he has available, when to brake, when to overtake, and all the things a veteran rider takes years to learn. He brings it with him to Moto3. He is beating full-grown men and making it look easy. Small grown men, but still…

Pedro Acosta may be due for a fall, but he rarely needs to make saves, seems to ride within himself almost all the time. Not reckless. Seems like he is, at his young age, beginning to think strategically; that he is getting good coaching and that he is coachable. His future is so bright he needs to wear shades.

Back in the premier class, old man Johann Zarco is becoming something of a pest, all these highlights, sniffing around the top during practice sessions, two front row starts and three podiums and all. He and the Duc seem to have found one another. He is fast in the wet and the dry. I wish I had put $100 on him to win it all in 2021. Probably around 50-1. Grrrr. P3 after five rounds, trails Quartararo by 12. No hill for a climber.

Saturday

FP3 in the premier class was instructive. Vinales and #93 missed out on Q2 late in the session, Vinales sliding out late and Marquez not having enough shoulder to sneak into the top ten on his last flying lap. Both Suzukis and the factory KTMs pass GO, collect $200. The spread between P1 and P10 in FP3 was 4/10ths.

About Pecco Bagnaia. 24 years old during Year II of the Marquez Interregnum. Sets a new track record in FP3. The freaking CEO of Ducati Corse drops by in shirtsleeves to say ‘hey’. A tightly-wrapped young Italian hunk on Italian hardware in Mugello, fighting for the title. How can this guy not have full-time wood issues?

Other notables trudging off to Q1: Nakagami, Rossi, Alex Marquez. Rossi has been sucking canal water all weekend. June looms.

Moto2 FP3: Oh great. Sam Lowes is fast in practice again. We can look forward to another front row start and early crash out of contention. The stunned, chagrined look. The piles of brightly-painted fiberglass scrap. The guys in the garage grabbing their faces, thinking, “Not again.” Wishing we were watching Moto3 or GP.

Is it just me, or do Bezzechi, Bastianini, the other Italian riders with big hair, consider themselves the second coming of Marco Simoncelli? Tall, brash, wild-haired, ultimately fast, too fast…

For those of you who don’t ride competitively but do what we east coast types call body surfing, I’m pretty sure the sensation of catching a Mugello slipstream is similar to the sensation of catching a big wave that you know will carry you a long way. In the surf, it’s getting on top of it. On the track, I expect it’s being in it. Letting the laws of physics do the hard work.

Qualifying in MotoGP was a hoot, as long as you’re not a big Maverick Vinales fan. The Spaniard made a mistake (perhaps we should call it a Mav) in FP3 which kept him from passing through to Q2. Then, a second Mav during Q1 cause him to fail to pass through at all, leaving him starting Sunday’s race from P13, effectively taking him out of contention. Again. Fabio was incandescent once more during Q2, seizing his fourth pole in succession. He was joined on the front row by my boy Pecco Bagnaia and a late-arriving Johann Zarco. The second row would include interloper Aleix Espargaro, who almost rode the slipstream to a front row start, Jack Miller, looking dangerous, and KTM pilot Brad Binder in P6. [Pop Quiz: When was the last time the three series leaders lined up, in order, on the front row? Our crack research staff is doing jellybean shooters and bong hits in Bruce’s Digital Library and should have an answer for us by, say, early 2023.]

Over in Moto3 rookie Pedro Acosta made it into the front row for Sunday, flanked by Tatsuki Suzuki on pole and Gabriel Rodrigo in P3. Swiss rider Jason Dupasquier was airlifted to a nearby hospital with injuries suffered in a Q2 mix-up with Japanese rider Ayumu Sasaki and Spaniard Jeremy Alcoba. Dupasquier fell and was then hit by another bike; this is how bad injuries take place in MotoGP. Keeping my ears out to pick up any word on the young man’s condition. UPDATE: MOTOGP ANNOUNCED RIGHT BEFORE THE PREMIER CLASS RACE THAT DUPASQUIER HAD SUCCUMBED TO HIS INJURIES. A MINUTE OF SILENCE WAS OBSERVED IN HIS HONOR. HE WAS 19 YEARS OLD.

Moto2: Q1 gave us a feel-good moment when young Fermín Aldeguer, filling in on the MB Conveyors Speed Up team, laid down a fast lap and led four riders into Q2, including Somkiat Chantra, Marcos Ramirez and Bo Bendsneyder. Q2, in turn, gave us what are becoming the Usual Suspects in the first two rows, headed by Raul Fernandez, who has MotoGP written all over him. Joining him are Sam Lowes, underachiever Jorge Navarro, Remy Gardner, FDG (still having trouble spelling his last name, way too many N’s), Tony Arbolino and Marco Bezzecchi (P7).

Sunday

Moto3 was its usual frantic self, a 15-rider lead group for most of the 20 laps, the slipstream effect moving riders eight places—either way–in a kilometer. It is still the best racing on the planet. The eventual winner today, Dennis Foggia, won for the first time in 2021 and has nothing going on re the championship.  He was joined on the podium today by The series leader, Pedro Acosta, held the lead for parts of the day but, at the end, got swallowed up and finished in P7, subsequently dropped to P8 for exceeding track limits on the final lap rules is rules blah blah blah. I don’t think the point this cost him will have much of anything to do with the final standings. After six rounds, the top four looks like this:

P Acosta                111

J. Masia                   59

A Sasuki                  57

S. Garcia                  56

Once again, Acosta finishes well down in the points and retains the lion’s share of his 2021 lead. That’s how you do it. BTW, KTM has a surfeit of fast young Spanish riders—Acosta, Masia, Raul Fernandez, etc. The boys on the KTM MotoGP bikes will begin feeling the heat as the season progresses, notably Lecuona and Petrucci.

Moto2 was another exhibition of the strength of the Ayo KTM team, as series leaders Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez fought to the end, with Gardner emerging on top after gazing at Fernandez’s posterior all day. Joe Roberts had just got done dusting Marco Bezzecchi for the third podium spot at the flag when he was advised he was being dropped down a notch for exceeding track limits on the final lap, as picky a foul as you’ll ever see, if you missed the MotoGP race in which first Miguel Oliveira, then Joan Mir, were assessed the same penalty for the same reason. The fact that the penalties were imposed one at a time in the MotoGP race resulted in the final standings reflecting what actually happened, as opposed to the Moto2 result, about which Bezzecchi seemed to feel bad.

The MotoGP race featured a master class from young Fabio Quartararo, who led virtually wire-to-wire and was never seriously challenged after winning the holeshot. Lap two saw first Marc Marquez, then Pecco Bagnaia, slide out of the competition, narrowing the competitive field. Zarco, KTM’s Miguel Oliveira and Suzuki champion Joan Mir all gave chase, and all gave in, as Fabio was not going to be denied today. Toward the end of the race Rins, Nakagami and Pirro all crashed out, artificially elevating the point hauls for several lower tranche riders. After six rounds #20 has stretched his lead over second place Johann Zarco to 24 points, with Bagnaia two points farther back. Miller, Mir and Vinales complete the six riders within shouting distance of the leaders.

The “exceeding track limits” rule needs to be changed. Keep the rule the same but change the language regarding enforcement to one of the judges’ discretion, so long as the tire is not more than halfway on the green, at which point the penalty is automatic. Since the penalty could be imposed whenever any part of the tire is on the green, this would eliminate any complaints that a rider’s tire was less than halfway out of bounds. Silly, meaningless infractions like we saw today would not be imposed, and Joe Roberts would have had a podium.

Everything else you need to know can be found on the MotoGP website or at crash.net. We look forward to bringing you the festivities from Barcelona next week. Four races in five weeks is a lot. I need a nap.

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Fernandez and Gardner running at Mugello. Your eyes are not going bad.

MotoGP 2021 Journal–Round 5: Le Mans

May 16, 2021

© Bruce Allen   May 14, 15 and 16, 2021

Friday

Alas, Round 5 of the 2021 MotoGP season brings us once again to Sarthe, smack in the middle of France and, believe it or not, the weather is a major factor for the weekend, as it often is here. Cool breezy temps with “spotty” showers, a nightmare for the riders and teams. The possibility of a flag-to-flag is strong, as is the possibility that the halving of the field, typically determined in FP3, could occur on Friday. The likelihood of a Yamaha or Ducati winning on Sunday, based upon what we saw today, is high, too. Unless the Weather Gods get involved and make a dog’s breakfast of the whole thing.

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A little local color from Le Mans.

Friday started wet and finished dry. As anticipated, FP2 became the determinant as regards slick passage into Q2 or having to fight one’s way through Q1 simply for the opportunity to get one’s brains bashed by the really fast movers, all of whom are well-rested and raring to go, in Q2. This was true in all three classes. One interesting note is that the wettish MotoGP FP3 found #93 at the top of the sheet. Otherwise, the various dies were cast on Friday.

Missing from the Q2 qualifiers were some big names, as usual:

Moto3–The only guy I want to discuss is rookie Pedro Acosta, currently sitting P18. How can one not pick him to advance to Q2, to qualify well, and then podium on Sunday?

Moto2–Baldassarri, Ogura, the two Americans, Beaubier and Roberts, Vietti, Dalla Porta.

MotoGP–Rins and Mir, series leader Pecco Bagnaia, the three rookies left standing bringing up the rear.

As for the guys who had it going on in FP2, please include, in Moto3, Gabriel Rodrigo, the pesky Darryn Binder, and Antonelli. Moto2–Lowes, two Fernandezes and Remy Gardner. MotoGP– both French riders, Viñales, POL Espargaro on the Honda, and Frankie Morbidelli. Three Yamahas in the top five. They should thrive in the dry, assuming there’s any to be had on Sunday. Typically, the mudders ride for Ducati, but Zarco must be feeling it, at home, on a bike he seems to love, in the wet.

Saturday

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Saturday was, again, wettish at the start and slowly drying. FP3 times were slow. Waiting for the caterers to do their thing prior to qualifying in Moto3, I looked at the sky, best described by the word “sullen.”

Such weather conditions would not rival those of the first race I ever attended, in 2009, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The city was on the receiving end of the remnants of Hurricane Ike. Most of the events scheduled for the weekend–exhibition riding, loop-the-loops in Broad Ripple–were rained out. On Sunday it was pouring. The camera crew from MotoGP raised the boom truck that would allow them shots from, like, 200′ in the air. They took it down about five minutes later. By the time the lights went out in the premier class, it was getting biblical. Apparently there were contracts in place that dictated that the race could not be delayed; I’ve seen races since then delayed for weather conditions less severe than in Indianapolis that day.

[That was the day, prior to the race getting red-flagged about 18 laps in, where Valentino Rossi chased down homeboy Nicky Hayden, with the rain blowing sideways. The few remaining fans were miffed. That race jinxed the Indianapolis round, which never got traction and disappeared after about five years.]

The maddening aspect of the weather at Le Mans is its unpredictability. I find myself rooting for a flag-to-flag that will scramble the standings at the top. It’s early in the season. Let’s see Tito Rabat win a race.

Qualifying

Moto3 Q1: Acosta finished P7 and will start on the 7th row on Sunday. Andrea Migno ruled Q2, with longshot Riccardo Rossi and Jaume Masia joining him on the front row.

Moto2: Hotshot rookie Raul Fernandez takes his first Moto2 pole, followed by Marco Bezzecchi and American Joe Roberts.

MotoGP: In a frenzied finish, what had been a Honda lockout became two factory Yamahas and a factory Ducati on the front row. A strong second row features Morbidelli, Zarco and Marquez. Lotta fast riders out there in MotoGP. Quartararo took his third pole in succession, with Viñales and Miller in hot pursuit.

Sunday

The casual observer, looking at the results of the Moto3 race, would infer that my boy Pedro Acosta must have had a bad day, an ordinary P8 while Sergio Garcia and a couple of non-factors, Filip Salac and Riccardo Rossi, stood around on the podium, stunned. The 16-year old “Vote for Pedro” Acosta had never visited Le Mans, nor had he ever raced a Moto3 bike in the wet. He choked qualifying, crashed while in the middle of the pack, and extended his 2021 championship lead. This conforms to my theory of The Blessed NFL Quarterback, whose identity each year is a mystery until he wins the Super Bowl.

Things could not have been worse for young Acosta, yet those closest him—Antonelli, poleman Migno, Fenati and Masia—fainted. So he takes a 54 point lead to Mugello. And if it rains there, he’s now been there, done that. He appears to be a quick study. He appears to be The Blessed Rider in Moto3.

Moto2

Rookie phenom Raul Fernandez cruised to victory in the dampish Moto2 race, ahead of Remy Gardner and Marco Bezzecchi, with Tony Arbolino making his first meaningful appearance of the season, finishing in P4. Thus, KTM teammates Gardner and Fernandez lead the 2021 series with 89 and 88 points, respectively, with Bezzecchi 17 down and Sam Lowes, who recorded another DNF, now trailing by 23. Both American riders crashed out, Roberts early from P2 and Beaubier late from P6.

MotoGP

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The sky at the start of the “dry” MotoGP race.

For the first time in four years the premier class put on a flag-to-flag show and it added some extra spice to what was already shaping up to be an exciting race. As expected, given the generally wet conditions, the Ducatis were in charge today. Miller and Zarco finished on the podium, along with Fabio, while Pecco Bagnaia, having started from P16, flogged his Desmo to P4 before running out of laps. With six riders failing to finish and three more trailing Miller at the end by over a minute, there were points all around for the survivors. Other than poor Frankie Morbidelli, who crashed and banged up his already banged-up knee, eventually completing 23 laps before the marshals dragged him off the track.

That makes it two in a row for Jack Miller, who suddenly has momentum. For awhile today, right after everyone changed bikes, Marc Marquez led a MotoGP race. It was only briefly, as he crashed a bit later, and then again a bit later than that.  But it was nice to see him competing, even though he says the muscles in his upper right arm are only at 50%. Anyway, here are the standings year-to-date:

1        Fabio QUARTARARO         Yamaha          FRA    80

2        Pecco BAGNAIA                Ducati           ITA     79

3        Johann ZARCO                 Ducati           FRA    68

4        Jack MILLER                     Ducati           AUS    64

5        Maverick VIÑALES            Yamaha          SPA    56

6        Joan MIR                         Suzuki          SPA    49

7        Aleix ESPARGARO             Aprilia           SPA    35

8        Franco MORBIDELLI         Yamaha          ITA     33

9        Takaaki NAKAGAMI           Honda           JPN    28

10      Pol ESPARGARO               Honda           SPA    25

For the record, Maverick Viñales started today in P2 and finished P9. Valentino Rossi started in P9 and finished in P11. Aleix Espargaro retired with a mechanical. Alex Rins and Joan Mir crashed out a couple of times each, and want Le Mans taken off the calendar. Danilo Petrucci flogged his Tech 3 KTM to P5 and wants it to rain, heavily, for the rest of the season.

In Conclusion

We have tight races in Moto2 and MotoGP and the likely emergence of The Next Great Rider going on in Moto3. We’re heading into the meat of the schedule, with a back-to-back at Mugello and Catalunya followed by another back to back in Germany and at Assen. Valentino Rossi fans must be willing to admit that he overstayed his MotoGP welcome by a year. It appears Marc Marquez will resume his old form at some point, but probably not this year. The kids have taken over the schoolyard, and the fans are loving it.

A Little Tranching Music, Please

MotoGP Tranches After Portimao

Tranche I –   Quartararo, Mir, Bagnaia

Tranche II –  Zarco, Viñales, Rins, A Espargaro, Morbidelli, M Marquez, Martin*

Tranche III – Binder, Bastianini, P Espargaro, A Marquez, Marini, Miller

Tranche IV – Oliveira, Rossi, Nakagami

Tranche V –  Petrucci, Savadori, Lecuona

MotoGP Tranches After Le Mans

Tranche I – Quartararo, Miller, Bagnaia

Tranche II – Zarco, Nakagami, P Espargaro, Morbidelli, Mir

Tranche III – Viñales, Rins, A Espargaro, Binder, M Marquez, Oliveira

Tranche IV – Petrucci, Rossi, Marini, A Marquez, Bastianini

Tranche V – Rabat, Savadori, Lecuona

 

Two weeks until Mugello. Can’t wait.

 

 

 

Jack Miller “Redeemed”?

May 12, 2021

© Bruce Allen  May 12, 2021

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It says right here on the MotoGP.com landing page that Jack Miller’s recent win at Jerez is the kind of stuff that transforms a rider’s career. One can only imagine the breathless narrative accompanying the slo-mo video. But wait.

Jack Miller graduated directly from Moto3 to MotoGP in 2015. He won at Assen in the rain in 2016. He won again last time round. Where in this rather–sorry–ordinary story do we get to talk about “redemption”? As if Miller had recently put a serious beatdown on the MotoGP field, to revive a career many non-Australians considered disappointing.

Jack Miller is reportedly a helluva nice guy whose career has shown steady progress. In 2014 he was considered something of a phenom. I was at Sepang that year and he was always around yakking with the press, on his way to fame and glory in MotoGP at the tender age of 19, the next Great Australian Hope, a fitting follower in the mold of the legendary Casey Stoner.

No.

Miller has had a nice career, and now has two wins, joining what our crack research team guesses to be 100 other riders who have achieved similar “redemption.” It’s not like Jack has spent six years wallowing in the mud with the likes of Tito Rabat and then suddenly owns the joint. He has simply made himself relevant again, trailing series leader Pecco Bagnaia by 27 points, still in the lead group for the year.

A single career win on dry pavement does not a legend make. If it does, then make way for one of the other recent legends, Danilo Petrucci.

Enough with the hyperbole, MotoGP.

FIM Press Release May 11, 2021

May 11, 2021

© Bruce Allen    May 11, 2021

FIM Rearranging Moto2 Deck Chairs–Wants You to Know

Attached is the blah blah blah about fairings and fenders on NTS and MV Agusta bikes. Knowing my readers as I do, I figure you’ll be fascinated by this stuff, arguing amongst y’selves, about such and such gives such and such a big advantage, etc.

We Hoosiers generally make fun of stuff we don’t understand.

MotoGP 2021 Round 4: Jerez

May 2, 2021

© Bruce Allen May 2, 2021

Fabulous Fabio leads a crowded group of young riders as the flying circus lands in Spain for the first of four (4) 2021 visits. Much of the pre-race talk, in my kitchen, in my head, centered on Yamaha and their riders, their plans for the future, and their prospects for the present, heading into the shank of the schedule.

1        Fabio QUARTARARO     Yamaha          FRA   61

2        Pecco BAGNAIA             Ducati          ITA    46

3        Maverick VIÑALES        Yamaha          SPA   41

4        Johann ZARCO               Ducati          FRA   40

5        Joan MIR                       Suzuki          SPA   38

6        Aleix ESPARGARO         Aprilia          SPA   25

7        Alex RINS                      Suzuki          SPA   23

8        Brad BINDER                 KTM             RSA   21

Any of the top eight would see his early season position scrambled by simply sliding out of a corner somewhere. At this point, it seems both Quartararo and Bagnaia have found their respective and considerable mojos. For the Yamaha racing project, one can find both good news and bad news lying around, depending on the date and location. Maverick was hot in Round 1, Fabio in 2&3. Frankie Morbidelli is experiencing a string of mechanical issues not seen since the CRT days. And poor Valentino Rossi, stuck with a bunch of unwanted SRT #46 gear, has seen his carefully-constructed edifice, that of the 21st century motorsports Renaissance Man, begin to crumble around the edges.

The latest speculation has Yamaha kicking him from rider to owner next season. The question then becomes–for which factory? Will the suits in Hamamatsu remove the Malaysian money from their satellite team in favor of Saudi money, with VR46 his damned self calling the shots? On the other hand, were Rossi to assume ownership of the Avintia Ducati team, he would have two fast young academy grads in the stable, his half-brother Luca Marini and Enea the Beast Bastianini.

For a new team owner with deep pockets, it is probably more difficult to find talented riders than a manufacturer ready, willing and able to provide competitive machines and crews. Rossi is a Morbidelli fan, so he would only have to find one rider for a VR46 MotoGP team. If I were Rossi, inheriting a Yamaha team with Morbidelli, I would snatch (lol) young Pedro Acosta from Moto3 and put him on an old bike for a year or two. Yes, young Pedro is Spanish, a character defect in Rossi’s view. But the boy has unearthly speed and a high racing IQ. In a world in which many of us try to identify The Next Great Rider, the next Marc Marquez, Pedro Acosta could be the guy. Not Fabio, not Mir, not Miller. Pecco Bagnaia—too soon to say. He’s finally getting with the program, with a riding style similar to Jorge Lorenzo. I’m losing interest in Alex Rins and Maverick Vinales. Rookie Jorge Martin, who seems completely likeable, impresses me as the new Black Knight of Monty Phython fame, who will spend much of his career on the injured list in search of wins, replacing Cal Crutchlow in that role.

Friday in Jerez

Marc Marquez managed P3 in FP1, removing any doubt that he is fit to race. He then took it on the chin at Turn 7 in FP2 with a heavy high side, putting him in the midst of Q1, same as in Portimao, shaken, not stirred. The chase in FP3 would also include Miller, Mir and Pol Espargaro, Alex Marquez and, inevitably, Valentino Rossi, looking fully washed up. Aleix Espargaro appeared to have something going on with his Aprilia in P3 after two sessions.

Saturday

The ‘haves’, after FP3. Notice Aleix and Bradl. Nakagami, but no Pol, slowest of the five Hondas. Marc Marquez tested his repaired arm with an impressive high-side at Turn 7. Declared fit (read: still ambulatory).

The ‘have-nots’. Jack Miller missed by a hundredth. Bummer, dude.

During FP4, Frankie Morbidelli got sideways with Race Direction and got shoved back into Q1, elevating Jack Miller to Q2, to his immense relief. Hondas and Suzukis and Aprilias were flying off the track at a formidable pace during P4, #93 sitting in P14.

Morbidelli dominated Q1, joined in his passage to Q2 by KTM’s rugged Brad Binder. Once there, however, Frankie made hay while the South African made squat. Ducatis and Yamahas occupied six of the top seven spots in Q2, with a front row of Quartararo, Morbidelli and Miller, fastest of the Italian contingent. Row 2 has Pecco, Nakagami and Zarco, for a little variety. Row 3 would feature the shifty Vinales, Aleix and Alex Rins, with Joan Mir, Binder and wildcard Stefan Bradl completing the top twelve. The Suzukis, becoming notorious for their failure to launch, can at least see the front row this week.

Further down the order, in Mudville, the likes of Rossi, Pol, both Marquez brothers and Miguel Oliveira would start Sunday from the cheap seats, their seasons not going according to plan during this first quarter of 2021. Pol and Marc we get, due to Espargaro changing horses and Marquez bouncing slowly back from serious injury. Oliveira needs everything to go right at one of his friendly tracks; Rossi, it can now be said, stayed a year too long. The only real difference between his bike this year and his bike last year is the paint job. The other three Yamaha pilots are getting good returns from their rides. For Rossi, 2021 is The Last Hurrah.

In Moto2, the front row Sunday would be

1        87      Remy GARDNER             AUS          Red Bull KTM Ajo            

2        21      Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO ITA          Federal Oil Gresini          

3        72      Marco BEZZECCHI         ITA       SKY Racing Team VR46

with Raul Fernandez, Sam Lowes and Xavi Vierge on Row 2. The championship is currently a three-man race between Gardner, Lowes and Fernandez.

After Q2 in Moto3, the best racing on the planet, it looked like this:

1        24      Tatsuki SUZUKI      JPN          SIC58 Squadra Corse      

2        52      Jeremy ALCOBA     SPA          Indonesian Racing Gresini

3        16      Andrea MIGNO       ITA          Rivacold Snipers Team    

4        2        Gabriel RODRIGO   ARG          Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3         

5        55      Romano FENATI     ITA          Sterilgarda Max Racing Team    

6        17      John MCPHEE         GBR          Petronas Sprinta Racing  

Runaway teenage freight train Pedro Acosta could manage no better than P13 in qualifying on Saturday. He does not appear to be someone who scares easily. He won from pit lane at Losail II. This, to me, on Saturday, appears to be no big deal. An annoyance, at worst. There are some hungry guys in front of him, who, thus far, have not caused him the slightest visible concern.

In all three classes, Sunday in Jerez held the promise of some classic competition.

Sunday

My boy rookie Pedro Acosta started the Moto3 race in P13 today and had to actually work to take the win, his third in four starts, aided by a brain fart from Dennis Oncu in the last turn which removed himself, Jaume Masia and Darryn Binder from contention and likely earned him a slap on the wrist in France. KTM has taken charge of Moto3, reflecting the enhanced resources available after the Austrian factory abandoned their works Moto2 program. Always good to see Romano Fenati on the podium, with young Jeremy Alcoba taking the third step. [I had written yesterday that Rossi should just hire Alcoba for his SKY VR46 MotoGP team now. Spent the entire race not wanting to have to re-write that part. As it turned out, nothing to worry about. Alien Under Construction.]

Moto2 doesn’t seem to have its usual luster this year. Perhaps it’s because the presence of so many Anglos—Dixon, Gardner, Lowes, Roberts—seems to lower the credibility of the division in a sport dominated, for 30 years by Latins. Rookie Raul Fernandez looks somewhat electric at times; certainly Steve and Matt get their P’s in a T on a consistent basis extolling Raul’s virtues. Sam Lowes has already failed in MotoGP; can’t think of anyone too excited about seeing him do so again. And I’m not convinced by Remy Gardner, as I take a dim view of nepotism in all its forms, the result, in part, of having grown up an only child with a non-entrepreneurial father.

Anyway, Moto2 offered a wire-to-wire procession led by Fabio de Giannantonio, Bezzechi taking P2 and Sam Lowes bouncing back to P3. For the year, Gardner leads with 69 points, followed by Lowes at 66, Fernandez 63, Bezzechi 56 and di Giannantonio 52. A somewhat dull race has produced a tight championship, which I’ll take anytime.

I still think what I thought in 2012—the Italian national anthem sounds like a drinking song.

As MotoGP began warming up, I joined fans everywhere wondering whether anyone had it in them to beat Fabio Quartararo. He loves him some Jerez, having taken pole the last four times out and winning there twice last year. Let’s be clear—there are many who have conceded today’s race to the Frenchman.

The MotoGP Race

Today’s race started out like a Yamaha clambake and ended as a Ducati dunk-fest. Jack Miller won his first race for Ducati and his own first dry race, not to mention Ducati’s first win at Jerez since, like, The Ice Age. With teammate Pecco Bagnaia, The Next Great Ducati Rider, claiming second ahead of Frankie Morbidelli’s Yamaha, it was a Ducati one-two, their first win of the year coming at a track described by Danilo Petrucci thusly:”If you’re fast at Jerez you can be fast anywhere.”

We don’t yet know around here what happened to Fabio Quartararo who, on Lap 6, my notes showed “clearing out.” But from there he was overtaken by Miller on Lap 16 and continued his descent to a P13 finish. I will wager that it is arm pump and that he will need surgery and will return in time for Le Mans.

LRC Honda rep Takaa Nakagami pulled everything together for an encouraging P4. Ahead of Mir and Aleix Espargaro, making the Aprilia look good. Vinales, Zarco, Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro completed the top ten, another gritty performance from Marquez. Around Lap 20 it appeared Bagnaia had a notion about going after Miller, after which his screen flashed “DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.” P2 at Jerez, for Ducati, is nothing to sneeze at, ignoring the whole Marquez asterisk* thing.

Funny, other than a cameo at Jerez last year, the last time Marquez was racing in anger he was up against guys named Crutchlow, Dovizioso, Rossi and Iannone. Now, he’s having to get himself together going up against Bagnaia, Morbidelli, Miller, Mir, Quartararo and more. Real competition from the KTMs and Aprilias of the world. The past year has brought a lot of change to MotoGP, and Marquez had to sit out almost all of it. The new bunch is young, strong and fast. Other than Rossi, who is now embarrassing himself, there are no riders out there just because they have sponsor money. Most of these guys can compete for top tens. And Moto2 and Moto3 are lousy with great young riders, some of whom are teenagers.

After four rounds in MotoGP, Bagnaia leads Quartararo by two points, 66-64. Then comes Vinales with 50, Mir with 49, and Zarco with 48, followed by Miller with 39, Aleix with 35 and Morbidelli with 33. Rins sneaks into the top ten with 23 points and a crashing headache, suffered at both Portimao and Jerez. Binder completes it with 21. Fans of Marc Marquez should be happy he doesn’t compete in Moto3, where 16-year old rookie phenom Pedro Acosta has already accumulated 95 points. As it is, Marquez trails Bagnaia by a mere 50 points. I think it would be hard to find many thoughtful people in the paddock who believe the title chase is over for Marquez for the year.

So, to recap. There is, at present, one viable contestant in Moto3, three in Moto2, and two in MotoGP. Surprising, isn’t it, how the best racing still takes place in Moto3. That everyone in Moto3 at Jerez knows that something wild is going to happen in Turn 13 on the last lap of the race. It did again today. Personally, I hope Pedro Acosta is The Next Great Rider and that he and Marquez get to go one-on-one while Marquez still has it. 12 year age difference. Marquez wearing, as always, Repsol Honda colors, while Acosta is wearing SKY VR46 Yamaha colors. That would be a season for the ages,

As for the season we’ve got, I’m loving it so far. Loving that it’s so wide open in MotoGP, loving that it’s regressing to the mean, ethnically, with Spanish and Italian riders re-asserting themselves in Moto2, and loving that a star has been born in Moto3, the first guy to have ‘can’t miss’ written all over him since Marc Marquez.

Two weeks to Le Mans where, if it doesn’t rain for three days straight, one feels lucky.

                                         Marquez warming things up in Jerez.

MotoGP After Round 3: Portimao

April 22, 2021

© Bruce Allen    April 22, 2021

In which we engage in some casual tranching and try to put the 2021 season, thus far, in something approaching perspective. With a nod to both Moto2 and Moto3.

Back in March, had I wagered that, after three rounds, none of the following riders would be found in the top ten, I expect I could have found some takers:

Frankie M

Thriller Miller

Pol Espargaro (?)

Takaa Nakagami

Miguel Oliveira and, of all people,

Valentino Rossi

And here we are, with The New Young Guns clearly running things in the top ten, other than what are likely to be temporary appearances by Johann Zarco and Aleix. The inmates done taken over the asylum. As predicted by most of you, back in 2018-2019.

But what about this lot? NONE of them in the top ten after three? What’s to say about them? Frankie has had mechanical issues for the first 10% of the season? How can Yamaha allow that to happen? Jack, the latest version of Marco Simoncelli, is so elated to be fast that he has become a hazard to himself and those around him. This is not to say that he is heading for disaster. It means he needs to assert his will on the Desmo, the way his teammate Pecco has. He trails #20 by 47 points; all is not lost.

Zarco (P4, 40 pts) and Rins (P7, 23 pts) seem to have trouble dealing with success. Also qualifying, as Rins has been on the front row in something like 6 of 66 races. Zarco could have been top three had he not slid out; same with Rins. There is no noticeable improvement in the 2021 Suzuki vs. the 2020 version; it will take a helluva rider, a Joan Mir, to coax enough points out of his Gixxer to give #20 and #93 a beating. Zarco has only himself to blame, having come into the race with two silver medals from Qatar, which he has since had bronzed for posterity.

The two Honda pilots, Espargaro and Nakagami, are on the outside looking in for different reasons. Espargaro, because he’s still trying to get the hang of the RC213V. Nakagami had a dreadful two rounds in Qatar before suffering a heavy crash in practice at Portimao and is currently being held together by duct tape and clarinet reeds. His star should begin ascending again in Jerez.

Miguel Oliveira won last year’s final race, in Portugal, leading me to expect more from him in 2021. The tire issues plaguing the entire KTM project have caught him as well. And Valentino, The Doctor, sporting four points for the season. He looks bad, having problems none of the other Yamaha riders are experiencing. There can be little doubt he should have taken his victory lap last year and called it a career. This is hard to watch.

Despite a win and a P5 in the desert, Maverick Vinales’ P11 at Portimao seemed inevitable. With all the potential in the world, young Vinales is so terribly inconsistent. This is not a characteristic often found in world champions. A female reader of this column has observed, that if #12 were here boyfriend she would have dumped him in 2019. The editorial team here has predicted that he will not spend his entire racing career with Yamaha.

Aleix Espargaro has a mediocre Aprilia beneath him this season, which is a large step up from what he’s been riding most of his career. He appears able to put himself in the top ten for the year, but it will be uphill all the way. I’d like to see what he could do on Vinales’ bike.

Brad Binder has been the consummate team player thus far, sharing with all three other KTM riders his considerable front tire problems.

The three riders as yet unmentioned in the top ten include Alien-in-Waiting Pecco Bagnaia, who seems to have come into his own after two seasons of underachieving in on the Ducati. The two rookies, Enea Bastianini in P9 and Jorge Martin in P10, have looked good and great, other than Martin having put himself in the hospital and out of Rounds 3 and 4 with a big high-side in practice in Portugal. He will, accordingly, drop out of the top ten in Jerez, which is okay, because dude has major stones and a bright future in MotoGP.

The Desert Tranche, after Round Two:

Tranche I —  Quartararo, Mir, Zarco

Tranche II –  Vinales, Rins, A. Espargaro, Miller, Martin

Tranche III – Morbidelli, Binder, Bastianini, Oliveira, P. Espargaro, Bagnaia

Tranche IV – A. Marquez, Bradl, Rossi, Nakagami

Tranche V –  Marini, Lecuona, Savadori, Petrucci

MotoGP Tranches After Portimao

Tranche I –   Quartararo, Mir, Bagnaia

Tranche II –  Zarco, Vinales, Rins, A Espargaro, Morbidelli, M Marquez, Martin

Tranche III – Binder, Bastianini, P Espargaro, A Marquez, Marini, Miller

Tranche IV – Oliveira, Rossi, Nakagami

Tranche V –  Petrucci, Savadori, Lecuona

Moto2 After 3 Rounds

After sailing home with wins in the opening rounds in Qatar, Sam Lowes reverted to form by crashing out at Portimao at Turn 1 of Lap 1, hence crashing into P3 for the season, in a tight three-man contest with Aussie Remy Gardner and rookie Raul Fernandez, who, according to announcers Matt and Steve, is the Next Next Great Rider. American Joe Roberts was hip-checked out of a second career podium at Portimao in the last turn by Gardner and/or Aron Canet—couldn’t see well—putting him in P7 for the season. American rookie Cameron Beaubier finished the race in a respectable P9, sitting in P12 for the year.

There appear to be perhaps eight or ten competitive riders in Moto2 this year. I would expect one of the top three to claim the title. Of the three, it looks to me like Fernandez is the only one to have a legitimate shot at a promotion to MotoGP in the immediate future. Lowes has been there, done that, while Gardner does not seem to be the second coming of either his dad or Casey Stoner.

Moto3 After 3 Rounds

Remember this name: Pedro Acosta. The insouciant rookie appears to have been born to race motorcycles. He entered his racing career before he entered puberty, racing at Estoril in 2018 at age 13. He double dipped last season, running in both the CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship (P3 for the year) and the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, which he won. Out of a combined 23 races, he finished first nine times, and was on the podium another eight times. Marquez-caliber numbers. He has earned 70 of a possible 75 points thus far this year in Moto3, making a number of grizzled veteran riders look, well, silly in the process. Dude is 16 years old as we speak.

I could speculate that Jaume Masia or maybe Darryn Binder could offer Acosta a run for his money later in the year, but I don’t believe it. I believe Acosta will be in MotoGP in two years and that he stands a good chance of being the man to shoot Marc Marquez out of his saddle within two years after that. I’m impressed.

MotoGP 2021: Round 3 – Portimao

April 18, 2021

© Bruce Allen  April 18, 2021

Quartararo Dominates in Portugal, Seizes Series Lead

After being dogged for most of the race by Suzuki’s Alex Rins, the Frenchman shook loose from the pack as Rins, then Zarco, crashed out of the fray late while in contention, a capital offense in racing. Pramac Ducati rising star Pecco Bagnaia, denied pole, was probably gratified with P2 after getting stuck in P11 during qualifying. Defending champion Joan Mir hung around near the front, stayed out of trouble, and added 16 points to his portfolio. 28.571% of the riders who started recorded DNFs, meaning points for all the survivors. But it’s starting to feel like Fabio’s year.

Friday

The Executive Committee at Late-Braking MotoGP took a decision today to largely ignore Fridays going forward, unless something out of the ordinary takes place. For instance, Takaa Nakagami went all ragdoll during FP2 and had to pretty much blow off Saturday, starting last on the grid for the race. Oh, and Marc Marquez—remember him?—started where he left off last year, securing P3 in FP1 and P6 in FP2. He appeared to be roughly 83.726% fit. Seeing him back on the #93 Repsol Honda made it seem like the world is back on its axis, despite the fact that he doesn’t seem ready to push 100% yet. Yet even at less-than-complete fitness, I was thinking it wouldn’t have been a huge surprise to see him on the podium come Sunday.

Saturday

FP3 was chicken and biscuits for Franco Morbidelli, rookie Luca Marini and veteran Aleix Espargaro. Doing the MotoGP bump, they left feathers and entrails for defending champ Joan Mir, six-time MotoGP champion Marquez and the aforementioned Nakagami. Mir and Marquez were relegated to Q1; Nakagami to the medical tent, where he was pronounced fit to continue his Portuguese adventure, “fit” meaning, in racing parlance, that he was in better shape than he would have been had someone pushed him down a flight of concrete stairs in shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops.

Last year’s winner, homeboy Miguel Oliveira, wasn’t a factor in today’s race.

Speaking of falling down stairs, hot Pramac rookie Jorge Martin did what a lot of young riders experiencing early success on the Ducati do—went flying over the handlebars in FP3 and landed in the hospital, facing surgery on his right hand and foot. Whether he will return in time for Jerez is iffy. Perhaps he learned a valuable lesson, i.e., just because one can go 350 kmh on two wheels doesn’t mean one should.

Mir and Marquez climbed back into Q2 with productive outings in Q1, to the chagrin of Alex Marquez and Pol Espargaro. For $1,000 and the game, name the last time two riders with seven (7) premier class titles between them moved through Q1 to Q2. Answer, according to our crack research team at WildGuess.com: Never.

Q2 was a comedy, as the new caution lights, meant to replace the flags came into play several times. Maverick Vinales had his fastest lap taken away for exceeding track limits, dropping him down to P12 for Sunday’s start. But factory Ducati fast mover Pecco Bagnaia, Alien-in-Waiting, had an incandescent lap (4/10ths under the previous track record) and a P1 start taken away for a yellow ‘flag’. He was still fist-pumping during his warm-down lap before receiving the news and found himself alongside Vinales in P11 when the dust settled. Thus, two potential denizens of the front row would be grinding their teeth, mopping up Row 4. Fabio, on the factory Yamaha, inherited pole and a new track record along with the notion that Bagnaia is the second coming of Jorge Lorenzo.

[Sidebar. The contrast in performance between teammates on several of the teams is stark. Aleix Espargaro would start in P7 for the Aprilia team, with teammate Lorenzo Savadori sitting in P20. Marquez would start in P6; teammate Pol Espargaro in P14. Under the heading “How Far the Mighty Have Fallen,” rugged Frankie Morbidelli would start in P5, while legendary teammate Valentino Rossi, clearly playing out the string, would be looking at the backs of 16 other riders when the lights go out on Sunday. Rossi, at this point, appears to be in it only for the contract.]

Marquez was slotted comfortably in P6 for Sunday but admitted late on Saturday that he was suffering and expected to continue to do so on Sunday. If he were just human, I might buy the argument, but because he is Marquez, I would still be comfortable, on Saturday evening, putting $100 on him to podium on Sunday.

Sunday

Pre-race musings…Two Anglos, flash-in-the-pan Sam Lowes and Remy Gardner, sitting at the top of Moto2? In a sport dominated by Spaniards and Italians…Matt Dunn, partner of Neil Morrison, sounds like some posh London racing savant on both Adderall and helium…And is it true that over on Reddit some folks are referring to your boy Simon Crafar as Captain Xanax?…Funny how no one’s scared of Joan Mir…Just sayin’…I really missed last year’s finale here, the emotion associated with Oliveira’s win at his home crib…Is it just me, or does the dead air soundtrack at MotoGP.com sound like a porn film?…16 year-old Moto3 rookie Pedro Acosta looks, in uniform and glaring at the camera, like he’s been up past his bedtime. He just punked Dennis Foggia to take win #2 and lengthen his series lead in 2021…When did Jack Miller go from cute to scary?… Morbidelli, #2 overall in 2020, is stuck on a 2019 bike by SRT Yamaha? What’s with that?…So nice not having Dennis Chung penciling out all the good stuff.

Sam justified my faith in him during the Moto2 race by crashing out at Turn 1 on Lap 1. Just when I was thinking I was wrong about the guy.

The MotoGP race, won by Quartararo easily after chasers Rins and Zarco crashed out, proved that Yamaha has solved its bike problems of recent years. It has not solved its rider problem, however, as Maverick ‘Pop Gun” Vinales finished in P11 after having spent some (low) quality time as far down as P20. Quartararo prevailed over Pecco Bagnaia, who flogged his Desmo from P11 at the start to P2 at the close. Joan Mir, the sole Suzuki to finish, took third place after hovering in the lead group all day without ever leading. But points is points.

Marc Marquez started in P6 and finished in P7, yielding a spot to a beaming Aleix Espargaro, who finally seems to have a functional bike beneath him. For Marquez, finishing today’s race was a win. He now has two weeks to continue rehab before taking the track again in Jerez.

My boy Frankie Morbidelli was denied a spot on the podium, but was back to his persona from last year, finishing P4. Brad Binder, fronting for the entire KTM program, suffering from front tire stability, managed P5 after starting P15. Alex Marquez managed P8, one of many riders to benefit from having so many studs leave the building. These included, in rough order, Pol Espargaro, Jack Miller, Miguel Oliveira (rejoined), Rossi, Rins and Zarco. With 21 starters and six DNFs, everyone received a participation award today, even Lorenzo Savadori and Iker Lecuona. And Takaa Nakagami finishing in the top ten is kind of a miracle given his physical condition this weekend.

Alex Rins can’t stand success.

So, the top ten for the season, after three rounds, looks like this:

1        Fabio QUARTARARO         Yamaha          61

2        Francesco BAGNAIA         Ducati           46

3        Maverick VIÑALES            Yamaha          41

4        Johann ZARCO                 Ducati           40

5        Joan MIR                         Suzuki          38

6        Aleix ESPARGARO             Aprilia           25

7        Alex RINS                        Suzuki          23

8        Brad BINDER                    KTM             21

9        Enea BASTIANINI             Ducati           18

10      Jorge MARTIN                  Ducati           17

Other than Honda, which is in the midst of a dumpster fire, all five remaining manufacturers have at least one representative in the top ten, four of which are from Ducati, which has yet to win a race. And Fabio won twice at Jerez last year, clearly enjoying the prospect of padding his lead in two weeks.

But parity sits on the horizon in MotoGP. Never thought I’d see the day.

We’ll do some tranching before Jerez, as well as something about Moto3 and Moto2.

MotoGP: Quartararo Loves Losail

April 5, 2021

© Bruce Allen     April 5, 2021

MotoGP 2021 Losail II: Preview AND Results! At one low price!! 

Here we go again, under the lights in the desert. Due to the falling out between Carlos Ezpeleta and Karel Abraham Sr., following the forced redundancy of rider Karel the Younger after the 2019 season, Senior, who owns much of the Czech Republic, declined to host the MotoGP Brno round this season, somehow leading to a second outlier round in Doha. Which, sidestepping a terrible run-on sentence, in turn makes Doha less of an outlier and something more than 10% of the entire season. A factor, in other words, in the 2021 title. A fight, after Round One, going to the Yamaha and Ducati contingents. Would Round Two be any different? 

Cancelling Brno this year comes as bad news to the KTM and Ducati franchises, who have dominated there in recent years when #93 and #04 weren’t hanging around. The two teams dominated the podium last week, due, in part, to a scintillating run to the flag between Joan Mir, Pecco Bagnaia and Johann Zarco. Apparently, the consensus from last week is that the wind made everyone’s engines work harder in certain areas of the track, and this put pressure on the Ducs regarding fuel consumption. In order to finish the race, they had to lean out the mixture, reducing their ridiculous top end speeds. Mapping, I believe they call it. Whatever they call it, Bagnaia and Zarco both turned theirs to the ‘OFF’ position and took advantage of a rare mistake by Mir to snatch—still love that verb—P2 and P3 on a day Mir appeared to have podiumed. Vinales, of course, won easily, but I’m not sold on Maverick Vinales and don’t know too many people who are.

When the Qatar round was last run in 2019, the podium was Dovizioso, Marquez and Crutchlow, none of whom is around to play chase on Sunday. That was another of those sprints to the flag that Ducati won because of their incomparable top-end speed. Losail, with the long run out of the last turn, is built for the Ducati. If you’re on anything else, getting dogged by a big red machine on the last lap, and you lead by less than five bike lengths coming out of 16, you’re going to get smoked.

Plenty of riders had tire issues, Morbidelli his serious mechanical; #21’s issue is easy to fix. I remind myself that Losail is an outlier and that tire issues here may not mean tire issues in Europe or Asia. On the other hand, if after three rounds it becomes obvious that Michelin’s only rideable option is the soft/soft, this issue could dominate the season. I join with other readers who are tired of always talking about tires. I miss the Bridgestone days of hard carcasses and tires that could be managed over 25 laps. The riders who enjoyed consistent success were those who managed to be fast without grinding their rear tire to mush.

I remember receiving a great comment from a reader back in the days when Lorenzo, new on the Ducati, would run like hell for the first half of a race before he fell off, had a mechanical, etc. In the riff, our reader’s Lorenzo went on about how his strategy that year was to win the first half of every race and thus take the championship. (?????) Once again this year, this doesn’t appear to be a problem with the Suzukis. But the rest of the contenders need to pay more attention to what’s going on with the rubber.

Two things about Vinales’ win last time out. He had to throw a few elbows on his way from P5 and P6 to P1, and spent 15 laps doing so, something he hasn’t enjoyed in the past. Two, he’s apparently adjusted to new tires and full tank early in races, managing to stay in touch with the lead group if not actually lead, not fumbling around in P12 on Lap 2 as would happen so often in recent years.

It would probably be best for everyone if a Ducati were to win here on Sunday. It’s a place where they should win almost every time out. Their joint advantage with Yamaha here would be shared, leaving the championship wide open heading for Portugal. The Racing Gods, as we know, may have other plans. Here goes.

Friday

We’ve seen this just last week. Ducati owning Friday, led by Miller, Bagnaia and Zarco. We’re still at Losail. Nobody should have to give a rip about Friday numbers. Unless, obviously, there were a sandstorm or something during FP3 and everyone with any sense was safely ensconced in their garage.

Saturday

So there is a sandstorm going on in FP3. The results from Friday are going to stand, leaving names like Oliveira, Mir, Nakagami, Rossi, Pol Espargaro and Brad Binder to slug it out in QP1. Ugh. Notice rookie Jorge Martin in P5.

Joan Mir and Miguel Oliveira escape the frying pan of Q1 to the fire of Q2. It becomes a Ducati clambake, with red machines everywhere, claiming four of the top six spots, including soon-to-be-sensational rookie Jorge Martin, the apparent second coming of Dani Pedrosa. Little guy, does hand-to-hand combat with the Desmosedici in the turns then approaches liftoff in the long straights. He showed world class speed as a teenager in Moto3; Jorge Martin has Alien written all over him.

I’m just not getting it done with the lighter classes. It’s Easter, for crying out loud, there are eggs to hide, potatoes to cook, tables to set, rug rats underfoot killing each other. I’m playing catch-up at every turn. This will all return to normal—notice I didn’t say ‘good’—beginning in Jerez. All the results are there at MotoGp.com, anyway, as well as the videos for you non-cheapskates. At the dawning of the 2021 season I like the two Italians in Moto2—Fabio and Marco—and young Jaume Masia in Moto3, who was 16 when he entered the grand prix fray full-time in 2017. It’s easy to see all these guys in MotoGP.

It’s also easy to see Pramac Ducati speedster Martin, who had to surrender his former #88 to Oliveira, sliding down to #89, on podiums in the immediate future. He’s another one of these guys, like Marquez, and Pedrosa before him, who morph into a single entity with their bike, inseparable, flying down the straight sections, slipstreaming advisable but don’t get too close to the wash. Negative body fat percentage, wrapped very tight. And hungry, wants to win in MotoGP, now. You can see it in his eyes, which glitter at the thought, in TV interviews. Forgive him for thinking, suddenly, that life is going his way, stealing pole today with an incandescent last lap during injury time. The race isn’t on for another six hours. One would say, however, that his star is ascendant, waxing, as it were, taking the lead among the rookies and a few vets as contenders for 2021.

Compare to his old Moto3 rivel Bezzecchi, who is still pedaling as fast as he can in Moto2. Jorge Martin may be the next NKIT. New Kid in Town, for those of you unfamiliar with this stuff. Following the treadmarks of Marquez and Quartararo. Another Spanish fast mover. Cool. This sport needs young riders unafraid to challenge Marc Marquez upon his return.

Sunday

Fabio Quartararo wins at Losail, a Yamaha twofer

Losail II in 2021 was the coming out party for the guy who finished third, rookie Martin. He took the holeshot and led for 18 laps before running out of tire, energy and skill once young blonde Fabio went through, followed, tout de suite, by yet another Frenchman–the rejuvenated Johann Zarco–on yet another Pramac Ducati.

Again, the desert is not the best place to try to identify trends, but for much of the race Ducati held four of the top five or six spots, with Fabio and Rins surrounded by the purring Desmos. The only bad news for Ducati is that the satellite guys at Pramac put it to the factory team of Miller and Bagnaia. Again.

Though Alex Rins was in the mix all day, Pop Gun showed up for the factory Yamaha team, swamped at the start, spending most of the race flirting with P10 before rallying late for a face-saving P5, trading places with Quartararo from last week. Same bike, virtually the same conditions, same competitors. Competitive with the Ducatis in Doha, a good sign going forward. Yet Vinales gives us Exhibit A for why he will likely never win a title. He had everything going for him when the lights went out, and laid a bit of an egg, rather than seizing another win (paging Sam Lowes) and asserting one’s claim to the championship.

The bad news for Yamaha was the continuing underperformance of the 2021 Petronas SRT team fronted by Franco Morbidelli and the legendary Valentino Rossi. Morbidelli had mechanical issues last week and again this weekend which appear to have continued, incredibly, on Sunday. As for Rossi, it was a soul-sucking P21 in qualifying and another—P16—in the race. Trucking with the likes of little bro Luca Marini and Nakagami on a bad day. It is clear, at least around here, that Vale may have predictably lost interest in risking his life averaging two championship points per round. Morbidelli’s issues will resolve and he could yet be a factor in the 2021 season. But Rossi—yeah, sure, he qualified in P4 last week—had the worst qualifying practice of his career, followed by an undistinguished race. He was P12 last week after qualifying fourth. He is not racing well. The fire that once drove him has gone out, replaced by the ready smile and confident pronouncements, aware that, at this point, top ten is all he can realistically shoot for. He needs to move on, buy some teams, get cracking as an owner, find Italian boys who can beat the Spanish, still draw the crowds, etc. Enough already with the in-the-saddle part.

The Big Picture

Johann Zarco, with two P2s in the desert leads the championship, for now. My take is that the bike and the track combo at Losail worked especially well for Zarco. My take is that things won’t work quite so well on the mainland, as there is more turning and fewer 1 km straights. But for #5 2021 has started out like a dream. As follows:

Zarco           40

Quartararo    36

Vinales         36

Bagnaia        26

Rins             23

Mir               22

Atthe end of the race, the spread between P2—Zarco—and P14—Bradl—was just under four seconds. The total run time for Quartararo was 42:24, 12 seconds faster than Dovizioso in 2019. The spread between P2 and P14 that year was over 14 seconds. Let’s review: MotoGP is getting faster and more competitive than ever. Best competition in motorsports. Attracting the best riders in the world across all three classes, many in their teens. Racing wheel-to-wheel, not encased in any protective cage, at speeds comparable to F-1, clad in a helmet, boots, an airbag, and a set of leathers. Sporting, as so eloquently expressed by Bill Raftery, “onions.”

Sorry about Moto2 and Moto3. I know Lowes won again and leads in Moto2. Looking at the results in Moto3, 16-year old wonder rookie Pedro Acosta, having been penalized with a delayed pit lane start, still won the race…wait for it…leading a group of 15 riders separated, at the flag, by 2.26 seconds. Already being called one of the great races of all time in the lightweight class. The impudent rookie spanks the field, many of them grown men, and seizes the lead in the Moto3 world championship after two rounds. Brilliant. Best day of his life so far, I’d wager. Here’s more on young Pedro.

At 10 in the morning on Easter, EDT. Come on, man!

Dozens of lead changes. Sorry I missed it. I’ll try to win back your good graces by offering up a little tranching, minus Marc Marquez, whose status at this moment is unknown.

The Desert Tranche, after Round Two:

Tranche I —  Quartararo, Mir, Zarco

Tranche II –  Vinales, Rins, A. Espargaro, Miller, Martin

Tranche III – Morbidelli, Binder, Bastianini, Oliveira, P. Espargaro

Tranche IV – A. Marquez, Bradl, Rossi, Nakagami

Tranche V –  Marini, Lecuona, Savadori, Petrucci

Two weeks to Portimao. There, we will begin to discover who has the real power in the premier class. Wish I were going. To me, the tranching looks a little fishy. I don’t doubt our thinking in October will see plenty of changes to this lot.

PS–Finally watched the Moto3 race and it was, indeed, a classic. Would not have happened had four riders not found themselves in the kitty litter on the last few laps.

MotoGP Doc to Amazon Prime Video?

April 1, 2021

Report: MotoGP set for Amazon documentary series

This article stolen from SportsPro:

Mediapro team already in Qatar filming for 2021 season.

  • Posted: March 30 2021
  • By: Tom Bassam
Report: MotoGP set for Amazon documentary series


Dorna, the owner of MotoGP, and Amazon are set to launch a new behind-the-scenes documentary based around the global motorcycling series for the Prime Video streaming platform, according to Motorsport.com.

Looking to mirror Formula One’s success with Netflix and the ‘Drive to Survive’ series, Spanish media company Mediapro is reportedly producing the series with a content team already in Qatar filming during the opening two rounds of the 2021 season.

According to Motorsport.com, the format for the untitled Amazon series will be similar to that of Drive to Survive, with episodes revolving around different characters in the paddock.

No release date or other details on the series have been reported at this stage, but the new project would mark MotoGP’s first major documentary since 2015’s Mark Neale-directed Hitting the Apex, which was produced by Brad Pitt.

According to Digital-I data published by Forbes last year, series one of Drive to Survive was watched by more than 5.1 million viewers in the UK in 2019. Formula One’s director of marketing and communications, Ellie Norman, recently told the BlackBook that it has boosted the series’ profile in the US.

She said: “The last time I was at the Austin Grand Prix in 2019, just hearing the amount of people in and around Austin who had travelled there specifically for the Grand Prix because they had seen Drive to Survive.”

MotoGP, which has lost audience reach in the UK after putting its live races on pay-TV network BT Sport, will be hoping for a similar level of impact.

Check Out My New Yamaha CLP-745

March 31, 2021

© Bruce Allen   April 1, 2021 (lol)

Keeping it in the family room until it starts leaking oil, then will move it to the garage. Badass.

MotoGP 2021 Losail I Results

March 28, 2021

© Bruce Allen March 28, 2021

17 Things We Learned in Doha, Round One

The MotoGP opening weekends in the Middle East mess with my body clock, as does youth basketball, grandkid sleepovers, Palm Sunday and Microsoft glitches. All were present this weekend, and as a result what follows will be worse than usual. Did we mention that Losail is an outlier?

Screenshot (452)

Friday

Given Friday’s results in the premier class practice sessions, it appeared the top four, within fractions of the all-time lap record, would cruise into Q2. This would leave Rins, Vinales, Morbidelli, Rossi and the Espargaros with skin in the game in FP3. There would be plenty of fast movers looking for top ten status after FP3, including defending champion Joan Mir and the entire KTM contingent headed by Brad Binder in P16 after two. The fascinating Jorge Martin, adjusting quickly to the Pramac Ducati, went 13th on Friday. 11 riders were in the 1’53’s. Pol Espargaro (P10) slid out of a fast turn during injury time, after the 00:00, and messed up a perfectly good RC213-V.

Saturday

Temps and times went up in FP3, leaving the combined results of FP1 and FP2 as the determinant as to who had to suffer through Q1 while his rivals were eating peeled grapes in the garage bistro. And so it was that, in the first defense of his title, Joan Mir would suffer the indignity of having to get through Q1 to entertain any breath of a chance of winning Round 1.

That’s not so bad. Look at the spread between Aron Canet and Lorenzo Baldassarri over in Moto2. BadAss heads for Q1 while Canet cruises on. 2/1000ths. Ridiculous.

Baldassarri failed to make it out of Q1 and would start Sunday in P26, Canet in P12.

[Microsoft Word ate my stuff about Q1 and Q2. THAT hasn’t happened in a long time. It will have to suffice to say that Nakagami and Mir escaped Q1, and that Pecco Bagnaia, finally showing us something, recorded the first ever sub-1’53 lap at Losail, securing his first pole and heading a lead group of seven comprised  solely of Ducati and Yamaha entries. Aleix and the two Suzukis completed the top ten, with Pol Espargaro and Takaa wiping up the rear, as it were, of the first four rows. Eight riders shattered Marquez’ previous record lap from 2019; it’s going to be a long, hot, season. We here at Late-Braking MotoGP are stoked. My previous blather re Moto2 and Moto3 is lost for all time.]

Sunday—Race Day

I am reduced to using the tired Random Number Things We Learned here, as it’s late, I’m tired and have a headache.

  1. Yamaha has fixed whatever was bothering it the last two years. Vinales demonstrated today that they can win a race. At least at a track where the wind reduces Ducati’s continuing advantage in top-end speed.
  2. Quartararo seems to be giving a reprise of Vinales’ career start, going off like a Roman Candle, then underperforming for a while. As a sophomore last year, he won twice in Jerez and again in Catalunya—three (3) times total, although he’s excellent at qualifying—and has been crowned The Heir Apparent.
  3. Not so fast. Vinales, you will recall, won three of his first five races as a rookie. In 66 races since then, he’s won five times, including today. Pardon me if I don’t climb on either the Maverick or Fabio bandwagons just yet. If Maverick wins again here next week I’ll buy you a good cigar, as dad used to wager.
  4. The one rider whose bandwagon I was prepared to climb aboard, Petronas SRT stud Frankie Morbidelli, failed miserably today in his 2021 debut. I had him top three for the year, and still do. Losail is an outlier. His team has a week to get the bike sorted. He can’t NOT score points again next week.
  5. Morbidelli’s new teammate, Valentino Rossi, qualified in P4 yesterday, raising some eyebrows, but settled comfortably into P12 today. However, his minions sold thousands of hats, t-shirts, hoodies, yellow smoke grenades, yellow fright wigs, with everything that wasn’t yellow now in teal, opening up a huge additional market for the MotoGP Magnate. Plus, they sold more of the old factory Yamaha gear at a discount and made even more. What a rider.
  6. It appears the Ducati contingent, all six of them, are fast, notably rookie Jorge Martin. But there was a day, back in the day, when the Ducs would go like hell for the first two-thirds of the race, whereupon their tires would turn to molasses and they would limp home. Those days may have returned, as both Miller and Martin suffered late in the race. Simon pointed out that they all had to change their mapping to conserve fuel, and this is what held them back. He’s probably right, as there was nothing holding Zarco and Bagnaia back on the run to the flag. Ask Joan Mir.
  7. The Suzukis look more capable this year than they did this time last year, which turned out pretty well.
  8. Honda Racing is just screwed without Marc Marquez. Pol Espargaro managed a respectable P8 in his first race on the Honda, although he was never a factor. Nakagami crashed, Alex Marquez crashed, and test rider Stefan Bradl managed points in P11.
  9. The Aprilia is better this year. Still not great, but better. One doesn’t have to feel sorry for Aleix Espargaro all the time.
  10. KTM appears to have taken a step backward over the winter. Danilo Petrucci looks like he’s going to have a long year. Five points to show for the weekend. Brutal.
  11. Enea Bastianini may be the cream of the crop of rookies coming up from Moto2. On Lap 5 he was dawdling in P18. He finished in P10.
  12. Pecco Bagnaia is going to win a race this year. At least one.
  13. Sam Lowes is probably going to win the Moto2 title this year. It’s nice when your top three competitors graduate to MotoGP. I don’t know what it is about Sam that grinds me. I think his readiness to offer excuses for underachieving may have something to do with it.
  14. This Moto3 rookie, Pedro Acosta, who finished in P2 today is 16 years old? I’d say he bears watching as an Alien-in-Waiting. Another ambitious rookie in the class, one Xavier Artigas, skittled three serious riders on Lap 5 and is going to get spanked by Race Direction if he hasn’t already.
  15. Jaume Masia is going to end up in MotoGP. Don’t know about Darryn Binder. Three sets of brothers in the premier class might be one too many.
  16. Your boy Romano Fenati managed P11 today in Moto3 despite two long lap penalties.
  17. I’ll try to do better next week. Cheers.

RIP Fausto Gresini.

MotoGP: Call It Day 3 of Practice @Losail

March 11, 2021

© Bruce Allen      March 11, 2021

The second Losail test, coming on the heels of the first Losail test, will finish this week on Friday. The riders lit up the track on Wednesday, with Miller and Quartararo getting under the official track record. The rest of the top ten, courtesy of Crash, are presented below. Again, I agree with our reader in British Columbia who thinks Pecco Bagnaia needs a boot in the ass.

The laughable 2021 MotoGP pre-season testing schedule ending this week will shed light on one subject: How do the 2021 MotoGP bikes run at Losail? As we’ve been banging on about since forever, Round 1 in the desert is hardly a reliable predictor of what will eventuate in November. No Jerez, no Sepang, no ‘real’ conditions, tire anomalies.

No Marquez. (One reason, perhaps, both factory Yamahas finished in the top three today.)

Of the four riders considered rookies this year (they’re counting Savadori as a rookie despite his replacement rides for Aprilia late last year) Enea Bastianini was top in P14, followed by Jorge Martin P19, Luca Marini P22 and Savadori P25. This lot will be starting from square one when the show moves on to Portugal in April. Other than Savadori, the alleged rookie who crashed out with three laps remaining at Portimao last year.

Savadori is a sophomore who earned enough credits by exam that he is no longer a freshman.

Top 10 Day 3:

  1. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) – 1:53.183
  2. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) + 0.080
  3. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha) + 0.327
  4. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) + 0.716
  5. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.716
  6. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 0.788
  7. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.895
  8. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.960
  9. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 1.053
  10. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) + 1.079
Screenshot (440)

Image courtesy of motorsport.com

MotoGP 2021 Losail/Season Preview

March 8, 2021

2021 MotoGP Teams and Riders

Joan Mir                          Factory Suzuki

Alex Rins                         Factory Suzuki

Lorenzo Savadori             Factory Aprilia

A. Espargaro                    Factory Aprilia

Maverick Vinales              Factory Yamaha         

F. Quartararo                   Factory Yamaha

F. Morbidelli                     Petronas SRT Yamaha

Valentino Rossi                Petronas SRT Yamaha

Brad Binder                     Factory KTM

Miguel Oliveira                 Factory KTM

D. Petrucci                       KTM Tech 3

Iker Lecuona                    KTM Tech 3

Pol Espargaro                   Factory Honda

Marc Marquez                  Factory Honda

Takaa Nakagami              LCR Honda

Alex Marquez                   LCR Honda

Jack Miller                       Factory Ducati

Pecco Bagnaia                  Factory Ducati

Johann Zarco                   Pramac Ducati

Jorge Martin ®                Pramac Ducati

Luca Marini   ®                Avintia Ducati

E. Bastianini ®                Avintia Ducati

As we have been saying for several years, this is the ‘out with the old, in with the new’ mentality at work in MotoGP. Ever since I can remember—2008—there have always been a few retreads on the grid, riders well past their prime who could still attract sponsor dollars and therefore earned (bought) their spots on the grid. For those guys, a top ten finish would be a season high point. Those guys aren’t out there anymore.

Instead, you have brash, aggressive, fearless young blood, and plenty of it, in the form of Jorge Martin, Luca Marini, and Enea Bastianini, as well as the young vets—Mir, Rins, Bagnaia, Quartararo, etc. A fast field, with every team in the battle for points every week. There are whispers KTM has taken advantage of the rules and secretly improved their engine over the winter. There are other whispers, emanating most assuredly from the Aprilia media folks that this is it, this is the year when the Noale factory hits the jackpot and starts reeling in some podiums, restoring Aleix Espargaro’s faith in mankind in general.

Moreover, you have, top to bottom, perhaps the fastest overall field in history. Lap time differences will be measured in thousandths. Less than a second will likely separate most of the top ten qualifiers each week. Plenty of opportunities for a hot rider on a friendly track to score some surprising early points in 2021 while Himself, the 800 lb. gorilla we haven’t discussed, gets in sufficient shape to compete, spotting one of his rivals/pretenders, say, 75 points over the first four rounds. This aligns with the natural order of things, in that a rider of Marquez’s ability should get handicapped, just the way they do in horse racing. Give the other ponies a chance. Should the season evolve in this way, it promises a hair-raising chase to Valencia at season’s end, the inimitable Marc Marquez working some poor young riders in hot pursuit of another world championship. Don’t call it a comeback.

Personally, I have no idea which team I would predict to take the team championship this year. Further, I have no idea which manufacturer will win either. The sun and the stars have aligned such that no clear favorite emerges entering the season. The Repsol Honda gang would normally be favored, but Pol Espargaro needs to learn his way around the RC, and Marquez is still recovering from what sounds like a serious injury followed by a botched surgery. The Factory Yamaha team, which got spanked by the SRT kids last season, has an unproven machine and two inconsistent riders, both of whom have shown flashes of brilliance, both of whom have thus far failed to close the deal in the clutch, as it were. If memory serves, and it does, three of the four Yamaha riders finished last year in Tranche 3. The factory Ducati team, a perennial contender, promises to be young and fast this year, compared to last year, when they were old and surprisingly un-fast.

Suzuki seized the championship last year and shows no reason to mess with a good thing. No changes for 2021 (other than the ruinous loss of team boss Davide Brivio, who left for a bigger gig in F1. He has a resume to be proud of, having left the team in much better shape than when he arrived, with a competitive bike, two gifted young riders and a world championship in the locker.) And KTM’s immediate future is in the ascendancy, with a sterling collection of riders on a machine which made great strides last year. Both Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira are top five threats every time out. The jury, as usual, is still out on the Aprilia works; everyone’s an optimist in early March. They have settled on the Italian Savadori to team up with the hapless Aleix on this year’s edition which the flacks have touted as a real breakthrough, one in a series which, thus far, hasn’t produced the desired results.

MotoGP 2021 calendar

1                 3/28             Losail I

2                 4/04             Losail II

3                 4/18             Portimao

4                 5/02             Jerez

5                 5/16             Le Mans

6                 5/30             Mugello

7                 6/06             Catalunya

8                 6/20             Sachsenring

9                 6/27             Assen

10                7/11             KymiRing

11                8/15             Red Bull Ring

12                8/29             Silverstone

13                9/12             Aragon

14                9/19             Misano

15                10/03           Motegi

16                10/10           Buriram

17                10/24           Phillip Island

18                10/31           Sepang

19                11/14           Valencia

No Brno. No Argentina. No COTA. No three rounds in three weeks. For the handful of you intending to trek to Austin for the GP, that weekend on your calendar is now open. Good time to completely re-surface the COTA track to withstand the stresses of F1. Take out the bumps and you have one of the finest layouts in the world. Even if it is in Texas.

As usual, I didn’t pay much attention to MotoGP during the off-season, never do. Last year, Marquez was the odds-on favorite until late in Losail when, unbeknownst to us at the time, his season ended. Suddenly, the championship was a horse race; the door had been opened, incredibly, to several teams who had, up until that race, been plotting a strategy for finishing second in the championship.

Suddenly, the trophy was within reach.

This year, with Marquez missing the first however many starts, and probably not in top form for another month, allows the prospect of the best competition for a title in recent memory. Better than last year. Think about how many riders are legitimate podium threats every time out (once #93 is up to speed)—

Marquez

P. Espargaro

Quartararo

Morbidelli

Vinales

Mir

Rins

Miller

Bagnaia

Binder

Oliveira

11 riders competing for the top three spots sounds, from here, like big lead groups, low point totals for the early leaders, the top ten riders getting scrambled each time out, all this while Marquez does PT and rides easy motocross practice runs. I get the sense he will not be fully up to speed until close to mid-season, which would work out fine. If any of your friends are into motorsports and haven’t watched MotoGP, this could be the season for them to start. Despite, or perhaps because of my pandemic cabin fever I have renewed my video subscription for another season.

What’s the Point of Trying to Predict Losail I?

Seriously. Start with past performance, I guess:

2018: 1        04     Andrea DOVIZIOSO          ITA     Ducati Team

2        93     Marc MARQUEZ              SPA    Repsol Honda Team        

3        46     Valentino ROSSI            ITA     Movistar Yamaha

4        35      Cal CRUTCHLOW              GBR   LCR Honda  

5          9      Danilo PETRUCCI              ITA     Alma Pramac Racing       

6        25      Maverick VIÑALES            SPA    Movistar Yamaha

7        26      Dani PEDROSA                 SPA    Repsol Honda Team        

8          8      Johann ZARCO                 FRA    Tech 3 Yamaha

It’s taken me a moment to appreciate all the changes that have taken place in MotoGP since 2018 which, itself, doesn’t seem that long ago. But look at the names—Dovi, Crutchlow, Pedrosa, who retired at the end of the year. Only Marquez and Vinales are on the same bikes as were in the top eight in 2018.

2019: 1        04      Andrea DOVIZIOSO          ITA     Mission Winnow Ducati    

2        93      Marc MARQUEZ              SPA    Repsol Honda        

3        35      Cal CRUTCHLOW            GBR   LCR Honda CASTROL       

4        42      Alex RINS     SPA              Team SUZUKI ECSTAR     S

5        46      Valentino ROSSI               ITA     Monster Energy Yamaha          

6        09      Danilo PETRUCCI              ITA     Mission Winnow Ducati    

7        12      Maverick VIÑALES            SPA    Monster Energy Yamaha

8        36      Joan MIR                          SPA    Team SUZUKI ECSTAR

2019’s Crutchlow and Dovi have been replaced. Both podiumed in 2019, the last year of the race.

2020                               No race due to Covid.

Let’s not forget that, even in normal times, Losail is an outlier and that the results there, barring any unexpected runaway performance, are rarely indicative of the season as a whole. And half the top four finishers in 2018, as well as two of the top three in 2019, will be occupied elsewhere on race day. Night.

Marquez is out, wounded. Rossi, it would seem, in 2021, should be blowing kisses to his fans amidst waves of yellow smoke while finishing eighth. But, for whatever reason, he likes this place. Take Dovi, Marquez and Crutchlow off the 2019 board, as has been cleverly done for us for this race, and you have a top three of Rins, Rossi and Petrucci last time out. Petrucci, who will be on new wheels, is not expected to contend. But Mir should be around the lead group, ready to pounce late. The racing world clutches its pearls waiting to see whether Top Gun or Pop Gun shows up for the factory Yamaha season opener. If history is a teacher, the bike will be manageable once again, championship caliber. And there is a bevy of names still out there who will be letting it out chasing the pole on Saturday and trying to manage their tires as the dew settles on the sandy Qatarian tarmac on Sunday night.

As they say downtown, “What the hell.” It promises to be good stuff, especially on Saturday and Sunday evenings. I remind myself that, in my heart I really don’t care who wins. Other than I would like to see Rossi on the top step one last time in his career. Then, he could start blowing kisses to his fans, the farewell tour underway. He won’t be competitive at a number of tracks, but he has it in him to stay in some races until late and see what happens, as he did in his last win at Assen in 2017, punking Marquez and stealing the win late in the race.

One more time for Il Dottore, I say. Let the bells ring in Tavullia one more time.

Until #93 returns and is up to speed—one feels a tremor at the flashing thought he may never be up to his former speed—the grid is in a bit of a state of suspended animation, riders jockeying for the lead, awaiting the return of one of the best riders, by consensus, ever. EVER. On a bike built for him by Honda Racing, for whom he is a gold mine. At the height of his formidable skills before his late wreck here ended his 2020 season before it started, a season, as we remember, in which he was prohibitively favored to repeat, once again, as world champion.

This is starting to feel like a Three Stooges film, in which the entire Army squad, with the exception of the pre-occupied Moe, Curly and Larry, upon a request for volunteers, takes a step backwards, leaving our heroes responsible for a critical, dangerous mission. We have a host of volunteers aware that the best rider of our generation is on his way back and will likely get up to speed on his Honda tout de suite, as it were. Figure Marquez bails on Losail I and II and makes his 2021 debut at Portimao, Round Three. Suppose one of the fast movers has won twice in the desert and sits with 50 points. Suddenly, those riders with aspirations of a title in 2021 are sweating bullets.

With 17 rounds left, what would it take to get you to bet against a rusty Marc Marquez, trailing by 50?

With #93 out for Rounds I and II, and if I were a betting man getting giant odds in a trifecta in Round I, I would have The Three M’s on the podium—Morbidelli, Miller and Mir. And remind readers that what happens in Round One is not predictable. We’re just doing this for fun these days—who’s gonna stop me?

We will do our first round of tranching, as well as usual canny insights and all the one-liners we can recall in looking at results in Losail, and previewing Round II under the lights, soon after the race. Until then, don’t forget to send off for the full set of teal SRT #46 gear you’ll need to fit in with the real Rossi fans. It’s half the reason he’s still working this year; lots of new leather jackets going out the door. If they didn’t make me look fat, old and stupid I’d get some myself.

Here, courtesy of crash.net, is the top 17 riders on the second day of testing at Losail. Fabio stuck in a hot lap late in the day to edge out Jack Miller and Aleix. Franco Morbidelli in P4. So, we don’t know, at this point, who to like on Sunday. Perhaps in a few weeks we’ll have a better idea. We do know, ahem, that Vale finished in P20 and Brad Binder, struggling, in P24.

It’s early.

Cheers.

Screenshot (437)

Final 2020 MotoGP Rider Tranches

November 25, 2020

© Bruce Allen  November 25, 2020

Now that the season is over, here is where we would put the riders at season’s end. The whole tranching thing is about momentum, below Tranche I. Marquez has earned the right to maintain his ranking from last year for obvious reasons, despite not having competed in 2020.

Tranche I: Marc Marquez; Joan Mir; Franco Morbidelli

Tranche II: Jack Miller, Alex Rins, Pol Espargaro, Miguel Oliveira, Johann Zarco, Takaa Nakagami

Tranche III: Andrea Dovizioso, Fabio Quartararo, Valentino Rossi,  Maverick Vinales,  Brad Binder, Cal Crutchlow

Tranche IV: Danilo Petrucci, Alex Marquez, Pecco Bagnaia, Aleix Espargaro,  Iker Lecuona

Tranche V:  Tito Rabat, Brad Smith, Stefan Bradl

(Riders whose names are lined through are not returning in 2021.)

IMG-3924

A little gratuitous eye candy.

MotoGP 2009 Losail Preview

November 24, 2020

© Bruce Allen     Originally posted March, 2009  Re-posted November 2020.

What follows is the first article I wrote for Motorcycle.com in 2009, having given them a few articles in 2008. This was back when my knowledge of MotoGP was less than zero. Strictly faking it, a little superficial research, kind of like graduate school.

Welcome to MotoGP 2009

If you fantasize about hitting 200 miles per hour on two wheels, you’re in luck, because it’s time for the 2009 edition of MotoGP.  Motorcycle.com is covering the entire season, “spanning the globe” from the charge into the first turn under the lights in Qatar this Sunday night to the checkered flag at Valencia in November.

We have again retained last year’s MotoGP correspondent, Bruce Allen, to give you an up-close-and-personal look at the most dangerous sport on earth.

Bruce will provide a full season of amped-up MotoGP coverage (without even leaving his living room, other than the occasional foray to White Castle and the package store).  He has bootlegged a high-rez video feed from the MotoGP site, and has the best seat in the house.

No stranger to controversy, he is rarely confused by the facts.  He invites reader comments (as he is unable to escape them anyway, given that most of his observations are frivolous and half-baked).

Bruce has promised us a Friday pre-race analysis on each race weekend, as well as a recap of the action on Mondays.  At last year’s Indianapolis Gran Prix, he promised a portfolio of action photographs, and all we got was about fifty pictures of the Kawasaki girls.  We’re not really sure what to expect.

Therefore, with more than a little concern about our reputation, we   proudly    are pleased to    are sweating bullets    will try for a few weeks  present MotoGP 2009.

A Look Back at the 2008 Season 

The 2008 MotoGP season was highly competitive, in the way the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983 was highly competitive.  Valentino Rossi, riding the #46 Fiat Yamaha, got off to a less-than-dominating start to the season, found his groove a third of the way through, and ruled the championship the rest of the way.  The final standings for the top ten riders:

Place      Rider               Country           Team                Points               Podiums

1 Valentino ROSSI ITA Fiat Yamaha Team 373              16
2 Casey STONER AUS Ducati Marlboro 280                 11
3 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda 249                 11
4 Jorge LORENZO SPA Fiat Yamaha 190                     6
5 A. DOVIZIOSO ITA JIR Team Scot 174                   1
6 Nicky HAYDEN USA Repsol Honda Team 155                   2
7 Colin EDWARDS USA Tech 3 Yamaha 144                   2
8 C. VERMEULEN AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 128                   2
9 Shinya NAKANO JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini 126                   0
10 L. CAPIROSSI  ITA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 118                   1

Casey Stoner, the defending 2007 world’s champion, chased Rossi most of the season, but had enough trouble controlling the big red Ducati that he was unable to catch The Doctor.  Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, the exciting young Spaniards, had a few too many crashes, fractures and abrasions to make a serious run at the title, but gave the fans something to cheer about in every race they were medically cleared to run.  As in high sides in which they could be photographed flying through the air, like trapeze artists.

Andrea Dovizioso, Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden each had a number of Top 5 finishes in 2008, putting them in the second tier by themselves.  Nobody else was in serious contention.  Which points out one of the factors that keep MotoGP from being even more popular than it is–the concentration of power at the top, and the limited number of teams and riders capable of being seriously competitive.  Kind of like F-1 on two wheels.  BTW, isn’t Andrea a girl’s name?

The good news is that the few teams that are competitive are UNBELIEVABLE, and the speed, the noise and the overall atmosphere at these races is unlike anything else on earth.

MotoGP makes NASCAR look like they’re running step vans.

During the Offseason… 

The major change that took place over the winter involved Michelin being given the boot by MotoGP in favor of Bridgestone tires, upon which all the teams will be riding this year.  This is likely to improve the prospects of the Michelin riders from last year, including Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Hayden, Dovizioso, Edwards and James Toseland, once they get the new rubber figured out.  Circuit-wide, there were a number of arcane rule changes concerning practice days and times, electronic suspension defibrillators, and other stuff I don’t pay much attention to.  (If you do, feel free to visit motogp.com and bone up.)

A number of riders changed teams, and Kawasaki dumped their sponsorship program altogether, another loathsome effect of the GEC (global economic crisis, about which we are SO tired of speaking and writing).  The biggest news in this area, at least for American fans, was the defection of Kentucky native Nicky Hayden from Repsol Honda to the Marlboro Ducati team, joining Casey Stoner.  Marco Melandri got summarily booted from the Ducati team to the factory Kawasaki team, which then folded, leaving him scrambling for a ride with Hayate Racing.  He has, like, one bike for the season, which suggests he will be riding cautiously, if at all.

In the ensuing game of musical chairs, Dovizioso left JIR Team Scot Honda in favor of the Repsol factory Honda team.  Tony Elias, who had two podiums last season, left the Alice Team Ducati for Team Gresini Honda.  And Ben Spies couldn’t catch a ride at all, which is a shame.

Prospects for the 2009 Season 

Here are your major contending teams and riders heading into the 2009 season.

Fiat Yamaha              Valentino Rossi                        Jorge Lorenzo

Ducati Marlboro      Casey Stoner                            Nicky Hayden

Repsol Honda           Dani Pedrosa                            Andrea Dovizioso

Rizla Suzuki               Chris Vermeulen                       Loris Capirossi

Monster Yamaha Tech 3     Colin Edwards                James Toseland

Stoner and Pedrosa are starting the season less than 100% healthy, with Stoner still recovering from offseason surgery on his wrist and Pedrosa having had surgery after a high side–go figure–while testing at Qatar on March 2.  The Suzuki riders finished the pre-season testing session at Jerez in 3rd and 5th places, suggesting they may be more competitive at the start of this season.  Dovizioso figures to benefit from the switch to the factory Honda team, and Nicky Hayden, at least in my opinion, will be running with the big dogs before the season is over on his shiny new Ducati.

One of the amusing aspects to these big high-powered two-rider teams is the fact that the “teammates” don’t always get along so well.  Apparently Rossi and Lorenzo don’t see eye to eye on everything.  Such also seems to be the case with Edwards and Toseland.  How, you’re wondering, do we know this?  BECAUSE THE CREWS HAVE TO BUILD WALLS IN THE GARAGES TO KEEP THEM FROM ATTACKING ONE ANOTHER.  Despite the fact that these riders have testicles the size of hubcaps, they’ve got “little man” complexes and the aggressiveness of rat terriers.  Walls—jeesh.

Rossi is the odds-on favorite to repeat this season, edging out Stoner on the surprising number of online betting sites devoted to MotoGP.  It’s difficult to bet against him, as he is smooth as silk and rarely makes even the smallest mistake.  Stoner is going to have to have a perfect season to beat him out.  Similar to last season, it figures to be Ducati owning the straightaways, and Yamaha ruling the turns.

Last year at Qatar, the top five finishers were Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa on the podium, followed by Dovizioso and Rossi.  Look for Rossi, Stoner and Lorenzo up there this year, with Vermeulen, Dovizioso and Edwards trailing.  Pedrosa is apparently going to start, but whether he can finish remains to be seen.

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I think the new stuff is better. Back when Sean and Kevin were over-paying me I really worked at it, trying to keep up with my readers. Today, I can pretty much keep up. But in 2009 I was scrambling to sound coherent. Cheers.

MotoGP 2020 Portimao Season Finale

November 22, 2020

© Bruce Allen        November 22, 2020

Arenas and Bastianini join Mir as World Champions

On a sun-drenched day straight out of a travel magazine, in southern Portugal, Albert Arenas snagged his first, and last, Moto3 championship, edging Ai Ogura and Tony Arbolino, as it were, his P12 finish just good enough for the title. In Moto2, series winner #BeastMode watched from P5 as a great race unfolded between Remy Gardner, Luca Marini and Sam Lowes and ended with him being handed the 2020 trophy despite a conservative P5 finish.

In MotoGP, homeboy Miguel Oliveira won today’s battle, while 2020 champion Joan Mir retired with a mechanical and no worries, having clinched the title last time out. To have two world championships decided on the same day, with only a handful of points separating the top three finalists in each class, well, it just doesn’t get much better than this in racing.

Estoril vs. Portimao

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The two Portuguese tracks aren’t that different in layout. Portimao has the beautiful variations in topography, while Estoril has created so many memories over the years. Say the word “2006” to a MotoGP fan and he will, if his consciousness is sufficiently elevated, automatically think of Estoril. Pedrosa and Hayden. One thing they have in common is a long main straight ending in a difficult Turn 1, Estoril’s being somewhat more acute than Portimao. Watch Turn 1 in all three races, see if somebody doesn’t exit the premises.

Friday

FP1—What does it say about a track when it appears to be Aprilia-friendly? Aprilia in P3 (Aleix) and P4 (Savadori). WTF.

The rumor that Yank Joe Roberts could inherit Andrea Iannone’s seat with Aprilia after fellow Moto2 fast mover Marco Bezzecchi allegedly turned them down is tantalizing. An American in the premier class. The last to toil so was Ben Spies, a bit of a flash in the pan, and unlucky to boot, back in 2015. I hope Joe gets the shot and that he can carve a successful career out of motorcycle racing.

Saturday

MotoGP FP3 did its job on Saturday morning, separating the goats from the lambs. Four of the riders in the money on Friday were out of the money on Saturday, including Aleix, Binder, world champion Mir and top three battler Franco Morbidelli. Of the four, Q1 will be the most pressing for Morbidelli, locked in a cage match with Alex Rins for P2 for the year, leading by four but now having to make it through Q1 to get close to Rins on the grid. On a tight, windy course like Algarve, getting out front would be important, especially for the Yamahas, which do not like heavy traffic. It was mostly usual suspects in Q2 other than Stefan Bradl, who put Marc Marquez’ RC213V in P10. Homeboy Miguel Oliveira put himself in Q2 late in the session, looking froggy, like he might want to jump.

After an invigorating Q1, which saw sentimental favorite Cal Crutchlow join Fast Frankie Morbidelli en route to Q2, Saturday’s main event was typically engaging. Yamahas under Morbidelli, Quartararo and even Maverick spent brief periods on pole, with Morbidelli sitting on it for 10 minutes of the 15-minute session. But low and behold, in what Dad used to refer to as the nickel of time, homeboy Miguel Oliveira threw down a 1:38.892 to steal pole from Morbidelli, with Jack Miller completing the front row. A bit of significant weirdness found Stefan Bradl starting from P6 and Alex Rins from P10. Rins, one of the riders with skin in the game on Sunday, has his work cut out for him on this twisty, up-and-down track. Not even an afterthought—his name was called perhaps once during Q1—was Valentino Rossi, starting from P17, thousands of fans across the globe wishing he would just walk away from the Petronas SRT next season and get started on Chapter 2. For Methuselah, Chapter 1 is ending poorly.

These days, The Doctor is Just Another Rider.

Race Day

Moto3: Runaway Raul Rules Portugal; Arenas Enjoys Ice Cream Sunday

Late-season sensation Raul Fernandez went wire-to-wire today to win the Grand Prix of Portugal. A better start to the season would certainly have allowed him to challenge for the title. But a win is a win.

Of the top four finishers today, none had anything to do with the championship being contested. Of those contenders, Tiger Tony Arbolino had arguably the best day, starting from P27 (yeah, I know, right?) and climbing all the way to P5 before running out of tire and energy. Ai Ogura, second when the day dawned and needing to beat Arenas, solidly, to win a title instead managed only an uninspired P8. All this on a day when Arenas was having problems, making mistakes, getting overtaken every time one turned around, and ending the day in P12, appearing mildly abashed accepting the world champion trophy on the podium later on.

Ain’t nobody care. Dude has his ticket punched to Moto2 next year, along with Ogura and Arbolino, so the fledgling rivalry can continue, although likely lower on the food chain. His Wikipedia page gets a nice update and upgrade. The ice cream thing with Arenas I don’t fully get, though it played a part in his post-race celebration. So that’s not a typo in the headline above.

Moto2: Remy Gardner Wins From Pole; #BeastMode Seizes 2020 Title

Always fun to watch a rider earn his first grand prix win, crying during the national anthem and all, and Australian Remy Gardner was no exception today, outracing, then dusting, championship contenders Luca Marini and Suffering Sam Lowes and helping Enea Bastianini clinch the 2020 Moto2 championship. Plenty of overtaking all over the board, in a race Sam Lowes, with his injured hand, would have sat out were he not in the thick of the chase. As things turned out, he finished in P3. The good news is that all four of his serious rivals are moving up to MotoGP next year and he should pretty much have the Moto2 field to himself.

Aside from Bastianini, Marini, Lowes, Bezzecchi and Jorge Martin completed the top five for 2020. Gardner, in P6 for 2020, will return, too. Perhaps we can watch a couple of Anglos fight for the title in 2021 for a change.

MotoGP: Oliveira Dominates Wire-to-Wire in Portugal; Mir Backs Into Title

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So the MotoGP race ended almost exactly the way KTM stud Miguel Oliveira hoped it would, and almost exactly NOT the way Suzuki world champion Joan Mir hoped it would. Oliveira, taking note of Raul Fernandez’ performance in the earlier Moto2 race, took the holeshot and won unchallenged, crushing the field. Confirming that KTM is no longer some stepsister, but a full-fledged member of MotoGP royalty, deserving of the respect that all except Aprilia receive. Meanwhile, Mir, who experienced electronics issues during Q1 and started from P20, had yet more bike trouble today, possibly as a result of a hip check he delivered to Pecco Bagnaia early in the race that left the young Italian with a dislocated shoulder.

Similar to last week, if one is willing to disregard Oliveira, was the joust today between Fast Frankie Morbidelli and Jack Miller. Once again, Miller dogged #21 for most of the second half of the race. Once again, Morbidelli prevailed, the only Yamaha rider to get anything at all from the M-1: Vinales P11, Rossi P12, Quartararo P14. Ugh. For the year, the final standings:

1        J Mir           

2        F Morbidelli           

3        A Rins         

4        A Dovizioso           

5        P Espargaro           

6        M Vinales              

7        J Miller                  

8        F Quartararo         

9        M Oliveira             

10      T Nakagami           

2020 in a Nutshell

When the cat’s away the mice will play,

and when they do, they should play hard.

Though this does not qualify as one of the more poetic sentiments enshrined here through the years, it most certainly applies to MotoGP 2020.

Rider rankings after Jerez I:

Tranche I:    Marc Marquez*, Fabio Quartararo

Tranche II:  Maverick Viñales, Jack Miller, Andrea Dovizioso, Pol Espargaro, Franco Morbidelli, Alex Rins*

Tranche III:  Pecco Bagnaia, Cal Crutchlow*, Valentino Rossi, >Joan Mir<, Brad Binder, Danilo Petrucci, Miguel Oliveira

Tranche IV:  Takaa Nakagami, Aleix Espargaro, Iker Lecuona

Tranche V:   Tito Rabat, Johann Zarco, Alex Marquez, Bradley Smith

When Marc Marquez suffered what would become a season-ending injury during Jerez I, I had Mir in Tranche III, nowhere near Alien status. The unflappable Mallorcan saw an opening, one that literally might not occur again in the next five years and thought to seize it. He then went out and crashed in two of the first three races, Jerez I and Brno, with an off-podium finish in Jerez II to show for his efforts. 11 points in the first three rounds, Quartararo sitting on top, 48 points ahead. A good time to start thinking about next year. But after Brno, and despite a poor showing at LeMans in the wet, Mir was money. On or near the podium every time out. Quartararo and the Yamahas, other than Frankie Morbidelli, ran into problems during the season. Ducati had Miller and little else. KTM made some moves, but not enough to threaten anything. And Honda, without #93, was a shadow of its former self.

Any other year, a performance like Mir’s—one win all year—would have been plenty good enough for a solid P2 or P3. But this was the year that it could win him a title. Assuming Marquez returns next season—assuming there is a 2021 season—it is unrealistic for people to expect Mir to repeat. But he has assuredly earned his Alien Card, along with Fast Frankie and Thriller Miller. They and Marquez are the Alien Class for 2021. You heard it here first.

To my readers, both of you, thanks for following me again this year during what is becoming an increasingly challenging period. I miss the old days of deadlines and templates, but at least the racing itself was first-class this year. We will try to keep an eye on goings-on during the winter and look forward to returning in February. Peace and love to you all, and our best wishes for the Christmas season.

Local Color

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Gardner takes the lead from Marini in Moto2.


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Raul Fernandez ran away with things in the Moto3 race.


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Jack Miller, a bridesmaid once again.


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A preview of things to come later in the race.


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