MotoGP: Life in Tier Two

© Bruce Allen

With an off weekend on our editorial hands, we thought it might be fun to take a quick look at the riders outside the top ten, get inside their heads a little, speculate as to what’s up with their 2020 season and, likely, beyond.

#11     Franco Morbidelli     Italian     Petronas Yamaha

Moto2 title in 2017. Paid a year of dues on a weak satellite Honda as a rookie in 2018. More than doubled his point production in 2019 on the satellite Yamaha. He’s had two good races this year–P5 at Jerez I and P2 at Brno–and three lousy ones. Has collected a total one one (1) point in the last two rounds, joining Vinales and Quartararo in the Yamaha Hate Austria club. He’s 25; these grand prix riders peak in their mid-20’s. He’s also one of a number of riders, age-wise, whose careers are getting squeezed by Marquez at 27 and Quartararo at 21 years. He needs to get more consistent, will probably never win a MotoGP title, but a formidable rider nonetheless.

#12     Johann Zarco     French     Exponsorama Ducati

Zarco, a classic underachiever, is 30 years old. One assumes there is stuff in his personal life that affects his career decisions, for he was, briefly in 2017, as a rookie in MotoGP, burning like a 4th of July sparkler. He needed to wear shades. But from there, it’s been mostly downhill. A lack of progress on the 2018 Yamaha led him to make a terrible career decision to ride for KTM in 2019, a debacle that lasted 13 rounds. Somehow, he’s landed at Ducati with a GP19 that howls and a riding style that, somehow, fits the Desmo. With his guest membership in the YHA club, (2 points in Austria) he looks like a field horse who will be fun to watch, who will occasionally show up on a podium, but will never finish in the top five for the year. At least he’s back, and lucid.

#13     Alex Rins     Spain     Suzuki Ecstar

Another fast rider whose career has been slowed by injuries, most of which have been unforced errors. Apparently, unlike Marquez, he doesn’t practice the art of the harmless lowside crash. Anyway, once again in 2020, despite his overall bright future, he banged himself up early in the season, had surgery, came back sooner than he should have, and will now be at risk for the rest of the year. He opened with a P10 at Jerez I, his P4 at Jerez II was a bit of a miracle before the roof caved in. He began to get things sorted at Red Bull II. Rins is young and fast, but he has to quit hurting himself. Another rider book-ended by Marquez and Quartararo.

#14     Danilo Petrucci     Italy    Factory Ducati

This, 2020, is the beginning of the end of Danilo, who had a glance at the big time after years and years of paying dues. He has lost his seat to Pecco Bagnaia for ’21-’22 and has taken up residence with KTM for 2021. He saw the writing on the wall months ago, re Bagnaia. With a season best P7 at Austria I he appears to be outgunned or on “Cruise.”  Whatever. He has had his last big contract, and appears to be a happy guy. All the best to Danilo at KTM. Perhaps he can join Binder and Oliveira who are breaking the beast along with Espargaro.

#15     Alex Marquez     Spain     Repsol Honda

Little brother keeps his big fast Honda upright. He does the best he can with his overarching goal being to complete the race, not crash, not get anyone hurt. He had a P8 at Jerez II and will be taking over Cal Crutchlow’s seat at LCR Honda next season with full factory support. When he was a teenager he was said to have been faster than Marc, and that Rins could beat both of them. Whatever. Alex appears to be a Tranche 3 or 4 rider. Don’t know why that would ever change, with all the young fast Italian riders on the way. [His transfer made possible Repsol’s signing of Pol Espargaro to ride alongside Marc–that should be rich–for ’21-’22. It also showed Crutchlow the door; no surprise there.]

#16     Aleix Espargaro     Spain     Factory Aprilia

The MotoGP equivalent of Sisyphus, doomed to spend his life pushing the rock up the mountain only to see it roll down again. I think little brother Pol could now beat Aleix on a same-bike match race. But Aleix has never, in a career seemingly spanning decades in MotoGP, had a decent ride beneath him. Other than 2014 on the Forward Yamaha, on which he finished P7 for the year. He’s going nowhere on the still-sick Aprilia while the world awaits the turnaround KTM is experiencing this year. Meanwhile, Aleix pedals as hard as he can, generally to little avail. Someone’s going to take his job one of these days.

#17     Iker Lecuona     Spain     Tech3 KTM

First, a confession about the KTM rookie. I get tickled every time I hear his name, as it provokes in me (I’m a musician on the side) a rhythm, a rhythm that reminds me of a tune in Disney’s Lion King, called, for whatever reason, “Hakuna Matata,” and has this hypnotic beat attached to it. I hear #27 and my neck and shoulders start moving, like they do when I hear Motown anthems.

Late selection rookie brought onboard, finally, to take Zarco’s seat. He is young, and he is wrestling the RC16, which is a beast to point and shoot. His fate is not, as it appears, tied to KTM. He may find, or at least seek, greener pastures on a different bike, should the opportunity arise in the future. For now, he is a back-bencher. He is young, and could become something in a few seasons. KTM picked him for 2020 mostly on purpose, as future star Jorge Martin was not ready to move up. Martin appears to be ready and is rumored to have signed a Ducati contract for 2021. Dude has Alien written all over him. Sorry, not Lecuona. Martin is the future Alien; jury is still out on Iker.

#18     Pecco Bagnaia     Italy     Pramac Ducati

Promising young rookie, the second coming of Jorge Lorenzo, has a bright future at Ducati. A broken leg in Jerez has trashed his 2020 campaign, but he is reported to have already signed his contract to move up to the factory team in 2021-22 to ride alongside Jack Miller, the factory Ducati group getting younger and stronger in the process. Bagnaia appears to have a preferred riding style that will do well at some tracks, so-called Ducati-friendly tracks. I think he is young enough to get a peak at a world championship in MotoGP; his future appears bright. His present, not so much, although he is healing and will possibly try to return for a few rounds in 2020. How am I supposed to know, out here in Hoosierville?

#19     Bradley Smith     Great Britain     Factory Aprilia

After being in and out of MotoGP Smith caught a ride this season when Andrea Iannone failed a drug test. Were Smith a mechanic rather than a rider, 2020 would be another year of sitting around, turning wrenches. He must bring a pot of sponsor money, probably more than Aprilia pays him. He is a career field-filler. Nice guy. No future.

#20     Tito Rabat    Spain     Esponsorama Ducati

See #19 above.

#21     Cal Crutchlow     Great Britain     LCR Honda

Despite a respectable career, Cal is going out on a low note, having been declared redundant by HRC. This chafes the Brit who, at age 34, has arrived at the end of the line. If he doesn’t get off here and retire to a life of leisure on the Isle of Mann, he will end up in a bad neighborhood, career-wise, but guys like Cal are hard to convince. He is, at this moment, homeless starting next season. With a lifetime of arthritis ahead of him, I hope Cal calls it a career and goes home to wife and daughter. It would be fun to hear him behind a microphone at some point, during races.


So, there you have it. We’ll get back on topic after Labor Day, in advance of Misano I. Keep those cards and letters coming, kids, and we’ll try to reply to every one, plus send you a secret decoder ring you can show off to your friends. Tell them you care about motorcycle racing and casual research. Show them that a little knowledge, combined with a fairly extensive vocabulary, can achieve success in a community of people who make odd, unhealthy choices in what they read.

Here are some images from last year in San Marino.

Screenshot (136)Screenshot (135)Screenshot (134)Screenshot (130)Screenshot (129)Screenshot (123)Screenshot (121)Annotation 2019-09-10 064742misano-circuit-1000x522

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19 Responses to “MotoGP: Life in Tier Two”

  1. MotoGP: Life in Tier Two - Project Biker Gear Says:

    […] Preview, Motorcycle Racing, Racing News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own […]


  2. Dale Charles Mensch Says:

    I believe Petrucci had signed next year at KTM Tech 3


  3. Starmag Says:

    It may still be too early to mention Antman and El Diablo in the same breath. The horned one is good, but he has already proven himself inconsistent track-to-track. Antman never finished lower than 2nd last year, which is unreal. I hope he comes back strong in 2021. Without him there’s no yardstick for measurement. The races have otherwise been great, but I think there should be some tire standard applied for red flags.

    Zarco rejected in a pouty manner the KTM that Binder won on. Maybe he should have had a bit more patience. Hindsight is always 20/20 on this stuff though.

    Danilo Petrucci to ride for KTM Tech3 in 2021

    “I’m a musician on the side”. What do you play Bruce? I punish the unwary with rock guitar, bass, and for extra punishment for past life sins, soprano ukulele.

    The first blonde for me, but I’d likely need a lot more youth, power, prestige, money, etc. to get the time of day.


    • Bruce Allen Says:

      I’ve played keyboards since I was 7 years old, probably the same stuff you play. I’m sure all of the ladies pictured are going to be heartsick to hear you’re taking yourself out of the competition for their affections. My wife says for every Jack there’s a Jill; don’t give up so easily. And for God’s sake don’t let on to Mrs. Starmag.


      • Starmag Says:

        She doesn’t mind too much as long as they are a loooong way away. Like Italy.


      • Starmag Says:

        This is for those un atoned for past life sins if you dare. I figure other musicians are usually kinder. I think that the soprano ukulele is the smallest, no sustain harmony instrument ever made, so I consider it a great challenge to play pop and rock tunes on. I probably don’t have the talent to pull this off, but I egotistically give myself credit for trying. I hope you can laugh with me or even at me. There some comedy songs in there. This is my current musical resume for gigs, I haven’t linked it to anything.


  4. Buzz Says:

    I had paddock passes at Misano last year and the girls were all over the paddock pre-race. There was a contingent of guys from Mexico City in my suite and they were going crazy running all over the paddock are, getting their photos snapped with umbrella girls. They were so excited and laughing the whole time.

    Good times in the pre Wu Flu era.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Vrooom Says:

    Given KTM’s incredible sudden competence, I wonder if Pol is having second thoughts. I’m sure the wheelbarrow full of Honda money helps alleviate that, but so far the KTM appears competitive with everyone. I’d love to see him and Aleix race same bike.


  6. Old MOron Says:

    “Tell them you care about motorcycle racing and casual research.”

    Ha ha ha, good onya Brucey.

    I think Petrux lost his seat to Miller rather than Baggy Eyes. The latter hasn’t signed anything yet, but now that Dovy has flown the coup, a Ducati-Baggy announcement should be forthcoming.

    And if Baggy moves to the factory team, will that open doors for Zarco at Avintia? He seems to be doing well at Exponsorama. Maybe he’ll be happy to stay with his current team.

    How I hope that Pol will finish behind all four KTM’s next year. I’ll laugh my ass off. I’ll laugh if he finished behind any KTM’s next year. I can’t wait.


  7. Old MOron Says:

    Ha ha, I just had another look at the pictures.
    Wouldn’t be surprised if Zarco wants to move to Pramac just for the umbrella girls.


  8. Old MOron Says:

    Hey Brucey, I was reading something about KTM being able to develop its engine now that it has lost concessions. This is counterintuitive to me. Can you make sense of it?


    • Dale Mensch Says:

      KTM has lost SOME concessions. No more unlimited testing, but they still have more engines available through the end of this year plus they can continue engine development. Other manufactures (I think?) have to use identical engines this year and next.


      • Old MOron Says:

        Thanks, Dale. That’s what I read. KTM gets to build a new engine for next year, while most others will have to use year-old engines. Doesn’t make sense.

        I give credit to Dorna’s concessions plan. It brought KTM up to speed quickly, just as it was intended to do. But allowing them to build a new engine while everyone else stands still seems like overkill. KTM have won races at two very different tracks this year. They have a good package.

        On the other hand, it’s refreshing to see someone other than HRC get everything their own way. I may have to borrow an orange flag from Sayyed!


  9. Old MOron Says:

    As a PSA to my fellow Brucers, here is a link to Simon Crafar’s tech talks. Pretty awesome:


  10. Old MOron Says:

    Where’s our Misano preview, damnit?


    • Bruce Allen Says:

      I’m not doing one this week. Building a piece of furniture for one of my granddaughters–much more important. I’ll have some stuff for you during the weekend. Same deal next week, only we’re going to Mackinac Island for a few days of cool weather. Cheers.


      • Old MOron Says:

        Safe travels, Brucey. I was on the Island just over 20 years ago. I imagine it’s still covered in taffy. Hope you get to enjoy some.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Bruce Allen Says:

          The island is still the island. The Grand is not quite as Grand as it once was, but is receiving renovations. And the fudge is as good as ever. Highly restorative, sitting on that long porch, with the flags and the geraniums and the big bridge off in the distance.


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