MotoGP: Quartararo Loves Losail

© 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.

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17 Responses to “MotoGP: Quartararo Loves Losail”

  1. Starmag Says:

    Good info on Brno.

    There certainly has been more sniveling by the riders about Michelins, but aren’t lap times not only down but the races the most competitive ever since the switch? How to explain Pop Gun winning and Methusalah far back and complaining his rear tire is shot when he’s on the same bike and tires? Mav obviously thought the tires were fine, Rossi, not so much. I mean this as a larger view, not a comment on Rossi per se. There’s a wide gap on tire perception not only between these two.

    Tranching is a real roll of the dice right now.

    Like

  2. Dale Mensch Says:

    Any thoughts on why Losail’s two lightning starters (Martin last week, Oliviera yesterday) faded through the race? Keep up the good work, Bruce. I’m still working on being excited for Moto2/3

    Like

  3. Buzz Says:

    The Moto 3 race was fantastic. Moto 2 was a bit of a parade. Glad we’ll be heading to Europe for the remaining races. I will still keep fingers crossed for Texas but I think the chances are slim and none and Slim just left.

    Like

  4. Vrooom Says:

    Binder seems a bit high in the tranching, but I know you’re optimistic on him Bruce. Morbidelli should be higher but hasn’t even earned tranche 3, and glad to see Aleix in his rightful place above his brother.

    Like

  5. Old MOron Says:

    I know Easter and MotoGP are competing events, but ya done good, Bruce. Moto3 was fantstic. We even had a kick to the groin after a crash. I know nobody wants to see that, but we saw everything.

    I’m okay with the tranching, and I’m okay with the Michelins. The racing has been great. I’ve always rated Zarco, so I hope he can stay in good form when racing returns to the Continent. And I look forward to his teammate, Martin, ruffling feathers.

    Speaking of Martin, I really don’t appreciate likening him to Pedrobot. Pedrobot was supposed to be the next big thing. Instead he was the next big disappointment.

    Most of all, I hope the Real Slim Shady is the real deal, and that Morbi will be marvy again.

    Oh, and I genuinely hope that Valley gets his yellow mojo back. It’s just painful watching him languish.

    Like

  6. Allison Sullivan Says:

    So, anyone want to complain about Fabio this week? I’ll wait, lol. He rode a good race – stayed patient, didn’t panic, took his time moving up through the field and looked good in passing the top 4. Stoked for my boy Jorge to get a podium – I thought for a while he had a shot at winning it – but I was sweating bullets on the last lap, waiting for Zarco to revert to type and take both the Pramac bikes into the gravel. Bad for the blood pressure.

    I wish I’d had a hot mic on Alex Rins in the first third of the race, every time the Ducatis dusted him down the front. NSFW, I suspect. As was probably what Joan Mir said when Jack Miller decided to go all Sepang 2015 on him. I think Jack had a bad weekend and was looking for someone to take it out on – I’m really surprised Race Direction let that one go. On the replays it was pretty blatant, Miller rode right across the circuit to take a shot. Mir’s pass was aggressive, but a racing incident, and he acknowledged he’d screwed up – but that didn’t stop Thriller going all road rage on him.

    Frankie had another shocker, and all that I can say about Taka is that at least he stayed on this week.

    I passed on Moto2, but that Moto3 race. HOW did Pedro Acosta pick his way through all that traffic and win? The pit lane crew had to be 4-5 seconds behind the main grid at the start. Absolutely insane. That entire race was banger – more lead changes that a dressage horse, and John McPhee going all King Kong on Jeremy Alcoba, lol. Boys, boys.

    Back to Europe – let the fun begin.

    Like

    • Old MOron Says:

      Well, different people will have different perspectives.
      Watch this video: https://www.motogp.com/en/videos/2021/04/05/unmissable-miller-and-mir-s-explosive-doha-gp-feud-in-full/367600

      When the commentators first see Mir’s move on Jack, they’re rather shocked.
      “That’s the second time Mir has had contact with a rider out here, and it’s very unlike Joan Mir as well.”
      “A bit of frustrated… Mir, merciless on Miller…”

      Then they revert to damage control.
      “Lovely, aggressive, all’s fair in love and war. It was a hard move…”

      Mir’s bike was no match for the Ducatis this time, so he resorted to barging. Maybe all’s fair in love and war, but this is neither love nor war, and nocking people off their lines is not correct.

      What about the second contact? Watch the same video above, and pause it at 1:09. All of the leading bikes exit the turn through the same point. Martin, Zarco, BaggyEyes, Rins, they all exit on the same line. Now look at Mir. He’s actually out a little wider. When he tries to get back on the line, Jack is there. Not because Jack went looking for contact, but because Jack was on the same racing line as the four riders ahead of him. Jack was simply on the racing line.

      Ultimately Race Direction called both instances “racing incidents”. Normally I tend to disagree with Race Direction, but maybe they got it right this time. I actually feel that Mir was the more culpable of the two. When he made contact with Miller, he did it from behind. When Jack made contact, at least they were elbow-to-elbow.

      Like

      • Allison Sullivan Says:

        Fair play. I can’t see the vid because you need a video pass, but there’s two sides to every story. And most people would only have seen the official feed, which didn’t show a good angle of the first incident, but showed Miller crossing over the track to retaliate from high up and head-on. I gave Mir the benefit of the doubt because he’s usually one of the cleanest riders in the paddock, but I can’t even imagine how high tensions get out there.

        Everyone stayed upright, and that’s a good outcome. Portimao will be a different track.

        Like

        • Bruce Allen Says:

          Right. All we know at this point is that early movers Zarco and Lowes and Acosta are fast at Losail. There aren’t any more Losails on the calendar, for now.

          Like

  7. Starmag Says:

    With Antman returning this week, I’ve seen a lot of comments saying the field has moved on, everybody’s faster now, etc. I’m too lazy to research laps times etc. but it would make a great article. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. I’m guessing the lap times are not lower since Antman left but I’m willing to be proven wrong.

    Like

  8. Old MOron Says:

    Q2 was pretty exciting. Gutted for poor BaggyEyes. Happy for Slim Shady and ZarcTheShark.

    Like

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