MotoGP 2021 Journal–Round 5: Le Mans

© 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.

Screenshot (512)

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

Screenshot (515)

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

Screenshot (514)

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.

 

 

 

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24 Responses to “MotoGP 2021 Journal–Round 5: Le Mans”

  1. Swiss Aussie Says:

    A bit more redemption for Miller wouldn’t you say Bruce? 🙂 Go Aussie!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Prakasit Says:

      Fabio has just became my favorite rider. I am known to change my mind like that.
      Your tranching is right on.
      If Marc can come back into contention, it would be the come back of all come back.

      Like

  2. Starmag Says:

    Fun, unpredictable race.

    Congrats to the Thrilla’. Two in a row. Well done Jack. Pecco is still beating you though, just sayin’. No pressure.

    Kudos also to Zarco and El Diablo at “home”.

    Antman won’t be kept down for long. When his arm strength returns, he’s just going to just drive through the field again. No championship this year is likely though.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Allison Sullivan Says:

    Well, that wasn’t without drama. Flag to flags are always good for weird results and chaos.

    I picked that Zarco and Fabio were going to be tough to beat at home, so I got that right at least, but I wasn’t expecting that Miller was going to be the guy to beat both of them. I should have, I guess It always rains at Le Mans and iIf Miller and Petrucci were racehorses, they’d be mudders.

    I thought for a few laps there that Taka was going to end up on the podium, but once Zarco got through on him it was open season. But staying upright earned him a decent amount of points today, so there’s that. I really hope Frankie’s knee is OK – he wasn’t in a hurry to get up after he crashed. Ouch.

    Didn’t get a chance to watch the minor leagues and I was too busy enjoying unseasonably good weather over the weekend. Good to see Marco at the pointy end in Moto2. Tatsu kept his perfect record intact in Moto3 – five DNF’s from five. At this rate I’ll need a new rider to follow …

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Vrooom Says:

    I think you’ve got the two Espargaro brothers reversed in tranching. Just look at them in the standings. Pol can’t yet ride the Honda. Miller is looking consistently good, and Marquez quick tire bike change for wet tires gave him the lead for a bit, but he never really looked like he’d keep it.

    Like

    • Bruce Allen Says:

      This tranching stuff is more art than science. I guess the best way to explain my thought process is to try to guess the final rider standings, adjusted for rookies and Aprilias. So I guess I’m saying I expect Pol to finish ahead of Aleix by end of season
      .

      Liked by 1 person

  5. paulevalence Says:

    hmmm, I’m not convinced of Miller in Tranche I yet. I think I’ll need to see him earn a solid victory in the dry, without the lead rider crashing out etc, for him to change my mind. Mugello could very well provide that though.

    I was also impressed to see Marquez lapping quicker than everyone else on the track (before each time he crashed). Is he truly faster than everyone? or is he just risking/pushing more than everyone is willing to, as evidenced by the crashes. I’d still keep him Tranche II in my book.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bruce Allen Says:

      Welcome to the conversation. Your guess is absolutely as good as mine.

      Like

    • Allison Sullivan Says:

      Marc gapped Miller pretty smartly once he found himself first man out of the pits, and then after he crashed and rejoined there was one point where Fabio was in front, and Marc was lapping 1.5s quicker. It had to go sideways at that speed – he doesn’t have the race fitness to make it stick yet. But it goes to show that he hasn’t lost his edge. I’d put money on him to win at the Sachsenring this year, and be right in amongst it after that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • vassilg Says:

        This race showed the riders under most pressure… Marquez, Rins, Mir and P.Espargaro. Marquez sad his arm will not been a problem this weekend and his crashes were “not necessary”. Everyone is able to ride faster before crashing.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Old MOron Says:

    Moto 3
    Acosta sure learns quickly. He crashed early in the race, then composed himself to measure his risk/reward ratio perfectly. With his main rivals down and out, there was little risk to riding hard after his crash, and the potential reward was great. Once he reached eighth position, with his tires past their prime and the next rider several seconds ahead of him, the risk got greater, so he protected his points gain and brought it home. Really well done.

    Moto 2
    I said I wouldn’t call Lowes “Sad Sack Sam” any more. Poor slob.
    Those dumb Americanskis I let myself cheer for crashed out. Damnit.

    Moto GP
    Mark Marquez crashes (uninjured), ha ha ha haha haha!
    I told you Pol would do something stupid whenever Marc is in front of him. Ha ha ha! But I’m happy for everyone who did well. I was hoping for a flag-to-flag race. The uncertainty makes even a somewhat processional race exciting.

    A little tranche music, please (good one, Bruce!):
    Mir in tranche 2? You must be joking!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Buzz Says:

    Vale is just riding around in back so he doesn’t hurt himself before the San Marino GP. He’ll grab a 4th there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bruce Allen Says:

      Shame, isn’t it, how quickly he’s gone downhill. And Yamaha was building the bike to his spec for a long time. Fabio di Giantonino–whatever–is said to be already signed to a MotoGP contract, but not sure which team. So Rossi is going to own a team that pushes SRT out of the Yamaha camp and puts a SKY VR46 team on the satellite Yams with full factory specs. Morbidelli and FDG? It could happen? I assume the Italian rider is a VR46 riding camp guy, he would fit in well.

      Like

      • Old MOron Says:

        A few years ago, Carmelo said that he would expand the Moto GP grid in order to accommodate a VR46 team. So if Valley were to field his own team, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Petronas SRT.

        Valley’s team would almost certainly field Yamahas. That might force SRT to find another factory, but they wouldn’t HAVE to leave the grid.

        Actually, with the wealth of talent in Moto 2 and 3, I wouldn’t be surprised if the premier grid were expanded to welcome the next wave.

        Like

        • Bruce Allen Says:

          I thought the deal–certainly during the Bridgestone days, and I’m pretty sure Michelin, too–was that the tire guys were contractually obligated to provide tires for 22 riders. Two bikes per rider, etc., but that the resistance to growing the field was always the tire guys. If that’s not true, it means someone is going to have to step up, be it Yamaha or Ducati. Argues, too, that Suzuki and Aprilia, unwilling or unable to field even a second team, could fall behind re data. And BTW, it feels like there’s a bunch of Audi money helping Gigi and the boys, talking about 8 bikes.

          Like

          • Old MOron Says:

            In lieu of, say, a hot new preview of this week’s race, here is some old news for you: https://www.motorsport.com/motogp/news/rossi-s-team-guaranteed-motogp-grid-slot-says-ezpeleta-901572/901572/

            Liked by 1 person

            • Bruce Allen Says:

              Dear Sir or Madam: Please note that the format of your favorite racing column has changed. It now comes to you as a journal, with entries for each round starting on Thursday or Friday. You will have to exercise some deferred gratification since posting them is a bit of a pain and I’m only going to do that on race day. I leave it to your imagination to ponder yesterday’s musings, today’s brief look at practice, a bootfull of work on Saturday trying to keep up, then the post mortem on Sunday. As they say to the hopeless kids in youth sports, “YOU CAN DO IT!”

              Like

              • Bruce Allen Says:

                Oh, and another thing. You are pretty much the only guy on earth who is unwilling, for reasons of principle, I suppose, to follow Late-Braking MotoGP on Facebook. Because of your loyalty and interest I have, therefore, decided not to post anything on FB that isn’t on the column. But I’ve re-thought this, and will try putting this stuff on FB for four days running, then putting the whole thing on the blog. I need eyeballs on the blog and you’re no help. You won’t miss anything other than the dialogue leading up to the race.
                Join FB, keep to yourself, don’t get sucked in, and then you won’t have to wait to call me a wanker. Mir in T2.

                Like

              • Starmag Says:

                I’d be the second guy on the face of the earth who won’t join facebook. Zuck is a weaselly low-life and I don’t need to read everyone’s vapid inner musings or see more lunch, cat and sunset pics while being tracked. I didn’t even know you posted this stuff there. I looked and you have very little engagement there.

                “They trust me — dumb fucks,” says Zuckerberg

                You gratis efforts are always appreciated. Many have dropped hints to Evans to bring you back to MO where there is more eyes and Disqus.

                Liked by 1 person

        • Bruce Allen Says:

          I jumped from SRT losing the Yamaha teams to them being out of the game. I suppose they could field the 7th and 8th Ducatis. Or–gulp–the third and fourth Aprilias.

          Like

  8. Old MOron Says:

    “Because of your loyalty and interest I have, therefore, decided not to post anything on FB that isn’t on the column.”

    Much appreciated, Brucey. Thank you.
    But don’t forget my affection. And my esteem.

    “Because of your loyalty and interest, and your affectionate esteem, I have therefore decided…”

    There, now I feel requited.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Bruce Allen Says:

    You kill me sometimes. 😀

    Like

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