Archive for the ‘grand prix de catalunya’ Category

MotoGP Catalunya Results

June 17, 2018

© Bruce Allen        6/17/2018

Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Lorenzo goes two for two.

The Existing World Order in MotoGP remained intact on Sunday in Barcelona. A resurrected Jorge Lorenzo won his second race in a row, from pole no less. He has shuffled the tranches more than he has the standings, as the riders look ahead to The Cathedral at Assen.

Practice and qualifying 

At the close of business on Friday the fast five had a distinctly Latin look about it, as it consisted of the sons of families with names like Lorenzo, Iannone, Viñales, Dovizioso and Rossi. Spanish and Italian grand prix racing royalty. Marc Marquez was dawdling down in 12th place, at risk of having to pass through Q1, barring some kind of breakthrough in FP3. But his race pace was solid; it’s easy to suspect he was more concerned about what he might have to do in Q2 than he was about getting there.

In addition to the usual suspects, Hafiz Syahrin and Tito Rabat kept showing up in or near the top ten during the practice sessions. In FP3, they bracketed the four-time MotoGP champion in 8th, 9th and 10th places. Dutifully on to Q1 trudged Marquez, along with Syahrin, Jack Miller, Franco Morbidelli, Alex Rins and the three KTMs, Kallio on another wildcard. During the somewhat meaningless FP4, Marquez recorded another historic save, in Turn 14, re-writing the laws of physics with his right elbow and knee sliders, dug into and destroyed by the tarmac. Marquez, reinvigorated, later led Taka Nakagami, a pleasant surprise on the second LCR Honda, into Q2.

Lorenzo screwedThe second qualifying session in Barcelona was, despite being virtually (statistically) random, a humdinger. Marquez laid down a quick early lap which looked like it might stand up, with Lorenzo in his garage having some kind of invective-soaked spasm. Andrea Dovizioso was whipping his Ducati GP18 into the front row, looking dangerous. Lorenzo returned to the track late and, on his last qualifying lap and stole the pole, making it 10 straight front row starts at Montmelo.

A late high-speed crash left my boy Cal Crutchlow starting from 10th. Vinales and Iannone were joined on Row 2 by gatecrasher Danilo Petrucci. Rossi and Johann Zarco found themselves consigned to Row 3, joined, again, by that Rabat guy on the Avintia Ducati. And poor Dani Pedrosa, his future unclear, whose spirit needed a boost and instead took a beating over the weekend, limped home to start 11th, having started from pole just last year.

What About The Flipping Race? 

Marquez took the hole shot at the start and led for a full lap before Lorenzo went through into a lead heMarquez Valencia 2017b wouldn’t have even considered giving up. Marquez flirted with the limit while trailing Lorenzo all day, getting dogged himself by Dovizioso. Until Lap 9, when the Italian crashed out of third place at Turn 5, his day and season in tatters. This bummer, in turn, promoted a lurking Valentino Rossi into podium contention.

Around and around they went. The order of riders didn’t change much for the next 15 laps. Cal Crutchlow snagged fourth, and the much-abused Dani Pedrosa pimped Maverick Vinales at the flag for fifth place. Experience 1, Skill 0. And the racing itself was inferior to the Moto2 and Moto3 races, which were, as usual, off the hook. 

What We Learned at Montmelo

We think we learned that Ducati, Lorenzo and Honda may all be suffering from buyer’s remorse tonight, given his current form. Honda, at a minimum, keeps him off a Ducati that now suits him for the next two years. Lorenzo could stay hot for two or three more rounds and put himself back in the 2018 conversation.

Marquez rode a smart race, keeping Lorenzo honest all day without taking any undue risks. He also managed to stay clear of Rossi.

Andrea Dovizioso’s title aspirations suffered a serious hit today as he crashed out of his third race in four outings. It’s gotta be in his head.

Rossi 2018Valentino Rossi is still relevant to the championship, but he will need something really, um, unlucky to happen to Marquez to be considered a serious contender for the title.

12 of the 26 starters failed to finish the race. Some good ones—Dovizioso, Rabat, Miller, Aleix and Syahrin–recorded DNFs. And so Franco Morbidelli gets two points for finishing three laps down.

What About the Big Picture

Marquez goes from leading Rossi by 23 to leading Rossi by 27. 11 points stand between riders #3 and #9. Lorenzo, Dovizioso and Iannone all enjoy 66 points after 7 rounds. Lorenzo’s trajectory is straight up, while Dovi’s is straight down. Iannone is less predictable. One rider who is painfully predictable is Dani Pedrosa, who has crashed out of alternating rounds all season. Don’t bet on him to finish at Assen.

In order to keep the KoolAid drinkers off my neck, I’m promoting Rossi to Tranche 1 with Marquez. It’s something of an honorific, as his best days are clearly behind him. 12 wins since 2009. But still finishing races, still standing on the podium, ready, willing and able to step up to the top whenever circumstances permit. He deserves respect, but you really shouldn’t bet on him to win anymore.

Marquez is holding things together at the top, making saves other riders can only dream about. If Lorenzo goes off and wins the next three, all Marquez needs to do is keep it close. His margin is such that, short of a royal blowout, Lorenzo’s hopes of a title in 2018 are modest.

Make Big Money Tranching at Home!

Tranche 1:   Marquez, Rossi

Tranche 2:   Vinales, Zarco, Petrucci, Crutchlow, Dovizioso, Lorenzo and Iannone

Tranche 3:   Miller, Pedrosa, Rins, P Espargaro, Rabat, Bautista

Tranche 4:   Morbidelli, Syahrin, A Espargaro, Nakagami

Tranche 5:   Redding, Smith, Abraham, Luthi and Simeon

Bits and Pieces

To no one’s surprise, Jack Miller has signed a new one-year contract with Pramac Ducati, joining Pecco Bagnaia on what promises to be a fascinating 2019 team. It turns out that Petrucci’s contract with the factory Ducati team is also for one year only. When is this guy ever going to get some respect? He has been winning with inferior equipment his whole career. Now that he is fully up to speed as a factory Ducati rider he should be a consistent threat to podium.

Here’s an instant quiz: How many total world titles across all classes were standing on the podium on Sunday afternoon? Lorenzo, Marquez and Rossi?

Today, as in Mugello, was Hammer Time for Lorenzo, looking more like the old Lorenzo, on rails, churning out lap after lap within 2/10ths of each other. He is mesmerizing; I literally nodded off, having slept poorly the night before.

Sitting here thinking I don’t expect Lorenzo to fare as well at Assen as he did today at Montmelo. But I didn’t expect him to win here either. OR at Mugello. So what do I know. I pretty much just work here. If, miraculously, Lorenzo does dominate in the Low Countries, he must be considered a legitimate threat to fight for the title.

A fortnight ago, Lorenzo was ‘washed up and left for dead,’ in the words of Mick Jagger. Tonight, he’s thinking about a hat trick, an effort that would cement his claim to have earned a part in the championship conversation.

In the meantime, as we submit this piece, we hope Aron Canet is OK after a big crash in the Moto2 race. He was stretchered off the track to the medical center. 

The Undercards, in eight seconds each:

In Moto3, Enea Bastianini punked Marco Bezzecchi at the wire, with Argentine Gabriel Rodrigo third. Jorge Martin led a parade of riders who crashed out of the race, leaving the door open. Rodrigo secured his first career podium in grand prix racing.

In Moto2, 19-year-old Frenchman Fabio Quartararo took his first win, stiff-arming KTM star Oliveira pretty much all day, with Alex Marquez holding onto third. At the top of the Moto2 food chain, Pecco Bagnaia leads Oliveira by a single point after seven rounds, trailed by Marquez and Lorenzo Baldassarri.  The races in both divisions are regularly breathtaking, worth the price of the video subscription.

On to Assen

The MotoGP Flying Circus returns to The Cathedral at Assen in two weeks, a revered place capable of delivering upsets. Anything can, and often does, happen at Assen. Expect huge heaping doses of optimism from all the top riders, as it’s in their contracts that they must bubble over with pre-race excitement.

MotoGP 2016 Catalunya Results

June 5, 2016

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Events Overshadowed by Moto2 Tragedy

Misano 2010                 Shoya Tomizawa

Sepang 2011                Marco Simoncelli

Catalunya 2016            Luis Salom

Montmelo has now had its name added to the list of circuits which have claimed the life of a rider during the current decade in MotoGP.  The finger-pointing and recriminations commenced immediately in an effort to pin blame for the Friday death of Luis Salom on something or someone.  My own sense is that the state of the Spanish economy over the past decade has led to “austerity measures” on the part of track owners unable, or unwilling, to invest in improvements—in this case, a gravel trap—that could save lives.

Which is the story of EU capitalism in a nutshell—a system in which myopic short term policies lead to lasting iniquity.  On a macro scale, the deconstruction of the Greek economy taking place before our very eyes, enforced by the EU with Germany, of all countries, cracking the whip, will inevitably lead to lasting hardship for the vast majority of her citizens.  On a micro scale, deferred investments in safety measures at a Spanish racing venue directly result in another bright young life being snuffed out.

Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya

Marquez loses battle, winning the war

The modified layout of the Circuit Catalunya brought about by Friday’s tragedy arguably converted Montmelo from being highly Yamaha friendly to Honda friendly, with both Repsol Hondas qualifying on the front row, Dani Pedrosa for the first time this season.  Marquez owned Q2, laying down a 1:43.9 on his first series and a 1:43.5 on his second, half a second clear of Lorenzo in the two slot.  Rossi saved himself for Sunday by leaping from ninth place to fifth on his last lap.  The surprise of the afternoon was Hectic Hector Barbera placing his Avintia Ducati at the top of the second row, missing out on a front row start by 15/1000ths of a second. With the notable exception of Rossi, Spaniards hogged the front two rows.

Rossi was the fastest rider in the morning warm-up, delivering a preview of the day’s events.  The race itself started normally enough, with Lorenzo winning the holeshot, the lead group forming up behind him consisting of Marquez, Iannone on the Ducati, Dani Pedrosa and Suzuki hotshot Maverick Vinales, with Rossi getting lost in the sauce on his way to eighth position.  By Lap 2, Rossi had sliced his way back to fourth, the four Aliens at the front trailed by a slavering Vinales who immediately began putting ragged moves on everyone he found in his way.

Rossi went through on Pedrosa on Lap 3 as I was noting “Lorenzo getting away?”  In what appeared to be a budding replay of last year, Marquez was overriding the RC213V on Laps 4 and 5, trying to keep the Mallorcan from disappearing, while Rossi, now flying, morphed the front two into a front three.  On Lap 6, Rossi passed Marquez easily and immediately set his sights on Lorenzo, who by that point was definitely NOT getting away.

On Lap 7, as first Rossi, then Marquez, went through on Lorenzo, it became apparent that Lorenzo was unable to maintain his speed in the turns, his edge grip apparently shot to hell.  Pedrosa went through him on Lap 9.  Vinales, having eaten his Wheaties that morning, started attacking Lorenzo relentlessly on Lap 10, almost as if he intended to usurp Lorenzo’s ride next season, as is the case.  Vinales stole Lorenzo’s lunch money today on Lap 12 after half a dozen failed attempts.  And while Rossi held the lead at this point, there was nothing comfortable about it, as Marquez refused to wilt despite losing ground coming out of all the slow turns.

Iannone Becomes a Verb

Nothing much changed at the front, then, until Lap 17, at which point Lorenzo was struggling to hold on to 5th place with Andrea Iannone threatening.  Somewhere in the middle of the circuit, possibly Turn 7, a routine left hander, Lorenzo was in the apex of the turn when Iannone, heading straight for him, running hot as an acetylene torch, slammed on his brakes, his rear tire leaving the ground, but not in time to avoid T-boning the triple world champion.

With his day now completely ruined and his lead in the 2016 championship but a memory, Lorenzo gained something new in common with next year’s Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso:  He had been Iannone’d by a rider likely to be giving Suzuki major second thoughts heading into a new two-year contract with a painfully low racing IQ.  While Iannone’s takedown of teammate Dovizioso at Le Mans was the result of poor judgment, today’s wreck appeared to involve no judgment at all.  Race Direction, which really knows how to hurt a guy, is likely to punish the jugheaded Italian with a point or two on his license, the equivalent of being ticketed for littering after drunkenly causing a four car pileup on an expressway.  Two points on your racing license is a hangnail; getting knocked out of a race while leading the championship is something closer to a disaster.

Another Montmelo Classic at the End

Marquez was in hot pursuit of Rossi, riding on the limit, when his pit board flashed the “Lorenzo KO” sign at him on Lap 19.  His immediate reaction was to not react.  He stayed on Rossi’s rear tire, backing into turns, losing ground on the exits, testing Rossi’s resolve once and again until Lap 23, when he went through and made it stick, leaving pretty much everyone watching the race gasping for air.  But Rossi, somehow still at the top of his game in 2016, took the lead back the next time around.  When Marquez suffered yet another “moment” in Turn 7 of Lap 24, he finally appeared to capisce his pit board’s message and let Rossi get away, knowing he had taken the lead in the 2016 campaign.  With a world class competitive spirit, Marquez has now gained the perspective he lacked early in his premier class career and understands that 20 points in the hand is better than 25 points a second and a half in front of you.

The Big Picture Refocused

The disruption in the 2016 standings brought about by Rossi’s blown engine in Mugello has now been largely corrected, thanks to Rossi’s rock-hard performance and Iannone’s rock-hard cranium.  Montmelo has bestowed her not inconsiderable charms on young Marquez, who retakes the championship lead for the first time since Jerez, with Lorenzo now 10 points behind him and Rossi another 12 behind Lorenzo.  Pedrosa, who podiumed today for, like, the thousandth time in his career, continues to maintain a faint grip on his ragged Alien club card, with 43 points standing between him and Marquez.  The series now takes a bit of a breather before heading to The Low Countries at the end of June for the first Dutch TT Assen in history not to be run on a Saturday.

I don’t want to talk about the controversy which blew up Saturday night about who attended the Safety Commission meeting on Friday evening and who didn’t, about who might have shot off their mouths criticizing the decisions pertaining to the modification of the track layout without bothering to attend.  Factory Yamaha riders are apparently above all that scut work.

I do, for the benefit of readers who believe I am constantly on Cal Crutchlow’s case, wish to say something positive about the Coventry Crasher.  Recall Mugello, after which I praised Cal for doubling—DOUBLING—his point total for the season with his scintillating 11th place performance in Italy.  Those of you who found that achievement brilliant will be astounded to learn that HE DID IT AGAIN TODAY!  With 10 points entering today’s race, and a credible sixth place finish, his point total for the year now sits at 20!  Never mind that three of the four riders who retired or crashed out of today’s race would have likely finished in front of him, resulting in a 9th place haul of seven points.

As the old saying goes, if you want to finish sixth, you must first finish.

Lorenzo, Rossi blitz field in Catalan flashback

June 14, 2015

MotoGP 2015 Catalunya Results, by Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com. 

As qualifying for the 2015 Grand Prix Monster Energy de Catalunya closed on Saturday, one got the sense that The Usual Suspects might not make it to Sunday’s podium.  The ascendant Suzuki Ecstar team had crashed the party, seizing the first two spots in Row 1 (for the first time since 1993), while Aliens occupied spots #3, 4, 6 and 7.  The upstart Ducati duo of Dovizioso and Iannone were mired in 5th and 12th places, respectively.  On Sunday, eight riders failed to finish, but when the smoke cleared, the Alien Class of 2012—Yamaha mandarins Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, and Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa—climbed the steps, the cheers of 97,000 Spanish fans ringing in their ears. 

Jorge-Lorenzo-Smile-HDWhatever faint hopes double defending world champion Marc Marquez held for a third consecutive title ended on Lap 3 of today’s race when, frantically chasing Lorenzo from second place, he ran way hot into the sharp lefthander at Turn 10, left the racing surface and dumped his Honda RC213V in the gravel, his day and season done.  With Lorenzo having jumped into the lead on the first lap, and knowing what would happen if he let the Mallorcan get away, Marquez had no choice but to try to force the issue early.

The eerie stability of the Yamaha YZR-M1 this season, together with the frightening instability of the Honda RC213V, a hot, greasy track and the pressure on Marquez made this crash all but inevitable.  For young Marquez, two years of fried chicken has given way to a year of feathers.  Such is life in the upper reaches of the premier class.

Moto racing fans have now endured the pleasure of watching Lorenzo lead 103 consecutive laps, reduced to admiring the sponsor decals on his machine, as he has taken four consecutive wins for the first time in his premier class career.  Though he was shadowed by teammate Rossi over the last 19 laps of the race, there was never any real doubt as to the eventual outcome.

Rossi was once again the victim of his inability to master the “new” (2½ years old) qualifying format in MotoGP, having Rossibarely snuck into Q2 where he again foundered, starting today’s race from the third row.  Had he started from the front, as he did for over a decade prior to The Ducati Years, he stood a puncher’s chance of winning today’s race (and Le Mans as well).  Apparently, even for one as sublimely talented as The Doctor, old habits die hard.  With his lead in the championship reduced to a single point, the prospect of a 10th world title is now visible in the rearview mirror and getting smaller every week.

Elsewhere on the Grid

The odd assortment of riders scoring points today was brought about mainly by the carnage among a startling number of top tenners, including Marquez, Cal Crutchlow (second round in a row, on Lap 1, with an assist from Aleix Espargaro), Pol Espargaro, Andrea Dovizioso (second round in a row), and, sadly, polesitter Aleix Espargaro, racing two miles from the house where he grew up, crashing out of fourth place on Lap 21.  Consistent point scorers Andre Iannone, Bradley Smith and certain rookie of the year Maverick Vinales ended the day in spots four through six, while less certain (or downright dubious) riders Scott Redding, Stefan Bradl (?), Danilo Petrucci and Alvaro Bautista (?????) completed today’s top ten.

03-apriliaracing-bautistaMay the sports gods deliver me from the agony of listening to Bautista earnestly explain how, based upon today’s fluke of a result, he is convinced the Aprilia program is making great progress.  Seven of today’s eight casualties would have certainly finished in front of him (the lone exception being his downtrodden teammate Marco Melandri), putting him back in 17th place where he typically resides.  If Karel Abraham, injured in an impressive highside in FP4, had started and finished, 17th place would have become 18th, not exactly worthy of a humble, bright-eyed interview.

Moto3 and Moto2 Rocking

Today’s premier class procession, the tedium of which was interrupted only by the fingernails-on-blackboard screeching of breathtakingly expensive motorcycles grinding their way through gravel, paled in comparison to the heart-stopping action offered up in the junior class tilts.  In today’s first race, Brit Danny Kent padded his 2015 Moto3 championship lead with a brilliant series of toe-curling last lap maneuvers to steal victory by 3/100ths of a second over second place finisher Enea Bastianini, the top six finishers separated by less than a second.

The Moto2 race was a three man affair, with defending champion Tito Rabat, rookie Alex Rins and series leader Johann Zarco battling savagely over the last ten laps.  Rabat, desperate for a win to put himself back in the conversation for a repeat title, led most of these, dogged by Rins, until mistakes by both riders allowed Zarco the win, with Rins taking second and Rabat third.  Again, the top three finishers were separated by a single second.  Frenchman Zarco appears to have the inside track to this year’s title, but it is still early, and the gaggle of blueprinted 600cc bikes flying into the first turns of the world’s great racetracks virtually guarantees bedlam, as Sandro Cortese, Axel Pons and Xavier Simeon discovered the hard way today.

The Big Picture in MotoGP

For the factory Yamaha team, Round 7 of 2015 was a lucky #7, as it afforded both riders the opportunity to separateRossi & Lorenzo themselves from the field.  With Lorenzo and Rossi essentially tied, momentum clearly in Lorenzo’s favor, they lead #3 Ducati wild man Andrea Iannone by over 40 points.  Iannone, in turn, leads teammate Andrea Dovizioso by 11 points since Dovizioso, whom I pointed out last week never crashes, has now recorded DNFs in the last two contests.  For Marc Marquez, life has gotten so bad that he must now traffic with the likes of plucky satellite Yamaha Brit Bradley Smith, whom he leads by a single point after crashing out of three of the first seven rounds of the season.  Marquez is learning what my old friend Darby shared with me decades ago—good things come in threes, while bad things come in the millions.

Assen and The Sachsenring Beckon

17th century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes must have had Rounds 8 and 9 in mind when he wrote in 1651 that the hobbes_animnatural condition of mankind (presumably, MotoGP pilots toiling at Assen and The Sachsenring) is “nasty, brutish and short.”  [For complete accuracy, he should have added cold and damp.]  The annual MotoGP calendar has two sets of outliers—the cool, wet tracks in England, Holland and Germany, and the hot, humid and jetlagged venues in the annual Pacific flyaway.  The next month may prove adventurous to riders on early and out laps on cold tires in the narrow confines of Assen and Saxony.

The clear advantage the 2015 Yamahas enjoy in their ability to maintain corner speed will be minimized over the next month, a rare opportunity for the Hondas, Ducatis and, now, Suzukis to make some hay.  Jorge Lorenzo, a creature of rhythm and consistency, has both going for him by the truckload, and appears untouchable anywhere, from the rickety Wild Mouse rollercoaster on the Ocean City, Maryland boardwalk to the Bonneville Salt Flats.  The next two tracks on the schedule are his least favorites.  If anyone is going to challenge him for the 2015 title, now is the time.

Marquez needs his rally hat at Spain #2

June 12, 2015

MotoGP 2015 Catalunya Preview, by Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com 

boilig-frogI’ve been told you can put a frog in a pan of cold water and set it on a low fire, allowing the water to heat up gradually until the frog, just sitting there minding his own business, is cooked.  Playing the role of the frog at present and wearing #93 is defending world champion Marc Marquez, trailing series leader Valentino Rossi by 49 points as the 2015 season passes the one third pole.  Marquez fans around the world are going all Nelly, suddenly aware that “it’s getting’ HOT in here.” 

No one was sweating the curious 5th place finish at Losail, where weird things often happen.  The win at Austin showed relieved fans that all was, indeed, well with the Repsol Honda wunderkind.  The careless crash in Argentina seemed like a bump in the road, until the fourth place finish in France, which had people scratching their heads.  When the expected comeback at Mugello ended in disaster on Lap 18, those of us anticipating a decade of Marquez titles were jarred by the realization that a third consecutive title in 2015 would require a fairly complete collapse by the entire Movistar Yamaha team and has become, to use my friend Kevin’s term for bad movie plots, “unlikely.”

Not impossible.  A win in Barcelona coupled with a bad weekend from the Dueling Andreas of the factory Ducati team could put Marquez back in third place by Sunday afternoon.  Misfortune, as everyone knows, can strike quickly in this sport, especially at places like Assen and The Sachsenring, up next on the calendar.  But the fact that, for Marquez, the 2015 title now depends on Valentino Rossi AND Jorge Lorenzo crashing out of a race or two is vastly different from the scenario we’ve seen over the past two seasons.  Marquez morphed from dark horse to contender in 2013 when teammate Dani Pedrosa and rival Lorenzo broke collarbones in The Netherlands and Germany.  During his serene 2014, in which he barely broke a sweat winning the first ten races of the season, he could afford to ignore Lorenzo and Rossi and focus on dreaming up entertaining post-race celebrations.  The samurai ritual at Motegi last year was especially notable.Samurai celebration

Now, a year later, Marquez, sitting in fifth place, has lost control of his season.  The eventual outcome of the 2015 championship is in the veteran hands of Rossi and Lorenzo, both of whom look capable of winning.  The Yamaha and Ducati factories have given their riders much better machinery than they’ve enjoyed in years past, leveling the field, if not tilting it in their favor over the Hondas.

Personally, I can see Andrea Iannone blowing up in the second half of the season, going highside and recording a handful of DNSes; he is perhaps the most aggressive rider on the grid seated on a bike fast enough to enter a low earth orbit. Teammate Andrea Dovizioso rarely crashes and manages his tires, but has a single career win, at Donington Park back in 2009.  But, you say, Nicky Hayden won the 2006 title with only two wins; those days are long over.  Rossi, and especially Lorenzo, are riding as well as they ever have; the notion that both of them will suddenly fall off the chart is almost laughable.  Yet, for Marquez to win in 2015, that’s pretty much what needs to happen.

Catalunya—The Heart of Lorenzo’s Land

Lorenzo at workThe Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, closest to Jorge Lorenzo’s birthplace off the coast of Spain, is one of his favorite tracks.  Over the last nine years he has recorded eight starts, four wins, three seconds, and last year’s outlier, a fourth place finish in the midst of his half-season malaise.  He stomped the field in 2012, outraced Dani Pedrosa by 1.8 seconds in 2013, and suffered last year while Marquez, Rossi and Pedrosa rode the wheels off their bikes, Rossi sneaking into second place after Marquez and Pedrosa traded paint late in the day.  Last year’s race was one of the best of all time, probably one of the most satisfying wins of Marquez’ young career.

Lorenzo, coming off a hat trick at Jerez, Le Mans and Mugello, will be the favorite on Sunday.  Hopefully, by then the locals will have sobered up from the celebration of their football team’s world title this past Saturday.  For sports fans in this part of the planet, having Barca put it to Juventus, followed by Lorenzo putting it to everyone eight days later would be the equivalent of having home teams winning the Super Bowl and the Final Four in the same week.  And while Marquez and Pedrosa and the rest of the Spanish riders will all spend some time this week talking about the pleasures of racing at home, most of the locals, and all of the frontrunners, will be rooting for Jorge.

A Quick Golf Analogy

Many of us read this week the startling figure that Valentino Rossi, leading the championship after six rounds, has led a total of four (4) laps all year, while teammate Lorenzo has led 91.  Looking at these two numbers in a vacuum, one would assume that Lorenzo would be leading Rossi by a country mile.  Not so.

As it turns out, the only lap that is important to lead is the last one.  The comparison to golf is irresistible.  This, I suspect, is why you read this column on a regular basis—the never-ending and always enjoyable links to other sports.  Football, baseball, and now golf.  Golfers have an expression that captures the essence of the counterintuitive 91 to four ratio….wait for it…

Drive for show, putt for dough.  You’re welcome.

Has Arm Pump Surgery Become a Status Symbol?

Avintia Racing’s Hectic Hector Barbera is the latest victim of the nasty arm pump syndrome.  Having undergone surgery this past week—think splitting the casing on a kielbasa and then sewing it back together–his participation this weekend is described as “doubtful.”  Every year it seems like half a dozen riders go under the knife for this repair.  These are some of the toughest guys on the planet, so the pain must be immense.  Since it’s usually the right arm, the throttle arm, I don’t understand why the manufacturer’s don’t simply install an accelerator pedal on the right side of the bike, since the riders’ right legs are generally useless anyway, other than Rossi and a few imitators.  Jorge Lorenzo, whose riding style approaches poetry, rarely kicks out his leg entering turns.  The aesthetics of grand prix motorcycle racing would be improved if riders kept their legs to themselves, another solid reason for an accelerator pedal.  Just sayin’.

Your Weekend Forecast

It looks like there’ll be warm temps and plenty of rain in the Montmelo area between Friday and Monday.  Good news for the Ducati riders, as the Desmosedici has always been surprisingly stable in the wet.  Bad news for most everyone else, making setup difficult and raising the possibility of a hair-raising flag-to-flag affair.  Rain is one of the wildcards that can shake up a championship, as it raises the likelihood of crashing and forces riders to be more conservative than usual.

For Marc Marquez and his ornery RC213V, the prospect of a wet weekend must seem like the racing gods are just piling on.  But, to the extent that weather could toss a spanner into the works of the factory Yamaha team, he has no choice but to embrace the elements and make them work for him.  If the Bruise Brothers end up on the Catalan podium and he ends up in the kitty litter his 2015 season will be poached.