Archive for the ‘Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing’ Category

MotoGP 2022 Round 19 – Sepang

October 23, 2022

Bagnaia wins again; Quartararo on life support

The muffled, rhythmic, pneumatic sound you hear in the background comes from the equipment keeping Fabio Quartararo’s 2022 MotoGP title hopes alive. Mathematically speaking. People with a dog in this fight will tell you the championship is now down to an exciting shootout in Valencia, despite Quartararo’s indisposition. As if. Young Pecco must now endure another two weeks of nightmares, in which, being dogged by Quartararo, he crashes late in Valencia, and lies there in the gravel watching the Italian punk him and win the title. Whereas Fabio has had to endure a long late-season decline, Bagnaia’s deep set fear must be choking in his One Shining Moment.

Saturday

I was working my grandson like a field hand in the yard most of Saturday–paid him handsomely and fixed his lunch, gave him a few free secrets of life etc.–and so missed most of the action from the track. I’m now ignoring Moto3 and can’t stand the suspense of Moto2, so I’ll focus on the big bikes this week. This is, after all, where Fabio Quartararo’s dream of repeating as MotoGP world champion was going to go up in smoke, courtesy of a miserable second half of the season, a hand injury at exactly the wrong time, and the blinding dominance of the bikes manufactured by Ducati Corse. Marquez said after qualifying he is losing 3/10ths to the Ducatis in the main straight. The Yamaha is losing 3/10ths to Marquez. The writing has been on the wall for some time in the premier class. Fabio will not repeat as MotoGP champion in 2022.

Qualifying was another master class by two riders clearly at the top of their respective games, Marc Marquez once again, Pecco Bagnaia at last. My favorite interviewer, Simon Crafar, was in the booth today, observing that the Honda RC213V does not have a single winning characteristic, yet there goes Marquez, putting it in places no other rider can even conceive of, ending up in P3 for the start of the race. In Q1 with double zeroes on the clock, he steals a ticket into Q2. Afterwards, he is surrounded by the resurgent Alex Rins avec his soon-to-be-extinct Suzuki GSX-RR and another quartet of the damned Italian engineering marvels, starting in P1 where Jorge Martin calmly set an all-time track record (by 6/10ths!) in Q2. EBas sits in P2 looking frisky, with Rossi’s wild boys, Bezzecchi and Marini, sitting pretty on Row 2. Marquez gives the impression of being close to 100% again. His bike gives the impression it needs to be taken back behind the garage and shot.

For those of you keeping score at home, the top three contenders for the 2022 MotoGP title–Pecco Bagnaia, Fabio Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro–would be starting Sunday’s race in P9, P12 and P10 respectively. Disrespectively. How this happened would take a while to explain, but my theory of untimely crashes is coming into clear focus. I’m looking forward to writing the season recap, as events seem to be unfolding as expected, other than Aleix is probably doomed. Oh, and the fact that the north star of my predictions, and worldview, is on its way to being proven exactly wrong.

Sunday

There were moments in the middle of the race in which the tension was absolutely superb, moments which offered us a glimpse of the immediate future–Bagnaia and Bastiannini dominating the 2023 championship season–as well as my own vision of the future, in which Ducati Corse makes the decision to stop supporting all these random teams and simply becomes the engine supplier for the premier class, the rest of the OEMs reduced to Moto2 status, building their brand entries around a single engine. The superiority of the Italian machines is occasionally blinding and was on full display at Sepang after taking six of the top eight spots in Australia a week ago (minus the top two, for whatever reason.) Today a podium closeout was shaping up until Jorge Martin, who had destroyed a longstanding track record during QP2, casually crashed out of a comfortable lead on Lap 7, doing a reasonable impression of Warren Zevon’s “Excitable Boy.”

For me, the most interesting part of the race occurred during laps 9 through 14 when Bagnaia and EBas were arguing over the lead and young Marco Bezzecchi, spawn of the Valentino Rossi clan, suddenly appeared on Quartararo’s tail. The sitch at the time was if Bezzecchi could overtake Quartararo and Pecco hold on to win, the championship would be over. The announcers theorized that MB’s tires were going off. My own thought was that he was thinking, “Step three on the podium, or make the factory bitch win it on his own in Spain?” To me, it looked like he backed off, but that’s just me. Same way I looked at Martin’s off–my notes read ‘team player,’ promoting Bagnaia to the lead. Silly.

My new favorite metaphor for crashing out of the race came courtesy of Louis Suddaby, describing Bastiannini’s decision “not to throw it at the scenery,” a phrase which is bound to show up in future articles…By Lap 2 it looked as if we were going to see an electric face-off between Quartararo in P5 and Marquez in P4, but it never took place. Quartararo went through early while Marquez faded, as expected, ending his day in P7. It was a set-up ripe for controversy, had the two mixed it up while the Ducati contingent was busy getting away. Maybe next year.

Thinking about how Ducati has seemingly found a way to solve the economics of MotoGP, compared to the quandary endured by Suzuki, having experienced recent success but unable to make the numbers work for even a single team…Brad Binder, with his skeletal air, his shaved head and beard looks like one of the South African mercenaries so often found in modern action films. Don’t mess with him on the track… I had to post the photo of Carmelo Ezpeleta and Sultan Somethingorother, Carmelo, the Big Cheese of MotoGP, doing an excellent job of not sweating through his trousers, while the Sultan, Grand Gouda of the locals, looks cool as a cucumber in the equatorial steam bath…The rain expected by the announcers never materialized, to the dismay of fans like myself who love the entropy of flag-to-flag tilts…

On to Valencia

Before Round 18 at Phillip Island, there were five combatants–Pecco, Fabio, Aleix, Miller and EBas.

Before Round 19 today, there were four–Pecco, Fabio, Aleix and EBas.

Heading to Round 20 in Valencia, there remain but two contestants. The Italian holds every card in the deck; the Frenchman, with a broken finger on his left hand, can’t even hold the few cards he has. The Italian, with his fellow Ducati teams, will have, in effect, up to seven wingmen watching his six should the need arise. The Frenchman is all on his own, his teammate mired in the muck all year, the satellite guys ready and willing but unable to help fend off the swarm of Desmos. On paper, it looks to be no contest, Pecco riding the last two laps with one hand on the handlebars and the other blowing kisses to the irritated fans, who want, above all, to see a Spaniard on the top step and hear their beloved anthem one more time in 2022. This November, the contest writ large will not involve a Spaniard, not that the fans care that much. The rumor expected to be circulating in the stands at the finale will assure all those in attendance that, like the swallows to Capistrano, #93 will be back next year, and the anthem is likely to get a good workout once again.

See you in two weeks.

Brolly #1
Brolly #2
Sepang
These Frenchmen are incorrigible. Don’t do it, Johann.
Big Cheese and Grand Gouda.
Then there were two…

MotoGP 2022 Round 18 – Phillip Island

October 16, 2022

Fabio’s downfall continues; Bagnaia seizes series lead

MotoGP fans around the world enjoyed a feast of two-wheeled drama in Australia today as the 2022 championships–Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP–approach the last dance in Valencia next month.

  • Moto3 crowned its latest Spanish racing savant as 18-year-old Izan Guevara sealed his first grand prix championship in fine style, battling Garcia, Sasaki and Dennis Oncu the entire way. Guevara showed the world what he’s made of by riding his ass off for the win when he didn’t need the win to seal the championship.

In doing so, Guevara was able to avoid the awkward podium scene we saw back in 20?? involving your boy Jorge Lorenzo and one Marc Marquez. In the race, won by Lorenzo, Marquez had clinched the championship. During the podium celebration, Lorenzo was blowing celebratory gaskets, flexing and yelling about his nice win. Marquez, on step two, stood by, quietly watching The Lorenzo Show. After the anthem, Marquez and his team celebrated their most recent world championship. This was not a scene young Izan wanted to see repeated.

  • The reborn Alonso Lopez won Sunday’s Moto2 tilt by laying down a vapor trail around Turn 6 of Lap 1 and was never challenged, despite having to serve an Australian long lap penalty–similar to just going wide at a number of tracks–on Lap 3. The real action, involving the last two riders standing in 2022–Augusto Fernandez and Ai Ogura–showcased the volatility inherent in motorsports. Late in the day, Fernandez was cruising in P2, looking to put Ogura away while the Japanese rider was stuck in the mud in Single Digit Point Land. Suddenly, without warning or need, Fernandez lost the front and slid out of nirvana, while Ogura, limping home in P11, took over the series lead. For Fernandez, what should have been a 16+ point lead heading to Sepang is a four point deficit. Let Valencia decide.

MotoGP

  • The main event at Phillip Island in 2022 was exhausting, exhilarating, enervating and enduring and will likely be mentioned in conversations about the best races ever for years to come. My notes look like a process map for a Rube Goldberg device, arrows pointing up, down, and right, square boxes around crashers, deltas where standings were changing. When the smoke cleared and the cheering died down, Fabio Quartararo had surrendered his series lead to the increasingly inevitable Pecco Bagnaia (P3), who kept his composure while those around him were losing theirs. Let’s discuss. PS–Suzuki, with Alex Rins riding like a banshee, won the race today. One more turn of the screw piercing our sense of right and wrong, that such an ascendant program as Suzuki’s would be unable to continue their participation.

While the riders waited for the red lights to go out, Fabio led Bagnaia by two points; the Frenchman possibly distressed over the memory of leading Pecco by 66 points after Catalunya. The second half of the season has seen a steady erosion of El Diablo’s dominance; he has failed to score points in half of the last eight races. We are happy to speak of, and unhappy to observe, young Fabio’s descent into mortality, as we (and others) have seen it coming all year, #20 trying to milk all he can from an under-powered Yamaha M-1. He has been over-riding all year, holding on for dear life, trying to manufacture a winning recipe of his riding style with the bike’s strengths, but it has appeared to be a losing battle since mid-season. One fears that during the next two seasons, Fabio Quartararo will learn the lessons learned by all those who married for money.

Once again, for the third round in succession, Marc Marquez appeared ready and able but unwilling to challenge seriously for the win. In Motegi it was a mostly relaxed P5. In Buriram it was a rather leisurely P4. Today, he was firmly ensconced in the lead group all day, yet it appeared he was hovering or hesitating, resisting opportunities to go through on opponents he would have gleefully seized three years ago. Today, with a credible P2 he achieved his 100th grand prix podium. He tells us the new aero package in development for the RC213V is the way to salvation, intimating he will be back in full fighting trim next season. I, for one, would be glad to see it.

Alex Rins had one of those days riders dream about, in which he had the best bike on a fast track with the sun shining and the wind blowing and it all just worked out and he fought his way from mid-pack at the start into the lead group and finally into the lead and the win with a remarkable performance. It was one of those days riders might think of as easy, as if anything is really easy on two wheels at 200 mph. My friend Don tells me that 60 mph equates to 90 feet per second. Ergo 180 mph equates to 270 fps. So the guys can travel the length of a football field in a second, give or take. For me, simply breathing at 180 mph would be a serious challenge. We are glad to see Rins enjoying himself during a year in which his house came down around his ears.

Elsewhere in the top five, Bastianini struggled all day before finishing an uninspiring P5, still alive mathematically but dead in every other respect. His future, however, remains so bright he’ll need shades. Frightening to consider how good the factory Ducati team could be next year… Aleix’s late season fade continues, his seven points today not feeding the beast… Jack Miller got hammered by Alex Marquez on Lap 9, putting an end to his faint championship hopes, but allowing him an opportunity to jump the fence and party with his friends at the brand new Jack Miller Corner…Valentino Rossi’s two young guns, Marco Bezzecchi and Luca Marini, continue to impress during the second half of the season. Bezzecchi claimed P4 and Marini P6 today. This was Bezzecchi’s first visit to Phillip Island on a MotoGP bike and he was mostly sensational during the last half of the race, wearing his big boy pants, grinning at the veterans as he went by.

A lot of other stuff went on and you can read about it almost anywhere. Here at Late-Braking MotoGP we are looking for meaning, trying to find our place in the universe, seeing things through our little out-of-round lens. For us, Fabio is a one-man passion play, a champion and an underdog at the same time whose obvious virtue and competitive spirit are not enough to overcome the voracious appetites of the suits at Ducati Corse. Pecco is handicapped by his inability to recognize life-threatening situations, the result being that he either wins or gets helped to his feet by the marshals. When he retires, he should go into advertising. Aleix should be sprawled on the floor in a corner of his garage with a guitar, singing, “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me.” After years of struggle, he once again allowed his heart to get the better of him, believing in mid-season that he had a legit look at the championship. ‘Tis better to have loved, and lost…

So, we’re down to it now. One championship decided, two to go. Moto2 is anyone’s guess, but I’m staying with my mid-season pick of Fernandez to finish on top. I was jocking Aleix during the summer break, just as my own sentimental favorite. Today, you have to believe Bagnaia will be the 2022 champion. He is likely to eat Sepang for lunch (while Quartararo struggles) and render Valencia meaningless once again.

We look forward to your comments and constructive criticisms. lol

 

 

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 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 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.”


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