Archive for the ‘Marc Marquez’ Category

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 – Aragon Round 15

September 19, 2022

Fabio crashes, the championship tightens up, and Marc Marquez is getting flamed

Looking back over the season this coming winter, (I know, right?) one may conclude that Round 15 was the decisive race in a terrific season in which, with five rounds to go, there are still four riders with a genuine chance to title. My original thesis this season–that consistency (not crashing) would be the determining factor–is proving true. Almost. Somehow, somewhere, the law of averages is beavering away, tagging each rider with the “likely to crash again” label, others with the “hasn’t crashed enough, is long overdue” tag. Yes, that means that the law of averages is of absolutely no help in predicting the 2022 champion.

The race itself, in a nutshell, went something like this. Aleix, a few of the Ducatis, and rugged KTM pilot Brad Binder got off to quick starts. Marc Marquez, in his latest return to racing, failed to make it out of Q1, starting in P15. When the lights went out, #93 decided to damn the torpedoes and head for the front, carving up the field, elbows out, narcissistically unconcerned about the fortunes of the riders actually competing for the championship. (This is early on Lap 1, friends, with a full tank and cold tires.) In the thick of things (P7) surrounded by contenders, Marquez had a moment which resulted in championship leader Fabio Quartararo piling into the rear of his bike, parting company with his YZR-M1, going boom on the asphalt, down and out.

Poetic justice saw to it that the collision would render the #93 bike unrideable by Lap 2. Marquez discovered an issue involving his rear tire and a crumpled fairing by clattering Takaa Nakagami out of the race later in Lap 1. Having knocked Quartararo off his safe perch in the title chase, with virtually nothing to gain, he retired from the race, changed into regular clothing, and returned to the pits, to the catcalls and jeers of everyone not wearing Repsol black, red and orange.

Anyway. Most of the race had Pecco Bagnaia blazing the trail, with EBas, Aleix and the gritty Binder in hot pursuit. Mostly processional until the last two laps, when the prospect of the two fastest riders in the game on the fastest machine in the game becoming teammates next year came into sight, the 2023 team championship having become a foregone conclusion. With both riders able to summon fast laps late in the race, both able to conserve rubber at full race distance, MotoGP 2023 is looking a lot like F1 back in the day when Schumacher and Barrichello owned the world. Italian engineering on full display.

Essentially, Bastianini calmly put Bagnaia in his rearview midway through Lap 23 after dogging him all day. Aleix and his Aprilia passed Binder for the final podium spot on Lap 22. Bastianini, it seems, likes the effect he has on other riders when he’s on their rear wheel with two laps left. Pecco is as fast as fast gets, the second coming of Jorge Lorenzo in appearance and riding style. But he doesn’t seem to have the fire in the belly that his new teammate possesses. My money will be on EBas to win the 2023 title.

Here are the before and after shots of the 2022 MotoGP title, post Aragon:

Rider Points after Austria Points after Aragon 2022 DNF/DNS Manufacturer

Quartararo 211 211 2 Yamaha

Bagnaia 181 201 4 Ducati

AEspargaro 178 194 0 Aprilia

Bastianini 138 163 4 Ducati

All season long we have been saying, along with the entire Sioux nation, that Fabio would have to have what amounts to a perfect race every time out in order to repeat as world champion. And he has been riding the wheels off his vastly inferior Yamaha. But he faltered at Assen and got skittled yesterday, events which the Brits currently refer to as “wet lettuce.” Again, as predicted, we are sticking with Pecco Bagnaia as the 2022 world champion. Despite four DNFs, he has the wind at his back, while Fabio has contusions all up and down his torso from yesterday.

Looking at the upcoming tracks (not sure about Thailand) it appears the Ducati phalanx will enjoy Motegi (stop and shoot) as well as Phillip Island and Sepang, both long and wide. Fabio, being the Yamaha phalanx, may have a bit of an advantage at Buriram and Valencia. Unfortunately, I suspect that his performance in Round 20 will have little to do with the title. And then there’s Aleix, still in the hunt, still not having turned his RS-GP over after 15 tries. Overdue? Cautious? Blessed? A great dark horse for a wager if you’re into that sort of thing. If he maintains his season-long consistency, and both Quartararo and Bagnaia have another off between now and November, it could be an Espargaro wearing the crown in 2022. THAT would be fun.

I watched both races on the undercard. My only real interest these days is trying to identify future Aliens amongst the array of teenage prodigies toiling in the “lightweight” classes. In Moto3, I really like Izan Guevara, who is going to win the title this year and just turned 18 in June. Another fast kid is this David Munoz, #44, who just turned 16 in the spring and has begun terrorizing the grizzled veterans.

In Moto2 it was Vote for Pedro day again, as Acosta made a convincing case for returning to the presumptive Alien class in the foreseeable future. Despite breaking his femur at Assen, he has come back and, at least yesterday, looked again like he did in Moto3 last year, when he was tagged as a phenom. He will likely win the Moto2 title next year for KTM and get bounced up to MotoGP in 2024.

The first Asian flyaway rounds are coming up starting this week. Imagine having raced in Aragon and having five days to prepare/pack to travel to Japan and Thailand. Then a week off, then freezing at Phillip Island and, broiling at Sepang, where Pecco will clinch the title, before finishing, as usual, on the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

Damn, this is fun.

This from our mid-season report after Assen: The GasGas duo of Garcia and Guevara is, once again, putting a thorough Teutonic beatdown on the grid, same as Gardner and Fernandez did last year in Moto2. I fully believe Guevara is a future Alien and perhaps the most impressive of the impressive crop of young riders passing through the intermediate classes in the past 3-4 years. Young Izan should continue this trend, as it appears both he and teammate Garcia will graduate into Moto2 for 2023.

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 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 Eight – Mugello

May 29, 2022

So. fellas and Allison, I had more surgery this past week, in on Monday, home n Tuesday. I’ve been getting my act grouped relatively quickly, but haven’t had what it takes to do more than watch stuff so far, it’s being Sunday 4:30 am. I’ve been watching warm ups since 3:30. This ends, for the foreseeable future, my planned encounters with the medical/industrial complex. This surgery had originally been scheduled for mid-July, but I was in a hurry to get it done and get it behind me. So, there’s that.

My personal goal for the next 12 months is to not get admitted to a hospital.

As most of you know, including today there are four MotoGP rounds in the next five weeks. In a normal year, the championship would be mostly decided after Round 11; we would be in the teeth of the season with one rider in recent years, Marc Marquez, usually leading the way. A number of teams will, by Round 11, have revised their rosy estimates from the preseason. For example, see the post that will appear on Motorcycle.com short after the Assen round. Moreover, the crowded field at or near the top of the standings adds another layer of stress on the riders–one mistake could drop them two or three spots in the standings. The riders who can keep the shiny side up will be competing for the title on the back nine of this year’s schedule.

It pleases me to think about the cranky, jingoistic old Tuscan men who’ve lived their entire lives in the shadow of Ducati around Bologna. Italy. Yesterday, for example, they watched on TV as five Ducati pilots, four of whom are Italian, put a choke hold on the first five spots of the Sunday grid, at Mugello, the monument to speed, one of the world’s great layouts. Plus, this year the folks over at Aprilia are punching above their weight, Aleix a legitimate threat to title. More Italian joy. Plus, being handed the keys to the WithYou RNF team which will bail on Yamaha and fly the colors of the Noale factory. It has been determined elsewhere that 2022 will be shown to have been Andrea Dovizioso’s final season in MotoGP (how’s that for some serious verb conjugating?). The last year, for now, that once-proud Yamaha fielded a satellite team. Ascendant programs at Ducati and Aprilia, the European builders finally getting their own after years, decades of eating Japanese dust. Programs at Suzuki ending, with disarray at Honda and Yamaha.

Anyway, for those old men, qualifying at Mugello on Saturday, May 28, 2022 was righteous.

I watched qualifying in the lightweight classes, but am not inclined to include it in this report. Perhaps there are some old morons out there ready, willing and certainly able to give us, the readers, 150 words on qualifying in both Moto3 and Moto2. Not sure why I have to do everything around here. I need to outsource some of this stuff. It’s not like any of us is getting paid.

[Dorna showed video from the US Grand Prix in 2008 at Laguna Seca. This was the first race I ever “covered” = watched on TV, and it just happens to have been one of the all-time greats. Rossi passing Stoner in The Corkscrew, both wheels in the gravel, pressuring Stoner into a crash late in the day. Who knew? I always try not to get too carried away with the play-by-play, and there certainly seemed to be a lot of shouting in the Rossi vs. Stoner epic that marked my introduction to the sport. I gave Motorcycle.com 1500 words, with a heavier-than-normal dose of my usual meanderings, since I didn’t know the first thing about motorcycle racing. The suits in Toronto liked it. The real MOrons, Kevin, Sean, John and Evans and Dennis, etc. hated it, recognized me as a fraud masquerading as a motojournalist and knew instantly that I wasn’t a real rider, wasn’t one of them. 13 years later, we are friends. I still don’t know much about motorcycles, but they do like some of the laugh lines. For instance, I probably told them that I misunderstood the phone call with Joe, thought he said ‘writer.’]

So teenager Izan Guevara, the next Next Great Latin Rider, won the Moto3 race at the flag–three hundredths of a second separated the top step from the third step on the podium. Moving up the standings. A post-race penalty, for exceeding those pesky track limits, dropped Guevara to P2 and elevated series leader and teammate Sergio Garcia to the win*. The two GasGas riders thus occupy P1 and P2 in Moto3 for 2022.

Moto2 saw the public debut of The Next Great Latin Rider who, after having torn up Moto3 as a rookie last year, was suffering a failure to launch in 2022 until Le Mans, which he led for a dozen laps before crashing out, and today when he went out and schooled the grid, wire to wire, for his first win in the intermediate class. His win today was facilitated by Aron Canet, he of the laughable paint job, who was considerate enough to crash out of a threatening second place on Lap 13, essentially handing the win to Acosta.

The MotoGP race was Exhibit A in our argument, since before the season started, that the close quarters at the top would make crashing out of a race very expensive. The corollary to this is that a win will occasionally give the rider a big boost. After underachieving for most of 2022, Pecco Bagnaia goes out and sets the pace at Mugello, gives young EBas that come hither look, then looks away as the swarthy sophomore crashes out at Turn 4 of Lap 14. His 25 points today vaulted him from P7 to P4 for the year. He’s baaaaaaaaaack. Meanwhile, EBas slides into a 28 point deficit to Quartararo.

Pecco, Fabio and Aleix comprised the podium. Zarco, Bezzecchi, Marini and Brad Binder followed. As is becoming routine, bikes made by Ducati and Aprilia continue to dominate recent proceedings, the Suzuki team is crumbling right before our eyes, with suits from Yamaha and Honda dropping broad, unfunny references to ritual suicide. Marc Marquez’ announcement that he was folding the tent on 2022 in order to have another surgery, one with a six month recovery time frame, was met with further gnashing of teeth, frantic smiling and nodding of heads.

Y’all can talk amongst yourselves. Catalunya beckons. Plus, I’ve gotta go ice myself down. I really want to hear opinions relating to silly season speculation and the #2 spot on the factory Ducati team moving forward. Although the futures of Frankie, Dovi and Darryn deserve some conversation

Another Crackpot MotoGP Theory Validated

May 22, 2022

I’m pretty sure I told you so. I’m pretty sure I told you that a long lap penalty. or having a last lap waved off for getting in the green, an untimely DNF. Any of these could decide the championship in a race that, in the words of my late Aunt Frannie, is tighter than a tick.

I’d like to think that I called it when I suggested an inverse relationship between the number of DNFs recorded by a rider and his rank in the chase. These top ten YTD standings are current as of 05/21/2022.

Rider                                                Points                                  #DNF

Quartararo                                          102                                       0

A. Espargaro                                         98                                        0

Bastianini                                               94                                       1

Rins                                                       69                                         1

Miller                                                     62                                         2

Zarco                                                      62                                        2

Bagnaia                                                   56                                        2

B. Binder                                                  56                                        1

Mir                                                           56                                         2

M Marquez                                               54                                        2

This illustrates, once again, that, as the expression goes, in order to finish first, one must first finish.

The four riders leading the 2022 chase have averaged, over the first seven rounds, half a DNF, with neither Quartararo nor Aleix haven’t  crashed once. Riders five, six and seven–Miller, Zarco and Bagnaia–have all crashed out of two races, returning us briefly to the days when the Desmo was considered unridable by anyone other than Casey Stoner. In fact, of riders five through eleven, all have crashed out twice other than Brad Binder, whose numbers suggest he is too stubborn to stay down, that he may have remounted once or twice.

The current poster child for this “win or bin” mentality is Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin, with DNFs in four of his first seven. Earlier in the season he looked ready to assume the second chair on the factory Ducati team. Lately, however, Mo Mentum, the famous sixth man in basketball, the 12th man in the Seattle Seahawks’ crazy home field advantage, seems to be smiling on your boy EBas, at the expense of Jack Miller, who would look good in KTM colors. Honda must be sweating  bullets trying to get Mir signed now that PEsp is feeling unwanted. Mir, one supposes, is not looking forward to wrestling the RC213V, at least the 2022 iteration. Neither of the LCR boys, Nakagami nor Little Brother, can ride the Honda. PEsp will have his moments at his tracks but is nothing like consistent. And, if you were a betting man, um, person, who would you rather have a grand on right now–Marquez, with 54 points or Bagnaia with 56.

Interesting that Maverick Vinales has a clean DNF record but only 33 points, suggesting he is not riding the Aprilia hard enough. Much the same could be said about PEsp. Oh, and just for the record I expect Ducati to crush Mugello, lock out the podium, and convince Fabio that his future does not lie with Yamaha, that he’s caught them with the OEM pendulum swinging in the wrong direction. Is this the weekend Zarco finally achieves liftoff speed? Can Marquez continue trying to catch a tow into Q2? Will young EBas continue his poised, efficient efforts to winning a premier class title as a sophomore in the Marquez era, or at least the close of it. Fabio knows he has to remain perfect in order to remain in contention, putting massive pressure on himself. And my boy Aleix is sitting there making it look easy on an Aprilia that finally does what it’s told.

One of the few things I remember from five years of university-level economics is the tendency of large numbers to regress to the mean, all things being equal, which they never are. In the immediate case, as is almost always the case, you have a new group of Aliens. It’s true. Your present group of Aliens includes EBas, Pecco, Fabio, Aleix. The jury is officially out on #93; we may be witnessing the end of an era, the emergence of Italy, fast young Italian Riders and the, ahem, iconic Italian brand, the Really Big Red Machine. Europe, in Ducati and Aprilia, seeming to enjoy the upper hand in recent times, Fabio and Yamaha holding on for dear life. The Suzuki boys, Rins and Mir, appear disillusioned, watching their teams disintegrate beneath them.

And so it goes in grand prix yachting. I expect that latest division amongst the racing cognoscenti is whether Marquez can bring it back home again, like, in 2023, 2024? He needs a better bike, which Honda has generally provided. No sense in gathering input from PEsp any longer, as his head is unlikely to still be in the game. Nor does he appear to be at all effective as a wingman. Anyway, I think the top three riders at this moment–Fabio, Aleix and EBas–will not be the same three at the top of the heap heading to Valencia. In my unsolicited opinion, I think Fabio is in trouble at tracks like Mugello and Red Bull Ring. Assen is the fastest track on the calendar. He is so unlikely to maintain his clean slate, and when it goes, there goes his lead in the series. Aleix is making it look easy, a third of the way through the season, and EBas is threatening to run away with things.

Somewhere in me resides the thought that the guys who’ve avoided gravel traps thus far are due for a visit. That once Fabio loses his grip on the title, his successor will have a brief ride at the top. The greatest movements, the worst movements, are a DNF at this point. The figures would argue that the riders most at risk of a DNF at this time are Fabio, Aleix, EBas and Rins. This is the type of season in which the MotoGP announcers begin wetting themselves,  waxing euphoric about “those precious _____ points.”

Similar to their race strategy at certain tracks, perhaps the riders don’t actually want to be in the lead this early in the season, especially since there is no runaway winner who needs stopping. It is simply vital that the riders gathered at the top of the heap today remain upright on race days, that they continue to gather points no matter what, that they know who and what is ahead of them and behind them. That they take no stupid risks that would jeopardize another rider.

So far, IMHO, this season is shaping up exactly the way fans want it. There are three Aliens at this moment. There is a host of challengers waiting for someone in front of them to fall. There is just so much riding on every turn, the race, the season, the silly season, which brand is on the upswing, which brand is heading down? Competition amongst the teams–first and foremost, beat your teammate.

It’s fair to expect financial pressures to force teams to cut costs, a process well beyond the scope of this effort. We’e been down this road before and have been breaking all-time track records along the way. If I were a betting man I would be that all the money spent on winglets is all the money that will get spent, i.e., no more R&D on winglets with wind tunnels and etc. Beyond that I don’t know, other than them that has, gets.

Some teams are scratching their heads this year.l LCR Honda. Factory Suzuki. Gresini, current employer of EBas. Jack Miller needs to pull a rabbit out of his hat to keep his current seat. Why does Alex Rins appear to be odd man out during this silly season? Riding Aprilia for Leopard Racing, that could work.

This week is Mugello, one of the great venues in this sport. So much history, none of which I can remember, but I know it’s out there. Perhaps the best slipstream anywhere, adds a whole new dimension to bike racing. The noise. As we like to say out here in Hoosierville, “MotoGP is one of God’s great gifts to mankind. It. Just. Is.

So go tell your friends. Tell them it’s the best sport on two wheels. Ever.

Rumors 5/8/2022–quick hitters

May 8, 2022

Motorsports.com reports that the Mir for Espargaro exchange is in the works.

https://www.motorcyclesports.net/articles/farewell-pol-espargaro-honda-opens-doors-for-joan-mir

Even better–Leopard Racing has made clear its intention to secure a two bike slot on the MotoGP grid, with Aprilia machinery, giving the world its much-desired Aprilia satellite team. This would fill the hole left by Suzuki’s departure at the end of the season. From motorsports.com.

https://www.msn.com/en-ca/sports/motorsports/leopard-racing-interested-in-replacing-suzuki-in-motogp/ar-AAWXhnc

At issue is HRC’s intention not to continue with the services of Pol Espargaro for 2023 and then create the conditions for a new rider to enter the team’s garage. The Spaniard is in his second season with Repsol Honda and, despite the improvement in his results compared to 2021, the truth is that the Catalan is still not impressing, with only two podiums and one pole position. 

Dubai Autodrome Racing bikes action as captured by KTdrones!

https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.513.0_en.html#goog_1557719161

00:00% Buffered

Espargaro, it should be remembered, signed for two years with a third option from Honda, but Gazzetta dello Sport reports this Friday that that clause will not be activated, leaving the rider free to choose his future in 2023.

At the same time, this situation opens the door to the entry of Joan Mir, a long time wish of Alberto Puig and who has already been in negotiations with the Japanese giant in the past. Mir was due to renew his contract with Suzuki, but an alleged decision by the manufacturer to pull out of MotoGP eliminated any chance of a renewal. However, now the window of opportunity has opened for the Mir/Honda marriage to finally move forward.

It should be remembered that Joan Mir is 24 years old and is one of the most hyped riders on the grid, much to the credit of the world titles won in 2020 in the premier class and in 2017 in Moto3, at the time riding a Honda.

Suzuki Departure Scrambles MotoGP Grid

May 3, 2022

Monday’s shock announcement that Suzuki will withdraw from MotoGP at the end of the current season has rattled a number of cages amongst the jet set in the grand prix motorcycle racing community. It puts to rest my conjecture that they would field a satellite team at some point in the foreseeable future; consider my personal cage rattled. It leaves riders Joan Mir and Alex Rins facing homelessness come November. It applies pressure to the Aprilia organization to field a satellite team in the foreseeable future, lest conjecture about their own future starts to circulate, causing jangling nerves amongst their current and prospective riders. Finally, it throws a spanner in the works of an already unclear silly season for 2023.

One thing Suzuki’s withdrawal means: the essential Theory of MotoGP is flawed. To wit, participation, and doing well, in MotoGP appears not to increase demand for the street bikes the OEMs are desperate to sell. Otherwise, the Dorna monster is simply a hole in the ocean where CEOs of the manufacturers go to throw away their money, in addition to getting massive hard-ons when they win a title.

The first bit of scuttlebutt to emerge from this developing debacle is the likelihood that Pol Espargaro will lose his seat on the #2 Repsol Honda to Mir. The permutations and combinations following this likely move will occupy MOrons for the remainder of the season.

Readers are encouraged to speculate/theorize/ take wild ass guesses below. This is one of the biggest developments in our sport in a decade. As usual, please keep it civilized as you let your wild imaginations run free. Once we start preparing for Le Mans, I will collect all of the comments, wad them in a big ball, and toss them over the rail.

2022-suzuki-launch-mirrins5_1643999608-e1644000200988


%d bloggers like this: