Archive for the ‘Moto2’ Category

MotoGP 2022 Round 6: Gran Premio Red Bull de España (Jerez)

May 1, 2022

Practice and Qualifying

Alex Rins and Joan Mir dominated the proceedings on Friday, to a resounding “Who cares?” from the rabid, mostly Spanish crowd. FP3 on Saturday morning saw Pecco Bagnaia and his Ducati GP22 rise from the ashes of a miserable start to the 2022 season to lead the combined practice standings, trailed by Fabulous Fabio and (who?) Takaa Nakagami, making a cameo appearance, along with his satellite Honda, near the top of the time sheets. Marc Marquez continued his epic struggles in 2022, needing a tow from Jack Miller to scrounge P4, with Miller the last of ten riders to move directly into Q2..

Q1 saw rookie Marco Bezzecchi (a continuing surprise to me) hovering near the top for the entire session, ending up in P2 and moving on to Q2 after Johann Zarco, who seems to do something like this every time out, laid down a late burner to take P1 and bump hard-luck Pol Espargaro to P13 on Sunday’s grid. Alex Rins and Brad Binder looked capable of moving through but were unable to reach deep enough.

Q2 was, as always, a heart-stopper. With crashes from Jorge Martin, Joan Mir and Enea Bastianini bringing out a bevy of yellow flags, the battle for pole went like this:

Rider             Time left when taking the lead

J. Mir                               10:30

J. Miller                              9:00

P. Bagnaia                          8:50

F. Quartararo                      8:45

Bagnaia                              2:45          1:36.170 new track record

Bagnaia’s lap was half a second faster than Quartararo, which equates to an hour in dog years. The first three rows in Sunday’s race, from which the winner will doubtless emerge given how tight the layout is, include Quartararo, Aleix Aprilia, Miller, M Marquez, Zarco and the pesky Nakagami, punching above his weight, along with Bezzecchi and Mir. The weather forecast for Sunday looks perfect.

Race Day

Once again, Jerez failed to disappoint the thousands of sober, drunk and/or stoned Spaniards in attendance. Speaking from experience, the combination of hot weather and stimulants can often cause unconsciousness. Not today, as all three of the internal combustion-powered races had something for every taste and budget. In Moto3, seventeen year-old sophomore sensation Izan Guevara showed remarkable race craft as he swept from P4 at the end of LP 21 to take the win away from countrymen Sergio Garcia and Jaume Masia. KTM Turk Deniz Oncu led the majority of the race, but got de-pantsed at the end by the Spanish trio. Today’s top finishers occupy four of the top slots in the 2022 race, with the mysterious Dennis Foggia finishing out of the points. His deficit to series leader Garcia grew from a single point to a discouraging 21. With last year’s rookie sensation Pedro Acosta having a difficult go of things up in Moto2, Guevara seems to have seized the title of The Next Great Spanish Rider. Dude doesn’t look old enough to shave.

The Moto2 tilt featured a wire-to-wire exhibition by Ai Ogura, who has been tipped for greatness for a couple years despite never having stood on the top step of the podium. That all changed today, as he opened a can of whup-ass on the grid and was never seriously challenged. Joined on the podium by Aron Canet, riding with a freshly broken arm, and an increasingly impressive rookie Tony Arbolino, Ogura seized the title of The Rider Most Likely to Unseat Takaa Nakagami on the MotoGP Idemetsu LCR Honda next year. The Moto2 championship after Round 6 features leader Celestino Vietti (100 pts), Ogura with 81, Arbolino with 70, tough-as-a-$2-steak Canet at 69, and the Great American Hope, Joe Roberts, barely in the picture in P5 with 57 points, possibly in contention for The Next Colin Edwards award.

The MotoGP race was billed all weekend as a showdown between Ducati pilot Pecco Bagnaia and smooth as silk Fabio Quartararo, the only one of four riders able to get a single frigging thing out of the Yamaha YZR-M1. The race, indeed, featured #63 and #20 in a daylong battle, with Quartarao unable to put his front wheel in front of Bagnaia for even a split second. The two ended up, like, 10 seconds in front of eventual P3 finisher Aleix Espargaro, who will get the blame for Aprilia having lost its treasured concessions going forward. Aleix took advantage of a mistake by Marc Marquez on Lap 22, eating Jack Miller’s lunch at the same time and moving from P5 to P3, where he remained for the rest of the race. Marquez took out his anger on Miller on the last lap to take P4, a surprisingly robust finish given the fact that he was unable to turn a fast lap all weekend without stealing a blatant tow from several faster riders. It appears that Marquez has regained his previously dominant form while the 2022 RC213V is a dog. Marquez fans can hope that next year’s iteration of the bike will be up to their previous standards; there appears to be nothing wrong with the eight-time world champion.

Today’s P2 for Quartararo allowed him to establish a lead in the 2022 championship of seven (7) points over the now-scary Aleix Espargaro, who finally has a competitive ride beneath him and is showing the race craft of a veteran of 13 frustrating premier class seasons. Suzuki enigma Alex Rins slipped from a tie for P1 into a tie for P3 with Enea Bastianini, whose early-season magic has faded somewhat of late. Bagnaia’s haul of 25 points today puts him at 56 for the season. Last year, he waited until Round 13 at Aragon to make any noise; he appears to have started early this season, and must be viewed as the most serious challenger to Quartararo for the 2022 championship.

The fervent nationalism found in MotoGP left a number of fans cursing today, with a Japanese rider and a cursed Italian standing on the Moto2 podium and another cursed Italian and a cursed Frenchman occupying the top two steps of the MotoGP podium. Everywhere else it was all Spaniards, cold consolation for having a single Spanish race winner at (one of) the Spanish Grands Prix (out of a total of four on the calendar). The premier class appears to be a lost cause for Spain this year with only Aleix and Rins in serious contention; neither has been close to a MotoGP title in a combined 19 premier class seasons. Perhaps the Aprilia is enough bike to propel Aleix to a championship in 2022; the smart Euros, however, are being bet on Bagnaia, with Quartararo attracting a healthy number of French wagers.. The season is unfolding as expected, with a half dozen credible threats to win it all in 2022.

Le Mans beckons in two weeks, followed by Mugello. Life is good in MotoGP. Plus, the brolly girls are back. There’s also an image of the massive Jerez Cathedral for your pleasure.

Simon Crafar and Steve Day

April 24, 2022

© Bruce Allen              June 4, 2018

If you have some real miles on your odometer, this will make more sense.

Simon Crafar2

 

Steve Day

Flounder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not Dylan Gray. Not Nick Harris.

I get it that Simon Crafar was kind of a big deal in motorcycle racing some years ago, and is a SME regarding motorcycle racing in general. He is nervous, and doesn’t possess a great reservoir of questions when he’s conducting an interview. Despite his wealth of knowledge, he consistently asks riders these squishy “how does it feel” questions that many are reluctant, unprepared or unable (in a second language) to answer.

On Sunday, Simon conducted possibly the worst interview EVER of Valentino Rossi, a task which is usually a lay-down, as Rossi is usually happy to have a mic stuck in his face. It took place in the midst of a riveting Moto3 race in which Rossi had some pronounced interest in several of the riders up front. Simon gets in his grill, delivers his “I’m here with nine-time world champion…” opener, and asks, “Who do you think will win?” Rossi, confused, thinking he’s still the MotoGP guy, stammers about how Jorge is strong and Iannone… when Simon interrupts, saying “No, the Moto3 race!” Rossi: “No idea.” Simon, equipped this time with a follow-up, asks, “How’s it feel to win pole here at Mugello?” “Rossi: “Is good.”  Simon: “Back to you, guys.”

As I was getting over this mess, it occurred to me that Matt and your boy Steve need to bring Simon up to speed, as it were, on a few of the finer points of MotoGP announcing:

  • They switched from 125s to 250s in Moto3 in 2012. They no longer run 125s.
  • The word is “best,” not “bist.”
  • He needs to focus on more technical questions, which will require that he employ the open probe “when,” as in, “When did you know you could win the race?” or, “When did you feel your front tire starting to melt?”
  • The season is a third over. Time to move on from “How does it feel?”

As for Steve Day, I saw him on camera for the first time and could not shake the image of Flounder, from Animal House, from my head. Here I expected a buff, English kind of jock who happened to have a high voice. Instead, it’s Stephen Furst in his mid-30’s, appears to possibly never have been on a motorcycle, and who gets his panties in a twist at the slightest provocation. OK, it’s fine to try to inject some excitement, but, for the most part, the action is exciting on its own. He needs to speak more calmly, as if he’s been there before, and in a lower register. They appear to be under orders to sound as utterly British as possible–rough treatment in a turn is “naughty.”  Both Matt and Steve are excellent at identifying riders during the heat of battle. But, whatever MotoGP does, it should keep Steve Day off TV. Better to put on Otis Day and the Nights.

Not Dylan Gray. Not Nick Harris.

 

2022 MotoGP Circuit of the Americas, Round 4

April 8, 2022

There was a bit of a kerfuffle when yellow flags came out at the end of FP3, interrupting hot laps for a number of riders and resulting in a Q1 featuring eight MotoGP race winners out of the 12. Q1 was mostly a non-event, with wonderkid Jorge Martin bitch-slapping the field on his way to an easy entry into Q2 with Alex Rins only slightly behind.

Q2 was pretty exciting for Ducati fans, as Jorge Martin took pole away from Jack Miller on his last flying lap (by 3/1000ths of a second!) with the big red machines occupying the top five slots on the grid, a scene we may see more often, courtesy of the genius of Gigi Dallig’na. The top five also included Pecco Bagnaia, who appears to have figured out the GP22, along with Zarco and The Beast . This was the first top five lockout in qualifying for Ducati since they entered the premier class in 2003. The fact is, none of the other teams even field five bikes, so if anyone is going to post five for five it’s going to be Ducati. The rest of the front three rows, the only guys with a real chance to win tomorrow’s race, were Quartararo, Rins, Mir and Marquez, who, at this point in his career, is looking like Just Another Fast Rider who will win at some tracks and won’t be a threat to podium at others. This is a rough sport.

For the record, sitting on pole in Moto2 tomorrow will be the great American hope Cameron Beaubier; Andrea Migno occupies the top slot in Moto3.

Here is a comment from loyal reader OldMoron who watched the race before I did:

Wow! Fantastic race. Waiting for Moto3 to start, but in no hurry as I’m still enjoying the MotoGP afterglow.

I needed a great MotoGP race to make up for the disappointment of Moto2. That was a good race, too. But I wanted better for CamBeaub. Oh well, very happy to the Moto2 podium, with most of them getting up there for the first time.

Don’t know what the heck happened to MM at the start. Would’ve loved to see him and Beastie cutting each other up. The consolation was watching Marc and Fabio going at it. Full credit to Quarty. The other Yamahas are nowhere. He’s riding the wheels off that bike. If the Yam is not stronger on the Euro tracks, they might lose Quarty next year.

Thank you, sir, for your loyal readership for 13 years. You are THE MAN!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

This will be the race people remember owing to Marc Marquez having a major technical issue at the start, falling from P9 to P24 in the first three turns. Any chance he had had of winning on Sunday was summarily dismissed. He then proceeded to slice up ts the field, with winning pace, on his way to a heroic P6 finish. A helluva lot of work for 10 points.

Jack Miller took the lead on Lap 1 and held it for most of the day, dueling first with Jorge Martin, who faded to a P8 finish as the Pramac Ducatis seemed to lose grip mid-race; Zarco, who was in the lead group for most of the first half of the race, finished in P9. Later in the day, Miller would have his lunch money stolen by new series leader Enea Bastianini, who has established himself as a legitimate title contender in only his second premier class season. One of the many things he has going for himself, in addition to being very gentle on his tires, is that he sits on a Ducati GP21, probably the best bike on the grid, certainly superior to the GP22. I expect Ducati will iron out the wrinkles on the 22 in time to make next year’s GP23 ferocious.

Alex Rins had an impressive weekend, overtaking Miller late on the last lap for a P2 podium, 2021 was a total disaster for the Spaniard (everyone should watch MotoGP Unlimited on Prime, the gritty documentary covering the 2021 season, warts and all), but he appears to have solved his Suzuki this year, finishing in the top ten in all four rounds, and lately on the podium twice. When he was coming up through the junior classes there rumors that, as a teenager, he was faster than #93, but his premier class career has been one continuous disappointment. Trailing series leader Bastianini by a mere five points in P2 for the year, he has established himself as contender in 2022.

Bastianini had a fabulous weekend, hanging around near the top of the charts during the practice sessions, and slotting himself into P5 during Q2 while Jorge Martin established an all-time lap record. He sat in P3 and P4 during most of the race, dispatched Martin on Lap 12 and Miller on Lap 16, taking the lead he would hold without too much trouble until the checkered flag waved. This gives him two wins in four rounds, leading a ridiculously competitive field. At 5’6″ he is the right size to compete in motorcycle racing. The world, at this point in time, appears to be his oyster.

Jack Miller finished the day in P3 and on the podium, a frustrating outcome in a race he might have won if he had taken better care of his rear tire. He and teammate Pecco Bagnaia are in the midst of a forgettable year. And while Bagnaia still smells like a title contender (perhaps not this year but certainly in the future), it looks all but certain that Miller will lose his factory seat to Jorge Martin for next year. Whether Miller will accept a demotion to the Pramac team or seek greener pastures remains to be seen.

It seems likely that a good number of riders are going to change teams, and manufacturers, before next season. The Rider Most Likely to Abandon Yamaha is undoubtedly Fabio Quartararo, as the M1 can barely get out of its own way this season. Quartararo, riding like a demon, has amassed 42 points for the year. Morbidelli, Dovizioso and D. Binder have, between them, a total of 23 points. Dovizioso and Morbidelli are sucking canal water this year, with Morbidelli likely to leave Yamaha and Dovizioso likely to leave MotoGP altogether. It’s too early to tell whether Brad Binder’s little brother has anything going on. And, as an afterthought, the satellite Honda team (Takaa Nakagami and Alex Marquez) needs to be turned upside down and shaken hard; Marquez is hopeless, and Nakagami, the current Great Japanese Hope, isn’t getting it done, either.

Championship standings after 4 rounds:

1        Enea Bastianini       61

2        Alex Rins                56

3        Aleix Espargaro      50

4        Joan Mir                 46

5        Fabio Quartararo    44

6        Brad Binder            42

7        Jack Miller              31

8        Johann Zarco         31

9        Miguel Oliveira       28

10      Jorge Martin           28

Noteworthy is how Suzuki has quietly placed both riders in the top four. Rugged KTM pilot Brad Binder sits in P6 and must still be regarded as a title contender. We will learn in Europe whether Aleix Espargaro is a one hit wonder or a true contender after most of a decade spent as an afterthought. In two weeks the flying circus returns to Europe at Portimao, where it will begin the process of separating the men from the boys.

I’m out.

Watching MotoGP–broadcast, video feed

March 8, 2022

By Bruce Allen

Lots of conversation amongst you motorheads about watching the races, TV vs. the Dorna video feed and so forth. The only race I’ve ever watched on TV was the 2008 classic at Laguna Seca, where Rossi out-raced Casey Stoner, eventually putting his dick in the dirt. I remember this one, because my write-up of that race earned me the lofty title of MotoGP correspondent at Motorcycle.com for the next 10 or 12 years. I was unaware that it was one of the most exciting races in MotoGP history. I remember not appreciating the TV commercial breaks and thought the announcers were new at their jobs, too.

Fourteen years later, I’m starting to get this sport figured out. I’ve purchased the video feed during the entire period and have never regretted doing so. There’s so much more content available on it–all four classes (counting e-bikes), practice sessions (where FP3 is occasionally more interesting than the race itself.) Moto3 is usually the best race on Sunday. Then there are the announcers.

I can’t speak to the TV announcers, but am happy to talk a little bit about the crew on the video feed. I’ve always been a fan of Matt Birt, even though he jocks the sport way too hard, in my opinion. He often describes a win as “a famous victory,” which is a hoot, given the fact that MotoGP is a parlor game in the world of sports. Famous wins take place around the world in soccer and in the three or four major sports in the U.S.

For 2022, color man Steve Day has been relieved of his duties for this season, replaced by the obscure but capable Lewis Suddaby. One thing I won’t miss about Mr. Day is the incessant high-pitched shrieking he brought to every overtake in every race, raising my hackles. Appearance-wise, he reminded me of Flounder in Animal House (“You f**cked up, Flounder. You trusted us.”) Then there’s Simon Crafar, the former rider stationed in the pits.

Opinions on Simon’s skill set vary widely. Having been a rider, he can and does provide useful insights as to what’s happening on the track. This part of his job he does very well. But no one can argue that his interviewing skills are non-existent. He seems incapable of framing good questions for the guys he interviews, and doesn’t appear to be at all familiar with what are generally referred to as “follow-up questions.” It appears he also doesn’t do his homework and comes unprepared for the interviews. Most of the time, he flails around making a comment about the subject at hand, appears to give up, and asks the interviewee, “So, what did you think?” or something equally inane. “What do you think?” “What are you thinking?” Here he is, supremely qualified to pose technical questions to riders and team bosses, and he consistently drops the ball, going instead with his dopey question, as if he’s taking a survey.

For those of you either too cheap or insufficiently interested to spend $125 on the feed–which works out to about $6 per round–I’ve posted the TV schedule for the entire season. You will notice that most of the races are tape-delayed, meaning you will often know the outcome of the race before it is shown. If that works for you, be my guest. Spend your $6 on a large frappuccino with an extra shot, heavy on the whipped cream. Enjoy the commercials and the lightweight commentary. And don’t worry about taking part in the conversations about Moto2 and Moto3, (I suppose you could visit Crash.net to find out what happened in the lightweight and intermediate classes. If that’s the case, prepare to get flamed by guys like OldMoron and Starmag for bringing opinions similar to the North Platte River in Nebraska–a mile wide and an inch deep.)

Let’s discuss.

Hanging up my laptop, for now UPDATED

October 3, 2021

© Bruce Allen  October 3, 2021

It’s race day. At what’s left of COTA, in Austin, the racing surface so bad there was talk of the riders boycotting the round. Maverick Vinales is absent due to the tragic death of his cousin? nephew? racing a motorcycle. Although your boy Fabio has the championship pretty well wrapped up, Bagnaia has finally started performing up to his potential and Marquez is showing renewed signs of life, so the 2021 race remains interesting. There has been a horde of young fast movers making their way into the premier class. Paging KTM and Ducati. Someone somewhere is comparing the average age of the grid in 2011 with the average today, discovering, no doubt, that the field is getting younger and, according to Methuselah, more reckless.

All of which is meant to distract you, the reader, from my decision to quit writing about MotoGP for now, as it has dropped sufficiently down on my list of priorities, since Nancy died in August, to make the work seem trivial, inconsequential, undeserving of my mental energy when I have so much else I need to think about. Sure, I intend to keep watching races and probably a few qualifying sessions just to keep my oar in the water. I need to maintain interest in my hobbies and avocations lest one of these doctors declares me clinically depressed. We wouldn’t want that.

I’m having some minor health issues–some hernias to repair, the sudden need for a crown on a back molar–and one serious one, in that I am no longer able to manage my blood sugar adequately with meds and will probably end up shooting up insulin, showing the younger grandkids how to tie it off, heat the spoon, the whole deal.

Part of my current problem is that I tend to come a bit unglued each day very early in the morning, at the time I used to do my writing about racing and a few other topics. I can’t type through my tears, which leads me to the edge of the journalistic abyss, questioning why I’m even trying to do this stuff when I feel so bad. I did some writing about Nancy a month ago and it made me feel absolutely no better.

My counselor says that until I can tell Nancy’s story without losing my shit I will not be on my way back to feeling normal. She says I should go to group therapy and practice telling Nancy’s story, over and over, every two weeks, until practicing doing so makes it easier to do actually get through it intact in the world. I’m going along with everything so my daughters don’t accuse me of being difficult or recalcitrant, which I’m usually not anyway.

I was going through the mail yesterday, doing fine, when I opened an envelope from American International Group which contained a check payable to me, the proceeds of the life insurance contract I insisted she buy years ago. It was, by far, the largest amount of money I’ve ever held in my hands. Despite the fact that I bought the policy before she was diagnosed, the fact that it paid a death benefit, to me alone, seems unfair and selfish. Imagine having had that money, money we could simply blow, back when she was healthy and vibrant. Back to Ireland and Spain, travel to Italy and Austria, Scandinavia, wherever.

So. On to just being a spectator and fan. For now. Once I get her ‘estate’ settled and get my health under control–in other words, when I have absolutely nothing to do–I may return to this site and grace you with my petulant observations. Perhaps in time for the season opener in 2022 under the lights. Until then, you must know that the only thing that has kept me doing this thing since Motorcycle.com broke up with me is you guys and your comments–sometimes prescient, always informed–telling me you enjoy my work. Otherwise, I might have been outta here last year. Anyway, thank you all for the kind words over the years and may the farce be with you forever.

Bruce stock photo 2021jpg

Top 10 Riders after COTA:

Quartararo 254* *mortal lock

Bagnaia 202

Mir 176

Miller 148

Zarco 141

Binder 131

M Marquez 117

A Espargaro 104

Vinales 98

Oliveira 92

Dispatches from the front updated my

October 2, 2021

Reports on the Grand Prix of the United States, or whatever, from our erstwhile reporters in the field.

Screenshot (557)

Maverick Vinales, will miss the race due to a death in the family.

Buzz Says:

Day 1: The gully washer storm turned into blistering heat and humidity. I missed FP1. FP2 was great to watch because, as the announcers were saying, the Saturday forecast was for more heavy rain so they were going to try to turn their best times in FP2.

Marquez went straight to the top in the early stages and then the tops spot became Fabio, Miller, Pecco but it was all for naught. At the end of the session 93 turned in a fast lap and finished FP2 #1.

Rossi finished the session with a wave and a wheelie as the fans cheered. 46 gear is everywhere as usual. What will MotoGP do without him?

Saturday morning: Wake up to bright blue skies! No rain in the forecast but it is Texas so wait 15 minutes as they say. Gonna be smoking hot today but hopefully not as humid.

Buzz Says:

Picked a Pecco of pickled peppers. Kaboom! Great Q2 session today. It was 93,93 93 at the top of the board and then Pecco turned up the heat and came flying by our turn 15 grandstand and snagged the pole as time was running out. The first Italian to claim 3 straight poles since Methuselah in 2009.

Many more people at the track today compared to yesterday. No rain. Just blistering heat and humidity. Can someone please tell Texas it’s fall now and it’s ok to cool down? It’s amazing what these guys can do riding this hard in full leathers in this heat. I was in shorts and a t-shirt and feeling Verklempt.

Moto2 qualifying has been awesome. My small group even agreed the triples sound better than the diesels at speed. Awesome shrieking sound and incredibly fast.

Overall, another great day. The vendors and other activities are naturally reduced compared to previous years but everyone here is so cheerful and so pleased we get to experience this again.

MotoGP returns, sort of

September 14, 2021

© Bruce Allen    September 14, 2021

MotoGP Round 13: Aragon

OK, so I can’t do this yet. I did watch all three races Sunday and have this to offer.

In Moto3, Pedro Acosta has assumed the mantle of The Blessed Rider of 2021, crashing out of the proceedings, only to be followed later in the race by a gagging Sergio Garcia, who, tampered with no doubt by The Racing Gods, crashed out of a podium spot and a chance to make the 2021 Moto3 championship competitive. The race tightened up behind Garcia, but who cares? Acosta’s lead stays at 46 points with five rounds left. This was his first, and probably last, DNF of the season. He’s been promoted to the best team in Moto2 for next season. The world is his oyster, as it were.

In Moto2, it was all Raul Fernandez up front, once Sam Lowes crashed out of the lead on Lap 13, which our erstwhile reporter predicted on Lap 2 (see notes). Remy Gardner (P2) and Fernandez will remain teammates next year in the big leagues; it’s almost as if they’re joined at the wrists and ankles. Of the two, all of my money is on the 20-year old Fernandez in the Most Likely to Become an Alien poll. There just aren’t any great Anglo riders, besides which I have a distaste for nepotism in all its forms.

IMG-4327

Lots of crashers on Sunday, one of whom, Marco Bezzecchi, waved goodbye to his last remaining title hopes. He may still get promoted to MotoGP, if not this coming year then the th year following.

The MotoGP race devolved into one of the great two-man chases of recent memory, with 6-time MotoGP champ Marc Marquez, still on the mend from an injury suffered last year, chasing young Alien-in-Waiting Pecco Bagnaia and his Ducati all day, from the holeshot won by the Italian to the last three laps, which were stunning. Seven times Marquez showed Bagnaia his front wheel, and seven times Bagnaia denied him. Bagnaia, the second coming of Jorge Lorenzo without the bluster, has the high squeaky voice you want in your Italian race winners for their post-race interviews, in which they often sound like they’re on helium. Bagnaia was due, anyway. I look forward to watching these two battle for the next few years.

Have I mentioned sometime this year that there is a s**tload of fast young riders out there these days, on great machines. Marquez and Fabio, Bagnaia and Jorge Martin and Franco and Miller and Mir and even old Aleix. Pedro Acosta just turned 17. Knowing that at least one of you will, I haven’t bothered to look at total race times this year compared to years past, but I expect they’re going down gradually, but consistently.

If you look at point totals since Germany and divide the grid accordingly, you get as close to a legit tranche as anyone. Here are the standings since Sachsenring:

1.       Quartararo             99

Mir                        79

Binder                    74

Bagnaia                  73

2.       M Marquez             63

A Espargaro           52

Martin 52

3.       Rins                       45

Miller                     39

Zarco       36              

Oliveira                  33

Nakagami              33

4.       P Espargaro            26

Lecuona                 25

A Marquez              24

Vinales                   20

5.       Bastianini               16

Marini                    15

Rossi                     14

(Morbidelli)

There’s a little weirdness going on in these ranking, but facts is facts. And it doesn’t really matter what you might have done early in the year if you’re not doing it now.

Vinales and Rossi are done and dusted. The MotoGP neighborhood has changed over. Parties on the weekends are going to keep getting better.

Sorry Folks, it’s Too Soon

August 29, 2021

I expected to do my usual slovenly job this weekend, covering all three MotoGP races, and there was plenty of material to work with. I watched “Peccorino” Romano Fenati dominate everything all weekend in Moto3. I got thrown off the MotoGP site for the entire premier class race–awesome–but watched your boy Fabio put his boot on the throat of the 2021 championship later in the day. I tuned into the Moto2 race just in time to catch the order of finish–Gardner, Bezzecchi and Navarro–minus Raul Fernandez who, I’m told, crashed late, putting a big old suppurating gash in his championship aspirations.

But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t write it. Sure, I’m happy Dovi is re-employed at Yamaha where he had success earlier in his career. I’m happy Pol got a Pole and Aleix got himself a podium. But compared to what we have going on here, it just seemed somehow inappropriate. As in, what am I doing cracking jokes about motorcycles when our three daughters just lost their mom? If I were a serious writer, writing about serious subjects, using serious words, perhaps I could cobble up something. But the cheap laughs just aren’t working for me this week, and without them, I’m just another scribbler.

So, on to Aragon. I will keep trying this until it starts working again. Thanks for your patience.

MotoGP: 2022 Rider Lineup SWAG

June 29, 2021

© Bruce Allen  June 29, 2021

Screenshot (557)

Maverick Vinales, managing his career.

Making the turn on the 2021 season with a long break until Round 10 at Red Bull Ring in August. We have a pretty good contest in the premier class, although your boy Fabio appears to be feeling it. Perhaps the break will cool him off. Or perhaps while laying around sunning himself in Cadiz he’ll contract some kind of, um, social disease. There are riders whose stars are rising and others who are visibly falling. Talk amongst y’selves. I want to talk about the rider lineup for 2022. Not 2023, not looking beyond the one year.

Repsol Honda appears to be set with Marquez and Espargaro. Pol will have to show more next year than he has this year if he intends to keep that seat, as every team on the grid wants a shot at Pedro Acosta after next season, meaning the 17 year-old Moto3 phenom will be signed mid-2022. By someone.

Monstar Yamaha will have Quartararo and A Rider to be Named Later, given Maverick Vinales’ curious defection to Aprilia. Rider ego again, as previously demonstrated by Rossi and Lorenzo–if I’m not The Man, and none of the three were/are–I’m going elsewhere and will show them what they lost. And going to Ducati, as Rossi and Lorenzo did, is a helluva lot different than running off to Aprilia in order to extract vengeance. These ego-driven moves generally don’t work out. Jorge Lorenzo, one of the great riders, was out of the sport two years after making his move.

Lenovo Ducati is set with Miller and Bagnaia.

Suzuki is set with Alex Rins and Joan Mir, although Rins will need to stay on his bike in the first half of 2022 if he wants a new contract thereafter. After an impressive run during his wonder years in the premier class his trajectory was highly positive. It is now flat, accompanied by a host of excuses. Joan Mir is an excellent rider who still needs more bike under him to compete for wins. Podiums, yes; wins, no. When you’re measuring thousandths of a second, a few extra horsepower can make a difference.

Aprilia is “set” with Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales. My expectations for the team, once again, are minimal. Aleix is good but not great, and I’m glad someone wants Vinales on their team. It says here Aleix Espargaro will be out of MotoGP by the end of 2023.

Red Bull KTM is totally set with Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder, with a pipeline of formidable riders building behind them. The same cannot be said for the Tech 3 KTM team, with Remy Gardner on his way up from Moto2, to be joined, in my Sophisticated Wild Ass Guess (see headline), by Iker Lecuona, whose future is not terribly bright but who at least has some experience. It appears my boy Danilo Petrucci is on his way out of MotoGP, which is a shame.

LCR Honda is set with Takaa Nakagami and Alex Marquez, both of whom show occasional flashes, neither of whom is going anywhere in a macro sense. Ai Ogura appears likely to be the next Japanese rider on the MotoGP grid, whether as a replacement for or in addition to Nakagami. It’s too soon to give up on Alex Marquez, but he has a long row to hoe in the next year.

As for the host of satellite Ducati teams, the Gresini Ducati effort appears to be set with Enea Bastianini and a newly-promoted Fabio di Giannantonio. Bastianini is paying dues this year that FDG will be paying next year. Not convinced about either rider at this early stage, but the ghost of Fausto Gresini will be smiling at finally having secured two Italian riders, rather than those stronzo Spaniards he was stuck with for so many years.

Pramac Ducati is set with Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin, fall and spring, experienced and inexperienced, calculating and rookie reckless. Zarco could win himself a championship this year; Martin’s best years are yet to come and he has a world of talent. Not to mention stones the size of manhole covers.

The new Aramco VR46 Ducati team will feature sophomore Luca Marini, brother of the team principal, and another Italian rider, most likely Marco Bezzecchi, up from Moto2. I expect Rossi to field a competitive team in the next three years. We shall see if Marini’s expected job security allows him to search out his potential in a win-or-bin mode, which is easy to do on the Ducati.

Finally, it is hard to watch Marquez struggle in his comeback. Certainly, his crash at Jerez has cost him two seasons. We shall find out whether the bill will be ultimately be bigger than that. I personally hate to think that such a transcendent talent as Marc Marquez would have his time at the top truncated by an injury. Perhaps fans should be grateful he’s not in a wheelchair. Next year, I expect, will tell the story.

I’ll get back on the blog during break if anything worth discussing takes place. Enjoy your summer.

 

MotoGP 2021 Journal Round Seven: Catalunya

June 6, 2021

© Bruce Allen   June 6, 2021

Heading into Sunday, Round Seven looked like it could be a Yamaha clambake. So how come there were no Yamahas on the MotoGP podium on Sunday afternoon? Plus it looked like Fabio had a major itching issue late in the race. Is it possible he picked up something over the weekend?

Wednesday

Remy Gardner from Moto2 to KTM Tech 3 next year; unemployment looms for Petrux and Lecuona. KTM will promote Gardner’s teammate Raul Fernandez, too, before the end of the season if he continues his winning ways. These Austrian guys are serious about motorcycle racing.

Turns out the new improved KTM machines like Mugello, delivering all four riders to the checkered flag—Oliveira P2, Binder P5, Petrucci P9 and Lecuona P11. Five riders, some likely to have beaten these guys, crashed out. In order to finish first…

Tranches after Mugello:

T1:     Quartararo, Mir, Bagnaia, Miller

T2:     Vinales, Zarco, Binder, Nakagami, Morbidelli

T3:     Rins, A Espargaro, M Marquez, P Espargaro, Oliveira

T4:     Rossi, A Marquez, Bastianini, Petrucci

T5:     Savadori, Lecuona, Marini, (Martin)

Of the winners of the last ten races in Barcelona, only three (Marquez, Rossi and Quartararo) will be on track this Sunday. Stoner, Lorenzo, Dovizioso all gone home, Rossi fixing to leave. The neighborhood has turned over; it’s the young guns who’ve begun to assert themselves, especially with Marquez wounded. Johann Zarco, who will be 31 in July, is an outlier. Aleix Espargaro, plucky as always, will be 32 in July. Whereas Fabio turned 22 in April, Pecco Bagnaia 24 in January. Jack Miller turned 26 in January. Joan Mir is 23. All this sounds like a good prop bet: Predict the combined age of the three riders on Sunday’s podium. Over/under is 75½. [The actual number on Sunday would be 83.]

Thursday

I just can’t deal with Alex Rins. Why can’t this guy stay on his bike (bicycle in this case), the sweetest-handling bike on the grid? He is Mr. Inconsistency in a sport that reveres consistency, the ability to turn laps less than a second apart for over half an hour. One of you said Frankie M could be taking Rins’ seat next year, with the Spaniard having to find new digs. And if I were Maverick Vinales, I would have to be worried about Frankie taking MY seat and having to confront the possibility of riding something other than a Yamaha M-1 (shudder) in the foreseeable future. Vinales raised everyone’s expectations so high during the first five rounds of his 2017 season that he will never—never—live up to them. Dude could use a change of scenery. So Rins is out for a few rounds—he’gotta be thinking about this stuff.

Friday

OK, so perhaps I’m tripping here at 4:30 am, but I’m confused about the all-time track record here at Catalunya. Looks to me like they re-configured a turn during the off-season, which negated all the previous track records, including, it appears, Jorge Lorenzo’s 2018 ATTR of 1:38.680. Along comes Aleix Espargaro, the elder, on an improved Aprilia RS-GP in 2021, who leads FP1 with a time of 1:40.378, and now the website (which is down, apparently fixing this glitch) shows Aleix with the ATTR. I offer this up in the hope that one or more of you will reply with a solution to this puzzle. As you know, our crack research staff, which thinks of itself as our Crack Research Staff, is notoriously unreliable when it comes to actual, um, research. They can, however, go on at unbearable length on the comparable qualities of rock vs. powder.

Otherwise, FP1 was just another FP1. #93 pedaling hard in P13. Rossi just another rider. The timing, for the young guns aiming at the title, couldn’t be better. The king has been wounded, and the previous king doesn’t have much game left. Joan Mir took advantage of the same situation last year. So The Usual Suspects have different faces than they did last year. Other than the Espargaro brothers, showing off for their homeys in Granollers, it was The New Usual Suspects at the top of the FP1 sheet. Ain’t nobody care.

Saturday

Valentino snuck directly into Q2 late in FP3, bumping Jack Miller back into the corral with the rest of The Great Unwashed—Nakagami, #93, Pol Espargaro. Rookie Enea Bastianini had some quicks on Friday but nothing on Saturday. Is it just me, or is it becoming customary for the factory KTMs to make it directly through to Q2? Binder and Oliveira appear to be coming into their own. Not Aliens, but Binder, especially, seems to be on the right track. On the other hand, take Alex Rins. Please.

Some other publication carried an interview with Maverick Vinales in which he implied, depending upon who’s doing the translation, that he could be leaving Yamaha, that his next contract could be with another builder. In doing so, he is doing a decent impression of my father’s career, during which he would periodically inform his boss that, in his opinion, his position was redundant, and his boss would then, reasonably, let him go. Is it too early to call Maverick a bust? If he didn’t burn bridges, could he conceivably re-appear with Suzuki as Mir’s teammate in 2022? Of course, this could all be a Samson & Delilah thing, that marriage and fatherhood have cut his hair, making him more aware than usual of the need to remain ambulatory and in one piece.

Just sayin’ that, upon further review, the observation (mine) concerning the similarity of surfing and slipstreaming was, I think, superb. One of my few interests is watching guys surf big waves on YouTube, 80-footers. There is what they call in physics a ‘moment’, the Moment of Truth, when, heading straight down the face of the wave, your speed is accelerating. You’ve caught the wave and you couldn’t get out if you tried without a disaster of possibly life-threatening proportions. On the track, these guys try to get in that stream, not always succeeding, but when they do, doing so in almost magical style, passing six, eight, ten riders into Turn 1, as at Mugello, Losail, places like that. It doesn’t appear Barcelona offers too much in the way of slipstreaming opportunities. Or surfing.

In Moto2 Remy Gardner, MotoGP-bound in 2022, led 14 riders into Q2. As usual, there were plenty of familiar names that made the cut and several more that didn’t. (The competition is so tight in Moto2 that there is little point in getting wound up about where a rider starts on the grid. Anywhere in the first five rows is fine.) Meanwhile, Gardner, rookie Raul Fernandez and Marco Bezzecchi are the three serious contenders for the series title this year. Fernandez has Alien, as they say, written all over him.

Looking at Moto3, young Pedro Acosta again failed to pass GO, forcing him to participate in Q1. This seems to happen more frequently than it should. Given his youth and inexperience, is it even possible that he dogs it in practice, in order to get the extra laps in Q1, on his way to Q2? This may be evidence of over-thinking on my part, but the boy does seem to love to ride and is 16 years old. If he passes through Q1 to Q2 and starts on the first three rows I’m calling BS, saying he’s sandbagging. There’s nothing to stop him, but it’s risky behavior. It may be that, during practice sessions, he has trouble locating a Spotify channel that moves him, and fiddles with his headset during the sessions. Once he’s dialed in, as it were, he’s ready for qualifying. I dunno, but I’m rooting for him. It’s my damned blog.

So Pedro will start Sunday from P25. That wasn’t the plan. John McPhee, Xavier Artigas, Jaume Masia and Riccardo Rossi graduated to Q2. Gabriel Rodrigo, Jeremy Alcoba and Nico Antonelli put themselves on the front row.

The lights would go out in Moto2 on Sunday with Remy Gardner, Raul Fernandez and Bo Bendsneyder on the front row.

When the Q2 smoke cleared in the premier class, it was Fabio Quartararo, once again, claiming his fifth pole in succession, tying a record dating back to when dinosaurs roamed the earth. A long time. He is joined by Johann Zarco and Jack Miller, the latter barely beating the clock to slot his Desmo in P2. Row 2 would be comprised of Miguel Oliveira, Frankie Morbidelli, and Mr. Who Cares?, Maverick Vinales. [This is an intentional dig designed to infuriate Pop Gun and make him work harder.]

Sunday

Clear and warm in Barcelona on Sunday morning.

Warm-up practices were on too early for me. We’ll just turn to the races.

Moto3 was its usual frenetic self. Lead group numbered up to 18 bikes. The final placements had only a rough correlation with the body of work for many of the riders thus far. There were several instances of what I like to think of as ‘motorized shuffleboard’ in which a bike is launched, sliding sideways, minus the rider, and takes out another rider or riders. John McPhee high-sided out of the lead on Lap 10, his bike, on the slide, removing Migno and Suzuki from the board. Late in the race, after the flag, I think, Ayumu Sasaki launched himself, his bike showing initiative in seeking out both Xavier Artigas and Dennis Foggia, among others. At the end it was Sergio Garcia, Jeremy Alcoba and hard-working Dennis Oncu, who dreams of the day he will hear the Turkish national anthem from the top step. Jauma Masia lost his podium spot to Oncu after exceeding track limits—what else?—on the last lap and having three seconds tacked on to his time, dropping him to P4. Pedro Acosta, the teenage wonder, held the lead for a few whiles before ultimately finishing in P7 after a bad shuffle in the last corner. He lead for the season stands at 52 points, not giving too much to his chasers, led by Masia and Sasaki.

Watching the MotoGP race today would have been a good use of your time, had you failed to do so. Miguel Oliveira, bucking for a new KTM contract like the one Brad Binder signed last week—three years with the ascendant Austrian brand—took the lead from Fabio Quartararo on Lap 14 and never looked back, beating that pesky Johann Zarco and Jack Miller to the flag. Actually, Fabio beat Miller to the flag, but was given his own three second penalty for Conduct Unbecoming after he stripped down to the waist late in the race, tossed his chest protector aside, and finished the race with both his engine and himself air-cooled. These bikes don’t have radiators, right? Crashers today included Petrucci, Marc Marquez, the Espargaro brothers, Valentino, and Iker Lecuona.

As of this weekend, it is no longer verboten to speculate on Rossi’s successor on the Petronas SRT team next season. After today’s crash, it’s getting sad.

So, anyway, for the season, it’s:

1        Fabio QUARTARARO        Yamaha          118

2        Johann ZARCO                 Ducati           101

3        Jack MILLER                      Ducati             90

4        Francesco BAGNAIA         Ducati             88

The Moto2 race was shown last today, and for good reason, as it was one of the dullest processions in recent memory. The Ajo KTM teammates, Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner, went off and had their own little race today, won by Gardner in a strategic tour de force. Xavi Vierge returned, at least briefly, from the riding dead to claim P3, on the heels of three DNFs in the first six rounds of the season. The two KTM teammates also lead the season series (Gardner by 11 over rookie Fernandez) followed at some distance by Marco Bezzecchi, who could end up favored for the 2022 title if both Gardner and Fernandez get called up to the bigs.

That’s all I got for today. And I’m mostly taking the next two rounds off at the beach—not taking my laptop. So keep those cards and letters coming and we’ll ‘dialogue’ until summer break. Ciao.


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