Archive for the ‘MotoGP’ Category

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.

MotoGP 2021 Journal Round 6: Mugello

May 30, 2021

© Bruce Allen   May 30, 2021

What beats riding a Desmosedici in Tuscany?

Thursday 

How can anyone think the homeys with Ducati colors on their leathers aren’t going to occupy a couple of steps on the podium on Sunday? I’m inclined to give the nod to Bagnaia, the younger and more Italian of the two factory riders, with Miller and/or Zarco up there too, at one of the shrines of racing. Mugello is perhaps the best example on the calendar of the power of sling-shotting—sorry, slipstreaming—on the main straight. The track design also amplifies the noise in the same area, driving the already-loopy fans insane. Makes for a nice Sunday afternoon if you don’t mind breathing a lot of yellow smoke.

This, and Misano, are Valentino’s Last Stand, Rossi’s last chances to strut on the podium, in SRT teal and yellow, and bask in the adulation of his thousands of Italian fans. He has given them two decades of HOF performance and an Italian presence on the international sports stage. I expect, beginning next year, he will field a SKY VR46 MotoGP team that will be crushing it in the near future. Assuming he ends up with Ducati or Yamaha. If nothing else in 2021, the two brands have established themselves as the clear leaders in the premier class. The championship may remain in healthy doubt, but the hardware not so much.

One of these two brands will win the 2021 title, as it appears our perennial favorite, Repsol Honda legend Marc Marquez, is in poorer shape, racing-wise, than we expected. Looks like he hurried his return in order to have a shot at the title which, it says here, he never really had. I expect him back at 98% of himself next year, the missing 2% coming from the fearlessness he has shown his entire career. His lizard brain is going to try to interrupt during high-stress situations, causing him to pause for a small part of a second. I think he’ll lose a few close races he would have won three years ago. But it’s still going to be fierce to see him back at something approaching complete health.

Regarding 2022, let’s get ready to rumble.

Friday

Just like the old days, watching Rossi and Marquez battle it out, except that today it was an FP1 and they were battling for P16. OK, I get it, it was FP1 and they were sorting things out. But while they were sorting things out, four Ducati guys, three Yamaha guys and both of the Suzuki guys were top tenning it, 1.7 seconds ahead of #93. Oliveira in P10 was the top KTM. Weather was perfect, if a little cool; track 86F. I wonder if Rossi doesn’t find all of this somewhat embarrassing. He seems to be trying.

In Moto2, FP1 was again with the Anglos. What gives in Moto2? Roberts, Gardner and Lowes top three? Again, it’s FP1, I’m just sayin’.

In Moto3 my boy Pedro Acosta was loafing in P14 while Andrea “Fast on Friday” Migno led FP1. Watching Acosta reminds me of watching high school soccer games with two good teams and one exceptional player who stands out, who dominates midfield and wins games. Acosta appears to be that player. In a sport full of great riders, he seems to have, at age 16, focus, the ability to instantly measure openings, to know how much throttle he has available, when to brake, when to overtake, and all the things a veteran rider takes years to learn. He brings it with him to Moto3. He is beating full-grown men and making it look easy. Small grown men, but still…

Pedro Acosta may be due for a fall, but he rarely needs to make saves, seems to ride within himself almost all the time. Not reckless. Seems like he is, at his young age, beginning to think strategically; that he is getting good coaching and that he is coachable. His future is so bright he needs to wear shades.

Back in the premier class, old man Johann Zarco is becoming something of a pest, all these highlights, sniffing around the top during practice sessions, two front row starts and three podiums and all. He and the Duc seem to have found one another. He is fast in the wet and the dry. I wish I had put $100 on him to win it all in 2021. Probably around 50-1. Grrrr. P3 after five rounds, trails Quartararo by 12. No hill for a climber.

Saturday

FP3 in the premier class was instructive. Vinales and #93 missed out on Q2 late in the session, Vinales sliding out late and Marquez not having enough shoulder to sneak into the top ten on his last flying lap. Both Suzukis and the factory KTMs pass GO, collect $200. The spread between P1 and P10 in FP3 was 4/10ths.

About Pecco Bagnaia. 24 years old during Year II of the Marquez Interregnum. Sets a new track record in FP3. The freaking CEO of Ducati Corse drops by in shirtsleeves to say ‘hey’. A tightly-wrapped young Italian hunk on Italian hardware in Mugello, fighting for the title. How can this guy not have full-time wood issues?

Other notables trudging off to Q1: Nakagami, Rossi, Alex Marquez. Rossi has been sucking canal water all weekend. June looms.

Moto2 FP3: Oh great. Sam Lowes is fast in practice again. We can look forward to another front row start and early crash out of contention. The stunned, chagrined look. The piles of brightly-painted fiberglass scrap. The guys in the garage grabbing their faces, thinking, “Not again.” Wishing we were watching Moto3 or GP.

Is it just me, or do Bezzechi, Bastianini, the other Italian riders with big hair, consider themselves the second coming of Marco Simoncelli? Tall, brash, wild-haired, ultimately fast, too fast…

For those of you who don’t ride competitively but do what we east coast types call body surfing, I’m pretty sure the sensation of catching a Mugello slipstream is similar to the sensation of catching a big wave that you know will carry you a long way. In the surf, it’s getting on top of it. On the track, I expect it’s being in it. Letting the laws of physics do the hard work.

Qualifying in MotoGP was a hoot, as long as you’re not a big Maverick Vinales fan. The Spaniard made a mistake (perhaps we should call it a Mav) in FP3 which kept him from passing through to Q2. Then, a second Mav during Q1 cause him to fail to pass through at all, leaving him starting Sunday’s race from P13, effectively taking him out of contention. Again. Fabio was incandescent once more during Q2, seizing his fourth pole in succession. He was joined on the front row by my boy Pecco Bagnaia and a late-arriving Johann Zarco. The second row would include interloper Aleix Espargaro, who almost rode the slipstream to a front row start, Jack Miller, looking dangerous, and KTM pilot Brad Binder in P6. [Pop Quiz: When was the last time the three series leaders lined up, in order, on the front row? Our crack research staff is doing jellybean shooters and bong hits in Bruce’s Digital Library and should have an answer for us by, say, early 2023.]

Over in Moto3 rookie Pedro Acosta made it into the front row for Sunday, flanked by Tatsuki Suzuki on pole and Gabriel Rodrigo in P3. Swiss rider Jason Dupasquier was airlifted to a nearby hospital with injuries suffered in a Q2 mix-up with Japanese rider Ayumu Sasaki and Spaniard Jeremy Alcoba. Dupasquier fell and was then hit by another bike; this is how bad injuries take place in MotoGP. Keeping my ears out to pick up any word on the young man’s condition. UPDATE: MOTOGP ANNOUNCED RIGHT BEFORE THE PREMIER CLASS RACE THAT DUPASQUIER HAD SUCCUMBED TO HIS INJURIES. A MINUTE OF SILENCE WAS OBSERVED IN HIS HONOR. HE WAS 19 YEARS OLD.

Moto2: Q1 gave us a feel-good moment when young Fermín Aldeguer, filling in on the MB Conveyors Speed Up team, laid down a fast lap and led four riders into Q2, including Somkiat Chantra, Marcos Ramirez and Bo Bendsneyder. Q2, in turn, gave us what are becoming the Usual Suspects in the first two rows, headed by Raul Fernandez, who has MotoGP written all over him. Joining him are Sam Lowes, underachiever Jorge Navarro, Remy Gardner, FDG (still having trouble spelling his last name, way too many N’s), Tony Arbolino and Marco Bezzecchi (P7).

Sunday

Moto3 was its usual frantic self, a 15-rider lead group for most of the 20 laps, the slipstream effect moving riders eight places—either way–in a kilometer. It is still the best racing on the planet. The eventual winner today, Dennis Foggia, won for the first time in 2021 and has nothing going on re the championship.  He was joined on the podium today by The series leader, Pedro Acosta, held the lead for parts of the day but, at the end, got swallowed up and finished in P7, subsequently dropped to P8 for exceeding track limits on the final lap rules is rules blah blah blah. I don’t think the point this cost him will have much of anything to do with the final standings. After six rounds, the top four looks like this:

P Acosta                111

J. Masia                   59

A Sasuki                  57

S. Garcia                  56

Once again, Acosta finishes well down in the points and retains the lion’s share of his 2021 lead. That’s how you do it. BTW, KTM has a surfeit of fast young Spanish riders—Acosta, Masia, Raul Fernandez, etc. The boys on the KTM MotoGP bikes will begin feeling the heat as the season progresses, notably Lecuona and Petrucci.

Moto2 was another exhibition of the strength of the Ayo KTM team, as series leaders Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez fought to the end, with Gardner emerging on top after gazing at Fernandez’s posterior all day. Joe Roberts had just got done dusting Marco Bezzecchi for the third podium spot at the flag when he was advised he was being dropped down a notch for exceeding track limits on the final lap, as picky a foul as you’ll ever see, if you missed the MotoGP race in which first Miguel Oliveira, then Joan Mir, were assessed the same penalty for the same reason. The fact that the penalties were imposed one at a time in the MotoGP race resulted in the final standings reflecting what actually happened, as opposed to the Moto2 result, about which Bezzecchi seemed to feel bad.

The MotoGP race featured a master class from young Fabio Quartararo, who led virtually wire-to-wire and was never seriously challenged after winning the holeshot. Lap two saw first Marc Marquez, then Pecco Bagnaia, slide out of the competition, narrowing the competitive field. Zarco, KTM’s Miguel Oliveira and Suzuki champion Joan Mir all gave chase, and all gave in, as Fabio was not going to be denied today. Toward the end of the race Rins, Nakagami and Pirro all crashed out, artificially elevating the point hauls for several lower tranche riders. After six rounds #20 has stretched his lead over second place Johann Zarco to 24 points, with Bagnaia two points farther back. Miller, Mir and Vinales complete the six riders within shouting distance of the leaders.

The “exceeding track limits” rule needs to be changed. Keep the rule the same but change the language regarding enforcement to one of the judges’ discretion, so long as the tire is not more than halfway on the green, at which point the penalty is automatic. Since the penalty could be imposed whenever any part of the tire is on the green, this would eliminate any complaints that a rider’s tire was less than halfway out of bounds. Silly, meaningless infractions like we saw today would not be imposed, and Joe Roberts would have had a podium.

Everything else you need to know can be found on the MotoGP website or at crash.net. We look forward to bringing you the festivities from Barcelona next week. Four races in five weeks is a lot. I need a nap.

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Fernandez and Gardner running at Mugello. Your eyes are not going bad.

MotoGP 2021 Journal–Round 5: Le Mans

May 16, 2021

© Bruce Allen   May 14, 15 and 16, 2021

Friday

Alas, Round 5 of the 2021 MotoGP season brings us once again to Sarthe, smack in the middle of France and, believe it or not, the weather is a major factor for the weekend, as it often is here. Cool breezy temps with “spotty” showers, a nightmare for the riders and teams. The possibility of a flag-to-flag is strong, as is the possibility that the halving of the field, typically determined in FP3, could occur on Friday. The likelihood of a Yamaha or Ducati winning on Sunday, based upon what we saw today, is high, too. Unless the Weather Gods get involved and make a dog’s breakfast of the whole thing.

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A little local color from Le Mans.

Friday started wet and finished dry. As anticipated, FP2 became the determinant as regards slick passage into Q2 or having to fight one’s way through Q1 simply for the opportunity to get one’s brains bashed by the really fast movers, all of whom are well-rested and raring to go, in Q2. This was true in all three classes. One interesting note is that the wettish MotoGP FP3 found #93 at the top of the sheet. Otherwise, the various dies were cast on Friday.

Missing from the Q2 qualifiers were some big names, as usual:

Moto3–The only guy I want to discuss is rookie Pedro Acosta, currently sitting P18. How can one not pick him to advance to Q2, to qualify well, and then podium on Sunday?

Moto2–Baldassarri, Ogura, the two Americans, Beaubier and Roberts, Vietti, Dalla Porta.

MotoGP–Rins and Mir, series leader Pecco Bagnaia, the three rookies left standing bringing up the rear.

As for the guys who had it going on in FP2, please include, in Moto3, Gabriel Rodrigo, the pesky Darryn Binder, and Antonelli. Moto2–Lowes, two Fernandezes and Remy Gardner. MotoGP– both French riders, Viñales, POL Espargaro on the Honda, and Frankie Morbidelli. Three Yamahas in the top five. They should thrive in the dry, assuming there’s any to be had on Sunday. Typically, the mudders ride for Ducati, but Zarco must be feeling it, at home, on a bike he seems to love, in the wet.

Saturday

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Saturday was, again, wettish at the start and slowly drying. FP3 times were slow. Waiting for the caterers to do their thing prior to qualifying in Moto3, I looked at the sky, best described by the word “sullen.”

Such weather conditions would not rival those of the first race I ever attended, in 2009, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The city was on the receiving end of the remnants of Hurricane Ike. Most of the events scheduled for the weekend–exhibition riding, loop-the-loops in Broad Ripple–were rained out. On Sunday it was pouring. The camera crew from MotoGP raised the boom truck that would allow them shots from, like, 200′ in the air. They took it down about five minutes later. By the time the lights went out in the premier class, it was getting biblical. Apparently there were contracts in place that dictated that the race could not be delayed; I’ve seen races since then delayed for weather conditions less severe than in Indianapolis that day.

[That was the day, prior to the race getting red-flagged about 18 laps in, where Valentino Rossi chased down homeboy Nicky Hayden, with the rain blowing sideways. The few remaining fans were miffed. That race jinxed the Indianapolis round, which never got traction and disappeared after about five years.]

The maddening aspect of the weather at Le Mans is its unpredictability. I find myself rooting for a flag-to-flag that will scramble the standings at the top. It’s early in the season. Let’s see Tito Rabat win a race.

Qualifying

Moto3 Q1: Acosta finished P7 and will start on the 7th row on Sunday. Andrea Migno ruled Q2, with longshot Riccardo Rossi and Jaume Masia joining him on the front row.

Moto2: Hotshot rookie Raul Fernandez takes his first Moto2 pole, followed by Marco Bezzecchi and American Joe Roberts.

MotoGP: In a frenzied finish, what had been a Honda lockout became two factory Yamahas and a factory Ducati on the front row. A strong second row features Morbidelli, Zarco and Marquez. Lotta fast riders out there in MotoGP. Quartararo took his third pole in succession, with Viñales and Miller in hot pursuit.

Sunday

The casual observer, looking at the results of the Moto3 race, would infer that my boy Pedro Acosta must have had a bad day, an ordinary P8 while Sergio Garcia and a couple of non-factors, Filip Salac and Riccardo Rossi, stood around on the podium, stunned. The 16-year old “Vote for Pedro” Acosta had never visited Le Mans, nor had he ever raced a Moto3 bike in the wet. He choked qualifying, crashed while in the middle of the pack, and extended his 2021 championship lead. This conforms to my theory of The Blessed NFL Quarterback, whose identity each year is a mystery until he wins the Super Bowl.

Things could not have been worse for young Acosta, yet those closest him—Antonelli, poleman Migno, Fenati and Masia—fainted. So he takes a 54 point lead to Mugello. And if it rains there, he’s now been there, done that. He appears to be a quick study. He appears to be The Blessed Rider in Moto3.

Moto2

Rookie phenom Raul Fernandez cruised to victory in the dampish Moto2 race, ahead of Remy Gardner and Marco Bezzecchi, with Tony Arbolino making his first meaningful appearance of the season, finishing in P4. Thus, KTM teammates Gardner and Fernandez lead the 2021 series with 89 and 88 points, respectively, with Bezzecchi 17 down and Sam Lowes, who recorded another DNF, now trailing by 23. Both American riders crashed out, Roberts early from P2 and Beaubier late from P6.

MotoGP

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The sky at the start of the “dry” MotoGP race.

For the first time in four years the premier class put on a flag-to-flag show and it added some extra spice to what was already shaping up to be an exciting race. As expected, given the generally wet conditions, the Ducatis were in charge today. Miller and Zarco finished on the podium, along with Fabio, while Pecco Bagnaia, having started from P16, flogged his Desmo to P4 before running out of laps. With six riders failing to finish and three more trailing Miller at the end by over a minute, there were points all around for the survivors. Other than poor Frankie Morbidelli, who crashed and banged up his already banged-up knee, eventually completing 23 laps before the marshals dragged him off the track.

That makes it two in a row for Jack Miller, who suddenly has momentum. For awhile today, right after everyone changed bikes, Marc Marquez led a MotoGP race. It was only briefly, as he crashed a bit later, and then again a bit later than that.  But it was nice to see him competing, even though he says the muscles in his upper right arm are only at 50%. Anyway, here are the standings year-to-date:

1        Fabio QUARTARARO         Yamaha          FRA    80

2        Pecco BAGNAIA                Ducati           ITA     79

3        Johann ZARCO                 Ducati           FRA    68

4        Jack MILLER                     Ducati           AUS    64

5        Maverick VIÑALES            Yamaha          SPA    56

6        Joan MIR                         Suzuki          SPA    49

7        Aleix ESPARGARO             Aprilia           SPA    35

8        Franco MORBIDELLI         Yamaha          ITA     33

9        Takaaki NAKAGAMI           Honda           JPN    28

10      Pol ESPARGARO               Honda           SPA    25

For the record, Maverick Viñales started today in P2 and finished P9. Valentino Rossi started in P9 and finished in P11. Aleix Espargaro retired with a mechanical. Alex Rins and Joan Mir crashed out a couple of times each, and want Le Mans taken off the calendar. Danilo Petrucci flogged his Tech 3 KTM to P5 and wants it to rain, heavily, for the rest of the season.

In Conclusion

We have tight races in Moto2 and MotoGP and the likely emergence of The Next Great Rider going on in Moto3. We’re heading into the meat of the schedule, with a back-to-back at Mugello and Catalunya followed by another back to back in Germany and at Assen. Valentino Rossi fans must be willing to admit that he overstayed his MotoGP welcome by a year. It appears Marc Marquez will resume his old form at some point, but probably not this year. The kids have taken over the schoolyard, and the fans are loving it.

A Little Tranching Music, Please

MotoGP Tranches After Portimao

Tranche I –   Quartararo, Mir, Bagnaia

Tranche II –  Zarco, Viñales, Rins, A Espargaro, Morbidelli, M Marquez, Martin*

Tranche III – Binder, Bastianini, P Espargaro, A Marquez, Marini, Miller

Tranche IV – Oliveira, Rossi, Nakagami

Tranche V –  Petrucci, Savadori, Lecuona

MotoGP Tranches After Le Mans

Tranche I – Quartararo, Miller, Bagnaia

Tranche II – Zarco, Nakagami, P Espargaro, Morbidelli, Mir

Tranche III – Viñales, Rins, A Espargaro, Binder, M Marquez, Oliveira

Tranche IV – Petrucci, Rossi, Marini, A Marquez, Bastianini

Tranche V – Rabat, Savadori, Lecuona

 

Two weeks until Mugello. Can’t wait.

 

 

 

Jack Miller “Redeemed”?

May 12, 2021

© Bruce Allen  May 12, 2021

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It says right here on the MotoGP.com landing page that Jack Miller’s recent win at Jerez is the kind of stuff that transforms a rider’s career. One can only imagine the breathless narrative accompanying the slo-mo video. But wait.

Jack Miller graduated directly from Moto3 to MotoGP in 2015. He won at Assen in the rain in 2016. He won again last time round. Where in this rather–sorry–ordinary story do we get to talk about “redemption”? As if Miller had recently put a serious beatdown on the MotoGP field, to revive a career many non-Australians considered disappointing.

Jack Miller is reportedly a helluva nice guy whose career has shown steady progress. In 2014 he was considered something of a phenom. I was at Sepang that year and he was always around yakking with the press, on his way to fame and glory in MotoGP at the tender age of 19, the next Great Australian Hope, a fitting follower in the mold of the legendary Casey Stoner.

No.

Miller has had a nice career, and now has two wins, joining what our crack research team guesses to be 100 other riders who have achieved similar “redemption.” It’s not like Jack has spent six years wallowing in the mud with the likes of Tito Rabat and then suddenly owns the joint. He has simply made himself relevant again, trailing series leader Pecco Bagnaia by 27 points, still in the lead group for the year.

A single career win on dry pavement does not a legend make. If it does, then make way for one of the other recent legends, Danilo Petrucci.

Enough with the hyperbole, MotoGP.

FIM Press Release May 11, 2021

May 11, 2021

© Bruce Allen    May 11, 2021

FIM Rearranging Moto2 Deck Chairs–Wants You to Know

Attached is the blah blah blah about fairings and fenders on NTS and MV Agusta bikes. Knowing my readers as I do, I figure you’ll be fascinated by this stuff, arguing amongst y’selves, about such and such gives such and such a big advantage, etc.

We Hoosiers generally make fun of stuff we don’t understand.

MotoGP 2021 Round 4: Jerez

May 2, 2021

© Bruce Allen May 2, 2021

Fabulous Fabio leads a crowded group of young riders as the flying circus lands in Spain for the first of four (4) 2021 visits. Much of the pre-race talk, in my kitchen, in my head, centered on Yamaha and their riders, their plans for the future, and their prospects for the present, heading into the shank of the schedule.

1        Fabio QUARTARARO     Yamaha          FRA   61

2        Pecco BAGNAIA             Ducati          ITA    46

3        Maverick VIÑALES        Yamaha          SPA   41

4        Johann ZARCO               Ducati          FRA   40

5        Joan MIR                       Suzuki          SPA   38

6        Aleix ESPARGARO         Aprilia          SPA   25

7        Alex RINS                      Suzuki          SPA   23

8        Brad BINDER                 KTM             RSA   21

Any of the top eight would see his early season position scrambled by simply sliding out of a corner somewhere. At this point, it seems both Quartararo and Bagnaia have found their respective and considerable mojos. For the Yamaha racing project, one can find both good news and bad news lying around, depending on the date and location. Maverick was hot in Round 1, Fabio in 2&3. Frankie Morbidelli is experiencing a string of mechanical issues not seen since the CRT days. And poor Valentino Rossi, stuck with a bunch of unwanted SRT #46 gear, has seen his carefully-constructed edifice, that of the 21st century motorsports Renaissance Man, begin to crumble around the edges.

The latest speculation has Yamaha kicking him from rider to owner next season. The question then becomes–for which factory? Will the suits in Hamamatsu remove the Malaysian money from their satellite team in favor of Saudi money, with VR46 his damned self calling the shots? On the other hand, were Rossi to assume ownership of the Avintia Ducati team, he would have two fast young academy grads in the stable, his half-brother Luca Marini and Enea the Beast Bastianini.

For a new team owner with deep pockets, it is probably more difficult to find talented riders than a manufacturer ready, willing and able to provide competitive machines and crews. Rossi is a Morbidelli fan, so he would only have to find one rider for a VR46 MotoGP team. If I were Rossi, inheriting a Yamaha team with Morbidelli, I would snatch (lol) young Pedro Acosta from Moto3 and put him on an old bike for a year or two. Yes, young Pedro is Spanish, a character defect in Rossi’s view. But the boy has unearthly speed and a high racing IQ. In a world in which many of us try to identify The Next Great Rider, the next Marc Marquez, Pedro Acosta could be the guy. Not Fabio, not Mir, not Miller. Pecco Bagnaia—too soon to say. He’s finally getting with the program, with a riding style similar to Jorge Lorenzo. I’m losing interest in Alex Rins and Maverick Vinales. Rookie Jorge Martin, who seems completely likeable, impresses me as the new Black Knight of Monty Phython fame, who will spend much of his career on the injured list in search of wins, replacing Cal Crutchlow in that role.

Friday in Jerez

Marc Marquez managed P3 in FP1, removing any doubt that he is fit to race. He then took it on the chin at Turn 7 in FP2 with a heavy high side, putting him in the midst of Q1, same as in Portimao, shaken, not stirred. The chase in FP3 would also include Miller, Mir and Pol Espargaro, Alex Marquez and, inevitably, Valentino Rossi, looking fully washed up. Aleix Espargaro appeared to have something going on with his Aprilia in P3 after two sessions.

Saturday

The ‘haves’, after FP3. Notice Aleix and Bradl. Nakagami, but no Pol, slowest of the five Hondas. Marc Marquez tested his repaired arm with an impressive high-side at Turn 7. Declared fit (read: still ambulatory).

The ‘have-nots’. Jack Miller missed by a hundredth. Bummer, dude.

During FP4, Frankie Morbidelli got sideways with Race Direction and got shoved back into Q1, elevating Jack Miller to Q2, to his immense relief. Hondas and Suzukis and Aprilias were flying off the track at a formidable pace during P4, #93 sitting in P14.

Morbidelli dominated Q1, joined in his passage to Q2 by KTM’s rugged Brad Binder. Once there, however, Frankie made hay while the South African made squat. Ducatis and Yamahas occupied six of the top seven spots in Q2, with a front row of Quartararo, Morbidelli and Miller, fastest of the Italian contingent. Row 2 has Pecco, Nakagami and Zarco, for a little variety. Row 3 would feature the shifty Vinales, Aleix and Alex Rins, with Joan Mir, Binder and wildcard Stefan Bradl completing the top twelve. The Suzukis, becoming notorious for their failure to launch, can at least see the front row this week.

Further down the order, in Mudville, the likes of Rossi, Pol, both Marquez brothers and Miguel Oliveira would start Sunday from the cheap seats, their seasons not going according to plan during this first quarter of 2021. Pol and Marc we get, due to Espargaro changing horses and Marquez bouncing slowly back from serious injury. Oliveira needs everything to go right at one of his friendly tracks; Rossi, it can now be said, stayed a year too long. The only real difference between his bike this year and his bike last year is the paint job. The other three Yamaha pilots are getting good returns from their rides. For Rossi, 2021 is The Last Hurrah.

In Moto2, the front row Sunday would be

1        87      Remy GARDNER             AUS          Red Bull KTM Ajo            

2        21      Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO ITA          Federal Oil Gresini          

3        72      Marco BEZZECCHI         ITA       SKY Racing Team VR46

with Raul Fernandez, Sam Lowes and Xavi Vierge on Row 2. The championship is currently a three-man race between Gardner, Lowes and Fernandez.

After Q2 in Moto3, the best racing on the planet, it looked like this:

1        24      Tatsuki SUZUKI      JPN          SIC58 Squadra Corse      

2        52      Jeremy ALCOBA     SPA          Indonesian Racing Gresini

3        16      Andrea MIGNO       ITA          Rivacold Snipers Team    

4        2        Gabriel RODRIGO   ARG          Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3         

5        55      Romano FENATI     ITA          Sterilgarda Max Racing Team    

6        17      John MCPHEE         GBR          Petronas Sprinta Racing  

Runaway teenage freight train Pedro Acosta could manage no better than P13 in qualifying on Saturday. He does not appear to be someone who scares easily. He won from pit lane at Losail II. This, to me, on Saturday, appears to be no big deal. An annoyance, at worst. There are some hungry guys in front of him, who, thus far, have not caused him the slightest visible concern.

In all three classes, Sunday in Jerez held the promise of some classic competition.

Sunday

My boy rookie Pedro Acosta started the Moto3 race in P13 today and had to actually work to take the win, his third in four starts, aided by a brain fart from Dennis Oncu in the last turn which removed himself, Jaume Masia and Darryn Binder from contention and likely earned him a slap on the wrist in France. KTM has taken charge of Moto3, reflecting the enhanced resources available after the Austrian factory abandoned their works Moto2 program. Always good to see Romano Fenati on the podium, with young Jeremy Alcoba taking the third step. [I had written yesterday that Rossi should just hire Alcoba for his SKY VR46 MotoGP team now. Spent the entire race not wanting to have to re-write that part. As it turned out, nothing to worry about. Alien Under Construction.]

Moto2 doesn’t seem to have its usual luster this year. Perhaps it’s because the presence of so many Anglos—Dixon, Gardner, Lowes, Roberts—seems to lower the credibility of the division in a sport dominated, for 30 years by Latins. Rookie Raul Fernandez looks somewhat electric at times; certainly Steve and Matt get their P’s in a T on a consistent basis extolling Raul’s virtues. Sam Lowes has already failed in MotoGP; can’t think of anyone too excited about seeing him do so again. And I’m not convinced by Remy Gardner, as I take a dim view of nepotism in all its forms, the result, in part, of having grown up an only child with a non-entrepreneurial father.

Anyway, Moto2 offered a wire-to-wire procession led by Fabio de Giannantonio, Bezzechi taking P2 and Sam Lowes bouncing back to P3. For the year, Gardner leads with 69 points, followed by Lowes at 66, Fernandez 63, Bezzechi 56 and di Giannantonio 52. A somewhat dull race has produced a tight championship, which I’ll take anytime.

I still think what I thought in 2012—the Italian national anthem sounds like a drinking song.

As MotoGP began warming up, I joined fans everywhere wondering whether anyone had it in them to beat Fabio Quartararo. He loves him some Jerez, having taken pole the last four times out and winning there twice last year. Let’s be clear—there are many who have conceded today’s race to the Frenchman.

The MotoGP Race

Today’s race started out like a Yamaha clambake and ended as a Ducati dunk-fest. Jack Miller won his first race for Ducati and his own first dry race, not to mention Ducati’s first win at Jerez since, like, The Ice Age. With teammate Pecco Bagnaia, The Next Great Ducati Rider, claiming second ahead of Frankie Morbidelli’s Yamaha, it was a Ducati one-two, their first win of the year coming at a track described by Danilo Petrucci thusly:”If you’re fast at Jerez you can be fast anywhere.”

We don’t yet know around here what happened to Fabio Quartararo who, on Lap 6, my notes showed “clearing out.” But from there he was overtaken by Miller on Lap 16 and continued his descent to a P13 finish. I will wager that it is arm pump and that he will need surgery and will return in time for Le Mans.

LRC Honda rep Takaa Nakagami pulled everything together for an encouraging P4. Ahead of Mir and Aleix Espargaro, making the Aprilia look good. Vinales, Zarco, Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro completed the top ten, another gritty performance from Marquez. Around Lap 20 it appeared Bagnaia had a notion about going after Miller, after which his screen flashed “DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.” P2 at Jerez, for Ducati, is nothing to sneeze at, ignoring the whole Marquez asterisk* thing.

Funny, other than a cameo at Jerez last year, the last time Marquez was racing in anger he was up against guys named Crutchlow, Dovizioso, Rossi and Iannone. Now, he’s having to get himself together going up against Bagnaia, Morbidelli, Miller, Mir, Quartararo and more. Real competition from the KTMs and Aprilias of the world. The past year has brought a lot of change to MotoGP, and Marquez had to sit out almost all of it. The new bunch is young, strong and fast. Other than Rossi, who is now embarrassing himself, there are no riders out there just because they have sponsor money. Most of these guys can compete for top tens. And Moto2 and Moto3 are lousy with great young riders, some of whom are teenagers.

After four rounds in MotoGP, Bagnaia leads Quartararo by two points, 66-64. Then comes Vinales with 50, Mir with 49, and Zarco with 48, followed by Miller with 39, Aleix with 35 and Morbidelli with 33. Rins sneaks into the top ten with 23 points and a crashing headache, suffered at both Portimao and Jerez. Binder completes it with 21. Fans of Marc Marquez should be happy he doesn’t compete in Moto3, where 16-year old rookie phenom Pedro Acosta has already accumulated 95 points. As it is, Marquez trails Bagnaia by a mere 50 points. I think it would be hard to find many thoughtful people in the paddock who believe the title chase is over for Marquez for the year.

So, to recap. There is, at present, one viable contestant in Moto3, three in Moto2, and two in MotoGP. Surprising, isn’t it, how the best racing still takes place in Moto3. That everyone in Moto3 at Jerez knows that something wild is going to happen in Turn 13 on the last lap of the race. It did again today. Personally, I hope Pedro Acosta is The Next Great Rider and that he and Marquez get to go one-on-one while Marquez still has it. 12 year age difference. Marquez wearing, as always, Repsol Honda colors, while Acosta is wearing SKY VR46 Yamaha colors. That would be a season for the ages,

As for the season we’ve got, I’m loving it so far. Loving that it’s so wide open in MotoGP, loving that it’s regressing to the mean, ethnically, with Spanish and Italian riders re-asserting themselves in Moto2, and loving that a star has been born in Moto3, the first guy to have ‘can’t miss’ written all over him since Marc Marquez.

Two weeks to Le Mans where, if it doesn’t rain for three days straight, one feels lucky.

                                         Marquez warming things up in Jerez.

MotoGP After Round 3: Portimao

April 22, 2021

© Bruce Allen    April 22, 2021

In which we engage in some casual tranching and try to put the 2021 season, thus far, in something approaching perspective. With a nod to both Moto2 and Moto3.

Back in March, had I wagered that, after three rounds, none of the following riders would be found in the top ten, I expect I could have found some takers:

Frankie M

Thriller Miller

Pol Espargaro (?)

Takaa Nakagami

Miguel Oliveira and, of all people,

Valentino Rossi

And here we are, with The New Young Guns clearly running things in the top ten, other than what are likely to be temporary appearances by Johann Zarco and Aleix. The inmates done taken over the asylum. As predicted by most of you, back in 2018-2019.

But what about this lot? NONE of them in the top ten after three? What’s to say about them? Frankie has had mechanical issues for the first 10% of the season? How can Yamaha allow that to happen? Jack, the latest version of Marco Simoncelli, is so elated to be fast that he has become a hazard to himself and those around him. This is not to say that he is heading for disaster. It means he needs to assert his will on the Desmo, the way his teammate Pecco has. He trails #20 by 47 points; all is not lost.

Zarco (P4, 40 pts) and Rins (P7, 23 pts) seem to have trouble dealing with success. Also qualifying, as Rins has been on the front row in something like 6 of 66 races. Zarco could have been top three had he not slid out; same with Rins. There is no noticeable improvement in the 2021 Suzuki vs. the 2020 version; it will take a helluva rider, a Joan Mir, to coax enough points out of his Gixxer to give #20 and #93 a beating. Zarco has only himself to blame, having come into the race with two silver medals from Qatar, which he has since had bronzed for posterity.

The two Honda pilots, Espargaro and Nakagami, are on the outside looking in for different reasons. Espargaro, because he’s still trying to get the hang of the RC213V. Nakagami had a dreadful two rounds in Qatar before suffering a heavy crash in practice at Portimao and is currently being held together by duct tape and clarinet reeds. His star should begin ascending again in Jerez.

Miguel Oliveira won last year’s final race, in Portugal, leading me to expect more from him in 2021. The tire issues plaguing the entire KTM project have caught him as well. And Valentino, The Doctor, sporting four points for the season. He looks bad, having problems none of the other Yamaha riders are experiencing. There can be little doubt he should have taken his victory lap last year and called it a career. This is hard to watch.

Despite a win and a P5 in the desert, Maverick Vinales’ P11 at Portimao seemed inevitable. With all the potential in the world, young Vinales is so terribly inconsistent. This is not a characteristic often found in world champions. A female reader of this column has observed, that if #12 were here boyfriend she would have dumped him in 2019. The editorial team here has predicted that he will not spend his entire racing career with Yamaha.

Aleix Espargaro has a mediocre Aprilia beneath him this season, which is a large step up from what he’s been riding most of his career. He appears able to put himself in the top ten for the year, but it will be uphill all the way. I’d like to see what he could do on Vinales’ bike.

Brad Binder has been the consummate team player thus far, sharing with all three other KTM riders his considerable front tire problems.

The three riders as yet unmentioned in the top ten include Alien-in-Waiting Pecco Bagnaia, who seems to have come into his own after two seasons of underachieving in on the Ducati. The two rookies, Enea Bastianini in P9 and Jorge Martin in P10, have looked good and great, other than Martin having put himself in the hospital and out of Rounds 3 and 4 with a big high-side in practice in Portugal. He will, accordingly, drop out of the top ten in Jerez, which is okay, because dude has major stones and a bright future in MotoGP.

The Desert Tranche, after Round Two:

Tranche I —  Quartararo, Mir, Zarco

Tranche II –  Vinales, Rins, A. Espargaro, Miller, Martin

Tranche III – Morbidelli, Binder, Bastianini, Oliveira, P. Espargaro, Bagnaia

Tranche IV – A. Marquez, Bradl, Rossi, Nakagami

Tranche V –  Marini, Lecuona, Savadori, Petrucci

MotoGP Tranches After Portimao

Tranche I –   Quartararo, Mir, Bagnaia

Tranche II –  Zarco, Vinales, Rins, A Espargaro, Morbidelli, M Marquez, Martin

Tranche III – Binder, Bastianini, P Espargaro, A Marquez, Marini, Miller

Tranche IV – Oliveira, Rossi, Nakagami

Tranche V –  Petrucci, Savadori, Lecuona

Moto2 After 3 Rounds

After sailing home with wins in the opening rounds in Qatar, Sam Lowes reverted to form by crashing out at Portimao at Turn 1 of Lap 1, hence crashing into P3 for the season, in a tight three-man contest with Aussie Remy Gardner and rookie Raul Fernandez, who, according to announcers Matt and Steve, is the Next Next Great Rider. American Joe Roberts was hip-checked out of a second career podium at Portimao in the last turn by Gardner and/or Aron Canet—couldn’t see well—putting him in P7 for the season. American rookie Cameron Beaubier finished the race in a respectable P9, sitting in P12 for the year.

There appear to be perhaps eight or ten competitive riders in Moto2 this year. I would expect one of the top three to claim the title. Of the three, it looks to me like Fernandez is the only one to have a legitimate shot at a promotion to MotoGP in the immediate future. Lowes has been there, done that, while Gardner does not seem to be the second coming of either his dad or Casey Stoner.

Moto3 After 3 Rounds

Remember this name: Pedro Acosta. The insouciant rookie appears to have been born to race motorcycles. He entered his racing career before he entered puberty, racing at Estoril in 2018 at age 13. He double dipped last season, running in both the CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship (P3 for the year) and the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, which he won. Out of a combined 23 races, he finished first nine times, and was on the podium another eight times. Marquez-caliber numbers. He has earned 70 of a possible 75 points thus far this year in Moto3, making a number of grizzled veteran riders look, well, silly in the process. Dude is 16 years old as we speak.

I could speculate that Jaume Masia or maybe Darryn Binder could offer Acosta a run for his money later in the year, but I don’t believe it. I believe Acosta will be in MotoGP in two years and that he stands a good chance of being the man to shoot Marc Marquez out of his saddle within two years after that. I’m impressed.


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