Archive for the ‘MotoGP’ Category

MotoGP 2022 Round 17: Buriram

October 2, 2022

We here at Late-Braking MotoGP have admittedly become something of a clanging gong on the subject of Fabio Quartararo and the likelihood of his repeating as world champion in 2022. Such concerns arrived in full force today in the steam bath that is Buriram, in a part of the world that offers one a choice of climatic conditions. Not a range, mind you, but a choice–heat found only on hell’s front porch or torrential downpours that raise the humidity above 100%. These come and go with reckless abandon, causing events such as we saw today in Round 17.

Doesn’t the editorial We above sound better than some mope sitting at his kitchen table clattering away about stuff he doesn’t really understand?

Screenshot (476)

I suppose I should mention somewhere that Miguel Oliveira won the race.

I have our crack research staff examining 2022 records for help answering the following question: Is a rider’s fate on Sunday largely decided by the events in FP3 and Q1, or are you stupid? Of course it’s decided on Saturday, from top to bottom. I’ve decided I love the current qualifying format in that it is progressively Darwinian. You have to make the top 10 in the combined FP1 – FP3 sessions. If you fail to do so, it is imperative that you battle through Q1 to make it to Q2. [When was the last time a rider won in MotoGP starting outside the top 12? The nerds are looking into that, as well. No they’re not.] Once in Q2, it is ultra-helpful if the rider can finish the session above the 50th percentile, i.e., in the first two rows. Only then does one get a credible chance for the win.

One example of this (not a very good one) was Johann Zarco today, who got pistol-whipped at the start from P5 and spent his day trying to get his wipers to work in traffic, with a notable lack of success. Until Lap 15, when he laid down the first of five consecutive fastest race laps and put himself up with the big dogs for the last half dozen. He would overtake Marquez, who appeared to develop grip issues late in the day, but was unable to penetrate Bagnaia for a place on the podium. Likewise, Marquez missed a decent chance to capture his 100th career podium, but he looked fit doing it. He barged into a couple of riders along the way today, but escaped penalty, unless he’s the rider given three extra seconds for bashing directly into Marco Bezzecchi without so much as a by your leave on Lap 8. Just sayin’.

I guess what I’m suggesting is that my idea back in 2008 when the Indianapolis round was busy failing due to Hurricane Ike that new venues, like the IMS at the time, offer free admission on the first Saturday of racing. Give the uninitiated a dozen or so sessions during the day, saving the best for last. In the absence of a tropical depression, such a promotion could have brought 150,000 paid admissions on Sunday; it would have instantly become the best-attended race on the calendar. A full day of MotoGP, all three classes, is enough to get any 4 wheel gearhead interested in two-wheeled racing. Although the thought of offering free admission on Saturday during the dubious India round could result in six or seven million people crashing the gates. Not a great idea after all, I suppose.

Today’s race was highlighted by the fact that the riders had virtually no practice time whatsoever, at all, no how no way. None. A couple of extra sighting laps before the race. The notable mudders on the grid–Miller, Oliveira, Marquez, Alex (!) Marquez, Zarco–were going to have a good day, being veterans comfortable on rain tires. Oddly, rookie and Valentino Rossi protégé Marco Bezzecchi took pole on Saturday, joined by Jorge Martin and Pecco Bagnaia for an all Ducati front row. Duc Duc Duc. Young Marco took the hole shot and proceeded to get mauled by pretty much everyone, ending his day in P16.

By Lap 4, Jack Miller had established a clear but unconvincing lead, with KTM wet weather ace Miguel Oliveira sniffing around his tailpipe. Oliveira took P2 from Bezzecchi on Lap 7 and seized the lead from Miller on Lap 8 as Aleix Espargaro was being assessed a long lap penalty for, as I understand it, “being kind of an asshole all day,” as it said in the FIM press release. I overheard the announcers say that someone had been assessed a three-second penalty for conduct unbecoming, but missed the rider’s name. One of you, I’m sure, will inform me. Wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was #93.

Quartararo’s day was awful in several ways. He gave up 16 of his 18 point lead and now is in a dogfight with Bagnaia for the title. Aleix sits in third, any momentum he enjoyed early in the season largely gone. EBas had a quiet P6 today, his ten points taking him to within 18 of Bagnaia. And along comes Jack, suddenly, having secured 45 points in the last eight days, sitting in a somewhat menacing P5. Conceding the win to Oliveira late in the race, Miller appeared somewhat circumspect about the prospect of trading paint with the rider he will replace on the KTM factory team next season.

For me, the highlight of the day occurred after the conclusion, when Simon Crafar, World’s Worst Interviewer, was sufficiently at sea, all deer in headlights, such that he could only manage to ask Pecco, “How happy are you?” I suspect Simon is moonlighting for some magazine, maybe Us or Forever21, and that he bootlegs these clips into articles about relationships and feelings and leather.

OK. I heard Matt Birt allude to the possibility the 2022 title could be decided in Valencia. So, we Dummies, we Morons, can look forward to that prospect today, when six weeks ago it seemed unlikely. Reality, it seems, has caught up with your boy Fabio and I’m afraid it’s downhill from here. Phillip Island and Sepang are happy hunting grounds for the Ducati phalanx. As usual, the primary question remains, “Who is composed enough to stay out of the gravel during the last four rounds?” Which is why we watch this stuff. I wish I had it in me to share my thoughts on Moto3 and Moto2 today. All I can say at this time is that the Moto2 race was shredded by the weather and, accordingly, for the first time in my memory, awarded half points to the riders of the truncated fiasco. The main beneficiaries of this decision, it would appear, are the bookmakers who can now avoid pushes using full point spread increments. There’s a sentence in there somewhere.

A week off before heading out to Australia and Malaysia. It appears plausible to believe 2022 will be one of those years when two riders head to Valencia within three points of one another, perhaps with a third another ten points back. A race in which the three riders will push all of their chips into the middle of the table, look each other in the eye, and say, “All in.” The guys who are making the videos recapping each MotoGP season will get their teeth into the jangling nerves and rampant obsessive compulsive disorders on display behind the scenes in Valencia on Friday night. One guy on the team stress-refreshing the Accuweather forecast. Fabio getting his roots done. Vinales on the phone for two hours with his infant daughter discussing race strategy. Jack Miller getting well into the beer before arm-wrestling members of his team. The young VR46 guns, Marini and Bezzecchi and Bastiannini, sitting with The Great Rossi listening to stories about 2008, barely able to keep their eyes open other than the breathtaking number of, um, encounters with, ahem, female admirers.

The hits just keep coming in MotoGP. Stay tuned for more up-to-date expressions of wild speculation.

MotoGP 2022 Round 16: Motegi

September 25, 2022

Jack Miller dominates; Quartararo extends series lead

The 2022 Japanese Grand Prix, after getting skipped by The Powers That Be for the last two years, gave the fans an odd little race. The kind of race it was today: Series leader Fabio Quartararo, stuck in the mid-pack mud all day, finished in P8 and extended his series lead. Everyone’s favorite underdog, Aleix Espargaro, got undone on the sighting lap, something terminal with the electronics on his Aprilia, forcing him to pit, drop his bike, jump on his #2 bike, and start from pit lane in a distant P25. Aleix rode his ass off all day only to finish in P16, pointless.

Factory Ducati pilot Pecco Bagnaia, he of the gi-normous expectations heading into the season, found himself slugging it out in the aforementioned mud with his rival, series leader Quartararo, on the final lap. Young Pecco choked on the lowside, trudging through the gravel, clapping his hands in mock appreciation for what he later implied was an error by someone on his crew. Oh, and factory Ducati #2 pilot Jack Miller owned the place all weekend, seized the lead in today’s race on Lap 3 when he went through on Pramac brother-in-arms Jorge Martin and proceeded to lay down a Marquez-esque vapor trail on his way to his fourth win in the premier class.

Ducati did well, as expected, today. Placed five machines in the top ten and two on the podium. Gigi–gotta love this guy–sitting in the garage during the race, looking relaxed, wondering whether he should order more tiramasu. There was a point in the race when Matt Birt stopped to observe that he had just seen a Ducati turn inside a Yamaha for the first time ever. Having seen the results before watching the tape, on Lap 23 I wrote, “KITTENS COMING,” in anticipation of the meltdown Matt and Louis would suffer watching Pecco coming unglued on the last lap. Sure enough, right on cue, here they came. I could only be thankful that Steve Day is no longer in the booth, as he was always the one having kittens.

Fabio may be The Blessed Rider again this year; if so, it would represent a truly great season-long body of work on a sadly inferior machine. But really, he struggled all day to manage P8 which would have been P9 had Pecco not surrendered to the laws of physics. Aleix had the best qualifying of the four contenders in P6 prior to the debacle at the start. EBas started from P15 before finishing in P9. And Bagnaia hamstrung himself today by slogging to a P12 during Qualifying #2. It appears that most of our fearless leaders are feeling the pressure of having a premier class championship within their reach. The answer, in all likelihood, will lie, as we have been saying all year, in the number of crashes/DNFs the riders accumulate, as follows:

Rider Points DNF

Fabio Quartararo 219 2

Pecco Bagnaia 201 5

Aleix Espargaro 194 1*

Enea Bastianini 170 4

*mechanical failure at the start

Looking at things this way, it’s entirely possible to project Espargaro winning the title. Fabio spending his entire days on the limit is a blueprint for disaster. Bagnaia has people wondering why he doesn’t get it, that if he would only keep the shiny side up a little more often he would be leading the championship. That he doesn’t should great hope to the Espargaro family. Here’s what the season would look like if Quartararo and Bagnaia were to crash out in Thailand, allowing Aleix to win and EBas to place second:

Quartararo 219

Espargaro 219

Bagnaia 201

Bastianini 190

With four rounds left, I’m confident both Fabio and Pecco will slide out of one of them. The question is whether Aleix can keep his nose clean for an entire season. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t enjoy seeing him take the title after so many years of fruitless toil.

Marc Marquez seized pole on Saturday, just to remind folks how extraordinarily successful he has been here in the past. He took the hole shot and held the lead for three or four turns before getting swallowed up by a gaggle of riders not riding with one arm. He sat in P5 pretty much all day before taking Miguel Oliveira’s lunch money on the final lap for P4.

The factory KTM operation had things going their way today, placing Binder on the podium and Oliveira in the top five, too. Another guy I’ve been ignoring, but who is getting harder and harder to ignore, is Luca Marini. The sophomore has scored points in 13 of the 16 rounds to date. He worked his way up front and was tagging along with the lead group by the end of the day. The grid these days seems absolutely packed with fast young Italian riders, another node of The Rossi Effect. Another example–Marco Bezzecchi, late of the VR46 Academy, will be the runaway winner of the 2022 ROY award aboard his Desmosedici. The future is bright for Ducati pilots in the years to come. Ecstar Suzuki, on the other hand, had one rider out injured, a second retired with a mechanical issue, and their test rider/wild card had to make a hasty exit from his GSX-RR which was, at that moment, engulfed in flames. Doing a Zarco is what we call that around here.

So it’s off to Thailand to see how riders under extreme pressure perform in an autoclave. I think such conditions favor the younger riders who are physically more able to withstand the heat. But the veterans have been here before and to Sepang and know how to hold up over race distance. For Fabio, Pecco and Aleix, the season is now. Young Bastianini is going to have to ignore the championship, keep his head down, and score as many points as possiblle each time out. Oh, and remember not to crash.

Marc Marquez: Love Him or Hate Him

September 20, 2022

Events at Aragon this past weekend have re-ignited the firestorm that has surrounded Marc Marquez since he rode in the 125cc class back in 2008 (the year I started covering MotoGP). The eight-time world champion, his boyish good looks having been displaced by a steely persona, has as many fans as detractors. Let’s see what’s at the root of this split.

First, whenever we see a rider win his first grand prix or his first championship, there is almost always an outpouring of emotion, often tears; such celebrations have obviously come at a cost to the rider and his family. The winnowing process in motorcycle racing is as brutal as it is in pretty much everything that calls itself a sport. For every first-time winner, at any age, there are hundreds of boys and young men who’ve had their hearts broken. The thought crossed my mind at one time that these dramatic, emotional reactions were put on for the cameras. But, in truth, these riders would probably prefer their fans not to see them in tears. So the emotions and the drive to win we see in every rider, including Marquez, is to be expected. (By the way, the process also occurs in golf, which calls itself a sport despite the fact that you can smoke and drink while playing.)

A number of Kool-Aid drinkers, who have the number 46 tattooed on their asses, hate Marquez for having allegedly cost Rossi the title in 2015. It seems to be an unwritten law of the universe that haters are going to hate. There have always been fans who despised Rossi for one reason or another; the same is true for Marquez. And, to be fair, pretty much all the great riders going back to 1949. Along with the emotion and drive to win, the great riders learned that to win in grand prix racing a rider will have to be, on occasion, ruthless. There will be charged moments in races in which it becomes him or me. One of us is going down, and it’s not going to be me. Is such thinking less than charitable? Undoubtedly. Is it necessary if one aspires to champion status? Absolutely. The same people who call Marquez a bully were the ones cheering Rossi as he put Stoner’s dick in the dirt at Laguna Seca in 2008, cutting a corner through a sand trap in the process, not bothering to rake afterwards.

One thing Marquez supporters can always say to his critics: Scoreboard. See below.

All that yellow. His first seven seasons in the premier class were incomparable. Of course, the eye is drawn to the single disqualification at Phillip Island in 2013 which came his way because, having clinched the title by then, it didn’t matter and he therefore didn’t care. (Like skipping high school classes after being accepted to college: Who wouldn’t?) People also need to recall 2014, when he won the first ten races of the season, then loafed to an inexplicable P4 at Brno before winning again at Silverstone.

One last point from me before you guys get your teeth into this. Let’s assemble a list of MotoGP riders one would be well-advised to give wide berth, in addition to Marquez who, at age 30, is witnessing a deterioration in his reflexes and, one suspects, a heightened sense of self-preservation, having entertained the prospect, now several times, of becoming blind in at least one eye. Here’s ten off the top of my head:

Barry Sheene Kenny Roberts

Freddie Spencer Eddie Lawson

Mick Doohan Kenny Roberts Jr.

Wayne Rainey Kevin Schwantz

Valentino Rossi Casey Stoner

The fact is all these guys won MotoGP titles, most of them more than one. Given the fact that a collision on track provides both riders an opportunity to get seriously injured, or worse, and is, under normal circumstances, to be avoided if possible, none of these guys went out to deliberately cause a crash. Shit happens at 250 kph. Unless the intended victim were a teammate, none of these guys would back down from a fight, if only to keep their reputations. Marquez, with his massive presence, is another of these tough guys who welcomes contact and who has initiated it in the past. What occurred on Sunday last was not Marquez initiating either contact, but Marquez trying to bully his way through the pack–all the way through the pack from P15–on the first lap. His comportment on Lap 1 at Aragon was not his finest moment. If, as is possible, he comes back to chalk up a few wins at season’s end, I think most of the moto racing world will welcome him back.

Marquez makes the riders around him better at taking evasive action. That’s the most charitable thing I can think of to say at this moment. It’s like hating the sin, loving the sinner. It’s like hating what a fellow citizen says but defending his right to speak freely. Marquez, despite his movie star good looks, with never a whisker out of place, has been bred to race this way. He has experienced unmatched levels of accomplishment. He has been disqualified exactly once and that was arguably intentional. As Kevin Hart says, “It’s what I do.”

Love him or hate him, Marc Marquez has been an incandescent talent in this sport, just the guy to make people stop mourning the loss of Valentino. Will one of the young guns at Ducati take the reins of the premier class in the next season or two and peel off 10 wins to start a season, maybe collect six or eight titles?

Unlikely.

MotoGP 2022 – Aragon Round 15

September 19, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quartararo 211 211 2 Yamaha

Bagnaia 181 201 4 Ducati

AEspargaro 178 194 0 Aprilia

Bastianini 138 163 4 Ducati

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

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

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

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

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

Damn, this is fun.

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

MotoGP 2022 Round 14 Results: Misano

September 4, 2022

Spoiler Alert. Although you, the reader, may be hard pressed to find them, the results from all three of Sunday’s MotoGP menu items are buried in here somewhere. I’m looking out from the porch of my oceanfront condo, ogling “…all the tourists covered with oil.” Since you’ve probably already watched the races and are up to speed on results and 2022 standings, this vacation piece will be even more superficial than usual, just a recordkeeping device until October, when I start giving MotoGP my full attention as titles are decided.

In Moto3, we saw an all-day joust between rising stars Dennis Foggia (winner at Misano for the last three years), baby-faced Jaume Masia, NKIT Izan Guevara (my bet as the second coming of Marc Marquez), and Dennis Oncu, who has two dots on top of the O and rode today with 1.0 shoulders and 1.5 arms, doing well to not pass out from the pain and heat. Although teenager Guevara led for most of the day, he ended the day in P3 because it’s Moto3. He did manage to take the lead in the 2022 championship, which must have assuaged his pain somewhat. A fascinating season continues.

Moto2 was won by the seventh first-time Moto2 winner this year, one Alonso Lopez. Left without a ride at the start of the season, he sat around, doing sit-ups, until someone like, say, Romano Fenati self-destructed after Round 4, allowing Lopez to return from exile, with a future so bright he has to wear shades. At one point the lead group in today’s race was comprised of five riders, all of whose first names begin with the letter A:

A Lopez

A Arenas

A Canet

A Fernandez

A Ogura

This is the type of razor-edged reporting you can’t find just anywhere.

Incidentally, series leader Celestino Vietti crashed out again, today from P4, as his dream season in April has turned into a September nightmare. 70 points in the first three rounds; 86 points in the last 11. Bummer, dude. Augusto Fernandez, his ticket punched into MotoGP next season, now leads his only contender, Ogura, by a scant four points with six rounds left. Ogura, too, has his ticket punched to the premier class next season, presumably on an LCR Honda.

In MotoGP, Pecco Bagnaia became the first Ducati pilot EVER to record four wins in a row, putting him smack dab in the middle of the championship conversation. He held off future teammate Enea Bastianini for most of the day and looked to have things wrapped up, until EBas tipped his bike to the left heading for the flag and came within .03 seconds of catching Bagnaia. Fabio Quartararo’s Yamaha was not up to the task today, but FQ was able to limit the damage to his championship hopes, with a number of friendly tracks yet to come. At the flag it was Pecco, EBas and Maverick Vinales, standing on the podium a year after making his Aprilia debut, Cole Trickle having, at least for now, the last laugh. For the year, Fabio now leads Bagnaia by 30 points and Aleix by 33. Someone is going to have to figure out a way to slow down Bagnaia unless they want to keep hearing the Italian national anthem week after week.

For the record, Andrea Dovizioso’s MotoGP career came to an unceremonious end today with a P12 in his final ride. I could be wrong, but I don’t recall hearing his name called one during the race. For all veteran riders, the formula for determining when to retire looks like this:

BYR (Best Year to Retire) = AYR (Actual Year of Retirement) -1. Reference Valentino Rossi, Colin Edwards, etc.

MotoGP 2022 Round 13 – Spielberg

August 21, 2022

Sunday was a lovely day for racing at what must be considered one of the finest stops on the MotoGP calendar. The immaculate circuit, as fast as any, despite the layout which keeps most riders out of 6th gear all day. The postcard quality scenery. World-class brolly girls. A microclimate enriched by the thousands of pine trees in the vicinity. Seeing Carlos Ezpeleta, The Big Boursin of MotoGP in lederhosen, looking like Wally from Dilbert. Three exciting races. Championships tightening.

This is how racing is supposed to be. Fans on first-name bases with the riders. Longstanding rivalries renewed every week. Rampant nationalism. Racing margins so thin they make the blink of an eye seem like a long time. Riders separated by thousandths of a second at the flag. All coming to us at breathtaking speeds. And all on two wheels.

We will cover the high points of all three races but not in our usual depth. I have things to do.

Moto3: Sasaki Wins from Waaaaaay Back

The Crazy Boy, Ayuma Sasaki, was having a bad day. Two long lap penalties early in the race saw him fall to as low as P24 on Lap 5. 18 laps later he was firmly lodged in P1 and on his way to his first grand prix victory ever. Research indicates that riders with the name “Crazy”, by itself or in combination with other words, in their “track name” correlate highly with truncated careers. Over the long term, Crazy typically morphs into “retired.”

First Japanese 1-2 at any level since 2001.

Today’s race: Sasaki Suzuki Munoz (16 years old!)

2022: S Garcia 193 Izan Guevara 188 Dennis Foggia 144

Moto2: P2-OK

Today’s Moto2 race was plodding along, minding its own business with Honda Team Asia riders Ai Ogura (ticket to MotoGP next year already punched) and Thai speedster Somkiat Chantra having carved out a considerable lead on the field, Chantra running as Ogura’s wingman. Over the last five laps of the race it appeared Chantra was having to rein in his bike, that he had better pace than Ogura in addition to the expectation from every member of the team and the media that he would never (NEVER) challenge Ogura during this race, possibly removing him from the lead in the 2022 championship.

So what happened on the last lap. Did young Chantra lose his effing mind? Yes, it was Chantra muscling up on his teammate and good friend, taking the lead on Turn 8 of the final lap before surrendering it again on Turn 9, getting up close and personal and causing team principal Hiro Aoyama to blow a head gasket, oil and smoke pouring from his ears. And though the race ended well for the Honda team, young Chantra will probably be headed to the woodshed with Aoyama and some Asian guys in expensive suits to discuss his comportment in an atmosphere of free and frank conversation.

Personally, I believe Chantra intended to keep it clean and intended to yield the lead to Ogura at the end. The two are good friends; to me it looked like one friend saying to the other, “Congratulations on a great win. I could have beat you any time I wanted. Your mom said to tell you hi.”

Today’s race: A. Ogura S. Chantra J. Dixon

2022: A Ogura 183 A Fernandez 182 C. Vietti 156

MotoGP: Fabio Takes on Five Ducatis, Beats Four

Today’s premier class tilt saw French heartthrob Fabio Quartararo lined up at the start in the middle of row 2, with Bologna Bullets going all Charge of the Light Brigade on him, (Desmosedicis to the left, Desmosedicis to the right, Desmosedicis in front), the Italian brutes occupying five of the top six spots on the grid. By the time he saw the checkered flag, young Fabio had dispensed with Jack Miller, Jorge Martin, Enea Bastiannini and Johann Zarco; given an additional lap, he might very well have tracked down Pecco Bagnaia for the win, as the Italian’s final margin for the win was a mere 4/10ths.

Other than Bagnaia taking the hole shot and holding the lead for almost the entire race, there didn’t seem to be a key moment that changed the course of things. Joan Mir crashed out early as his season of horrors continues. EBas, in some early race contact I missed, left with a damaged rim on his front that allowed air to escape, rendering the bike unrideable. Luca Marini enjoyed his best day in the premier class, finishing in P4 after overtaking a number of more experienced riders from P13.

Today’s race: P Bagnaia F Quartararo J Miller

2022: F Quartararo 200 A Espargaro 168 P Bagnaia 156

The graphic below is chock full of information. Someone—what all does this tell us?

San Marino in two weeks. Andrea Dovizioso’s swan song.

Lots of info here.
One long-stemmed rose.
Low rez, terrible.
Where does Monster find them?
Very orderly Teutonic devotees.
Aryan beauty on display.

MotoGP 2022 Round 12: Silverstone

August 7, 2022

Vinales blinks, Pecco wins British Grand Prix

There are people who don’t like racing at Silverstone, for whatever reason. The cafeteria in the press room is inferior? The air conditioning lacks gusto? It’s flat as a board? Its military roots are offensive to the universe? Silverstone is long and fast and wide, allowing for more overtakes than you see in any other race on the calendar. The result is what we saw today, 20 laps of brilliant riding, strategies working and failing, five Ducatis in the top ten, and Pecco closing the gap to Fabio by 17 points.

After a warm weekend of practice and qualifying, the view from here, waiting for the lights to go out, was that Fabio’s Yamaha would be at a decided disadvantage versus the Ducs and Apes. Pecco Bagnaia, everyone’s pre-season favorite, was likely to continue his recent form of either winning or crashing out. Aleix and his Aprilia looked fast all weekend until it launched him into a low Earth orbit during FP4, causing him to race with one leg/ankle/foot combination and one leg/etc. He managed a respectable P9 in a race most mortal humans would have mailed in. Johann “Bridesmaid” Zarco, still looking for his first premier class win, and looking swarthier than ever with the elegant full beard, won pole with another seven riders who broke Marc Marquez’s previous track record set in 2018. And, lo and behold, who comes lurking around the upper echelons of the racing food chain but one Maverick Vinales, aka Cole Trickle. He appeared to be preparing for a stirring comeback to the top step of the podium in merry England, but was unable to mount a successful challenge to Bagnaia on the final lap, appearing to come slightly unglued in the process. P2 is a nice result for Pop Gun as he attempts to resurrect his once promising career with the Noale factory,

Zarco took the holeshot on his Pramac Ducati and led the race for five laps until bad luck, the only kind he knows, undid him, sliding out of the lead into a general Gallic funk. Jack Miller, the forgotten man in MotoGP, spent most of (qualifying and) the race in P3, ultimately securing 16 points for his day’s work. Alex Rins appeared to have good pace all weekend and looked strong early today, but developed what appeared to be grip issues before fading to P7 at the flag.

So, after Zarco led at the start, Rins took over the lead until he was passed by Pecco on Lap 12, who was never seriously challenged thereafter. Vinales moved up the leader board over the last few laps, creating the anticipated Bagnaia vs. Vinales challenge on the last lap. But Pop Gun’s resurrection will have to wait, as he was unable to bring the fight to Bagnaia due to several twitches. Pecco never blinked.

Fabio ended up limping home in P8. EBas, who started in P8 and had nothing going on most of the day, rallied late to secure P4 and feel good about himself heading to Austria in two weeks.

Silverstone Top 10

Bagnaia

Vinales

Miller

Bastiannini

JMartin

Oliveira

Rins

Quartararo

Espargaro

Bezzecchi

2022 top 10 after 12 rounds

Quartararo          180

Espargaro            158

Bagnaia                131

Bastiannini            118

Zarco                     114

Miller                     107

BBinder                   98

Rins                          84

Vinales                     82

Oliveira                     81

Screenshot (24)

MotoGP 2022 Round 11 – Assen

July 2, 2022

One of the joys of writing about MotoGP for nothing is that it frees me from the shackles of editorial restraint which often chafe and prevent me from expressing my true feelings, at least regarding subjects for which I have feelings, which aren’t many.

Let’s use Assen as an example. Instead of doing my sworn duty as a mototrashjournaist, I spent the weekend driving 1400 miles and speaking briefly at the memorial service for my oldest childhood friend, since 2nd grade. Had I been slaving away under the heartless Evans Brasfield things would have gotten complicated, Evans might have been inconvenienced, my wages could have been garnished, John Burns might have elected to flame me on MO. Nothing good, and my boy Bobby B is well beyond caring. But if we blow off these milestones, especially the exits, who are we? If we decide that the details of our lives are more important than the people who comprised them, who are we indeed?

So, here are the facts. Top ten at Assen. Top six year to date.

Assen MotoGP Race:

         pts

1        25      63 Francesco Bagnaia

2        20      72 Marco Bezzecchi

3        16      12 Maverick Viñales

4        13     41  Aleix Espargaro

5        11     33  Brad Binder

6        10      43 Jack Miller

7        9        89 Jorge Martin

8        8        36 Joan Mir

9        7        88 Miguel Oliveira

10      6        42 Alex Rins

Year to date

  1. 20   Fabio Quartararo     172   NC = 1
  2. 41   Aleix Espargaro       151   NC = 0
  3.   5   Johann Zarco          114   NC = 1
  4. 63   Francesco Bagnaia   110  NC = 4

     5  23   Enea Bastianini        105  NC = 3

     6  33   Brad Binder               93  NC = 1

Moto2 Race:

1        25      37 Augusto Fernandez

2        20      79 Ai Ogura

3        16      96 Jake Dixon

4        13      13 Celestino Vietti

5        11      64 Bo Bendsneyder

6        10      21 Alonso Lopez

7        9        14 Tony Arbolino

8        8        16 Joe Roberts

9        7        18 Manuel Gonzalez

10      6        12 Filip Salac

Year to date:

1       C Vietti              146

2       A Fernandez       146

3       A Ogura             145

4       A Canet              116

5       T Arbolino           104

6       J Roberts              97

Moto3 Race:

1        25      71 Ayumu Sasaki

2        20      28 Izan Guevara

3        16      11 Sergio Garcia

4        13      24 Tatsuki Suzuki

5        11      43 Xavier Artigas

6        10      96 Daniel Holgado

7        9        82 Stefano Nepa

8        8        6 Ryusei Yamanaka

9        7        53 Deniz Öncü

10      6        27 Kaito Toba

Year to date:

1        S Garcia                182

2        I Guevara              179

3        D Foggia                118

4        A Sasaki                113

5        J Masia                  107

6        D Oncu                    98

One thing I’m sure to comment on, under the paragraph entitled “Parity” is the dead heat among the top three contenders in Moto2. Never seen three riders separated by a single point at the top of any chart. Another thing will be your boy Aleix shattering, on lap 15 of the race, the existing all-time lap record at Assen, NOT JUST THE RACE LAP. Up until the moment the all-time record was broken later in the race, Aleix posted the fastest lap ever recorded at Assen, DURING THE RACE. Pretty amazing.

That’s all for now. Need to get started on the mid-season report coming your way on Motorcycle.com in the near future.

MotoGP 2022 Round Nine – Catalunya

June 3, 2022

The 2022 season is unfolding about the way we had hoped back in February. Five or six riders who present credible threats to podium each week. Major moves up and down the leader board based upon the rider’s ability to stay out of the gravel. Two weeks ago I was burying Pecco Bagnaia for crashing out of races too often; today he is right back in the championship conversation.

Had you tried to tell me that 2022 would finally be Aleix Espargaro’s year to win a premier class title for Aprilia back in February, you would have had trouble getting me to listen. What has emerged in 2022 is a few circuits which can be rightfully considered Aprilia tracks. So far, they include Argentina and Catalunya. There will be a few more–tweeners–neither Sachsenring nor Phillip Island. But their mere existence is emblematic of the order of magnitude-scale changes which have taken place with Aprilia during the past 18 months.

Friday’s practice sessions found both Aprilia riders–Aleix, and the other guy–sitting atop the combined sheet for the day. People are saying (I love using that, so lame) the Aprilia will be untouchable this weekend, perhaps causing more tightening at the top. All I’ve got by way of silly season stuff is Jack Miller heading to the KTM factory team to join Binder, with Miguel Oliveiras being shown the door. LCR Honda is going to do something; standing pat does not appear to be an option. Pedro Acosta may, in two or three months, demand a promotion to the premier class, further complicating things amongst the large herd of prospective KTM riders looking to move on up. Too many young, skillful riders; there’s a nice problem to have.

For the record, qualifying ended up with Amazing Aleix on pole, joined on the front row by Bagnaia and Quartararo. Row 2 includes Zarco, FDG and “Crash” Martin. Hard cheese for Marco Bezzecchi and Enea “Big Boursin” Bastiannini, who were unable to pass through Q1. One of our readers mentioned Maverick Vinales as a possible race winner today. He led the warm-up, passed through Q1, and will start the race from the middle of the third row. [Whence he will likely drop back to P18 before bravely fighting his way back to P10.]

Moto3 today was another good old-fashioned knees-up as my boy Izan Guevara, who recently turned 17, won going away after spending the first half of the race slicing and dicing with the likes of teammate Sergio Garcia, Tatsuki Suzuki, Dennis Oncu, and polesitter Dennis Foggia, who lost the key to his roller skates and had to retire. Suzuki had a nice day, slamming the door on series leader Sergio Garcia at the flag for P3 on the podium. When the dust settled, the top of the Moto3 standings YTD:

S Garcia 150

I. Guevara 134

J. Masia 103

D. Foggia 95

D. Oncu 82

A. Sasaki 75

These seasons in which teammates are fighting one another for the championship are extra fun. The drive they have to, above all else, beat their teammates ranks right up there with oxygen and a warm jelly roll. Last season it was fun to watch KTM studs Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner go at each other all year. This year it is grizzled veteran Sergio Garcia (age 18) and GasGas teammate Guevara (age 17). Young Mr. Guevara appears to be the real deal. Not to mention the remarkable debut of one David (Davin?) Munoz, who, riding as a substitute, placed himself on the second step of the podium at age 16. He created a legitimate look at the win with perhaps three laps left, but could not close the deal against all these other old men. BTW, if I weren’t so lazy, I would tranche these riders. What I can do is to designate Moto3 Aliens–Sergio Garcia, Izan Guevara, Dennis Foggia and Jaume Masia

Today’s Moto2 tilt was the best in recent memory, said the guy whose short-term memory is, well, a memory. Until he slid out unforced on Lap 11, it looked like American Joe Roberts was going to win his first Moto2 race. Later, series leader Celestino Vietti shoved hard-luck bridesmaid Aron Canet out of his way late on the last lap to take the win. Today’s race looked more like Moto3 with a big lead group and beaucoups lead changes. At the end of the day the top six riders in Moto2 were Vietti (133), Ogura (117), Canet (109), A Fernandez (96), Arbolino (89) and Roberts (86). A golden opportunity for Roberts and Amerian racing blown.

And, for the record, the Moto2 Alien set currently includes Celestino Vietti, Ogura, and Canet.

The Catalan MotoGP race today will go down in history as the one in which Aleix Espargaro, in the midst of a dream season, lapsed briefly into nightmare, having lost count of his laps, entering the final lap in the midst of the lead group, sitting up, blowing kisses to the crowd, while his rivals disappeared down the road, discovering, appalled, he had just given away nine championship points and a P2 for Aprilia, not to mention gagging in front of his homeys, while little brother Pol was finishing out of the points, some 46 seconds behind Quartararo. All in all, a terrible day for the family, who had probably made potato salad and fried chickens to celebrate their local boys making good.

So the podium included Fabio on the top step, Crash Martin on P2 and Johann Zarco P3. Joan Mir followed in P4, in front of Aleix, who would undoubtedly sack up and take responsibility for his obvious and inexcusable mistake. It would be better if he were a rookie or second year man. A rider with his experience; I suppose all one can say is that he clearly had a lot on his mind.

This was another of those Quartararo races in which absolutely everything went right–

  • friendly circuit, dry conditions
  • able to grab the lead early in the first lap and run unchallenged in clean air
  • terrible day for Ducati–Bagnaia DNF, Bezzecchi DNF, FDG DNF, EBas DNF
  • a once-in-a-career brain fart by one of his top challengers

Props to Crash Martin for showing us again why it is too soon to write him off. He strikes me as the second coming of Dani Pedrosa in a sport that favors small, light riders. And we are happy to announce the recipient of this season’s first Dennis Rodman Award, for hanging around the basket looking for rebounds and easy put backs, is Johann Zarco, the primary beneficiary of Espargaro’s momentary, imaginary side trip to Turks & Caicos.

The 2022 top ten after nine rounds looks like this:

Quartararo        147

Espargaro          125

Bastiannini          94

Zarco                   91

Bagnaia                81

Binder                   73

Rins                       69

Mir                         69

Miller                     65

(M Marquez)          60)

Suddenly, or nor so suddenly, the title seems to be Quartararo’s to lose. Aleix seems to have lost some of the magic we’ve come to expect from him. Same with Bastiannini, with DNFs in his last two outings. I read somewhere that a number of writers had written off Bagnaia until his win at Mugello, then put him squarely in the midst of the title conversation until today’s skittling, after which he has been written off again. (As it turns out, I read it at the top of this page.)

Lest I forget, our current crop of premier class Aliens includes Fabio, Aleix, EBas and Pecco.

This should be a week featuring lots of sharing from readers, given the unlikely nature of 2022. To me, it feels like an NBA game in which the opponent hits 11 of their first 13 three-pointers, and they have you by 14 at the half. My point is that I doubt everything is going to go perfectly well for your boy Fabio during the entire season, that he will not have one or two DNFs by the time they start putting up Christmas decorations in the stores. Once again, depending upon who stays upright and who doesn’t, the standings could easily look way different during the Asian part of the schedule.

As always, I’m still singing the same sad old song:

“Oh Lord, please let it get decided in Valencia.”

MotoGP 2022 Round Eight – Mugello

May 29, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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