Archive for the ‘MotoGP Brno’ Category

For Marc Marquez, 10 down, eight to go

August 12, 2014

MotoGP 2014 Brno Preview, by Bruce Allen 

An idea that was once viewed as preposterous is now causing some MotoGP fans to become bored.  The notion that one rider could sweep an entire 18 race season, in the midst of Aliens, bad weather, reckless competitors, a bunch of ticky-tacky rules, and plain old bad luck, has been widely dismissed for the last 40 years, since the ancient days of Giacomo Agostini.  And yet here we are, on the cusp of one of the most amazing feats in motorsports history. 

DiMaggio460_1690402cThe athletic world, in general, recognizes greatness but worships consistency.  In the major sports, the MLB record least likely to ever fall is Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak in 1941.  The despicable New York Yankees won five straight World Series titles between 1949 and 1953.  Between 1966 and 1974, the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team won 88 games in a row, as well as seven consecutive national titles. Bill Walton 1972 And in high school sports, the Carmel, Indiana girls swim team holds the U.S. national record for all-time consecutive state championships with 28 in a row, beginning in 1986.  The girls who won it last year weren’t even born when the streak started.  This is the stuff of which legends are made.

Several years ago the Indianapolis Colts, at 14-0, had a shot at an undefeated season—the first since Miami in 1971-72—and kicked it away by resting their starters before the playoffs, in which they eventually lost before ever getting to the Super Bowl.  Colts management was viewed locally as idiots, giving up a chance to do something that had only ever been done once in favor of trying, and failing, to do something that had been done over 40 times; a number of fans, including yours truly, are still a little ticked off over that one.

AgostiniIn MotoGP, the three year period between 1968 and 1970 saw the legendary Giacomo Agostini go undefeated in every 500cc race he started, although he sat out a few rounds, for whatever reason.  In 1968, though, it was a 10 race season.  Throughout the period, Agostini’s MV Augusta enjoyed something like a 30 HP advantage over his nearest competitors, so the playing field wasn’t exactly level.

The same cannot be said about Repsol Honda pilot Marc Marquez in 2014.  With eight rounds left in the 2014 season, one would have to say the odds are still against him.  But they’re getting shorter every week.  Of the remaining circuits, only Brno and Phillip Island offer Yamaha a distinct advantage, the others being largely neutral or Honda-centric.  Clearly, the only rider capable of beating Marquez is Marquez himself, through a bad decision or just plain carelessness.  Of the two, at this point a bad decision—being overly aggressive in a turn, or somehow selecting the wrong tires—is more likely than a loss of concentration.

Marquez figures to clinch the title sometime around Aragon.  It will be interesting to see if he backs off even a smidge thereafter.  In this corner, we think he will go for greatness.  And, if he should accomplish the implausible this year, you get the sense he will aim for the impossible—a repeat performance—in 2015, before the global tire change takes place in 2016.

It could happen.  And whether he pulls it off or not, his legacy is already cast.  In Joni Mitchell’s words, he is “as constant as the North Star.”

Recent History at Brno

In 2012, Repsol Honda mighty mite Dani Pedrosa went one-on-four with the prototype Yamahas and came away the winner, “pipping” eventual world champion Jorge Lorenzo in the last two turns.  Cal Crutchlow, on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, enjoyed the first of four Tech 3 podiums with a surly third place finish, 12 seconds off the pace.  Other than the Lorenzo/Pedrosa tussle, there wasn’t much to cheer about at Brno in 2012.

Last year, there was plenty going on at Karel Abraham Sr.’s playground.  Lorenzo spent the day towing Marquez and Pedrosa around the track while the two Repsol riders kept their powder dry and waited for their fuel loads to drop.  Without so much as a “by your leave,” Marquez flew past Lorenzo on Lap 16, followed three laps later by Pedrosa, and that was that for Lorenzo’s last remaining thoughts of repeating as world champion.  Farther back in the pack, Valentino Rossi, returning on the factory Yamaha, schooled Gresini Honda’s Alvaro Bautista on the last lap to secure fourth place.  Factory Ducati stud Andrea Dovizioso did much the same thing to teammate Nicky Hayden to finish seventh.  Aleix Espargaro did Colin Edwards, Danilo Petrucci did Hiro Aoyama and so on, all the way down to 19th place, where Karel Abraham, getting plenty of love from his homeys, punked Bryan Staring by 3/10ths. Something for every taste and budget, as it were.

An Apology, of Sorts Espargaro and Smith

I don’t know who writes a lot of this stuff, but their work leaves plenty to be desired.  Sunday’s Indianapolis results article, for example, completely ignored the heroic efforts of the Tech 3 Yamaha duo of Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith.  The pair finished the day fifth and sixth, respectively, after each suffered grievous bodily harm during practice.  Smith had another impressive high side that “re-opened” his left pinky, whatever that means.  And Espargaro, during a huge moment in FP4, jammed his left boot into the asphalt, flew up in the air without losing his grip on the handlebars, and came down hard on his, um, package.  He joked with the announcers afterwards that he would be singing with the castralto section in the MotoGP choir practice that evening, sounding during the interview like Tiny Tim on helium.  One assumes he was wearing a cup during the race. PolEspargaroCapture

Your Weekend Weather Forecast 

You would think that by now I would have learned to stay away from predictions, but I was an econ major in college and old habits die hard.  Two predictions I’m pretty confident about, though—Leon Camier will substitute again for Nicky Hayden on the Aspar Honda, and Alex de Angelis will spend some time on Colin Edwards’ Forward Racing FTR/Yamaha.  He will probably spend some time off the bike as well, if you catch my meaning.

The weekend weather forecast for the metropolitan Brno area is a little sketchy, with temps expected to be in the low- to mid-70’s and little chance of rain.  As for the race itself, one would need his head examined to suggest that Marquez will not win on Sunday.  All three of the other Aliens have enjoyed substantial success at Brno.  Personally, I believe we’ll see pretty much the exact same top four in Brno as we saw last week in Indianapolis.  Of course, as they like to say around here, some people believe chickens have lips.

MotoGP Brno 2013 Results

August 25, 2013

By Bruce Allen

Marquez wins again, Aliens in shock 

Repsol Honda wonder Marc Marquez won today’s Czech Grand Prix by 3/10ths over teammate Dani Pedrosa, with Yamaha double champion Jorge Lorenzo another two seconds behind.  Once again making it look easy, Marquez now leads Pedrosa by 26 points and a disheartened Lorenzo by 44 with seven rounds left in the 2013 season.  Had the rookie not crashed out of the lead at Mugello back in June, this thing would be over already. 

Marquez is now smashing all time records every time out, a proverbial bull in the 65 year-old MotoGP china shop.  He became the first rookie ever to win at Laguna Seca in July.  Last week, ignoring the footnote, he became the first rider ever to win three rounds in the United States.  And today he became the first rider ever to win five races in his rookie season, having prevailed in the last four rounds.  The sky appears to be the limit for the young Spaniard, as he does not appear quite fast enough to enter a low earth orbit.

22 Masterful Laps

During the practice sessions leading up to qualifying, it was the usual suspects at the top of the timesheets, with Lorenzo, LCR Honda sophomore Stefan Bradl, Monster Tech 3 defector Cal Crutchlow and Marquez taking turns leading a session.  Q2, the main qualifying event, was a little weird, as most of the riders could only manage four laps over the long Brno circuit, and resulted in a front row of Crutchlow, GO&FUN loose cannon Alvaro Bautista and Marquez.  The second row featured Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Tech 3 rookie Bradley Smith, with Valentino Rossi, the now-former Alien, in seventh.

Once things got underway, Lorenzo got off to an impressively fast start, with Marquez and Pedrosa in hot pursuit.  Crutchlow started poorly, immediately back in fourth position, tangling with Bautista and Rossi most of his truncated day, his hopes of a maiden premier class win shattered in the first lap.  Adding injury to insult, the Brit, with seven races left until his self-imposed exile with Ducati for the next two years, crashed out on Lap 9 and eventually finished out of the points in 17th.  So much for sitting on the pole.

Lorenzo led the first group for most of the day, but was unable to get away, while the two Repsol Hondas were relaxing in his slipstream, biding their time, probing for signs of weakness.  Marquez feinted several times before going through for good in the final turn of Lap 16, a replay of what Pedrosa did to Lorenzo on the last lap in 2012.  Three laps later, Pedrosa himself went through on Lorenzo, hoping to overtake his thoroughly annoying rookie teammate in the last three laps.  It was not to be, as Pedrosa didn’t have enough left to mount the late charge he desperately needed.

Before the race, it was generally acknowledged that crunch time had arrived for Yamaha and Jorge Lorenzo, that another loss to either Repsol Honda at the flowing Brno circuit would spell ruin for the 2013 season.  Similarly, for Pedrosa and Lorenzo, allowing Marquez to work them again would be another sure sign of the career apocalypse looming before both.  The two veterans, masters of their craft, gave this race everything they had, but it wasn’t nearly enough.  To the casual observer, the all-Spanish podium would appear to spell joy for the three honorees.  In fact, for two of them, it spelled despair.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Once Crutchlow went walkabout on Lap 9 (joining teammate Bradley Smith in the Tech 3 DNF party) the battle for fourth place between Bautista and Rossi raged all day, a measure of how much Rossi’s game has slipped in the past few years.  While Rossi would eventually prevail, a hollow victory to be sure, he finished 10 seconds behind Marquez, which would have been unthinkable as recently as 2010.

At 200 mph, things can go downhill in a hurry.  In fact, it may not be much of an overstatement to suggest that Rossi is on his way to becoming Colin Edwards, the thoroughly faded Yamaha veteran, other than the fact that Rossi has 80 premier class wins to zero for Edwards.

Stefan Bradl spent a lonely day in 6th place, turning laps, finishing 10 seconds behind Bautista and 15 seconds ahead of the factory Ducati duo of Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden.  Dovi and Hayden, after their latest close encounter at Indianapolis, had been hauled in front of both Race Direction and Ducati brass over their tendency to trade paint with one another, and refrained from doing so today.

[Before the season started, a Ducati mouthpiece told the media the company expected the two to challenge for wins this season on the ever-changing Desmosedici, providing further evidence, as if more were needed, that the Bologna factory is hopelessly out of touch with reality.]

Andrea Iannone, onboard the Pramac Ducati, ended the day in 9th place, followed once again by Aleix Espargaro, the top finisher in the now non-operative CRT class.  The only other result of note was that of Michele Pirro, subbing for the now-finished Ben Spies, who managed a respectable 12th place finish.  Looks like Pirro will finish the season racing, rather than testing, for Ducati Corse.  Spies, who had surgery on both shoulders this past week, should now be spoken of only in the past tense when discussing MotoGP.

The Big Picture

The standings tell the story.  For Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, their only remaining hope is that Marquez will crash out of a race or two, and it’s bad racing karma to wish such things for your rivals, especially a teammate.  Crutchlow’s gaffe today puts him 16 points behind Rossi in 5th place, but serves as valuable preparation for the next two years of his career.  After an outstanding weekend at Laguna Seca, of all places, Bradl has now settled back to earth and looks beatable by Dovizioso, assuming Dovi can resist further opportunities to mix things up with his teammate.

Top Ten after 11 rounds

On to Silverstone

Shakespeare’s “winter of our discontent” has now become Pedrosa and Lorenzo’s summer of nausea.  The nagging apprehension they likely felt toward Marquez heading into the season has now been replaced by fully-formed dread, as the Honda rookie has proven himself to be, as it were, truly re-Marc-able.  It is impossible to imagine that he will not destroy yet another all-time record next week, eclipsing Rossi’s rookie record of 10 podiums in a single season.

Since moving from Donington Park to Silverstone, Jorge Lorenzo has won the British GP twice, sandwiched around Stoner’s win in 2011.  As such, it would appear that this year’s tilt represents Lorenzo’s last gasping breath of hope for a third premier class championship in 2013.  Pedrosa has a lousy history at Silverstone, and his chances for anything more than a podium finish would appear dubious at best.  Crutchlow and Smith will be completely geeked up for what surely must be a disappointing homecoming weekend.  And Rossi will flash his trademarked smile all the way to the bank while trying to remain within an excuse or two of the podium.

Going forward, a number of interesting questions remain, most of them having to do with who will be riding what for whom in 2014.  The one I can’t get out of my head today has to do with what might have happened had Marquez been running against Casey Stoner on identical bikes this year.  Had it been Stoner and Marquez on the Repsol Hondas this season, the world might have seen some truly epic racing.  The late Robert F. Kennedy captured this sentiment perfectly when he said, “Some men see things as they are and say ‘why?’  I dream things that never were and say, ‘why not?’”

MotoGP Brno 2013 Preview

August 22, 2013

Marc Marquez looking for four in a row 

Fresh off his fantasy weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, rookie Marc Marquez leads Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa and the rest of the grid to eastern Europe for the bwin Grand Prix České republiky.  Between 2007 and 2011 the winner here went on to win the premier class championship.  Pedrosa put an end to all that last year, edging eventual factory Yamaha champion Jorge Lorenzo by 2/10ths of a second.  Will the race revert to its historical pattern in 2013? Captain America - 2013

Now that Marquez has established himself as a legitimate title threat in his first premier class season—how crazy is that?—let’s take a moment to review his year-to-date performance.  Other than Assen, where he lost by two seconds to a resurrected Valentino Rossi, he has won at the tracks where the Honda RC213V thrives—Austin, the Sachsenring, Laguna Seca and Indianapolis.  At Jerez, he lost to Pedrosa by 2+ seconds, back when he was still deferential to his veteran garagemate.  He took thirds at Losail, Le Mans and Catalunya, all of which are Yamaha-friendly layouts.

Brno is generally considered to favor the Yamaha, with few first-gear turns.  But Honda has taken the last two Czech rounds, and Marquez has thrived here, too, with a win and a razor-thin second place in two Moto2 tries.  Were it not for Honda’s “magic box” transmission, Brno this year would appear to be a toss-up.  (This is like speculating how a bullfrog might fare if he had wings.)  One thing is certain—both Pedrosa and Lorenzo are going to push to the max to keep the rookie behind them this weekend.  Otherwise, we’ll soon be talking about the magic number for Marquez to clinch the title.

Recent History at Brno 

Back in 2009, Lorenzo crashed out of the lead, leaving the win to Rossi, followed at some distance by Pedrosa, with Toni Elias—remember him?—a distant 3rd on the Gresini Honda.  Lorenzo had 4 DNFs that year and still managed second place.  Rossi, who crashed only once—at Indianapolis—won the 2009 title by 45 points.  A 16 year-old Marquez drove his 125cc KTM scooter to a run-of-the-mill 8th place finish at Brno that year.  At age 16, many of us were just earning our licenses; Marquez already had corporate sponsors.

Recall 2010.  Lorenzo’s first championship season featured an easy win at Brno over Pedrosa, with Stoner in 3rd on the Ducati, having put Ben Spies away late in the day.  Rossi, still recovering from leg and shoulder injuries suffered in a cold tire wreck at Mugello early in the season, finished 5th.  The 148,000 fans held their breath when Andrea Dovizioso, piloting the factory Honda, went lowside, leaving him standing on the tarmac facing riders coming directly at him in 5th gear.  Although he avoided getting creamed, his second off a few laps later ended his day.  17 year-old Marquez, on a 125cc Derbi, had one of his worst outings of the season, finishing 7th, but went on to win the title anyway.

In 2011Casey Stoner won easily for Honda, demolishing the field after Pedrosa left the premises.  Dovizioso came in 2nd, followed by Marco Simoncelli, Lorenzo, and Ben Spies, back when Spies had a bright future.  Pedrosa crashed out of the lead early, after qualifying on the pole, with the fastest bike in the joint (cue the music, from Pink Floyd’s Momentary Lapse of Reason.)  Stoner would win the title that year.  Marquez, having moved up to Moto2, lost by 16/100ths of a second to Italian Andrea Iannone in a vintage Moto2 race to the flag.

2012 saw Pedrosa “pip” Lorenzo by 18/100ths, one of Pedrosa’s finest races ever.  Yamaha qualified four bikes in the top five, but Pedrosa out-dueled the series leader in a fantastic last lap to remain in the conversation for the 2012 title. (It would prove to be a short stay, as he crashed out the following round at Misano.)  At Brno, however, he wrecked my theme for this week, that whoever wins at Brno wins the championship.  Lorenzo would repeat in 2012, despite Pedrosa taking six of the last eight rounds.  Marquez, still a teenager, won a thriller in Moto2, barely edging Thomas Luthi who, in turn, nosed out Pol Espargaro, who punked Iannone, the top four riders finishing barely half a second apart.  (If the premier class could conjure up that kind of action at the front, attendance across the globe would double.)

A Season on the Brink

Watching young Marquez seize the attention of the motorcycle racing world has got to be a hard thing for Jorge Lorenzo.  A double world champion, at age 26, Lorenzo should be sitting on top of the heap, in his prime, the top dog for the iconic Yamaha racing brand.  Yet here he is, his body injured and his pride wounded, perhaps wondering if he’s won his last title.  He came out in the media this week sounding impatient, stating for maybe the first time his opinion that Yamaha needs to expedite the move to their own magic transmission, that they can’t really compete with the Hondas at this point.  A true company man and Yamaha loyalist, he must really be feeling the pressure to level even veiled criticism at his Japanese masters.

And as hard as it may be for Lorenzo, imagine what it’s like being Dani Pedrosa in the summer of 2013.  Early in the season, it appeared this would be his year; time, finally, for his first premier class title after years of distinguished service and too many surgeries to count.  Though he will only turn 28 next month, he’s an old 28, with the scars to prove it.  When you see him, unaware that the cameras are on him, he looks dejected, scowling, downcast.  In a scant four months he has gone from being the alpha male at the top factory team in the game to simply Marc Marquez’ teammate.  In the garage area at Indianapolis at noon on Sunday, the crowd assembled outside the Repsol garage vanished as soon as Marquez came out, jumped on his scooter, and headed off for lunch, with Pedrosa still inside.

You can’t really blame Pedrosa for feeling cursed.  As good as he is, he’s had to deal with Rossi, Stoner and Lorenzo his whole career, and now Marquez.  Scott Redding is coming up next year, and looks to be a load with 1000ccs under him.  And teenagers Alex Marquez, Marc’s little brother, and his buddy Alex Rins are getting it together in Moto3, heading for Moto2 and MotoGP in a few years.

There’s simply no relief in sight for Dani Pedrosa.  The guy can’t catch a break.

Brazil to Join Argentina in 2014

Carmelo Ezpeleta, the Big Cheese at Dorna, left Indianapolis on Sunday evening and flew to Brazil, where he held a press conference to announce that there will be not one, but two, rounds in South America beginning next season.  The Brazilian GP will have to await FIM homologation—if you don’t know, don’t ask—before it’s official, but it sounds like a done deal, which is great.  The announcement does raise the question as to which venues will get booted off the schedule, now that Indianapolis is certain for next year.  Certainly, one of the Spanish rounds is likely to go away.  If I had to guess, I’d suspect the German Grand Prix might go on hiatus, as the Sachsenring is out in the middle of nowhere and most of the riders dislike both the circuit and the food.

The Czech Grand Prix lifts off at 7 am Eastern time in the United States on Sunday.  Fox Sports 1 is the new home of MotoGP on TV, but has not yet released their broadcast schedule for that day.  We will have race results here later on Sunday.

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