Archive for the ‘MotoGP Misano’ Category

MotoGP Misano Results

September 10, 2017

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Marquez wins a classic; series tied

Magnificent Marc Marquez put on a last lap for his career highlight reel in beating a plucky Danilo Petrucci and conservative Andrea Dovizioso to the flag in a wet Tribul Mastercard GP San Marino e Riviera di Rimini. In doing so, he rained on Ducati’s parade, tied series leader Dovizioso for the championship lead heading to Aragon, and reminded those of us who watch racing how exceptionally gifted he truly is.

Marquez in MisanoThe weather gods pulled a 180° from Monday’s forecast, when it was supposed to be hot and sunny on Sunday, not Friday. Today’s rain scrambled the results in the morning WUP– witness Loris Baz sitting 3rd at the end of the session. Virtually no one had tested the 2015 racing surface in the rain. Ever. The main event, as they say, would be a lottery. Paging Jack Miller.

The Moto3 and Moto2 tilts were crashfests, half of the qualifiers in each failing to finish, and a number of points scorers having found the kitty litter not once, but twice, our old punching bag and substitute rider Alex de Angelis among them. It was easy to feel apprehensive as the MotoGP race approached

Practice and Qualifying

Marquez, Viñales and a bunch of Ducatis were making lots of noise on Friday and Saturday morning. Marquez recorded Saturday’s only sub-1:33 lap late in FP3. Hard-nosed Danilo Petrucci on a Desmo GP17 led the combined times until that point. Test rider Michele Pirro flogged his GP17 into Q2 along with a determined-looking Jorge Lorenzo, a big fan of this track when he rode in blue. Viñales was up near the top. Aleix Espargaro, happy with a new fairing, put his Aprilia into Q2. Cal Crutchlow, a lurking Dovizioso, Pedrosa and Zarco also passed Go and collected their $200.

Q1 was exciting in itself before the apparent graduates, Jack Miller on the Honda and Jonas Folger on the Tech 3 Yamaha, were both penalized for exceeding the track limit and dropped out of the pole pageant, the trophies going to Ducati pilots Alvaro Bautista and Karel “Don’t Call It a Comeback” Abraham. Q2 gave fans plenty for their money as Maverick Viñales, carrying the sole torch for the factory Yamaha delegation, pimped Andrea Dovizioso at the close to steal his first pole since Mugello. Despite crashing out on a hot lap late in the session, Marquez managed to hold on to the third grid spot, the top three contenders for the 2017 championship qualified second, third and first, respectively.

Cal Crutchlow, Jorge Lorenzo and Johann Zarco filled the second row. The perfect weather conditions of Friday and Saturday were expected to go south, so to speak, on Sunday, with rain in the forecast. Suggesting, as usual, that qualifying doesn’t always end up having much to do with the eventual result, especially when weather conditions change rapidly.

Let The Big Bikes Roll

The wet premier class race started routinely, other than Jorge Lorenzo taking the hole shot from fifth on the grid and leading the first six laps of the race, as if the track were dry as dust. He was followed in quick succession by Marquez, Divizioso, and Maverick Viñales, with Petrucci on the fly from his start in the middle of the third row. Once Lorenzo left the premises via a Lap 6 high side on his GP17, it was these four riders who would slug it out for the podium. And Viñales, on the factory Yamaha, never appeared to assert himself, riding in fourth place pretty much all day, still in the title chase, unwilling to let the rain put him in DNFville again.

Petrucci went through the leaders like the proverbial hot knife, sliding past Dovizioso on Lap 5 and Marquez on Lap 6. He then put on a clinic of riding in the rain for 21 laps, his rhythm perfect, virtually wobble-free, with #93 and #04 staying close enough to hit him with a rock. Showing nerves of steel and flogging the Ducati joyfully in front of 97,000 fans, 96,000 of whom were pulling for Rossi, Ducati, Petrucci, Dovi, and/or even Andrea Iannone who, in yet another gruesome weekend, retired on Lap 18 with arm pump. With Rossi out injured, the list grew to include Michele Pirro (who finished 5th on a productive wild card).

We watched intently as the last few laps of the race took shape. Petrucci, seeking his first premier class win ever, with nothing to lose and being a notorious mudder, leading the race after Jorge Lorenzo crashed out of the lead on Lap 6. Marquez, appearing to struggle to keep up with Petrucci and fend off Dovizioso, and with plenty to lose in the championship chase, left Petrucci in the lead all day without letting him get away.

During the penultimate lap, Marquez seemed to mentally flip a coin and decided to try to win the race rather than manage it. In tricky conditions, with worn tires, he hit the front in Turn 1, took advantage of a Petrucci wobble in Turn 4, and gassed his Honda RC213V home by 1.1 seconds over the gutted Petrucci, putting in the fastest lap of the race in the last 1:47.07. Throwing caution to the wind, as it were. In stark contract to Dovizioso, willing to settle for third place, Marquez, with the heart of a champion, decided he was unwilling to settle for second. This is one reason he has three premier class titles and Dovi, as skilled and brave as he is, has none.

Weather Throws a Spanner

Cue the music: “Good Times, Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin

Rider         Start Position    Finish Position
Marquez              3                      1
Petrucci               8                       2
Dovizioso            2                       3
Viñales                1                       4
Pirro                   11                      5
Miller                 14                      6
Redding             19                      7
Rins                    20                      8
Folger                16                      9
Smith                 22                     10
PEspargaro       17                     11
Bautista             10                     12
Crutchlow          4                      13
Pedrosa               7                     14
Zarco                    6                    15
Baz                       15                   16
Abraham             12                   17
Lorenzo                5                  DNF
Barbera               13                 DNF
AEspargaro          9                  DNF
Lowes                  23                 DNF
Iannone               21                DNF
Rabat                    18                DNF

For those of you following our tranching exercise, we alluded last time how Scott Redding and Jorge Lorenzo consistently suffer reversals of fortune. Today, as predicted, was a great day for Redding and another dumpster fire for Lorenzo.

The Big Picture – Then There Were Three

Today marked the end of yet another premier class season of chasing the dream for Dani Pedrosa, who was never able to get his Repsol Honda’s tires heated up all day, could manage but two points for his 14th place finish and now trails Valentino Rossi, who no longer contends for the title, his leg and title hopes in pieces.

Round 14 in ancient Aragon looms, the last European round before the Pacific flyaway rounds and subsequent return to Valencia for the finale. With Marquez and Dovizioso now tied at 199 points and Viñales at 183, the chances of the 2017 title being undecided approaching the last Sunday of the season appear pretty decent. This was Viñales’ first race from pole with Yamaha where he failed to podium, which probably means nothing in the wet. But it was wet in Aragon in 2015. I’d like to see him close the gap with #93 and #04 before November.

For some of you, those who have a soft spot in their hearts for rookie Johann Zarco, the lasting image from today’s race will be that of him pushing his Tech 3 M1 across the finish line, utterly exhausted, for the sake of a single championship point, which says a lot about what it takes to excel in this sport. Personally, I prefer the backflips.

Zarco

 

A Wingman is a Wingman

September 5, 2017

News coming out of the Ducati cabal is that Jorge Lorenzo, he of the three (3) MotoGP world championships, would be willing to accept “team orders” in order to help teammate Andrea Dovizioso secure the world championship for his employer. This is headline-type stuff, if true. Lorenzo, fiercely proud and defiant, would seem metabolically-unsuited to serve as wingman for anyone, including/especially a teammate.  Such thinking runs counter to the #1 rule of racing which is to always, no matter what, try to beat your teammate.

 

Jorge-Lorenzo-Smile-HD

Jorge Lorenzo, The Great Usurper, in better days.

 

Lorenzo, true to form, allegedly says, yes, it is true, but the time, she is not right. If, at some point in the season, it is clear Dovi’s situation is blah blah blah…then I will be happy to help him in any way I can wah wah wah.  Which is another way of suggesting Ducati take their team rules and sit on them. Either you’re a wingman or you’re not.

Let’s just say we find Lorenzo hunting Dovizioso on Lap 17 of Sunday’s race. Marquez and Pedrosa are in the mix, but we’re watching the two Ducati riders. Should Lorenzo attack #04 and possibly cause contact, or even worse, collection, how would management react? Part of the money they’re paying Lorenzo is for that overwhelming competitive nature in which his lizard brain takes over and he becomes lost in the moment, at breathtaking speeds, doing what he loves to do, as well, occasionally now, as anyone ever has.

So big money Jorge Lorenzo, goes the headline, is willing to accept team orders to protect Andrea Dovizioso, his putative understudy at the beginning of the season.  Right. Lorenzo, after years of working for the Japanese, says yes but means no. Put Lorenzo up there in the mix at the end of the race and he’s going to go for greatness.  It’s in his genes. He needs a win in the worst possible way. He’s got the grunt, now, for corner exit and long straights. He’s on a bike that has proven itself competitive at pretty much every track on the schedule, some, such as Austria, ridiculously so.

Lorenzo:  Team orders.  Good one.  I’ve got your team orders right here.

 

 

 

 

MotoGP Misano Preview

September 4, 2017

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com
Rossi Out—Then There Were Four

MotoGP turns its sights on stunning San Marino once again, returning this weekend for Round 13 minus The Doctor, who, as everyone knows by now, badly broke his leg in a training accident last week. Ducati pilot Andrea Dovizioso, perhaps the Italian erede apparente, leads the now diminished 2017 chase pursued by three Spaniards. He and the two youngsters, Marc Marquez and Maverick Vińales, can only feel relieved that the yellow 800-pound gorilla has left the room. Dani Pedrosa, the third challenger, his prospects now marginally improved, hangs in contention by a thread.

If it turns out that this season was, indeed, Rossi’s last flirtation with a title, it will mark the end of an astonishing era. Even if he returns to racing this year and again in 2018, his more lucid fans cannot realistically expect him to compete for a tenth world championship. He would simply be honoring his contract with Yamaha, in his inimitable style. And so it goes amongst the yachting set.

Yamaha announced on Monday that no replacement would take Rossi’s spot on the grid at Misano. My guess, that Yamaha’s best test rider, Katsuyuki Nakasuga, would take Rossi’s place was, not surprisingly, wrong. (Some readers will remember the Katman’s samurai performance at Valencia in 2012 when he ended up, after some weirdness, on the second step of the podium.)

It saddens me to consider the possibility that, one day, we will have watched Valentino Rossi race a MotoGP bike for the last time. But over the years we’ve learned not to write him off. He will likely ride again this year and, as regards returning for Yamaha in 2018 (drum roll please…wait for it…) Let Valencia Decide.

Recent History at Misano

The 2014 GP TIM di San Marino e Della Rivera di Rimini saw Movistar Yamaha homey Rossi win for the first time since Assen in 2013 and for the first time on quasi-Italian soil since San Marino in 2009. The fans immensely enjoyed watching the loathesome Marc Marquez crash his Repsol Honda out of the proceedings at around 50 mph. Two Italian riders on Ducatis claimed spots in the top five. All in all, it was a good day to be Italian.

As the Misano round of the 2015 MotoGP championship got underway, the fractious weather gods turned on the rain spigots around Lap 6 and turned them right off again during Lap 16, forcing a double flag-to-flag affair for the first time in recent memory. When the smoke cleared, Marc Marquez had a win, Brits Bradley Smith and Scott Redding stood, incredulous, on the podium, and Rossi (5th) had extended his championship lead over Jorge Lorenzo to 23 points with five rounds left. Lorenzo himself was in the medical center getting x-rays, having high-sided shortly after the second pit stop on cold tires, trying desperately to catch Rossi. Some folks lost a lot of money betting on Vale for the championship at that point of that season.

Last year, Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa, mired in the worst slump of his career and winless in 2016, busted out on the picturesque sun-drenched shores of the Adriatic with a convincing win over Rossi and Lorenzo. For series leader Marc Marquez, another exercise in damage limitation, running a lonely fourth most of the day, worked well enough to keep his margin over Rossi at 43 points with five rounds to go.

To the casual observer, the Marco Simoncelli Circuit at Misano would appear to be Honda-friendly, with two wins in a row for the Repsol team. Series leader Andrea Dovizioso has started here nine times in the premier class, has finished every race, and has never podiumed. But that was then, and this is now.

The long-range forecast for the weekend calls for mostly clear skies and temps heading well into the 80’s on Sunday—Honda conditions. But as we’ve seen numerous times this year, more and more tracks are becoming Ducati-friendly. DesmoDovi, with a lead to protect, needs a podium this time around. A third consecutive win would be totally convenient. At that point we might have to reconsider the entire concept and discuss tracks that are “rider-friendly,” Austin and Marquez leap to mind. And, interestingly, there is a Misano Man, Jorge himself, in the field.

Let’s Tranche Again!

After Round 11:

Tranche 1: Vinales, Marquez, Dovizioso, Rossi, Pedrosa
Tranche 2: Zarco, Bautista, Folger, Crutchlow, A Espargaro
Tranche 3: Barbera, Miller, Petrucci, Baz, Lorenzo
Tranche 4: Abraham, Iannone, Rins, Redding
Tranche 5: P. Espargaro, Rabat, Smith Lowes

After Round 12:

Tranche 1: Vinales, Marquez, Dovizioso, (Rossi), Pedrosa
Tranche 2 Zarco, Bautista, Folger, Crutchlow, Lorenzo↑
Tranche 3: Barbera, Petrucci, Baz, Rins↑, A Espargaro↓
Tranche 4: Miller↓, Abraham, Iannone, Redding
Tranche 5: P Espargaro, Rabat, Smith, Lowes

A word or two of explanation is in order. Jorge Lorenzo and Scott Redding are up one week and down the next; perhaps they deserve their own Tranche Yo-Yo. The Espargaro brothers are a conundrum. I want to keep Aleix in #2, as he is clearly improving and getting more from the Aprilia than Moto2-bound Sam Lowes. His demotion is due to two poor outings in a row. Finishing 11th and punking Tito Rabat at the flag last time out on the KTM, Little Brother Pol would have easily earned a promotion to Tranche 4 had he not crashed on the warm-down lap, which is sufficiently embarrassing to leave him where he is.

Jack Miller, Ducati-bound next year, just doesn’t give a rip anymore.

I would like to see Too Tall Loris Baz on the Ducati GP16; I think he has the juice to climb into Tranche 2 if he had a better bike. And Alex Rins (9th at Silverstone), now more or less fully healed, is making great strides on his Suzuki and could find himself in #2 as early as next week, especially if, as is his practice, Lorenzo follows up his positive result at Silverstone with a stinker at Misano. Memo to the Zarco and Folger jocks out there: I still think Alex Rins is going to be a baller in MotoGP.

Finally, a word of congratulations to veteran Thomas Luthi on having earned a promotion to MotoGP (Marc VDS) after seven years of loyal service in Moto2. He turns 31 this week, and will team with Franco Morbidelli on what is expected to be a satellite Honda. His Moto2 seat is being taken by a humbled Sam Lowes, sufficiently remorseful about his abrupt dismissal from the Aprilia MotoGP program to immediately announce his intention of winning the Moto2 title in 2018. Dude has stones; not so sure about the chops or the IQ.

Thailand? Thailand.

It’s official—MotoGP will start traveling to Thailand’s Chang International Circuit next year, with Finland coming onboard in 2019. The Powers that Be have announced that next year’s provisional calendar will be released soon. Many of us are wondering what this addition will do to the annual Pacific flyaway rounds. I’m thinking that four races in four weeks, most of them in grueling hot conditions, could push several teams, and a number of journalists covering MotoGP, to the brink. God forbid MO gets invited to send someone to Thailand next year, because that someone would probably be me, and the trip to Malaysia in 2014 put me in the hospital for three days afterwards.

Your Weekend Forecast

Sunny and hot weather. No #46. Cubic miles of thick yellow smoke pouring from the grandstands of the faithful. Major pressure on Dovizioso and Vinales, the sole factory Yamaha rep this weekend. Both Repsol Hondas on the podium. Dovizioso on the podium.

Just for the sake of cosmic symmetry, let us assume that Sunday’s results find Pedrosa repeating his win from last year, Marquez second, Dovizioso third, and Vinales fourth. This would produce the following Top Five heading for Aragon:

Misano proj.         Total
1. ADovizioso    3rd place 183 +16= 196
2. MMarquez    2nd place 174 +20 = 194
3. MVinales       4th place 170 +13 =  183
4. DPedrosa       1st place 148 +25 =  173
5. VR                          DNS 157 + 0 =     157

Sorry I can’t get these columns to align correctly.

Am I projecting a Honda 1-2? Seems that way. We’ll have results and analysis here as quickly Sunday as possible. Ciao.

MotoGP 2016 Misano Results

September 11, 2016

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

First win for Dani Pedrosa since Sepang 2015

For the first time since 1949 when MotoGP invented itself, eight different riders have won a premier class race in a single season.  Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa, mired in the worst slump of his career, winless in 2016, busted out today on the shores of the sun-drenched Adriatic with a convincing win over Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.  For series leader Marc Marquez, another exercise in damage limitation worked well enough to keep his margin at 43 points with five rounds to go.

Practice

The WCMS at Misano is one of those “technical” tracks where the bikes don’t peg the throttle in 6th very much.  Top speeds are “low.”  On Friday the Ducatis had trouble breaking the top six.  It’s a great track with something for every taste and budget but does not play well to the Ducati’s strengths.  On Friday, it looked like it might be prime hunting grounds for Maverick Vinales, who gets around those tight areas with ease on his GSX-RR, if it weren’t too hot at race time. (BTW they’re going to love Vinales in Yamahaland.)

Lorenzo looked strong in FP1.  Rossi took FP1 because he felt like it—home race and all–and Marquez was keeping his powder dry. Pol Espargaro had a great Friday. Iannone took himself out of Round 13 at least with a formidable high-side in FP1 and a resulting cracked vertebra, his place on the factory-issue bike being taken by the very capable Michele Pirro.  There was a Pedrosa sighting during FP2.  By Q2 time it was hot but not insanely, Sepang-style hot. During the Sunday morning warm-up, it was Marquez, Rossi, Pirro and Dovizioso, team Ducati having apparently fixed a few things overnight:

FP1:    Rossi     PEspargaro      Vinales

FP2:   PEspargaro  Pedrosa    Dovizioso

FP3:   Marquez      Lorenzo       Vinales

FP4:        No               One             Cares

Q2:    Lorenzo       Rossi           Vinales        Marquez

 

Marquez, Pirro and Dovizioso made up the second row, with Crashlow qualifying 7th and Pedrosa 8th.

Eight for Eight

My notes make no mention of Pedrosa until Lap 5 when he went through on Maverick Vinales’ Suzuki into 5th place.  The factory Yamahas dominated early, with Lorenzo taking the holeshot into the early lead, only to give it up to Rossi on Lap 2.  Misano, a sea of yellow, is the only circuit on the calendar that offers a home court advantage to a rider—Rossi—which is palpable and can affect the outcome of the race.  For 20 laps today it appeared the homeboy would win.  But Pedrosa, having qualified 8th, his struggle continuing, took our advice today, said “to hell with it,” put his head down, and won by 2.8 seconds over a disappointed Rossi, with Lorenzo ending the day in third, equally disgusted at having been unable to get away early.

Pedrosa, looking like the Alien of old, went through on teammate Marc Marquez in Turn 14 of Lap 14, leaving two Yamahas and half a race between him and the win.  He tracked down Lorenzo in Turn 14 of Lap 17.  Finally, he took down Rossi in Turn 4 of Lap 22, not once showing the Italian any daylight between there and the flag.  The podium photo could have been straight out of 2009 when the same three Aliens dominated the sport.  Back in the dark CRT days, could anyone foresee the day when eight different riders would claim a win in a single season?  In eight consecutive races?  Andrea Dovizioso and Scott Redding need to step up.

Dani Pedrosa accomplished his entire To Do list today:  Win the race.  Beat Marquez.  And keep Lorenzo and Rossi from gaining ground on his teammate.  Check, check and check.

In Defense of Crutchlow Bashers and Lovers

When we divide the season into two halves, we discover the first half winners:

Marquez      170

Lorenzo       122

Rossi           111

Pedrosa         96

Vinales          83

PEspargaro    72

Barbera          65

Iannone         63

Dovizioso       59

Crutchlow      40

First five rounds of the second half:

Rossi            77

Crutchlow    73

Marquez      71

Vinales        57

Dovizioso     58

Lorenzo       41

Despite his eighth place finish today, which was lowered to ninth over a rules infraction, Crutchlow could win the second half of the season.  He’s done well during the first half of the second half.  Which, in turn, suggests he could win an entire season, simply by winning both halves.  Of both halves.  Those of you who have been bugging me about under-tranching him must acknowledge that he left Assen in 14th place.  We know at least some of it wasn’t his fault—mechanicals.  But now having been on a hot streak, suddenly he’s an Alien?  No.

Today, with five rounds left, Cal Crutchlow sits in 8th place, 52 points outside the top four, and 130 behind Marquez.  It’s in Honda’s interest to give him the best equipment they’ve got, factory team or not.  He has recovered from his disastrous start to the season.  He is legitimately fast and skilled.  He is battling Marquez and was, until today, dusting Pedrosa.  He hasn’t crashed since Assen; some would say he’s overdue.  We don’t call him Crashlow for nothing.  So why are we spending so much time talking about him?

If he wins the second half he’s an Alien.  And I’m a monkey’s uncle.  Dude is 30 going on 31.  At a minimum, he needs to start acting like he’s been here before.  He can afford to be gracious after good performances.  Save funny for the Tuesday interviews.  Now, if both of you Brits reading this would kindly step off my neck…

Elsewhere on Sunday

Brad Binder won the Moto3 race, applying a virtual death grip on the 2016 title.  I think some people are unexcited by this prospect due to a lingering negative hangover around historic South African racial practices, combined with the sheer size of his lead.  Crushing your opponents is frowned upon in all three MotoGP divisions as it takes the edge off the competition.  No question the fast South African is moving on up, but I suspect he has fewer fans in his fan club than, say, Valentino Rossi.

Rossi’s VR46 Racing seems to have identified and developed an entire posse of fast young Italian riders who are punching above their weight in Moto2 and Moto3.  The sport seems to be becoming less Spanish and more Italian.  For American fans, this change can be characterized as trivia.  For Italian fans, it’s another compelling reason to love #46, as he and his team appear to be elevating the profile of motorcycle racing across the country.  Lorenzo Baldassarri’s first grand prix win today in Moto2 supports this idea.

The Big Picture

With five rounds left—Aragon, the Pacific swing and Valencia—Marquez leads the series by 43 over Rossi and 61 over Lorenzo.  Pedrosa seized 4th place back from Vinales today.  Dovizioso leads Iannone by three points, while Crutchlow leads Pol Espargaro by four.  Hector Barbera rounds out the top ten.  Marquez increases his working margin today while struggling with grip and corner acceleration.  It’s hard to see how he can avoid capturing the 2016 title.  On, however, to the dusty plains of Aragon, the rabbit warren at Motegi, the cold, cutting winds of Phillip Island, the brain-melting heat of Sepang and, one hopes, the tension of the final race of the year in November at Valencia.  We hope there is a compelling reason to race at Round 18.  Whether there is or isn’t likely depends mostly upon Marquez.  And his suddenly tough little wingman.

MotoGP 2016 Misano Preview

September 6, 2016

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Marquez looks to deliver knockout blow in San Rimini 

The picturesque Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli welcomes the 2016 round at a critical point in the season.  Repsol Honda phenom Marc Marquez sits on the cusp of clinching his third premier class title, with the Movistar Yamahas of Vale Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo in desperate pursuit.  Four non-Aliens have won the last four rounds.  Parity has set in.  The Suzuki, factory Ducati and LCR Honda teams are legit.  The Aliens finally have company—the premier class is no longer just their sandbox. 

Fifty points in 2016 is a lot more than it was in 2013.  More contenders, more traffic at the front, faster back markers.  Rain becoming the norm.  Pacific Swing looming.  The Yamahas will, by definition, be pressing—win or bin is all that is left for them.  Marquez can afford to play very carefully.  He can also afford to occasionally vent his competitive juices with a multi-lap high-speed joust with the GOAT in Britain.

Marquez is now the careful, strategic thinker.  Cal Crutchlow, with three podia including a win in his last four, has suddenly become the fast, semi-demonic force that Marquez was back in 2013, despite being a decade older.

Final Thoughts on Silverstone 

  • Loris Baz ankle injury and Pol Espargaro bumps and bruises: Could have been worse. Think falling down a flight of concrete stairs.
  • Factory Ducatis had arm pump issues Sunday.   Dovizioso is hurt and Iannone still too excitable.
  • Silverstone has the race again next year, with a track option for 2018. Is Wales ever going to happen, or is it just another pipe dream gone up in smoke?  At least the executive director of the group trying to put Ebbw Vale on the map got his home landscaping upgraded.
  • Great to see MM and VR and CC bare their teeth and get a chance to really go at one another, fast and clean and ridiculous. Rossi has forgotten more about racing than most guys ever know, and Marquez has the gyroscope and reflexes to do the impossible.  Crutchlow is on a hot streak, hot enough to send Marquez into the Great Wide Open Sunday after contact late in the race.

Recent History in Misano

Round 13 in 2013: rookie Marc Marquez breezed into San Marino in first place, leading teammate Dani Pedrosa by 30 points and defending champion Lorenzo by 39.  Lorenzo gave the crowd one of his machine-like performances, taking the lead early, putting his head down, and recording 27 smooth, fast laps, with Marquez unable to get any closer than 3 seconds and second place.  As the day ended, Marquez increased his lead to 34 points with five rounds left in the season.

The 2014 GP TIM di San Marino e Della Rivera di Rimini will be remembered locally for a number of pleasant things.  The fans got to see their idol, Movistar Yamaha wraith Valentino Rossi, win for the first time since Assen in 2013 and for the first time in Italy-ish since San Marino in 2009.  They were lifted by the joy of watching that stronzo Marquez lay down his Repsol Honda going perhaps 80 kph.  They saw their national bike, Ducati, place two Italian riders in the top five.  All in all, it was a good day to be Italian.  In the end it was a better year to be Marc Marquez.

As the Misano round of the 2015 MotoGP championship got underway, the weather gods were thoroughly bored, watching Jorge Lorenzo put another methodical sleeper on rivals teammate Valentino Rossi and the annoying Marc Marquez.  So they decided to have a little fun, turning on the rain around Lap 6 and turning it off again during Lap 16, forcing a double flag-to-flag affair for the first time in recent memory.

When the laughter died down, Marc Marquez had a win, Smith and Redding finished on the podium, and Rossi (5th) had extended his championship lead to 23 with five left. Jorge Lorenzo was in the medical center getting x-rays, having high-sided shortly after the second pit stop on cold tires and in desperate need to catch Rossi.  Per fake Yamaha press release hours later, “Comrade Lorenzo has no issues riding in the rain. That is an order.”

Told You So.  Mostly.

Some time back I did a segment in which I was banging on about how riders who jump ship for big money during the season go on to have down years.  Turns out I’m mostly right.  As re: Maverick Vinales–a closet Republican, I’m one of those who view facts that contradict my thesis as mere inconveniences.

RIDER 2015 AFTER 12 ROUNDS 2016 AFTER 12 ROUNDS
LORENZO 224 146
IANNONE 150 96
SMITH 115 42
VINALES 67 125

The exception to the rule—there’s always one, or two or, in this case, three–are the brothers Espargaro.  Pol leaves Tech 3 next year for KTM, while Aleix leaves Suzuki, reluctantly, for the Gresini factory Aprilia effort.  Here are their numbers, carrying this whole brother thing a little far, in my opinion:

RIDER 2015 AFTER 12 ROUNDS 2016 AFTER 12 ROUNDS
P.ESPARGARO 81 60
A.ESPARGARO 81 60

OK, fine.  Here’s the rest of the guys I’m interested in who stayed put:

RIDER 2015 AFTER 12 ROUNDS 2016 AFTER 12 ROUNDS
ROSSI 236 160
MARQUEZ 159 210
DOVIZIOSO 120 89
PEDROSA 102 120
CRUTCHLOW 74 86

As a recovering economist, I could easily argue that staying put produces a random and largely neutral distribution of outcomes.  But, if your rider just got signed by the competition, be prepared for a bad season.

Unless it’s an Espargaro, in which case it will also be a bad season.  But for different reasons.

Thinking about it some more, it is obvious that the number of riders each year who experience an objectively good season can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Your Weekend Forecast

The weather this weekend is expected to be Riviera-ish, low 80’s and dry on Friday and Saturday, with a chance of weather moving in on Sunday afternoon (!).  Personally, I doubt it will rain, based solely upon the law of averages.

As to who might end up on the top step of the podium:  Candidates include Marquez, Rossi, Crutchlow and Vinales.  Lorenzo if conditions are perfect and no one calls him any bad names.  Iannone if he can pay attention for the full 45 minutes.  Dani Pedrosa if he simply says, “To hell with it,” puts his head down and rides.

The practice sessions on Friday and Saturday will be revealing.  Who will be the hot rider this weekend?

We’ll have results and analysis right here later on Sunday.

 

MotoGP 2015 San Marino Results

September 13, 2015

The Misano preview article never made it to WordPress.  Enjoy it here.

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Lorenzo title hopes damaged as Rossi extends championship lead

As Round 13 of the 2015 MotoGP championship got underway today, the racing gods were thoroughly bored, watching Jorge Lorenzo put another old fashioned Misano beatdown on rival teammate Valentino Rossi and just plain rival Marc Marquez. So they decided to have a little fun, turning on the rain around Lap 6 and turning it off again during Lap 16, forcing a double flag-to-flag affair for the first time in recent memory. When the laughs died down, Marc Marquez had a win, two Brits finished on the podium, Rossi extended his championship lead, and Jorge Lorenzo was in the medical center getting x-rays.

The weekend practice sheets led us to believe that today’s race would be another Lorenzo/Marquez wrestling match, and that Marquez, and the world, would be in trouble if Lorenzo got away early. Which is exactly what happened, Lorenzo and his Yamaha Z1 going metronomic in the lead halfway through Lap 1. The expected parade dissolved during Lap 6, when the rain flag came out.  Jorge-Lorenzo-Smile-HD

Most of the riders entered the pits at the end of the lap, leaving the three Alien leaders gingerly pushing their machines over the new and an increasingly-soaked racing surface, upon which they had had exactly zero minutes of wet practice. At the end of Lap 7 the three leaders entered the pits, jumped on their wet bikes, and headed back out. Let the record show that factory Ducati #2 Andrea Dovizioso led the race at the end of Lap 7 while Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith led after eight, the first MotoGP lap he has led in his career.

There is no communication between riders and their garages during races, meaning that in flag-to-flag affairs it is solely up to the rider to decide when to change bikes. On a day like today, with the weather playing tricks, it was the timing of the pit stops that ultimately decided the finish order. Mercifully, it was not another of those the-race-is-decided-on-Saturday things; today, the race was decided on track, specifically inside the helmets of the riders.

Decisions, Decisions

Thus far, we know the bulk of the field changed at the end of Lap 6, the three leaders waiting until a very pivotal Lap 7, in which Mark VDS Brit Scott Redding had a small lowside which convinced him to change to his wet bike and led to an almost-three minute lap. Redding changed back to slicks on Lap 14. Parenthetically, Marquez went back to his dry bike on Lap 18 while the two factory Yamahas, rubber flying off their front tires like shrapnel, ignored their pit boards and stayed out, Lorenzo finally making the change on Lap 21 and Rossi on Lap 22.

BSmithThe biggest decision of the day, however, was a non-decision. Smith, who has shown steady improvement each year during his MotoGP tenure, never did enter the pits and rode the entire race on slicks. This led to some interesting lap times in the middle of the race (2:12 on Lap 14) but saved him an immense amount of time not changing bikes and strolling down pit lane twice. In fact, as evidenced by the startling fourth place finish today of Loris Baz on the Forward Yamaha, it would be interesting to compare today’s finishing order with the number of laps each non-Alien rider spent on their wet bikes. Surely Smith, Redding and Baz were the most daring riders today, spending the bulk of a damp Sunday afternoon on slicks.

Late in the Day

And so it was that Jorge Lorenzo, who can be excused for having expected a bit of a cakewalk today, started Lap 22 from pit lane on cold slicks, trailing a bunch of riders, amongst them Rossi, who had yet to pit. And so it was that Lorenzo, pushing to the max trying to chase down the Italian, lost the front in Turn 15, got launched into thin air, and followed his destroyed bike on a painful high-speed fustercluck through the gravel, his day, and possibly his season, lying in ruins around him. He pounded his right hand into the gravel twice in sheer frustration. Later, it was reported he was in the medical center getting x-rays on, among other things, his right hand.

Lorenzo’s string of podiums at Misano, intact since 2007, fell by the wayside in the worst way imaginable. Meanwhile, teammate Rossi, who finished the day in a triumphant (?) fifth place, saw his personal string of podiums end at 16, but in a good way. His 11 points today stretched his margin over Lorenzo to 23 with but five rounds remaining. He escaped Misano, which has been all but owned by Lorenzo for most of a decade, intact. And if Lorenzo has physical issues that are not fully resolved within two weeks at Aragon, Rossi could be sitting in the catbird seat.

RossiWe should not overlook Marc Marquez, who today earned perhaps the most meaningless win of his career. He actually dominated the conditions, timing his pit entries perfectly, having learned the Lesson of Aragon 2014, when he stayed out way too long and ultimately crashed out. Surely, his fans around the world, joined by Rossi and his massive worldwide following, hope the young Catalan runs the table this year. A strong finish to the season will make it that much harder for Lorenzo to earn the points he will need to interfere with Rossi’s 10th world championship.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Loris Baz, whose fourth place finish was the best result for any open class rider this year, did nothing to hurt his rumored switch to Avintia Racing next year. He has pretty much locked up the open class title for the season. The tall 22 year-old Frenchman looks like anything but a MotoGP rider—shades of Marco Simoncelli—but has had a surprisingly successful debut season in MotoGP. Moving up to Avintia, where he might actually get paid, would be a nice payoff for a nice guy.

The factory and Pramac Ducati teams, joined by wildcard Michele Pirro, have seen better days on their home soil. Pirro, who qualified fifth, found himself with deal-breaking electronics issues early, and had to start the race on his wet bike; never quite getting things sorted out, his day ending for good on Lap 10. Suddenly fearsome Danilo Petrucci, who podiumed last time out in the rain, enjoyed a top ten start and beat factory Andreas Iannone and Dovizioso to the finish again, the three finishing 6-7-8 respectively. (Yonny Hernandez crashed his Pramac entry on Lap 10 and collected an oblivious Alex de Angelis, the one Italian rider who is actually from San Marino, adding to his season of woe.) Dani Pedrosa, Alien Emeritus, drove his Repsol Honda to a nondescript ninth place finish, eclipsing Aleix Espargaro and his Suzuki Ecstar by 2/10ths of a second.

Next Up: Aragon

It will be two weeks until the grid descends upon dusty, ancient Aragon, then another fortnight until the frantic three-races-in-three-weeks Pacific flyaway. One hopes that the racing gods got their share of belly laughs today and will have the decency to lay off for the rest of the season. By bolstering the belief of Italian Catholics that God is an Italian Catholic, millions of Rossi fans around the world are giving thanks tonight for Valentino and the heavenly mysteries that brought rain to eastern Italy for twenty minutes on a Sunday afternoon in September.

Misano Top Ten 2015

Top Ten Year to Date

Rossi seizes the moment; Marquez goes down

September 14, 2014

MotoGP 2014 Misano Results, by Bruce Allen

The 2014 GP TIM di San Marino e Della Rivera di Rimini will be remembered for a number of things in years to come. The 54,543 Italian fans in attendance experienced the ecstasy of watching their idol, Movistar Yamaha mullah Valentino Rossi, win for the first time since Assen in 2013 and for the first time in Italy since Misano in 2009. They witnessed the annual crash of the impertinent Marc Marquez, who laid his Repsol Honda down going perhaps 35 miles per hour in Turn 4 of Lap 10. They saw their national motorcycle, Ducati, place two riders in the top five. And, for the first time since The Renaissance, they could head home feeling their country may have turned the corner after 500 years of uninterrupted decline.

During the practice sessions leading up to today’s race, one could sense that defending world champion Marc Marquez wasn’t eating his Wheaties. He failed to top any of the practice sessions on his way to qualifying fourth, his first time off the front row since Catalunya last year. Meanwhile, the Ducatis and Yamahas were enjoying themselves immensely, the Ducatis dominant in the rain on Friday, the Yamahas—Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo—looking frisky and dangerous in the sunshine. Both qualified on the front row, sandwiching the increasingly impressive Andrea Iannone on the Pramac Ducati; both would finish on the podium, joined by a dejected Dani Pedrosa, who struggled all day on his way to finishing third.

Ten Laps of High Drama

At the start, Lorenzo, whom we had picked to win today, jumped into the lead, with Rossi and Marquez filling out the first group. Marquez, looking as strong as ever, traded places twice with Rossi on Lap 3. Both he and Rossi went through on Lorenzo on Lap 4 as the Mallorcan, the only Alien having chosen the hard front tire, lacked the edge grip enjoyed by his two rivals. By Lap 6, Lorenzo had faded slightly, leaving Rossi towing Marquez around the circuit and summoning recent memories of their head-to-head battles at Qatar and Catalunya earlier in the year.

How many times in the past few years have we watched the Repsol Hondas double-team a factory Yamaha into ruin? Today the tables were turned, as Rossi and Lorenzo had Marquez covered front and rear. Suddenly, in the slow Rio corner, Rossi sailed through, but Marquez slid into a slow motion lowside, barely marring the paint of his RC213V and narrowly avoiding a close encounter with the trailing Lorenzo. What ensued were perhaps 60 of the most frustrating seconds of young Marquez’ career as he tried over and over to restart his bike, the marshals finally helping him do so, after which he was roughly 90 seconds down on the Yamahas, his day effectively over. The predominantly Catholic crowd might have been tempted to remind Marquez that he was in Italy, that there is only one infallible person in that country, and his name is Francis.

18 Laps of a High Speed Parade

Not too much happened for the remainder of the race, reminding some of us of the interminable processions we so often saw in 2009 and 2010. By this time, two of the usual back markers—Mike di Meglio and Danilo Petrucci—had crashed out early on, joined in the kitty litter on Lap 7 by LCR Honda ejectee Stefan Bradl, whose season continues to disintegrate since his announced departure to NGM Forward Racing several weeks ago. Cal Crutchlow ran another very low risk race today, apparently determined to join his new LCR Honda team in November at the Valencia test with his body in one piece. And Aleix Espargaro, routinely getting schooled of late by little brother Pol on the Tech 3 Yamaha, made an uncharacteristic rookie mistake today, crashing out on the last lap and thereby ceding sixth place for the season to Pol.

Valentino Rossi Day at Misano

Fittingly, the day belonged to The Doctor, whose sense of theatre has been finely honed by years of celebrity and national recognition. At the relatively advanced age of 35, in his home race, he would pick up his 107th career grand prix win. He would notch his 81st win in the premier class. And, he would surpass 5,000 career grand prix points, the only rider ever to achieve such supremacy.

Parenthetically, he would prove a point I’ve been making here since 2009—regardless of what anyone tells you, this is Italy. Call it what you want—San Marino, The Riviera di Rimini, Most Serene Republic of San Marino (!), braunschweiger, whatever you want—this is Italy, these are Italians, and Vali is right up there with Pope Francis and the holy trinity. Somewhere, Rossi’s late friend and understudy Marco Simoncelli, for whom the circuit is now named, is smiling down on his friend, saying, “ben fatto, fratello.”

As for the Constructors

Today was an important day for Yamaha Racing, as it got an enormous monkey off their back. The prospect of going 0-18 against Honda Racing Corporation had to be giving company executives in Japan a collective case of hives. Even if they win out, which they won’t, 2014 will be regarded as a disastrous year for the once-dominant Iwata factory.

Ducati Corse, on the other hand, is seeing substantial progress in its MotoGP program. Although still running a distant third to Honda and Yamaha, the margin between the top Ducati finisher and the winner of each round is narrowing. In addition, this past week they signed a deal to provide machinery for the Avintia team for next season, bringing the number of Desmosedicis on the grid to six, assuming Pramac Racing continues in the fold. Such a strategy reminds one of W.C. Fields’ dictum that “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” Having trouble keeping up in the constructors trophy competition? Put a dozen bikes out there and see how things shake out.

The Big Picture

Clearly, despite his disappointment at Brno and today’s mistake, Marc Marquez is going to win the 2014 title, relegating the rest of the Aliens to battling for second place. In this residual fight, Rossi picked up nine points on Pedrosa, leaving him only two points out of second place for the season, with teammate Lorenzo trailing the Honda pilot by 37. Rossi has stated that his main goal for the season, aside from winning races, is to finish second; Lorenzo has made it clear that his remaining motivation in 2014 is to simply win a race. Dani Pedrosa, who has been mostly mute on the subject, assumedly shares Rossi’s objective, but must keep an eye on Lorenzo who, with four consecutive second place finishes, is eating into his margin. None of the three, who are so competitive they would want to whip your ass in tiddlywinks, can be very happy about battling over second place.

And so it’s on to Aragon, the last stop before the brutal Pacific flyaway rounds that precede Valencia. Marquez’ second consecutive coronation suffered a delay today, and now looks more likely to take place at Motegi. But delay is by no means defeat.

Top Finishers Today

2014 Standings after 13 Rounds

Marquez in control as Round 13 comes into view

September 10, 2014

MotoGP 2014 Misano Preview, by Bruce Allen

With Repsol Honda #1 Marc Marquez relentlessly closing in on the 2014 MotoGP championship, attention is gradually turning toward the 2015 grid, where confusion reigns. Players in this evolving Keystone Kops comedy include Scott Redding, Fausto Gresini, Mika Kallio, Aprilia, Honda and Marc van der Straten. Out on the horizon, teenagers Alex Marquez and Alex Rins are plotting their own invasion of the premier class in the not-too-distant future.

Marquez in Sepang 2013Let’s face it. The battle for the 2014 premier class title is over but for the huzzahs. Marquez enjoys an 89 point advantage over teammate Dani Pedrosa with six rounds left. He picked up 12 points winning at Silverstone, as Pedrosa could manage only a fourth place finish. From here, it looks like Marquez and factory Yamaha double world champion Jorge Lorenzo will slug it out until Marquez clinches, while Pedrosa and Lorenzo’s teammate Valentino Rossi appear consigned to battle over third place, Rossi currently trailing the diminutive Spaniard by 10 points. In any event, barring the remote possibility that Marquez lands himself in a hospital anytime soon, he will clinch at either Motegi or, at the latest, Phillip Island, leaving the remaining rounds of the 2014 season as an extended testing period for everyone.

Seriously, can 2015 come soon enough?

Keystone Kops Revisited

Fausto Gresini, owner/manager of the satellite GO&FUN Honda team, has two things everyone wants—a factory spec Honda RC213V and rider Scott ReddingScott Redding—and two things no one wants—a customer Honda RCV100R and rider Alvaro Bautista. He also has a financial problem, in that his main sponsor, Italian energy drink company GO&FUN, has had enough of bankrolling a hugely expensive and largely unsuccessful MotoGP team and will not be back next year. Thus, Redding’s expected graduation to the RC213V is suddenly in jeopardy, to the extent that Gresini is allegedly negotiating with Aprilia to run its seriously underfunded factory team in 2015. Where Redding and the factory Honda end up is, at this point, anyone’s guess. Where Bautista and the customer Honda end up, no one really cares.

Enter Marc van der Straten, owner/manager of the wildly successful Marc VDS Moto2 team, currently featuring campaign leaders Tito Rabat and Mika Kallio. Van der Straten is trying to round up the financing to field a Honda MotoGP team that would, ostensibly, feature Redding (who rode for him in Moto2 until this season) on the factory Honda. All this, while simultaneously maintaining his deluxe Moto2 team in 2015, with Rabat and Marc Marquez’s little brother Alex signed and the hard luck Kallio kicked to the curb.

Mika KallioKallio, who trails Rabat by a mere 17 points heading into Misano, must be one highly motivated Finn. Imagine contending for a world championship and having your ride commandeered by the—literally—second coming of Marc Marquez. Kallio’s options for 2015 appear terribly limited, as most of the competitive seats in MotoGP are already spoken for, while the Moto2 teams have to submit their proposed rider lists to Dorna by the Aragon round at the end of the month. In my mom’s words, Mika is between the devil and the deep blue sea, while deserving far better.

Should Kallio end up on the Pramac Ducati—where he previ
ously served a two year sentence in 2009-2010—he will be making the best of a bad situation and placing his racing future in the promising hands of Gigi D’alligna. “Promising,” in this instance, does not mean full of potential. It means D’alligna has made a lot of promises to a lot of people, most of whom will be at least mildly surprised if he is able to field a competitive set of bikes in 2015. Especially at Pramac, the ‘Second Hand Rose’ of team Ducati.

alex-rins-alex-marquezNote: Do not lose sight of one Alex Rins, who will be joining the Pons Moto2 racing team next season. I read an article several years ago which suggested that Alex Marquez is faster than big brother Marc, and Rins faster than little brother Alex. Spain’s economy may be in the toilet, but they continue to churn out impossibly fast motorcycle racers.

Recent History at Misano

The little jewel of a racetrack, sparkling on the shores of the Italian Riviera Adriatico, with the Alps and the ghost of Marco Simoncelli looming in the background, has been Jorge Lorenzo’s personal playground for most of the past six years. He has won here each of the last three years, preceded by three narrow second place finishes, losing to Rossi in 2008 and 2009 and Pedrosa in 2010.

In 2012, pandemonium reigned at the start of the race, initiated by a stalled Karel Abraham, and necessitating a rare yellow-flagged restart. Dani Pedrosa, who entered the weekend trailing Lorenzo by a mere 13 points, became the victim of a jammed tire warmer as the restart approached, and was forced to start from the last spot on the grid. In his haste to return to the front, he got involved with Hectic Hector Barbera and his Pramac Ducati, crashing out of the race and the 2012 world championship chase in one appalling first lap moment. Lorenzo was joined on the podium that year by then-Ducati icon Valentino Rossi and, of all people, Alvaro Bautista, who somehow managed to beat Andrea Dovizioso’s Tech 3 Yamaha to the finish line by 3/1000ths of a second. Ohi!

Last year, Marc Marquez arrived in San Marino leading teammate Dani Pedrosa by 30 points and Lorenzo by 39. Lorenzo gave us one of his patented machine-like performances, taking the lead early, putting his head down, and recording 27 smooth, fast laps, with Marquez unable to get any closer than 3 seconds once he went through on Pedrosa on Lap 18. At the end of the day Marquez had lost the race but won the war, increasing his lead to 34 points with but five rounds left in the season.

Current Events

While Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta waits impatiently for the construction of a new track in Wales, the eventual home of the British Grand Prix, Donington Park has stepped in to fill the breach created by the financial woes apparent at Silverstone. Donington has secured the 2015 race and may host again in 2016, as construction delays brought about by the customary 350 days of rain per year in Wales could easily forestall its debut until 2017. In Wales, it’s said, you can find 40 different shades of green, 37 of which are molds and mildew. Why Dorna wants to stage a race in this odd little country—quick, someone name the capital—is well beyond me.

The last American standing in grand prix motorcycle racing, Nicky Hayden, is being held out of this week’s tilt as his surgically-repaired right wrist continues to heal. The day is not too far off when there will be no (0) Americans riding in this sport, which cannot be good for Dorna’s efforts to market the product in the U.S. With Josh Herrin recently having lost his Moto3 ride and Colin Edwards getting shown the door by his former NGM Forward Racing team, the manufacturers are going to have to find another way to promote their machines in the biggest retail market on earth; as a theme, success in grand prix racing is not going to work. There is no truth to the rumor that Ducati is planning a Buy One Diavel, Get One Free campaign for all of 2015.

This weekend marks Marc Marquez’s—that’s called alliteration–first attempt to tie Mick Doohan’s 1997 record of 12 wins in a single season. Waiting here in Indiana for the tornados to drop from the sky and whisk me away to Points Unknown, I’m inclined to place my imaginary wager on Jorge Lorenzo this week. He gave Marquez all he wanted last time out; with no chance left to run the table, and plenty of easy rounds left to eclipse Doohan, this might be one the defending champion will be willing to let get away.

Again this week, the race goes off at 8 am Eastern time. Our report on the race results may be slightly delayed, as the editorial staff in Toronto has already started its annual Two Weeks of Boozing in gleeful anticipation of the autumnal equinox.

MotoGP Misano Results

September 15, 2013

by Bruce Allen.  An edited version of this article will appear later today on Motorcycle.com, complete with hi-rez images.  Until then, enjoy the raw copy.

Lorenzo wins easily; Marquez extends series lead 

On a cloudy day in the hills above the Adriatic Riviera, factory Yamaha #1 Jorge Lorenzo demonstrated why he is a double premier class world champion.  In the second of seven consecutive “must win” races, he never trailed the Repsol Honda duo of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa in a decisive Yamaha vs. Honda beatdown.  Now, all he must do to maintain a faint chance for his third world championship is run the table for the rest of the season. 

Lorenzo at work

Lorenzo has had a number of days like this in his six premier class seasons.  Starting from the middle of the first row, he was able to jump out to the early lead, put the hammer down, establish a working margin over the next three bikes, and lay down 28 throbbing, piston-like laps that left his chasers gasping for air.  He clearly has the sense of urgency which should accompany a 34 point deficit to rookie series leader Marc Marquez with five races left in the season.  In the post-race press conference, he acknowledged that today’s win has little to do with the 2013 title, other than to boost his confidence and provide a few warm fuzzies.  With six wins in his last six races in Italy, he should get a “JLItalia” bumper sticker for his M1.

The trio of Pedrosa, Marquez and Alien Emeritus Valentino Rossi, respectively, trailed Lorenzo at the start, with Rossi looking perky and capable of impacting the podium one way or another.  On Lap 5, Marquez had to stand his bike up to avoid running up Pedrosa’s back wheel, allowing Rossi through into 3rd place and giving the 50,000 Italian fans something to cheer insanely about for roughly 12 minutes.  Marquez went back through Rossi on Lap 12, relegating the local hero to fourth place for the fourth consecutive race, leading to the inescapable conclusion that Rossi is now the fourth fastest rider on the grid.  The insane cheering continued unabated, regardless.

What transpired next was an instructive intra-team battle between yesterday and tomorrow, as Pedrosa and Marquez threw down, bared their teeth, and went at it.  Pedrosa, desperately trying to hold on to second place and some relevance in the 2013 title hunt, kept the rookie at bay until Lap 18, when Marquez aggressively passed him.  Pedrosa, who had been staring at the rookie’s back tire all weekend, was not going down without a fight.  He finally managed to go back through on his teammate on Lap 22, only to cede the lead some three turns later, and that was that. Gathering another 20 points today, Marquez extended his series lead, now over Lorenzo and Pedrosa, to 34 points, with Lorenzo holding the tiebreaker.

cropped-lorenzo-and-marquez.jpgFor those of you anxious to criticize me for conceding the 2013 title to Marc Marquez this early in the season, I will argue that a thoroughly broken Dani Pedrosa is out of the equation, and that what fight is left will be between Marquez and Lorenzo.  Over Lorenzo’s five premier class seasons at the remaining 5 venues, he has two wins—Motegi in 2009 and Valencia in 2010—to show for his efforts.  (Marquez, in his final 125 season and two Moto2 years, has 6 wins out of 13 possibles.)

As today’s tilt showed, even when Lorenzo wins, he can’t count on grabbing back a lot of points on the unflappable, smooth-faced rookie.  Someone kindly calculate the odds of Lorenzo beating Marquez five rounds in a row at circuits where his victories over the past five seasons have come in at around 10% (with three DNFs) vs. 42% for Marquez.  Never mind.  Relying on an advanced degree in economics, I’ve computed that number myself, which comes in at “just north of zero.”

To further kick this dead horse, even if Lorenzo does win the next five rounds— a dubious proposition, although the new Yamaha seamless gearbox will help him—Marquez now has a magic number of, at most, 92.  The heat of Sepang and the slow, stop-and-go pace of Motegi will work in his favor.  With Stoner out of the picture, Phillip Island is now up for grabs, and should favor Lorenzo.  I’m a big fan of Jorge Lorenzo, who handles himself professionally at all times, but I fear he is now in the “moral victory” business, as the war appears to have been lost.  Just sayin’.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Yamaha Tech 3 Brit Cal Crutchlow and LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl squared off for a day-long battle over 5th place, with Crutchlow getting worked by the young German late on the final lap to cap a nauseating weekend.  He managed exactly one fast lap in practice to start in the middle of the second row after having had to go through Q1.  Bradl, whose season seems to have peaked at Laguna Seca, managed a small victory today but appears to be underachieving on what should be a very fast ride.

Aspar Power Electronics star Aleix Espargaro took full advantage of the cramped layout of the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli to qualify in 6th place and appeared to be en route to a great day until the lights went out at the start, as he got away way early and had to take a ride-through penalty, ultimately finishing 13th, four seconds behind top CRT finisher Colin Edwards on his NGM Forward Racing nag.  Espargaro, who expects to advance up the MotoGP food chain next season, is apparently having difficulties negotiating a move within the caste system that comprises the premier class, judging from comments he made to Crash.net earlier in the week.

I’m trying to think of something positive to say about GO&FUN Gresini Honda pilot Alvaro Bautista, who started eighth and finished seventh, courtesy of Espargaro’s flinch, but just can’t find the words.  Mark my words—this guy, assuming he holds on to his contract for 2014, is on his way down the food chain.  He may have the best hair on the grid, but the rest of the package is, as my dad used to say, from hunger.  The irony built into his sponsorship is hilarious, as he is generally Slow Go and No Fun.

The season-long skirmish over eighth place between factory Ducati teammates Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden continued in full force today, with Dovi coming out on top.  Both were within five seconds of losing to factory tester Michele Pirro, again subbing for the so-finished Ben Spies on the Ignite Pramac junior entry, which would have been thoroughly humiliating in front of the suits from the Bologna factory attending today’s race.  Tech 3 Yamaha #2 Bradley Smith, who has benefitted from some of the Dovizioso/Hayden clashes during the season, could only manage 11th place today during a wasted weekend in the idyllic province of Rimini.  He might as well have been laying out on the beach, his fish belly-white skin getting burned to a crisp.

Changes Afoot at the Bottom of the Pool

Crash.net reports some interesting news from the Pramac and Paul Byrd Motorsports teams today, as ridiculous as that may sound.  Pramac, a little slow on the uptake, is apparently finally convinced that Ben Spies’ season is over, and has reportedly poached Yonny Hernandez from the PBM team to finish the season on its junior Desmosedici.  (Yonny, I hope your health insurance premiums are up-to-date.)  Michele Pirro, who seems to have a great deal of potential, will be going back to testing for Ducati.  All of this is apparently good news too for Michael Laverty, who will be promoted from the team’s ART-powered Frankenbike to its full ART package, with an unfortunate Rider To Be Named Later taking over Laverty’s bucket.

As for this report’s bearing on the 2013 championship, it should be noted that Hernandez has scored seven points this year and Laverty three.

TOP TEN RIDERS 2013 YEAR TO DATE

2013 Top 11 Riders after 13 Rounds


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