Posts Tagged ‘2012’

MotoGP 2015 Silverstone Preview

August 24, 2015

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com.

Lorenzo has the edge on his teammate in Northamptonshire

The Welsh Grand Prix was to have taken place this weekend at the £315m Circuit of Wales, going by the name of Ebbw Vale, where it will, someday, reside in Blænau Gwent, both of which seem to need some extra letters. Unfortunately, the organizers were unable to deliver the stadium on time for this year’s calendar. The 2015 British Grand Prix will continue at Silverstone for the next two years, after a short detour through Donington Park.

Dorna would have been happy to leave Silverstone, despite a spate of expensive investments plowed into the facility. Dorna wanted to notch a new country in its corporate bedpost with a purpose-built facility in Wales that no one can pronounce and which is likely to have worse weather than Silverstone and Donington, if that’s possible. Donington would have been happy to sign on for the year it would take to finish the Welsh facility, but Dorna was not pleased with the condition of the Leicestershire track, pronounced it unfit, and appealed to Silverstone to hold the race one more time this year. Silverstone replied that they would be delighted to host the race for another two years, but that a single year just wasn’t on. Dorna, testes in a sling, agreed, putting the first of many screws to the ownership group in Blænau Gwent who will have to sit on a finished stadium for an entire year, the price of trusting Ezpeleta and his henchmen. Who do they think they are, Formula One? Even though they brought it on themselves, the Welshmen must be scratching their heads.

Recent History at Silverstone

IRossi & Lorenzon 2012, Jorge Lorenzo, on his way to his second premier class title, won fairly easily on one of the dry days here. He was joined on the podium by the Repsol Honda duo of Casey Stoner (+3.3 seconds) and Dani Pedrosa (+3.6). The race of the day, however, involved Nicky Hayden on the factory Ducati and his eventual successor, homeboy Cal Crutchlow, on the satellite Tech 3 Yamaha. Crutchlow had had a mishap in practice that left him with a mangled left ankle. At race time, Crutchlow left his crutches behind, went out and rode the wheels off his Yamaha, going from seven seconds behind Hayden on Lap 13 to a few feet in front of him at the flag. A healthy percentage of the crowd probably went home not exactly certain who had won the race but well aware of who finished sixth.

The 2013 British Grand Prix, another dry race, was one of the best of the year. Marquez, with a 26 point lead over Dani Pedrosa after Brno, dislocated his shoulder in the morning WUP (nearly taking Alvaro Bautista’s RC213V in the teeth as he, too, slid off three seconds later) and then commenced a daylong hot pursuit of Jorge Lorenzo before finally succumbing at the flag by a microscopic 8/100ths of a second. Pedrosa, in the mix all day, crossed the line third, a second and a half behind Lorenzo. The Spanish slugfest up front left Rossi and the other factory bikes sucking wind off in the distance. On a day that appeared ripe for the field to close the gap to the leader, Marquez left Great Britain sore, but leading the championship by more (+30) than when he arrived. Perhaps the best British Grand Prix in the modern era.

Last year’s gorgeous British GP made it three dry races in a row, a strong portent of miserable conditions in store for this year. With a front row of Marquez, Dovi and Lorenzo, the two Spaniards again went off to fight their own private battle, Lorenzo in the early lead. Marquez took a run at him on Lap 14, but couldn’t make it stick. On Lap 18, though, after a little bumping and grinding, the young Catalan wonder went through for good on the way to his 11th win of the season. At the wire, it was Marquez, trailed by Lorenzo (7/10ths ) with the top five made up of Rossi (+8.5), Pedrosa (+8.7) and Dovizioso (+9.2). The win put Marquez 10 for 11 on the year, brimming with confidence and the additional benefit of having Mo Mentum working for him on the road to Misano, where he squandered it all, earning exactly one (1) championship point, finishing 15th after a silly low-speed moment on Lap 10.

It’s All About the Yamaha Now

The 2015 championship has boiled down to a seven round season as Bruise Brothers Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi sit tied atop the racing world after 11, with Lorenzo holding the tiebreaker. Rossi has not won since Assen and will be challenged in qualifying again this week at the longest circuit on the calendar. Though this race traditionally belongs to Lorenzo and Marquez, the fans will be watching Lorenzo and Rossi, who continues to attract fans in greater numbers and tenacity than any other combatant on the grid. The Italian marketing machine is going to have his hands full with his Mallorcan teammate, with two long fast tracks up soon on the calendar, sandwiching Misano. LorenzoLand, like The Diaspora, can be found in many locales around the world, including Silverstone and Aragon.

From here, it looks likely that Lorenzo will want to jump out in front on Saturday, as per usual, leaving Marquez to tangle 2014 MotoGP World Championwith Rossi. Rossi really must qualify on the front row to have a chance of “pulling an Assen” here; a third row start and this one is over. Chalk Silverstone up as another race that will be won on Saturday. Rossi found a way to win last year at San Marino, a track much better suited to his riding style. But it won’t suffice for Rossi to simply win at the tracks where he’s expected to win, as Lorenzo can count at least four remainders as definitely Yamaha-friendly; Rossi is going to need a couple of upsets. Starting at Silverstone, as the old joke goes, couldn’t hoit. Adding a wildcard as fast and unpredictable as Marquez will make no one’s life easier, likely affecting Rossi more than Lorenzo. If Marquez can manage to win a few of these last rounds, he will reduce Lorenzo and Rossi to fighting for second and third, a single point at stake. Could get interesting on Sundays.

Your Weekend Forecast

Old Reliable is calling for clouds, with temps in the high 60’s – low 70’s, along with plenty of trouble available for riders on out laps on a cold track with cold tires. Virtually guaranteed that at least one MotoGP rider will eat it on an out lap, in addition to numerous others in Moto2 and Moto3. Forward Racing either will be there or they won’t. Silly season rumors are heating up—Redding to Ducati, Sam Lowes and Danny Kent moving up to give the British a bigger, if not necessarily better, group of challengers to the Spaniards currently dominating the class. Bradley Smith will sign his Tech 3 contract this weekend. Cal Crutchlow will probably have to stay with LCR. Tito Rabat is being linked with the Marc VDS team on its way to being abandoned by Redding. Yonny Hernandez appears to be out of work in MotoGP next year. Joann Zarco is going to need a place to land in the premier class, although sticking in Moto2 wouldn’t be the end of the world for him. Lots of stuff to discuss on Sunday afternoon.

The big bikes go off at 8:00 EDT. We’ll have results and analysis on Sunday evening.

Jorge Lorenzo coasts to win over Marquez and Rossi at Jerez

May 3, 2015

MotoGP 2015 Jerez Results, by Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com.

In the run-up to today’s Spanish Grand Prix, several things were clear. Defending world champion Marc Marquez would be riding wounded with a broken left pinkie. Jorge Lorenzo, dominating the practice sessions, had that look in his eye reminiscent of 2010, 2012 and late 2014. The Ducatis were having a tough time getting anything going in the Spanish heat. And Valentino Rossi had a great chance to secure his 200th career podium.

Jorge-Lorenzo-Smile-HDAt the end of today’s high speed parade, most of the expectations were met. Lorenzo got away at the start, led every lap, and celebrated his first career win from pole at Jerez. On the final lap, he saluted the swooning fans in Lorenzo’s Land, his mojo clearly back in place. Marquez managed to secure second place, confessing afterwards that he chased Lorenzo mostly with his right arm, which was as sore as his finger in parc fermé. (Let’s hope he doesn’t show up on Wednesday with a case of arm pump.) Rossi got his podium and increased his lead from 6 points to 15 over a frustrated Andrea Dovizioso.

Ducati Woes in Spain

Last week, we heard the dueling Andreas, Dovizioso and Iannone, singing the blues about how hard it would be for them to compete at Jerez. I thought they were sandbagging; they obviously missed my earlier article proclaiming the GP15 competitive at every track on the calendar. And although five of the six Desmosedicis on the grid finished in the points, there is no joy in Città di Fango tonight. dovizioso-iannone-658x437

Iannone qualified solidly in third, but got caught in traffic at the start, dropping back to around 11th place early. He spent his day pedaling as hard as he could to finish sixth and, in the process, dropped from third place for the season to fifth. Dovizioso, mimicking recent Rossi acts by qualifying in the eight hole, started okay, finishing Lap 1 in seventh before going walkabout on Lap 2, which he finished in 25th place. As in last place. As in behind Alex de Angelis. He spent his day grinding his teeth to nubs on the way to an eventual ninth place finish. His seven (7) points today left him in second place for the season but increased his deficit to Rossi from six to 15, and brought his string of consecutive second place finishes to a grating halt.

On the brighter side, Yonny Hernandez pushed his Pramac entry to a respectable 10th place, teammate Danilo Petrucci (who lost 20 pounds during the offseason) managed 12th, and Avintia Racing’s Hectic Hector Barbera scored two points, ending the day in 14th place. On a day when I expected to see two Ducatis on the podium, my prognostication skills once again took a thorough thrashing.

Elsewhere on the Grid

CWM LCR Honda hooligan Cal Crutchlow, who doesn’t get enough respect here, ran a smart, controlled race for a legitimate fourth place finish, his only whining this week (other than a head cold) occurring after qualifying when he said he SHOULD have started on the front row but for a bad tire choice. The Espargaro brothers, Little Pol and Big Aleix, Pol and Aleixqualified well in fourth and sixth respectively and finished well, too, in fifth and seventh. They had an altercation during qualifying, after which they could be seen inside the Suzuki garage, where Aleix administered a Chinese burn on Pol, whereupon Pol retaliated with a wet willie, sticking his spit-soaked index finger in his brother’s ear. Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith qualified 10th and finished 9th, somewhat off the pace of his season to date.

Other than Assen, they’ve been hosting MotoGP races at Jerez longer than anywhere on the schedule. Today’s results raise the question as to whether we should consider Jerez to be Yamaha-friendly or Honda-friendly, presuming a healthy Dani Pedrosa would have finished somewhere in the top six. Hard to say, with all four Yamahas finishing in the top eight and both real Hondas, Marquez and Crutchlow, nestled in the top four. From this vantage point, only two conclusions are available. First, Scott Redding has to get his act together on the Marc VDS Honda; 13th place isn’t getting it done. Second, Jerez is definitely un-friendly for the factory Ducati team. At least it was today.

Quick Hitters

Spain is one of the few countries where the podium celebration features the nation’s king. Juan Carlos hung out with Lorenzo and Marquez before the race and strolled across the podium afterwards, high-fiving all three riders. You’ll never see the King of America doing that in Indy or Austin, unless Donald Trump manages to steal the 2016 election.

The Spanish Grand Prix marked Lorenzo’s first pole since Misano last year and his first win since Motegi. He looked visibly relieved on the podium and gave us a classic Lorenzo Leap at the end. It would be fun to have a legitimate three way race this season, with Marquez, Rossi and Lorenzo in the hunt at the end. My irrational exuberance about the Ducati team needs a lift, which it may receive at Le Mans in two weeks if the French Grand Prix holds to form and gives us three days of rain.

Pol Espargaro finally got one of the monkeys off his back, beating teammate Bradley Smith for the first time this season. And it was a big weekend for the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, as they doubled their point total for the season from one (1) to two (2), based on Alvaro Bautista’s heroic run to 15th place. Fausto must be going insane, despite the pleasure of watching #2 rider Marco Melandri not finishing last today.

The Big Picture Heading for Le Mans

Is it premature to suggest that Jorge Lorenzo is back? Today he looked like he did over the second half of last year and during most of 2010 and 2012. Rossi took what the defense was willing to give him today and extended his lead in the championship, courtesy of the futility of the factory Ducati team. And Marquez, who should be close to 100% in two weeks, still looks capable of winning a third straight title. If you happened to have watched the Moto2 race today, Alex Rins’ fall in the Jorge Lorenzo turn on the last lap took him from first place in the championship down to third. Things can change swiftly in this sport, and there are 14 rounds left. It’s too soon to write off any of the three.

podium-mugello-2014Today was Jorge Lorenzo’s day. He will turn 28 tomorrow feeling great and looking forward to mixing it up with Marquez and Rossi in two weeks. Meanwhile, the teams will gather again tomorrow at the Circuito de Jerez for a fast one day test. If I’m Marc Marquez, I’m going to sit this one out and be grateful I didn’t do any more damage to myself today. If I’m Valentino Rossi, I’m going to count to 200, do whatever Lin Jarvis wants done and give some serious thought to how I can do a better job in qualifying.

If I’m Jorge Lorenzo, I’m going to replay today’s race in my head a few times and offer up a prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupé for more days like today.

2012 Laguna Seca Preview

July 25, 2012

An edited version of this story, complete with hi-rez photos, will appear on Motorcycle.com on Thursday.  Until then, enjoy.

Lorenzo and Pedrosa Ready to Rumble on Sunday

The U.S. Grand Prix, hosted by the historic Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, welcomes ”those magnificent men in their flying machines” to kick off the second half of the 2012 season.  Yamaha CEO for a Day and 2010 world champion Jorge Lorenzo has recently put a little room between himself and the Repsol Hondas of challengers Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner.  Over the past three seasons, no less than four riders have failed to finish this race each year, a reminder of how perilous life can be in the hills of the Monterey Peninsula; a single “MotoGP moment” could easily shake up the 2012 standings.

Recent History

The 2009 race here was fascinating, as Pedrosa disappeared at the start, while teammates Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi duked it out all day in a great battle for second place.  Rossi, that year’s ultimate champion, dispatched Lorenzo late in the day and set his formidable sights on Pedrosa, whose enormous early lead shrank steadily over the final 10 laps.  At the finish, Rossi trailed the Spaniard by only a third of a second, with Lorenzo another few seconds farther back.  Stoner was wrestling the Ducati and lactose intolerance that year and still managed a respectable fourth.  Andrea Dovizioso, Pedrosa’s Repsol Honda teammate, crashed out early, joining three other riders in the gravel that day.

2010 was Lorenzo’s year, as he cruised to victory after Pedrosa crashed out of the lead unassisted.  Stoner drove his Desmosedici to a respectable second, while Rossi, still healing after his disastrous practice crash in Italy, managed third, just in front of Dovizioso’s RC211V.  2010 marked the beginning of what has become a recent trend, namely the appearance of wild card riders.  That year, Nicky Hayden’s little brother Roger Lee took over the LCR Honda for the injured Randy de Puniet and managed 5 championship points, finishing 11th.  His somewhat misleading result was a side effect of having five other riders crash out, although Roger Lee did manage to edge Alex de Angelis fair and square.

Casey Stoner won here last year in convincing style, due in part to the fact that both Lorenzo and Pedrosa were hurting.  Pedrosa was still recovering from injuries suffered at Le Mans, and Lorenzo was a basket case, having endured a vicious highside crash after taking the pole in the QP.  While both Spaniards hobbled their way up to the podium after the race, the most exciting match of the day saw Ben Spies punk Dovizioso at the flag to steal fourth place.  Ben Bostrom was the sacrificial wildcard that day, retiring after 10 terrifying laps to join the three riders that crashed out.

What to Expect on Sunday

Based upon recent results in Germany and Italy, it is tempting to predict a Lorenzo win, with Pedrosa placing and Stoner to show.  Last time out at Mugello, Lorenzo put on a clinic reminiscent of his 2010 championship season.  Pedrosa, consistent and uninjured all year, has appeared on the podium eight times, but has won only once, at the Sachsenring.  Defending champion Stoner seems to have misplaced his mojo, having won but once, at Assen, since announcing his impending retirement at Le Mans back in May.  As was true at Mugello, each has won here in the last three years.

Unlike Mugello, however, Laguna Seca is short and relatively slow, a layout more favorable to the Hondas than the Yamahas.  When he’s healthy, Pedrosa has the ability to get out in front of the field and take advantage of his superior speed exiting the turns.  Conventional wisdom would suggest that the two Spaniards will fight for the win, with Stoner and Tech 3 Yamaha stud Dovizioso likely contesting the final podium spot.  The Ducati team of Rossi and Nicky Hayden will fight over whatever’s left, joined by Ben Spies and Cal Crutchlow.

One thing is certain.  This year’s wildcard, Steve Rapp on a CRT entry from Attack Racing powered by Kawasaki, will be nowhere near the podium at the race’s end.  Steve is a veteran AMA rider with plenty of credentials, but this is MotoGP, for God’s sake, and he can only hope to beat a few of the Frankenbikes.  His experience at Monterey may indeed help him embarrass one of the other Kawasaki-powered entries from Avintia Blusens, Ivan Silva and Yonny Hernandez.  For Rapp, that would probably count as a win.  Since the two CRT regulars have amassed a total of 11 points in nine rounds, that goal is definitely within reach.

Ben Spies “Gets Quit”

Word that Ben Spies would be leaving the factory Yamaha team at season’s end came as a surprise to many, although we have expected it here for some time.  Though the decision initially is being positioned as Ben’s, it seems likely he was asked to resign, while allowing him to maintain his dignity during the second half of the season.  The move, which must be a crushing disappointment for the American, may relieve some pressure on him, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him have a vastly improved second half of the season, as he did last year.  Monterey seems like a good place to start.

Years ago I worked with a thoroughly lazy salesman who sat at home watching daytime TV instead of making sales calls.  Sure enough, management came in one day and asked him to join them in a conference room for a quick meeting, after which they announced he had resigned.  Later, when I asked him what happened, he replied, “I got quit.”  Such seems to be the case with Ben.  Hopefully, we will see him return to MotoGP in 2014 with a reinvigorated Suzuki team.  Until then, it appears World SuperBike is his best option.

Spies is a highly likeable guy who, unlike certain Australian world champions, rarely points the finger of blame at others when he fails to perform.  This feels more like a setback, albeit a big one, than a conclusion.  As for the identity of Jorge Lorenzo’s Italian teammate in 2013, we shall save that speculation for a later date.

Toni Elias Sighting Likely on Sunday

With “Hectic” Hector Barbera out for the foreseeable future with a badly broken leg suffered in practice this past week, Pramac Racing has hired Toni Elias to wear the ghastly green for Round Ten.  Elias, last seen floundering on the Aspar Moto2 Suter, had been given the boot there just in time to join Pramac for one (or two) of their final nine races in the premier class.  Despite his travails since having won the Moto2 title in 2010, Elias’ recent history at Laguna is pretty good, with a 7th in 2008 for Alice Ducati and a 6th in 2009 for the LCR Honda team.

Toni’s return screws up my intended weekend wordplay, as I had intended to discuss Hectic Hector’s departure in conjunction with “Kareless” Karel Abraham’s return to the grid after missing four rounds to injuries suffered at Silverstone.  As the lowest form of humor on earth, no one likes puns anyway, so we won’t bother.

Your Race Weekend Forecast

It promises to be perfect in the greater Salinas area, with temps in the low 70’s and plenty of sunshine.  The westerlies could be a bit of an issue, as they are most years.  Pretty much perfect conditions, especially if you’re an insanely fast Spanish motorcycle racing hombré in search of a world championship.