Posts Tagged ‘Aleix espargaro’

MotoGP 2022 Round 16: Motegi

September 25, 2022

Jack Miller dominates; Quartararo extends series lead

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

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

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

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

Rider Points DNF

Fabio Quartararo 219 2

Pecco Bagnaia 201 5

Aleix Espargaro 194 1*

Enea Bastianini 170 4

*mechanical failure at the start

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

Quartararo 219

Espargaro 219

Bagnaia 201

Bastianini 190

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

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

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

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

MotoGP 2022 – Aragon Round 15

September 19, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quartararo 211 211 2 Yamaha

Bagnaia 181 201 4 Ducati

AEspargaro 178 194 0 Aprilia

Bastianini 138 163 4 Ducati

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

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

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

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

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

Damn, this is fun.

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

MotoGP 2022 Round 11 – Assen

July 2, 2022

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

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

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

Assen MotoGP Race:

         pts

1        25      63 Francesco Bagnaia

2        20      72 Marco Bezzecchi

3        16      12 Maverick Viñales

4        13     41  Aleix Espargaro

5        11     33  Brad Binder

6        10      43 Jack Miller

7        9        89 Jorge Martin

8        8        36 Joan Mir

9        7        88 Miguel Oliveira

10      6        42 Alex Rins

Year to date

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

     5  23   Enea Bastianini        105  NC = 3

     6  33   Brad Binder               93  NC = 1

Moto2 Race:

1        25      37 Augusto Fernandez

2        20      79 Ai Ogura

3        16      96 Jake Dixon

4        13      13 Celestino Vietti

5        11      64 Bo Bendsneyder

6        10      21 Alonso Lopez

7        9        14 Tony Arbolino

8        8        16 Joe Roberts

9        7        18 Manuel Gonzalez

10      6        12 Filip Salac

Year to date:

1       C Vietti              146

2       A Fernandez       146

3       A Ogura             145

4       A Canet              116

5       T Arbolino           104

6       J Roberts              97

Moto3 Race:

1        25      71 Ayumu Sasaki

2        20      28 Izan Guevara

3        16      11 Sergio Garcia

4        13      24 Tatsuki Suzuki

5        11      43 Xavier Artigas

6        10      96 Daniel Holgado

7        9        82 Stefano Nepa

8        8        6 Ryusei Yamanaka

9        7        53 Deniz Öncü

10      6        27 Kaito Toba

Year to date:

1        S Garcia                182

2        I Guevara              179

3        D Foggia                118

4        A Sasaki                113

5        J Masia                  107

6        D Oncu                    98

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

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

MotoGP 2022 Round Ten – Sachsenring

June 14, 2022

Once again, this article will start out as a place for comments and my notes from practice and qualifying, if any. I will then do my usual Sunday purgative and we can get the comments ball rolling on what has become just a dandy 2022 season.

I should be able to do a respectable job in Germany as my home schedule is bad but not terrible. But for the Assen round I am simply screwed. Driving across country to Delaware on Saturday, attending a wake for my oldest friend and our friends on Sunday. I might stay on in DC on Monday if I can find a reason for doing so. Anyway, driving back across the country on either Monday or Tuesday. So, y’all had better take your shots this week and make them count. Next week you’re pretty much on your own. The good news is that Evans’ Mid-Season Recap will post pretty early in the summer vacation, I hope.

Back in the day when Cole Trickle was playing with his hair and mustache, he always reminded me of this guy.

Moto3 notes: Izan Guevara is the next Next Great Latin Rider. The second coming of Pedro Acosta. Acosta won at Sachsenring last year. Today young Izan eclipsed wonderkid Acosta’s time over 27 laps by 24 seconds, almost a full second per lap. So, we are left with the conclusion that Guevara has more mojo than Acosta. Both will be plying their trade in the premier class in the next few years. Not an exciting race.

Moto2 notes: The pool I organized to predict that lap on which Sam Lowes will crash–the number 14 kept coming up. Whatever. Augusto Fernandez won by 10 seconds, the second lousy race of the day. Celestino Vietti did Moto2 a favor by crashing out, allowing the title chase to tighten up a little.

Race Day notes: Three snoozers in one day. Moto3 was a rarity, a wire-to-wire win from pole by the impressive Izan Guevara. The championship tightened up. Lots of other stuff happened.

Moto2 was another forgettable race, Augusto Fernandez putting on a show with teammate and Alien-in-waiting “Vote for Pedro” Acosta taking forever to move through the field to claim P2 in another glorious day for the KTM outfit. The championship tightened up. Lots of other stuff happened.

In MotoGP, the reigning 2021 winner and 2022 champion-in-waiting, Fabio Quartararo did it to us again, ran off and hid from the rest of the field. Took Zarco with him in a blatant display of nationalism. Jack Miller out-dueled Aleix for P3. The championship did not tighten up, and not much else happened.

Next week’s report may not get done at all. The logistics are simply overwhelming. I will try to put a little something together later in the week. But do not despair! Our Mid-Season Review will post during the summer break. Mentally, I’ve already awarded the 2022 title to Fabulous, but we need something to keep us off the streets at least until the NFL resumes.

MotoGP 2022 Round Nine – Catalunya

June 3, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

S Garcia 150

I. Guevara 134

J. Masia 103

D. Foggia 95

D. Oncu 82

A. Sasaki 75

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 2022 top ten after nine rounds looks like this:

Quartararo        147

Espargaro          125

Bastiannini          94

Zarco                   91

Bagnaia                81

Binder                   73

Rins                       69

Mir                         69

Miller                     65

(M Marquez)          60)

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

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

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

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

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

Another Crackpot MotoGP Theory Validated

May 22, 2022

I’m pretty sure I told you so. I’m pretty sure I told you that a long lap penalty. or having a last lap waved off for getting in the green, an untimely DNF. Any of these could decide the championship in a race that, in the words of my late Aunt Frannie, is tighter than a tick.

I’d like to think that I called it when I suggested an inverse relationship between the number of DNFs recorded by a rider and his rank in the chase. These top ten YTD standings are current as of 05/21/2022.

Rider                                                Points                                  #DNF

Quartararo                                          102                                       0

A. Espargaro                                         98                                        0

Bastianini                                               94                                       1

Rins                                                       69                                         1

Miller                                                     62                                         2

Zarco                                                      62                                        2

Bagnaia                                                   56                                        2

B. Binder                                                  56                                        1

Mir                                                           56                                         2

M Marquez                                               54                                        2

This illustrates, once again, that, as the expression goes, in order to finish first, one must first finish.

The four riders leading the 2022 chase have averaged, over the first seven rounds, half a DNF, with neither Quartararo nor Aleix haven’t  crashed once. Riders five, six and seven–Miller, Zarco and Bagnaia–have all crashed out of two races, returning us briefly to the days when the Desmo was considered unridable by anyone other than Casey Stoner. In fact, of riders five through eleven, all have crashed out twice other than Brad Binder, whose numbers suggest he is too stubborn to stay down, that he may have remounted once or twice.

The current poster child for this “win or bin” mentality is Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin, with DNFs in four of his first seven. Earlier in the season he looked ready to assume the second chair on the factory Ducati team. Lately, however, Mo Mentum, the famous sixth man in basketball, the 12th man in the Seattle Seahawks’ crazy home field advantage, seems to be smiling on your boy EBas, at the expense of Jack Miller, who would look good in KTM colors. Honda must be sweating  bullets trying to get Mir signed now that PEsp is feeling unwanted. Mir, one supposes, is not looking forward to wrestling the RC213V, at least the 2022 iteration. Neither of the LCR boys, Nakagami nor Little Brother, can ride the Honda. PEsp will have his moments at his tracks but is nothing like consistent. And, if you were a betting man, um, person, who would you rather have a grand on right now–Marquez, with 54 points or Bagnaia with 56.

Interesting that Maverick Vinales has a clean DNF record but only 33 points, suggesting he is not riding the Aprilia hard enough. Much the same could be said about PEsp. Oh, and just for the record I expect Ducati to crush Mugello, lock out the podium, and convince Fabio that his future does not lie with Yamaha, that he’s caught them with the OEM pendulum swinging in the wrong direction. Is this the weekend Zarco finally achieves liftoff speed? Can Marquez continue trying to catch a tow into Q2? Will young EBas continue his poised, efficient efforts to winning a premier class title as a sophomore in the Marquez era, or at least the close of it. Fabio knows he has to remain perfect in order to remain in contention, putting massive pressure on himself. And my boy Aleix is sitting there making it look easy on an Aprilia that finally does what it’s told.

One of the few things I remember from five years of university-level economics is the tendency of large numbers to regress to the mean, all things being equal, which they never are. In the immediate case, as is almost always the case, you have a new group of Aliens. It’s true. Your present group of Aliens includes EBas, Pecco, Fabio, Aleix. The jury is officially out on #93; we may be witnessing the end of an era, the emergence of Italy, fast young Italian Riders and the, ahem, iconic Italian brand, the Really Big Red Machine. Europe, in Ducati and Aprilia, seeming to enjoy the upper hand in recent times, Fabio and Yamaha holding on for dear life. The Suzuki boys, Rins and Mir, appear disillusioned, watching their teams disintegrate beneath them.

And so it goes in grand prix yachting. I expect that latest division amongst the racing cognoscenti is whether Marquez can bring it back home again, like, in 2023, 2024? He needs a better bike, which Honda has generally provided. No sense in gathering input from PEsp any longer, as his head is unlikely to still be in the game. Nor does he appear to be at all effective as a wingman. Anyway, I think the top three riders at this moment–Fabio, Aleix and EBas–will not be the same three at the top of the heap heading to Valencia. In my unsolicited opinion, I think Fabio is in trouble at tracks like Mugello and Red Bull Ring. Assen is the fastest track on the calendar. He is so unlikely to maintain his clean slate, and when it goes, there goes his lead in the series. Aleix is making it look easy, a third of the way through the season, and EBas is threatening to run away with things.

Somewhere in me resides the thought that the guys who’ve avoided gravel traps thus far are due for a visit. That once Fabio loses his grip on the title, his successor will have a brief ride at the top. The greatest movements, the worst movements, are a DNF at this point. The figures would argue that the riders most at risk of a DNF at this time are Fabio, Aleix, EBas and Rins. This is the type of season in which the MotoGP announcers begin wetting themselves,  waxing euphoric about “those precious _____ points.”

Similar to their race strategy at certain tracks, perhaps the riders don’t actually want to be in the lead this early in the season, especially since there is no runaway winner who needs stopping. It is simply vital that the riders gathered at the top of the heap today remain upright on race days, that they continue to gather points no matter what, that they know who and what is ahead of them and behind them. That they take no stupid risks that would jeopardize another rider.

So far, IMHO, this season is shaping up exactly the way fans want it. There are three Aliens at this moment. There is a host of challengers waiting for someone in front of them to fall. There is just so much riding on every turn, the race, the season, the silly season, which brand is on the upswing, which brand is heading down? Competition amongst the teams–first and foremost, beat your teammate.

It’s fair to expect financial pressures to force teams to cut costs, a process well beyond the scope of this effort. We’e been down this road before and have been breaking all-time track records along the way. If I were a betting man I would be that all the money spent on winglets is all the money that will get spent, i.e., no more R&D on winglets with wind tunnels and etc. Beyond that I don’t know, other than them that has, gets.

Some teams are scratching their heads this year.l LCR Honda. Factory Suzuki. Gresini, current employer of EBas. Jack Miller needs to pull a rabbit out of his hat to keep his current seat. Why does Alex Rins appear to be odd man out during this silly season? Riding Aprilia for Leopard Racing, that could work.

This week is Mugello, one of the great venues in this sport. So much history, none of which I can remember, but I know it’s out there. Perhaps the best slipstream anywhere, adds a whole new dimension to bike racing. The noise. As we like to say out here in Hoosierville, “MotoGP is one of God’s great gifts to mankind. It. Just. Is.

So go tell your friends. Tell them it’s the best sport on two wheels. Ever.

MotoGP 2022–The Grand Prix of Portugal, Round 5

April 25, 2022

Hello, MOrons. I’ve taken the offensive comment by Steve Day and moved it just below this one. Please rake a look and reply to his comment as appropriate. You guys are the best.

* * *

It’s now Saturday afternoon. All of the action from Friday and today is complete. As race day approaches, the weather is improving and the times are dropping. Friday was Crash Day for the Ducati contingent, as four of their six stalwarts ended up in the gravel. Marc Marquez set the pace on Friday in the wet, showing us again that he has a big pair. Alex Marquez and Luca Marini, of all people, passed from Q1 into Q2, leaving names like Martin, Bastianini, Rins and Bagnaia behind. Bagnaia was shaken, not stirred, by a big high side in Q1; it appeared he may have lost consciousness, and my guess is he will be declared unfit to race before the lights go out tomorrow.

Q2 was run in bright sunshine, the track almost completely dry. Plenty of yucks in the last few minutes. Alex Marquez, celebrating his 26th birthday, held pole with 4 minutes left in the session; he would end up in P7. In order, the pole sitter parade featured, Johann Zarco, then Quartararo for an instant, followed by Joan Mir, Zarco again, and Jack Miller. Pol Espargaro was left chewing asphalt with less than two minutes remaining; the yellow flag accompanying his off cost Quartararo, then Marquez, pole. Once the clock hit all zeroes, the fun really began, as Mir, then Aleix, then, finally, Zarco, put down fast laps, although none came close to challenging Bagnaia’s track record lap from last year.

Tomorrow’s race promises to be madness, with Zarco, Mir and Aleix on Row 1, Miller, Quartararo and Bezzecchi (?) on Row 2, the Marquez brothers and Luca Marini (??) on Row 3, and Pol Espargaro and the factory KTM boys on Row 4. Farther back in the pack and newsworthy are Jorge Martin (off the first row for the first time this year), series leader Bastianini in P18 (???) Lorenzo Savadori (what the hell is he doing here this week with both Aleix and Vinales running?) and Alex Rins, sucking canal water in P23. Perhaps Savadori is racing this weekend because the Aprilia team has been hoarding soft rears and had so many they decided to waste a dozen or so on the hapless Italian.

Despite the troubles they had on both Friday and Saturday, Team Ducati still placed four riders on the front three rows. Martin and Bastianini, both in the conversation for the title this year, will have their work cut out for them on Sunday. My Magic 8 Ball tells me to keep an eye on Joan Mir, #93 and Aleix, upon whom my money is riding for podium honors for Round


Sunday’s race saw Fabio Quartararo become the first two-time winner this season, having taken the lead from Joan Mir on Lap 4 and cruising to an easy 5.4 second victory over fellow countryman Johann Zarco, with Aprilia Boss Aleix Espargaro taking yet another podium in his happy season. The chase for the 2022 championship is tight as a tick after five rounds, Quartararo tied at the top with the suddenly formidable Alex Rins, who carved his way from P23 at the start to P4 at the end. Aleix sits pretty in P3, a mere 3 points separating him from the leaders, A suddenly mortal Enea Bastianini sits in P4, five points “in arrears”, as the Brits say, to Espargaro.

Buried in the footnotes to today’s race–

  • Pecco Bagnaia, who tried to break his collarbone on Saturday and came damned close, hanging tough on Sunday, starting from P25 and finishing in P8. He and Zarco were the sole bright lights for Team Ducati, Jorge Martin having crashed out around Lap 6 and Jack Miller, chasing a podium, sliding off the track on Lap 19 and collecting Mir in the process. Luca Marini did finish in the points, while Marco Bezzecchi, starting from P6, worked his way down to P15 at the finish.
  • Marc Marquez, starting from P9, got lost in the sauce early, worked his ass off all day, and just barely beat little brother Alex by 2/100ths at the flag for 10 points. What the hell is Alex Marquez doing fiddling around just behind the lead group(s)?
  • With Miller and Mir getting skittled late, everyone trailing them got promoted two spots. Marquez, who could have started on pole were it not for teammate Pol Espargaro bringing out the yellow flags in Q2, might as easily have finished in P8. He thumped his noggin on the asphalt again on Saturday, but his diplopia, which may be becoming chronic, did not appear.
  • The first 1-2 finish for French riders since the Earth cooled.
  • Miguel Oliveira, the Great Portuguese Hope, finished in P5 at his home crib, but his name was only called two or three times all day.
  • Fabio is starting to resemble former Yamaha pilot Maverick Vinales. He is dominant when running in clean air at the front, but unable to slice and dice his way through the field like Marquez, Rins and Bagnaia. Accordingly, I make him a long shot to take the 2022 title.
  • Valentino Rossi showed up at today’s race, the first time he has graced the paddock since his retirement at the end of last season.

Loyal readers of this column will notice a comment recently affixed (approved by me) to the post about Simon Crafar and Steve Day from last year, in which I cast some aspersion on both gentlemen. Simon, since then, has impressed me, especially when he is in the booth during practice sessions. But it’s Steve Day who took time out of his busy schedule yesterday to insult me and, by extension, the loyal readers who follow this column. This after getting tossed from the booth by Dorna or whoever. I expect you MOrons to respond to Mr. Day on my behalf, defending me from the slings and arrows, etc. Mentioning the fact that he resembles Flounder in Animal House would be helpful as well. If you choose to defend me, might as well do it below, rather than paging back through piles of gibberish. I hope Steve will see that he started a bit of a MotoGP shitstorm.

Next week Jerez. I attended the race there in 2010; it was one of those memorable Lorenzo moments.

Cheers.

2022 MotoGP Argentina, Termas de Rio Hondo – Race Results

April 4, 2022

Originally posted by Crash. net

Aleix Espargaro makes history with his and Aprilia’s first-ever MotoGP win, in his 200th premier-class start, after a tense race-long duel with Jorge Martin at Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina.

Espargaro had been fastest not only in qualifying but also free practice and warm-up, presenting the Spaniard with a perfect chance to finally break his victory drought.

But when the red lights went out, Espargaro got a shaky getaway and lost out to fellow front-row starters Jorge Martin and Luca Marini, plus younger brother Pol by turn two, before recovering to second behind Martin by the end of the lap.

It also threatened to put Espargaro within range of the pursuing Rins, but the Aprilia rider regrouped with the fastest lap of the race to clamp back onto Martin’s rear wheel.

With 8 laps to go Espargaro slipstreamed ahead of Martin along the back straight to lead for the first time, but promptly ran wide at the following hairpin allowing Martin to casually return to the front.

Espargaro repeated the attempt, with the same result, soon after. But it was a case of third time lucky as Espargaro held his line into the hairpin with five laps to go.

Martin wasn’t done, clinging persistently to the RS-GP until the final lap, where Espargaro finally edged out of reach for an emotional victory. 

Until today, Aleix had been the only rider on the MotoGP grid without a grand prix win, in any class, to his name while the RS-GP had taken just one prior podium,with Espargaro at Silverstone last year. A dream day was made complete by Espargaro now also leading the world championship standings.

Pol was among those flocking to congratulate Aleix, his brother’s triumph helping soothe the disapointment of crashing out of fourth place with 11 laps to go, leaving Rins to complete the podium ahead of Suzuki team-mate Joan Mir.

Starting 13th and 14th after a problematic Saturday, factory Ducati team-mates Francesco Bagnaia and Jack Miller failed to gain early ground. Bagnaia then chipped his way up the order to fifth but Miller couldn’t make an impression on the race and finished 14th.

Maverick Vinales, who had also enjoyed his best Aprilia weekend heading into the race, lost a few places from fifth on the grid before stabilising in seventh.

Reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo was shuffled from sixth on the grid to 13th in the early laps. The Monster Yamaha star gained a place when countryman Johann Zarco slid off ahead of him, but could only recover to eighth.

Marco Bezzecchi was the top rookie in ninth for VR46, with team-mate Marini fading to eleventh.

Qatar winner and world championship leader Enea Bastianini began the race twelfth on the grid, reached a peak of eighth, but then ran wide and dropped to 13th. Bastianini completed the top ten by the chequered flag.

The RNF Yamaha team seemed to suffer tyre warmer generator problems on the grid for both Andrea Dovizioso and Darryn Binder. Dovizioso then entered the pits at the end of the opening lap before re-joining the race.

Dovizioso wasn’t the only Yamaha rider in technical trouble with Monster’s Franco Morbidelli looking to suffer some kind of rear tyre issue as he entered the pits with 18 laps to go.

All riders chose to race with the hard front and soft rear tyre combination.

Marc Marquez, who suffered a new episode of double vision in the aftermath of his huge warm-up accident in Indonesia, missed this weekend’s event and was replaced by HRC test rider Stefan Bradl.

After a medical check last Monday, Marquez’s Ophthalmologist Dr Sánchez Dalmau said there had been a “a very favourable evolution in the paralysis of the fourth right nerve affected by the fall that occurred at the Indonesian Grand Prix.”

But he added: “Recovery is not yet complete, and Marc Marquez must follow the established therapeutic regime with conservative treatment.”

It is thus not yet known if Marquez will return for COTA next weekend, one of his most successful circuits, or re-join sometime during the European season, which begins in Portimao on April 22-24.

Fellow Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami also looked set to miss this weekend after testing positive for Covid-19 and being unable to leave Japan. However, the cancellation of Friday combined with subsequent negative Covid results meant Nakagami was able to get to Termas in time for Saturday’s start.

MotoGP was returning to Termas de Rio Hondo for the first time since March 2019, with the event cancelled for the past two years due to the Covid pandemic. That also meant the current ‘standard’ rear tyre construction, introduced in 2020, had not previously been used at the track.

Barring any freight issues, MotoGP will be back on track in Austin, Texas on Friday.

MotoGP: Life in Tier Two

August 30, 2020

© Bruce Allen

With an off weekend on our editorial hands, we thought it might be fun to take a quick look at the riders outside the top ten, get inside their heads a little, speculate as to what’s up with their 2020 season and, likely, beyond.

#11     Franco Morbidelli     Italian     Petronas Yamaha

Moto2 title in 2017. Paid a year of dues on a weak satellite Honda as a rookie in 2018. More than doubled his point production in 2019 on the satellite Yamaha. He’s had two good races this year–P5 at Jerez I and P2 at Brno–and three lousy ones. Has collected a total one one (1) point in the last two rounds, joining Vinales and Quartararo in the Yamaha Hate Austria club. He’s 25; these grand prix riders peak in their mid-20’s. He’s also one of a number of riders, age-wise, whose careers are getting squeezed by Marquez at 27 and Quartararo at 21 years. He needs to get more consistent, will probably never win a MotoGP title, but a formidable rider nonetheless.

#12     Johann Zarco     French     Exponsorama Ducati

Zarco, a classic underachiever, is 30 years old. One assumes there is stuff in his personal life that affects his career decisions, for he was, briefly in 2017, as a rookie in MotoGP, burning like a 4th of July sparkler. He needed to wear shades. But from there, it’s been mostly downhill. A lack of progress on the 2018 Yamaha led him to make a terrible career decision to ride for KTM in 2019, a debacle that lasted 13 rounds. Somehow, he’s landed at Ducati with a GP19 that howls and a riding style that, somehow, fits the Desmo. With his guest membership in the YHA club, (2 points in Austria) he looks like a field horse who will be fun to watch, who will occasionally show up on a podium, but will never finish in the top five for the year. At least he’s back, and lucid.

#13     Alex Rins     Spain     Suzuki Ecstar

Another fast rider whose career has been slowed by injuries, most of which have been unforced errors. Apparently, unlike Marquez, he doesn’t practice the art of the harmless lowside crash. Anyway, once again in 2020, despite his overall bright future, he banged himself up early in the season, had surgery, came back sooner than he should have, and will now be at risk for the rest of the year. He opened with a P10 at Jerez I, his P4 at Jerez II was a bit of a miracle before the roof caved in. He began to get things sorted at Red Bull II. Rins is young and fast, but he has to quit hurting himself. Another rider book-ended by Marquez and Quartararo.

#14     Danilo Petrucci     Italy    Factory Ducati

This, 2020, is the beginning of the end of Danilo, who had a glance at the big time after years and years of paying dues. He has lost his seat to Pecco Bagnaia for ’21-’22 and has taken up residence with KTM for 2021. He saw the writing on the wall months ago, re Bagnaia. With a season best P7 at Austria I he appears to be outgunned or on “Cruise.”  Whatever. He has had his last big contract, and appears to be a happy guy. All the best to Danilo at KTM. Perhaps he can join Binder and Oliveira who are breaking the beast along with Espargaro.

#15     Alex Marquez     Spain     Repsol Honda

Little brother keeps his big fast Honda upright. He does the best he can with his overarching goal being to complete the race, not crash, not get anyone hurt. He had a P8 at Jerez II and will be taking over Cal Crutchlow’s seat at LCR Honda next season with full factory support. When he was a teenager he was said to have been faster than Marc, and that Rins could beat both of them. Whatever. Alex appears to be a Tranche 3 or 4 rider. Don’t know why that would ever change, with all the young fast Italian riders on the way. [His transfer made possible Repsol’s signing of Pol Espargaro to ride alongside Marc–that should be rich–for ’21-’22. It also showed Crutchlow the door; no surprise there.]

#16     Aleix Espargaro     Spain     Factory Aprilia

The MotoGP equivalent of Sisyphus, doomed to spend his life pushing the rock up the mountain only to see it roll down again. I think little brother Pol could now beat Aleix on a same-bike match race. But Aleix has never, in a career seemingly spanning decades in MotoGP, had a decent ride beneath him. Other than 2014 on the Forward Yamaha, on which he finished P7 for the year. He’s going nowhere on the still-sick Aprilia while the world awaits the turnaround KTM is experiencing this year. Meanwhile, Aleix pedals as hard as he can, generally to little avail. Someone’s going to take his job one of these days.

#17     Iker Lecuona     Spain     Tech3 KTM

First, a confession about the KTM rookie. I get tickled every time I hear his name, as it provokes in me (I’m a musician on the side) a rhythm, a rhythm that reminds me of a tune in Disney’s Lion King, called, for whatever reason, “Hakuna Matata,” and has this hypnotic beat attached to it. I hear #27 and my neck and shoulders start moving, like they do when I hear Motown anthems.

Late selection rookie brought onboard, finally, to take Zarco’s seat. He is young, and he is wrestling the RC16, which is a beast to point and shoot. His fate is not, as it appears, tied to KTM. He may find, or at least seek, greener pastures on a different bike, should the opportunity arise in the future. For now, he is a back-bencher. He is young, and could become something in a few seasons. KTM picked him for 2020 mostly on purpose, as future star Jorge Martin was not ready to move up. Martin appears to be ready and is rumored to have signed a Ducati contract for 2021. Dude has Alien written all over him. Sorry, not Lecuona. Martin is the future Alien; jury is still out on Iker.

#18     Pecco Bagnaia     Italy     Pramac Ducati

Promising young rookie, the second coming of Jorge Lorenzo, has a bright future at Ducati. A broken leg in Jerez has trashed his 2020 campaign, but he is reported to have already signed his contract to move up to the factory team in 2021-22 to ride alongside Jack Miller, the factory Ducati group getting younger and stronger in the process. Bagnaia appears to have a preferred riding style that will do well at some tracks, so-called Ducati-friendly tracks. I think he is young enough to get a peak at a world championship in MotoGP; his future appears bright. His present, not so much, although he is healing and will possibly try to return for a few rounds in 2020. How am I supposed to know, out here in Hoosierville?

#19     Bradley Smith     Great Britain     Factory Aprilia

After being in and out of MotoGP Smith caught a ride this season when Andrea Iannone failed a drug test. Were Smith a mechanic rather than a rider, 2020 would be another year of sitting around, turning wrenches. He must bring a pot of sponsor money, probably more than Aprilia pays him. He is a career field-filler. Nice guy. No future.

#20     Tito Rabat    Spain     Esponsorama Ducati

See #19 above.

#21     Cal Crutchlow     Great Britain     LCR Honda

Despite a respectable career, Cal is going out on a low note, having been declared redundant by HRC. This chafes the Brit who, at age 34, has arrived at the end of the line. If he doesn’t get off here and retire to a life of leisure on the Isle of Mann, he will end up in a bad neighborhood, career-wise, but guys like Cal are hard to convince. He is, at this moment, homeless starting next season. With a lifetime of arthritis ahead of him, I hope Cal calls it a career and goes home to wife and daughter. It would be fun to hear him behind a microphone at some point, during races.

***

So, there you have it. We’ll get back on topic after Labor Day, in advance of Misano I. Keep those cards and letters coming, kids, and we’ll try to reply to every one, plus send you a secret decoder ring you can show off to your friends. Tell them you care about motorcycle racing and casual research. Show them that a little knowledge, combined with a fairly extensive vocabulary, can achieve success in a community of people who make odd, unhealthy choices in what they read.

Here are some images from last year in San Marino.

Screenshot (136)Screenshot (135)Screenshot (134)Screenshot (130)Screenshot (129)Screenshot (123)Screenshot (121)Annotation 2019-09-10 064742misano-circuit-1000x522

MotoGP Le Mans Results 2017

May 21, 2017

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Rossi kicks it away; Viñales leads series 

vinales-on-yamahaedited

Today at the 30th running of the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, youth triumphed over experience.  Yamaha Top Gun Maverick Viñales withstood a classic last lap challenge brought by teammate and legend Valentino Rossi to capture Yamaha’s 500th grand prix win.  The youngster ended his day on the top step of the podium, the grizzled veteran his, prostrate in the gravel.  Ten years ago, Rossi would have won this race.  In 2017, the tide she is maybe beginning to turn.

Practice and Qualifying

FP1, on a wet but drying track, provided the usual comedic results found in wet sessions, with Jack Miller over a second clear of Marquez and Zarco, with the Espargaro brothers, Pol on the KTM and Aleix on the Aprilia, finishing dead last together, not having it.  FP2, wetter yet, saw Andrea Dovizioso put his Ducati in front of Marquez and Danilo Petrucci, another mudder.  FP3, still soggy, was topped by Scot Redding, Cal Crutchlow and Miller again.  FP4 was dry—Viñales, Pedrosa, Rossi, and Zarco–but by then the lambs and goats had been separated.  That things were out of kilter was exemplified by Scot Redding leading the Q2 lambs.

The goats relegated to Q1 included some recognizable names—Tech 3 rookies Zarco and Folger, plus Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dovizioso.  Dovizioso led Zarco into Q2 after an exhilarating 15 minutes, with the Frenchman climbing into second place at the tail end of the session.  But both KTM bikes—Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro—had already passed straight into Q2, along with a few other surprises—Karel Abraham and Loris Baz among them.  Go KTM.  Go GP15s.

When the dust and fumes cleared after Q2, we were left with an all-Yamaha front row of Viñales, Rossi, and Zarco, followed by Cal Crutchlow, Marquez and Dovizioso.  The announcers were so caught up in homeboy Zarco’s last lap push for the front row—crowd going mental—it barely registered, to me anyway, that Viñales had taken his second pole of the season, his first since Qatar.

Meanwhile, Pedrosa and Lorenzo, both having podiumed at Jerez two weeks ago, found themselves starting 13th and 16th, respectively, having failed to pass through Q1.  The cool temperatures, one believes, hindered Pedrosa, who always has trouble heating up his front tire.  The possibility that it was raining somewhere in France appeared to affect Lorenzo, whom one reader has described as suffering from aquaphobia, not to mention bipolar disorder, gobs of self-recrimination, and in need of a full reset.  His ride today, from 16th to 6th was respectable, his Friday and Saturday not so much.

The Race – A Yamaha Cakewalk.  Almost.

Zarco, starting from the middle of the front row, put his head down at the start and, entering the second turn, had taken the lead, with Viñales, Rossi, and Marquez comprising the front group.  It appeared that Marquez was working harder than the Yamahas and that Viñales and Rossi were keeping their powder dry, waiting for their fuel loads to drop before taking on the rookie.  On Lap 7, Viñales went through cleanly on Zarco while Marquez began dogging Rossi.

A second group had formed up consisting of LCR Honda hooligan Cal Crutchlow, factory Ducati #1 Andrea Dovizioso, and Repsol #2 Dani Pedrosa who, having started 13th, was busily slicing his way through the field.  Pedrosa pushed his way past Crutchlow and into 5th place by Lap 15, turning his attention to teammate Marquez.  Suddenly, on Lap 17, under pressure from Pedrosa and with the Yamahas getting away, Marquez lost the front in Turn 3 (for the third time in two days).  His two DNFs in the first five rounds have a decidedly 2015 flavor to them.

Rossi went through Zarco on Lap 23 and unsurprisingly began lining up Viñales.  Thus began five laps of primo quality racing, as the veteran and the wünderkind squared off, one on one, for bragging rights.  Rossi went through into the lead on Lap 26, a scene we’ve witnessed scores of times over the years.  But Viñales took it back as Rossi ran wide midway through the last lap, trying to block Viñales, then laid his M1 down in a gentle low side late in the lap trying to overtake him yet again.

Valentino Rossi was not interested in finishing second today.  It was his for the asking, and he politely refused. Upon his departure from the racing surface, Zarco got promoted to a silver while Dani Pedrosa suddenly found himself on the podium, through almost no fault of his own.  One more time, class: “In order to finish first…”

Those of you who recall my prediction that Aleix Espargaro would put his Aprilia on the podium today undoubtedly share my angst at seeing him parked by the side of the track, head lowered, smoke wisping from his engine. After a terrible qualifying session, he had been climbing the order all day from 18th place at the start and, to my thinking, could have easily snagged third place had his engine not given out.  Just sayin’.  No need for anyone to point out that he crashed out of 8th place on Lap 24.

Ranking the Bikes

Sparing no expense, we here at MO have commissioned a non-scientific study ranking the overall capabilities of the various machines found on the grid.  In doing so, we relied on mood more than methodology.  The following rankings emerged:

2017 Yamaha

2016 Yamaha

2017 Honda

Ducati GP17

2017 Suzuki

2017 KTM

Ducati GP15

2016 Honda

2017 Aprilia

Ducati GP16

Readers are encouraged to take issue with these rankings.  We will re-rank the riders in our preview of the upcoming Mugello round.

Sidebars

The fact that Jack Miller is still with us after the crash he experienced on Saturday is nothing short of a miracle.  He later qualified in 11th place in the dry Q2 after dominating FP1 by a second and a half, having gambled on slicks late in the session.  [I wonder if the “mudders”—Miller, Petrucci, etc.—regret having developed a reputation for riding well in the rain at 190 mph.  Comparable to those guys who make a living tying themselves to the back of an enraged bull and trying to stay attached for 10 seconds after someone touches an electric prod to his nuts.  That moment when you think, “Am I really doing this?  Is this at all sustainable?” ]

Was it my imagination, or did pretty much every satellite Ducati in the field crap out today?

Finally.  The grippy new racing surface was supposed to lower qualifying times by a second or two.  Last year Lorenzo qualified at 1’31.975.  This year, on a dry, perhaps somewhat dirty track, Viñales qualified at 1’31.994.  But at the end of the 28-lap race on medium tires, Viñales and Rossi were trading lap records every time around.  Viñales set the newest lap record on the last lap of the race. So, the new asphalt appears to meet the ideal spec of non-abrasive with good grip.  And Michelin appears to have figured out Le Mans.

The Big Picture

Watching all three races today, I got the distinct impression that MotoGP is on the verge of being taken over by the ludicrously fast young riders populating Moto3 and Moto2.  Viñales beats Rossi and Zarco beats Pedrosa today, and one gets the impression that leadership amongst the premier class is on its way to turning over.  The Rossis, Pedrosas and Lorenzos seem to be in jeopardy of being pushed off center stage by names like Viñales, Zarco, Bagnaia, Morbidelli, Mir and Fenati, among others.

Until you look at the 2017 standings and see Dani Pedrosa and Vale Rossi grazing near the top of the food chain.  Veteran riders occupy four of the top seven spots for the year, five if you count Marquez. Maverick Viñales has put himself 17 points clear of his nearest competitor as the season turns toward Mugello.  He will have to keep eating his Wheaties if he intends to stay there.

PS–I neglected to post the Le Mans preview, which you can find right here.

 


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