Posts Tagged ‘Aragon’

MotoGP Aragon Results

September 23, 2018

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Marquez Outduels Two Andreas, Extends Lead 

Since Sachsenring, Marc Marquez had grown weary hearing about how great the Ducati is, how great Dovizioso and Lorenzo are, how they’ve been making a chump out of him since August. Marc Marquez, despite his calm exterior, is a fiercely competitive young man. Today, with no pressure and no real incentive other than pride, he went out and beat Andrea Dovizioso in front of his home fans, assuring them that he may be many things, but one of them is not a chump. 

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New Ant Man artwork at Turn 10

Practice and Qualifying 

FP1 was Ducati “Bring Your Desmo to Work Friday,” with GP18s (Dovi, Petrucci and Lorenzo) and a GP17 (Jack Miller) blanketing the top of the sheet. Rossi was idling in 15th with 14 minutes left but pushed himself into the top ten—a laughable goal not that many years ago—with some late speed.

FP2 was Marquez holding off the factory Ducatis, with Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Iannone—I know, right?—rounding out the top five.  Rossi in 9th and Vinales in 10th put them on the inside looking out, but for how long? Marquez’ hot lap in FP2 was 7/10ths off the track record, within reach. Notables Alex Rins (Suzuki) and Johann Zarco (Tech 3 Yamaha) were buried in the deep teens. Better luck on Saturday.

FP3 was revealing, as all four Yamahas found themselves in the bottom 14 spots of the grid after the session, all four thereby consigned to the crapshoot that is Q1. The crash that left Rossi mired in 18th place after the session looked as if he simply lost concentration and folded the front on a routine fast turn, unmolested. Perhaps after 20-some years of routine practice session corners, they no longer grip The Doctor’s attention the way they used to. Anyway, Crutchlow and Marquez (and Pedrosa) on Hondas were busy slugging it out with Ducati representatives Miller and Dovizioso, not to mention the pesky Andrea Iannone and his Suzuki in the top five again.

The most glaring anomaly from FP4 was watching Valentino Rossi giving a reasonable impression of one of the Laverty brothers, closing the session in, again, 18th (eighteenth!) place. From there, he went on to finish 8th in Q1, meaning he would start Sunday’s race in—you guessed it—18th place. How he finished eighth in Q1 illustrates the growing fetish top riders seem have about not allowing “lesser” pilots to tailgate/slipstream them to a fast lap. My dog doesn’t like going on a walk with another owner and dog walking behind us, makes her nervous. I’m thinking Rossi’s thinking that, on his current sled, 2019-2020 seems like a long time.

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Rossi discussing his winning options–zero and none–with his team prior to the race.

Sitting eighth with new rubber and what seemed like five minutes left in the session, fetish on full display, Rossi spent four and a half of those minutes cruising the perimeter, waiting for other riders to go through on him and which they, in turn, cruising themselves, refused to do. His Wiley Coyote moment came when he realized there were 30 seconds left on the clock, and he was at least 45 seconds from the start/finish line. He never got his second flying lap started. Welcome to Row 6. BTW, Maverick Vinales waltzed into Q2, while Taka Nakagami snuck in just under the wire, consigning fellow rookie Franco Morbidelli to Row 5.

Q2 went the same way. Marquez laid down two sub-1:47 laps during his first attack, and the second stood up until a minute and a half after the flag waved. Again, much of that time was spent watching the riders and teams, um, standing around, waiting for “the right time” to attack the track record and claim pole. But, with the Racing Gods rewarding bad behavior, the two factory Ducatis apparently got it right. Long after the checkered flag waved, Dovizioso put his GP18 .07 in front of Marquez. Five seconds later, Jorge Lorenzo flashed across the line, taking his third consecutive pole, this by a full .014 seconds. Nice front row. But winning pole without setting a new track record—meh. Note: All Ducs on pole since summer break? No Yamaha starting from the top ten grid spots? Who put the pineapple juice in my pineapple juice?

Another Great Race

“I really don’t give a rip if Jorge Lorenzo swipes pole again. This race needs to be Dovizioso attacking Marquez late in the day, Marquez either withstanding the attacks, running away, or not.”   –Motorcycle.com, September 19, 2018 

Not sure how many of you got what you wanted from this race, but I did. The two best riders on earth on the two best bikes, standing 1-2 in the chase, squaring off for another last lap cage match. This after 22 laps of high drama and exquisite suffering, as they used to say on ABC’s Wide World of Sports—‘The Thrill of Victory, the Agony of Defeat.”

By taking the hole shot from the third spot on the grid, defending world champion Marc Marquez forced former world champion Jorge Lorenzo wide in the first turn, from whence he opened the throttle a touch early, lost the rear of his Ducati, and got flung over the windscreen, a dislocated toe adding injury to the insult of having crashed from pole for two consecutive rounds. His premature departure left a curious front group consisting of two usual suspects—Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso—and two unusuals—Suzuki pilots Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins. Dani Pedrosa, in his Aragon swan song, put his Repsol Honda in 5th place to stay after a few laps, and everyone’s favorite rider, Aleix Espargaro, put his own Aprilia RS-GP in sixth place for the duration, tying his best finish ever for the Italian brand, and adding over 50% to his point total for the season.

This is how things stood until around Lap 14. Dovi had led most of the way, with Marquez dogging him the entire time. The two Suzukis, acting as if they weren’t a Tier Two brand, stolidly held serve in third and fourth places, appearing very relaxed, while the two leaders looked anything but relaxed, Dovizioso bouncing on his rear tire braking at the end of both straights. The two leaders started exchanging the lead on Lap 14, back and forth. Mostly recreational, from a distance. Until around Lap 21.

On Lap 21, Marquez bulled his way inside Dovi at Turn 1, only to get passed by both Dovi and Iannone—where’d he come from?—before grabbing the lead back later on the same lap and closing the door from there. Dovizioso was unable to mount a serious challenge to Marquez over the last 2½ laps. Even if he had, the only thing that would have changed would have been who stood on the top step of the podium and who would stand on the second. The 2018 standings, atrocious from a competitive standpoint coming in, got only marginally worse. 

The Big Picture 

After Misano, Marquez led the Sioux Nation by 67 points with six rounds left. Today, he leads by 72 points with five remaining. Announcers Matt and Steve were banging on today about how Marquez couldn’t clinch the title in Thailand, as if anyone thought that to be remotely likely anyway. His chances of clinching in Japan improved, and his chances of clinching in Australia went way up. Put it this way. It would take a Boston Red Sox-scale collapse over the final five races of the season to deny Marquez his fifth premier class championship. By way of illustration, were Marquez to crash out of the next three rounds while Dovizioso was busy winning them, he would trail the Italian by three points heading to Sepang.

No other meaningful changes in the top ten. Danilo Petrucci jumped up two spots to sixth, as both Crutchlow, who crashed out on Lap 5 and which was not his fault, and Johann Zarco, finishing 14th today, dropped a spot. The only thing that changed in a meaningful way was the likelihood that Marquez would NOT win the 2018 title, which went down again today. He has increased his lead in the championship at every round since Mugello. Oh, and the guys failed to break the track record from 2015 today, putting them 7 for 11 for the year. Still worth talking about. As for the title, that thing is over.

One final note. Prior to the race, you could see delight in the eyes of Xavier Simeon, the sad sack #2 rider for Avintia Reale Ducati, knowing that Jodi Torres, subbing for injured teammate Tito Rabat, was someone he could beat. Today was the day Simeon would, assuming he could finish the race, not finish dead last. We are happy to report that his dream came true, as he managed to pound Torres by half a second for the day, although that elusive first championship point still eluded him. Different people spell “winning” in different ways. 

Tranching Tool 

After Misano

Tranche 1:   Marquez, Dovizioso

Tranche 2:   Rossi, Lorenzo, Petrucci, Crutchlow, Rins

Tranche 3:   Bautista, Pedrosa, Zarco, Iannone, Viñales, (Rabat), Miller

Tranche 4:   Morbidelli, Syahrin, A Espargaro, P Espargaro, Smith, Nakagami

Tranche 5:   Redding, Abraham, Luthi and Simeon

After Aragon 

Tranche 1:   Marquez, Dovizioso

Tranche 2:   Rossi, Lorenzo, Petrucci, Crutchlow, Rins, Iannone

Tranche 3:   Pedrosa, Zarco, Viñales, A Espargaro, (Rabat), Miller

Tranche 4:   Bautista, Morbidelli, P Espargaro, Smith, Nakagami

Tranche 5:   Redding, Abraham, Luthi, Syahrin and Simeon

Looking Ahead

Two weeks to the maiden Grand Prix of Thailand. No numbing “Recent History at Buriram” to deal with in the race preview, as this is the virgin MotoGP outing at Buriram International Circuit. But we’ll dig up some stuff for you between now and then. My wife and I are leaving tomorrow for a week in Maine—she thinks it might as well be Siberia—for some chowdah, lobstah and relief from another stifling Indiana summer. Ciao.

Local Color

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MotoGP Aragon Preview

September 17, 2018

© Bruce Allen     September 17, 2018

Simple: Dovi Must Run the Table 

Mid-September and it’s come down to this, for the handful of riders (other than Marc Marquez) entertaining increasingly-unlikely notions of winning the 2018 title. For the remainder of the season, it’s win or bin. No more brave smiles from the second step of the podium. In the lasting words of the late Roy Orbison, “It’s Now or Never.” Unless you get stoked finishing, you know, second, or third. 

I have given this last statement a bit of thought. Finishing second is vastly different in the sports of motorcycle racing and, say, boxing. Finishing second for the year in MotoGP is nothing to sneeze at. It’s just more forgettable. Unless, of course, it’s decided at Valencia. Not this year.

Recent History at Aragon

In 2015, Lorenzo put on an M1 clinic, leading wire to wire on the dusty plains. He reduced his deficit to teammate Valentino Rossi from 23 points to 14, as Dani Pedrosa held off repeated assaults from Rossi over the last five laps to capture second place. Fans around the world expected Rossi, who hadn’t won a race on Spanish soil since 2009, to steal Pedrosa’s lunch money late in the day. But the mighty mite held on, denying Rossi four points he badly wanted, and tying his best result for what was, at that point, a winless year. Pedrosa would go on to win at Motegi and Sepang, settling for fourth place for the year once again, just holding on to his Alien card. Looking back on it, this was the year Rossi’s fans learned to loathe #93, allegedly blocking for his countryman, later in the season. Much the same might have been said about Pedrosa here.

In 2016, Repsol’s suddenly-cerebral Marquez took a big step toward seizing the 2016 MotoGP title with a formidable win here. By thumping the factory Yamaha Bruise Brothers, he increased his margin from 43 to 52 points with four rounds left. A mistake on Lap 3 took him from first to fifth, but he remained patient, kept his powder dry, and went through, one by one, on Dovizioso, Viñales, Lorenzo and, finally, Rossi on the way to his first win in Spain since 2014.

Marquez recovered from an error early in the race to win the dramatic third of four Spanish rounds, #14 in 2017.  Following his blown engine in Britain and his win in the rain at Misano, the young Catalan wonder gathered momentum heading into the three-races-in-three-weeks hell of the Pacific flyaway. The podium celebration, also featuring teammate Dani Pedrosa and the then-exiled Jorge Lorenzo, took us back to the old days of 2013. The prospect of settling the championship in Valencia, however, diminished.

Marquez and Petrucci at Misano 2017

Petrucci and Marquez, Aragon 2017

History Aside, Here We Are

As fall approaches in the U.S., where virtually no one reads this, the 2018 MotoGP championship chase hangs by a thread. The top chaser, Ducati #1 Andrea Dovizioso, conceded the season to Marquez publicly last week; possibly playing head games, probably not. The rest of the contenders—Rossi, Vinales, Lorenzo—are either too inconsistent, too over-the-hill, or too under-horsed to mount any kind of a real challenge this year. Even in the unthinkable case that Marquez would allow himself to crash out of two of the remaining six rounds, that would only put things back in play for maybe one of the three. And it would be a long row to hoe from there.

As our British friends observe, there are 150 points “on offer” in the last six rounds of 2018. Marquez, again, AOBFO, has 67 points “in his pocket” and probably holds every tie-breaker known to man. Which translates, roughly, to one of the three main chasers winning, like, five of the last six races (!!!) while Marquez goes all Aleix Espargaro and fails to podium once for the remainder of the year. This, then, is what one finds when looking up the term “unlikely” in one’s online dictionary.

 MotoGP

TRACK RECORDS: RIDER, YEAR AND MANUFACTURER AFTER 13 ROUNDS 

LOSAIL                    2018           Marc Marquez               Honda 

RIO HONDA[1]        2014           Marc Marquez               Honda 

COTA[2]                   2015           Marc Marquez                Honda 

JEREZ                      2018          Cal Crutchlow               Honda 

LE MANS                2018           Johann Zarco                Yamaha 

MUGELLO             2018           Valentino Rossi              Yamaha 

CATALUNYA         2018           Jorge Lorenzo                Ducati 

ASSEN                     2015           Valentino Rossi              Yamaha 

SACHSENRING     2018           Marc Marquez               Honda 

BRNO                       2016           Marc Marquez               Honda 

RED BULL RING   2016           Andrea Iannone            Ducati 

SILVERSTONE[3]  2017           Marc Marquez                Honda         

MISANO M.S.         2018           Jorge Lorenzo                 Ducati

ARAGON                  2015            Marc Marquez                   Honda

CHANG                    2018

MOTEGI                   2015            Jorge Lorenzo                   Yamaha

PHILLIP ISLAND     2013            Jorge Lorenzo                   Yamaha

SEPANG I.C.              2015            Dani Pedrosa                   Honda

RICARDO TORMO   2016            Jorge Lorenzo                   Yamaha

[1] Weather

[2] Track conditions poor

[3] 2018 race cancelled

Ten eligible rounds this year—dry races on suitable surfaces—with seven new all-time records. 70 percent, year-to-date, with Buriram, by definition, in the W column. With  the highly-criticized Michelins and common control ECU. The remaining records this year are not terribly recent, with Marquez’ at Phillip Island recorded in 2013 when he was a rookie. Lorenzo’s records late in the season are impressive and endangered. He is also the only rider to record track records on different bikes. Also impressive. Not endangered. Investigative journalism like this is why MO pays me the big bucks. I know you were wondering.

Here’s what I’m wondering, wishing I had access to MotoGP historical numbers I could manipulate to back up my otherwise-baseless assertions. I think the big deal about winning pole is vastly overrated, should be and is treated like its own little “mini-accomplishment,” on jelly-soft tires with no gas for one lap, torpedoes be damned. Win a big tricked-out BMW. I suspect qualifying on the front row doesn’t significantly hurt one’s chances of winning the race compared to winning pole. Just sayin’ qualifying on the front row should be the emphasis. Not pole. Pole is mostly a notch on a bedpost. Other than in places like Misano, where it is a curse; no winner from pole in nine years.

Wondering about the correlation between winning pole and winning the race. About winning the pole and securing the podium. About the correlation between qualifying second and finishing first or second. About the correlation between qualifying third and finishing on the podium. Someone with better abilities to manage data from online sources please do the math over the past 20 years and provide the analysis in the COMMENTS section below. Some poor guy in, like, Bali is holding his breath.

Track records are, in my opinion, a big deal. The vast majority are pole laps. To the extent that winning pole produces a new track record, I’m down. Otherwise, it’s just a big Beamer. Marquez has a barn full of them and lets little brother Alex drive one whenever he wants. They both know poor Alex will never have one of his own.

Your Weekend Forecast

The long range forecast for the three-day weekend in metropolitan Alcañiz calls for sunny skies and hot temps—real hot on Friday, hotter on Saturday, and hellish on Sunday. And dusty. These races favor the leader, especially one on a Honda RC213V, since conditions will add an additional layer of stress for all the Marquez chasers, notably the Yamahas. With their mathematical chances of a premier class title in 2018 approaching the abscissa, they must nonetheless exude confidence, risking life and limb in a heroic but mostly symbolic attempt to pull off the impossible, and live up to the mythic expectations of teams, families, fans, sponsors and, ultimately, owners. Lots of constituents. Lots of pressure. Lots of pressure not to let the pressure show. Never let them see you sweat.

I really don’t give a rip if Jorge Lorenzo swipes pole again. This race needs to be Dovizioso attacking Marquez late in the day, Marquez either withstanding the attacks, running away, or not. Even if Dovi beats Marquez to the flag it will be a big-picture win for #93, as he would drop only 5 points to Dovi with but five rounds left, four of which are in those pesky Pacific time zones where things can go from bad to worse. Things like Marquez clinching in Australia. Things like that. As for third place, probably a Crutchlow on the Honda in the heat.

A new track record at Aragon, however, would be very cool. Marquez recording some kind of DNF would add interest to the next round in Thailand.

We’ll have results and instant analysis right here on Sunday before lunch EDT.

MotoGP Aragon Preview

September 18, 2017

© Bruce Allen  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Stakes High in Spanish Shootout

Sunday’s Gran Premio Movistar de Aragón de MotoGP is unlikely to have a momentous impact on the 2017 championship standings. Honda’s Marc Marquez and Ducati pilot Andrea Dovizioso, playing cat and mouse at 200 mph and tied at present, will head for the Pacific flyaway rounds separated by, at most, 25 points. The man in jeopardy of losing touch is factory Yamaha prodigy Maverick Viñales. A crash this week could put him some 40 points behind the leader—whoever it is—with four rounds to go, not a good place to be, even on a YZR-M1.

Recent History at Aragon

The 2014 Gran Premio Movistar de Aragon was a flag-to-flag cluster that left the day’s results scrambled. Exhibit A: The factory Hondas of Marquez and Pedrosa crossed the finish line in 13th and 14th places, respectively. Factory Yamaha icon Valentino Rossi finished the day in the medical center. Lorenzo somehow won in the rain—I know—but the big story was Aleix Espargaro, who flogged his Forward Racing Yamaha from a tenth-place start to a thrilling silver medal finish over Cal Crutchlow, grinding his expensive British teeth once again on the factory Ducati.

In 2015, Lorenzo put on a clinic, leading wire to wire on the dusty plains. He reduced his deficit to teammate Valentino Rossi from 23 points to 14, as Dani Pedrosa held off repeated assaults from Rossi over the last five laps to capture second place. Fans around the world expected Rossi, who hadn’t won a race on Spanish soil since 2009, to steal Pedrosa’s lunch money late in the day. But the mighty mite held on, denying Rossi four points he badly wanted, and tying his best result of what was, at that point, a winless year. Pedrosa would go on to win at Motegi and Sepang, settling for fourth place for the year once again, just holding on to his Alien card.

A year ago, Repsol Honda’s suddenly cerebral Marquez took a big step toward seizing the 2016 MotoGP title with a formidable win here. By thumping the factory Yamaha Bruise Brothers, he increased his margin from 43 to 52 points with four rounds left. A mistake on Lap 3 took him from first to fifth, but he remained patient, kept his powder dry, and went through, one by one, on Dovizioso, Viñales, Lorenzo and, finally, Rossi on the way to his first win in Spain since 2014.

Maverick Viñales won here in 2013 in Moto2. While riding the Suzuki, he managed 11th place the first year and a respectable 4th place last year. Lorenzo had two wins and a second here the last three years. On the Yamaha. This year he doesn’t see the podium. Who does see the podium are Marquez and Dovizioso, two masters at the height of their respective games (it just took Dovizioso much longer to get to this level than it did wonderkid #93.), on machines with differing strengths and weaknesses. Dovi is having a career year, while Marquez is having a career career, working on his fourth title in five premier class seasons. Rossi is down and out, and Pedrosa, down but not quite out, never having done more than get close.

But Viñales… Before the season began, I had him slotted for four wins and four DNFs. The wins number is within easy reach with five rounds left. But the falls, the falls, are they going to happen, or can he keep it upright, and stay close to the current leaders? At this point, he needs me to be right, or conservative, about the wins, and over on the DNFs. And that’s before the Tech 3 guys started running out of fuel on their 2016 M1s.

Lots of Movement in the Tranches

After Round 12 Silverstone

Tranche 1: Viñales, 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

After Round 13 Misano

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

Jack Miller, Scott Redding and Bradley Smith all had solid results in Misano, in the rain. Should they repeat their credible performances this weekend, in the dry, they will be moving up in the standings, with Hector Barbera, Loris Baz and The Rider Formerly Known as The Maniac at risk of getting knocked down. Iannone may lose his contract on the Suzuki altogether if the suits at Dorna and Suzuki have their way, Johnny Rae’s name being mentioned as a replacement.

Alex Rins, on the strength of his 8th place finish at Misano, is ensconced, at least for now, in Tranche 2 along with Zarco and Folger. Rookie of the year undecided at this point. Other than a poor outing at the Red Bull Ring, Rins is showing steady improvement since his injury, with top tens in his last two races, under vastly differing conditions. I’d like to see him on a factory Yamaha one of these days, but he’ll probably have to take a number behind Tech 3’s Frick and Frack.

This Just In

World Superbike rider Michael van der Mark will have the hottest seat in the house this weekend, having been named to “replace Valentino Rossi” on the factory Yamaha. Good one. I’m sure Michael is a great guy, rock star-quality looks, but he should look up the word “cipher” in the dictionary: a zero; a figure 0. Synonyms: zero · 0 · nil · naught/nought. Placeholder. Imagine Lin Jarvis, “Just keep it warm if you will, please, old boy and try not to bang it about too much. Mr. Rossi is expected back soon.” I guess Katman Nakasuga, the Yamaha test rider who podiumed in Valencia a few years back, is busy this weekend, a wedding in his wife’s family or something equally inescapable.

Your Weekend Forecast

It doesn’t appear to have rained in the greater Alcaniz environs for some time now, and the long-range forecast for the weekend calls for clear skies, plenty of sunshine to heat the track, with temps in the 80’s and dust on the tarmac if you happen to find yourself off the racing line. These conditions favor the Repsol Honda team; Marquez likes sliding around in hot grease, and Pedrosa can get enough heat into his tires to be able to compete, unlike last time out.

[Speaking of Pedrosa, Alien cards get revoked when a rider develops a hole in his game. For Lorenzo, it’s rain. For Pedrosa, it’s becoming cold temps. (Dovi has been showing one around lately, but I heard one guy say it looked fake.) I think of Dovi as an Alien, although I cannot recall the date of his official entry into The Club. Rossi, Marquez, Vinales—they seem able to ride anywhere, in any conditions. Must be all that enduro and motocross training they do.]

Lorenzo at Misano

Petrucci and Marquez at Misano 2017

An irritating tendency of people trained in economics is to throw around the Latin term “ceteris paribus,” which translates to “all other things being equal,” which they rarely are. As for Sunday’s race, Marquez, Vinales and Dovizioso should end up on the podium, ceteris paribus. But Dani Pedrosa has an opportunity to make me eat my words. Jorge Lorenzo could go all Lazarus at a track he loves. Danilo Petrucci could FINALLY get that elusive first win. And when will Aleix Espargaro see everything fall into place, just once, allowing him to put the Aprilia on the podium?

 

As usual, the race goes off at 8 am on the US east coast and we’ll have results and analysis here ASAP.

 

Lorenzo

Jorge Lorenzo at Misano

 

 

Lazarus

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

 

 

 

 

 

MotoGP 2016 Aragon Results

September 25, 2016

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Marquez dominates Aragon, adds to series lead 

Repsol Honda’s suddenly cerebral Marc Marquez took a big step toward seizing the 2016 MotoGP title with a formidable win on the Spanish plain.  By thumping the factory Yamaha Bruise Brothers, he increased his margin from 43 to 52 points with four rounds left.  A mistake on Lap 3 took him from first to fifth, but he remained patient, kept his powder dry, and went through, all stealthy-like, on Dovizioso, Vinales, Lorenzo and, finally, Rossi on the way to his first win on Spanish soil since 2014. 

2016-09-25-12Q2 was a fright for all riders not named Marquez as the young Honda stud put down at least three laps capable of securing pole. He was joined on the front row by Maverick Vinales on the Suzuki and, with all zeroes showing on the clock, Jorge Lorenzo, who, needing a front row start, came through with the chips down to steal the third spot on the grid with an impressive last lap.  Row 2 materialized with Andrea Dovizioso on the factory Ducati, Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda, and Rossi in sixth.

The domination I had expected from Lorenzo heading into the weekend was nowhere in sight, as he appeared to be riding constantly on the limit and just barely managed a front row start after four nondescript practice sessions.  A big crash during Sunday’s WUP convinced him to go with hard tires front and rear and contributed to his best finish since his win at Mugello back in May.2016-09-25-18

Disorder at the Start

As the red lights went out, a front four—Vinales, Lorenzo, Marquez and Rossi—took shape (Marquez collecting several friendly paint samples from his front-running buds), followed by a second group composed of Dovizioso, Aleix Espargaro on the #2 Suzuki, and Dani Pedrosa, who wasn’t feeling the Misano magic today.  Marquez had taken the lead by Lap 3 before falling to fifth place when he made a meal of Turn 7.  From there, he went like this:

Passed Dovizioso on Lap 5

Passed Lorenzo on Lap 7

Passed Vinales on Lap 10

Passed Rossi on Lap 12

It is interesting, to me anyway, to note that three of today’s top four finishers made significant mistakes on the track—Marquez on Lap 3, Vinales on Lap 10, and Rossi on Lap 22 (giving up four points to Lorenzo and Marquez in the process).  Yet Lorenzo, happy to finish second, appeared to run a mostly flawless race but was unable to secure the win in what is becoming yet another Year of Marquez.  One hopes the Catalan’s detractors will give him props for pushing for the win today, rather than “playing it safe” at 200 mph.

2016-09-25 (19).png

Off the Podium

Cal Crutchlow, on the LCR Honda, started fifth and finished fifth today in what announcer Nick Harris described as a “phenomenal” performance.  Maverick Vinales, Alien-in-waiting, hung with the leaders for the difficult first half of the race before running too hot into Turn 12 trying to pass Lorenzo on Lap 10.  Eventually finishing fourth, the 21-year old Spaniard is enrolled in the advanced class of Winning in the Premier Class of MotoGP and will be a heller next year on the factory Yamaha.

In a tip of the hat to our American fans, both of you, replacement rider Nicky Hayden scored a point on the Marc VDS Honda subbing for Jack Miller, which is more than contract rider Tito Rabat could say.  Nicky was involved in a three bike wreck on Saturday that could have ended badly, lucky to have avoided injury.  Today, in his first go with the common ECU and Michelin tires, and he outpaced Yonny Hernandez and Loris Baz, not to mention two recalcitrant Pramac Ducati rivals.  Bravo Nicky!

Side Bet at Octo Pramac Ducati 

The incident in Turn 1 of Lap 1 today involving Scott Redding and Danilo Petrucci could be seen coming from a mile away.  Pramac Ducati riders Petrucci and Redding have agreed to a last-half-of-the-year showdown—Brno to Valencia—the winner earning a shiny new factory GP17 to destroy next season.  They will drop the lowest score of the eight, per my recent suggestion.

In the tricky first turn today, the two got tangled up, with Redding dropping his bike on the floor temporarily and Petrucci, half a race later, being asked to take a ride-through penalty by Race Direction thank you very much.  Before today’s scrap, the raw score was Petrux 21 Redding 2.  (One dropped score would change it to 16-2.)  Even though both riders finished outside the points today, the team may sanction Petrucci for his alleged infraction, which was not shown on the broadcast of the race.

Redding, meanwhile, needs to eat his Wheaties for the rest of the season.  No more whining.  He has demanded a factory bike for 2017, and now has the opportunity to earn one.  He needs to resolve not to allow himself to be bullied by the hulking Petrucci, who loves a good scrap in the turns.  As of today, Redding holds 55 points, Petrucci 50.  May the better man win.  But please, no more takedowns.

In the Junior Circuits

Brad Binder placed second in a riveting Moto3 race today to secure the 2016 championship with four rounds left…to blow kisses to his fans.  (To me, Jorge Navarro looks more like a future Alien than does Binder.  The Alien rules require applicants to have won something while in their teens.  I’ve asked our crack research department to look at the stats to see which current Moto3 and Moto2 riders meet this requirement.)  BTW, when I tuned into the race there were a dozen bikes in the lead group.  At the end, it felt like a beatdown, but the top 11 finishers were separated by four seconds.  Give the people what they want—close racing.  Screw the displacement.

In the recent past it was always Moto3 or the 125s whose championship came down to Valencia.  This year Binder has been operating, like Marquez, on a different plane.  To clinch in September is amazing, and today’s race was no cakewalk; Binder had to risk all on the last lap to secure second place and the title.  Very impressive performance.

Meanwhile, in Moto2, a dehydrated Alex Rins managed sixth today, two spots in front of fading defending champ Johann Zarco.  By doing so, on the heels of a broken collarbone and, this week, gastroenteritis, he cuts Zarco’s lead in the chase to one point.  Sam Lowes won the race going away to put himself back in the championship conversation taking place in his head.  Zarco has been in a slump lately, without the look of a defending champion, while Rins, another Alien-in-Waiting, has kept it together through a rough patch to sit tied with four rounds to go.

The Big Picture Heading to the Pacific

All things being equal, Marquez should clinch sometime on the Pacific swing.  The rest of the contenders break down nicely.  Lorenzo vs. Rossi for second.  Vinales vs. Pedrosa for fourth.  Crutchlow vs. Dovizioso for sixth.  Iannone vs. Pol Espargaro for eighth.  And Hector Barbera vs. Eugene Laverty for 10th.  People should have plenty to cheer and argue about through Valencia.

Marquez’s magic numbers: 76 heading into Phillip Island; 51 heading into Sepang;  26 heading into Valencia. He’s at 52 today.  The math is easy.

Now comes the most brutal part of the season for the teams and riders.  No rest for the wicked.  Lots of hours in the air, lots of jet lag, lots of cold and hot weather, lots of loading and unloading.  Lots of stress for everyone, but especially the factory Yamaha riders chasing the chimera.

MO will keep you on top of all you need to know, starting a week from Wednesday.

MotoGP 2015 Aragon Results

September 27, 2015

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com.

Lorenzo seizes the day, cuts into Rossi’s lead

Factory Yamaha pilot Jorge Lorenzo, in a race he absolutely needed to win, did so convincingly, leading wire to wire on the dusty plains of Aragon. Thanks to Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa, he reduced his deficit to teammate Valentino Rossi from 23 points to 14, as Pedrosa held off repeated assaults from Rossi over the last five laps. Fans around the world expected Rossi, who hasn’t won a race on Spanish soil since 2009, to take Pedrosa’s lunch money late in the day. But the diminutive Spaniard willfully held on, denying Rossi four points he badly wanted, and tying his best result of a winless year.

Lorenzo in the rain at Le MansAs expected, the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday featured Lorenzo and defending world champion Marc Marquez, looking fast and dangerous on the #1 Repsol Honda. Marquez shredded the track record in qualifying on Saturday, earning yet another pole. His start today earned a C from the judges as he exited Turn 1 in third place behind Lorenzo and Andrea “Ironman” Iannone, racing again with a recently dislocated shoulder.

Marquez went through on the Italian later in Lap 1 and set his sights on Lorenzo. Unaccountably, as he was closing on the Mallorcan on Lap 2, he lost the front in Turn 12, backdropped by the massive stacked stone wall that always makes me think of The Inquisition. For the fifth time this season, young Marquez ended up in the gravel, the result of an unforced error caused, one would think, by youthful exuberance, overconfidence, a feeling of invulnerability or, most likely, a combination of the three, the magic of 2014 clearly gone. Until he learns to manage his emotions more effectively (the same problem Lorenzo had in 2008) he will not win another world championship.marquez_crash

As strange as it sounds, the lessons of 2015 may end up serving Marquez well. If he learns he doesn’t need to use every ounce of the considerable speed he possesses during every single moment of every single race, he will keep the shiny side up and compete for the next 10 or 12 world titles. Again and again we’ve seen the veteran Rossi keeping his powder dry and his tires intact, looking for the ideal opportunity to pass a rival and earn points. Winning a race by 12 seconds counts no more than winning by 12/1000ths; points is points, a fact often overlooked by youthful combatants.

67,000 Fans Held Their Breath

With Rossi glued to Pedrosa’s tailpipes all day, the mostly Spanish crowd waited for the inevitable takedown, when Rossi would go through and begin thinking about Lorenzo. Pedrosa passed the wounded Iannone on Lap 3, Rossi on Lap 4. (Iannone’s expected late day fade, due to pain in his shoulder, never materialized, as he finished a very gutsy fourth today, some 16 seconds clear of teammate Andrea Dovizioso.) Round and round they went, Rossi never trailing by more than 4/10ths nor less than two, until Lap 19.

Dani-dani-pedrosa-9702356-435-380Over the last five laps, Rossi attacked the Spaniard no less than four times, going through briefly only to get re-passed in the next turn. He would try twice in Turn 1 and twice more in Turn 4, Pedrosa never conceding a thing. As the crowd began to turn blue from oxygen deprivation, Lorenzo took the checkered flag, with Pedrosa gasping his way to second and Rossi taking an exhausting third.

During the post-race press conference, Pedrosa acted surprised when asked how he was able to withstand Rossi’s repeated attacks, a measure of the confidence with which he still approaches his trade. As his tenure with the factory Honda team approaches its end, he will be an asset to one of the newer teams—Aprilia or Suzuki or KTM—anxious to retain his services once HRC bids him farewell. Despite never having won a premier class title, he has forgotten more about this stuff than guys like Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera have ever known. Even if you’re a big Nicky Hayden fan with a long memory, Dani Pedrosa deserves your respect.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Five riders spent the shank of the day fighting over fifth place. Borrowing from the book of Genesis, “in the beginning” it looked like Tech 3 Yamaha little brother Pol Espargaro enjoyed the inside track, until he went walkabout on Lap 4, falling from fifth to tenth place, ultimately finishing ninth. This sounds worse than it actually was, as he finished only two seconds behind Dovizioso in fifth, separated by big brother Aleix on the Suzuki Ecstar, LCR Honda hooligan Cal Crutchlow, and teammate Bradley Smith. Smith, notably, had a forgettable weekend, qualifying 10th and finishing 8th, though still managing to hold onto fifth place for the season. Lame duck Pramac Ducati rider Yonny Hernandez completed the top ten, pipping Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales at the flag, despite a slew of pre-race flyovers from the Spanish Air Force, one of the two F-16’s emblazoned with Vinales’ #25.

Non-finishers today, besides Marquez, included the hapless Alex de Angelis, crashing out on Lap 6, Pramac Ducati overachiever Danilo Petrucci, who lowsided on Lap 10 for his first time outside the points all season, and a visibly pained Karel Abraham, who retired his open class Honda on Lap 12, apparently having re-injured his troublesome left foot. Karel, buddy, do the industry a favor and give it up. You’ve got a law degree and a rich father. Go put on an expensive suit and take clients to lunch, and let this MotoGP thing go. 38 points in three seasons–dude, it’s just not happening.

The Big Picture

In two weeks, the ass-dragging, sweat-soaked Pacific flyaway commences in Japan, with three races in three weeks. 14 points now separate Rossi and Lorenzo, two of the most talented riders on the face of the earth, on the same equipment, sharing the same garage. Old and crafty versus young and fast; the fable of the tortoise and the hare on two wheels. We all know how that ended. Whether the same holds true in MotoGP remains to be seen. Personally, I have my doubts.

Marquez now leads Iannone by a meagre 12 points in the battle for third place and looks vulnerable. If Iannone manages to capture third place for the year, I will be conferring Alien status upon him, certain that Gigi Dall’Igna will provide him a further-improved ride for 2016. Bradley Smith enjoys a four point advantage over Dovizioso for fifth place; it would be great to see the wide-eyed Brit finish the season in the top five. Whether Dovizioso will allow this to happen, if indeed he can do anything to prevent it, is yet another unknown. Pedrosa, now trailing Dovizioso by only ten points, could easily jump up to fifth place for the year based upon what he showed today, after having endured a wretched start to the 2015 season.

Ducati, Yamaha and Honda all have a dog in the fight for eighth place, as Petrucci, Crutchlow and Espargaro the Youngermotogp-suzuki-espargaro-vinales are separated by only five points. At the tail end of my attention span, the two Suzuki teammates are separated by a mere two points in the contest for 11th place. Certain Rookie of the Year Vinales, it would seem, has more on the line, in that ending the season as the #1 rider on the team would bolster his chances of securing a ride with one of the more established factory teams commencing in 2017.

As October approaches, we find one of the factory Yamaha Bruise Brothers lighting candles for sunny skies and the other praying for rain. Is it even possible that the 2015 MotoGP championship hinges on the weather? The mind reels.

MotoGP 2015 Aragon Preview

September 22, 2015

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com
For Jorge Lorenzo, winning—right now—would be fine

After the debacle at Misano, factory Yamaha stud Jorge Lorenzo observed that capturing the 2015 MotoGP title requires only that he win the remaining five races. His Plan A, which to many seems unlikely, could give way this weekend to Plan B, which would have teammate Valentino Rossi crashing out of a race or two. But Rossi, on average, crashes maybe once a season, most recently at Aragon a year ago. Lorenzo, who loves racing on the dusty Spanish plain, needs to make some hay on Sunday; beating his teammate has never been so important.

Rossi & LorenzoSince Lorenzo’s four round winning streak ended at Assen, Rossi has outpointed the Spaniard by 22 points, half of which came last week with his somewhat disappointing fifth place run in the rain of San Marino. Rossi’s reliability is one reason he’s fighting for a championship at age 36. Since the beginning of the 2012 season, he has started and finished all but three races to Lorenzo’s five. Both are consistent, but Rossi has the edge.

The main thing Lorenzo has going for him this weekend is the venue; Rossi simply hasn’t been very good in five outings at Motorland Aragon. Granted, during two of those years he was wrestling a pre-Dall’igna Ducati, which explains some of it. But while Lorenzo has gone 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 2nd and 1st, Rossi has finished 6th, 10th, 8th, 3rd and not at all last year. For Lorenzo, that’s the good news. The bad news is that anything other than a solid win this weekend will put him in the trick locker, a nice working definition of the term “pressure.”

I have failed to mention double defending world champion and factory Honda wonderboy Marc Marquez, who won last Marquez in Sepang 2013time out and is likely to be a major fly in the ointment for Lorenzo on Sunday. The young Catalan figures to be in the middle of things this weekend, complicating life more for Lorenzo than Rossi. Let’s just call a spade a spade and suggest that Lorenzo needs to beat both Rossi and Marquez at Aragon. Almost any other order of finish works in Rossi’s favor, and the grueling Pacific swing beckons.

Recent History at Aragon

In 2012, Round 14 was Dani’s Revenge, as Pedrosa, whose season went up in smoke following his last-row-start-first-lap-crash at Misano two weeks previous, won comfortably. Lorenzo finished a conservative, relatively risk-free second that day, while Monster Tech 3 scrapper Andrea Dovizioso pushed his satellite Yamaha to the limit on his way to a gratifying third place finish (joyfully pimping teammate Cal Crutchlow at the flag) and subsequent “promotion” to the factory Ducati team in 2013. Over the last half of the 2012 season, Pedrosa epitomized the “win or bin” metaphor so often spoken of in racing (generally by Brits) by winning six of his last eight races and crashing out of the other two. Despite piling up his highest career point total in 2012, Pedrosa would end the year 18 points behind Lorenzo, a short, swarthy bridesmaid once again.

In 2013, rookie Marc Marquez, unaware that Aragon was a Yamaha-friendly layout, calmly went out, took Jorge Lorenzo’s best shot, and beat him by 1.3 seconds. Valentino Rossi, in his first year back on the factory Yamaha after the painful two year exile with Ducati, took a rather hollow third, some 13 seconds behind Marquez. The rookie phenom’s 39 point lead over Lorenzo at the end of the day would prove insurmountable. Notwithstanding the gratuitous DQ he absorbed at Phillip Island three weeks later, Marquez went on to clinch his first premier class title with a smart, strong second place finish at Valencia in the season finale.

Last year’s Gran Premio Movistar de Aragon provided fans with 44+ minutes of two-wheeled slapstick, a memorable flag-to-flag affair that left the day’s results scrambled. Exhibit A: The factory Hondas of Marquez and Pedrosa crossed the finish line in 13th and 14th places, respectively. Factory Yamaha icon Valentino Rossi finished the day in the medical center, having run off the track on Lap 4 into a bog which grabbed his front tire, held it fast, and ejected him into the tire wall, concussed, dazed and confused. While Lorenzo won going away, the big story was Aleix Espargaro, who drove his satellite Forward Yamaha from a tenth place start to a thrilling second place finish over Cal Crutchlow, pipped once again, and his factory Ducati. In retrospect, this may have been the all-time high water mark of the entire Forward Racing project, now in tatters, desperately trying to finish the season, its owner under indictment and Toni Elias now occupying the #2 seat behind poor Loris Baz.

Austria Yes, Indiana No

IMSThe odds finally caught up with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway prior to Misano, when the provisional 2016 calendar was released. Gone was the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, voted the best round of the season just the previous year. In its place will be The Austrian Grand Prix, to be run at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, roughly 100 miles southwest of Vienna. With but nine turns per lap, it seems likely to favor the Yamahas and Ducatis. The Hoosier in me is screaming “not a very interesting layout,” but we shall save that observation for next year.

A second transatlantic crossing, with Laguna Seca having been scratched from the calendar in 2014, has always been expensive, and has seemed a long way to go for not much. The Motor Speedway is cool if you enjoy watching four-wheeled vehicles going fast and turning left, but the infield section, flat as a board, was never great for bikes. Despite drawing 60-70,000 fans, the stands always looked three- quarters empty, due to the fact that they were always three-quarters empty. The real shame in all this is that it undoubtedly means the demise of the MotoAmerica round in Indy as well as curtains for the AMA Indy Mile at the fairgrounds, which Midwestern racing fans will tell you was one of the finest events in all of motorcycle racing.

If Carmelo Ezpeleta has his way, the calendar will grow to 20 rounds later this decade. If the United States were a better market for the manufacturers, promoters in this country would figure out a way to put together a three race American round consisting of Laguna, Austin and Indianapolis early in the season, with the Pacific flyaway bookending it in the fall. Instead, the grid is likely to find itself schlepping to places like Thailand, Finland (???) and even ultra-ambitious Kazakhstan. Yikes.Kazakhstan

Your Weekend Forecast

As of Tuesday evening, the chances for rain in metropolitan Alcañiz this weekend are zero, with temps hovering around 80ºF. With no rain in the forecast, the Aliens are likely to control things, as much as things can be controlled at 200 mph on two wheels. Look for Rossi to lay back a little to watch Marquez and Lorenzo beat each other’s brains in. With Marquez hungry and Lorenzo desperate, Rossi can play tortoise, keeping his eye on the big picture. With autumn coming into view, Jorge Lorenzo enjoys no such luxury.

Lorenzo wins flag-to-flag Alien crashfest

September 28, 2014

MotoGP 2014 Aragon Results, by Bruce Allen.  

The 800th MotoGP premier class race in history started today in conditions resembling the first, held in 1949 as the Isle of Man TT—cloudy, damp and cool. When the weather here is dry, the place looks like something straight out of Mad Max; the only things missing are the sidecars and tanker trucks. When it rains, anything can happen, as today’s results demonstrated.

The 2014 Gran Premio Movistar de Aragon started under cloudy skies with a dry track, and had the makings of a typical all-Alien rout. Despite being hosted by the primary factory Yamaha team sponsor, both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo struggled all weekend, unable to find any grip or pace in practice. That they would qualify 6th and 7th, respectively, was actually something of a pleasant surprise, with Rossi having had to go through Q1 to get there. Meanwhile, the Repsol Hondas were blistering the tarmac, with putative champion Marc Marquez qualifying on the pole and teammate Dani Pedrosa second. The rest of the grid spent Friday and Saturday blowing engines, setting bikes on fire (Hector Barbera’s shiny new Avintia Ducati 14.2 converted into a smoking pile of black ash) and sliding off all over the place.

Dall'Igna, French MotoGP 2014Of special note prior to the start were the efforts of Ducati Corse and Magician-in-Chief Gigi Dall’Igna to provide machinery for every taste and budget. The result of their frantic preparations found factory #1 Andrea Dovizioso and rising Pramac star Andrea Iannone seated on the new GP14.2, and Avintia’s Barbera on a GP14.2 equipped with the spec ECU and open class software (providing a glimpse of 2016.) Pramac’s luckless #2 Yonny Hernandez and factory defector Cal Crutchlow were left to wrestle standard GP14s, hoping for rain. That their prayers were eventually answered shows the fickle nature of the racing gods, as follows.

A Dry First Half

The race announcers referred all day to “the mist”, an apparently British form of precipitation that had been thundering down on the track early in the morning, yielding to the more common form later in the day. And while it was officially declared a dry race at the start, the grass and runoff areas were bogs.

At the start, Iannone shot to the front from the #3 hole, followed in close order by Marquez, Lorenzo—on fire out of the #7 hole—and Pedrosa, with Rossi and Pol Espargaro not far behind. Iannone and Marquez traded positions twice on Lap 2 before Iannone, in the lead, ran wide and left the racing surface, something we have seen riders do hundreds of times.Rossi, Dutch MotoGP Race 2008

Typically, riders in this particular pickle run into the grass, slow way down, and eventually get things turned around, returning to the track down a few positions but otherwise intact. But as Iannone and, on Lap 4, Rossi discovered the hard way, today’s off-track conditions were anything but typical. Once they hit the grass, in almost identical postures, their bikes virtually stopped, throwing them over the handlebars, rider and machine then going ragdoll until coming to rest next to the wall. Iannone walked off, but Rossi was removed on a stretcher, reported later to be okay with the exception of a possible concussion. Thus, at the close of Lap 4, the leaders were Marquez, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Tech 3 Yamaha rookie Pol Espargaro and Dovizioso.

By mid-race, Lorenzo and Marquez had traded positions a few times, Pedrosa sat in third awaiting disaster in front of him, the rest of the field trailing, with Dovizioso having taking over fourth place from Espargaro the Younger. At this point, the racing gods yielded to the rain gods, and Round 14 of the 2014 season, #800 of all time, became perhaps the most memorable contest of the year.

The Rain in Spain Stays Mainly in the Plain

By Lap 16, the mist had become something stronger, what we Americans call “rain”, with Race Direction waving first a white flag, then a white flag with a red cross taped to it, indicating the riders could return to the pits to swap out their machines for #2 bikes set up for the wet. Marquez and Pedrosa went through on Lorenzo, the expectation at that point that all three would pit together, with the Repsol teammates then going mano-a-mano to the flag, leaving Lorenzo a demoralizing third. Lap 17 saw Pedrosa and Marquez exchange places at least five times, leaving HRC kahuna Livio Suppo gasping for breath and Lorenzo dropping off the pace.

On Lap 18, Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro became the first rider to enter the pits followed in quick succession by pretty much everyone but the three remaining Alien leaders, who were still surfing around the circuit on slicks. Andrea Dovizioso crashed out on Lap 19, reducing the second GP14.2 to an engine, two wheels and a pile of recyclable materials. On a crucial Lap 20, Lorenzo pitted and Pedrosa crashed out of second place, got up, ran what seemed like a quarter mile to his idling RC213V, got it up and running and headed gingerly for the pits.

Marquez swims across the lineWhat did NOT happen on Lap 20 was Marquez entering the pits. For whatever reason—youthful exuberance, inexperience, a sense of infallibility—the defending champion rode past pit lane, his crew gesticulating wildly and thoroughly ignored. This single decision, reminiscent of his unfortunate DQ at Phillip Island last year, when he also pitted too late, cost him the win today. Inevitably, later in the lap, Marquez, now hydroplaning, lost the front, went down, and paid the price for his willfulness.

On Lap 21, the rain having become a downpour, Lorenzo found himself in the lead, with Marquez, still on slicks, still ignoring his team, acting like a stubborn child, his bike in tatters, dropping like a stone in the standings, finishing the lap in 10th position. Finally, on Lap 22, Aleix Espargaro having taken over second place, and Cal Crutchlow having miraculously materialized in third, Marquez entered pit lane, traded bikes, and returned to the track. Ultimately, he and teammate Pedrosa would cross the finish line in 13th and 14th places, respectively. Perhaps “disrespectively” would better describe their conditions at the end. Amazingly, while their day was ruined, their seasons were essentially unaffected by the day’s debacle.

The Big Picture

The most noteworthy occurrence at the 2014 Aragon GP was the historic performance of Aleix Espargaro, who deservedly became the first open class rider to secure a podium finish, providing, along with Barbera’s machine, a glimpse into the MotoGP world of 2016. The defiant Cal Crutchlow proved little else but that the Desmosedici can be competitive in the rain; on a normal day, he would have finished no better than sixth.Jorge-Lorenzo-Smile-HD

Remarkably, the standings at the top remained essentially unchanged. Marquez, who deserves to be taken to the woodshed by his ever-present father, came to Aragon leading Pedrosa by 74 points and left leading by 75. Pedrosa’s lead over Rossi for second place jumped from one to three points. Lorenzo was the big winner, gaining 25 points on his teammate, whom he now trails by only 12. Marquez’s magic number heading for the Pacific flyaway rounds is one, but it looks to be a dogfight for the next three positions for the 2014 season. MotoGP fans, I’m sure, join us in hoping Valentino Rossi is good to go for Motegi and beyond.

Postscript—The podium celebrations today were marred by the first ever, at least in my memory, appearance of a podium GUY. Usually, we are treated to the sight of two long-stemmed local beauties getting sprayed with champagne after the trophies have been handed out and the Spanish national anthem hummed. Hopefully, this appalling display of gender equality will, in the future, be confined to the workplaces and legislative chambers where it belongs. I, for one, am not ready for a big photo spread in Motorcycle.com or Crash.net of Motorcycle Hunks.