Posts Tagged ‘Austin’

MotoGP Losail Results

March 10, 2019

© Bruce Allen. Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Dovizioso Punks Marquez in Repeat of 2018 Stunner 

In a virtual carbon copy of last year’s riveting Grand Prix of Qatar, Andrea Dovizioso, the second-best rider on the planet today, edged defending world champion Marc Marquez by .023 seconds to capture the win. Cal Crutchlow, the Black Knight of MotoGP, took the third step on the podium on a right ankle held together with bandaids and baling wire. Parity has arrived in MotoGP, with tonight’s race producing the 8th closest podium in history and the fastest Top 15 ever. 

Last year, Dovizioso’s winning margin was .027 seconds, suggesting Marquez, his surgically-repaired shoulder mostly healed, is making progress. Comparing this year’s top seven riders to last year, the only significant difference is Suzuki’s Alex Rins. Last year Rins, whose season started miserably despite my jocking him all over the place, crashed out mid-race. This year, he was in the mix the entire time, led the race for a couple of partial laps, and finished fourth, barely 14/100ths behind Crutchlow. He was followed by Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi (who started 14th), Ducati factory rider Danilo Petrucci and polesitter Maverick Vinales who, with a full fuel tank and cold tires, rides like the second coming of James Ellison. Last year, behind Dovi and Marquez, it was Rossi, Crutchlow, Petrucci and Vinales. This, I suggest, is what they mean by “the usual suspects.”

Practice and Qualifying

The weirdest thing about the weekend—and a vivid reminder for us not to pay too much attention to the goings-on in the Persian Gulf—is that Rossi topped the timesheets in FP1 before going on a mini-vacation until the red lights went out. 17th in FP2. Fourth in FP3. 18th in FP4. Fourth again in Q1. 11th in the morning warm-up. He then went out and passed eight riders during the race, showing once again that he is the epitome of the Sunday rider, the Alan Iverson of MotoGP. “Practice? We don’ need no steenkin’ PRACTICE.” Vinales, to the contrary, was the bomb diggity in practice before going out and laying another egg for the first 16 laps or so. But 5th, 7th, 11th (Franco Morbidelli) and 20th (Hafizh Syahrin) suggests Yamaha has not answered many of the questions facing them at the end of last season.

Over in Hondaland, Marquez was fast all weekend but not laser rocket fast; Losail is still one of his least favorite tracks. New teammate Jorge Lorenzo experienced his first Honda high-side on Saturday morning, complaining afterwards that he hurt “everywhere.” He recovered enough to put in a credible performance in Q1, leading the way into Q2 until he folded the front with three minutes left in the session. During those last three minutes—the best racing of most weekends—he was forced to stand by and watch as the LCR Honda duo of Crutchlow and a rejuvenated Takaa Nakagami, rookie Pecco Bagnaia and old buddy Rossi slipped in front of him. Rossi, Lorenzo and Bagnaia ended up constituting possibly the strongest fifth row in MotoGP history.

Anyone interested in picking up an expansive array of French invective need only speak to Johann Zarco, who, regrettably, made the move from Yamaha to KTM last year. An indicator of the quality of that particular decision may be found in the fact that he started last year’s race from pole and this year from 18th place. Unlike last year, however, he managed to finish the race, earning one (1) championship point for his efforts. His preseason pronouncement that he expected to fight in the top five this season begs the question: “In Moto2 or Moto3?”  KTM’s MotoGP project is, to put it mildly, behind schedule. Ask any of their four riders, all of whom must be grinding their molars to dust trying to generate any results from the RC16.

Racing at its Finest

The Dorna PR machine is pumping out release after release these days claiming, without corroboration, that MotoGP is the best racing on the planet. And although I wouldn’t disagree, most of the other 8 billion inhabitants thereof might take issue with the assertion, having never seen a motorcycle race. Certainly, in the U.S. MotoGP ranks right up there with women’s curling and caber tossing. But for those of us who follow it, the sport appears never to have been better.

Much has been made during the offseason about Ducati’s mysterious “holeshot handle” which appeared below the dashboard on the GP19 and is alleged to minimize wheelies at the start. It appeared to work for Dovizioso, who led into Turn 1 from pole, but not for the other riders—Petrucci and Miller—whose starts were less than stellar. Jack Miller, who apparently longs for the bygone “Jackass” days, was experiencing some kind of difficulty early in the race, traced the problem to his seat cushion, and summarily removed it and dropped it into the middle of the mass of riders hot on his tail, somehow skirting disaster. The nicest term Steve Day could come up with to describe Miller’s faux pas was “random.” Jack may hear from Race Direction prior to the Argentina junket.

For the most part, Dovizioso led the entire race. There were a few moments here and there when Rins or Marquez would nose in front of him, only to get blasted by the wake of his Desmosedici when it hit the top of the main straight, morphed into an F-16 fighter jet at very low altitude, and re-took the lead into Turn 1, time and time again. Raw speed in MotoGP is like height in the NBA in that it is necessary but not sufficient. The speed of the Ducati in conjunction with the skill and experience of Andrea Dovizioso would likely dominate MotoGP were it not for the genius of Marc Marquez and his unruly Honda RC213V. The Honda is faster this year than last, and Marquez will, with two intact shoulders, be better than last year. If #93 suddenly washed his hands of MotoGP and took up fly fishing, Dovizioso could easily win a couple of titles. But there is little reason to expect either. 

Elsewhere on the Grid

French rookie Fabio Quartararo was the talk of the weekend. He put his Petronas SRT Yamaha surprisingly high on the timesheets on Friday and Saturday, qualified for Q2, and started, or, rather, was scheduled to start the race, in the middle of the second row. The talk turned to sputtering gibberish when he stalled at the start of the warm-up lap, forcing him to start the race from pit lane on ice-cold tires. Having lost a full ten seconds as a result, he finished only 15-some seconds behind Dovizioso, a most impressive recovery. The top rookie of the day, however, was my boy Joan Mir on the #2 Suzuki who spent the day flirting with a podium before finally showing some respect and finishing 8th. Pecco Bagnaia, my dark horse earlier in the week, entered Turn 1 on Lap 13 at about a zillion miles an hour and rode almost through the gravel trap, needing a ticket to re-enter the fray. Alas, the race was a sellout, and his day ended early. (Prior to his going walky he was, sadly, not a podium threat.) Let me just say this out loud—the two Suzuki riders, Rins and Mir, are going to give second-tier riders some headaches this season. Mir, in fact, is probably the better of the two. Memo to Suzuki: GIVE THESE GUYS MORE HORSEPOWER NEXT YEAR! They have mad skills.

No Tranching Allowed

We are not going to bother re-ranking the riders based upon Qatar. As we’ve seen in years past, it is a true outlier, and results here are not indicative of anything in other than broad strokes. Never fear, however—I’m already working on the post-Rio Hondo standings, he lied. Today, in my real life, was a perfect storm, leaving little time or mental energy for MotoGP. But March 31st will be different. Informative. Rib-tickling. Incisive. And on time.

 

 

Marc Marquez remains undefeated in U.S.

April 12, 2015

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

Repsol Honda reigning champion Marc Marquez extended his winning streak in the U.S. to six, taking an easy win at The Circuit of the Americas by a country mile over Ducati #1 Andrea Dovizioso who had himself fought off several challenges from Yamaha former world champion Valentino Rossi. Confirming that Losail was an outlier, and tightening the standings at the top of the premier class food chain, COTA provided few surprises.

A clean start led to a leading group of Dovizioso, Marquez, Rossi and Bradley Smith on the Tech 3 Yamaha. Marquez went through on Dovizioso on Lap 5 and rode quietly into the sunset, coasting to the win by 2.3 seconds over Dovizioso and 3.1 seconds over Rossi. Lorenzo launched a late charge to finish fourth, followed by Iannone on the #2 Ducati, Smith and Crutchlow, who was unable to maintain the winning speeds he showed in practice. Suzuki’s Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales claimed 8th and 9th, respectively, and Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci continued to impress in 10th place.

Practice is Occasionally Better than the Race

2015 COTA Q2 Front RowCaptureQ2 was a great example of why the qualifying format of MotoGP is occasionally better than the race. Marquez jumping off his broken bike, the CHECK ENGINE light red, climbing the wall, sprinting 200 yards to his cold #2 bike with the wrong tires, flogging it across the start/finish line seconds before the checkered flag waved, then pushing his RC213V harder on the flying lap to a new track record and his third consecutive pole in Austin. I don’t think any other rider on the grid could manage that.

Add to his natural ability and quality equipment the fact that he’s seeing Austin on the big bike for the third time, and knows exactly where he is on the track. He already knows the correct line here. Now all he has to do is pick the right tires and keep it on the track through turn 1. His lap at the end of qualifying, after an extended sprint, with a big moment, on a #2 bike he described as having “setting not so good,” trashed the previous record by four-tenths. Close to inconceivable.

You get the sense Marc Marquez has GPS in his head and can pretty much go as fast as he wants. He rides a million dollar bike like it was a miniature BMX in the schoolyard in 5th grade. Marquez in Sepang 2013

Jorge Lorenzo Prays for No Rain

Weather was iffy all weekend, at a track that is rapidly gaining a reputation as the most demanding on the 18-round calendar. It is, likewise, becoming increasingly clear that Jorge Lorenzo cannot compete in the rain.

The consecutive crashes at Assen and the Sachsenring in 2013 involved wet weather, and it appears he’s lost his ability to push in the wet. His FP2 in the wet was another example. There was a race or two last year where he failed to post due to the wet. And although the weather ended up not being a factor during the race today… There’s still the damnable Catalan.

Hail Brittaniaprintable-union-jack-color

The Brits seem to be getting it together. Both Crutchlow on the CWMLCRAMF, etc. Honda and Scott Redding on the EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda made appearances in the top three during practice sessions, with CC 2nd in both FP2 in the wet and FP3 in the dry. Redding ran 3rd in FP1 before qualifying 6th. Not to mention young Danny Kent, the great hope of soccer hooligans everywhere, dominating the Moto3 race. Dominating at a track like Austin says you’re good at everything. Sam Lowes’ first win in Moto2 was even sweeter. Could Crutchlow or Redding break into the top three?

Whatareya, nuts?

MotoGP Life Away from the Spotlight

One looks at the bottom four qualifiers and cannot help but ponder how far the mighty have fallen:
• Nicky Hayden, the 2006 World Champion, qualifying 22nd for Honda in his 200th grand prix start.
• Alvaro Bautista, sporting a 125cc world championship in 2006 and a second place finish in the Moto2 class in 2008, in 23rd for a thoroughly grateful Aprilia Racing Gresini team.
• Alex de Angelis, with 3rd place finishes in the 250cc class in 2006 and 2007 and an 8th place finish in MotoGP in 2009 sitting 24th for Octo IodaRacing.
• And, finally, unwilling and unmotivated, Marco Melandri, the #2 Aprilia rider on loan from WSBK, lollygagging in 25th place. His credentials include a world championship in the 250cc class in 2002, and second overall in MotoGP 2005 aboard the factory Honda. In case you’re thinking it’s obvious that Melandri is washed up, he spent the last four seasons in WSBK finishing 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 4th, the last aboard the Aprilia

Happenings in Moto2 and Moto 3

The Moto2 race was led by Kent going away, but the fight for second place was ferocious. The racing surface appeared to be “dirty.” Kent’s margin the largest in Moto3 history. Whoda thunk? The residual battle for second place, won by 15-year old rising star Fabio Quaternaro, was high quality stuff.

Almost as riveting as the MotoGP Q2.

The French teenager Quaternero has it going on in Moto3. 15 years old. His star is, as they say, ascendant. The fact that rookie Alex Rins leads the series indicates the depth of talent at the top of the Moto2 food chain, although something’s up with Tito Rabat.

Danny Kent is a certified winner in Moto3 and needs to move up to Moto2 to determine if he’s the real deal or what. His team earned a 1st and a 3rd at COTA. Not a bad weekend. See what happens in Argentina and Jerez first.

Sam Lowes ran a great race for his first win in Moto2. The sun seems to be rising on The British Empire. Completive at all three levels. Hard to visualize Cal Crutchlow on the podium. But I can’t remember the last time I heard the British national anthem during a podium celebration either.

A Small Confession

Having grown up as a committed Washington Redskins fan I developed an intense dislike of all things remotely related to the state of Texas, from the state flag to the aw-shucks attitude of the coach of the Dallas Cowboys coach may he ever rot in… I digress. But I must admit that the Circuit of The Americas is well-designed and deserves its reputation as the most challenging circuit on the tour. I thought COTA was going to take the place of my home track in Indianapolis. As it turned out, Laguna Seca lost. But this place seems built for motorcycles, and the riders spend an enormous amount of time in turns. Great changes in elevation. Better than Indianapolis. Way better.

Fast Turnaround to Argentina

The crews are working frantically to get the grid packed up, stuffed into the three 747’s Dorna keeps for this purpose, and head off for South America, a nine hour flight, then cutting their way through triple canopy jungle to reach the garage area, portaging their trailers through snake-infested rivers, in time for practice on Friday. It’s no picnic being on one of these crews. And Rio Honda is a little off the beaten path.

We’ll bring you the race preview on Wednesday, with results and analysis on Sunday evening.

MotoGP Circuit of the Americas 2013 Results

April 25, 2013

This article appears in its entirety at Motorcycle.com.  Photos by GEPA Pictures and respective teams.

Most MotoGP fans are likely to remember where they were during the inaugural Grand Prix of the Americas in 2013, where Repsol Honda rookie phenom Marc Marquez became the youngest rider ever to win a premier class race. Not content with being the youngest pole-sitter in MotoGP history, the charismatic Catalan stalked teammate Dani Pedrosa for 13 laps before going through effortlessly into a tie for the world title with defending champion Jorge Lorenzo. The new kid in town has arrived.

Suddenly, everyone else on the grid looks old, slow and uptight. Each time he’s interviewed, Marquez comes across as a happy, humble, regular kind of guy. Watching him come up through the 125s and Moto2, like a hot knife through butter, you got the clear impression he was going to be successful one day in the premier class.

Marc Marquez

In only his second race onboard the Honda RC213V, he has now come of age, at a track he is liable to dominate for the next decade. In so doing, he has become my favorite to win the 2013 world championship. Not to mention having eclipsed a record which had stood since 1982, when then Honda rookie Freddie Spencer won the Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

For Honda, a Weekend to Remember

All weekend, the Hondas took to the COTA circuit like ducks to water. Similar to the rather clubby testing back in March, at which only five anointed riders participated, the Hondas eat up tracks like this, where riders spending roughly 25% of their lap times in first gear. (Too bad Casey Stoner isn’t here to slam it for being slow and boring.) People in the know refer to these circuits as “technical”, compared to the flowing layouts found at places like Mugello and Aragon, which are referred to as “fast.”

Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez

Marquez and Pedrosa dominated the timesheets all weekend, with Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo laboring to keep up, and his teammate Valentino Rossi having all kinds of problems, ranging from smoke and water damage to the bike (from a fire in the Tech 3 Yamaha garage on Thursday night) to braking issues. The two top non-factory riders, Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda and Cal Crutchlow on the Tech 3 Yamaha, battled to stay in the conversation in practice knowing they would not make it to the podium on Sunday.

With Marquez, Pedrosa and Lorenzo starting on the front row, everyone made it safely through the slightly crazy Turn 1. Pedrosa and Marquez emerged in the lead, but Lorenzo, having tried to go airborne at the start, got bogged down and fell back to around fifth place. He got things squared away quickly, and went through on Bradl into third place at turn 19. Crutchlow, also starting poorly, went through on Bradl on Lap 9 into fourth place.

Jorge Lorenzo

Rossi, starting in the eight hole, would bring it back as far as sixth, in what must have been a painful flashback to last year. Meanwhile, Pedrosa and Marquez ran away from the field for their own intra-team battle. At turn seven on Lap 13, Marquez went through cleanly on Pedrosa and into the history books.

For Yamaha, a Weekend to Forget

So there was this little fire on Thursday night, which left the bikes of four teams covered in fire suppression foam and thoroughly watered down, to the detriment of everyone’s computers and electronics. (Were it not for the suppression system and quick response from Austin area firefighters, the factory Yamaha team might have lost six bikes worth $12 million; things could have been worse.)

Neither Lorenzo nor Rossi was able to do anything about the Repsol Hondas. Both were probably thinking about Jerez as they crossed the finish line, wishing to put this round behind them.

Cal Crutchlow

Cal Crutchlow had another superb weekend, after having told the press he would be happy finishing in the top six. His teammate and fellow Brit Bradley Smith announced that his goal for the weekend was to, ahem, finish the race, which would have been MY goal had they allowed fat old non-riders to compete. Smith drove his Yamaha into a barely-respectable 12th place finish, just behind the Power Electronics CRT bike piloted by Aleix Espargaro, clearly the cream of the current CRT crop.

For Ducati, Just Another Weekend

The race ended with the four Ducati entries occupying 7th (Andrea Dovizioso), 9th (Nicky Hayden), 10th (Andrea Iannone) and 12th (Ben Spies). Not quite as exhilarating as Qatar, when they finished 7-8-9-10. The Bologna factory has exactly one chance to put a rider on the podium this year, which would occur if a hurricane were to strike Mugello on race Sunday and red flag the race after, say, three laps.

Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso

Dovizioso or Hayden could conceivably parlay a fast lap in qualifying into a second row start and, if some seriously bad luck or lightning struck an alien or two, slip one of the red bikes into the money before their tires started to go. Otherwise, fuggedaboutit.

All Dressed Up, Nowhere to Go

At the start of practice on Friday, 26 bikes graced the track, including the two wildcards, Attack Performance’s Blake  Young and GPTech’s Michael Barnes, but only 24 would actually start the race. Barnes failed to break the 107% threshold necessary to qualify, while Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham sustained a broken right collarbone following a collision with Gresini’s Bryan Staring in Q1. With a titanium plate and seven screws in place, Abraham is questionable for Jerez. Young managed 21st place, which sounds a lot better than “finished last, a lap down.”

Aleix Espargaro

By the way, the best quote of the weekend came from Crutchlow, who observed, “If you mess up on Turn 2, you’ve messed up for (the next) nine corners.”

The Big Picture

While the season is still young, it looks as if young Marquez and veteran Lorenzo will be the primary combatants for the 2013 title. Rossi is again relevant, but cannot afford too many outings like today. And Dani Pedrosa must be sick to his stomach facing the possibility that he has missed his last best chance for a championship. He is in danger of becoming that most pitiable of athletes, the guy who dominated his sport but never earned a ring. Think Karl Malone, John Stockton and Charles Barkley of the NBA. Think Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson of the NFL. Or Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski of MLB. Plenty of fame and fortune, all of which they might have gladly traded for a championship.

Marc Marquez
2013 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After Two Rounds
Pos. Rider Team Points
1 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda 41
2 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha Factory 41
3 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda 33
4 Valentino Rossi Yamaha Factory 30
5 Cal Crutchlow Monster Tech3 Yamaha 24
6 Alvaro Bautista Gresini Honda 18
7 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Factory 18
8 Nicky Hayden Ducati Factory 15
9 Andrea Iannone Pramac Ducati 13
10 Stefan Bradl LCR Honda 11

Next Up: The Road to Jerez

MotoGP next heads to Europe for the first time this season, for the first of four grands prix in Spain. Given the fact that Honda, Yamaha and even Ducati have all enjoyed recent success in southern Spain, we are reluctant to characterize Jerez as “technical” or “fast.” Let’s split the difference, and just call it “awesome.”

Yamaha Girls