Posts Tagged ‘Catalunya 2012’

Marquez needs his rally hat at Spain #2

June 12, 2015

MotoGP 2015 Catalunya Preview, by Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to 

boilig-frogI’ve been told you can put a frog in a pan of cold water and set it on a low fire, allowing the water to heat up gradually until the frog, just sitting there minding his own business, is cooked.  Playing the role of the frog at present and wearing #93 is defending world champion Marc Marquez, trailing series leader Valentino Rossi by 49 points as the 2015 season passes the one third pole.  Marquez fans around the world are going all Nelly, suddenly aware that “it’s getting’ HOT in here.” 

No one was sweating the curious 5th place finish at Losail, where weird things often happen.  The win at Austin showed relieved fans that all was, indeed, well with the Repsol Honda wunderkind.  The careless crash in Argentina seemed like a bump in the road, until the fourth place finish in France, which had people scratching their heads.  When the expected comeback at Mugello ended in disaster on Lap 18, those of us anticipating a decade of Marquez titles were jarred by the realization that a third consecutive title in 2015 would require a fairly complete collapse by the entire Movistar Yamaha team and has become, to use my friend Kevin’s term for bad movie plots, “unlikely.”

Not impossible.  A win in Barcelona coupled with a bad weekend from the Dueling Andreas of the factory Ducati team could put Marquez back in third place by Sunday afternoon.  Misfortune, as everyone knows, can strike quickly in this sport, especially at places like Assen and The Sachsenring, up next on the calendar.  But the fact that, for Marquez, the 2015 title now depends on Valentino Rossi AND Jorge Lorenzo crashing out of a race or two is vastly different from the scenario we’ve seen over the past two seasons.  Marquez morphed from dark horse to contender in 2013 when teammate Dani Pedrosa and rival Lorenzo broke collarbones in The Netherlands and Germany.  During his serene 2014, in which he barely broke a sweat winning the first ten races of the season, he could afford to ignore Lorenzo and Rossi and focus on dreaming up entertaining post-race celebrations.  The samurai ritual at Motegi last year was especially notable.Samurai celebration

Now, a year later, Marquez, sitting in fifth place, has lost control of his season.  The eventual outcome of the 2015 championship is in the veteran hands of Rossi and Lorenzo, both of whom look capable of winning.  The Yamaha and Ducati factories have given their riders much better machinery than they’ve enjoyed in years past, leveling the field, if not tilting it in their favor over the Hondas.

Personally, I can see Andrea Iannone blowing up in the second half of the season, going highside and recording a handful of DNSes; he is perhaps the most aggressive rider on the grid seated on a bike fast enough to enter a low earth orbit. Teammate Andrea Dovizioso rarely crashes and manages his tires, but has a single career win, at Donington Park back in 2009.  But, you say, Nicky Hayden won the 2006 title with only two wins; those days are long over.  Rossi, and especially Lorenzo, are riding as well as they ever have; the notion that both of them will suddenly fall off the chart is almost laughable.  Yet, for Marquez to win in 2015, that’s pretty much what needs to happen.

Catalunya—The Heart of Lorenzo’s Land

Lorenzo at workThe Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, closest to Jorge Lorenzo’s birthplace off the coast of Spain, is one of his favorite tracks.  Over the last nine years he has recorded eight starts, four wins, three seconds, and last year’s outlier, a fourth place finish in the midst of his half-season malaise.  He stomped the field in 2012, outraced Dani Pedrosa by 1.8 seconds in 2013, and suffered last year while Marquez, Rossi and Pedrosa rode the wheels off their bikes, Rossi sneaking into second place after Marquez and Pedrosa traded paint late in the day.  Last year’s race was one of the best of all time, probably one of the most satisfying wins of Marquez’ young career.

Lorenzo, coming off a hat trick at Jerez, Le Mans and Mugello, will be the favorite on Sunday.  Hopefully, by then the locals will have sobered up from the celebration of their football team’s world title this past Saturday.  For sports fans in this part of the planet, having Barca put it to Juventus, followed by Lorenzo putting it to everyone eight days later would be the equivalent of having home teams winning the Super Bowl and the Final Four in the same week.  And while Marquez and Pedrosa and the rest of the Spanish riders will all spend some time this week talking about the pleasures of racing at home, most of the locals, and all of the frontrunners, will be rooting for Jorge.

A Quick Golf Analogy

Many of us read this week the startling figure that Valentino Rossi, leading the championship after six rounds, has led a total of four (4) laps all year, while teammate Lorenzo has led 91.  Looking at these two numbers in a vacuum, one would assume that Lorenzo would be leading Rossi by a country mile.  Not so.

As it turns out, the only lap that is important to lead is the last one.  The comparison to golf is irresistible.  This, I suspect, is why you read this column on a regular basis—the never-ending and always enjoyable links to other sports.  Football, baseball, and now golf.  Golfers have an expression that captures the essence of the counterintuitive 91 to four ratio….wait for it…

Drive for show, putt for dough.  You’re welcome.

Has Arm Pump Surgery Become a Status Symbol?

Avintia Racing’s Hectic Hector Barbera is the latest victim of the nasty arm pump syndrome.  Having undergone surgery this past week—think splitting the casing on a kielbasa and then sewing it back together–his participation this weekend is described as “doubtful.”  Every year it seems like half a dozen riders go under the knife for this repair.  These are some of the toughest guys on the planet, so the pain must be immense.  Since it’s usually the right arm, the throttle arm, I don’t understand why the manufacturer’s don’t simply install an accelerator pedal on the right side of the bike, since the riders’ right legs are generally useless anyway, other than Rossi and a few imitators.  Jorge Lorenzo, whose riding style approaches poetry, rarely kicks out his leg entering turns.  The aesthetics of grand prix motorcycle racing would be improved if riders kept their legs to themselves, another solid reason for an accelerator pedal.  Just sayin’.

Your Weekend Forecast

It looks like there’ll be warm temps and plenty of rain in the Montmelo area between Friday and Monday.  Good news for the Ducati riders, as the Desmosedici has always been surprisingly stable in the wet.  Bad news for most everyone else, making setup difficult and raising the possibility of a hair-raising flag-to-flag affair.  Rain is one of the wildcards that can shake up a championship, as it raises the likelihood of crashing and forces riders to be more conservative than usual.

For Marc Marquez and his ornery RC213V, the prospect of a wet weekend must seem like the racing gods are just piling on.  But, to the extent that weather could toss a spanner into the works of the factory Yamaha team, he has no choice but to embrace the elements and make them work for him.  If the Bruise Brothers end up on the Catalan podium and he ends up in the kitty litter his 2015 season will be poached.

2012 MotoGP Catalunya Results

June 3, 2012

A highly edited version of this article appeared today on  Here is the original piece.

Lorenzo Outduels Pedrosa, Extends 2012 Lead

On a humid gray Sunday on the Spanish Riviera, Jorge Lorenzo, Team Yamaha’s Man from Mallorca, asserted his will on the competition to win the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya in front of 100,000 delirious fans.  For much of the race it appeared that Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa would enjoy his first win of the season.  But a tiny error—the result of a wheelie at speed on the main straight—allowed Lorenzo through, and probably cost Pedrosa the win.  Qué vergüenza, Dani.

During practice this weekend, it appeared that Repsol’s defending world champion Casey Stoner was preparing to enjoy his fifth consecutive premier class win on Spanish soil.  Other than FP2, which he mailed in, he was quick all weekend, and qualified on the pole for the second time this year.  At the start, he and teammate Pedrosa essentially traded spots, Dani rocketing from fifth to first while Stoner got caught in traffic and fell back to sixth.  Had this occurred last season, we might have spent the day watching the Australian eventually claw his way back up into the lead.  But the 2012 lame duck only made it back as far as fourth place, finishing off the podium for the first time since having been unseated by Ducati’s Valentino Rossi last year in Jerez.

Taking Stoner’s usual place on the podium today, instead, was Tech 3 Yamaha pilot Andrea Dovizioso, for his first rostrum with Yamaha and the first by a satellite rider since Marco Simoncelli’s second place finish last year at Phillip Island.  Dovi’s teammate Cal Crutchlow worked hard all day, dogging Stoner for most of it, but was unable to go through into fourth, and now trails Dovizioso for the season by four points.  Today’s ride, it would seem, elevates Dovizioso to the top spot in the race to take over a Honda or Yamaha factory ride for 2013.  At least for the moment.

Ben Spies Shows Brief Signs of Life.  Very Brief.

As most everyone knows, Lorenzo’s Yamaha teammate Ben Spies is in the midst of a dreadful season, one that could eventually lead him to the unemployment lines, further burdening the social safety net in cash-strapped Britain.  As has become his custom this year, he assured everyone interviewing him this week that Catalunya was the place he would turn it all around.  Sure enough, he qualified fourth, jumped into second place at the start, and went through on Pedrosa to take the lead on Lap 3.  He enjoyed this lofty position for roughly half a second, immediately running wide and ending up in the gravel on his way to another dismal 10th place finish.

In hindsight, we must consider the possibility that Team Yamaha jumped the gun in promoting the likeable Spies to the factory team last year after his impressive 2010 campaign with Tech 3.  2011 was a Tale of Two Seasons for the Texan—a terrible first half followed by a much improved second.  This year, he was expected to assume Alien status; instead, he has gone from good to bad to worse.  Several of Yamaha’s Japanese executives were at today’s race, probably to examine Ben’s performance from up close.  If so, he may have impressed them with his courage and determination, likely to no avail.  The brass want results for their money, not character recommendations.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Not too many surprises out there today, as the race final matches up closely with the season’s standings.  Check it out.

2012 Catalunya Finishing Order

2012 Standings after Five Rounds


Jorge Lorenzo

Jorge Lorenzo


Dani Pedrosa

Casey Stoner


Andrea Dovizioso

Dani Pedrosa


Casey Stoner

Andrea Dovizioso


Cal Crutchlow

Cal Crutchlow


Alvaro Bautista

Valentino Rossi


Valentino Rossi

Alvaro Bautista


Stefan Bradl

Stefan Bradl


Nicky Hayden

Nicky Hayden


Ben Spies

Hector Barbera


Hector Barbera

Ben Spies

In Division II, Aleix Espargaro was again the top finisher, putting him alone at the top of the junior league.  Not THE Junior League, the ladies with the little white gloves and watercress sandwiches. And yes, I do have a Junior League joke:

Q:  Why don’t Junior League members engage in group sex?

A:  Too many thank-you notes to write.

It may be worth noting that Cardion AB jetsetter Karel Abraham scored his first points of the season today with a scintillating 12th place finish, roughly 20 seconds behind Hector Barbera and only 12 seconds ahead of Espargaro.  If Karel’s dad, Karel Sr., who owns the Czech Republic, also owns a soccer team, expect to see Junior at center mid next season.  Seems as if this whole 200 mph on two wheels thing has lost its luster for the young playboy.

I’m Just Sayin’…

In what is becoming my usual Casey Stoner segment, it appears that his retirement announcement has dulled his competitive edge.  Notice how, prior to the announcement, Stoner had a fluke third in Qatar and two wins.  Since then, a third in the rain in France followed by today’s head-scratcher.  Clearly, it’s a little early to be drawing meaningful conclusions from any of this.  But when was the last time you can recall Stoner loafing through a practice session the way he did FP2 on Friday?  And when can you recall a performance like today, in which a perfect setup and conditions resulted in a finish off the podium?

The Big Picture

Jorge Lorenzo now enjoys a 20 point margin over Stoner for the 2012 championship, while Pedrosa now trails the Australian by only 10.  Many of us presumed Stoner would have an easy time repeating his 2011 title, but such is not the case.  It may be safe to say, after only five rounds, that the 2012 title is now Lorenzo’s to lose.  What is certain is that Yamaha has adapted to the 1000cc standard more readily than has Honda, this despite the travails of Ben Spies.

Dovizioso and Crutchlow continue their cage match for fourth place, a battle that must warm the heart of team owner Herve Poncharal while simultaneously giving him nightmares.  Congratulations to the Monster Tech 3 team on an immensely successful 2012 campaign thus far, as they continue to show their pipes to the factory Ducati team of Rossi and Nicky Hayden.  Along with Gresini Honda’s Bautista and consensus rookie of the year Stefan Bradl, these four will fight all year over the scraps of finishing sixth for the season.  And of the four, only Bradl can feel very good about sharing such company.

Looking Ahead

The grid returns to Silverstone in two weeks for the British Grand Prix, at which it will probably be cold and wet.  Lorenzo can approach this one without much pressure, not needing a win to maintain his lead in the 2012 race.  And Stoner, apparently, doesn’t feel much pressure to dominate the proceedings ANYWHERE, if his performance today was any indication.  Pedrosa, Dovizioso and Crutchlow will be feeling it, however, especially CC, who will be racing in front of his homeboys.  So will James Ellison, for that matter, although with much less at stake.

I’ll be reporting on the race from the picturesque San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington State, where it will be shown at 5 am local time.  Hopefully, I’ll have the race results posted on in time for you West Coast fans to enjoy the story with your Sunday morning cornflakes.

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