Posts Tagged ‘catalunya grand prix’

MotoGP Catalunya Preview

June 11, 2019

© Bruce Allen.

It’s Officially Marquez vs. The World 

When it comes to motorcycle racing, a number of readers fail to understand, or simply don’t care about, the underlying resentments in the relationship between Catalonia, once its own country, and Spain. Increasingly-vocal Catalans take this stuff seriously and personally. For them, being a Catalan is different (and far better) than being a freaking Spaniard. Similar to the Basque situation in northern Spain. So, when they line up under the red lights on Sunday afternoon, Marc Marquez, Alex Rins, Maverick Vinales, both Espargaros and Tito Rabat will be, for an hour or so, brothers in arms. Motto: Beat the hell out of the Spaniards and crush the Italians! 

If Catalonia was indeed its own country it would easily lead the world in grand prix motorcycle racing champions per capita. As for Marquez, Catalan to the core,  though he’s only collected one premier class win here, he’s been on the podium regularly, save for 2015 when he crashed out, suffering under the influence of an unrideable chassis. Jorge Lorenzo used to win here all the time with Yamaha and got his first win here with Ducati last year. But looking at his results this year on the Honda, it’s amazing we’re even talking about him.

Lorenzo 2019 to date

 

 

 

Even though Suzuki up-and-comer Alex Rins has only a DNS and a DNF here, it is the type of track that suits him, never mind the whole nationalistic/inspirational thing. Rossi has won here once since 2009, while teammate Maverick Vinales has never been any good at his home crib (discounting his Moto3 win here in 2012). Finally, Andrea Dovizioso has a solo win here in 2017 to go along with a bunch of nondescript results dating back to 2008.

Suffice it to say that neither Lorenzo nor Rossi nor Dovizioso is likely to win Sunday’s race. More likely, it will be Marquez, Rins, or a dark horse, a Jack Miller or a Franco Morbidelli. Danilo Petrucci could keep a new little tradition alive by winning back-to-backs in Mugello and here, the way Lorenzo did last year and Dovi the year before. That would tighten things at the top of the rider heap.

Recent History at Catalunya

The 2016 Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya featured a struggling but gritty defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo getting “Iannone-ed” out of fifth place on Lap 17, leaving Rossi and Marquez at the front, where they slugged it out for the rest of the day. Rossi prevailed; the challenge from Marquez subsided once his pit board flashed “LORENZO KO.”  Dani Pedrosa again managed a respectable third, followed some distance back by Viñales on the Suzuki. Marquez took the series lead from Lorenzo that day and would never look back, cruising to his third premier class title in four seasons.

2017–After recording no wins between Donington Park 2009 and Sepang 2016, Ducati #1 Andrea Dovizioso made it two in eight days, delivering scintillating rides at both Mugello and Montmelo. By mid-race here, Dovizioso was keeping his powder dry, tucked in behind the two factory Hondas. Marquez and Pedrosa were making polite moves on one another through the middle of the race until Lap 17, when Dovi, having absconded with Marquez’ lunch money on Lap 8, went through on Pedrosa into a lead he would keep for the rest of the day.  Marquez later overtook Pedrosa to take second place, as Dani appeared to have shot his tires to pieces early in the race. It was not long ago that Dani Pedrosa was still relevant.

Last year, Marquez took the hole shot at the start and led for a full lap before Lorenzo and his Ducati went through into a lead the Mallorcan never considered giving up. Marquez flirted with the limit while trailing Lorenzo all day, simultaneously getting sandwiched by Dovizioso. Until Lap 9, when the Italian crashed out of third place at Turn 5, his day and season in tatters. This, in turn, promoted a trailing Valentino Rossi into podium position. Around and around they went. The order of riders didn’t change much for the next 15 laps. Cal Crutchlow snagged fourth, and the much-abused Dani Pedrosa pimped Maverick Vinales at the flag for fifth.

Quick Hitters 

Surprise, for those of you jocking fabulous rookie Fabio Quartararo.  Wrestling the Yamaha M1 thus far in 2019 has him experiencing arm pump, which came as news to many of us. Thus, he had the remarkable Dr. Mir operate on him shortly after Mugello, news our bookies failed to share. He expects to return this week. This Spanish layout will test his machismo, what with his forearms resembling compression sleeves stuffed with chicken breasts.

Your boy Jack Miller, having a solid season on a Desmo GP19, has recently been quoted as having had a change of heart, to wit, rather than demanding a promotion over the head of one Danilo Petrucci onto the factory team alongside Dovizioso, he’s now saying he’s got a great deal right here at Pramac Ducati and would be tickled pink, actually, to remain with the team on a two year deal commencing next year. This change of heart was prompted by Petrucci’s dramatic, awesome, scintillating maiden win in front of his homeys at Mugello last time out. Danilo’s win was even more impressive than it looked as we realized his job for the next year or two with the factory Ducati crew depended on his result. Dude had a lot on the line, had Marquez sniffing around his drawers, and Dovi right behind him. He held up. His machismo was in fine shape, thanks.

More to come on the Pramac team before next year, as Pecco Bagnaia has been promised a GP20, and Miller is unsurprisingly expecting another. This, on a team that has, historically, had, at most, one current bike on offer.

Mired in the worst slump of his career, a series of results that makes his Ducati foray look like raging success, Jorge Lorenzo was quietly hauled over to HRC HQ in Japan by Alberto Puig, Chief Apologist, Repsol MotoGP Team. The rest of what follows is pure fiction. The board of directors of the racing division sat arrayed around a semi-circular conference table. In front of the table was a single ladder-backed chair with 1.755” sawed off the front two legs and a single light suspended on a chain above it. Lorenzo was encouraged to sit silently in the chair, trying not to slide on to the pristine floor, while the nine Japanese executives glared icily at him for two hours. Not a word was spoken. Afterwards, Puig had Lorenzo flown back to Europe. El Gato claims that now everyone involved with his RC213V team is on the same page and he looks forward to competing for the podium in Catalunya…[crickets]… 

Your Weekend Forecast 

So, the weather for the Umpteenth Barcelona Grand Prix appears, from a distance, to be perfect. Spain at its best—sunny and warm, hot in the sun, cool in the shade. Of an umbrella.

The lower divisions are giving us some of this and some of that. In Moto3 Aron Canet and young Jaume Masia on resurgent KTMs sit 1st and 4th, sandwiching Honda riders Lorenzo dalla Porta and the dashing Niccolo Antonelli in 2nd and 3rd. It’s anyone’s title this year, at this point, and the racing has been, as usual, sublime. In Moto2, a resurgent Alex Marquez has chased down “BadAss” Lorenzo Baldassarri with back-to-back wins in France and Italy, forging a virtual tie for the championship after six rounds. Veteran Tom Luthi, returning to Moto2 after a nightmarish year in MotoGP, is right there in third, pursued by young hotshot Jorge Navarro on the only Speed Up bike in the top nine. Kalex, as usual, has led the league in their accommodation of the big new Triumph 765s, gripping eight of the top nine spots in the current standings. Anyone’s title again, but Marquez has a ton of momentum, and we should not overlook the fact that, despite what seem like years of underachieving in Moto2, he is still only 23. Both he and Baldassarri appear likely candidates to graduate to MotoGP next season.

For the fantasists among you who loathe Marc Marquez and/or Jorge Lorenzo, visualize for a moment what it would look like to have #73 and #93 in the same Repsol liveries in 2020.

Marquez brothers exhibition spin 2013 at Valencia

The Marquez brothers go for a spin at Valencia in 2014 after each won a world title that day.

I think it’s a bad idea to bet against Marc Marquez on Sunday. He clearly understands how close he has come to perfection this year, similar to 2014. The washboard in Texas and two photo-finishes with factory Ducatis are all that stand between him and a perfect season after six rounds. The weather and the crowd will be in his favor on Sunday. And they don’t call it The Marquez Era for nothing.

As for the remaining steps on the podium, I can’t help you. Perhaps a factory Ducati, perhaps Vinales. It would be the bomb to see Franco Morbidelli or Jack Miller fight with the lead group. With Assen looming in only two weeks and The Sachsenring just a week after that, we are headed directly for the turn into the summer doldrums, and Marquez is looking like he wants to break away.

I suspect Valentino Rossi would love to make a liar out of me. That would be great.

We’ll return here a couple hours after the race with results and analysis. This article, or most of it, should appear on Motorcycle.com later on Tuesday. Sunday results and analysis will be here a couple hours after the race and on Motorcycle.com later that day.

Lorenzo, Rossi blitz field in Catalan flashback

June 14, 2015

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

As qualifying for the 2015 Grand Prix Monster Energy de Catalunya closed on Saturday, one got the sense that The Usual Suspects might not make it to Sunday’s podium.  The ascendant Suzuki Ecstar team had crashed the party, seizing the first two spots in Row 1 (for the first time since 1993), while Aliens occupied spots #3, 4, 6 and 7.  The upstart Ducati duo of Dovizioso and Iannone were mired in 5th and 12th places, respectively.  On Sunday, eight riders failed to finish, but when the smoke cleared, the Alien Class of 2012—Yamaha mandarins Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, and Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa—climbed the steps, the cheers of 97,000 Spanish fans ringing in their ears. 

Jorge-Lorenzo-Smile-HDWhatever faint hopes double defending world champion Marc Marquez held for a third consecutive title ended on Lap 3 of today’s race when, frantically chasing Lorenzo from second place, he ran way hot into the sharp lefthander at Turn 10, left the racing surface and dumped his Honda RC213V in the gravel, his day and season done.  With Lorenzo having jumped into the lead on the first lap, and knowing what would happen if he let the Mallorcan get away, Marquez had no choice but to try to force the issue early.

The eerie stability of the Yamaha YZR-M1 this season, together with the frightening instability of the Honda RC213V, a hot, greasy track and the pressure on Marquez made this crash all but inevitable.  For young Marquez, two years of fried chicken has given way to a year of feathers.  Such is life in the upper reaches of the premier class.

Moto racing fans have now endured the pleasure of watching Lorenzo lead 103 consecutive laps, reduced to admiring the sponsor decals on his machine, as he has taken four consecutive wins for the first time in his premier class career.  Though he was shadowed by teammate Rossi over the last 19 laps of the race, there was never any real doubt as to the eventual outcome.

Rossi was once again the victim of his inability to master the “new” (2½ years old) qualifying format in MotoGP, having Rossibarely snuck into Q2 where he again foundered, starting today’s race from the third row.  Had he started from the front, as he did for over a decade prior to The Ducati Years, he stood a puncher’s chance of winning today’s race (and Le Mans as well).  Apparently, even for one as sublimely talented as The Doctor, old habits die hard.  With his lead in the championship reduced to a single point, the prospect of a 10th world title is now visible in the rearview mirror and getting smaller every week.

Elsewhere on the Grid

The odd assortment of riders scoring points today was brought about mainly by the carnage among a startling number of top tenners, including Marquez, Cal Crutchlow (second round in a row, on Lap 1, with an assist from Aleix Espargaro), Pol Espargaro, Andrea Dovizioso (second round in a row), and, sadly, polesitter Aleix Espargaro, racing two miles from the house where he grew up, crashing out of fourth place on Lap 21.  Consistent point scorers Andre Iannone, Bradley Smith and certain rookie of the year Maverick Vinales ended the day in spots four through six, while less certain (or downright dubious) riders Scott Redding, Stefan Bradl (?), Danilo Petrucci and Alvaro Bautista (?????) completed today’s top ten.

03-apriliaracing-bautistaMay the sports gods deliver me from the agony of listening to Bautista earnestly explain how, based upon today’s fluke of a result, he is convinced the Aprilia program is making great progress.  Seven of today’s eight casualties would have certainly finished in front of him (the lone exception being his downtrodden teammate Marco Melandri), putting him back in 17th place where he typically resides.  If Karel Abraham, injured in an impressive highside in FP4, had started and finished, 17th place would have become 18th, not exactly worthy of a humble, bright-eyed interview.

Moto3 and Moto2 Rocking

Today’s premier class procession, the tedium of which was interrupted only by the fingernails-on-blackboard screeching of breathtakingly expensive motorcycles grinding their way through gravel, paled in comparison to the heart-stopping action offered up in the junior class tilts.  In today’s first race, Brit Danny Kent padded his 2015 Moto3 championship lead with a brilliant series of toe-curling last lap maneuvers to steal victory by 3/100ths of a second over second place finisher Enea Bastianini, the top six finishers separated by less than a second.

The Moto2 race was a three man affair, with defending champion Tito Rabat, rookie Alex Rins and series leader Johann Zarco battling savagely over the last ten laps.  Rabat, desperate for a win to put himself back in the conversation for a repeat title, led most of these, dogged by Rins, until mistakes by both riders allowed Zarco the win, with Rins taking second and Rabat third.  Again, the top three finishers were separated by a single second.  Frenchman Zarco appears to have the inside track to this year’s title, but it is still early, and the gaggle of blueprinted 600cc bikes flying into the first turns of the world’s great racetracks virtually guarantees bedlam, as Sandro Cortese, Axel Pons and Xavier Simeon discovered the hard way today.

The Big Picture in MotoGP

For the factory Yamaha team, Round 7 of 2015 was a lucky #7, as it afforded both riders the opportunity to separateRossi & Lorenzo themselves from the field.  With Lorenzo and Rossi essentially tied, momentum clearly in Lorenzo’s favor, they lead #3 Ducati wild man Andrea Iannone by over 40 points.  Iannone, in turn, leads teammate Andrea Dovizioso by 11 points since Dovizioso, whom I pointed out last week never crashes, has now recorded DNFs in the last two contests.  For Marc Marquez, life has gotten so bad that he must now traffic with the likes of plucky satellite Yamaha Brit Bradley Smith, whom he leads by a single point after crashing out of three of the first seven rounds of the season.  Marquez is learning what my old friend Darby shared with me decades ago—good things come in threes, while bad things come in the millions.

Assen and The Sachsenring Beckon

17th century British philosopher Thomas Hobbes must have had Rounds 8 and 9 in mind when he wrote in 1651 that the hobbes_animnatural condition of mankind (presumably, MotoGP pilots toiling at Assen and The Sachsenring) is “nasty, brutish and short.”  [For complete accuracy, he should have added cold and damp.]  The annual MotoGP calendar has two sets of outliers—the cool, wet tracks in England, Holland and Germany, and the hot, humid and jetlagged venues in the annual Pacific flyaway.  The next month may prove adventurous to riders on early and out laps on cold tires in the narrow confines of Assen and Saxony.

The clear advantage the 2015 Yamahas enjoy in their ability to maintain corner speed will be minimized over the next month, a rare opportunity for the Hondas, Ducatis and, now, Suzukis to make some hay.  Jorge Lorenzo, a creature of rhythm and consistency, has both going for him by the truckload, and appears untouchable anywhere, from the rickety Wild Mouse rollercoaster on the Ocean City, Maryland boardwalk to the Bonneville Salt Flats.  The next two tracks on the schedule are his least favorites.  If anyone is going to challenge him for the 2015 title, now is the time.