Posts Tagged ‘German Grand Prix’

MotoGP Sachsenring Preview

July 9, 2018

© Bruce Allen. Exclusive to Motorcycle.com, which has high-rez images and snappy captions.

The field should be very afraid heading to Round Nine. 

If your name is not Marc Marquez, Round Nine of the MotoGP 2018 championship at the legendary Sachsenring in eastern Germany could not arrive at a worse moment. Bad enough that he put his hands on the throat of the 2018 title last time out in Assen, inserting 41 points between himself and Valentino. But to do so on the way to Germany, where he hasn’t lost since, like, grade school, is a little much, if you ask me.  

Is there anyone on the grid ready, willing and able to take on the juggernaut that is Marc Marquez at The Knockwurstring in 2018? Anyone? What’s this noise I hear from some readers about Rossi being happy finishing third? Rins and Marquez don’t get along great; perhaps the Suzuki guy will be feeling froggy. 

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An unfamiliar image, taken from the front.

 

Recent History in Greater Dresden 

The Repsol Honda duo of Marquez and Pedrosa were fast here in 2015.  How fast?  Marquez, back on the 2014 chassis he lugged out after Montmelo, led every practice session.  As they had in 2014, he and Pedrosa qualified 1-2 and finished 1-2, relegating the macho factory Yamaha team of Rossi and Lorenzo to 3rd and 4th place afterthoughts, respectively.  At least for the day. But Rossi extended his championship lead over Lorenzo to 13 points and left for summer vacation all pumped up.

2016 was a straightforward flag-to-flag affair, going from wet to dry.  Riders began pitting around Lap 7, exchanging their rain tires for Michelin’s intermediate or “taint” tire, for those of you familiar with the term.  Except for our boy Marquez, who pitted on time but came out on slicks, upon which he strafed the entire field in a great example of teamwork between rider and crew.  In a race like this, the rider doesn’t know how his #2 bike will be fitted when he enters pit lane; that call is up to the crew chief.  Credit chief Santi Hernández for having believed Marquez when he said, earlier in the week, “For us, the intermediate tire does not exist.” 

A year ago, The Sachsenring had been Marquez’ personal playground for the past seven seasons; he was due for a fall. Instead, the young Catalan survived some early muggings from pole, dropped back in traffic, methodically worked his way through to the front, went through on Tech 3 Yamaha homeboy Jonas Folger midway through the race and won going away. In doing so, he seized the lead in the championship for the first time in 2017. With the standings tighter than a nun’s knees MotoGP left for its seemingly endless summer vacation on a high note.

As we’ve observed before, Marquez owns every record worth owning at The Sachsenring. Eight consecutive poles, eight consecutive wins.  Fastest lap ever.  Sure, soon-to-be former teammate Dani Pedrosa owns seven career wins here, but the most recent, in 2012, is mostly history.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Marquez and his RC213V leave for summer vacation having gone nine-for-nine in Germany. Your basic master of his craft working with a great machine and a great team in the prime of his career at a track he loves. Rarely beats himself. Like him or not, it’s an amazing thing to watch when he has it hooked up. The only thing left to add to his vast array of tools and skills is the chin slider, which will complete the mosaic of rider, bike and track.

Riders We Neglected to Slander After Assen

Pramac Ducati tough guy Danilo Petrucci, who arrived in the Netherlands fifth in the world. His luckless weekend ended when he crashed out of, like, 13th position on Lap 18. He is now tied for eighth with Andrea Iannone. He was doing great before we pointed out that he was doing great. The group of riders (below) characterized as Looking for Work in 2019 compiled, at Assen, two DNFs (Abraham and Simeon), 20th (Luthi), 19th (Nakagami), 17th (Smith), 16th (Rabat), and, somehow, Bautista in ninth. We will overlook Dani Pedrosa’s heartbreaking weekend. But Cal Crutchlow, who qualified on the front row, as well as Johann Zarco and Jack Miller seemed to be the only fast movers who didn’t lead Assen 2018 at some point.

Crutchlow closeup

Cal Crutchlow needs a podium.

Prediction Takes Some Shade at Assen

My “track records falling like dominoes” string came to a halt at Assen, with Marquez’s qualifying lap (1’32.791) failing to better Rossi’s fluky 2015 lap of 1’32.627. Sure, some writers would call this a rounding error and improve their stats by declaring it practically a win. Not around here we don’t. I go from 4-for-5 to 4-for-6–.667, still Hall of Fame numbers. Track records are getting challenged almost every time out. Just sayin’.

It’s Almost Official—22 Bikes on Grid in 2019-20

With the announcement that the Aspar team will leave Ducati to become the Petronas SIC Yamaha satellite team commencing next year, it appears to be curtains for the Marc VDS contraption. Speculation as to whom will be riding the new team’s “not quite fully up-to-date” M1s centers on Dani Pedrosa and Franco Morbidelli. One keeps hearing whispers that Pedrosa may, in fact, still retire, which would reportedly elevate one Alvaro Bautista to second chair, the boy toy once again landing on his feet in an unbelievable way. Loyal readers will recall that Bautista, loathed by Italian Fausto Gresini in 2011, was on his way out the MotoGP door until Marco Simoncelli lost his life in Sepang, leaving Gresini without a rider at all heading into 2012 and forcing him to swallow the alliance with the Spanish narcissist Bautista. Aspar could find himself in the same situation although, being Spanish, it wouldn’t be as painful. And OK, Bautista’s been Tranche Three for a few rounds.

Pretty sure it will be Pedrosa and Morbidelli. Pretty sure that Abraham, Bautista, Tom Luthi, Taka Nakagami, Brad Smith and Tito Rabat are looking hard right now for 2019 gigs. I thought I heard Simeon has a two-year contract/rider option. Scott Redding chooses half a loaf and agrees to testing with Aprilia. In case another full-grown rider comes along some day.

Pretty sure, too, that a Rossi-led SKY VR46 will become the satellite Yamaha team starting in 2021. (Perhaps the factory team.) Mr. Jorge Martinez seems to have bought himself two years to find another gig. Suzuki? Aprilia? Suzuki needs a satellite team like now, as their concessions, as of next year, appear to be toasting. And Ducati must have wanted to trim the 2019 roster; what better place to start than the shoestring operation that is Team Angel Nieto, and its deluxe duo of riders, Karel Abraham and Alvaro Bautista. Bye Felicia. Cull the herd.

If and when the grid returns to 24 riders, I fully expect the newbies to be these speed merchants from Moto2 and Moto3, guys like Jorge Martin, Lorenzo Baldassarri, and Xavier Vierge. These guys, with their reflexes and aggressiveness, will likely enjoy success in MotoGP, since the bikes are getting better and better, closer and closer. They will join November grads Miguel Oliveira, Peco Bagnaia and Joan Mir. Guys will be able to make reputations in a hurry in the next 3-5 years.

Leading the chase for, you know, second place.

Your Weekend Forecast

If you believe that a win on Sunday for #93 is inevitable, the most you can hope for are interesting weather and track conditions. Like your basic life sandwich, your only real choice is whether you want it on wheat or white. Alas, writing on Monday, rain is in the forecast until Thursday, when perfect conditions take over—high 70’s and sunny all weekend. Comfortable air but high track temps. Honda weather. Great.

There is no obvious reason not to expect Marquez to be standing on the top step of the podium on Sunday afternoon. There is no obvious reason to expect the Yamahas to do well here. The Ducatis have struggled here in years past. If the Hondas are to have things their way, I would expect to see Crutchlow on the podium with Marquez. Alex Rins is in “podium or bin” mode. Although I can see Valentino Rossi in third, I cannot see him genuinely happy about it.

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Alex Rins with his game face.

MotoGP Sachsenring Preview

July 3, 2012

An edited version of this article will appear on Motorcycle.com on Thursday, complete with high quality images.  Until then please enjoy this preview of the German Grand Prix.

Pedrosa, Stoner and Lorenzo Square Off in Bavaria

Repsol Honda’s #1 rider, Casey Stoner, is a lucky man.  He’s famous, young, and wealthy, has a beautiful wife and daughter, and reigns at the top of his chosen profession, doing what he loves, or at least likes.  While he may have lost his passion for racing, it still beats working for a living.  Thanks to the vastly ill-considered antics of San Carlo Honda’s Alvaro Bautista at Assen last week, Stoner is also back in contention for the world championship.  Lucky and good is a wicked combination.

The Sachsenring is one of those old world venues surrounded by tidy Teutonic villages and soaring peaks straight out of The Sound of Music.  Between 1962 and 1971 it hosted the East German Grand Prix, which sends a bit of a jangle up the spines of people old enough to remember the old Soviet Bloc.  After a bit of a political flap in ’71, the German Grand Prix bounced around a number of venues until 1998, when improvements at the Sachsenring lured the MotoGP race, and where it has been held every year since.  Organizers recently signed an extension of the contract with Dorna through 2016.  Dass ist eine gute sache, nicht wahr?

Recent History

The 2009 German Grand Prix was one for the ages.  That was the year Casey Stoner suffered from what came to be diagnosed as lactose intolerance.  By mid-season he was starting races like a house on fire, but would run out of gas, as it were, usually finishing well off the podium.  In Germany that year, he led the first 17 laps, at which point the Battle of the Factory Yamahas commenced.  Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, teammates and bitter rivals, went hard at each other for the next 13 laps, Rossi ultimately winning by just under a tenth.  Dani Pedrosa finished 3rd that year, a relatively poor showing for him, as we shall presently see.

The fans got their money’s worth in 2010, enjoying two races in one afternoon.  LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet’s had his leg broken in two places and his bike destroyed as Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista and Pramac Racing’s Aleix Espargaro were able to avoid neither bike nor rider when the Frenchman went down on Lap 9.  The race was red-flagged.  After the re-start, Pedrosa took command early and eventually finished comfortably ahead of Lorenzo and Stoner, followed by Rossi, who made a very macho early return from injuries suffered at Mugello several weeks previous.

Last year, it was “déjà vu all over again” as Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Stoner finished 1-2-3, although the final standings were in doubt until the last lap.  Pedrosa ended up edging Lorenzo by 1.4 seconds, while Lorenzo punked eventual world champion Stoner and his Repsol Honda by a tenth at the flag.  This was Round 9 last year, at which point Stoner led Lorenzo for the title by a mere 15 points.  From there, Stoner went on to three consecutive wins, with Lorenzo collecting two seconds and a fourth, and that was that.

Of the three major contenders, Pedrosa has the best history in Saxony with a remarkable five wins in eight starts across both the 250cc and premier classes.  Stoner’s first and only win occurred in 2008, and Lorenzo has never won at the Sachsenring in any class, in ten tries.  Finishing second each of the last three years must stick in his throat like a bone.  Our crack research staff is busy scouring the archives to find any other current MotoGP tracks at which Lorenzo has been, um, stoned.  Check back for the results of their hard work…well, never.  You probably don’t care all that much and they don’t really exist anyway.

Final Reflections on Bautista, Lorenzo and the Big Picture

A few half-crazed conspiracy theorists out there are promoting the idea that Bautista’s unseating of Lorenzo at Assen was part of a vast and implausible plot hatched at HRC headquarters in Asaka.  Their “reasoning” is that HRC would gladly make a sacrificial pawn of satellite rider Bautista in order to advance the championship prospects of factory stud Casey Stoner.  This goofy notion does, however, recognize the cozy working relationship between HRC and Fausto Gresini, who seems to enjoy way more factory perks than do the poor French schlubs at LRC.  In any case, we will not dignify the wild speculations of a few fevered motorheads over what was, in truth, a rather ordinary crash.  The layout at Estoril is similar to that at Assen, and these kinds of first-turn crashes happen all the time in Portugal.

Let’s not forget the uproar that took place last year at Jerez when Valentino Rossi, in only his second race on the factory Ducati, clipped Stoner from behind, putting a major damper on the Australian’s early season prospects.  Stoner, you will recall, had opened the season with a mildly surprising win at Losail in his first race on the Honda RC212V.  Thinking that 2011 might be his year, his fans were OUTRAGED that Rossi would ride in such a reckless and feckless manner.  Catastrophizers immediately assumed that Vale had trashed any chance Stoner might have had of repeating as world champion.  This, clearly, was an over-reaction, and mirrors the response to Bautista’s atypical wreck.  Stoner went on to win the title last year, and Lorenzo will probably do the same this year, as his M1 is smoother and easier to handle than the RC213V.

My only comment should not be construed as an ethnic slur, but here it is.  A rider carelessly taking a championship-leading Australian out of a race gets his wrist slapped by Race Direction.  A rider taking a Spaniard out of the championship lead in similar fashion is sent to the woodshed and thence to the last slot on the grid.  I’m not suggesting that Bautista should not have been penalized for his carelessness, as lives and careers are at stake in this game.  I’m just suggesting that Rossi, too, should have paid some kind of price for his equally ill-advised move on Stoner.  Just sayin’…

What Does Dorna Know that Rossi Doesn’t?

Final thoughts this week concern the curious comments offered up by Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta last week concerning Valentino Rossi’s future MotoGP prospects.  In an interview with Omnicorse.it, Ezpeleta was quoted as saying, “I am calm. Valentino next year will be riding a competitive bike, but I [can’t] tell you what it is. It is still too early to talk about: in 2013 we will see Rossi fight for the win… again.”  When asked about the statement, Rossi’s response was to play dumb, as if to say, “I will?”

Surely Rossi has a number of irons in the fire concerning 2013 and beyond, but for now he is sticking with the story that he is 100% committed to improving the Ducati.  Ezpeleta, whose behavior reminds me of Bernie Ecclestone more each year (and that’s no compliment) may be making it harder for The Doctor to keep his intentions under wraps than it might otherwise be.  We should know sometime next month where Rossi will end up.  Until then, we’ll have to endure the pain of watching him struggle to finish in the top eight each week.  How the mighty have fallen.


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