Posts Tagged ‘Honda’

MotoGP 2022 Round 19 – Sepang

October 23, 2022

Bagnaia wins again; Quartararo on life support

The muffled, rhythmic, pneumatic sound you hear in the background comes from the equipment keeping Fabio Quartararo’s 2022 MotoGP title hopes alive. Mathematically speaking. People with a dog in this fight will tell you the championship is now down to an exciting shootout in Valencia, despite Quartararo’s indisposition. As if. Young Pecco must now endure another two weeks of nightmares, in which, being dogged by Quartararo, he crashes late in Valencia, and lies there in the gravel watching the Italian punk him and win the title. Whereas Fabio has had to endure a long late-season decline, Bagnaia’s deep set fear must be choking in his One Shining Moment.

Saturday

I was working my grandson like a field hand in the yard most of Saturday–paid him handsomely and fixed his lunch, gave him a few free secrets of life etc.–and so missed most of the action from the track. I’m now ignoring Moto3 and can’t stand the suspense of Moto2, so I’ll focus on the big bikes this week. This is, after all, where Fabio Quartararo’s dream of repeating as MotoGP world champion was going to go up in smoke, courtesy of a miserable second half of the season, a hand injury at exactly the wrong time, and the blinding dominance of the bikes manufactured by Ducati Corse. Marquez said after qualifying he is losing 3/10ths to the Ducatis in the main straight. The Yamaha is losing 3/10ths to Marquez. The writing has been on the wall for some time in the premier class. Fabio will not repeat as MotoGP champion in 2022.

Qualifying was another master class by two riders clearly at the top of their respective games, Marc Marquez once again, Pecco Bagnaia at last. My favorite interviewer, Simon Crafar, was in the booth today, observing that the Honda RC213V does not have a single winning characteristic, yet there goes Marquez, putting it in places no other rider can even conceive of, ending up in P3 for the start of the race. In Q1 with double zeroes on the clock, he steals a ticket into Q2. Afterwards, he is surrounded by the resurgent Alex Rins avec his soon-to-be-extinct Suzuki GSX-RR and another quartet of the damned Italian engineering marvels, starting in P1 where Jorge Martin calmly set an all-time track record (by 6/10ths!) in Q2. EBas sits in P2 looking frisky, with Rossi’s wild boys, Bezzecchi and Marini, sitting pretty on Row 2. Marquez gives the impression of being close to 100% again. His bike gives the impression it needs to be taken back behind the garage and shot.

For those of you keeping score at home, the top three contenders for the 2022 MotoGP title–Pecco Bagnaia, Fabio Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro–would be starting Sunday’s race in P9, P12 and P10 respectively. Disrespectively. How this happened would take a while to explain, but my theory of untimely crashes is coming into clear focus. I’m looking forward to writing the season recap, as events seem to be unfolding as expected, other than Aleix is probably doomed. Oh, and the fact that the north star of my predictions, and worldview, is on its way to being proven exactly wrong.

Sunday

There were moments in the middle of the race in which the tension was absolutely superb, moments which offered us a glimpse of the immediate future–Bagnaia and Bastiannini dominating the 2023 championship season–as well as my own vision of the future, in which Ducati Corse makes the decision to stop supporting all these random teams and simply becomes the engine supplier for the premier class, the rest of the OEMs reduced to Moto2 status, building their brand entries around a single engine. The superiority of the Italian machines is occasionally blinding and was on full display at Sepang after taking six of the top eight spots in Australia a week ago (minus the top two, for whatever reason.) Today a podium closeout was shaping up until Jorge Martin, who had destroyed a longstanding track record during QP2, casually crashed out of a comfortable lead on Lap 7, doing a reasonable impression of Warren Zevon’s “Excitable Boy.”

For me, the most interesting part of the race occurred during laps 9 through 14 when Bagnaia and EBas were arguing over the lead and young Marco Bezzecchi, spawn of the Valentino Rossi clan, suddenly appeared on Quartararo’s tail. The sitch at the time was if Bezzecchi could overtake Quartararo and Pecco hold on to win, the championship would be over. The announcers theorized that MB’s tires were going off. My own thought was that he was thinking, “Step three on the podium, or make the factory bitch win it on his own in Spain?” To me, it looked like he backed off, but that’s just me. Same way I looked at Martin’s off–my notes read ‘team player,’ promoting Bagnaia to the lead. Silly.

My new favorite metaphor for crashing out of the race came courtesy of Louis Suddaby, describing Bastiannini’s decision “not to throw it at the scenery,” a phrase which is bound to show up in future articles…By Lap 2 it looked as if we were going to see an electric face-off between Quartararo in P5 and Marquez in P4, but it never took place. Quartararo went through early while Marquez faded, as expected, ending his day in P7. It was a set-up ripe for controversy, had the two mixed it up while the Ducati contingent was busy getting away. Maybe next year.

Thinking about how Ducati has seemingly found a way to solve the economics of MotoGP, compared to the quandary endured by Suzuki, having experienced recent success but unable to make the numbers work for even a single team…Brad Binder, with his skeletal air, his shaved head and beard looks like one of the South African mercenaries so often found in modern action films. Don’t mess with him on the track… I had to post the photo of Carmelo Ezpeleta and Sultan Somethingorother, Carmelo, the Big Cheese of MotoGP, doing an excellent job of not sweating through his trousers, while the Sultan, Grand Gouda of the locals, looks cool as a cucumber in the equatorial steam bath…The rain expected by the announcers never materialized, to the dismay of fans like myself who love the entropy of flag-to-flag tilts…

On to Valencia

Before Round 18 at Phillip Island, there were five combatants–Pecco, Fabio, Aleix, Miller and EBas.

Before Round 19 today, there were four–Pecco, Fabio, Aleix and EBas.

Heading to Round 20 in Valencia, there remain but two contestants. The Italian holds every card in the deck; the Frenchman, with a broken finger on his left hand, can’t even hold the few cards he has. The Italian, with his fellow Ducati teams, will have, in effect, up to seven wingmen watching his six should the need arise. The Frenchman is all on his own, his teammate mired in the muck all year, the satellite guys ready and willing but unable to help fend off the swarm of Desmos. On paper, it looks to be no contest, Pecco riding the last two laps with one hand on the handlebars and the other blowing kisses to the irritated fans, who want, above all, to see a Spaniard on the top step and hear their beloved anthem one more time in 2022. This November, the contest writ large will not involve a Spaniard, not that the fans care that much. The rumor expected to be circulating in the stands at the finale will assure all those in attendance that, like the swallows to Capistrano, #93 will be back next year, and the anthem is likely to get a good workout once again.

See you in two weeks.

Brolly #1
Brolly #2
Sepang
These Frenchmen are incorrigible. Don’t do it, Johann.
Big Cheese and Grand Gouda.
Then there were two…

MotoGP 2022 Round 18 – Phillip Island

October 16, 2022

Fabio’s downfall continues; Bagnaia seizes series lead

MotoGP fans around the world enjoyed a feast of two-wheeled drama in Australia today as the 2022 championships–Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP–approach the last dance in Valencia next month.

  • Moto3 crowned its latest Spanish racing savant as 18-year-old Izan Guevara sealed his first grand prix championship in fine style, battling Garcia, Sasaki and Dennis Oncu the entire way. Guevara showed the world what he’s made of by riding his ass off for the win when he didn’t need the win to seal the championship.

In doing so, Guevara was able to avoid the awkward podium scene we saw back in 20?? involving your boy Jorge Lorenzo and one Marc Marquez. In the race, won by Lorenzo, Marquez had clinched the championship. During the podium celebration, Lorenzo was blowing celebratory gaskets, flexing and yelling about his nice win. Marquez, on step two, stood by, quietly watching The Lorenzo Show. After the anthem, Marquez and his team celebrated their most recent world championship. This was not a scene young Izan wanted to see repeated.

  • The reborn Alonso Lopez won Sunday’s Moto2 tilt by laying down a vapor trail around Turn 6 of Lap 1 and was never challenged, despite having to serve an Australian long lap penalty–similar to just going wide at a number of tracks–on Lap 3. The real action, involving the last two riders standing in 2022–Augusto Fernandez and Ai Ogura–showcased the volatility inherent in motorsports. Late in the day, Fernandez was cruising in P2, looking to put Ogura away while the Japanese rider was stuck in the mud in Single Digit Point Land. Suddenly, without warning or need, Fernandez lost the front and slid out of nirvana, while Ogura, limping home in P11, took over the series lead. For Fernandez, what should have been a 16+ point lead heading to Sepang is a four point deficit. Let Valencia decide.

MotoGP

  • The main event at Phillip Island in 2022 was exhausting, exhilarating, enervating and enduring and will likely be mentioned in conversations about the best races ever for years to come. My notes look like a process map for a Rube Goldberg device, arrows pointing up, down, and right, square boxes around crashers, deltas where standings were changing. When the smoke cleared and the cheering died down, Fabio Quartararo had surrendered his series lead to the increasingly inevitable Pecco Bagnaia (P3), who kept his composure while those around him were losing theirs. Let’s discuss. PS–Suzuki, with Alex Rins riding like a banshee, won the race today. One more turn of the screw piercing our sense of right and wrong, that such an ascendant program as Suzuki’s would be unable to continue their participation.

While the riders waited for the red lights to go out, Fabio led Bagnaia by two points; the Frenchman possibly distressed over the memory of leading Pecco by 66 points after Catalunya. The second half of the season has seen a steady erosion of El Diablo’s dominance; he has failed to score points in half of the last eight races. We are happy to speak of, and unhappy to observe, young Fabio’s descent into mortality, as we (and others) have seen it coming all year, #20 trying to milk all he can from an under-powered Yamaha M-1. He has been over-riding all year, holding on for dear life, trying to manufacture a winning recipe of his riding style with the bike’s strengths, but it has appeared to be a losing battle since mid-season. One fears that during the next two seasons, Fabio Quartararo will learn the lessons learned by all those who married for money.

Once again, for the third round in succession, Marc Marquez appeared ready and able but unwilling to challenge seriously for the win. In Motegi it was a mostly relaxed P5. In Buriram it was a rather leisurely P4. Today, he was firmly ensconced in the lead group all day, yet it appeared he was hovering or hesitating, resisting opportunities to go through on opponents he would have gleefully seized three years ago. Today, with a credible P2 he achieved his 100th grand prix podium. He tells us the new aero package in development for the RC213V is the way to salvation, intimating he will be back in full fighting trim next season. I, for one, would be glad to see it.

Alex Rins had one of those days riders dream about, in which he had the best bike on a fast track with the sun shining and the wind blowing and it all just worked out and he fought his way from mid-pack at the start into the lead group and finally into the lead and the win with a remarkable performance. It was one of those days riders might think of as easy, as if anything is really easy on two wheels at 200 mph. My friend Don tells me that 60 mph equates to 90 feet per second. Ergo 180 mph equates to 270 fps. So the guys can travel the length of a football field in a second, give or take. For me, simply breathing at 180 mph would be a serious challenge. We are glad to see Rins enjoying himself during a year in which his house came down around his ears.

Elsewhere in the top five, Bastianini struggled all day before finishing an uninspiring P5, still alive mathematically but dead in every other respect. His future, however, remains so bright he’ll need shades. Frightening to consider how good the factory Ducati team could be next year… Aleix’s late season fade continues, his seven points today not feeding the beast… Jack Miller got hammered by Alex Marquez on Lap 9, putting an end to his faint championship hopes, but allowing him an opportunity to jump the fence and party with his friends at the brand new Jack Miller Corner…Valentino Rossi’s two young guns, Marco Bezzecchi and Luca Marini, continue to impress during the second half of the season. Bezzecchi claimed P4 and Marini P6 today. This was Bezzecchi’s first visit to Phillip Island on a MotoGP bike and he was mostly sensational during the last half of the race, wearing his big boy pants, grinning at the veterans as he went by.

A lot of other stuff went on and you can read about it almost anywhere. Here at Late-Braking MotoGP we are looking for meaning, trying to find our place in the universe, seeing things through our little out-of-round lens. For us, Fabio is a one-man passion play, a champion and an underdog at the same time whose obvious virtue and competitive spirit are not enough to overcome the voracious appetites of the suits at Ducati Corse. Pecco is handicapped by his inability to recognize life-threatening situations, the result being that he either wins or gets helped to his feet by the marshals. When he retires, he should go into advertising. Aleix should be sprawled on the floor in a corner of his garage with a guitar, singing, “Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me.” After years of struggle, he once again allowed his heart to get the better of him, believing in mid-season that he had a legit look at the championship. ‘Tis better to have loved, and lost…

So, we’re down to it now. One championship decided, two to go. Moto2 is anyone’s guess, but I’m staying with my mid-season pick of Fernandez to finish on top. I was jocking Aleix during the summer break, just as my own sentimental favorite. Today, you have to believe Bagnaia will be the 2022 champion. He is likely to eat Sepang for lunch (while Quartararo struggles) and render Valencia meaningless once again.

We look forward to your comments and constructive criticisms. lol

 

 

MotoGP 2022 – Aragon Round 15

September 19, 2022

Fabio crashes, the championship tightens up, and Marc Marquez is getting flamed

Looking back over the season this coming winter, (I know, right?) one may conclude that Round 15 was the decisive race in a terrific season in which, with five rounds to go, there are still four riders with a genuine chance to title. My original thesis this season–that consistency (not crashing) would be the determining factor–is proving true. Almost. Somehow, somewhere, the law of averages is beavering away, tagging each rider with the “likely to crash again” label, others with the “hasn’t crashed enough, is long overdue” tag. Yes, that means that the law of averages is of absolutely no help in predicting the 2022 champion.

The race itself, in a nutshell, went something like this. Aleix, a few of the Ducatis, and rugged KTM pilot Brad Binder got off to quick starts. Marc Marquez, in his latest return to racing, failed to make it out of Q1, starting in P15. When the lights went out, #93 decided to damn the torpedoes and head for the front, carving up the field, elbows out, narcissistically unconcerned about the fortunes of the riders actually competing for the championship. (This is early on Lap 1, friends, with a full tank and cold tires.) In the thick of things (P7) surrounded by contenders, Marquez had a moment which resulted in championship leader Fabio Quartararo piling into the rear of his bike, parting company with his YZR-M1, going boom on the asphalt, down and out.

Poetic justice saw to it that the collision would render the #93 bike unrideable by Lap 2. Marquez discovered an issue involving his rear tire and a crumpled fairing by clattering Takaa Nakagami out of the race later in Lap 1. Having knocked Quartararo off his safe perch in the title chase, with virtually nothing to gain, he retired from the race, changed into regular clothing, and returned to the pits, to the catcalls and jeers of everyone not wearing Repsol black, red and orange.

Anyway. Most of the race had Pecco Bagnaia blazing the trail, with EBas, Aleix and the gritty Binder in hot pursuit. Mostly processional until the last two laps, when the prospect of the two fastest riders in the game on the fastest machine in the game becoming teammates next year came into sight, the 2023 team championship having become a foregone conclusion. With both riders able to summon fast laps late in the race, both able to conserve rubber at full race distance, MotoGP 2023 is looking a lot like F1 back in the day when Schumacher and Barrichello owned the world. Italian engineering on full display.

Essentially, Bastianini calmly put Bagnaia in his rearview midway through Lap 23 after dogging him all day. Aleix and his Aprilia passed Binder for the final podium spot on Lap 22. Bastianini, it seems, likes the effect he has on other riders when he’s on their rear wheel with two laps left. Pecco is as fast as fast gets, the second coming of Jorge Lorenzo in appearance and riding style. But he doesn’t seem to have the fire in the belly that his new teammate possesses. My money will be on EBas to win the 2023 title.

Here are the before and after shots of the 2022 MotoGP title, post Aragon:

Rider Points after Austria Points after Aragon 2022 DNF/DNS Manufacturer

Quartararo 211 211 2 Yamaha

Bagnaia 181 201 4 Ducati

AEspargaro 178 194 0 Aprilia

Bastianini 138 163 4 Ducati

All season long we have been saying, along with the entire Sioux nation, that Fabio would have to have what amounts to a perfect race every time out in order to repeat as world champion. And he has been riding the wheels off his vastly inferior Yamaha. But he faltered at Assen and got skittled yesterday, events which the Brits currently refer to as “wet lettuce.” Again, as predicted, we are sticking with Pecco Bagnaia as the 2022 world champion. Despite four DNFs, he has the wind at his back, while Fabio has contusions all up and down his torso from yesterday.

Looking at the upcoming tracks (not sure about Thailand) it appears the Ducati phalanx will enjoy Motegi (stop and shoot) as well as Phillip Island and Sepang, both long and wide. Fabio, being the Yamaha phalanx, may have a bit of an advantage at Buriram and Valencia. Unfortunately, I suspect that his performance in Round 20 will have little to do with the title. And then there’s Aleix, still in the hunt, still not having turned his RS-GP over after 15 tries. Overdue? Cautious? Blessed? A great dark horse for a wager if you’re into that sort of thing. If he maintains his season-long consistency, and both Quartararo and Bagnaia have another off between now and November, it could be an Espargaro wearing the crown in 2022. THAT would be fun.

I watched both races on the undercard. My only real interest these days is trying to identify future Aliens amongst the array of teenage prodigies toiling in the “lightweight” classes. In Moto3, I really like Izan Guevara, who is going to win the title this year and just turned 18 in June. Another fast kid is this David Munoz, #44, who just turned 16 in the spring and has begun terrorizing the grizzled veterans.

In Moto2 it was Vote for Pedro day again, as Acosta made a convincing case for returning to the presumptive Alien class in the foreseeable future. Despite breaking his femur at Assen, he has come back and, at least yesterday, looked again like he did in Moto3 last year, when he was tagged as a phenom. He will likely win the Moto2 title next year for KTM and get bounced up to MotoGP in 2024.

The first Asian flyaway rounds are coming up starting this week. Imagine having raced in Aragon and having five days to prepare/pack to travel to Japan and Thailand. Then a week off, then freezing at Phillip Island and, broiling at Sepang, where Pecco will clinch the title, before finishing, as usual, on the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

Damn, this is fun.

This from our mid-season report after Assen: The GasGas duo of Garcia and Guevara is, once again, putting a thorough Teutonic beatdown on the grid, same as Gardner and Fernandez did last year in Moto2. I fully believe Guevara is a future Alien and perhaps the most impressive of the impressive crop of young riders passing through the intermediate classes in the past 3-4 years. Young Izan should continue this trend, as it appears both he and teammate Garcia will graduate into Moto2 for 2023.

Rumors 5/8/2022–quick hitters

May 8, 2022

Motorsports.com reports that the Mir for Espargaro exchange is in the works.

https://www.motorcyclesports.net/articles/farewell-pol-espargaro-honda-opens-doors-for-joan-mir

Even better–Leopard Racing has made clear its intention to secure a two bike slot on the MotoGP grid, with Aprilia machinery, giving the world its much-desired Aprilia satellite team. This would fill the hole left by Suzuki’s departure at the end of the season. From motorsports.com.

https://www.msn.com/en-ca/sports/motorsports/leopard-racing-interested-in-replacing-suzuki-in-motogp/ar-AAWXhnc

At issue is HRC’s intention not to continue with the services of Pol Espargaro for 2023 and then create the conditions for a new rider to enter the team’s garage. The Spaniard is in his second season with Repsol Honda and, despite the improvement in his results compared to 2021, the truth is that the Catalan is still not impressing, with only two podiums and one pole position. 

Dubai Autodrome Racing bikes action as captured by KTdrones!

https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.513.0_en.html#goog_1557719161

00:00% Buffered

Espargaro, it should be remembered, signed for two years with a third option from Honda, but Gazzetta dello Sport reports this Friday that that clause will not be activated, leaving the rider free to choose his future in 2023.

At the same time, this situation opens the door to the entry of Joan Mir, a long time wish of Alberto Puig and who has already been in negotiations with the Japanese giant in the past. Mir was due to renew his contract with Suzuki, but an alleged decision by the manufacturer to pull out of MotoGP eliminated any chance of a renewal. However, now the window of opportunity has opened for the Mir/Honda marriage to finally move forward.

It should be remembered that Joan Mir is 24 years old and is one of the most hyped riders on the grid, much to the credit of the world titles won in 2020 in the premier class and in 2017 in Moto3, at the time riding a Honda.

MotoGP 2022–The Grand Prix of Portugal, Round 5

April 25, 2022

Hello, MOrons. I’ve taken the offensive comment by Steve Day and moved it just below this one. Please rake a look and reply to his comment as appropriate. You guys are the best.

* * *

It’s now Saturday afternoon. All of the action from Friday and today is complete. As race day approaches, the weather is improving and the times are dropping. Friday was Crash Day for the Ducati contingent, as four of their six stalwarts ended up in the gravel. Marc Marquez set the pace on Friday in the wet, showing us again that he has a big pair. Alex Marquez and Luca Marini, of all people, passed from Q1 into Q2, leaving names like Martin, Bastianini, Rins and Bagnaia behind. Bagnaia was shaken, not stirred, by a big high side in Q1; it appeared he may have lost consciousness, and my guess is he will be declared unfit to race before the lights go out tomorrow.

Q2 was run in bright sunshine, the track almost completely dry. Plenty of yucks in the last few minutes. Alex Marquez, celebrating his 26th birthday, held pole with 4 minutes left in the session; he would end up in P7. In order, the pole sitter parade featured, Johann Zarco, then Quartararo for an instant, followed by Joan Mir, Zarco again, and Jack Miller. Pol Espargaro was left chewing asphalt with less than two minutes remaining; the yellow flag accompanying his off cost Quartararo, then Marquez, pole. Once the clock hit all zeroes, the fun really began, as Mir, then Aleix, then, finally, Zarco, put down fast laps, although none came close to challenging Bagnaia’s track record lap from last year.

Tomorrow’s race promises to be madness, with Zarco, Mir and Aleix on Row 1, Miller, Quartararo and Bezzecchi (?) on Row 2, the Marquez brothers and Luca Marini (??) on Row 3, and Pol Espargaro and the factory KTM boys on Row 4. Farther back in the pack and newsworthy are Jorge Martin (off the first row for the first time this year), series leader Bastianini in P18 (???) Lorenzo Savadori (what the hell is he doing here this week with both Aleix and Vinales running?) and Alex Rins, sucking canal water in P23. Perhaps Savadori is racing this weekend because the Aprilia team has been hoarding soft rears and had so many they decided to waste a dozen or so on the hapless Italian.

Despite the troubles they had on both Friday and Saturday, Team Ducati still placed four riders on the front three rows. Martin and Bastianini, both in the conversation for the title this year, will have their work cut out for them on Sunday. My Magic 8 Ball tells me to keep an eye on Joan Mir, #93 and Aleix, upon whom my money is riding for podium honors for Round


Sunday’s race saw Fabio Quartararo become the first two-time winner this season, having taken the lead from Joan Mir on Lap 4 and cruising to an easy 5.4 second victory over fellow countryman Johann Zarco, with Aprilia Boss Aleix Espargaro taking yet another podium in his happy season. The chase for the 2022 championship is tight as a tick after five rounds, Quartararo tied at the top with the suddenly formidable Alex Rins, who carved his way from P23 at the start to P4 at the end. Aleix sits pretty in P3, a mere 3 points separating him from the leaders, A suddenly mortal Enea Bastianini sits in P4, five points “in arrears”, as the Brits say, to Espargaro.

Buried in the footnotes to today’s race–

  • Pecco Bagnaia, who tried to break his collarbone on Saturday and came damned close, hanging tough on Sunday, starting from P25 and finishing in P8. He and Zarco were the sole bright lights for Team Ducati, Jorge Martin having crashed out around Lap 6 and Jack Miller, chasing a podium, sliding off the track on Lap 19 and collecting Mir in the process. Luca Marini did finish in the points, while Marco Bezzecchi, starting from P6, worked his way down to P15 at the finish.
  • Marc Marquez, starting from P9, got lost in the sauce early, worked his ass off all day, and just barely beat little brother Alex by 2/100ths at the flag for 10 points. What the hell is Alex Marquez doing fiddling around just behind the lead group(s)?
  • With Miller and Mir getting skittled late, everyone trailing them got promoted two spots. Marquez, who could have started on pole were it not for teammate Pol Espargaro bringing out the yellow flags in Q2, might as easily have finished in P8. He thumped his noggin on the asphalt again on Saturday, but his diplopia, which may be becoming chronic, did not appear.
  • The first 1-2 finish for French riders since the Earth cooled.
  • Miguel Oliveira, the Great Portuguese Hope, finished in P5 at his home crib, but his name was only called two or three times all day.
  • Fabio is starting to resemble former Yamaha pilot Maverick Vinales. He is dominant when running in clean air at the front, but unable to slice and dice his way through the field like Marquez, Rins and Bagnaia. Accordingly, I make him a long shot to take the 2022 title.
  • Valentino Rossi showed up at today’s race, the first time he has graced the paddock since his retirement at the end of last season.

Loyal readers of this column will notice a comment recently affixed (approved by me) to the post about Simon Crafar and Steve Day from last year, in which I cast some aspersion on both gentlemen. Simon, since then, has impressed me, especially when he is in the booth during practice sessions. But it’s Steve Day who took time out of his busy schedule yesterday to insult me and, by extension, the loyal readers who follow this column. This after getting tossed from the booth by Dorna or whoever. I expect you MOrons to respond to Mr. Day on my behalf, defending me from the slings and arrows, etc. Mentioning the fact that he resembles Flounder in Animal House would be helpful as well. If you choose to defend me, might as well do it below, rather than paging back through piles of gibberish. I hope Steve will see that he started a bit of a MotoGP shitstorm.

Next week Jerez. I attended the race there in 2010; it was one of those memorable Lorenzo moments.

Cheers.

THUNDERATION—MotoGP 2022 Cleared for Takeoff

February 27, 2022

By Bruce Allen

[Note: The scurrilous opinions, mis-statements of fact and otherwise actionable slurs below do not represent the views of Motorcycle.com. In fact, we are surprised if they represent the views of anyone at all.]

MotoGP, the fastest sport on two wheels in the known universe, is back for what promises to be one of the most competitive seasons in history. Twelve well-financed teams. 24 riders, of which only a handful can be excluded from consideration for multiple podium appearances during a 21-round campaign stretching from the streets of Indonesia to the jungles of South America to the Gulf of Finland. And the machines, hand-built to inconceivable tolerances, with power-to-weight ratios comparable to strapping a pair of big Evinrudes on the ass end of a dinghy.

In the past ten seasons, only four men have claimed the title of MotoGP world champion. Jorge Lorenzo, gone but not forgotten, won it all during his Yamaha days in 2012 and 2015. Joan Mir, the young Spanish speedster with the girl’s name, claimed his win in 2020*, winning a single race in a season decimated by Covid. French heartthrob Fabio Quartararo became a world champion in 2021*.

The asterisks signify seasons in which Spanish king of kings, Marc Marquez, who won the other six titles during the period, was injured or trying to return from injury. It doesn’t require much imagination to suggest that, had Marquez been healthy, both Mir and Quartararo would have watched him claim his seventh and eighth premier class crowns. For those of you new to the sport, he is the Michael Jordan, the Tom Brady of grand prix motorcycle racing. Those of us who watched him during those years remain unworthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.

In 2022, having returned to full health (or close to it) Marquez will have his work cut out for him. There is more talent on the grid today than there was in 2013, and, despite his boyish good looks, he has a lot of miles on his odometer and is, in fact, a veteran rider. Not a grizzled veteran like my boy Cal Crutchlow, but a veteran nonetheless. He turned 29 in February, in a sport where eyebrows begin to raise at anyone over 30.

When Last Seen

The 2021 calendar was goofed up, again due to the Covid pandemic. There were a full 18 rounds, but it was cobbled together, with two each at Losail, Red Bull Ring Portimao and Misano. Quartararo won five rounds—Losail II, Portimao I, Mugello, Assen and Silverstone, coasting to the championship at season’s end. Upstart Pecco Bagnaia, the second coming of Jorge Lorenzo, captured four of the last six rounds to make the final standings look closer than they were. Ducati pilot Jack Miller won two early rounds, at Jerez and Le Mans, but failed to launch thereafter, going winless over the final 13 rounds.

Other winners included KTM’s Brad Binder at his home gym in Austria, and the wounded Marc Marquez, who, riding with one arm, managed wins at the Sachsenring and COTA, both of which he basically owns, and Misano II. In a harbinger of great things yet to come, rookie Jorge Martin, the second coming of Dani Pedrosa, recorded a great win at Austria I. And, in a footnote, the bedraggled Maverick Vinales, once considered the next great thing, won Round One in the desert and was hardly heard from thereafter. He switched teams in mid-season, falling out of grace from the factory Yamaha team and landing in a heap with Aprilia. He has gone from the next great thing to a trivia question, all due to the size of his ego.

The Off-Season

Since the final 2021 round at Valencia up until this week, actually, teams have been installing new riders and scrambling to come to terms with the 2022 iterations of their bikes. Rules governing what goes on in the off-season have been tightened drastically in recent years in an effort, I guess, to cut costs. Personally, what I learn each year from testing and the race at Losail is essentially nothing. IMO, Losail, for me anyway, marks the end of pre-season testing, but with the riders able to score points. Winning at Losail in March counts for about as much as the Cincinnati Reds winning their opening game in March. It has no predictive value.

The Grand Prix of Qatar has always been a strange choice for the season opener. They run it at night under gigantic lights, with sand blowing across the track. The racing surface is wide enough to tow a fifth-wheel trailer. March is one of the few months where local air temperatures are under 150 degrees. And attendance usually runs to about 1500 fans, most of whom are oil sheiks, crypto miners and political assassins. Not normal.

New Faces

This season starts with seven underclassmen, three sophomores and four freshmen. New to the premier class last year were Italian speedsters Luca Marini (half brother of the legendary Valentino Rossi) and Enea Bastianini, along with rising Spanish star Jorge Martin. The 2022 crop of rookies includes a pair of KTM guys, apparently chained at the wrists and ankles—Australian Remy Gardner and Spanish fast mover Raul Fernandez. These two don’t like each other, causing us to hope for a repeat of the hilarious scene back in the day when Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi shared a garage and had a wall built down the middle to keep them from gouging each other’s eyes out.

Two more Italians complete the 2022 grid, starting with Fabio di Giannantonio, repping the Gresini Ducati team. (We will be forced to refer to him this season as FDG in order to conserve our dwindling inventory of lower case N’s.) Last, and perhaps least, is young Marco Bezzecchi, filling the #2 seat on Valentino Rossi’s Mooney VR46 Racing Team. Marco’s coiffure suggests he thinks of himself as the second coming of the late Marco Simoncelli; I prefer to consider him the MotoGP version of Sideshow Bob.

The Machines

Oh, what a different couple of paragraphs this would be had motorcycle whisperer Gigi Dall’igna not defected from Aprilia to Ducati in 2013. Over the past ten years he has transformed the Ducati Desmodici from a rocket sled into the best bike on the grid. Anyone who wishes to question this statement should seek counseling. At present, were we to tranche grand prix motorcycles, the ranking would look as follows:

Tranche 1: Ducati

Tranche 2: Your mother

Tranche 3: Honda

Tranche 4: Yamaha, Suzuki

Tranche 5: KTM

Tranche 6: Aprilia

This season there will be eight (8) Ducatis on the grid. Were it possible, there would probably be 18. Seems every rider wants a Desmo, wants to blow up his rivals on the long straights. It’s as fast as it’s aways been, only now the riders can wrestle it through the turns without giving themselves colitis. And it appears to improve each year. By 2025 Ducati Corse could conceivably sweep the top three or four spots for the year. Wow.

Despite winning the 2021 championship, Yamaha appears to have slipped a bit; Fabio is the only rider able to coax results out of the M1, with Morbidelli starting to smell like an underachiever. The aging Andrea Dovizioso and whippersnapper Darryn Binder, called up from Moto3 where he wasn’t all that, on the #2 team appear destined for the lower links of the food chain.

Honda appears to have similar problems. Clearly, the RC213V has been designed around Marc Marquez; what manufacturer in his right mind wouldn’t? Pol Espargaro, the #2 rider on the factory team, keeps talking a good game and keeps not winning races. Sure, he managed a second place finish last year at Misano II. Big whoop.The riders on the satellite team, Alex Marquez and Taka Nakagami, show occasional flashes of mediocrity, but are second division contestants. The day either of them wins a grand prix I will buy all of you a good cigar. (How you split it up between youse is your problem.)

Suzuki, to my way of thinking, can’t really be taken seriously as a championship-level outfit without a second team to generate more data. Sure, someone is bound to point out that Joan Mir won the 2020 title for Suzuki, and most people I know were happy for him and them. But 2020 was a crazy, one-off year. And, in winning the title, he managed the top step of the podium exactly one (1) time. Nicky Hayden won the Taller Than Danny DiVito Award in 2006 for Honda with two wins. Just for the love of the game, allow me to compare Marc Marquez’ points haul in 2019 with Mir’s in 2020:

Marquez 2019: 420 pts  (19 rounds)

Mir 2020:         171 pts  (14 rounds)

Where was I? Right. KTM, which appeared to be an ascendant MotoGP organization in 2020, took a definite step backward last year, despite the rugged Brad Binder having captured his maiden premier class win at Red Bull Ring, his home crib. In 2020 the two teams managed 200 points in 14 rounds of racing. In 2021, over 18 outings, they scored only 205 points. There has been plenty of sturm and drang during the off season. Another year like last year and there’s going to be some serious Teutonic ass-kicking going on in Mattighofen. Just sayin’.

Which brings us to Aprilia, the racing organization made famous by having let Gigi Dall’igna defect to Ducati. Just think about what this tranche might look like had they had the sense to pay him. But without a satellite team, their brave annual pronouncements about this finally being their year generate choruses of yawns from the racing press. Please don’t tell me what you’re going to do. Tell me what you’ve done.

Everyone’s Favorite Segment

At this point in the 2022 season, tranching the riders is a fool’s errand. And I’m just the fool to take it on. But I’m only willing to separate the riders into sheep and goats. If you have a problem with this, I suggest you write your congressman.

Tranche I—Pecco Bagnaia, Marc Marquez, Fabio Quartararo, Joan Mir, Jack Miller, Johann Zarco, Jorge Martin, Aleix Espargaro, Brad Binder, Pol Espargaro, Raul Fernandez, Andrea Dovizioso

Tranche II—Alex Rins, Miguel Oliveira, Franco Morbidelli, Taka Nakagami, Alex Marquez, Enea Bastianini, FDG, Luca Marini, Remy Gardner, Maverick Vinales, Darryn Binder, Marco Bezzecchi

Our mid-season report will revert to the traditional format. Until then, I welcome your taunts and hoots.

Short Takes

Fabio Quartararo should have his leathers re-worked. Listening to him talk, he’s no more Spanish than I am. El Diablo needs to become Le Diable…Raul Fernandez is my pick for Rookie of the Year…MotoGP will change when teenager Pedro Acosta, The Next Really Great Rider, moves up next year. If he doesn’t title in Moto2 this year it will only be due to his having spent some serious time in traction…Jorge Martin is a rider to keep one’s eye on. Fearless and fast. He needs to concentrate on spending less time getting launched over his handlebars…Between his right arm and his damaged vision, we may have already seen the best Marc Marquez has to offer this sport. His lizard brain, the part firing the synapses behind his “Oh, my!” saves, may be slightly hesitant on the heels of two serious accidents…Pecco Bagnaia is my pick as the 2022 world champion, in case anyone asks.

The American FAA lists 234 miles per hour as “takeoff speed,” the speed at which an airplane leaves terra firma and begins its ascent. This is equal to 376 kmh. During FP4 at last year’s opener in the desert, Johann Zarco recorded 362.4 kmh on the main straight. The Ducati contingent, with their various winglet designs, will probably approach takeoff speed in the next two seasons. This could mark the invention of a new term in motorcycle racing—the overpass.

“Have a Take, and Don’t Suck”

This, for decades, has been the mantra of your boy Jim Rome. For internet journalists like myself (okay, internet hacks) our currency in trade is reader engagement. Late-Braking MotoGP has, for years, hosted informed, civil conversations, without the vitriol, insults and foul language found in most online forums. You, the faithful reader, have the choice of simply consuming our work or helping to create it by sharing your opinions, insights and reactions.

We don’t need lurkers. We need full-throated voices from riders, whether you agree or disagree with the silly, semi-informed opinions you find here. Are you friends with a Saudi assassin? Defend him here. Are you okay with me talking about your mother? Take me down a peg. This stuff is not the war in Ukraine. This is pure entertainment, offered to whet your appetite for MotoGP and to generate myriad requests to Motorcycle.com management to assign me more work. And trust me, I need work. So keep those cards and letters coming, kids.

I will return after Round 11 with some cheeky mid-season analysis. Until then.

* * *

In memory of Nancy P. Gillespie 3/19/1952 – 8/17/2021


 [BA1]

Dispatches from the front updated my

October 2, 2021

Reports on the Grand Prix of the United States, or whatever, from our erstwhile reporters in the field.

Screenshot (557)

Maverick Vinales, will miss the race due to a death in the family.

Buzz Says:

Day 1: The gully washer storm turned into blistering heat and humidity. I missed FP1. FP2 was great to watch because, as the announcers were saying, the Saturday forecast was for more heavy rain so they were going to try to turn their best times in FP2.

Marquez went straight to the top in the early stages and then the tops spot became Fabio, Miller, Pecco but it was all for naught. At the end of the session 93 turned in a fast lap and finished FP2 #1.

Rossi finished the session with a wave and a wheelie as the fans cheered. 46 gear is everywhere as usual. What will MotoGP do without him?

Saturday morning: Wake up to bright blue skies! No rain in the forecast but it is Texas so wait 15 minutes as they say. Gonna be smoking hot today but hopefully not as humid.

Buzz Says:

Picked a Pecco of pickled peppers. Kaboom! Great Q2 session today. It was 93,93 93 at the top of the board and then Pecco turned up the heat and came flying by our turn 15 grandstand and snagged the pole as time was running out. The first Italian to claim 3 straight poles since Methuselah in 2009.

Many more people at the track today compared to yesterday. No rain. Just blistering heat and humidity. Can someone please tell Texas it’s fall now and it’s ok to cool down? It’s amazing what these guys can do riding this hard in full leathers in this heat. I was in shorts and a t-shirt and feeling Verklempt.

Moto2 qualifying has been awesome. My small group even agreed the triples sound better than the diesels at speed. Awesome shrieking sound and incredibly fast.

Overall, another great day. The vendors and other activities are naturally reduced compared to previous years but everyone here is so cheerful and so pleased we get to experience this again.

MotoGP 2021 Round 4: Jerez

May 2, 2021

© Bruce Allen May 2, 2021

Fabulous Fabio leads a crowded group of young riders as the flying circus lands in Spain for the first of four (4) 2021 visits. Much of the pre-race talk, in my kitchen, in my head, centered on Yamaha and their riders, their plans for the future, and their prospects for the present, heading into the shank of the schedule.

1        Fabio QUARTARARO     Yamaha          FRA   61

2        Pecco BAGNAIA             Ducati          ITA    46

3        Maverick VIÑALES        Yamaha          SPA   41

4        Johann ZARCO               Ducati          FRA   40

5        Joan MIR                       Suzuki          SPA   38

6        Aleix ESPARGARO         Aprilia          SPA   25

7        Alex RINS                      Suzuki          SPA   23

8        Brad BINDER                 KTM             RSA   21

Any of the top eight would see his early season position scrambled by simply sliding out of a corner somewhere. At this point, it seems both Quartararo and Bagnaia have found their respective and considerable mojos. For the Yamaha racing project, one can find both good news and bad news lying around, depending on the date and location. Maverick was hot in Round 1, Fabio in 2&3. Frankie Morbidelli is experiencing a string of mechanical issues not seen since the CRT days. And poor Valentino Rossi, stuck with a bunch of unwanted SRT #46 gear, has seen his carefully-constructed edifice, that of the 21st century motorsports Renaissance Man, begin to crumble around the edges.

The latest speculation has Yamaha kicking him from rider to owner next season. The question then becomes–for which factory? Will the suits in Hamamatsu remove the Malaysian money from their satellite team in favor of Saudi money, with VR46 his damned self calling the shots? On the other hand, were Rossi to assume ownership of the Avintia Ducati team, he would have two fast young academy grads in the stable, his half-brother Luca Marini and Enea the Beast Bastianini.

For a new team owner with deep pockets, it is probably more difficult to find talented riders than a manufacturer ready, willing and able to provide competitive machines and crews. Rossi is a Morbidelli fan, so he would only have to find one rider for a VR46 MotoGP team. If I were Rossi, inheriting a Yamaha team with Morbidelli, I would snatch (lol) young Pedro Acosta from Moto3 and put him on an old bike for a year or two. Yes, young Pedro is Spanish, a character defect in Rossi’s view. But the boy has unearthly speed and a high racing IQ. In a world in which many of us try to identify The Next Great Rider, the next Marc Marquez, Pedro Acosta could be the guy. Not Fabio, not Mir, not Miller. Pecco Bagnaia—too soon to say. He’s finally getting with the program, with a riding style similar to Jorge Lorenzo. I’m losing interest in Alex Rins and Maverick Vinales. Rookie Jorge Martin, who seems completely likeable, impresses me as the new Black Knight of Monty Phython fame, who will spend much of his career on the injured list in search of wins, replacing Cal Crutchlow in that role.

Friday in Jerez

Marc Marquez managed P3 in FP1, removing any doubt that he is fit to race. He then took it on the chin at Turn 7 in FP2 with a heavy high side, putting him in the midst of Q1, same as in Portimao, shaken, not stirred. The chase in FP3 would also include Miller, Mir and Pol Espargaro, Alex Marquez and, inevitably, Valentino Rossi, looking fully washed up. Aleix Espargaro appeared to have something going on with his Aprilia in P3 after two sessions.

Saturday

The ‘haves’, after FP3. Notice Aleix and Bradl. Nakagami, but no Pol, slowest of the five Hondas. Marc Marquez tested his repaired arm with an impressive high-side at Turn 7. Declared fit (read: still ambulatory).

The ‘have-nots’. Jack Miller missed by a hundredth. Bummer, dude.

During FP4, Frankie Morbidelli got sideways with Race Direction and got shoved back into Q1, elevating Jack Miller to Q2, to his immense relief. Hondas and Suzukis and Aprilias were flying off the track at a formidable pace during P4, #93 sitting in P14.

Morbidelli dominated Q1, joined in his passage to Q2 by KTM’s rugged Brad Binder. Once there, however, Frankie made hay while the South African made squat. Ducatis and Yamahas occupied six of the top seven spots in Q2, with a front row of Quartararo, Morbidelli and Miller, fastest of the Italian contingent. Row 2 has Pecco, Nakagami and Zarco, for a little variety. Row 3 would feature the shifty Vinales, Aleix and Alex Rins, with Joan Mir, Binder and wildcard Stefan Bradl completing the top twelve. The Suzukis, becoming notorious for their failure to launch, can at least see the front row this week.

Further down the order, in Mudville, the likes of Rossi, Pol, both Marquez brothers and Miguel Oliveira would start Sunday from the cheap seats, their seasons not going according to plan during this first quarter of 2021. Pol and Marc we get, due to Espargaro changing horses and Marquez bouncing slowly back from serious injury. Oliveira needs everything to go right at one of his friendly tracks; Rossi, it can now be said, stayed a year too long. The only real difference between his bike this year and his bike last year is the paint job. The other three Yamaha pilots are getting good returns from their rides. For Rossi, 2021 is The Last Hurrah.

In Moto2, the front row Sunday would be

1        87      Remy GARDNER             AUS          Red Bull KTM Ajo            

2        21      Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO ITA          Federal Oil Gresini          

3        72      Marco BEZZECCHI         ITA       SKY Racing Team VR46

with Raul Fernandez, Sam Lowes and Xavi Vierge on Row 2. The championship is currently a three-man race between Gardner, Lowes and Fernandez.

After Q2 in Moto3, the best racing on the planet, it looked like this:

1        24      Tatsuki SUZUKI      JPN          SIC58 Squadra Corse      

2        52      Jeremy ALCOBA     SPA          Indonesian Racing Gresini

3        16      Andrea MIGNO       ITA          Rivacold Snipers Team    

4        2        Gabriel RODRIGO   ARG          Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3         

5        55      Romano FENATI     ITA          Sterilgarda Max Racing Team    

6        17      John MCPHEE         GBR          Petronas Sprinta Racing  

Runaway teenage freight train Pedro Acosta could manage no better than P13 in qualifying on Saturday. He does not appear to be someone who scares easily. He won from pit lane at Losail II. This, to me, on Saturday, appears to be no big deal. An annoyance, at worst. There are some hungry guys in front of him, who, thus far, have not caused him the slightest visible concern.

In all three classes, Sunday in Jerez held the promise of some classic competition.

Sunday

My boy rookie Pedro Acosta started the Moto3 race in P13 today and had to actually work to take the win, his third in four starts, aided by a brain fart from Dennis Oncu in the last turn which removed himself, Jaume Masia and Darryn Binder from contention and likely earned him a slap on the wrist in France. KTM has taken charge of Moto3, reflecting the enhanced resources available after the Austrian factory abandoned their works Moto2 program. Always good to see Romano Fenati on the podium, with young Jeremy Alcoba taking the third step. [I had written yesterday that Rossi should just hire Alcoba for his SKY VR46 MotoGP team now. Spent the entire race not wanting to have to re-write that part. As it turned out, nothing to worry about. Alien Under Construction.]

Moto2 doesn’t seem to have its usual luster this year. Perhaps it’s because the presence of so many Anglos—Dixon, Gardner, Lowes, Roberts—seems to lower the credibility of the division in a sport dominated, for 30 years by Latins. Rookie Raul Fernandez looks somewhat electric at times; certainly Steve and Matt get their P’s in a T on a consistent basis extolling Raul’s virtues. Sam Lowes has already failed in MotoGP; can’t think of anyone too excited about seeing him do so again. And I’m not convinced by Remy Gardner, as I take a dim view of nepotism in all its forms, the result, in part, of having grown up an only child with a non-entrepreneurial father.

Anyway, Moto2 offered a wire-to-wire procession led by Fabio de Giannantonio, Bezzechi taking P2 and Sam Lowes bouncing back to P3. For the year, Gardner leads with 69 points, followed by Lowes at 66, Fernandez 63, Bezzechi 56 and di Giannantonio 52. A somewhat dull race has produced a tight championship, which I’ll take anytime.

I still think what I thought in 2012—the Italian national anthem sounds like a drinking song.

As MotoGP began warming up, I joined fans everywhere wondering whether anyone had it in them to beat Fabio Quartararo. He loves him some Jerez, having taken pole the last four times out and winning there twice last year. Let’s be clear—there are many who have conceded today’s race to the Frenchman.

The MotoGP Race

Today’s race started out like a Yamaha clambake and ended as a Ducati dunk-fest. Jack Miller won his first race for Ducati and his own first dry race, not to mention Ducati’s first win at Jerez since, like, The Ice Age. With teammate Pecco Bagnaia, The Next Great Ducati Rider, claiming second ahead of Frankie Morbidelli’s Yamaha, it was a Ducati one-two, their first win of the year coming at a track described by Danilo Petrucci thusly:”If you’re fast at Jerez you can be fast anywhere.”

We don’t yet know around here what happened to Fabio Quartararo who, on Lap 6, my notes showed “clearing out.” But from there he was overtaken by Miller on Lap 16 and continued his descent to a P13 finish. I will wager that it is arm pump and that he will need surgery and will return in time for Le Mans.

LRC Honda rep Takaa Nakagami pulled everything together for an encouraging P4. Ahead of Mir and Aleix Espargaro, making the Aprilia look good. Vinales, Zarco, Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro completed the top ten, another gritty performance from Marquez. Around Lap 20 it appeared Bagnaia had a notion about going after Miller, after which his screen flashed “DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.” P2 at Jerez, for Ducati, is nothing to sneeze at, ignoring the whole Marquez asterisk* thing.

Funny, other than a cameo at Jerez last year, the last time Marquez was racing in anger he was up against guys named Crutchlow, Dovizioso, Rossi and Iannone. Now, he’s having to get himself together going up against Bagnaia, Morbidelli, Miller, Mir, Quartararo and more. Real competition from the KTMs and Aprilias of the world. The past year has brought a lot of change to MotoGP, and Marquez had to sit out almost all of it. The new bunch is young, strong and fast. Other than Rossi, who is now embarrassing himself, there are no riders out there just because they have sponsor money. Most of these guys can compete for top tens. And Moto2 and Moto3 are lousy with great young riders, some of whom are teenagers.

After four rounds in MotoGP, Bagnaia leads Quartararo by two points, 66-64. Then comes Vinales with 50, Mir with 49, and Zarco with 48, followed by Miller with 39, Aleix with 35 and Morbidelli with 33. Rins sneaks into the top ten with 23 points and a crashing headache, suffered at both Portimao and Jerez. Binder completes it with 21. Fans of Marc Marquez should be happy he doesn’t compete in Moto3, where 16-year old rookie phenom Pedro Acosta has already accumulated 95 points. As it is, Marquez trails Bagnaia by a mere 50 points. I think it would be hard to find many thoughtful people in the paddock who believe the title chase is over for Marquez for the year.

So, to recap. There is, at present, one viable contestant in Moto3, three in Moto2, and two in MotoGP. Surprising, isn’t it, how the best racing still takes place in Moto3. That everyone in Moto3 at Jerez knows that something wild is going to happen in Turn 13 on the last lap of the race. It did again today. Personally, I hope Pedro Acosta is The Next Great Rider and that he and Marquez get to go one-on-one while Marquez still has it. 12 year age difference. Marquez wearing, as always, Repsol Honda colors, while Acosta is wearing SKY VR46 Yamaha colors. That would be a season for the ages,

As for the season we’ve got, I’m loving it so far. Loving that it’s so wide open in MotoGP, loving that it’s regressing to the mean, ethnically, with Spanish and Italian riders re-asserting themselves in Moto2, and loving that a star has been born in Moto3, the first guy to have ‘can’t miss’ written all over him since Marc Marquez.

Two weeks to Le Mans where, if it doesn’t rain for three days straight, one feels lucky.

                                         Marquez warming things up in Jerez.

MotoGP After Round 3: Portimao

April 22, 2021

© Bruce Allen    April 22, 2021

In which we engage in some casual tranching and try to put the 2021 season, thus far, in something approaching perspective. With a nod to both Moto2 and Moto3.

Back in March, had I wagered that, after three rounds, none of the following riders would be found in the top ten, I expect I could have found some takers:

Frankie M

Thriller Miller

Pol Espargaro (?)

Takaa Nakagami

Miguel Oliveira and, of all people,

Valentino Rossi

And here we are, with The New Young Guns clearly running things in the top ten, other than what are likely to be temporary appearances by Johann Zarco and Aleix. The inmates done taken over the asylum. As predicted by most of you, back in 2018-2019.

But what about this lot? NONE of them in the top ten after three? What’s to say about them? Frankie has had mechanical issues for the first 10% of the season? How can Yamaha allow that to happen? Jack, the latest version of Marco Simoncelli, is so elated to be fast that he has become a hazard to himself and those around him. This is not to say that he is heading for disaster. It means he needs to assert his will on the Desmo, the way his teammate Pecco has. He trails #20 by 47 points; all is not lost.

Zarco (P4, 40 pts) and Rins (P7, 23 pts) seem to have trouble dealing with success. Also qualifying, as Rins has been on the front row in something like 6 of 66 races. Zarco could have been top three had he not slid out; same with Rins. There is no noticeable improvement in the 2021 Suzuki vs. the 2020 version; it will take a helluva rider, a Joan Mir, to coax enough points out of his Gixxer to give #20 and #93 a beating. Zarco has only himself to blame, having come into the race with two silver medals from Qatar, which he has since had bronzed for posterity.

The two Honda pilots, Espargaro and Nakagami, are on the outside looking in for different reasons. Espargaro, because he’s still trying to get the hang of the RC213V. Nakagami had a dreadful two rounds in Qatar before suffering a heavy crash in practice at Portimao and is currently being held together by duct tape and clarinet reeds. His star should begin ascending again in Jerez.

Miguel Oliveira won last year’s final race, in Portugal, leading me to expect more from him in 2021. The tire issues plaguing the entire KTM project have caught him as well. And Valentino, The Doctor, sporting four points for the season. He looks bad, having problems none of the other Yamaha riders are experiencing. There can be little doubt he should have taken his victory lap last year and called it a career. This is hard to watch.

Despite a win and a P5 in the desert, Maverick Vinales’ P11 at Portimao seemed inevitable. With all the potential in the world, young Vinales is so terribly inconsistent. This is not a characteristic often found in world champions. A female reader of this column has observed, that if #12 were here boyfriend she would have dumped him in 2019. The editorial team here has predicted that he will not spend his entire racing career with Yamaha.

Aleix Espargaro has a mediocre Aprilia beneath him this season, which is a large step up from what he’s been riding most of his career. He appears able to put himself in the top ten for the year, but it will be uphill all the way. I’d like to see what he could do on Vinales’ bike.

Brad Binder has been the consummate team player thus far, sharing with all three other KTM riders his considerable front tire problems.

The three riders as yet unmentioned in the top ten include Alien-in-Waiting Pecco Bagnaia, who seems to have come into his own after two seasons of underachieving in on the Ducati. The two rookies, Enea Bastianini in P9 and Jorge Martin in P10, have looked good and great, other than Martin having put himself in the hospital and out of Rounds 3 and 4 with a big high-side in practice in Portugal. He will, accordingly, drop out of the top ten in Jerez, which is okay, because dude has major stones and a bright future in MotoGP.

The Desert Tranche, after Round Two:

Tranche I —  Quartararo, Mir, Zarco

Tranche II –  Vinales, Rins, A. Espargaro, Miller, Martin

Tranche III – Morbidelli, Binder, Bastianini, Oliveira, P. Espargaro, Bagnaia

Tranche IV – A. Marquez, Bradl, Rossi, Nakagami

Tranche V –  Marini, Lecuona, Savadori, Petrucci

MotoGP Tranches After Portimao

Tranche I –   Quartararo, Mir, Bagnaia

Tranche II –  Zarco, Vinales, Rins, A Espargaro, Morbidelli, M Marquez, Martin

Tranche III – Binder, Bastianini, P Espargaro, A Marquez, Marini, Miller

Tranche IV – Oliveira, Rossi, Nakagami

Tranche V –  Petrucci, Savadori, Lecuona

Moto2 After 3 Rounds

After sailing home with wins in the opening rounds in Qatar, Sam Lowes reverted to form by crashing out at Portimao at Turn 1 of Lap 1, hence crashing into P3 for the season, in a tight three-man contest with Aussie Remy Gardner and rookie Raul Fernandez, who, according to announcers Matt and Steve, is the Next Next Great Rider. American Joe Roberts was hip-checked out of a second career podium at Portimao in the last turn by Gardner and/or Aron Canet—couldn’t see well—putting him in P7 for the season. American rookie Cameron Beaubier finished the race in a respectable P9, sitting in P12 for the year.

There appear to be perhaps eight or ten competitive riders in Moto2 this year. I would expect one of the top three to claim the title. Of the three, it looks to me like Fernandez is the only one to have a legitimate shot at a promotion to MotoGP in the immediate future. Lowes has been there, done that, while Gardner does not seem to be the second coming of either his dad or Casey Stoner.

Moto3 After 3 Rounds

Remember this name: Pedro Acosta. The insouciant rookie appears to have been born to race motorcycles. He entered his racing career before he entered puberty, racing at Estoril in 2018 at age 13. He double dipped last season, running in both the CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship (P3 for the year) and the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, which he won. Out of a combined 23 races, he finished first nine times, and was on the podium another eight times. Marquez-caliber numbers. He has earned 70 of a possible 75 points thus far this year in Moto3, making a number of grizzled veteran riders look, well, silly in the process. Dude is 16 years old as we speak.

I could speculate that Jaume Masia or maybe Darryn Binder could offer Acosta a run for his money later in the year, but I don’t believe it. I believe Acosta will be in MotoGP in two years and that he stands a good chance of being the man to shoot Marc Marquez out of his saddle within two years after that. I’m impressed.

MotoGP 2020 Portimao Season Finale

November 22, 2020

© Bruce Allen        November 22, 2020

Arenas and Bastianini join Mir as World Champions

On a sun-drenched day straight out of a travel magazine, in southern Portugal, Albert Arenas snagged his first, and last, Moto3 championship, edging Ai Ogura and Tony Arbolino, as it were, his P12 finish just good enough for the title. In Moto2, series winner #BeastMode watched from P5 as a great race unfolded between Remy Gardner, Luca Marini and Sam Lowes and ended with him being handed the 2020 trophy despite a conservative P5 finish.

In MotoGP, homeboy Miguel Oliveira won today’s battle, while 2020 champion Joan Mir retired with a mechanical and no worries, having clinched the title last time out. To have two world championships decided on the same day, with only a handful of points separating the top three finalists in each class, well, it just doesn’t get much better than this in racing.

Estoril vs. Portimao

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The two Portuguese tracks aren’t that different in layout. Portimao has the beautiful variations in topography, while Estoril has created so many memories over the years. Say the word “2006” to a MotoGP fan and he will, if his consciousness is sufficiently elevated, automatically think of Estoril. Pedrosa and Hayden. One thing they have in common is a long main straight ending in a difficult Turn 1, Estoril’s being somewhat more acute than Portimao. Watch Turn 1 in all three races, see if somebody doesn’t exit the premises.

Friday

FP1—What does it say about a track when it appears to be Aprilia-friendly? Aprilia in P3 (Aleix) and P4 (Savadori). WTF.

The rumor that Yank Joe Roberts could inherit Andrea Iannone’s seat with Aprilia after fellow Moto2 fast mover Marco Bezzecchi allegedly turned them down is tantalizing. An American in the premier class. The last to toil so was Ben Spies, a bit of a flash in the pan, and unlucky to boot, back in 2015. I hope Joe gets the shot and that he can carve a successful career out of motorcycle racing.

Saturday

MotoGP FP3 did its job on Saturday morning, separating the goats from the lambs. Four of the riders in the money on Friday were out of the money on Saturday, including Aleix, Binder, world champion Mir and top three battler Franco Morbidelli. Of the four, Q1 will be the most pressing for Morbidelli, locked in a cage match with Alex Rins for P2 for the year, leading by four but now having to make it through Q1 to get close to Rins on the grid. On a tight, windy course like Algarve, getting out front would be important, especially for the Yamahas, which do not like heavy traffic. It was mostly usual suspects in Q2 other than Stefan Bradl, who put Marc Marquez’ RC213V in P10. Homeboy Miguel Oliveira put himself in Q2 late in the session, looking froggy, like he might want to jump.

After an invigorating Q1, which saw sentimental favorite Cal Crutchlow join Fast Frankie Morbidelli en route to Q2, Saturday’s main event was typically engaging. Yamahas under Morbidelli, Quartararo and even Maverick spent brief periods on pole, with Morbidelli sitting on it for 10 minutes of the 15-minute session. But low and behold, in what Dad used to refer to as the nickel of time, homeboy Miguel Oliveira threw down a 1:38.892 to steal pole from Morbidelli, with Jack Miller completing the front row. A bit of significant weirdness found Stefan Bradl starting from P6 and Alex Rins from P10. Rins, one of the riders with skin in the game on Sunday, has his work cut out for him on this twisty, up-and-down track. Not even an afterthought—his name was called perhaps once during Q1—was Valentino Rossi, starting from P17, thousands of fans across the globe wishing he would just walk away from the Petronas SRT next season and get started on Chapter 2. For Methuselah, Chapter 1 is ending poorly.

These days, The Doctor is Just Another Rider.

Race Day

Moto3: Runaway Raul Rules Portugal; Arenas Enjoys Ice Cream Sunday

Late-season sensation Raul Fernandez went wire-to-wire today to win the Grand Prix of Portugal. A better start to the season would certainly have allowed him to challenge for the title. But a win is a win.

Of the top four finishers today, none had anything to do with the championship being contested. Of those contenders, Tiger Tony Arbolino had arguably the best day, starting from P27 (yeah, I know, right?) and climbing all the way to P5 before running out of tire and energy. Ai Ogura, second when the day dawned and needing to beat Arenas, solidly, to win a title instead managed only an uninspired P8. All this on a day when Arenas was having problems, making mistakes, getting overtaken every time one turned around, and ending the day in P12, appearing mildly abashed accepting the world champion trophy on the podium later on.

Ain’t nobody care. Dude has his ticket punched to Moto2 next year, along with Ogura and Arbolino, so the fledgling rivalry can continue, although likely lower on the food chain. His Wikipedia page gets a nice update and upgrade. The ice cream thing with Arenas I don’t fully get, though it played a part in his post-race celebration. So that’s not a typo in the headline above.

Moto2: Remy Gardner Wins From Pole; #BeastMode Seizes 2020 Title

Always fun to watch a rider earn his first grand prix win, crying during the national anthem and all, and Australian Remy Gardner was no exception today, outracing, then dusting, championship contenders Luca Marini and Suffering Sam Lowes and helping Enea Bastianini clinch the 2020 Moto2 championship. Plenty of overtaking all over the board, in a race Sam Lowes, with his injured hand, would have sat out were he not in the thick of the chase. As things turned out, he finished in P3. The good news is that all four of his serious rivals are moving up to MotoGP next year and he should pretty much have the Moto2 field to himself.

Aside from Bastianini, Marini, Lowes, Bezzecchi and Jorge Martin completed the top five for 2020. Gardner, in P6 for 2020, will return, too. Perhaps we can watch a couple of Anglos fight for the title in 2021 for a change.

MotoGP: Oliveira Dominates Wire-to-Wire in Portugal; Mir Backs Into Title

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So the MotoGP race ended almost exactly the way KTM stud Miguel Oliveira hoped it would, and almost exactly NOT the way Suzuki world champion Joan Mir hoped it would. Oliveira, taking note of Raul Fernandez’ performance in the earlier Moto2 race, took the holeshot and won unchallenged, crushing the field. Confirming that KTM is no longer some stepsister, but a full-fledged member of MotoGP royalty, deserving of the respect that all except Aprilia receive. Meanwhile, Mir, who experienced electronics issues during Q1 and started from P20, had yet more bike trouble today, possibly as a result of a hip check he delivered to Pecco Bagnaia early in the race that left the young Italian with a dislocated shoulder.

Similar to last week, if one is willing to disregard Oliveira, was the joust today between Fast Frankie Morbidelli and Jack Miller. Once again, Miller dogged #21 for most of the second half of the race. Once again, Morbidelli prevailed, the only Yamaha rider to get anything at all from the M-1: Vinales P11, Rossi P12, Quartararo P14. Ugh. For the year, the final standings:

1        J Mir           

2        F Morbidelli           

3        A Rins         

4        A Dovizioso           

5        P Espargaro           

6        M Vinales              

7        J Miller                  

8        F Quartararo         

9        M Oliveira             

10      T Nakagami           

2020 in a Nutshell

When the cat’s away the mice will play,

and when they do, they should play hard.

Though this does not qualify as one of the more poetic sentiments enshrined here through the years, it most certainly applies to MotoGP 2020.

Rider rankings after Jerez I:

Tranche I:    Marc Marquez*, Fabio Quartararo

Tranche II:  Maverick Viñales, Jack Miller, Andrea Dovizioso, Pol Espargaro, Franco Morbidelli, Alex Rins*

Tranche III:  Pecco Bagnaia, Cal Crutchlow*, Valentino Rossi, >Joan Mir<, Brad Binder, Danilo Petrucci, Miguel Oliveira

Tranche IV:  Takaa Nakagami, Aleix Espargaro, Iker Lecuona

Tranche V:   Tito Rabat, Johann Zarco, Alex Marquez, Bradley Smith

When Marc Marquez suffered what would become a season-ending injury during Jerez I, I had Mir in Tranche III, nowhere near Alien status. The unflappable Mallorcan saw an opening, one that literally might not occur again in the next five years and thought to seize it. He then went out and crashed in two of the first three races, Jerez I and Brno, with an off-podium finish in Jerez II to show for his efforts. 11 points in the first three rounds, Quartararo sitting on top, 48 points ahead. A good time to start thinking about next year. But after Brno, and despite a poor showing at LeMans in the wet, Mir was money. On or near the podium every time out. Quartararo and the Yamahas, other than Frankie Morbidelli, ran into problems during the season. Ducati had Miller and little else. KTM made some moves, but not enough to threaten anything. And Honda, without #93, was a shadow of its former self.

Any other year, a performance like Mir’s—one win all year—would have been plenty good enough for a solid P2 or P3. But this was the year that it could win him a title. Assuming Marquez returns next season—assuming there is a 2021 season—it is unrealistic for people to expect Mir to repeat. But he has assuredly earned his Alien Card, along with Fast Frankie and Thriller Miller. They and Marquez are the Alien Class for 2021. You heard it here first.

To my readers, both of you, thanks for following me again this year during what is becoming an increasingly challenging period. I miss the old days of deadlines and templates, but at least the racing itself was first-class this year. We will try to keep an eye on goings-on during the winter and look forward to returning in February. Peace and love to you all, and our best wishes for the Christmas season.

Local Color

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Gardner takes the lead from Marini in Moto2.


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Raul Fernandez ran away with things in the Moto3 race.


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Jack Miller, a bridesmaid once again.


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A preview of things to come later in the race.


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