Posts Tagged ‘Jack Miller’

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 Round 17: Buriram

October 2, 2022

We here at Late-Braking MotoGP have admittedly become something of a clanging gong on the subject of Fabio Quartararo and the likelihood of his repeating as world champion in 2022. Such concerns arrived in full force today in the steam bath that is Buriram, in a part of the world that offers one a choice of climatic conditions. Not a range, mind you, but a choice–heat found only on hell’s front porch or torrential downpours that raise the humidity above 100%. These come and go with reckless abandon, causing events such as we saw today in Round 17.

Doesn’t the editorial We above sound better than some mope sitting at his kitchen table clattering away about stuff he doesn’t really understand?

Screenshot (476)

I suppose I should mention somewhere that Miguel Oliveira won the race.

I have our crack research staff examining 2022 records for help answering the following question: Is a rider’s fate on Sunday largely decided by the events in FP3 and Q1, or are you stupid? Of course it’s decided on Saturday, from top to bottom. I’ve decided I love the current qualifying format in that it is progressively Darwinian. You have to make the top 10 in the combined FP1 – FP3 sessions. If you fail to do so, it is imperative that you battle through Q1 to make it to Q2. [When was the last time a rider won in MotoGP starting outside the top 12? The nerds are looking into that, as well. No they’re not.] Once in Q2, it is ultra-helpful if the rider can finish the session above the 50th percentile, i.e., in the first two rows. Only then does one get a credible chance for the win.

One example of this (not a very good one) was Johann Zarco today, who got pistol-whipped at the start from P5 and spent his day trying to get his wipers to work in traffic, with a notable lack of success. Until Lap 15, when he laid down the first of five consecutive fastest race laps and put himself up with the big dogs for the last half dozen. He would overtake Marquez, who appeared to develop grip issues late in the day, but was unable to penetrate Bagnaia for a place on the podium. Likewise, Marquez missed a decent chance to capture his 100th career podium, but he looked fit doing it. He barged into a couple of riders along the way today, but escaped penalty, unless he’s the rider given three extra seconds for bashing directly into Marco Bezzecchi without so much as a by your leave on Lap 8. Just sayin’.

I guess what I’m suggesting is that my idea back in 2008 when the Indianapolis round was busy failing due to Hurricane Ike that new venues, like the IMS at the time, offer free admission on the first Saturday of racing. Give the uninitiated a dozen or so sessions during the day, saving the best for last. In the absence of a tropical depression, such a promotion could have brought 150,000 paid admissions on Sunday; it would have instantly become the best-attended race on the calendar. A full day of MotoGP, all three classes, is enough to get any 4 wheel gearhead interested in two-wheeled racing. Although the thought of offering free admission on Saturday during the dubious India round could result in six or seven million people crashing the gates. Not a great idea after all, I suppose.

Today’s race was highlighted by the fact that the riders had virtually no practice time whatsoever, at all, no how no way. None. A couple of extra sighting laps before the race. The notable mudders on the grid–Miller, Oliveira, Marquez, Alex (!) Marquez, Zarco–were going to have a good day, being veterans comfortable on rain tires. Oddly, rookie and Valentino Rossi protégé Marco Bezzecchi took pole on Saturday, joined by Jorge Martin and Pecco Bagnaia for an all Ducati front row. Duc Duc Duc. Young Marco took the hole shot and proceeded to get mauled by pretty much everyone, ending his day in P16.

By Lap 4, Jack Miller had established a clear but unconvincing lead, with KTM wet weather ace Miguel Oliveira sniffing around his tailpipe. Oliveira took P2 from Bezzecchi on Lap 7 and seized the lead from Miller on Lap 8 as Aleix Espargaro was being assessed a long lap penalty for, as I understand it, “being kind of an asshole all day,” as it said in the FIM press release. I overheard the announcers say that someone had been assessed a three-second penalty for conduct unbecoming, but missed the rider’s name. One of you, I’m sure, will inform me. Wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was #93.

Quartararo’s day was awful in several ways. He gave up 16 of his 18 point lead and now is in a dogfight with Bagnaia for the title. Aleix sits in third, any momentum he enjoyed early in the season largely gone. EBas had a quiet P6 today, his ten points taking him to within 18 of Bagnaia. And along comes Jack, suddenly, having secured 45 points in the last eight days, sitting in a somewhat menacing P5. Conceding the win to Oliveira late in the race, Miller appeared somewhat circumspect about the prospect of trading paint with the rider he will replace on the KTM factory team next season.

For me, the highlight of the day occurred after the conclusion, when Simon Crafar, World’s Worst Interviewer, was sufficiently at sea, all deer in headlights, such that he could only manage to ask Pecco, “How happy are you?” I suspect Simon is moonlighting for some magazine, maybe Us or Forever21, and that he bootlegs these clips into articles about relationships and feelings and leather.

OK. I heard Matt Birt allude to the possibility the 2022 title could be decided in Valencia. So, we Dummies, we Morons, can look forward to that prospect today, when six weeks ago it seemed unlikely. Reality, it seems, has caught up with your boy Fabio and I’m afraid it’s downhill from here. Phillip Island and Sepang are happy hunting grounds for the Ducati phalanx. As usual, the primary question remains, “Who is composed enough to stay out of the gravel during the last four rounds?” Which is why we watch this stuff. I wish I had it in me to share my thoughts on Moto3 and Moto2 today. All I can say at this time is that the Moto2 race was shredded by the weather and, accordingly, for the first time in my memory, awarded half points to the riders of the truncated fiasco. The main beneficiaries of this decision, it would appear, are the bookmakers who can now avoid pushes using full point spread increments. There’s a sentence in there somewhere.

A week off before heading out to Australia and Malaysia. It appears plausible to believe 2022 will be one of those years when two riders head to Valencia within three points of one another, perhaps with a third another ten points back. A race in which the three riders will push all of their chips into the middle of the table, look each other in the eye, and say, “All in.” The guys who are making the videos recapping each MotoGP season will get their teeth into the jangling nerves and rampant obsessive compulsive disorders on display behind the scenes in Valencia on Friday night. One guy on the team stress-refreshing the Accuweather forecast. Fabio getting his roots done. Vinales on the phone for two hours with his infant daughter discussing race strategy. Jack Miller getting well into the beer before arm-wrestling members of his team. The young VR46 guns, Marini and Bezzecchi and Bastiannini, sitting with The Great Rossi listening to stories about 2008, barely able to keep their eyes open other than the breathtaking number of, um, encounters with, ahem, female admirers.

The hits just keep coming in MotoGP. Stay tuned for more up-to-date expressions of wild speculation.

MotoGP 2022 Round 16: Motegi

September 25, 2022

Jack Miller dominates; Quartararo extends series lead

The 2022 Japanese Grand Prix, after getting skipped by The Powers That Be for the last two years, gave the fans an odd little race. The kind of race it was today: Series leader Fabio Quartararo, stuck in the mid-pack mud all day, finished in P8 and extended his series lead. Everyone’s favorite underdog, Aleix Espargaro, got undone on the sighting lap, something terminal with the electronics on his Aprilia, forcing him to pit, drop his bike, jump on his #2 bike, and start from pit lane in a distant P25. Aleix rode his ass off all day only to finish in P16, pointless.

Factory Ducati pilot Pecco Bagnaia, he of the gi-normous expectations heading into the season, found himself slugging it out in the aforementioned mud with his rival, series leader Quartararo, on the final lap. Young Pecco choked on the lowside, trudging through the gravel, clapping his hands in mock appreciation for what he later implied was an error by someone on his crew. Oh, and factory Ducati #2 pilot Jack Miller owned the place all weekend, seized the lead in today’s race on Lap 3 when he went through on Pramac brother-in-arms Jorge Martin and proceeded to lay down a Marquez-esque vapor trail on his way to his fourth win in the premier class.

Ducati did well, as expected, today. Placed five machines in the top ten and two on the podium. Gigi–gotta love this guy–sitting in the garage during the race, looking relaxed, wondering whether he should order more tiramasu. There was a point in the race when Matt Birt stopped to observe that he had just seen a Ducati turn inside a Yamaha for the first time ever. Having seen the results before watching the tape, on Lap 23 I wrote, “KITTENS COMING,” in anticipation of the meltdown Matt and Louis would suffer watching Pecco coming unglued on the last lap. Sure enough, right on cue, here they came. I could only be thankful that Steve Day is no longer in the booth, as he was always the one having kittens.

Fabio may be The Blessed Rider again this year; if so, it would represent a truly great season-long body of work on a sadly inferior machine. But really, he struggled all day to manage P8 which would have been P9 had Pecco not surrendered to the laws of physics. Aleix had the best qualifying of the four contenders in P6 prior to the debacle at the start. EBas started from P15 before finishing in P9. And Bagnaia hamstrung himself today by slogging to a P12 during Qualifying #2. It appears that most of our fearless leaders are feeling the pressure of having a premier class championship within their reach. The answer, in all likelihood, will lie, as we have been saying all year, in the number of crashes/DNFs the riders accumulate, as follows:

Rider Points DNF

Fabio Quartararo 219 2

Pecco Bagnaia 201 5

Aleix Espargaro 194 1*

Enea Bastianini 170 4

*mechanical failure at the start

Looking at things this way, it’s entirely possible to project Espargaro winning the title. Fabio spending his entire days on the limit is a blueprint for disaster. Bagnaia has people wondering why he doesn’t get it, that if he would only keep the shiny side up a little more often he would be leading the championship. That he doesn’t should great hope to the Espargaro family. Here’s what the season would look like if Quartararo and Bagnaia were to crash out in Thailand, allowing Aleix to win and EBas to place second:

Quartararo 219

Espargaro 219

Bagnaia 201

Bastianini 190

With four rounds left, I’m confident both Fabio and Pecco will slide out of one of them. The question is whether Aleix can keep his nose clean for an entire season. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t enjoy seeing him take the title after so many years of fruitless toil.

Marc Marquez seized pole on Saturday, just to remind folks how extraordinarily successful he has been here in the past. He took the hole shot and held the lead for three or four turns before getting swallowed up by a gaggle of riders not riding with one arm. He sat in P5 pretty much all day before taking Miguel Oliveira’s lunch money on the final lap for P4.

The factory KTM operation had things going their way today, placing Binder on the podium and Oliveira in the top five, too. Another guy I’ve been ignoring, but who is getting harder and harder to ignore, is Luca Marini. The sophomore has scored points in 13 of the 16 rounds to date. He worked his way up front and was tagging along with the lead group by the end of the day. The grid these days seems absolutely packed with fast young Italian riders, another node of The Rossi Effect. Another example–Marco Bezzecchi, late of the VR46 Academy, will be the runaway winner of the 2022 ROY award aboard his Desmosedici. The future is bright for Ducati pilots in the years to come. Ecstar Suzuki, on the other hand, had one rider out injured, a second retired with a mechanical issue, and their test rider/wild card had to make a hasty exit from his GSX-RR which was, at that moment, engulfed in flames. Doing a Zarco is what we call that around here.

So it’s off to Thailand to see how riders under extreme pressure perform in an autoclave. I think such conditions favor the younger riders who are physically more able to withstand the heat. But the veterans have been here before and to Sepang and know how to hold up over race distance. For Fabio, Pecco and Aleix, the season is now. Young Bastianini is going to have to ignore the championship, keep his head down, and score as many points as possiblle each time out. Oh, and remember not to crash.

MotoGP 2022 Round 13 – Spielberg

August 21, 2022

Sunday was a lovely day for racing at what must be considered one of the finest stops on the MotoGP calendar. The immaculate circuit, as fast as any, despite the layout which keeps most riders out of 6th gear all day. The postcard quality scenery. World-class brolly girls. A microclimate enriched by the thousands of pine trees in the vicinity. Seeing Carlos Ezpeleta, The Big Boursin of MotoGP in lederhosen, looking like Wally from Dilbert. Three exciting races. Championships tightening.

This is how racing is supposed to be. Fans on first-name bases with the riders. Longstanding rivalries renewed every week. Rampant nationalism. Racing margins so thin they make the blink of an eye seem like a long time. Riders separated by thousandths of a second at the flag. All coming to us at breathtaking speeds. And all on two wheels.

We will cover the high points of all three races but not in our usual depth. I have things to do.

Moto3: Sasaki Wins from Waaaaaay Back

The Crazy Boy, Ayuma Sasaki, was having a bad day. Two long lap penalties early in the race saw him fall to as low as P24 on Lap 5. 18 laps later he was firmly lodged in P1 and on his way to his first grand prix victory ever. Research indicates that riders with the name “Crazy”, by itself or in combination with other words, in their “track name” correlate highly with truncated careers. Over the long term, Crazy typically morphs into “retired.”

First Japanese 1-2 at any level since 2001.

Today’s race: Sasaki Suzuki Munoz (16 years old!)

2022: S Garcia 193 Izan Guevara 188 Dennis Foggia 144

Moto2: P2-OK

Today’s Moto2 race was plodding along, minding its own business with Honda Team Asia riders Ai Ogura (ticket to MotoGP next year already punched) and Thai speedster Somkiat Chantra having carved out a considerable lead on the field, Chantra running as Ogura’s wingman. Over the last five laps of the race it appeared Chantra was having to rein in his bike, that he had better pace than Ogura in addition to the expectation from every member of the team and the media that he would never (NEVER) challenge Ogura during this race, possibly removing him from the lead in the 2022 championship.

So what happened on the last lap. Did young Chantra lose his effing mind? Yes, it was Chantra muscling up on his teammate and good friend, taking the lead on Turn 8 of the final lap before surrendering it again on Turn 9, getting up close and personal and causing team principal Hiro Aoyama to blow a head gasket, oil and smoke pouring from his ears. And though the race ended well for the Honda team, young Chantra will probably be headed to the woodshed with Aoyama and some Asian guys in expensive suits to discuss his comportment in an atmosphere of free and frank conversation.

Personally, I believe Chantra intended to keep it clean and intended to yield the lead to Ogura at the end. The two are good friends; to me it looked like one friend saying to the other, “Congratulations on a great win. I could have beat you any time I wanted. Your mom said to tell you hi.”

Today’s race: A. Ogura S. Chantra J. Dixon

2022: A Ogura 183 A Fernandez 182 C. Vietti 156

MotoGP: Fabio Takes on Five Ducatis, Beats Four

Today’s premier class tilt saw French heartthrob Fabio Quartararo lined up at the start in the middle of row 2, with Bologna Bullets going all Charge of the Light Brigade on him, (Desmosedicis to the left, Desmosedicis to the right, Desmosedicis in front), the Italian brutes occupying five of the top six spots on the grid. By the time he saw the checkered flag, young Fabio had dispensed with Jack Miller, Jorge Martin, Enea Bastiannini and Johann Zarco; given an additional lap, he might very well have tracked down Pecco Bagnaia for the win, as the Italian’s final margin for the win was a mere 4/10ths.

Other than Bagnaia taking the hole shot and holding the lead for almost the entire race, there didn’t seem to be a key moment that changed the course of things. Joan Mir crashed out early as his season of horrors continues. EBas, in some early race contact I missed, left with a damaged rim on his front that allowed air to escape, rendering the bike unrideable. Luca Marini enjoyed his best day in the premier class, finishing in P4 after overtaking a number of more experienced riders from P13.

Today’s race: P Bagnaia F Quartararo J Miller

2022: F Quartararo 200 A Espargaro 168 P Bagnaia 156

The graphic below is chock full of information. Someone—what all does this tell us?

San Marino in two weeks. Andrea Dovizioso’s swan song.

Lots of info here.
One long-stemmed rose.
Low rez, terrible.
Where does Monster find them?
Very orderly Teutonic devotees.
Aryan beauty on display.

MotoGP 2022 Round 12: Silverstone

August 7, 2022

Vinales blinks, Pecco wins British Grand Prix

There are people who don’t like racing at Silverstone, for whatever reason. The cafeteria in the press room is inferior? The air conditioning lacks gusto? It’s flat as a board? Its military roots are offensive to the universe? Silverstone is long and fast and wide, allowing for more overtakes than you see in any other race on the calendar. The result is what we saw today, 20 laps of brilliant riding, strategies working and failing, five Ducatis in the top ten, and Pecco closing the gap to Fabio by 17 points.

After a warm weekend of practice and qualifying, the view from here, waiting for the lights to go out, was that Fabio’s Yamaha would be at a decided disadvantage versus the Ducs and Apes. Pecco Bagnaia, everyone’s pre-season favorite, was likely to continue his recent form of either winning or crashing out. Aleix and his Aprilia looked fast all weekend until it launched him into a low Earth orbit during FP4, causing him to race with one leg/ankle/foot combination and one leg/etc. He managed a respectable P9 in a race most mortal humans would have mailed in. Johann “Bridesmaid” Zarco, still looking for his first premier class win, and looking swarthier than ever with the elegant full beard, won pole with another seven riders who broke Marc Marquez’s previous track record set in 2018. And, lo and behold, who comes lurking around the upper echelons of the racing food chain but one Maverick Vinales, aka Cole Trickle. He appeared to be preparing for a stirring comeback to the top step of the podium in merry England, but was unable to mount a successful challenge to Bagnaia on the final lap, appearing to come slightly unglued in the process. P2 is a nice result for Pop Gun as he attempts to resurrect his once promising career with the Noale factory,

Zarco took the holeshot on his Pramac Ducati and led the race for five laps until bad luck, the only kind he knows, undid him, sliding out of the lead into a general Gallic funk. Jack Miller, the forgotten man in MotoGP, spent most of (qualifying and) the race in P3, ultimately securing 16 points for his day’s work. Alex Rins appeared to have good pace all weekend and looked strong early today, but developed what appeared to be grip issues before fading to P7 at the flag.

So, after Zarco led at the start, Rins took over the lead until he was passed by Pecco on Lap 12, who was never seriously challenged thereafter. Vinales moved up the leader board over the last few laps, creating the anticipated Bagnaia vs. Vinales challenge on the last lap. But Pop Gun’s resurrection will have to wait, as he was unable to bring the fight to Bagnaia due to several twitches. Pecco never blinked.

Fabio ended up limping home in P8. EBas, who started in P8 and had nothing going on most of the day, rallied late to secure P4 and feel good about himself heading to Austria in two weeks.

Silverstone Top 10

Bagnaia

Vinales

Miller

Bastiannini

JMartin

Oliveira

Rins

Quartararo

Espargaro

Bezzecchi

2022 top 10 after 12 rounds

Quartararo          180

Espargaro            158

Bagnaia                131

Bastiannini            118

Zarco                     114

Miller                     107

BBinder                   98

Rins                          84

Vinales                     82

Oliveira                     81

Screenshot (24)

Another Crackpot MotoGP Theory Validated

May 22, 2022

I’m pretty sure I told you so. I’m pretty sure I told you that a long lap penalty. or having a last lap waved off for getting in the green, an untimely DNF. Any of these could decide the championship in a race that, in the words of my late Aunt Frannie, is tighter than a tick.

I’d like to think that I called it when I suggested an inverse relationship between the number of DNFs recorded by a rider and his rank in the chase. These top ten YTD standings are current as of 05/21/2022.

Rider                                                Points                                  #DNF

Quartararo                                          102                                       0

A. Espargaro                                         98                                        0

Bastianini                                               94                                       1

Rins                                                       69                                         1

Miller                                                     62                                         2

Zarco                                                      62                                        2

Bagnaia                                                   56                                        2

B. Binder                                                  56                                        1

Mir                                                           56                                         2

M Marquez                                               54                                        2

This illustrates, once again, that, as the expression goes, in order to finish first, one must first finish.

The four riders leading the 2022 chase have averaged, over the first seven rounds, half a DNF, with neither Quartararo nor Aleix haven’t  crashed once. Riders five, six and seven–Miller, Zarco and Bagnaia–have all crashed out of two races, returning us briefly to the days when the Desmo was considered unridable by anyone other than Casey Stoner. In fact, of riders five through eleven, all have crashed out twice other than Brad Binder, whose numbers suggest he is too stubborn to stay down, that he may have remounted once or twice.

The current poster child for this “win or bin” mentality is Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin, with DNFs in four of his first seven. Earlier in the season he looked ready to assume the second chair on the factory Ducati team. Lately, however, Mo Mentum, the famous sixth man in basketball, the 12th man in the Seattle Seahawks’ crazy home field advantage, seems to be smiling on your boy EBas, at the expense of Jack Miller, who would look good in KTM colors. Honda must be sweating  bullets trying to get Mir signed now that PEsp is feeling unwanted. Mir, one supposes, is not looking forward to wrestling the RC213V, at least the 2022 iteration. Neither of the LCR boys, Nakagami nor Little Brother, can ride the Honda. PEsp will have his moments at his tracks but is nothing like consistent. And, if you were a betting man, um, person, who would you rather have a grand on right now–Marquez, with 54 points or Bagnaia with 56.

Interesting that Maverick Vinales has a clean DNF record but only 33 points, suggesting he is not riding the Aprilia hard enough. Much the same could be said about PEsp. Oh, and just for the record I expect Ducati to crush Mugello, lock out the podium, and convince Fabio that his future does not lie with Yamaha, that he’s caught them with the OEM pendulum swinging in the wrong direction. Is this the weekend Zarco finally achieves liftoff speed? Can Marquez continue trying to catch a tow into Q2? Will young EBas continue his poised, efficient efforts to winning a premier class title as a sophomore in the Marquez era, or at least the close of it. Fabio knows he has to remain perfect in order to remain in contention, putting massive pressure on himself. And my boy Aleix is sitting there making it look easy on an Aprilia that finally does what it’s told.

One of the few things I remember from five years of university-level economics is the tendency of large numbers to regress to the mean, all things being equal, which they never are. In the immediate case, as is almost always the case, you have a new group of Aliens. It’s true. Your present group of Aliens includes EBas, Pecco, Fabio, Aleix. The jury is officially out on #93; we may be witnessing the end of an era, the emergence of Italy, fast young Italian Riders and the, ahem, iconic Italian brand, the Really Big Red Machine. Europe, in Ducati and Aprilia, seeming to enjoy the upper hand in recent times, Fabio and Yamaha holding on for dear life. The Suzuki boys, Rins and Mir, appear disillusioned, watching their teams disintegrate beneath them.

And so it goes in grand prix yachting. I expect that latest division amongst the racing cognoscenti is whether Marquez can bring it back home again, like, in 2023, 2024? He needs a better bike, which Honda has generally provided. No sense in gathering input from PEsp any longer, as his head is unlikely to still be in the game. Nor does he appear to be at all effective as a wingman. Anyway, I think the top three riders at this moment–Fabio, Aleix and EBas–will not be the same three at the top of the heap heading to Valencia. In my unsolicited opinion, I think Fabio is in trouble at tracks like Mugello and Red Bull Ring. Assen is the fastest track on the calendar. He is so unlikely to maintain his clean slate, and when it goes, there goes his lead in the series. Aleix is making it look easy, a third of the way through the season, and EBas is threatening to run away with things.

Somewhere in me resides the thought that the guys who’ve avoided gravel traps thus far are due for a visit. That once Fabio loses his grip on the title, his successor will have a brief ride at the top. The greatest movements, the worst movements, are a DNF at this point. The figures would argue that the riders most at risk of a DNF at this time are Fabio, Aleix, EBas and Rins. This is the type of season in which the MotoGP announcers begin wetting themselves,  waxing euphoric about “those precious _____ points.”

Similar to their race strategy at certain tracks, perhaps the riders don’t actually want to be in the lead this early in the season, especially since there is no runaway winner who needs stopping. It is simply vital that the riders gathered at the top of the heap today remain upright on race days, that they continue to gather points no matter what, that they know who and what is ahead of them and behind them. That they take no stupid risks that would jeopardize another rider.

So far, IMHO, this season is shaping up exactly the way fans want it. There are three Aliens at this moment. There is a host of challengers waiting for someone in front of them to fall. There is just so much riding on every turn, the race, the season, the silly season, which brand is on the upswing, which brand is heading down? Competition amongst the teams–first and foremost, beat your teammate.

It’s fair to expect financial pressures to force teams to cut costs, a process well beyond the scope of this effort. We’e been down this road before and have been breaking all-time track records along the way. If I were a betting man I would be that all the money spent on winglets is all the money that will get spent, i.e., no more R&D on winglets with wind tunnels and etc. Beyond that I don’t know, other than them that has, gets.

Some teams are scratching their heads this year.l LCR Honda. Factory Suzuki. Gresini, current employer of EBas. Jack Miller needs to pull a rabbit out of his hat to keep his current seat. Why does Alex Rins appear to be odd man out during this silly season? Riding Aprilia for Leopard Racing, that could work.

This week is Mugello, one of the great venues in this sport. So much history, none of which I can remember, but I know it’s out there. Perhaps the best slipstream anywhere, adds a whole new dimension to bike racing. The noise. As we like to say out here in Hoosierville, “MotoGP is one of God’s great gifts to mankind. It. Just. Is.

So go tell your friends. Tell them it’s the best sport on two wheels. Ever.

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.

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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 Journal–Round 5: Le Mans

May 16, 2021

© Bruce Allen   May 14, 15 and 16, 2021

Friday

Alas, Round 5 of the 2021 MotoGP season brings us once again to Sarthe, smack in the middle of France and, believe it or not, the weather is a major factor for the weekend, as it often is here. Cool breezy temps with “spotty” showers, a nightmare for the riders and teams. The possibility of a flag-to-flag is strong, as is the possibility that the halving of the field, typically determined in FP3, could occur on Friday. The likelihood of a Yamaha or Ducati winning on Sunday, based upon what we saw today, is high, too. Unless the Weather Gods get involved and make a dog’s breakfast of the whole thing.

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A little local color from Le Mans.

Friday started wet and finished dry. As anticipated, FP2 became the determinant as regards slick passage into Q2 or having to fight one’s way through Q1 simply for the opportunity to get one’s brains bashed by the really fast movers, all of whom are well-rested and raring to go, in Q2. This was true in all three classes. One interesting note is that the wettish MotoGP FP3 found #93 at the top of the sheet. Otherwise, the various dies were cast on Friday.

Missing from the Q2 qualifiers were some big names, as usual:

Moto3–The only guy I want to discuss is rookie Pedro Acosta, currently sitting P18. How can one not pick him to advance to Q2, to qualify well, and then podium on Sunday?

Moto2–Baldassarri, Ogura, the two Americans, Beaubier and Roberts, Vietti, Dalla Porta.

MotoGP–Rins and Mir, series leader Pecco Bagnaia, the three rookies left standing bringing up the rear.

As for the guys who had it going on in FP2, please include, in Moto3, Gabriel Rodrigo, the pesky Darryn Binder, and Antonelli. Moto2–Lowes, two Fernandezes and Remy Gardner. MotoGP– both French riders, Viñales, POL Espargaro on the Honda, and Frankie Morbidelli. Three Yamahas in the top five. They should thrive in the dry, assuming there’s any to be had on Sunday. Typically, the mudders ride for Ducati, but Zarco must be feeling it, at home, on a bike he seems to love, in the wet.

Saturday

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Saturday was, again, wettish at the start and slowly drying. FP3 times were slow. Waiting for the caterers to do their thing prior to qualifying in Moto3, I looked at the sky, best described by the word “sullen.”

Such weather conditions would not rival those of the first race I ever attended, in 2009, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The city was on the receiving end of the remnants of Hurricane Ike. Most of the events scheduled for the weekend–exhibition riding, loop-the-loops in Broad Ripple–were rained out. On Sunday it was pouring. The camera crew from MotoGP raised the boom truck that would allow them shots from, like, 200′ in the air. They took it down about five minutes later. By the time the lights went out in the premier class, it was getting biblical. Apparently there were contracts in place that dictated that the race could not be delayed; I’ve seen races since then delayed for weather conditions less severe than in Indianapolis that day.

[That was the day, prior to the race getting red-flagged about 18 laps in, where Valentino Rossi chased down homeboy Nicky Hayden, with the rain blowing sideways. The few remaining fans were miffed. That race jinxed the Indianapolis round, which never got traction and disappeared after about five years.]

The maddening aspect of the weather at Le Mans is its unpredictability. I find myself rooting for a flag-to-flag that will scramble the standings at the top. It’s early in the season. Let’s see Tito Rabat win a race.

Qualifying

Moto3 Q1: Acosta finished P7 and will start on the 7th row on Sunday. Andrea Migno ruled Q2, with longshot Riccardo Rossi and Jaume Masia joining him on the front row.

Moto2: Hotshot rookie Raul Fernandez takes his first Moto2 pole, followed by Marco Bezzecchi and American Joe Roberts.

MotoGP: In a frenzied finish, what had been a Honda lockout became two factory Yamahas and a factory Ducati on the front row. A strong second row features Morbidelli, Zarco and Marquez. Lotta fast riders out there in MotoGP. Quartararo took his third pole in succession, with Viñales and Miller in hot pursuit.

Sunday

The casual observer, looking at the results of the Moto3 race, would infer that my boy Pedro Acosta must have had a bad day, an ordinary P8 while Sergio Garcia and a couple of non-factors, Filip Salac and Riccardo Rossi, stood around on the podium, stunned. The 16-year old “Vote for Pedro” Acosta had never visited Le Mans, nor had he ever raced a Moto3 bike in the wet. He choked qualifying, crashed while in the middle of the pack, and extended his 2021 championship lead. This conforms to my theory of The Blessed NFL Quarterback, whose identity each year is a mystery until he wins the Super Bowl.

Things could not have been worse for young Acosta, yet those closest him—Antonelli, poleman Migno, Fenati and Masia—fainted. So he takes a 54 point lead to Mugello. And if it rains there, he’s now been there, done that. He appears to be a quick study. He appears to be The Blessed Rider in Moto3.

Moto2

Rookie phenom Raul Fernandez cruised to victory in the dampish Moto2 race, ahead of Remy Gardner and Marco Bezzecchi, with Tony Arbolino making his first meaningful appearance of the season, finishing in P4. Thus, KTM teammates Gardner and Fernandez lead the 2021 series with 89 and 88 points, respectively, with Bezzecchi 17 down and Sam Lowes, who recorded another DNF, now trailing by 23. Both American riders crashed out, Roberts early from P2 and Beaubier late from P6.

MotoGP

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The sky at the start of the “dry” MotoGP race.

For the first time in four years the premier class put on a flag-to-flag show and it added some extra spice to what was already shaping up to be an exciting race. As expected, given the generally wet conditions, the Ducatis were in charge today. Miller and Zarco finished on the podium, along with Fabio, while Pecco Bagnaia, having started from P16, flogged his Desmo to P4 before running out of laps. With six riders failing to finish and three more trailing Miller at the end by over a minute, there were points all around for the survivors. Other than poor Frankie Morbidelli, who crashed and banged up his already banged-up knee, eventually completing 23 laps before the marshals dragged him off the track.

That makes it two in a row for Jack Miller, who suddenly has momentum. For awhile today, right after everyone changed bikes, Marc Marquez led a MotoGP race. It was only briefly, as he crashed a bit later, and then again a bit later than that.  But it was nice to see him competing, even though he says the muscles in his upper right arm are only at 50%. Anyway, here are the standings year-to-date:

1        Fabio QUARTARARO         Yamaha          FRA    80

2        Pecco BAGNAIA                Ducati           ITA     79

3        Johann ZARCO                 Ducati           FRA    68

4        Jack MILLER                     Ducati           AUS    64

5        Maverick VIÑALES            Yamaha          SPA    56

6        Joan MIR                         Suzuki          SPA    49

7        Aleix ESPARGARO             Aprilia           SPA    35

8        Franco MORBIDELLI         Yamaha          ITA     33

9        Takaaki NAKAGAMI           Honda           JPN    28

10      Pol ESPARGARO               Honda           SPA    25

For the record, Maverick Viñales started today in P2 and finished P9. Valentino Rossi started in P9 and finished in P11. Aleix Espargaro retired with a mechanical. Alex Rins and Joan Mir crashed out a couple of times each, and want Le Mans taken off the calendar. Danilo Petrucci flogged his Tech 3 KTM to P5 and wants it to rain, heavily, for the rest of the season.

In Conclusion

We have tight races in Moto2 and MotoGP and the likely emergence of The Next Great Rider going on in Moto3. We’re heading into the meat of the schedule, with a back-to-back at Mugello and Catalunya followed by another back to back in Germany and at Assen. Valentino Rossi fans must be willing to admit that he overstayed his MotoGP welcome by a year. It appears Marc Marquez will resume his old form at some point, but probably not this year. The kids have taken over the schoolyard, and the fans are loving it.

A Little Tranching Music, Please

MotoGP Tranches After Portimao

Tranche I –   Quartararo, Mir, Bagnaia

Tranche II –  Zarco, Viñales, 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

MotoGP Tranches After Le Mans

Tranche I – Quartararo, Miller, Bagnaia

Tranche II – Zarco, Nakagami, P Espargaro, Morbidelli, Mir

Tranche III – Viñales, Rins, A Espargaro, Binder, M Marquez, Oliveira

Tranche IV – Petrucci, Rossi, Marini, A Marquez, Bastianini

Tranche V – Rabat, Savadori, Lecuona

 

Two weeks until Mugello. Can’t wait.

 

 

 

Jack Miller “Redeemed”?

May 12, 2021

© Bruce Allen  May 12, 2021

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It says right here on the MotoGP.com landing page that Jack Miller’s recent win at Jerez is the kind of stuff that transforms a rider’s career. One can only imagine the breathless narrative accompanying the slo-mo video. But wait.

Jack Miller graduated directly from Moto3 to MotoGP in 2015. He won at Assen in the rain in 2016. He won again last time round. Where in this rather–sorry–ordinary story do we get to talk about “redemption”? As if Miller had recently put a serious beatdown on the MotoGP field, to revive a career many non-Australians considered disappointing.

Jack Miller is reportedly a helluva nice guy whose career has shown steady progress. In 2014 he was considered something of a phenom. I was at Sepang that year and he was always around yakking with the press, on his way to fame and glory in MotoGP at the tender age of 19, the next Great Australian Hope, a fitting follower in the mold of the legendary Casey Stoner.

No.

Miller has had a nice career, and now has two wins, joining what our crack research team guesses to be 100 other riders who have achieved similar “redemption.” It’s not like Jack has spent six years wallowing in the mud with the likes of Tito Rabat and then suddenly owns the joint. He has simply made himself relevant again, trailing series leader Pecco Bagnaia by 27 points, still in the lead group for the year.

A single career win on dry pavement does not a legend make. If it does, then make way for one of the other recent legends, Danilo Petrucci.

Enough with the hyperbole, MotoGP.

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.


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