Posts Tagged ‘Marc Marquez’

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.

Marc Marquez: Love Him or Hate Him

September 20, 2022

Events at Aragon this past weekend have re-ignited the firestorm that has surrounded Marc Marquez since he rode in the 125cc class back in 2008 (the year I started covering MotoGP). The eight-time world champion, his boyish good looks having been displaced by a steely persona, has as many fans as detractors. Let’s see what’s at the root of this split.

First, whenever we see a rider win his first grand prix or his first championship, there is almost always an outpouring of emotion, often tears; such celebrations have obviously come at a cost to the rider and his family. The winnowing process in motorcycle racing is as brutal as it is in pretty much everything that calls itself a sport. For every first-time winner, at any age, there are hundreds of boys and young men who’ve had their hearts broken. The thought crossed my mind at one time that these dramatic, emotional reactions were put on for the cameras. But, in truth, these riders would probably prefer their fans not to see them in tears. So the emotions and the drive to win we see in every rider, including Marquez, is to be expected. (By the way, the process also occurs in golf, which calls itself a sport despite the fact that you can smoke and drink while playing.)

A number of Kool-Aid drinkers, who have the number 46 tattooed on their asses, hate Marquez for having allegedly cost Rossi the title in 2015. It seems to be an unwritten law of the universe that haters are going to hate. There have always been fans who despised Rossi for one reason or another; the same is true for Marquez. And, to be fair, pretty much all the great riders going back to 1949. Along with the emotion and drive to win, the great riders learned that to win in grand prix racing a rider will have to be, on occasion, ruthless. There will be charged moments in races in which it becomes him or me. One of us is going down, and it’s not going to be me. Is such thinking less than charitable? Undoubtedly. Is it necessary if one aspires to champion status? Absolutely. The same people who call Marquez a bully were the ones cheering Rossi as he put Stoner’s dick in the dirt at Laguna Seca in 2008, cutting a corner through a sand trap in the process, not bothering to rake afterwards.

One thing Marquez supporters can always say to his critics: Scoreboard. See below.

All that yellow. His first seven seasons in the premier class were incomparable. Of course, the eye is drawn to the single disqualification at Phillip Island in 2013 which came his way because, having clinched the title by then, it didn’t matter and he therefore didn’t care. (Like skipping high school classes after being accepted to college: Who wouldn’t?) People also need to recall 2014, when he won the first ten races of the season, then loafed to an inexplicable P4 at Brno before winning again at Silverstone.

One last point from me before you guys get your teeth into this. Let’s assemble a list of MotoGP riders one would be well-advised to give wide berth, in addition to Marquez who, at age 30, is witnessing a deterioration in his reflexes and, one suspects, a heightened sense of self-preservation, having entertained the prospect, now several times, of becoming blind in at least one eye. Here’s ten off the top of my head:

Barry Sheene Kenny Roberts

Freddie Spencer Eddie Lawson

Mick Doohan Kenny Roberts Jr.

Wayne Rainey Kevin Schwantz

Valentino Rossi Casey Stoner

The fact is all these guys won MotoGP titles, most of them more than one. Given the fact that a collision on track provides both riders an opportunity to get seriously injured, or worse, and is, under normal circumstances, to be avoided if possible, none of these guys went out to deliberately cause a crash. Shit happens at 250 kph. Unless the intended victim were a teammate, none of these guys would back down from a fight, if only to keep their reputations. Marquez, with his massive presence, is another of these tough guys who welcomes contact and who has initiated it in the past. What occurred on Sunday last was not Marquez initiating either contact, but Marquez trying to bully his way through the pack–all the way through the pack from P15–on the first lap. His comportment on Lap 1 at Aragon was not his finest moment. If, as is possible, he comes back to chalk up a few wins at season’s end, I think most of the moto racing world will welcome him back.

Marquez makes the riders around him better at taking evasive action. That’s the most charitable thing I can think of to say at this moment. It’s like hating the sin, loving the sinner. It’s like hating what a fellow citizen says but defending his right to speak freely. Marquez, despite his movie star good looks, with never a whisker out of place, has been bred to race this way. He has experienced unmatched levels of accomplishment. He has been disqualified exactly once and that was arguably intentional. As Kevin Hart says, “It’s what I do.”

Love him or hate him, Marc Marquez has been an incandescent talent in this sport, just the guy to make people stop mourning the loss of Valentino. Will one of the young guns at Ducati take the reins of the premier class in the next season or two and peel off 10 wins to start a season, maybe collect six or eight titles?

Unlikely.

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.

MotoGP 2022 Round Nine – Catalunya

June 3, 2022

The 2022 season is unfolding about the way we had hoped back in February. Five or six riders who present credible threats to podium each week. Major moves up and down the leader board based upon the rider’s ability to stay out of the gravel. Two weeks ago I was burying Pecco Bagnaia for crashing out of races too often; today he is right back in the championship conversation.

Had you tried to tell me that 2022 would finally be Aleix Espargaro’s year to win a premier class title for Aprilia back in February, you would have had trouble getting me to listen. What has emerged in 2022 is a few circuits which can be rightfully considered Aprilia tracks. So far, they include Argentina and Catalunya. There will be a few more–tweeners–neither Sachsenring nor Phillip Island. But their mere existence is emblematic of the order of magnitude-scale changes which have taken place with Aprilia during the past 18 months.

Friday’s practice sessions found both Aprilia riders–Aleix, and the other guy–sitting atop the combined sheet for the day. People are saying (I love using that, so lame) the Aprilia will be untouchable this weekend, perhaps causing more tightening at the top. All I’ve got by way of silly season stuff is Jack Miller heading to the KTM factory team to join Binder, with Miguel Oliveiras being shown the door. LCR Honda is going to do something; standing pat does not appear to be an option. Pedro Acosta may, in two or three months, demand a promotion to the premier class, further complicating things amongst the large herd of prospective KTM riders looking to move on up. Too many young, skillful riders; there’s a nice problem to have.

For the record, qualifying ended up with Amazing Aleix on pole, joined on the front row by Bagnaia and Quartararo. Row 2 includes Zarco, FDG and “Crash” Martin. Hard cheese for Marco Bezzecchi and Enea “Big Boursin” Bastiannini, who were unable to pass through Q1. One of our readers mentioned Maverick Vinales as a possible race winner today. He led the warm-up, passed through Q1, and will start the race from the middle of the third row. [Whence he will likely drop back to P18 before bravely fighting his way back to P10.]

Moto3 today was another good old-fashioned knees-up as my boy Izan Guevara, who recently turned 17, won going away after spending the first half of the race slicing and dicing with the likes of teammate Sergio Garcia, Tatsuki Suzuki, Dennis Oncu, and polesitter Dennis Foggia, who lost the key to his roller skates and had to retire. Suzuki had a nice day, slamming the door on series leader Sergio Garcia at the flag for P3 on the podium. When the dust settled, the top of the Moto3 standings YTD:

S Garcia 150

I. Guevara 134

J. Masia 103

D. Foggia 95

D. Oncu 82

A. Sasaki 75

These seasons in which teammates are fighting one another for the championship are extra fun. The drive they have to, above all else, beat their teammates ranks right up there with oxygen and a warm jelly roll. Last season it was fun to watch KTM studs Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner go at each other all year. This year it is grizzled veteran Sergio Garcia (age 18) and GasGas teammate Guevara (age 17). Young Mr. Guevara appears to be the real deal. Not to mention the remarkable debut of one David (Davin?) Munoz, who, riding as a substitute, placed himself on the second step of the podium at age 16. He created a legitimate look at the win with perhaps three laps left, but could not close the deal against all these other old men. BTW, if I weren’t so lazy, I would tranche these riders. What I can do is to designate Moto3 Aliens–Sergio Garcia, Izan Guevara, Dennis Foggia and Jaume Masia

Today’s Moto2 tilt was the best in recent memory, said the guy whose short-term memory is, well, a memory. Until he slid out unforced on Lap 11, it looked like American Joe Roberts was going to win his first Moto2 race. Later, series leader Celestino Vietti shoved hard-luck bridesmaid Aron Canet out of his way late on the last lap to take the win. Today’s race looked more like Moto3 with a big lead group and beaucoups lead changes. At the end of the day the top six riders in Moto2 were Vietti (133), Ogura (117), Canet (109), A Fernandez (96), Arbolino (89) and Roberts (86). A golden opportunity for Roberts and Amerian racing blown.

And, for the record, the Moto2 Alien set currently includes Celestino Vietti, Ogura, and Canet.

The Catalan MotoGP race today will go down in history as the one in which Aleix Espargaro, in the midst of a dream season, lapsed briefly into nightmare, having lost count of his laps, entering the final lap in the midst of the lead group, sitting up, blowing kisses to the crowd, while his rivals disappeared down the road, discovering, appalled, he had just given away nine championship points and a P2 for Aprilia, not to mention gagging in front of his homeys, while little brother Pol was finishing out of the points, some 46 seconds behind Quartararo. All in all, a terrible day for the family, who had probably made potato salad and fried chickens to celebrate their local boys making good.

So the podium included Fabio on the top step, Crash Martin on P2 and Johann Zarco P3. Joan Mir followed in P4, in front of Aleix, who would undoubtedly sack up and take responsibility for his obvious and inexcusable mistake. It would be better if he were a rookie or second year man. A rider with his experience; I suppose all one can say is that he clearly had a lot on his mind.

This was another of those Quartararo races in which absolutely everything went right–

  • friendly circuit, dry conditions
  • able to grab the lead early in the first lap and run unchallenged in clean air
  • terrible day for Ducati–Bagnaia DNF, Bezzecchi DNF, FDG DNF, EBas DNF
  • a once-in-a-career brain fart by one of his top challengers

Props to Crash Martin for showing us again why it is too soon to write him off. He strikes me as the second coming of Dani Pedrosa in a sport that favors small, light riders. And we are happy to announce the recipient of this season’s first Dennis Rodman Award, for hanging around the basket looking for rebounds and easy put backs, is Johann Zarco, the primary beneficiary of Espargaro’s momentary, imaginary side trip to Turks & Caicos.

The 2022 top ten after nine rounds looks like this:

Quartararo        147

Espargaro          125

Bastiannini          94

Zarco                   91

Bagnaia                81

Binder                   73

Rins                       69

Mir                         69

Miller                     65

(M Marquez)          60)

Suddenly, or nor so suddenly, the title seems to be Quartararo’s to lose. Aleix seems to have lost some of the magic we’ve come to expect from him. Same with Bastiannini, with DNFs in his last two outings. I read somewhere that a number of writers had written off Bagnaia until his win at Mugello, then put him squarely in the midst of the title conversation until today’s skittling, after which he has been written off again. (As it turns out, I read it at the top of this page.)

Lest I forget, our current crop of premier class Aliens includes Fabio, Aleix, EBas and Pecco.

This should be a week featuring lots of sharing from readers, given the unlikely nature of 2022. To me, it feels like an NBA game in which the opponent hits 11 of their first 13 three-pointers, and they have you by 14 at the half. My point is that I doubt everything is going to go perfectly well for your boy Fabio during the entire season, that he will not have one or two DNFs by the time they start putting up Christmas decorations in the stores. Once again, depending upon who stays upright and who doesn’t, the standings could easily look way different during the Asian part of the schedule.

As always, I’m still singing the same sad old song:

“Oh Lord, please let it get decided in Valencia.”

MotoGP 2022 Round Eight – Mugello

May 29, 2022

So. fellas and Allison, I had more surgery this past week, in on Monday, home n Tuesday. I’ve been getting my act grouped relatively quickly, but haven’t had what it takes to do more than watch stuff so far, it’s being Sunday 4:30 am. I’ve been watching warm ups since 3:30. This ends, for the foreseeable future, my planned encounters with the medical/industrial complex. This surgery had originally been scheduled for mid-July, but I was in a hurry to get it done and get it behind me. So, there’s that.

My personal goal for the next 12 months is to not get admitted to a hospital.

As most of you know, including today there are four MotoGP rounds in the next five weeks. In a normal year, the championship would be mostly decided after Round 11; we would be in the teeth of the season with one rider in recent years, Marc Marquez, usually leading the way. A number of teams will, by Round 11, have revised their rosy estimates from the preseason. For example, see the post that will appear on Motorcycle.com short after the Assen round. Moreover, the crowded field at or near the top of the standings adds another layer of stress on the riders–one mistake could drop them two or three spots in the standings. The riders who can keep the shiny side up will be competing for the title on the back nine of this year’s schedule.

It pleases me to think about the cranky, jingoistic old Tuscan men who’ve lived their entire lives in the shadow of Ducati around Bologna. Italy. Yesterday, for example, they watched on TV as five Ducati pilots, four of whom are Italian, put a choke hold on the first five spots of the Sunday grid, at Mugello, the monument to speed, one of the world’s great layouts. Plus, this year the folks over at Aprilia are punching above their weight, Aleix a legitimate threat to title. More Italian joy. Plus, being handed the keys to the WithYou RNF team which will bail on Yamaha and fly the colors of the Noale factory. It has been determined elsewhere that 2022 will be shown to have been Andrea Dovizioso’s final season in MotoGP (how’s that for some serious verb conjugating?). The last year, for now, that once-proud Yamaha fielded a satellite team. Ascendant programs at Ducati and Aprilia, the European builders finally getting their own after years, decades of eating Japanese dust. Programs at Suzuki ending, with disarray at Honda and Yamaha.

Anyway, for those old men, qualifying at Mugello on Saturday, May 28, 2022 was righteous.

I watched qualifying in the lightweight classes, but am not inclined to include it in this report. Perhaps there are some old morons out there ready, willing and certainly able to give us, the readers, 150 words on qualifying in both Moto3 and Moto2. Not sure why I have to do everything around here. I need to outsource some of this stuff. It’s not like any of us is getting paid.

[Dorna showed video from the US Grand Prix in 2008 at Laguna Seca. This was the first race I ever “covered” = watched on TV, and it just happens to have been one of the all-time greats. Rossi passing Stoner in The Corkscrew, both wheels in the gravel, pressuring Stoner into a crash late in the day. Who knew? I always try not to get too carried away with the play-by-play, and there certainly seemed to be a lot of shouting in the Rossi vs. Stoner epic that marked my introduction to the sport. I gave Motorcycle.com 1500 words, with a heavier-than-normal dose of my usual meanderings, since I didn’t know the first thing about motorcycle racing. The suits in Toronto liked it. The real MOrons, Kevin, Sean, John and Evans and Dennis, etc. hated it, recognized me as a fraud masquerading as a motojournalist and knew instantly that I wasn’t a real rider, wasn’t one of them. 13 years later, we are friends. I still don’t know much about motorcycles, but they do like some of the laugh lines. For instance, I probably told them that I misunderstood the phone call with Joe, thought he said ‘writer.’]

So teenager Izan Guevara, the next Next Great Latin Rider, won the Moto3 race at the flag–three hundredths of a second separated the top step from the third step on the podium. Moving up the standings. A post-race penalty, for exceeding those pesky track limits, dropped Guevara to P2 and elevated series leader and teammate Sergio Garcia to the win*. The two GasGas riders thus occupy P1 and P2 in Moto3 for 2022.

Moto2 saw the public debut of The Next Great Latin Rider who, after having torn up Moto3 as a rookie last year, was suffering a failure to launch in 2022 until Le Mans, which he led for a dozen laps before crashing out, and today when he went out and schooled the grid, wire to wire, for his first win in the intermediate class. His win today was facilitated by Aron Canet, he of the laughable paint job, who was considerate enough to crash out of a threatening second place on Lap 13, essentially handing the win to Acosta.

The MotoGP race was Exhibit A in our argument, since before the season started, that the close quarters at the top would make crashing out of a race very expensive. The corollary to this is that a win will occasionally give the rider a big boost. After underachieving for most of 2022, Pecco Bagnaia goes out and sets the pace at Mugello, gives young EBas that come hither look, then looks away as the swarthy sophomore crashes out at Turn 4 of Lap 14. His 25 points today vaulted him from P7 to P4 for the year. He’s baaaaaaaaaack. Meanwhile, EBas slides into a 28 point deficit to Quartararo.

Pecco, Fabio and Aleix comprised the podium. Zarco, Bezzecchi, Marini and Brad Binder followed. As is becoming routine, bikes made by Ducati and Aprilia continue to dominate recent proceedings, the Suzuki team is crumbling right before our eyes, with suits from Yamaha and Honda dropping broad, unfunny references to ritual suicide. Marc Marquez’ announcement that he was folding the tent on 2022 in order to have another surgery, one with a six month recovery time frame, was met with further gnashing of teeth, frantic smiling and nodding of heads.

Y’all can talk amongst yourselves. Catalunya beckons. Plus, I’ve gotta go ice myself down. I really want to hear opinions relating to silly season speculation and the #2 spot on the factory Ducati team moving forward. Although the futures of Frankie, Dovi and Darryn deserve some conversation

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.

MotoGP 2022 Round 6: Gran Premio Red Bull de España (Jerez)

May 1, 2022

Practice and Qualifying

Alex Rins and Joan Mir dominated the proceedings on Friday, to a resounding “Who cares?” from the rabid, mostly Spanish crowd. FP3 on Saturday morning saw Pecco Bagnaia and his Ducati GP22 rise from the ashes of a miserable start to the 2022 season to lead the combined practice standings, trailed by Fabulous Fabio and (who?) Takaa Nakagami, making a cameo appearance, along with his satellite Honda, near the top of the time sheets. Marc Marquez continued his epic struggles in 2022, needing a tow from Jack Miller to scrounge P4, with Miller the last of ten riders to move directly into Q2..

Q1 saw rookie Marco Bezzecchi (a continuing surprise to me) hovering near the top for the entire session, ending up in P2 and moving on to Q2 after Johann Zarco, who seems to do something like this every time out, laid down a late burner to take P1 and bump hard-luck Pol Espargaro to P13 on Sunday’s grid. Alex Rins and Brad Binder looked capable of moving through but were unable to reach deep enough.

Q2 was, as always, a heart-stopper. With crashes from Jorge Martin, Joan Mir and Enea Bastianini bringing out a bevy of yellow flags, the battle for pole went like this:

Rider             Time left when taking the lead

J. Mir                               10:30

J. Miller                              9:00

P. Bagnaia                          8:50

F. Quartararo                      8:45

Bagnaia                              2:45          1:36.170 new track record

Bagnaia’s lap was half a second faster than Quartararo, which equates to an hour in dog years. The first three rows in Sunday’s race, from which the winner will doubtless emerge given how tight the layout is, include Quartararo, Aleix Aprilia, Miller, M Marquez, Zarco and the pesky Nakagami, punching above his weight, along with Bezzecchi and Mir. The weather forecast for Sunday looks perfect.

Race Day

Once again, Jerez failed to disappoint the thousands of sober, drunk and/or stoned Spaniards in attendance. Speaking from experience, the combination of hot weather and stimulants can often cause unconsciousness. Not today, as all three of the internal combustion-powered races had something for every taste and budget. In Moto3, seventeen year-old sophomore sensation Izan Guevara showed remarkable race craft as he swept from P4 at the end of LP 21 to take the win away from countrymen Sergio Garcia and Jaume Masia. KTM Turk Deniz Oncu led the majority of the race, but got de-pantsed at the end by the Spanish trio. Today’s top finishers occupy four of the top slots in the 2022 race, with the mysterious Dennis Foggia finishing out of the points. His deficit to series leader Garcia grew from a single point to a discouraging 21. With last year’s rookie sensation Pedro Acosta having a difficult go of things up in Moto2, Guevara seems to have seized the title of The Next Great Spanish Rider. Dude doesn’t look old enough to shave.

The Moto2 tilt featured a wire-to-wire exhibition by Ai Ogura, who has been tipped for greatness for a couple years despite never having stood on the top step of the podium. That all changed today, as he opened a can of whup-ass on the grid and was never seriously challenged. Joined on the podium by Aron Canet, riding with a freshly broken arm, and an increasingly impressive rookie Tony Arbolino, Ogura seized the title of The Rider Most Likely to Unseat Takaa Nakagami on the MotoGP Idemetsu LCR Honda next year. The Moto2 championship after Round 6 features leader Celestino Vietti (100 pts), Ogura with 81, Arbolino with 70, tough-as-a-$2-steak Canet at 69, and the Great American Hope, Joe Roberts, barely in the picture in P5 with 57 points, possibly in contention for The Next Colin Edwards award.

The MotoGP race was billed all weekend as a showdown between Ducati pilot Pecco Bagnaia and smooth as silk Fabio Quartararo, the only one of four riders able to get a single frigging thing out of the Yamaha YZR-M1. The race, indeed, featured #63 and #20 in a daylong battle, with Quartarao unable to put his front wheel in front of Bagnaia for even a split second. The two ended up, like, 10 seconds in front of eventual P3 finisher Aleix Espargaro, who will get the blame for Aprilia having lost its treasured concessions going forward. Aleix took advantage of a mistake by Marc Marquez on Lap 22, eating Jack Miller’s lunch at the same time and moving from P5 to P3, where he remained for the rest of the race. Marquez took out his anger on Miller on the last lap to take P4, a surprisingly robust finish given the fact that he was unable to turn a fast lap all weekend without stealing a blatant tow from several faster riders. It appears that Marquez has regained his previously dominant form while the 2022 RC213V is a dog. Marquez fans can hope that next year’s iteration of the bike will be up to their previous standards; there appears to be nothing wrong with the eight-time world champion.

Today’s P2 for Quartararo allowed him to establish a lead in the 2022 championship of seven (7) points over the now-scary Aleix Espargaro, who finally has a competitive ride beneath him and is showing the race craft of a veteran of 13 frustrating premier class seasons. Suzuki enigma Alex Rins slipped from a tie for P1 into a tie for P3 with Enea Bastianini, whose early-season magic has faded somewhat of late. Bagnaia’s haul of 25 points today puts him at 56 for the season. Last year, he waited until Round 13 at Aragon to make any noise; he appears to have started early this season, and must be viewed as the most serious challenger to Quartararo for the 2022 championship.

The fervent nationalism found in MotoGP left a number of fans cursing today, with a Japanese rider and a cursed Italian standing on the Moto2 podium and another cursed Italian and a cursed Frenchman occupying the top two steps of the MotoGP podium. Everywhere else it was all Spaniards, cold consolation for having a single Spanish race winner at (one of) the Spanish Grands Prix (out of a total of four on the calendar). The premier class appears to be a lost cause for Spain this year with only Aleix and Rins in serious contention; neither has been close to a MotoGP title in a combined 19 premier class seasons. Perhaps the Aprilia is enough bike to propel Aleix to a championship in 2022; the smart Euros, however, are being bet on Bagnaia, with Quartararo attracting a healthy number of French wagers.. The season is unfolding as expected, with a half dozen credible threats to win it all in 2022.

Le Mans beckons in two weeks, followed by Mugello. Life is good in MotoGP. Plus, the brolly girls are back. There’s also an image of the massive Jerez Cathedral for your pleasure.

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.


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