Posts Tagged ‘Stefan Bradl’

2016 MotoGP Top Tenner

December 29, 2016

 

©Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com, who, in accordance with their editorial calendar, have elected to hold it until January 6, 2017.

Here are the top ten “things” that defined the 2016 season, in rough order. Not all of them are actual events.

  1. Danilo Petrucci earns promotion over Redding to a full factory ride at Pramac for 2017. The moment?  Valencia.  Started 14 races, finished in the top ten eight times.  Flirted with a front row start at The Sachsenring, tied Rossi, in fact, but fell to fourth over some obscure tie-breaker. At 26 and relatively burly he’s not Alien material, but he can handle the Desmosedici as well as any of the satellite riders and is a baller in the rain.  On a full factory bike Mr. Petrucci could easily challenge for a podium or three in 2017.

    iannone-and-dovi-in-argentina

    Iannone collects Dovizioso in Argentina

  1. Andrea Iannone gets his first premier class win in Austria while working himself out of a job—slide-off at Losail; collects Dovi at Rio Hondo; crashed out of second place at Le Mans; crashes at Catalunya, Silverstone and Sepang. By mid-season the fearless Italian was being encouraged by Gigi to consider a change of teams for next season, with Suzuki eventually drawing the winning number.
  1. The decline of Dani Pedrosa. The moment?  When the lights went out at Losail.  More losailDNFs in 2016 than wins.  Another Motegi collarbone, this time in FP2.  But a brand new contract nonetheless.  Dani peaked in 2012 (seven wins, finished second to Lorenzo by 18 points), and is definitely on the back nine of his career.  An entire career spent with one manufacturer is impressive in itself.  Pedrosa, although well-liked in the paddock, has always struck me as a kind of brooding guy, when he wasn’t displaying his “little man” complex and beating hell out of the field at joints like Laguna Seca.  To embark upon another two years of non-Alien level competition may prove to be a mistake.  The next Colin Edwards.
  1. The Silly Season. Jonas Folger, Johann Zarco, Sam Lowes and Alex Rins earn promotions from Moto2. The return of the prodigal lawyer, Karel Abraham, to Aspar Ducati, his pockets bulging with sponsor money.  Out the door are Eugene Laverty to WSB in a very raw deal (I thought he earned another MotoGP season), Stefan Bradl, taking his declining game to WSB as well, and the unfortunate Yonny Hernandez, who had a great 2015, a lousy 2016 and not enough backers to keep his ride.  A healthy number of current riders changed scenery, as usual, but a 23- bike grid with six manufacturers offers a number of alternatives for those journeymen seeking the elusive factory ride.  Paging Bradley Smith.
  1. Cal Crutchlow rises from the dead after a difficult start to the season (five points incrutchlow the first four rounds) with wins at Brno and Phillip Island. The moment:  Brno, Lap 16, on a drying track.  Crutchlow goes through on Iannone and quickly gets away, having made the correct tire choice in one of the 2016 rounds that started wet and ended dry.  First win by a British rider since the earth cooled.  At Phillip Island he went out and thumped the field (Marquez having already secured the title), establishing himself as a credible podium threat in 2017, when he will have even more microphones shoved in his face, to which we look forward with great enthusiasm.
  1. Marquez titles after a difficult 2015. Uncharacteristically settles for third in Jerez marquezbehind Rossi and Lorenzo, showing a maturity that wasn’t there in previous years.  The moment?  Motegi, when both Rossi and Lorenzo crashed out.  His win on Honda’s home field suddenly made him world champion for the third time.  Some people will say his save in practice at Assen was the moment, but he has made a career out of impossible saves.  Winning titles is what makes him go.

marquez-season-graph-jpeg

  1. maverick-vinales-wiki-profile-picture

    The Next Great Rider == Maverick Vinales

    Maverick Vinales gets first podium at Le Mans, wins at Silverstone on his way to the factory Yamaha team. The Next Great Rider secured Suzuki’s first podium since 2009 at Le Mans, then broke their 10-year non-winning streak with a scintillating win at Silverstone.  Nature, and Yamaha executives, abhorring a vacuum, he was the only real choice when Lorenzo announced his impending departure.  Vinales’ Alien Card is stamped and waiting.  The best part?  See him in civilian clothes and he looks like a cabana boy at the Ritz.

 

  1. Nine race winners. Moment—when Dovizioso crossed the finish line at Sepang to become #9.  I expect some of you to quibble about whether an entire season can be somehow characterized as a “moment.”  If this really bothers you, I encourage you to read Nietzsche, and to remember that, when considered across the eons of time in the frigid vacuum of space and an expanding galaxy, the entire 2016 MotoGP season is the blink of an eye.  So go quibble somewhere else.

lorenzo

  1. Jorge Lorenzo to Ducati announcement on April 19. One of the worst-kept secrets entering the season was that triple world champion Lorenzo would defect from the factory Yamaha team to Ducati in 2017.  It was confirmed prior to the Jerez round, with Big Blue having already signed teammate and rival Rossi through 2018.  The forthcoming changes amongst the Alien contingent in 2017 produced undertones that seemed to color the entire season.  A number of factors conspired to limit Lorenzo to a disappointing third place finish in 2016, but he seems certain the grass is greener on the other side of the hill.  We shall see.
  1. Rossi blows an engine at Mugello. The turning point of the season.  Despite a careless slide-off in Austin, Rossi entered Italy with the scoreboard reading Lorenzo 90, Marquez 85, Rossi 78.  A three-man race.  He left Italy bereft, with Lorenzo 115, Marquez 105, Rossi 78.  He had completed Lap 8 checking out Lorenzo’s back wheel when, at the bottom of the main straight, his engine went up, just as Lorenzo’s had without consequence during practice.  Control of his 2016 future went up with it, in the thick white smoke pouring from his bike.  The bad luck he needed caught up with Lorenzo in the Teutonic territories of Holland, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, but Marquez sailed through the season unscathed.

valentino-rossi-mugello

2016 was a season Rossi could have won.  Coulda?  Woulda?  Shoulda?  Didn’t.  Dude will be fired up for next year.  That makes two of us.

 

MotoGP 2016 Sachsenring Results

July 17, 2016

© Bruce Allen  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Lucky Sevens Abound as Marquez Romps in Germany 

Occasionally in this world, team sports produce individual accomplishments that stay etched in people’s minds for years.  We know that Marc Marquez qualified on pole at the Sachsenring for the seventh consecutive time.  We know that he won at the Sachsenring for the seventh consecutive time.   We know that in doing so he became, at age 23, the seventh winningest rider in MotoGP history.  It is important, however, to acknowledge the work of his crew that made all of these sevens possible.

Qualifying Issues for Aliens

In Assen, it was Dani Pedrosa’s day in the barrel on Saturday, when he had to join the dregs in Q1 and failed to make it out, starting in 16th place and never making an impression in qualifying or the race itself.  This Saturday it was defending triple world champion Jorge Lorenzo’s turn.  For the first time since the current qualifying format was adopted in 2013, Lorenzo had to go through Q1 to get to Q2, which he did, barely, by 5/100ths of a second ahead of Cal Crutchlow, despite crashing hard late in the session.

Barely 20 minutes later, in Q2, Lorenzo parted company with his bike again, smashing his #2 while the crew was still busy putting #1 back together.  His scooter ride back to the garage was a sorry sight.  For the second round in a row, he started from 11th place on the grid, the sole difference being that in Assen he had to contend with the rain, while here the qualifying conditions were perfect.  It appears Lorenzo has lost confidence in his tires, his bike and perhaps himself.  This is a man in need of a vacation.

When the smoke cleared on Saturday, Marquez sat on pole, with Valentino Rossi looking dangerous on his Yamaha M1 in third.  But three of the top five spots belonged to satellite entries:  the occasionally amazing Hector Barbera sitting second on the two-year-old Avintia Ducati; mudder Danilo Petrucci in fourth on the year old Pramac Ducati, and Pol Espargaro, who coaxed his Tech 3 Yamaha into the five hole.  Even in dry conditions, things were shaping up oddly in Germany.

The only breaking news from Saturday was that Cal Crutchlow was angry after qualifying, starting from 13th when any wanker could clearly see he would have been on the second row but for Bradl’s stupidity blah blah blah…(yawn)…  However, this time he proved to be right.  And—MO will be the only racing site to provide this factlet—for the third and final time this season, he doubled his point total in one hour.  As usual, he diluted the goodwill generated by his performance today with a nasty post-race interview with Dylan Gray, taking credit for being the only rider with the “balls to go out on a wet track on slicks,” which is 1) incorrect, and 2) self-aggrandizing, never a pretty combination.

Sunday Dawns Gray and Wet

The undercard races were fascinating.  Malaysian rookie Khairul Pawi simply ran away with the Moto3 tilt for the second time in his rookie season, again in the rain, after starting from 20th on the grid. Then there was the thrilling run to the wire in Moto2, where Johann Zarco, heading to Tech 3 Yamaha next season, pipped future teammate Jonas Folger at the flag on a surface that was wet-ish, but not drenched as it had been for Moto3.

Other than the abbreviated FP1, none of the MotoGP practice sessions had been run in the wet.  Marquez crashed heavily during the soaking morning warm-up session and was lucky to escape without the remnants of his RC213V embedded in his torso, after rider and bike went cartwheeling through the gravel together. Four hours before the race was to go off, Marquez’s crew had an intact #2 bike and, off to the side, an engine, two wheels and a pile of steel and fiberglass fragments they needed to instantly convert to a functioning MotoGP machine.  With no time to do it, and a potential flag-to-flag situation in the offing.

Decisions, Decisions

The race started with everyone on rain tires.  Marquez got off to a good start, but was immediately overtaken by Rossi, then Dovizioso on the factory Ducati. On Lap 3 Danilo Petrucci went through on both Marquez and Rossi into second place, seizing the lead from Dovizioso on Lap 4.  Suddenly, passing Marc Marquez became fashionable.  Jack Miller—yes, that Jack Miller—did so on Lap 6; Hectic Hector Barbera got in on the act on Lap 9.  Marquez was sinking like a stone.  He went hot into Turn 8 on Lap 11, spent some quality time in the gravel, and re-entered the fray trailing Dani Pedrosa, Crutchlow, Scott Redding and Andrea Iannone, although Petrucci had crashed out of the lead on the same lap.  If someone had offered me the opportunity to bet my house against Marquez at that point I would now be homeless.

While all this was going on, the rain had stopped by Lap 7, and the beginnings of a dry racing line were becoming visible from the helicopter. On Lap 13, Andrea Iannone had changed bikes and gone back out on the Michelin intermediates (perhaps “indeterminants” would be a better name).  Chaos reigned on pit row; crews were working madly, changing tires and brakes.  Dylan Gray was going mental, trying to suss out what was happening.  His guess was that the teams were fitting intermediate tires and steel brakes.  He would be proven wrong.

Loris Baz was the second rider to enter pit lane when, suddenly, Marquez himself entered after Lap 17.  When #93 returned to the track, Nick Harris and Matthew Brit, calling the race, became semi-hysterical upon discovering that Marquez’ crew had fitted his bike with slicks and a dry setting.  What had been a pile of breathtakingly expensive junk barely four hours earlier had become the fastest bike on the track.

The leaders, all on wet tires, were at this point lapping in the 1:35 range.  Marquez, squeezing his bike into a racing line perhaps a foot wide, completed Lap 23 in 1:28.  Though it was too soon to tell, the race was already over.  The leaders, other than Jack Miller, entered the pits on Lap 24, way too late to challenge Marquez.  Miller, having decided to go down with his ship, finally pitted on Lap 26 on his way to a very respectable, if ill-considered, seventh place finish.  The Pawi/Miller parley, offered by London bookies at a billion to one, was history.  Marquez eased back on the gas on Laps 29 and 30 and still won by 10 seconds.

In the post-race press conference, Marquez revealed that he and his crew have decided that the intermediate tires “do not exist for them.”  The startling decision to put him back out on slicks, which I had been crediting to a cerebral Santi Hernández, had actually been made weeks earlier.  We have observed in past years that MotoGP teams are “teams” in only the loosest sense, as the #1 rule on track is Beat Your Teammate.  Today, however, it became clear that this is, in fact, a team sport, that the sublime efforts of a supremely gifted rider will often be scuttled by lackluster work from his crew (see Bradl’s race here in 2014).  For the Repsol Honda #1 team today, it was, indeed, a brilliant team effort that produced a scintillating win.

The Big Picture

Marc Marquez came to Germany leading the 2016 chase by 24 points and left leading by 48 as Jorge Lorenzo again failed to show up in any meaningful way, finishing 15th with his head down, his hopes for a fourth world title in 2016 in tatters and totally at the mercy of the weather.  Teammate Rossi lost more ground again today, coming in eighth and trails now by 59 points.  Marquez likes to say that Assen and the Sachsenring offer opportunities to gain or lose a lot of ground.  Even if that’s true for every circuit on the calendar, he took control of the championship over these last two rounds, making it hard to argue with him.

The top ten finishers, listed below, were interesting, as is often the case in flag-to-flag contests.  The Ducati contingent had another highly productive weekend, thanks mostly to the weather, which also contributed to a dismal outing for Suzuki Ecstar—Vinales 12th, Espargaro 14th.  The grip problems the Suzuki experiences on dry surfaces are magnified in the wet, according to team principal Davide Brivio.

Most of the grid heads to Austria tonight for two days of testing.  Marc Marquez, the 2016 championship now officially his to lose, is heading to the beach.  It is reasonable to expect that before he leaves tonight he will have picked up a big dinner check, a small thank you to his crew for a big job well done.

2016 German Grand Prix Race Results

2016 Championship Standings after Nine Rounds

MotoGP 2016 Sachsenring Preview

July 12, 2016

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

It’s starting to feel a lot like 2013

Misfortune having found Movistar Yamaha icons Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo last time out in Assen, Repsol Honda #1 Marc Marquez looks to be getting away with the 2016 championship. For the riders currently trailing Marquez, i.e., everyone, the GoPro Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland couldn’t come at a worse time.

The German Grand Prix arrives in the midst of a two-races-in-68-days drought; there are simply no opportunities to play catch-up until mid-August. Then, beginning with the newfangled Austrian Grand Prix, the grid confronts an eight- races-in-77-days stretch, culminating at Sepang at the end of October. Marquez has fared well during the orderly every-other-week schedule that opened the season. Once The Red Bull Ring arrives, teams will have few opportunities to make adjustments, with the frantic Pacific swing looming in the fall.

Scheduling issues aside, the Alien contingent faces major challenges cutting into Marquez’ lead in Germany, where he is undefeated since 2009. He has won every MotoGP race he has started here, from pole each time. (If you wish to take issue with the fact that he’s hung onto his 2014 chassis, feel free.) Meanwhile, Rossi hasn’t won here since 2009, with but two podia to show for his efforts since then. Jorge Lorenzo has never won here in the premier class, his high water mark having been four consecutive second place results between 2009 and 2012. And Dani Pedrosa, suffering out loud with the Marquez specs built into his 2016 RC213V, owned the joint until 2013. Although he’s finished second here the last two seasons, his fortunes have taken a downturn this year. One doubts he will see the podium this weekend.

Anyone thinking, “Well, what about Jack Miller?” at this juncture needs to make a New Year’s resolution to quit sniffing glue in 2017.

Recent History in Dresden

2013 looked like it would be Dani Pedrosa’s year. He had avoided injury early in the season, and led the championship heading into Round 8 in Germany. Lorenzo was wounded in Assen, Rossi was still getting re-acquainted with the Yamaha after two years at Ducati, and rookie Marquez was, well, a rookie. Instead, Pedrosa went flying over the handlebars in FP3 on Saturday morning, returning to Spain for yet another surgery on his re-pulverized collarbone. Lorenzo, pressing, crashed yet again on Friday, re-injuring the collarbone he broke at Assen; with two Aliens missing, the other riders all jumped up two spots. Marquez won that day, seizing the championship lead he would not relinquish until 2015. Cal Crutchlow, who had qualified well in the middle of the front row on the Tech 3 Yamaha, finished second for his best premier class result ever, eight seconds ahead of Rossi.

The 2014 fiasco started memorably with nine bikes on the grid and 14 in pit lane, the result of a rapidly drying track at the start. Homeboy Stefan Bradl might have won the race that day, lining up on the grid with slicks and enjoying a 12 second advantage over the Alien contingent on the first lap. Alas, though his crew had thoughtfully mounted slicks on his LCR Honda, they had neglected to change the setting from wet to dry, causing him to lose two seconds per lap to the big dogs and leading, ultimately, to a demoralizing 16th place finish, seemingly running in molasses. Predictably, the race was won by Marquez, followed closely by Pedrosa, with Lorenzo, Rossi and Andrea Iannone spread out over the next half mile.

2015: The Repsol Honda duo of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa were so fast last year they appeared to have snuck their MotoGP machines into a World Superbike race. Marquez, back on the 2014 chassis he hauled out after Barcelona, led every practice session. As in 2014, he and Pedrosa qualified 1-2 and finished 1-2, relegating the factory Yamaha team of Rossi and Lorenzo to also-ran status. Rossi, however, extended his championship lead over Lorenzo to 13 points, and left for summer vacation in a fist-pumping celebration of a near-perfect first half season.

Marquez owns pretty much every record worth owning at The Sachsenring. Six consecutive wins, six consecutive poles. Fastest lap ever. Sure, teammate Pedrosa owns the most career wins here, but the most recent, coming in 2012, is receding into memory. It would surprise no one if Marquez ties that one this year and pummels it into submission in 2017.

2017 Rider Lineup

Unconfirmed riders in italics:

Repsol Honda
Marc Marquez
Dani Pedrosa

Movistar Yamaha
Valentino Rossi
Maverick Vinales

Ducati Factory
Jorge Lorenzo
Andrea Dovizioso

Suzuki Ecstar
Andrea Iannone
Alex Rins

KTM Factory
Bradley Smith
Pol Espargaro

Aprilia Gresini
Sam Lowes
Aleix Espargaro

LCR Honda
Cal Crutchlow

Marc VDS Honda
Jack Miller
Tito Rabat

Monster Yamaha Tech 3
Jonas Folger
Johann Zarco

Pramac Ducati
Scott Redding
Danilo Petrucci

Aspar Ducati (Suzuki?)
Yonny Hernandez
Alvaro Bautista

Avintia Ducati
Hector Barbera
Loris Baz

It would not surprise me if the Avintia team were to jettison hard-luck Loris Baz in favor of noted underachiever Stefan Bradl, the highest profile rider not to have a seat lined up for next year. Bradl, not known for his ability to develop a bike, needs no such skills in order to pedal a two-year-old Ducati.

Quick Hitters

Aleix Espargaro abandoned all hope for eventual Alien status by accepting the second seat on the factory Aprilia Gresini team for the next two years. Factory money should soothe some of the pain…Nicky Hayden continues to perform respectably during his rookie season in World Superbikes with Honda, securing a podium and a fifth place finish at Laguna Seca over the weekend. He currently stands sixth for the season, a mere 13 points out of fourth, but a country mile from third. There are Aliens in WSB, too…Loris Baz returns from injury this week, having missed the last two rounds with around a dozen titanium screws in his foot. No FMLA for this guy, as his seat with Avintia for next season would appear to be in jeopardy, in part due to his recent extended absence…The elusive Circuit of Wales has applied for a new funding “scheme,” the same week it was revealed that one of its executives had $42,000 worth of landscaping performed at his home and billed to the track. In the UK, they don’t call these things schemes for nothing.

Your Weekend Forecast

At this writing, Weather.com tells us to expect wet conditions for much of the weekend, with temps rising from Friday to Sunday. If such turns out to be the case, it will bode well for the Ducati contingent, neutral for Marquez and Rossi, and negative for Lorenzo, who may show up with a note from his mom excusing him from any wet sessions. If, as is generally the case, Weather.com has it completely wrong, look for sunny skies on race day with temps around 80° F.

Speaking of completely wrong, the layout and expected weather conditions would seem to favor the Hondas and Suzukis; the Ducatis will rarely get out of fifth gear. I can visualize Marquez, Rossi and Vinales on the podium, with Jorge Lorenzo nowhere in sight. The tradition of leaving on holiday during the heat of the summer commences on Sunday evening, erasing all interest in MotoGP across the globe until mid-August. As usual, the race goes off early in the morning on Sunday in the states, and we will have results and analysis here around noon EDT.

MotoGP 2016 Assen Preview

June 22, 2016

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Lorenzo in a Bad Place after Catalunya Crash 

Seems like months ago when Ducati wildman Andrea Iannone T-boned Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo in Barcelona, handing the Mallorcan his second DNF of the season and costing him the 2016 championship lead.  The triple world champion must now commence his attack on Honda wünderkind and series leader Marc Marquez at a venue where his recent fortunes have ranged from bad to worse.  Meanwhile, teammate and rival Valentino Rossi and Marquez look to pick things up where they left off last June as we steam into Round 8 of 2016, The Motul TT Assen.

Recent History at Assen

2013—Lorenzo’s now deep-seated aversion to racing in the rain was born here, as he crashed hard in practice on Thursday and raced on Saturday with a fractured collarbone.  His gritty 5th place finish that day prefigured further disaster two weeks later at the Sachsenring, when another abysmal high side destroyed any possibility of a repeat championship in 2013, opening the door for Marc Marquez and the emergence of a new racing legend.  Back on that Saturday in 2013 at Assen, it was Valentino Rossi taking the checkered flag two seconds in front of rookie Marquez, with Cal Crutchlow, then flogging the Tech 3 Yamaha, taking third place, the third of his four podium appearances that season.

2014—a flag-to-flag affair, the bane of all moto pilots, resulted in Jorge Lorenzo limping home in 13th place, gave young Marquez his eighth win in succession, and left Lorenzo 119 points out of the lead with 10 rounds left.  Though he would rally mightily later in the season, actually winning the second half, it must be said that racing in the rain, especially at Assen, has become a thing for Jorge Lorenzo.  That year, Andrea Dovizioso cemented his reputation as a “mudder” with a second place finish on the factory Ducati while Dani Pedrosa completed the podium on the #2 Repsol Honda.

Last year featured a memorable late-in-the-day battle between Rossi and Marquez, the two trading paint (rubber, actually) in the penultimate corner, Marquez getting the worst of it, with Rossi caroming through the gravel trap on the way to a 1.2 second victory over the angry Spaniard.  Marquez was prevented from accusing Rossi of cutting the corner, having taken a similar path to victory over his rival in 2013 at Laguna Seca.  At a considerable distance behind all the excitement, Lorenzo was quietly pedaling his M-1 to a constrained third place finish, 14 seconds behind Rossi.

Let’s review.  Rossi and Marquez have battled tooth and nail at Assen over the past three years, Rossi holding a 2-1 edge, while Lorenzo has been able to manage a 5th, a 13th and a 3rd.  Not exactly the best venue for Jorge to gain ground on his compatriot nor put some distance between himself and his teammate.  To make matters worse, the weather forecast calls for cool and damp conditions, a setup likely to give Lorenzo a case of the yips.

The Factory Seats for 2017 are Set

The most interesting phase of the silly season this year is now over, with Alex Rins having been announced as the second Suzuki rider, joining Andrea Iannone, and forcing the Hamamatsu factory team to debut its 2017 program absent any rider continuity from 2016.  With Sam Lowes having earned (?) his promotion from Moto2 to the factory Aprilia team, it appears all but certain that he will be joined by Aleix Espargaro, currently minister-without-portfolio after losing his seat to Rins.  The announcement of Espargaro is not expected prior to Round 9.  Assuming, however, that it comes to pass, the factory lineup for 2017-18 looks like this:

Repsol Honda—Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa

Movistar Yamaha—Valentino Rossi, Maverick Vinales

Factory Ducati—Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso

Factory KTM—Pol Espargaro, Bradley Smith

Suzuki ECSTAR—Andrea Iannone, Alex Rins

Aprilia Gresini—Sam Lowes, Aleix Espargaro

All of which leaves some rather high profile riders scrambling for satellite seats.  Riders such as Cal Crutchlow, Stefan Bradl, Alvaro Bautista, and Johann Zarco, all with substantial pedigrees and piles of trophies are finding the “silly season” to be somewhere between anxiety hour and hammer time.

Zarco, who should be a mortal lock to join Herve Poncharal’s French Tech 3 outfit, may determine that his interests will be best served by remaining in Moto2, while any of the other three could easily follow Nicky Hayden to World Superbike if they are unable to sign with a competitive satellite team.  In my humble opinion, Bradl and Bautista have underachieved for most of their time in the premier class, while Crutchlow has yet to meet a bridge he doesn’t seem anxious to burn.  Pretty sure Cal could picture himself on a late model Pramac Ducati far more easily than Gigi Dall’Igna can.

Happenings in the Junior Classes

The Moto2 championship is a bar brawl midway through the season, with Alex Rins leading the way, trailed by Sam Lowes and Johann Zarco, a mere 10 points separating the three.  Swiss rider Thomas Luthi trails Zarco by 13 points, barely managing to remain in Tranche 1 in the class.  South African Brad Binder is running away with the Moto3 title in his fifth season in the class and appears to be a cinch to move up to Moto2 next season.  His nearest competitor, Jorge Navarro, broke his leg in training and does not appear to be a threat this season.  The next five riders are all young Italians, mostly protégés of Dr. Rossi, and likely figure to play a role in the Moto2 championship in a few years.

Nicky Hayden has established himself, during his “rookie” campaign, as a solid Tranche Two rider in World Superbike.  He enjoyed a fifth and a sixth at Donington Park in late May.  Last weekend at Misano, he crashed out of Race 1 and finished either fifth or sixth in Race 2, being listed in sixth place but with a better time than fifth place finisher Lorenzo Savadori.  For Nicky, accustomed to playing for table stakes for years and reduced to playing dollar limit these days, one assumes he still gets juiced on race days.  But practice and testing must, at this stage of his career, begin wearing a little thin.  Still, nothing but positive comments from the Kentucky Kid, a lesson The Coventry Crasher could devote some time to learning.

Your Weekend Forecast

Weather.com tells us it will definitely rain on Friday, probably rain on Saturday, and possibly rain on Sunday, with temps only reaching into the high 60’s.  Another opportunity for Michelin to demonstrate they are investing the time and resources necessary for the sole tire supplier.  With Marquez and Rossi having made a partial peace at Catalunya, Assen represents an opportunity to heat the rivalry up once again.  Lorenzo will have his work cut out for him, especially in the wet.  The voices in my head keep whispering Andrea Dovizioso.  And for the first time ever, we will have race results later on Sunday, not Saturday.  On Saturday, you can catch qualifying, then go out and cut the grass.

Despite chaos at the start, The Streak continues

July 13, 2014

MotoGP 2014 Sachsenring Results, by Bruce Allen 

In a déjà vu of Assen two weeks ago, chaos reigned at the start of the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring.  Hard rain was quickly giving way to clearing skies, and crews were rolling the dice on tire choices.  After the sighting lap, 14 bikes entered pit lane to change from wets to slicks, including all four of the factory Honda and Yamaha machines.  At the end of the day, though, it was Marc Marquez leading a Honda 1-2, joined on the podium by Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. 

Chaos at the Start of the German Grand Prix

In what appeared at the time to be a combined stroke of genius and gonads, Stefan Bradl, who had qualified third, took to the damp track on slicks, joined by plodders Karel Abraham and Hiro Aoyama, with nothing at stake on customer Hondas.  Six other open class bikes, on wet tires, formed up on the grid, producing one of the strangest images in the history of MotoGP—a nine bike grid, with 14 machines crowded into pit lane like Walmart shoppers on Black Friday.  At the end of Lap 1, your race leaders were Bradl, Michael Laverty and Danilo Petrucci.  The joy in the LCR Honda, PBM and Ioda garages would prove extremely short-lived.

Bradl, despite a 10-12 second advantage at the start, was a victim of his crew today.  Although they managed to switch his tires as he sat on the grid, they were unable to change the suspension settings from wet to dry.  By Lap 2, the German was giving up two seconds per lap to the factory Hondas; by Lap 7, both Marquez and Dani Pedrosa had passed him.  Figuratively stuck in fourth gear all day, Bradl would finish 16th in what his countrymen prayed would not be a preview of the World Cup final match versus Argentina later that evening.

A quarter of the way through the race, the Repsol Honda duo was running in clean air out front, while the Bruise Brothers of the factory Yamaha team, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, were still slicing their way through the field toward their rightful places in the top four.  Lorenzo, bouncing back strongly from his deplorable effort in Assen, claimed only his third podium of the year, while Rossi finished eight seconds farther back for his second consecutive off-the-podium finish after four rostrums in succession.  Today’s race marked the third Repsol 1-2 finish of the year, joining Austin and Argentina; let there be no argument that The Sachsenring is a Honda-friendly circuit.  Movistar Yamaha’s 3-4 finish today was probably as good as they could have hoped for, especially given the disorder at the start.

As regards the Marquez-Pedrosa duel from Lap 7 on, it was interesting, but fell short of compelling.  Pedrosa, pedaling as hard as he pedrosa-marquezcould, was unable to get within half a second of his young teammate; the expression “close, but no cigar” comes to mind.  HRC announced this past week that Dani had signed another two year contract on the factory Honda, thus having earned the right to stare at Marquez’s tailpipes through the 2016 season.  For a man of Pedrosa’s ability and pride, the prospect of playing second fiddle to the 21 year-old Catalan phenom for another 2½ years must come as a very mixed blessing.

Elsewhere on the Grid

One of the best performances today came from Pramac Racing tough guy Andrea Iannone, who wrestled his Ducati Desmosedici from a pit lane start to a fifth place finish.  It is common knowledge that the Ducati performs best in wet conditions, and today was no exception, as the over-engineered and under-steering Italian machine claimed three of the top ten spots.  That Iannone on the junior Pramac team would thump the factory duo of Andrea Dovizioso (8th) and Cal Crutchlow (10th) says something about his skill and motivation.  It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the aggressive young Italian doesn’t end up with a seat on the factory team next year.  He’s earned it.

The Espargaro brothers, elder Aleix and junior Pol, engaged in another of their typical duels today, spending the bulk of the day Two Espargarosseemingly miles apart only to finish separated by mere seconds.  Once again, Aleix dominated the practice sessions leading up to the race and qualified fourth.  Once again, he ran up front with the second group most of the day.  And once again, little brother moved up late in the day to join him in the top ten.  At the end of Lap 10, Aleix was running 7th, while Pol was lollygagging back in 16th place.  My pre-season fantasy of seeing Aleix on a podium, his best chances having been here and Assen, is officially flushed.  Both brothers, however, have bright futures in the premier class.

One rider for whom The Sachsenring is perhaps his least favorite track has to be Pol’s Tech 3 Yamaha teammate Bradley Smith.  Smith, who crashed four separate times in practice, managed a fifth crash today on Lap 4, rejoined the race for some unknown reason, and finished 19th.  This was one of those weekends in which he inflicted somewhere around €300,000 worth of damage to his various bikes.  At least he didn’t do a “Zarco,” a term which came into existence during today’s Moto2 race in which Johann Zarco, on the Caterham Suter, crashed out midway through the race and had to sit, helplessly, in the gravel, watching his once-gorgeous motorcycle explode in a fireball of gasoline and fiberglass, eventually to be removed from the run-off area in a large wheelbarrow. ZarcoCapture

The Customer Honda Race

Each round, it seems the four non-prototype Hondas end the day in a small, tight wad of mediocrity, as if they’re having their own little private race-within-a-race.  Nicky Hayden, who made it through Q1 on Saturday, looked to have the best chance today to win the Taller Than Danny DeVito award, but his wrist, apparently permanently damaged, could not hold up over 30 laps.  At the finish, it was Gresini’s Scott Redding (one of The 14), Aspar’s Hiro Aoyama, Cardion’s Karel Abraham and Aspar #2 Hayden (another 14er) filling positions 11-14.  HRC, having shamelessly oversold the merits of the RCV1000R prior to the start of the season, owes these guys one.

Making the Turn on the Way to the Back Nine

If this were golf, the riders would be cooling off in the clubhouse, grabbing a beer, and chatting up the pretty young women selling hats and sweaters.  Instead, most will be heading to Brno, the Czech city in desperate need of a couple of vowels, for two days of testing on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Racing returns the second weekend of August at Indianapolis, yet another Honda-friendly track.  Dorna has informed Motorcycle.com that, since we are unwilling to disclose the birth weight of our managing editor’s mother, they will not be issuing press credentials to our erstwhile correspondent.  So, rather than lugging my laptop to the IMS media center, I’ll report on Round 10 from my kitchen table, as Marc Marquez continues his assault on every grand prix motorcycle racing record known to man.  Aloha.

Marquez Hat Trick in Argentina

April 27, 2014

New country, new continent, same outcome 

Repsol Honda crown prince Marc Marquez recovered from a confusing start to win the inaugural MotoGP chase at the picturesque Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo.  After slipping briefly into seventh (7th) place from pole position at the start, the charismatic Catalan sliced his way through the field, spent 13 laps in second place giving leader Jorge Lorenzo the heebie-jeebies, and went through Lorenzo’s Yamaha easily on Lap 17.  Cruising to the flag from that point, he became the first premier class rider to start the season with three wins from pole since Giacomo Agostini in 1971. 

Those of us fortunate enough to watch today’s race witnessed what is the greatest start to a MotoGP premier class season in 43 years.  Longer than most of you reading this have been alive.  Some have referred to Marc Marquez as the greatest rider to come along in a generation.  After his performance this weekend, he is arguably the best rider to have come along in two generations.  Maybe ever.

As a rookie, Marquez seized the title from Lorenzo, a reigning double world champion and one of the fine riders of the modern era.  Today, he spotted Lorenzo six positions and perhaps five seconds, punked him at the time and place of his choosing, and barely broke a sweat.  For Lorenzo, having given up 25 points to Marquez in Qatar and another 19 in Austin, finishing third today and appearing on the podium must have felt like a win.  A mere two years ago, a result like this would have had him cursing himself and spitting thumbtacks.  Down 53 points after three rounds in 2014, it promises to be six long months of brave smiles for the gentleman from Mallorca.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Aside from the drama up front, there was plenty going on all over the grid today.  Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa had himself a rough start, too, falling back from the #3 hole on the grid and spending some quality time in seventh position before roaring back later in the day.  At the beginning of Lap 8 he sat in fifth place; by the end of Lap 9 he was running third, having put away both LCR Honda pilot Stefan Bradl and junior Ducati tough guy Andrea Iannone.  Pedrosa trailed Lorenzo by four seconds on Lap 12 and ended up beating him by a second and a half, despite having Yamaha icon Valentino Rossi in his rearview for most of the second half of the race.

Rossi, after watching his front tire get torn to smithereens in Austin, went with the Bridgestone Kevlar option today and was all over the board.  Finishing the first lap in second position, he ran wide on several occasions, one time courtesy of a hip check from Bradl, before finally settling into fourth place where he finished.  Having announced at the start of the season that the results in his first six races of this year would determine his future in MotoGP, I’d guess he’s still wondering whether he has what it takes to meet his own high standards.  Certainly, Rossi is too proud (and has too much branding to protect) to become the next Colin Edwards and continue suiting up years after his peak.

Stefan Bradl enjoyed a productive fifth place finish after starting ninth, courtesy of a brutal high side in qualifying that left him shaken, not stirred, in his team garage on Saturday afternoon.  Iannone, who has been impressive all year on the Pramac Ducati, ran with the first group again early in the day before finally finishing sixth, the top Ducati to cross the line, three spots ahead of factory rider Andrea Dovizioso who, occupying second place at the end of Lap 2, got passed like a hat at a revival meeting the rest of the day.

Let Me Just Say This about Alvaro Bautista

Dude seems to spend way more time and attention on his appearance than on his profession.  Cursed with abnormally good looks, he puts blond streaks in his hair, then has them removed.  Grows a nice two week beard, and today shaves it off.  Narcissists generally sit around wondering, “Gee, what can I do to make myself prettier?”  Alvaro Bautista shows all the symptoms.  Just sayin’.

Meanwhile, running Fausto Gresini’s factory spec Honda RC213V, he crashes out in Qatar, crashes out in Austin and today, with the pressure on, makes it as far as Turn 5 of the first lap before landing in the kitty litter.  This, barely five days after the volatile Gresini expressed “concern” about Bautista’s competitiveness, and three days after Bautista himself vowed to take no unnecessary risks in order to finish the race.

I expected Gresini to give Bautista the boot after 2012 and again after 2013.  There is just no way he will sign him to a new contract after this season.  With riders like Vinales and Rabat looking to move up from Moto2 next season, and Bautista’s history of underachievement and excitability—how many times has he found himself running up front early in races only to crash out, often taking other riders with him—Bautista is toast.  Devilishly handsome toast.  Adios, muchacho.

Quick Hitters

Once again this year, the Tech 3 Yamahas seem to be connected at the hip. It was 2012 when Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow seemed to spend the season fighting each other every lap of every week. Last year, Crutchlow had the advantage over then rookie Bradley Smith. This year, however, Smith and new teammate Pol Espargaro seem to be traveling in tandem again. Both riders crashed out in Qatar. In Austin, it was Smith finishing fifth and Espargaro sixth. Today, it was Smith seventh and Espargaro eighth. Unlike 2012, they are usually separated on the track most of the day, but somehow seem to end up back-to-back. Espargaro seems to be slightly ahead of where he was expected to be at this point, Smith slightly behind.

Nicky Hayden got worked by teammate Hiro Aoyama at the finish line today. As if having one of the slowest bikes on the grid isn’t bad enough, the Kentucky Kid gets jammed by Aoyama, who was last seen in a MotoGP top ten at Motegi in 2011. Ugh.

Cardion AB rich kid Karel Abraham, with another dazzling 13th place finish today, has collected more points in 2014 (8) than he did in all of 2013 (5). That Honda Production Racer seems to be working wonders for him.

Finally, before we start licking our chops over Jerez next week, we must note another disappointing weekend for Aleix Espargaro on the NGM Forward Yamaha. Once again, expectations were high after he qualified fourth. Once again they were dashed when he went walkabout on Lap 2. Although he recovered sufficiently to finish 15th, he looks capable of challenging for the podium every time out, but isn’t getting it done. We’re sticking with our earlier call that he will finally get his podium at Assen or The Sachsenring.

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MotoGP 2014 Losail Results

March 23, 2014

Marquez starts where he left off; major fail for Lorenzo 

 

Marquez in Sepang 2013

After a shocking offseason, in which the MotoGP world appeared to have been turned on its head, it was mostly the usual suspects occupying the podium as the big bikes of MotoGP kicked off 2014 in fine style under the lights of Losail.  Defending world champion Marc Marquez, six weeks after breaking his leg, barely held off a resurgent Valentino Rossi for the win, with Dani Pedrosa sneaking onto the podium in third place.  Double world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who has been singing the blues for months, crashed out of the lead on Lap One and landed squarely behind the eight ball. 

Before getting into the race itself, let’s examine the rule changes in microcosm, by comparing the second qualifying sessions from 2013 and this past Saturday.

2013 and 2014 QP2 Capture

MotoGP 2014: The Playing Field Leveled

In the run-up to the race, considerable discussion centered around the off-season rule changes and the effects those changes would have on life in the upper reaches of the premier class.  (See this great article in Cycle World for a fascinating look behind the scenes of these changes.)  A comparison of the 2013 QP2 and 2014 QP2 illustrates how far off base many of those conversations were. Without exception, every rider who made it through to QP2 in 2014 improved his time compared to last year.

The expectation that the 2014 Open class would be more competitive than the 2013 CRT class has been clearly met.  The groaning and gnashing of teeth emanating from the Movistar Yamaha team that the new rules punish them for their previous success ring hollow, in that they, too, improved their qualifying times from last year.  The “unfair advantage” Ducati allegedly enjoys by opting to run in the Open class is a myth; in 2013, Ducatis qualified 4th, 10th and 11th, while this year they managed 4th, 8th and 11th.  And even poor Nicky Hayden, whose Honda Production Racer is, according to him, only slightly faster than a 1986 Vespa, improved on his time from last year, just not by enough to make it to QP2.  Waah waah waah.

The last word on this subject:  the most fascinating aspect of all of this is the remarkably reduced spread in the QP times.  Last year, the difference between Lorenzo and Aleix Espargaro was 2.3 seconds.  This year, the margin between Marquez and Pol Espargaro is a mere .6 seconds.  Despite the sniveling and whining from Lorenzo and Rossi, this portends much more exciting racing in 2014.

But What about the Race?

With a front row comprised of Repsol Honda’s wonderkid, FUN&GO Gresini Honda’s Alvaro Bautista, and Monster Tech3 Yamaha Brit Bradley Smith, the offseason madness looked set to continue into the season opener.  Movistar Yamaha’s Lorenzo?  Fifth.  Repsol Honda veteran Pedrosa?  Sixth.  Aging factory Yamaha icon Rossi?  Tenth.  Expectations were all over the board.  NGM Forward Yamaha poster boy Aleix Espargaro, who had owned the offseason and the first three practice sessions in Doha, choked on a bone in qualifying, crashing both of his bikes, and started from ninth place.  Of the first 12 qualifiers, four were factory studs, another four represented satellite factory teams, and four enjoyed Open class advantages in fuel and tire choices, three of which were Ducatis.

Anything could happen.

The race got off to a clean start, with Lorenzo vaulting into the lead, putting his ambition to become a Spanish blues singer on hold.  Then, in turn 15 of Lap One, the unthinkable occurred—Lorenzo crashed out of the lead, an unforced error which just as suddenly revived his musical aspirations.  As the riders crossed the start/finish line for the first time, it was Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda, Marquez, Smith, Andrea Dovizioso on the factory Ducati, Andrea Iannone on the satellite Ducati, and Rossi leading the way.  My thoughts, at that point:

  • Stefan Bradl?  He’ll crash.
  • What are Dovizioso and, moreover, Iannone doing up front?
  • What happened to Bautista?  Did he crash already?
  • Where’s Elmo Dani Pedrosa?
  • Does Bradley Smith look like a chemo patient with eyebrows, or what?

Gradually (ignoring the Lorenzo debacle) a state of normalcy began to settle over the field.  Iannone crashed out on Lap Two, but would recover sufficiently to finish tenth.  Both Bautista and Pedrosa began picking riders off and moving up the chart.  Rossi, who I thought had been sandbagging over the winter, suddenly materialized in fourth place on Lap Six.  Bradl crashed out at turn six of Lap Nine, at which point the top five riders were Marquez, Rossi, Smith, Pedrosa and Bautista.  Instead of a 2013 front group consisting of one or two riders, there were four or five in the picture.  Things were getting interesting.  And by “interesting”, I mean that Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi, Tomorrow and Yesterday, suddenly found themselves in a cage match that would provide 13 laps of grand prix motorcycle racing at its finest.

Ultimately, Smith crashed his satellite Yamaha on Lap 19, giving up 11 championship points in the process, and Bautista laid his RC2013V down on Lap 21, handing third place to Pedrosa.  That Marquez would enjoy his seventh career win in the premier class was not a shock; for him, a broken leg seems about as bothersome as a head cold.  That he would need every ounce of skill, daring and luck he owns to nip Rossi at the flag is remarkable.  Rossi is not a seven time premier class champion for nothing, and his ability to adjust to pretty much anything—outside of a Ducati Desmosedici—is firmly established.  There must be some serious head-shaking going on in the Movistar Yamaha garage tonight, as the new boss has, for the time being, given way to the old boss.  And I wonder how Jeremy Burgess, Rossi’s former crew chief, is feeling about now.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Aleix Espargaro, despite his miserable QP and inauspicious start, ended the day in fourth place, and must still be feeling wildly optimistic about his prospects for the season.  The two other Brits in the field, Cal Crutchlow on the Ducati and rookie Scott Redding on the production Honda, ended up sixth and seventh, sticking it in the eye of the American contingent of Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards, who still had relatively good days.  Hayden drove his Vespa to an eighth place finish, while the 40 year old Edwards enjoyed his first top ten finish in over a year aboard the #2 NGM Forward Yamaha.  Edwards insists that he will switch to the FTR frame once it is ready, while teammate Espargaro seems pretty happy with the status quo.  As noted above, Andrea Iannone completed today’s top ten.

Five Things We Learned Heading to Austin

  1. The world has never seen anything like Marc Marquez.
  2. Valentino Rossi still belongs in MotoGP.
  3. Aleix Espargaro may not win the 2014 title, but his stock is way high.
  4. It could be a very long year for Jorge Lorenzo.
  5. After a number of dull, predictable years, MotoGP is BACK.

Top Ten after 1 Round

2014 Valencia Test Times, Day 2

November 12, 2013

by Bruce Allen

11/12/2013            Courtesy of Crash.net

1. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1m 30.536s (Lap 75/77)
2. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 1m 30.768s (58/60)
3. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1m 30.948s (67/72)
4. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) 1m 30.990s (57/60)
5. Alvaro Bautista ESP Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 1m 31.208s (41/72)
6. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 1m 31.397s (77/78)
7. Valentino Rossi ITA Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 1m 31.414s (56/57)
8. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (GP13) 1m 31.661s (55/62)
9. Pol Espargaro ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 1m 31.836s (66/72)
10. Andrea Iannone ITA Energy T.I. Pramac Racing (GP13) 1m 31.844s (61/68)
11. Cal Crutchlow GBR Ducati Team (GP13) 1m 32.114s (53/53)
12. Michele Pirro ITA Ducati Test Team (GP13) 1m 32.473s (47/65)
13. Nicky Hayden USA Power Electronics Aspar (RCV1000R) 1m 32.576s (76/76)
14. Yonny Hernandez COL Ignite Pramac Racing (GP13) 1m 32.800s (26/27)
15. Aleix Espargaro ESP NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Yamaha M1) 1m 32.847s (17/18)
16. Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Yamaha M1) 1m 33.149s (21/34)
17. Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART) 1m 33.672s (32/43)
18. Randy de Puniet FRA Paul Bird Motorsport (ART) 1m 33.833s (22/37)
19. Scott Redding GBR Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RCV1000R) 1m 34.541s (22/23)
20. Mike di Meglio FRA Avintia Racing (FTR-Kawasaki) 1m 34.618s (29/42)

Interesting notes–

Marquez, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Bradl all lap under 1:31, starting up where they left off on Sunday.

Dovi testing at ValenciaAfter a full year on the GP13, Andrea Dovizioso is half a second faster than Cal Crutchlow is after one full day.  Nicky Hayden slipped a mere 8/10ths from his qualifying time on the GP13 during his first day on the new Honda lite RCV1000R.  Little Brother Pol Espargaro, riding the Tech 3 satellite Yamaha, beat Big Brother Aleix on the FTR Yamaha  by a full second.  Randy de Puniet shows up out of nowhere and Paul Byrd puts him on the full ART, throwing Michael Laverty back on the so-called PBM-ART, from which Laverty thought he had graduated late last season; the Welshman can’t be too happy about that.  And Hector Barbera, fresh off signing a new two year deal with Avintia Blusens, is too drunk to get on the bike either day, but sober enough to give a gushing interview to the Italian media as to how excited he is by the prospect of finishing 16th most days for the next two years.  Jeesh.

Scott Redding is too banged up to give his new Honda lite a proper whipping.  Valentino Rossi, who unceremoniously threw his faithful and longstanding crew chief Jerry Burgess under the bus last weekend, still finds himself running behind the likes of Bradl, Bautista and satellite Yamaha rider Bradley Smith.  Vale, you’re on the same bike Lorenzo nearly won a third world championship on.  The problem is NOT the crew chief!

Yonny Hernandez, on a factory spec GP13, finds himself running in 14th position.  Wait until he gets the dumbed-down version with the second rate software.  At least he’ll still have the pleasure of getting to burn out a dozen engines during the season, while Crazy Joe Iannone will have to settle for five engines and a fighting chance to run in Q2s and finish in the top ten at some tracks.

 

Captain America - 1969

This picture of Peter Fonda doing his Captain America bit from Easy Rider  is appropos of nothing, but there’s no editors at Motorcycle.com to take it down.  Gotta love that!  Pretty sure the crack about Barbera being drunk wouldn’t have made it through, either.

Lorenzo Wins at Motegi; Title Up for Grabs in Spain

October 27, 2013

Read all about it on Motorcycle.com.  Too tired tonight to do all the cutting and pasting.

MotoGP Misano Preview

September 9, 2013

by Bruce Allen.

Motorcycle.com will publish this article on Wednesday or Thursday, complete with hi-rez images.  Until then, please enjoy the raw copy.

Lorenzo and Pedrosa are running out of time 

Factory Yamaha kingpin Jorge Lorenzo kept his faint 2013 title hopes alive in Britain last time out with a stirring, come-from-behind win over rookie Repsol Honda wunderkind Marc Marquez.  That Marquez was competing with a dislocated shoulder on a track perfectly attuned to the YZR-M1’s characteristics makes his 20 point day almost beyond belief.  Marquez’s teammate, pre-season favorite Dani Pedrosa, was reduced to spectator status on a day that put the 2013 season in sharp focus. 

Round 13, the GP Aperol di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini opens the final third of what has been a shocking premier class season.  For Lorenzo and Pedrosa, who had been expected to battle for the title, San Marino will either thrust one of them back into contention or start the countdown to the first of many MotoGP world championships for Marquez, who competes as if he’s from a different planet.  The Alien of all Aliens, if you will.

Silverstone was a race Jorge Lorenzo had been expected to win, having won there in 2010 and again last year.  He had his game face on all weekend, after third place finishes in Indianapolis and Brno the previous two weeks.  He loves the track, and was fast in practice all three days.  When Marquez went over the handlebars on Sunday morning, it looked like the racing gods were finally smiling on the Mallorcan, offering him the opportunity for an easy win, a chance to gain back a big chunk of the 44 point lead his two shoulder surgeries had given Marquez.  Instead, it took everything he had to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on the penultimate turn of the race.  Like a big old yellow dog, Marquez appears more dangerous when hurt.

As for Pedrosa, his racing life has turned into a dirt sandwich, and the only choice left to him is whether he wants it on white or wheat.  Appearing more stoic than usual, he seems reconciled the fact that not only is he not going to win the title this year, but he is now unlikely to EVER win a premier class championship.  As my dad used to say, all that meat and no potatoes.  He has now become the Karl Malone of MotoGP, with trophy cases filled to bursting in his spacious den, and not a premier class title to be seen.  Fame and fortune are his, but I suspect he would gladly trade it all for a single MotoGP title.  After his supersonic finish in 2012, winning six of the last eight, and a successful offseason, 2013 looked to be his year.  Having to stand by and watch his 20 year-old teammate bask in the glory of an historic rookie campaign must be a bitter pill to swallow.

And so it goes in 2013.  One or two more wins and Marc Marquez will be able to coast to the title.  Jorge Lorenzo needs the new “magic Yamaha gearbox” right now; there is no tomorrow.  Dani Pedrosa needs a miracle or some serious misfortune to befall his teammate.  And while he’s certainly allowed to wish for the former, hoping for the latter is out of bounds, even for a sport in which teammates are usually rivals.  At this point, Pedrosa’s only chance is to out-Marquez Marquez, take the fight to him, and let Shuhei Nakamoto worry about the fallout.

Recent History at Misano

2009, The Year of Valentino Rossi’s Last World Championship, saw Rossi win on his Fiat Yamaha, punking hot-blooded teammate Lorenzo on his way to the title, while Pedrosa claimed third and Andrea Dovizioso, also on a factory Honda, took fourth.  That year, Alex de Angelis seemed to aim his Gresini Honda at Colin Edwards’ Tech 3 Yamaha on the first lap, unseating Edwards, whose suddenly rider-less bike proceeded to remove Nicky Hayden from his factory Ducati.  Hayden and Edwards had to be restrained by the marshals in the gravel, each eager to administer a lesson on the finer points of motorcycle riding to de Angelis, with their fists.

The 2010 MotoGP race was a grim affair won eventually by Pedrosa.  Lorenzo and Rossi joined him on the podium for a subdued post-race celebration, followed again by Dovizioso.  Earlier in the day, Moto2 pilot Shoya Tomizawa died following a gruesome crash involving Scott Redding and de Angelis. That day, we also learned that Cal Crutchlow would be making the jump from WSBK to the Tech 3 Yamaha team, replacing Ben Spies, who was tagged to take Rossi’s seat on the factory Yamaha team after Rossi left to join Ducati, in one of the worst career moves ever, by anyone, in any sport, anywhere.  Just sayin’.

cropped-jorge-lorenzo-2013.jpg2011 was Lorenzo’s year, as he easily defeated Pedrosa while Casey Stoner, on his way to the championship, finished an uninspired third.  Marco Simoncelli claimed fourth place that day, one of the better outings in his too-short MotoGP career, at the track that now bears his name.  For the third consecutive year, Nicky Hayden failed to finish, crashing out unassisted early in the race.

Last year, chaos reigned at the start, a long story which resulted in Pedrosa starting from the back of the grid and ended with his getting Barbera’ed on the first lap.  With Lorenzo busy running away from the field, the way was suddenly clear for dark horses Valentino Rossi and Alvaro Bautista to claim spots on the podium.  Pedrosa, who had started the day trailing Lorenzo by a mere 13 points with six rounds to go, ended it trailing by 38, his day and season ruined by a combination of bad luck and Hector Barbera’s persistent lack of spatial awareness.

Rossi winning at Brno.  Courtesy of motogp.com

Rossi winning at Brno. Courtesy of motogp.com

Lest I forget, it should be noted that Marc Marquez won here in 2010 in the 125 class, and also claimed the top spot on the podium in 2011 and 2012 in Moto2.  If you think this weekend’s tilt will be a cage match between the defending world champion and putative 2013 world champion, it shows you’ve been paying attention.  Naturally, most of the fans in attendance will miss the action up front, pulling for Rossi, who figures to battle Pedrosa for third, and Andrea Dovizioso, primed for another grudge match with factory Ducati teammate Nicky Hayden over 8th place.  Jeesh.  Are there any bigger homers anywhere than Italian racing fans?

Your Weekend Forecast

Just kidding.  Herve Poncharal, the big cheese at Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, was speculating on Crash.net this week that the MotoGP calendar may be expanding to 20 rounds next season, with Brazil and Argentina joining the mix and no current venues falling off the schedule.  This, to me, sounds rather unlikely, as most of the riders seem to have a hard time completing an 18 round schedule without several visits to intensive care.  But God knows Poncharal is closer to the action than I am.

OK, OK, the weather forecast for the weekend is sunny and lovely, temps in the 70’s and clear skies, etc., etc.  Great conditions for everyone but the mudders on the factory Ducati team.  If I had to make a prediction, I’d make it Lorenzo, Marquez and Rossi.  Fortunately, I don’t.

Fox Sports 1 will carry the race live on Sunday, with coverage, and the race, starting at 8 am Eastern time.  We’ll have results right here on Sunday afternoon.