MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.
Marc Márquez: “He’s playing”
If you are a MotoGP rider, may I suggest you don’t read the following, but if you insist on putting yourself through the pain, might I suggest cracking open a beer and then afterwards you can arrange an appointment with your doctor who may be able to subscribe a course of anti-depressants; say 60mg of Prozac or 20mg of Citalopram, just to keep your pecker up, that’s all.
If you are a MotoGP rider who doesn’t go by the name of Marc Márquez, the deeply depressing reality is that whatever you are doing out there is no longer enough. It’s like someone has changed the rules of the game and no one bothered to tell you and now it’s too late to catch up.
With the MotoGP series due to switch over to standard software for the spec Magneti Marelli ECU in 2016, there comes a point at which it makes no sense for the factories to continue developing their own electronics. There is, after all, little point in spending money on software which will be discarded all the way to the last race of 2015, especially as the factories will need to start work on the shared electronics package for 2016 and beyond.
GPOne.com is reporting that the factories have finally agreed a date for an electronics freeze to commence. From the 2015 Assen round of MotoGP, all development of factory software will be frozen, Ducati, Honda and Yamaha racing the rest of the 2015 season with the software they have developed up until that point. Ducati had initially opposed the software freeze, GPOne.com reports, but finally settled for the Assen date.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams, the circuit and Bridgestone after Sunday's race at Austin:
Normally it takes bad weather to shake things up in a MotoGP race. For most of the day, it looked like the rain was ready to start at any time, but in the end it stayed pretty much completely dry, bar a quick and meaningless shower just before the Moto2 race started. Regardless of what the weather decided to do, we still ended up with a bizarre MotoGP race anyway. The weirdness started even before the race had started, and continued pretty much all the way to the very last corner.
Jorge Lorenzo came to Texas knowing he faced an uphill challenge. Last year at the Circuit of the Americas, Marc Marquez had run away with the race, with only Dani Pedrosa able to follow. Lorenzo had put up a valiant struggle, but had been unable to prevent a Repsol Honda whitewash. In 2014, Lorenzo had come facing an even tougher task, if that were possible. After crashing out at the first race, Lorenzo knew he had to score as many points as he could without taking too many risks. He would have to find a very fine balance between pushing hard to try to catch – and who knows, maybe even beat – the Repsol Hondas, and ensuring he didn't risk ending up with a second zero to go with the crash at Qatar.
Those who fear a Marquez whitewash at the Circuit of the Americas could draw some comfort from the raw numbers on the timesheets as Saturday progressed. Marquez gap from Friday was cut dramatically, first to under a second in FP3, then to a third of a second in FP4, before being slashed to less than three tenths in qualifying. Is the end of Marquez' dominance at Austin in sight?
But raw numbers are deceptive. Sure, the gap in single lap times is small, but there is still no one who can get close to the reigning world champion. Marquez' four flying laps were faster than the best laps by any other rider on the grid. Second place man Dani Pedrosa's fastest lap was still slower than Marquez' slowest. In FP4, Marquez punched out four laps in the 2'03s, while the best anyone else could do is lap in the 2'04s. During the morning FP3 session, Marquez racked up five 2'03s, while only Pedrosa could manage two 2'03s, Stefan Bradl, Andrea Dovizioso and Bradley Smith managing only a single solitary lap under 2'04.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying for Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin:
Marc Marquez is fastest once again in Austin, the reigning world champion topping the final session of free practice ahead of qualifying. But the gap is definitely closing: his advantage at the end of FP4 was down to just a third of a second, with riders now focusing in this final session on race set up rather than setting a fast lap.
Andrea Iannone ended the session in 2nd, setting an impressive pace using Dani Pedrosa's slipstream. Iannone ended 0.367 behind Marquez, and nearly a tenth ahead of Pedrosa. Stefan Bradl took 4th on the LCR Honda, making it three Hondas in the top four, while Valentino Rossi rounded out the top five.
FP4 also gave a glimpse of possible tire use for the race. Marquez and Pedrosa spent almost all the session on the harder tire, while Rossi and the other Yamaha riders put in the time on the softer of the two options for the Factory Option riders. Iannone, like the other Ducatis, worked with the medium tire, the harder of their two options, the soft wearing much too fast to be able to actually use in the race.
The desperate search for new headlines continues...
Marc Marquez didn't set the fastest-ever lap at Austin's Circuit of the Americas Saturday during the third qualifying practice; His fast lap of 2'03.046 fell four-hundredths of a second shy of his own lap record from last year. Even so, the reigning world champion ended the third free practice seven-tenths clear of the pack in the session that sets the table for the two MotoGP qualifying practices later in the day.
Stefan Bradl managed the second-best time, just eclipsing Honda factory rider Dani Pedrosa (3rd). Andrea Dovizioso continued his strong practice showing with a fourth-fastest time on his Ducati, nearly nine-tenths of a second behind the leader.
Bradley Smith rebounded from his struggles in FP2 -- where he was 10th fastest -- to grab the fifth spot. Smith was the final rider to finish within a second of Marquez and even topped the sheets in one of the four lap sectors.
But what's good for Smith is worrisome for Yamaha. Not only did rival Honda grab the top three times, Smith, in fifth, is the top Yamaha. Factory rider Jorge Lorenzo, who started strong in FP3, faded late to seventh, finishing just behind Andrea Iannone's Ducati (6th).
How do you solve a problem like Marc Marquez? The short answer is you don't. You can push as hard as you like, beat everyone else on the grid, but try as you might, you still find yourself a second or more behind the reigning world champion. Marquez came to Texas, he saw, and he conquered. Just like last year. And nobody seems capable of stopping him.
Valentino Rossi could only shake his head in dismay. 'Today he was very strong. He is on another level,' Rossi said. Was it down to the bike, was it Marquez? Sure, Austin is a Honda track – first-gear corners are still where the Honda has the advantage – but the bike wasn't really the issue. 'He makes the difference,' Rossi said. Sure, the bike was good, but it was mostly down to Marquez' riding. Speaking to the Italian press, Rossi had a single word to describe Marquez' riding: 'bellissima'. Beautiful.