2015 Sachsenring MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Hondas, Championships, And The Halfway Mark

Nine races down, nine to go. The Sachsenring marks the mid-point of the season, and in all three Grand Prix classes the outlines of the championship are becoming clear. In Moto2 and Moto3, there is one rider who can dominate, winning often, taking a hefty points haul when he can't, and having luck work in their favor and against their opponents. In MotoGP, the title looks to be settled between the Movistar Yamaha teammates, with the Repsol Hondas playing a decisive role.

The three races in Germany all played out following the broader patterns of their respective championships. In the Moto3 race, Danny Kent steamrollered his way to victory, his teammate Efren Vazquez helping him to extend his lead in the championship to 66 points by taking second ahead of Enea Bastianini. In Moto2, Johann Zarco narrowly missed out on victory, the win going to Xavier Simeon. The Belgian plays no role in the championship, while Zarco's nearest rival Tito Rabat was taken out by Franco Morbidelli in the final corner. Rabat's crash means Zarco now leads Moto2 by 65 points. Both Kent and Zarco can start to pencil their names in for the respective championships, their leads starting to edge towards the unassailable.

In MotoGP, the title chase is still wide open, with both Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo easily capable of winning. The championship started strongly in Rossi's favor, then the momentum swung towards Lorenzo, before creeping back towards Rossi in the last two races. At Assen, Rossi put a big chunk of points between himself and his teammate. In Germany, the Repsol Honda men played more of a role in the championship than the two Yamaha riders, limiting Rossi's points gain to just three. He now sits thirteen points ahead of Lorenzo, with everything still to play for, and neither man capable of dealing a decisive blow.

The race played out almost as expected, with both Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa clearly superior to the Yamahas. It looked to take a more interesting turn at the beginning, when Jorge Lorenzo made a brave and slightly forceful move round the outside of the first corner to take the lead. For two laps, Lorenzo pushed hard and looked like dropping the Hondas, but that was as long a period of grace as his rear tire would give him. "I made just two good laps," Lorenzo told the media. "I could accelerate in a good way, with good traction, with good drive and not losing so much on braking. But unfortunately very soon I started losing the rear, especially on traction. I started spinning very soon and losing a lot of speed. On braking also with less grip on the rear in the center I could not stop as well as at the beginning."

He went from leader to sitting duck, being picked off by Márquez, Rossi and Pedrosa in order. When Rossi passed, Lorenzo first put up a fierce fight, passing him straight back in the next corner. It was only delaying the inevitable, however, and a lap later Rossi was past. Pedrosa, too, passed Lorenzo, and then it was Rossi's turn to think of the championship. Márquez was long gone, but if Rossi could keep Pedrosa between himself and Lorenzo, he would have opened a handy gap in the title chase. Just as he thought that might have been possible, Pedrosa dispelled that illusion. The Honda man went by, Rossi went with him, making use of Pedrosa's speed to put some space between himself and his teammate. If seven extra points were not possible, then Rossi was going to make sure of the three which are the difference between finishing in third and finishing in fifth.

Does the Repsol Honda one-two mean that the Hondas are back, and that Márquez could once again become a factor in the championship? Though it is tempting to think so, the Sachsenring rather flatters the Honda. The track only has two corners where the Honda suffers, two places with fast entry into a high speed corner. The circuit masks the problems the bike still has, and allows its strengths to come to the forefront. If we raced nine more times in Germany, then maybe Márquez could get himself back into the title race. But instead, we go to tracks like Brno and Silverstone, where the RC213V will suffer again.

Still, the Sachsenring was important for both Repsol Honda riders. For Marc Márquez, it removed any lingering self-doubt he may still have had, and allowed him to enjoy riding once again. That was a process which had started at Assen, but getting the same feeling again in Germany boosted his morale. He has now achieved both of the targets he had set himself at Assen: to enjoy riding the Honda again, and to win a race. Now that those were both achieved, which targets would follow, he was asked? "To win again."

Dani Pedrosa, too, saw the Sachsenring as confirmation. Confirmation that the radical surgery he had elected to have after Qatar had been the right choice, and confirmation that he was almost close to full fitness once again. There was still room for improvement, though. He had got a good start, but had not been able to push hard enough in the first few laps to stay with Márquez. He got caught up behind the Yamahas, and by the time he got past, Márquez was gone. Pedrosa has his sights firmly set on victory again, but that was not on the cards at the Sachsenring.

For Valentino Rossi, there was a sense of relief that he had beaten his teammate, and happiness at having made the right step after warm up. He and his team had understood that what was needed was a little more braking performance, and after a cursory test during warm up, where he had been hampered by traffic, they gambled on an even bigger change. It came off, allowing Rossi to push harder than he had expected.

Not enough to match the Hondas, though. "From Friday we understand that here we are not at the same level of Marquez and Pedrosa and the Honda. We suffer a bit," Rossi said at the press conference. But the team had worked well, and had made good progress, and this, once again, had given him the confidence to gamble on set up. Valentino Rossi may not have been able to beat the Hondas, but he had his eye on the prize of another championship, and kept his string of podiums alive. Rossi has been on the podium in every race this season, and in fact has been on the box for the last thirteen races, last missing out at Aragon last year when he crashed out in dangerous conditions. It is this consistency which is giving him the upper hand in the championship. The margins, however, are very slim.

Two Repsol Hondas, then two Movistar Yamahas, and then the rest. On Saturday evening, I had a conversation with the manager of a private team who observed that the same thing seemed to happen every year. At the start of the season, the satellite riders were capable of finishing close to the four MotoGP aliens. But as the season went on, the top four all seemed to be able to make a step forward, leaving the rest of the field behind. Earlier this year, the Ducatis were scoring regular podiums. But over the last few races, they had been forced to let the front guys go. Such was also the case at the Sachsenring, where Andrea Iannone got a strong start, before riding home to a lonely fifth place, twenty seconds behind the winner.

Ducati MotoGP team manager Davide Tardozzi was at pains to remind us that the GP15 is still a very young bike. "This bike was only born in February this year, and so it is still just a baby." The good results in the first few races had led people to jump to conclusions. "The bike is still a baby, but the problem is the baby was too fast too early," he joked.

Ducati, Suzuki and Honda all head to Misano later this week for a three-day test. The first two days are regular test days, while the third is a Michelin test at the track. All three factories are looking forward to the first two days, as they all have major work to do. The improvements at Honda had come just from changes to set up, HRC boss Shuhei Nakamoto told us. Marc Márquez said that they had already made one step to improve the problem with engine braking into fast corners, but that the test would be crucial to take the next step. They had limited the problem on braking at Assen. At Misano, they hoped to eliminate it altogether.

For Ducati, the Misano test also comes as a godsend. Davide Tardozzi summed up what the Italian factory was missing with the GP15 with a single word. "Experience." The bike was new, and so far, much testing had gone on in free practice on a race weekend, but that is very far from ideal. Two solid days of testing at Misano should allow both Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone to work through a full program, testing a range of set up options to try to figure out what works and what doesn't. If they are to regain their competitiveness, the Misano test is crucial.

It is also crucial for Suzuki. An exasperated Aleix Espargaro expressed his frustration at trying to work out why the GSX-RR was struggling so badly with the slow corners. They had come to the Sachsenring with high hopes, this being one of the circuits where their lack of horsepower would be less of a handicap. But they had been shackled by a lack of turning in the slow corners, and had been at a loss to try to explain why. Misano, Espargaro said, also had lots of slow corners. They would be trying to solve the mystery there.

In yet another solid sixth came Bradley Smith. The British rider is being an absolute paragon of dependability. Smith has had four sixth places and two fifths so far this season, and is joint fifth in the championship level on points with Andrea Dovizioso. Smith was annoyed not to have ended in fifth, but had lost time battling with Yonny Hernandez and trying to get past. Every time he passed Hernandez, he would run just a fraction wide and that would leave the door open for Hernandez to come back. By the time he got past, Iannone had been too far ahead, despite the fact that Smith was marginally quicker than the factory Ducati man. He had practiced his passing all weekend, working on set up for the three overtaking spots on the track, Turns 1, 12 and 13, and that investment had paid off. But while Hernandez still had fresh tires, he had been able to counter any attack Smith had placed.

If MotoGP is still wide open, both Moto2 and Moto3 seem to be almost sewn up. The reason for that is simple, and the parallels between the two championship leaders worth drawing. Both Danny Kent and Johann Zarco are brimming with confidence, which gives them the freedom to ride without worrying. Both riders are supremely fit, which is allowing them to keep thinking even at the end of a long race. In the Moto2 press conference, for example, both winner Xavier Simeon and the man who lucked into third, Alex Rins, were drenched in sweat, red-faced, puffy-eyed, and clearly exhausted. Johann Zarco looked as if it was the pre-event press conference, and he was yet to lift a finger. Zarco had not broken a sweat, despite losing out to Simeon in the just the final corner. Both he and Danny Kent are taking full advantage of their proper preparation.

On a side note, it was a good day for Belgium in Grand Prix racing. The last time the Belgian national anthem had been played at a Grand Prix had been 1983, nearly 32 years ago. Then, it was for Didier De Radigues, racing in the 250 class. Now, it was for Xavier Simeon, one of De Radigues' protégées. With a Belgian, a Briton and a Spaniard taking wins, MotoGP is once again showing its international face. The days when it was dominated by Spaniards are long gone.

With the halfway mark reached, the MotoGP paddock goes on a brief hiatus. On Sunday night, pit lane was a hive of activity as bikes and equipment were packed into shipping containers ready to be flown to Indianapolis. That activity was only temporary: for the next three-and-a-half weeks, teams and riders will be taking it a lot easier. A few days rest – coming after the test for the Suzuki, Honda and Ducati men – and then they will return to training once again, looking for yet more fitness with which to attack the second half of the year. The summer break may seem like a long time, but Grand Prix motorcycle racing is an itch that soon needs scratching once again.


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Total votes: 50
Total votes: 118

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Comments

I definitely appreciate the long odds against anyone other than Vale or Jorge bringing home the title come November, but a lot can happen in nine races. Indy hardly seems like the race to break Marc's momentum or his confidence--he's won every premier class race on U.S. soil since Austin 2013--and the pressure to maintain a championship lead can be tough to bear over the course of an entire season.

Of course, if anyone has the experience and fortitude to bear that pressure, it's Valentino Rossi. As someone with only a few seasons of MotoGP fandom under my belt, I thought I would be dependent on archival footage to watch Rossi in his prime. What a pleasure to be proven wrong, and what a privilege it would be to watch him win title number ten--on merit--against a field of riders that were mostly still learning to read when he bagged title number one.

Total votes: 146

..That Marquez's possibility of winning the WC is not entirely in his own hands.

Unless the remaining 9 races are Honda wins (which would seem pretty unlikely) it will need some crashes/DNFs from one if not both of the Yamaha riders for him to have a shot at the title.

Not impossible, but unlikely. Remember people were commenting that Hayden had an unassailable lead over Rossi in 2006. It turns out that it wasn't, but that was a mere 52 points.. (if I remember correctly)

Total votes: 110

I get that. I really do expect a Movistar rider to win, and think they have the talent and the hardware to maintain their lead in the second half. The only hope that Marc, or Iannone for that matter, has of stealing the title is some sort of bad luck for the factory Yamaha riders.

I'm curious about one point you make, however. Is it really unlikely that Vale or Jorge would fail to finish one or more of the races in the back half? This is a sincere question. It seems that over the past few seasons every rider at the pointy end of the grid has had some kind of mishap that prevented them from finishing all eighteen races. I had assumed this was pretty typical, but I honestly don't know. How often does a rider finish every race in a season?

Total votes: 95

From 2010 - 2014, of the riders in contention only Lorenzo has had a season (2010) in which he finished every race.

Total votes: 102

I think it's very unlikely that both Vale and Lorenzo will have a perfect season, with no zero-point races. The problem for Marquez is that he needs both Yamahas to have 2 DNFs (ideally), then beat them in some other races, then have no DNFs himself.

I certainly won't say it's impossible. Having 4-5 tenths of a second of an advantage over the rest of the field at Sachsenring (on a 1.21 second lap) is incredible. Really, it shouldn't happen with this calibre of rider and machinery, but shows how well MM was riding.

I think after Brno and Silverstone we should have a better idea..

Total votes: 105

Yamaha need to keep working because Honda is. They have to weep working to fight every weekend with HRC because HRC does not sleep.

Total votes: 110

I always assumed de Radigues was French. In the pre-Internet era it was so hard to get news or even information on GP racing. Thanks MotoMatters for setting me straight 30+ years later!

Total votes: 123

They absolutely killed it. I mean that was raw Honda power. I absolutely love those RCVs when they jiggle around the track on full-chat. So freaking intimidating.

Marquez was on a different league altogether. Dani made an impression that he had the pace to match Marquez towards the end, but that was a bit too late - something Pedrosa really needs to work upon if he wants to win a race from Marquez. However, that's a secondary thing because like David and even Rossi pointed out, Honda's joys are presumably short lived.

Also, could anyone please help me decode the messages Dani's pit crew were showing towards the end of the race? I mean I know what Vamos is, my Spanish is not that bad but, what was that last message the pit crew sent? "Hammertime", probably? How did he manage to pull nearly a 3 sec gap over Rossi? That was really impressive!!

Total votes: 139

that had me thinking DP was really pacing himself, I got the impression he could've closed the gap had he pulled the plug some 5 laps earlier? But, who knows what MM had in reserve? Found it a bit strange, at least.

Total votes: 111

or maybe not...

Times from motogp.com

Rossi was within 0.2 - 0.3 of Dani until lap 27 when Dani went quicker and Rossi slower than previous laps. It was 0.6 in that lap and another 0.1 and a bit the next lap, game over, Rossi had pushed him hard hoping for an error but none was forthcoming and he settles for 3rd.
Meanwhile Marquez backed off progressively from lap 23 onward, the last 2 laps 22.5's which were his slowest of the race bar lap 1.
So it looked like Dani dropped VR like a stone and closed in on MM but in reality it was Dani running an awesome pace right to the line while the other two either backed off a little for a safe finish or could not keep the pace, likely the former.

JL was never quite in this race, but he has come through his worst two tracks of recent years and only dropped a few points to his team mate. I'd say he is looking ominous for the balance of the year at tracks he goes well at.

Total votes: 110

Was looking down the list of Moto2 riders during the race, only 2 of the top 20 were non-Europeans.

Where are all of the Americans, the Antipodeans, the Japanese? (not to forget the riders from 'emerging markets' of eastern Europe/Russia and southern asia?)

I remember reading a comment from Kenny Roberts years ago when asked how he was going to cope going against the World Champion when he came to GPs. He answered that it wasn't going against the World Champion, he was up against the European Champion.

It seems, after some decades of some supremely talented non-Europeans, we are back to the 70's era once more in terms of the country's producing GP riders.

Total votes: 119

One thing is certain - Americans aren't staying away from MotoGP or World SBK due to the flourishing state of US motorcycle road racing.
Maybe the potential riders prefer Motocross, NASCAR, or the numerous motorsport alternatives where one never needs to learn how to brake or turn right. Or perhaps they grow up trundling overweight Harleys from the shop to their backyards to the bar? Who knows?

Total votes: 124

There's very little support (relatively) for road-racing in the U.S., simple as that. Not enough fans, not enough sponsors, and piss-poor management (Daytona Motorsports Group). MotoAmerica gives a glimmer of hope on the management side, but it's the first year.

You correctly point out that MX/SX is much more popular and attracts the young talent. Supercross is the second most attended stadium sport in the U.S., second only to NFL. It's a draw not only for American riding talent, but European as well (Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin).

The fact that American road-racing has been mostly dominated the past 4 seasons by a 40-year-old should tell you something. The series has lost all respect of the international racing scene and it's recruiters. Noone looks to road-racing here as a pool to draw from.

The only option American riders have for the forseeable future is to do what Casey Stoner did, pack up and head to Europe (in Casey's case, England at the age of 14) at a very young age to learn and prove themselves in a much more dynamic and contested local racing series swimming with fast young riders.

On a side note, I'm not even sure why we have 2 rounds in the States. Austin I can understand I guess, it's brand new and built with a ton of money and state-of-the-art, but it also runs F1 which I would be willing to guess is the real rainmaker there. I seriously doubt there'd be a track without the existence of F1. Indianapolis just completely befuddles me. It's not a real track, boring and flat with the exception of a banked turn. Maybe it's just the history and nostalgia?

Anyway... American riders have to do what their ancestors did when they migrated to the U.S. and for the same reasons... because "over there" is where the opportunities are.

Total votes: 119

The Australian motorcycle racing scene is also fragmented - two separate superbike series, poor management by Motorcycling Australia, and few real incentives for young riders to make the effort. Glenn Scott is one of the few Australians to have recently ventured out into the world scene (World Supersport with AARK Racing).

Total votes: 89

Canada has poor tracks, does Mexico and Central America even have any? Must have a few 1 mile kart tracks or something. Much of the world is new to road racing.

At essence this is a European sport. It was born there and has flourished there. Between Britain, Italy and Spain we have how many tracks and riders? Lots! I can't help but think of the global economy having just gone through a long period of squeezing all the grids everywhere down from top international series, nationals, regionals, clubs, all the way down to track days. Europe just had further base of racing to hold them up than the rest of us. Heap atop that a period slightly predating the recession by a handful of years the gross mismanagement of a once flourishing American AMA road race series, and we have had a big back slide here (I am in the Pacific NW of USA). Then, below those two which hit us for about 10yrs, agreed that in the USA motorcycle road racing hasn't and likely won't get as significant a presence as it has in Europe.
[Oof - auto correct had changed the above "back slide" to "backside," quite an apt observation of Americans...wherever Samsung is from they get it]

Speaking of Samsung, so where in the world are road racing motorcycles made? And where in the world are most motorbikes per capita sold? Present tense but also future? So smart to have the Asian rookies cup program.

Give us a few years to pop out the next Ben Spies, he just got his first pocket bike.

Total votes: 97

In Aus they made the mistake of trying to get a private promoter to turn the series into a money sport. MA have taken management of the series back in house, but they still can't seem to get their heads around merging ASBK and FX-Superbike - it seems that there is still too much bad blood.

Right now, FX seems like the better championship. One will eventually win.

Total votes: 95

While I don't disagree with the general assessment of American road racing seen here (or elsewhere on the interwebs), I think that stating "The fact that American road-racing has been mostly dominated the past 4 seasons by a 40-year-old should tell you something" sells Mr. Hayes a trifle short. It was, after all, only four years ago that he finished the Valencia race in 7th about 33 seconds off of the race winner (Casey Stoner). In my mind, that was a very respectable wildcard ride!

Like some other riders we've seen in recent years, the Mississippi Madman doesn't seem to be slowing down much with age; in fact, perhaps it has been just the opposite, which makes it gut wrenching that we can't see him racing on the world stage. While he is on the older side for a competitive road racer, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he were competitive in any racing series he chose to ply his trade at... but then, at his age, and as an American rider, who would offer him a decent ride in WSBK or MotoGP?

I do however agree with your point that the American MX / SX series attract & hoard the lion's share of N.A. riding talent. I think there are many reasons for this: MX is less expensive & more family oriented, it can be practiced in one's back yard, Professional MX has more visibility on TV, the spectacle is more accessible for casual fans (jumps!), etc. The simple fact that Professional MX riders are paid well enough that they can actually hope to earn a living might mean something as well! Whatever the reasons are, I hope that one day the pendulum will swing back far enough in favor of road racing that we will have a strong championship that will (once again) feed the premier classes of our sport.

Total votes: 115

Hayes may not have had a Troy Bayliss-type moment, but running in 7th (after minimal testing and still adequately replacing Colin Edwards) is more than many racers can boast of, and that at the age of 36! (Though, that might not look so impressive after this year...)

And that's not yet mentioning Spies - who finished second in that same race after being pipped at the line by Stoner. He'd still be racing in MotoGP except for that ridiculously unlucky 2012 which left him both injured and lacking his initial competitiveness.

Still, the lack of diversity is quite evident. Rather than just talent (which there is on both sides of the Atlantic), the lack of a true corridor for American racers probably hurts just as bad. Not only do you not get into a feeder series like you have from certain European countries, the higher levels of exposure (leading to more interest) within Europe vs the lower levels in America just means that European sponsors are just more likely, and being seen supporting a countryman is just good PR.

More surprising than the drop in American racers is the drop in the number of Japanese riders competing - there are none in MotoGP (save Aoyama's sitting in), one in Moto2 and only two in Moto3... Any thoughts on that?

Total votes: 92

In years past, Japanese riders were able to wildcard at Suzuka, a track which is known to be exceedingly difficult to master. It seems to me that these (impressive) wildcard rides oftentimes lead to teams expressing interest in the rider, giving them an opportunity that may be missing now.

As a case in point regarding Suzuka's difficulty, I read somewhere recently that Bradley Smith and Pol have been "being schooled" (so to speak) at Suzuka by Katsuyuki Nakasuga, with Bradley stating that Nakasuga has been able to take 0.7s (!) out of his or Pol's lap times in a single chicane!

Total votes: 102

I think the biggest problem in all the countries that host a GP is that there is no longer a serious competition in moto 2 or 3, just because moto 2, as for as I know, runs only in Spain and moto 3, well what do I say about that, it is vanished here in the Nertherlands, only a couple of riders and they are competing in BSB or IDM and these organizers are more then happy with there presence, otherwise they also would have like three moto 3 machines at the starting line. IMHO the four strokes totally have distroyed the national competition, the bikes are to expensive to pursuade and to maintain. I think that the national motorcycle unions have totally forgotten that it took a very long time to get a constant flow into their respective competitions, only because the ones that started could buy (relativly) a cheap bike and as they stayed longer in, lets say 125, they could buy a better bike and start to work their way up. I still can't understand why the 2stroke had to dissapear ................

Total votes: 91

Stinky smokey ring - a-ringing hug to you from over seas my friend.

The Moto3 machines are not commonly available YET. Remember that the change happened just before the global economy took a dump. Most non international series haven't meshed up with Moto3. It just is a GAP. There were a slew of cheap non competitive old 125's laying around for people to run in local and regional racing, but top notch competitive 2 stroke kit wasn't really easily available then either. We did have lots of young people getting onto them from the miniGP's at kart tracks. Could these riders really wildcard on those bikes? Not generally. Was it a robust class? Yes. Easily entered in different organizations? Yes, they were homogenous. Moto3 is in an infancy and development has been stunted by the global economy. It is an odd thing. I had friends picking up Honda Moto3 bikes just before the bottom fell out of the economy and were getting into regionals and nationals, but it was just budding. We cant get the bikes, there is no where to run them, and if we did there arent sponsorships from invested bike retailers or manufacturers etc.

Moto 2 bikes on the other hand can pop out of the loins of many a shop. The rub is that everyone is, wisely, running production Supersport and Suberbike 600's in all the region and and national series. We have had a hitch in our step (does that translate to Netherlands?) of the economic downturn that isn't really resolved but will be. Let's be a bit patient. The Moto2 and Moto3 formula is not yet meshing w non international series. It will. Remember, 250GP bikes that were competitive here were equally expensive if not more. We just had a few older non competitive 250GP bikes racing here in the USA. NONE of them were wildcard in either. Rich Oliver, a few others...nothing of note for YEARS before the 4 stroke change. 250 grids were TEENY.

I actually had been looking at what 4 stroke motors I could squeeze into a 250GP bike chassis to run, and was hoping to score a TZ or RS w a bad motor to build a sweet race bike to run in Middleweight Superbike and the like. Perhaps an Aprilia 550 twin pushed out in CC's, or even a Kawi Ninja 650 parallel twin motor built out. Glad I didnt, as the whole class dried up and vanished. If you aren't on a 600 or 1000 now here you essentially don't have much of a race to enter since 2008. Little to do with 2 stroke or 4.

The wee production superstock ish 300 Ninja class has survived well. Some big grids still. Stick the kids on those. Stick the old guys on 600's. Be patient. Everything else is just flogging ourselves.

;)

Total votes: 97

I know you're not a fan of two strokes Motoshrink but I believe it is unarguable that 4 strokes are hugely more expensive, not just purchase but the cost of rebuilding, running and tuning is all at professional levels even for young teens.

In the past, a family could reasonably support their child without vast wealth particularly if the father or mother could rebuild and understood 2 strokes. Furthermore, the bikes would last many seasons, unlike now.

You may prefer 4 strokes technically and philosophically but the 2 stroks permitted a private financed individual to be able to prosper and be noticed. This seems not to be happening in any significant numbers with the switch to 4 strokes. That is the greatest loss.

Total votes: 101

I purchased a brand new RS125 in 2003 for $10,500USD with a full spares kit enough for a season of racing. And what a season it was! Not one DNF. That same bike was available brand new up until 2011 at the same price and would be enough of a bike for any budding roadrace star to learn on.

Then in 2012 the replacement NSF250R cost $35,000USD. With no spares kit. The frame, swingarm, rims, brakes, forks, shock, fairing, etc, were all largely identical to the previous year's 125cc 2 stroke. Those two extra strokes were pretty expensive.

Chris

Total votes: 94

>> I think that stating "The fact that American road-racing has been mostly dominated the past 4 seasons by a 40-year-old should tell you something" sells Mr. Hayes a trifle short.

I don't think so. Naturally he is a hell of a lot faster than me but the last two really fast riders in AMA, Maldin and Spies, had no trouble beating him _every_ race. The only rider that those two had problems with was Jamie Hacking, who is now MIA. So go back a few years and Hayes was at best the 4th fastest rider and is winning now because all the guys that used to beat him are gone. Hats off to him for sticking around and winning now but it does not say much about his young competition that they can't beat him. And its that young competition that the WSBK and GP managers are looking at and feeling like there is not much of interest to see.

>> In my mind, that was a very respectable wildcard ride!

Absolutely, but I think more down to maturity than outright speed. The Yamaha test rider, a Japanese national rider, finished 6th, also on his GP debut.

Chris

Total votes: 101

"Hayes is a big fish in a small pond".... you've succinctly stated much of what I was trying to say with my earlier comment. I do acknowledge that Mladin and Spies were the class of their respective fields during their time in the AMA. However, it should be evident that riding and racing are "skills", and that (as such) any given rider can improve with analysis and practice over time. The events of this year's MotoGP championship should amply support this view!

Just as there are different gestation periods in nature, riders "mature" at different rates. Perhaps lessons learned while battling Mladin and Spies are paying off for Hayes now. While not particularly a huge "Hayes fan" myself (in no small part due to his dominance), I was impressed by his MotoGP wildcard ride, as well as by his pace (relative to the WSBK field) at Laguna Seca during the past two years... Hayes' lap times would have placed him into the top 10... on lower spec AMA bikes! Imagine what he might be able to achieve if given the advantages of top shelf equipment.

Josh isn't the only rider to have impressed during these WSBK / AMA weekends either... Roger Hayden and Danny Eslick participated in the 2013 WSBK races at Laguna, with both riders performing well, especially given the lower spec AMA GSXR's they were riding. Hayden put in a particularly good show, picking up a brace of top 10 finishes!

I (for one) would love to see what a rider like Hayes, Hayden or Beaubier could do on the world stage. Seeing the events of the past couple of years in MotoGP has demonstrated to me that "the team / the machine" is vitally important (consider the "overnight" improvement of riders like Hernandez, Petrucci and Barbara when they've switched teams and / or inherited Ducati "Prototypes"). It seems probable to me that riders all up and down the grid, in most of the top series around the world are capable of performances that would take our breath away... if given the chance on top-flight equipment.

I wouldn't expect a back-marker to suddenly turn into Marquez or Rossi, but I would expect to be surprised by their speed.

Total votes: 110

Even if Hayes was not competitive with Spies does not mean he could not hack it in MotoGP. He showed he had the ability in his one chance.

I don't think he would've run with the Yamaha & Honda factory riders, but expect he could have scrapped with the rest.

For further perspective, that Japanese rider you referenced was the above-mentioned Katsuyuki Nakasuga, multiple winner of Japanese road-racing series... who stood on the second step the very next year at Valencia in his 3rd MotoGP race, finishing ahead of Stoner - albeit a bit lucky with the weather and a few crashes. Still, that's hardly a low-water mark.

Total votes: 97

Remember Nakasuga, a test rider managed second place as a wildcard.

Total votes: 98

This probably is getting old by now, but...
I could be watching the wrong feed (BT Sports, mind you) but after the race I don't see both of them congratulating each other, much less talking. And they don't even look at each other while on the podium. Is it actually that way or is it just me missing something?

Total votes: 100

I too was thinking about this thing. Untill now, Rossi usally congratulates everyone in he parc ferme. Today he made no attempt. Though he congratulated Dani.

Generally who has the onus to shake hands, the winner or the other way round?

Anyway, it appears to me that their relationship is going south.

Total votes: 100

He most definitely did congratulate Marquez and they were messing around with a selfie stick together on the podium.

Total votes: 94

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Total votes: 94

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Total votes: 88

... unfriendly to the Yamaha's. Midway through the Left Handlers of Eternity you can see how unhappy and bound-up the M1, whereas the RCV looks damn near effortless in the way it's happy to sit on the side of the tire, maintaining a subtle slide the whole time. Such a peculiar and interesting track.

Total votes: 97

Agreed, Hondas looked a lot happier than Yamahas during all weekend.
Before the weekend I was hoping to see the Suzukis and Aprilias do so much better.

The Sachsenring is a really odd track. And it doesn't seem to be much loved by the riders.

Just personal opinion but, I still think that either Oschersleben or Nürburgring would provide a much better track layout for all three classes of MotoGP.
Wonder if those were ever considered by Dorna, for the German GP.

Total votes: 98

From 1984-90 the GP alternated between Nurburgring and the very sadly missed (by me) Hockenheim. From 91-94 it was at Hockenheim, followed by 3 years back at Nurburgring before heading to the 'sausage ring' from 98 to the present. So yes it was considered. :)

I think broadly speaking Nurburgring is too often affected by poor weather and Hockenheim was a poor spectator experience because the bikes only appeared very briefly at the stadium section before disappearing for ages in the forest. For those and probably many other reasons (Bernie the F1 guy was also involved somehow as track owner/promoter and was instrumental in ruining the classic Hockenheimring for which he should be hung, drawn and quartered and whatever's left thrown to the sharks) the events there often failed to pull a decent crowd and thus ran at a loss.

For many reasons - among them general popularity of bike racing in the Saxony region and surrounds, better weather, better promotion, better viewing of the track, shorter lap means more times past the stands, probably many others - the GP has gone gangbusters since moving there even though it's not as dramatic a track (waterfall excepted) as either of the others .

Total votes: 105

...most times prove that the renewed iteration is everything but improvement. Yep!

I dearly miss the old Hockenheim, with the long straights filled with the train of bikes in slipstream through the black forest section, and last minute crazy overtaking on brakes. (good times!)
A classic layout that was so severely butchered for the new one that I didn't even considered it - although it seems fun in mid performance cars.

The current Nurburgring GP track has been used for WSBK and it seems quite up to standards, safety and infrastructures wise (way above the average in fact). Granted, it obviously isn't a perfect motorcycle track, but still miles better than the Sachsenring (in my opinion).

Oschersleben has also been used for WSBK, and is still used today in IDM (German SBK championship).
Another car racing track (the defunt FIA-GT ran there, and DTM still does) which is actually interesting for motorcycles (again, in my opinion).

Not sure about weather associated issues for those tracks, just focusing on what I've watched in their national series (IDM for bikes, DTM for cars) and how it could improve the German MotoGP round and associated series.
The Sachsenring is not exactly the same as it was 15 or 20 years ago and, it seems, it's even less loved today.

Total votes: 107

I'm not sure some should be so quick to want to scrap Sachsenring.

Quite aside from the fact that I like it and I think it has provided some great racing and racing incidents over the years, objectively, it proffers a unique style track and in this age of ever more homogenisation in GP racing, this single fact alone makes it a worthy destination. With so many older style tracks dropped or altered almost beyond recognition, thank goodness some older tracks exist to provide greater variation in the relentless march towards Tilk-ization.

Total votes: 91

Zarco on a tech3 yamaha (Herve would finally have a decent French rider :P)
Pol Espargaro on a Honda LCR
Smith on a Yamaha
Redding on a Ducati (or go back to moto2, because i think his style does not go well with lot of electronics)
jack miller on a full spec Honda.
Cal on Yamaha
The grid seriously needs more Yamahas. Yamaha should offer more bikes for lease. Forward team would do much better that way.

I wish some of the iterations come true.

Total votes: 103

Marc & Rossi on GP16
Lorenzo & Maverick on +15hp w/ seamless gearbox Suzuki
Bradley & Cal on Factory Yamaha
Iannone & Aleix on Factory Honda
Petrucci & Yonny on GP15
Dovi & Nicky on Satellite Yamaha
Pol on Satellite Honda
.
.
.
Dani win the championship on a Satellite Honda :)

Total votes: 98

For a moment I thought Lorenzo was gone. But he came floating backwards, attacked Rossi back then that was it. Rossi looked to have 2nd for a minute, then Pedrosa seemed to turn on some afterburners in Rossi's face, and the whole time Marquez was off in the sunset after he got past Lorenzo.

The battles behind were interesting too. Iannone is impressing me. Probably needs to drop the Crazy Joe and change it to Calculated. Smith has to be the most improved rider period. And I give it to Herve Poncharal for his faith in a rider that is intelligent but seemed to be missing some speed. Dovi has got me wondering about him... Surprised the Suzukis were so far back. Aleix Espargaro seemed to be having a problem mid race, then seemed to be able to charge in the end. And Moto2 kept me on the edge the whole time. Very enjoyable couple of hours in my day.

Total votes: 97

There is not much mention of the Ducati GP 15 in the discussions above. I thought it relevant to bring up the subject of withdrawal of concessions to Ducati at the end of this year rather than at the end of 2016. Looking at the Ducati in the last couple of races, it didn't seem like it was in a position to challenge either Honda or Yamaha for a podium. Dovizioso has been having the horrors while Iannone somehow seems to better his team mate though not at all in a convincing manner. I do not see Iannone ever becoming a legend for that matter neither will Dovizioso. The picture we keep getting here of the Ducati over the races is that it has steadily moved backwards. I really want to know, given this scenario, how many of you believe that it is fair to withdraw all the concessions given to Ducati at the end of 2015 rather than 2016? Please keep in mind that I am approaching the subject from the point of view of fairness. Perhaps if Sir Emmett stepped in here it would be great, but I know there are plenty of knowledgeable people out here and all opinions are welcome. Thanks in advance.

Total votes: 100

...and actually one that should have been better considered for the mid-term.

I believe the decision had to happen eventually, but it was taken to hastily, "too soon".
Ducati needed this galloping progress, which the current rules allowed them to.
Patience is needed, and I don't think it was given here.
As it stands, the GP15 is still not fully competitive. It was born with great potential, for sure, but still not quite there.
More over, if you factor in engine and electronics development freeze, then I sense that it can become worse for them next year, with these rules changes.

Regardless of "fairness", one thing that these series needs is more manufacturers. And I mean competitive manufacturers, not just 6th to 12th position contenders.

There's four (4) factory Honda and Yamaha bikes. These are the only MotoGP racebikes, in total, that can win the championship. We can't have this endless situation where the current 4 top guys sit with those 4 bikes nearly forever (looking at past recent years).
Knowning how the "machine VS rider" factor in last years favours much more the former rather than the latter, there is a risk with this.
Other potentially (as good) talented riders have to fight over the remaining lesser bike seats/teams - and remain thereabouts. Which also means that we'll probably never know how good they actually are.

If the Ducati GP proved to be a really valid alternative to the factory Honda RCV and Yamaha M1, being a champ.contender, we could have the dance of chairs for the following season's contracts quite more interesting.

Same could be said for Suzuki and Aprilia (and KTM later), but I feel this is much more problematic for Ducati, right now.
I would not want to see them leave MotoGP if, at some point, they decide too many resources are being used and invested after all these years, or even for simple "pride" motives, for instances, if they feel the rules are imediately manipulated every time the wind changes.

Imagine a Lorenzo or Marquez (etc) signing for Ducati or Suzuki (whatever-not-Yamaha-Honda) and fighting for the title against the usual armada.... quite nice, right?

Total votes: 108

I agree that the performance of the bikes has a significant influence on the outcome of each year's championship--and that Dorna and MSMA have been at least a little too hasty in pulling Ducati's concessions for 2016 after a half season with nothing but the usual factory Honda and Yamaha riders on the top step of the podium--but I think the rider has a somewhat greater impact than you suggest. I think there are just a number of factors in place that tend to ensure that the best riders end up on the best bikes.

The factories with the most money build the best bikes, and can also afford the best personnel for their racing programs; the best racing programs spot the best rider talent most consistently and earliest; the best talent want to ride the best bikes supported by the best teams and will typically be paid the most to do exactly what they want.

Rossi jumped from Honda to Yamaha to prove it wasn't "just the bike." Ducati found themselves much further behind than they'd thought they were when Stoner departed and they realized no one else was competitive on their machine. Conversely, you have riders like Crutchlow and Dovizioso (both of whom I like) who never seem to "realize their potential" no matter whose bike you put them on, or Redding who spent all of last season insisting he'd be mixing it up at the front if someone would just give him a factory-spec machine and, well...

I think it really takes the best rider and bike to put together a winning season. Just as, say Marquez, would be totally out of contention on a Pramac GP14, I honestly believe Yonny Hernandez would be equally irrelevant to the outcome of the championship on a Repsol RC213V.

Total votes: 100

I think a good yard stick is the fact that the factory ducatis are consistently on par or above the satellite teams. I don't recall Ducati having that sort of success with their previous iteration. Hopefully they continue to improve and fight for the win at Sepang perhaps, but given their current place in the standings, I don't think removing the concessions is completely unjustified.

Total votes: 83

The rules were agreed and set and they had a natural conlusion written in - loss of these little 'extras' when Ducati demonstrated specific results.

They haven't thus there should've been no change.

Total votes: 91

that in 2016 duc yam and honda have the same rules. the bike was good from the start. as good as the yam and honda but it seems the development of yam and honda going back to 2014 made the difference.
the same rules must be the same for the BIG 3 because we have alot of changes in 2016. and all have to basicly develop a new bike made for the michelins.

Total votes: 100

Is Steve Rabat ok? I winced at that while racing my sofa

Total votes: 93

Great line, made me laugh! ;-)

I too hope that Tito is well... that certainly looked painful!

Total votes: 99

He seems to be ok, it was probably very painful but nothing was broken or re-broken. MotoGP.com did a little featurette and showed them in the paddock and Tito getting Clinica Mobile'd. Morbidelli apologized to him and they both seemed to be surprisingly cool/collected. I was gutted for both dudes.

I couldn't help but contrast what would have happened if the perpetrators had been Salom or Fenati or someone else a bit hotter tempered.

So hat off to those dudes for keeping it (surprisingly) classy.

Total votes: 113

Fenati's frustration with Ajo is my favorite part of the Moto 3 season so far! :-)

Total votes: 86