In the final part of our mid-season review of MotoGP, we come to the ragtag bunch bringing up the rear. From Bradley Smith to Yonny Hernandez, nearly all have a valid excuse for their poor results. But excuses count for nothing in motorcycle racing.
16th: Bradley Smith, Yamaha , 35 points
A remarkable reversal of fortunes for Bradley Smith and his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha teammate Pol Espargaro in 2016. Last year, Smith's consistency was in stark contrast to Espargaro's continuous attempts to try to make the Yamaha do something it didn't want to. In 2016, it is Smith who is banging his head against a wall trying to make the rear Michelin do something it won't, while Espargaro is the picture of consistency.
Smith himself believes he has turned a corner. In Austin, at the Jerez and Barcelona tests, and elsewhere, Smith has tried to return to the more methodical way of working which succeeded so well for him last year. Judged on the headline figures, not much progress is being made. Read between the lines of Smith's results, and some slow progress is visible. What Smith needs to do in the second half of the season is put it all together, and try to reap the rewards. It would be nice to head to KTM in 2017 with a little bit of confidence, before tackling a project which even Smith probably doesn't understand the magnitude of.
17th: Alvaro Bautista, Aprilia, 35 points
Alvaro Bautista, like Stefan Bradl, is a little hard done by. After putting in two years of work at Aprilia, on a bike which is clearly not competitive, Bautista has been shelved before the bike is good enough to start to score results. Based on his work ethic and his results, that is an unduly harsh judgment on Bautista's season so far. He deserved more.
But he won't get it. So instead, he will have to join Bradl on the prayer mat as they send pleas for more horsepower, which may or may not be forthcoming this year. At least Bautista has secured a place in MotoGP for 2017, lining up in the Aspar Ducati squad next season. The remainder of 2016 is in the shadow of that.
18th: Danilo Petrucci, Ducati, 24 points
Danilo Petrucci's championship position does not reflect his real potential. Every rider will tell you that about where they stand on the championship table, but in Petrucci's case, it's actually true. Petrucci is a much, much stronger rider than his results suggest.
The Pramac Ducati rider's problems stem from a massive crash during testing in Australia in February, in which he caused serious damage to his right hand. That resulted in him missing the first four races, as well as a preseason test at Qatar. Petrucci has missed time on the bike, and it took him a couple of races when he was back to start to find his feet again.
Since then, he has been impressive. Petrucci has led two races, missing out at Assen when the red-flagged the first race due to appalling weather, then losing the front while leading in Germany, damaging his bike and ultimately causing it to catch fire, leaving him completely out of contention. He has been fast in practice and qualifying, and has frankly outshone his teammate in the latter part of the first half of the season. He must continue to follow through in the second half.
19th: Michele Pirro, Ducati, 19 points
Ducati are without doubt the luckiest factory in MotoGP when it comes to test riders. On the one hand, there is Casey Stoner, capable of matching the pace of the Aliens despite not having raced since 2012. On the other hand, there is Michele Pirro, fast enough to earn a seat in MotoGP on merit alone, but consigned to grinding out the hard miles in testing for Ducati Corse, putting the Desmosedici GP through its paces as well as the Panigale R WorldSBK machine. Pirro is more than fast enough to provide excellent feedback, but not so fast that he can afford to turn down the tough task of putting in endless laps on the test bike. Racing just helps keep Pirro sharp.
20th: Tito Rabat, Honda, 18 points
Tito Rabat has spent much of the first half of 2016 in a state of shock. The former Moto2 champion came in to MotoGP expecting to contend with Marc Márquez, the rider he felt he had the measure of in Moto2. The reality has been a slap in the face. The level in MotoGP is so much higher that Rabat cannot survive on his work ethic alone. That gap is simply too big.
The problems Rabat has had have occasionally left him in floods of tears in the garage. This is not how he had envisioned his MotoGP career. He is unable to make much difference in his understanding of a MotoGP bike the way he did in Moto2, the Honda Fireblade he has at Almeria now is simply too different from the RC213V he races to make the hundreds of laps he does each week virtually meaningless.
Yet there has been progress. Rabat's crew have tried to get him to focus on the gap to the riders in front of him, and sure enough, that gap has been falling steadily. Rabat's trouble is he is a slow learner, but the second half of the season should be long enough for the Spaniard to start making a difference.
21st: Loris Baz, Ducati, 8 points
2016 got off to a bad start for Loris Baz. The rear tire of his Avintia Ducati GP14.2 simply exploded on the second day of the Sepang test. The Frenchman emerged unscathed, but shaken. Meanwhile, his crash had a bigger impact on Michelin, who started to doubt the integrity of their rear tire, eventually changing it after Argentina.
Baz' season got worse at Mugello, where he came together with Jack Miller and Alvaro Bautista and broke three bones in his foot. Those took a very long time to heal, meaning Baz missed Barcelona and Assen, only returning at the Sachsenring. The second half of Baz' season must be about finding a return to form. Baz has been quick in testing, but that needs to translate into results on race weekends.
22nd: Yonny Hernandez, Ducati, 3 points
It has been a tough old year for Yonny Hernandez. Comprehensively outclassed by his teammate Eugene Laverty, the Colombian has struggled to find his feet. Part of the problem is his propensity for sliding and spinning up the rear, which makes him beloved of the fans, but less popular with Michelin. Hernandez is asking too much of his rear tires, and burning through them in the first part of races.
The highlight so far for Hernandez has been Assen, where he led for nine laps of the first part of the race. His excitement at leading the race would cost him dearly, the Aspar Ducati rider crashing out on lap 12, and unable to start the restarted race. In the second half of the year. Hernandez needs to find some consistency of results. That will only come when he stops abusing his tire quite as much as he has in the first part of this year.
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