2017 Austin MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Leaders Crashing, and Rossi vs Zarco

When riders get off to a blinding start in the first couple of races, it is easy to get carried away and start penciling their name onto the championship trophy. Doing that after just two races is plainly ridiculous. Doing it after three races is hardly any better. Yet the temptation to do so remains strong: when a narrative presents itself, it is hard to resist following it.

That has been the case so far this year. In Moto3, Joan Mir has looked untouchable winning the first two races from tough fights. In Moto2, Franco Morbidelli had dominated, controlling races from start to finish. And coming into Austin, Maverick Viñales had won the first two races of the season quite comfortably, nobody anywhere close to being able to match him.

During practice, a new narrative presented itself in MotoGP. Marc Márquez has dominated the racing at the Circuit of The Americas since it first joined the calendar, winning all four races held there before this year. Maverick Viñales has dominated the opening two races of the year, and came to Austin looking capable of ending Márquez' winning streak.

Duel of the century?

Through free practice and qualifying, the two men traded blows, swapping times at the top of the timesheets. They had half a second or more over the field, and looked set for an epic showdown during the race. If Marc could beat Maverick, he could get his championship back on track, and take the wind out of Viñales' sails. If Maverick could beat Marc, he would claim his place as the new boss of MotoGP, by stealing Márquez' crown at the Repsol Honda's strongest track.

It was easy to get suckered into the narrative, and write the story beforehand of the epic battle which was sure to unfold. But reality intervened, as is its wont. Maverick Viñales' challenge to Marc Márquez lasted just under two laps, the Movistar Yamaha rider slipping off at Turn 18, only his third crash on a Yamaha, but a costly one. Viñales' crash proved that the season is long, and that there is always a lot of racing to be done before Valencia. Any conclusions drawn this early in the championship are inevitable premature, and subject to being contradicted and discarded by events on the ground.

In reality, the race in Austin devolved into a war of attrition, with the rider best able to manage tire degradation triumphing in the end. Maverick Viñales had known this from the beginning, repeating his mantra "we must work for the last ten laps" over and over. But a crash which was inexplicable to him meant he never made it past two laps, making the last ten laps irrelevant.

Mystery crashers

Why did Viñales crash? The Movistar Yamaha rider was at a loss to explain it. Speaking late on Sunday afternoon, he could only shake his head in disbelief. "I don’t know," he said. "I’m like you now. I don’t know. We check everything. It was all the same. The same speed. Even it was a little bit lower speed than in the morning. We had the same fuel in the tank, so it was a strange crash. I can’t tell you anything about it. It happened."

Viñales did his best not to blame Michelin for the crash, while simultaneously making it clear he believed the front tire was to blame. "I didn’t feel so good with the front tire already from the first lap," he said. "Something strange. I know the tire was not as good as this morning. For sure because on the left side I had some warning on the second lap, at the start of the second lap."

Known unknowns

What could have caused the crash? There are any number of explanations. The bumpy track has been difficult all weekend. Viñales may have been slightly off line compared to other laps, and hit a patch of track with fractionally less grip. He could have been pushing hard to try to stay with the Repsol Hondas. The tire could have been performing slightly worse than normal, either because of manufacturing tolerances or because of the way it had been handled. Most probably, it was a combination of several of those things.

In the end, though, the cause doesn't matter to Maverick Viñales. The Movistar Yamaha rider is convinced that neither he nor his team did anything wrong, and so there is nothing to be learned from the experience. He has to get up, dust himself off, and think about Jerez.

Viñales' crash may have changed the dynamics for Marc Márquez, but it didn't change his plan. "It didn’t change my plan on the race because my plan was one plan," he said. "Try to understand the situation, try to understand the race. The mistake of Argentina was a big mistake and I don’t want to repeat again."

Márquez sat behind Dani Pedrosa for a few laps, nursing the hard front tire he had decided to fit five minutes before the race. He hadn't tested it much in practice, and had to judge its performance carefully. "In the beginning of the race I was just trying to take care, trying to understand where was the limit of this tire because I didn’t try a lot on Friday. I was behind Dani trying to manage the race, and then when I saw that he was suffering a little bit, and also Valentino was struggling. I say okay time to attack."

Pedrosa put up a stout defense when Márquez first passed him, the two swapping places several times before Pedrosa was forced to let Márquez go. It took Márquez over half the race, but in the end, his pace was just too much for anyone else to follow. He cruised home to a comfortable victory, his advantage over three seconds.

Winning ways

Looking at the result, it was another typical Márquez win in Austin. Yet if anything, this was a far more conservative win on Márquez' part. "The race was slower but we need to understand also that the temperature increased a lot," Márquez said. "I was able to ride faster because I feel quite good, but in the end victory, 25 points is the same winning plus two seconds or plus ten. This is something that I understand already some races ago. "

This win makes it five wins out of five at Texas for Marc Márquez. It also means he has never lost a MotoGP race on American soil. ("We need to speak with Carmelo, to have more circuits in the USA for the future," Márquez quipped.) Marc Márquez remains unbeatable in America.

It also means he got back a huge chunk of points in the championship. Márquez went from 37 points down on Viñales to just 12 points down, and moved up from eight in the championship to third. If anyone had any thoughts of handing the trophy to Viñales after the first two rounds, they will have had to put them very firmly out of their heads in Austin.

Roadhouse

Viñales' crash meant that Valentino Rossi has ended up leading the championship, for the first time since Sepang in 2015. It is the story of Rossi's recent history in MotoGP, performing well through consistency, rather than winning every race. Rossi has been on the podium in all three races so far, and his race in Austin is arguably his best of the year. He was quick through practice, and carried that on into the race, biding his time, passing Pedrosa at the end of the race, and going on to finish a comfortable second.

Rossi's race was not without controversy, however. On lap seven, he nearly came together with Johann Zarco, and was forced to sit the bike up and run across the tarmac on the inside of Turn 3. In the process, he gained a third of a second on the man ahead of him, Marc Márquez. That gain was later nullified, but the whole situation caused a storm of debate among fans.

What actually happened? At the start of lap seven, Rossi was leading Johann Zarco, who had been snapping at his heels for a while. Rossi made a mess of Turn 1, missing the apex and running wide. That put him too far to the inside for Turn 2, which he knew meant his run through the Esses all the way down to Turn 11 was completely ruined. Zarco saw an opportunity which was too good to pass up. "It was necessary to do it like this," Zarco explained, "because there was an opportunity to pass him, and if I asked myself, 'can I do it?' maybe I crash. So, necessary just to do it. "

Zarco squeezed into the inside of Turn 3, just as Rossi turned in, trying to close the door. The two were almost level at that point in the corner, but being on the outside, Rossi was forced to sit up. He sat up, ran on, and rejoined the race a long way ahead, on the tail of Márquez rather than just in front of Zarco. What's more, he did not give up the ground gained either before or after the incident.

After careful review, Race Direction decided to hand Valentino Rossi a penalty of 0.3 seconds, which is how much advantage Rossi gained with that maneuver, according to timekeeping. Although "penalty" is perhaps the wrong word. "The thinking behind the penalty was that you can't gain an advantage by leaving the track," Race Director Mike Webb explained. "There was clearly an advantage because he got closer to Marquez. So we negated that advantage."

Alternatives

It was clearly not Rossi's fault he left the track, Webb acknowledged. But Rossi did not give up the gain he made by doing so. What Rossi could have done is shut off the gas once he rejoined the track, dropped off the back of Márquez and returned to being just ahead of Zarco. But Rossi held onto the gains made by cutting across the tarmac.

The penalty seems incredibly petty, and given the final gaps between Márquez, Rossi, and Pedrosa, also completely irrelevant. It is perhaps better to think of this not as a time penalty, but as a race time correction. It is a more accurate reflection of the time on the track, but applying the correction seems more like nitpicking than judiciously application of the rule of law.

Valentino Rossi was far from happy with the penalty. "For me it’s not right, because I have two choices: or I do like this or we touch and we crash," Rossi said. I read here that it’s gaining advantage and for sure I gain some advantage. 0.3 is okay, but for me the problem is not Race Direction, the problem is Zarco because he’s always very fast. He rides the bike very well. He has a great potential, but this is not Moto2 and if you want to overtake you have to overtake in another way. He always arrives too late. For me you have to stay more quiet."

Was it a harsh move by Zarco? That seems like an exaggeration. Rossi made a mistake at Turn 1, which meant he left the door open at Turns 2 and 3, and Zarco leaped at the chance. The Frenchman drew level with Rossi, but could not pass him. Meanwhile, Rossi was still trying to close the door despite the fact that Zarco was already on the inside of the corner. Who was to blame? They both were. And Race Direction took that and decided against apportioning blame when both parties were the offenders.

Et tu, quoque

Marc Márquez could not resist getting in a punch of his own. "Of course, it was aggressive but in the beginning everybody’s pushing 100%, I’m an aggressive rider," Márquez said of the incident. "Valentino is an aggressive rider. We also overtake in the past very strong. We overtake in the present and we will overtake in the future really strong. So if you are aggressive and you overtake strong, you need to understand that also the other riders are aggressive. It’s always like this. It’s racing." The subtext of Márquez' explanation is that Rossi himself is far too aggressive making passes, and that this time, his chickens have come home to roost.

Rossi blamed Zarco's aggression on having come through the rough and tumble of Moto2, where the closeness of the machines meant that riders had to be more aggressive when they wanted to pass. "For sure Moto2 is different than 250 because everybody has the same bike, more or less everybody, or especially the same engine, the same tires, the same brakes and everything. So that makes overtake more difficult. Always the races are very tight and is difficult to make the difference. Maybe is that, but I don’t know if is the case."

Dani Pedrosa added that one issue is that adapting to MotoGP is more difficult than many think. It is not just a matter of jumping on a bigger bike, it's also important to understand that everything happens at higher speed, Pedrosa explained. Corners approach faster, bikes brake harder, riders push for every inch on the track. The rhythm of riding is different, and adapting to the faster tempo at which everything happens can be a problem.

Surprising talent

Not for Zarco, however. The Frenchman was faster than anyone expected in MotoGP. It is easy to forget that Zarco is a rookie, when he looks like he's been riding for years. A quick poll of team managers gave the same results: Nobody expected Zarco to be this quick this fast, and all were surprised at his speed. Zarco is seventh in the championship, and closer than ever to being genuinely competitive.

If Zarco has been impressive in Austin, the Ducati riders have underperformed. Riders on Desmosedicis have been on the podium every year since 2014, and they had arrived in Texas expecting to match that, or perhaps even better. This was a Ducati track, they felt.

All of the Ducati staff were disappointed on Sunday. Andrea Dovizioso finished the race as fastest, but even he was only sixth, some 14 seconds off the pace. Senior Ducati officials complained of a very tough weekend, and that they had expected more of their riders. Jorge Lorenzo had made another step forward, but though he matched the pace of Dovizioso in the first part of the race, graining on the right side of the tire meant he couldn't use the tire properly, and lost a lot of ground in the last 10 laps or so. This is not what Ducati Corse expected, however, either from the experienced Andrea Dovizioso or new boy Jorge Lorenzo.

If the narrative in MotoGP was broken, it was broken in entirely different directions in Moto2 and Moto3. But that is a discussion for another day, and later in the week.


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Total votes: 98
Total votes: 98

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Comments

Firstly, super happy to have Rossi back atop the championship. Like many, VR is my hero. I would give my right arm to be in Jerez with Rossi leading the championship! Mega !

Cal Crutchlow should get some love. If this Honda is as hard to ride as they say it is, he’s doing a hell of a job finishing 2nd in Argentina (quoted as saying it was easy for him) and now getting a very solid 4th place. Chapeau to Cal !

But, Zarco. Seriously. How come no one saw this coming? I still can’t wrap my brain cells around this. He’s a double Moto2 champion?! Who was the last double Moto2 / 250 champion to come up ? Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Biaggi where the last ones to do it. Isn’t that super-duper top shelf talent? Why didn’t anyone see this? Why was everyone so fixated on Rins? Suzuki tossed Zarco aside in favour of Rins remember? I’m not saying Rins won’t be great, but this is a guy with Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Biaggi level of achievements here. I'd love to know "why" guys inside MotoGP didn't really believe in him.  Bravo Zarco ! Keep proving everyone wrong. Love it!

Ps. Anyone notice is speed in sector 4 on lap 1 on a full tank? Sick, just sick speed.
He deserves a factory ride !  something is wrong if he doesn't..

Total votes: 183

One of the points I heard consistently in the run up to this year was that Zarco was "too old" for the factories, all of whom apparently want to get a 15+ years out of every rider. I always thought that sounded ridiculous. 

Anyway, I'm excited about his performance so far, but let's not go nuts. In my mind, unlikely he'd be doing this well on a Honda.

 

Total votes: 87

4 spots back would still be REALLY fast for a brand new MotoGP rider. Even on a factory bike. Even on a Yamaha.

Not doubting his skills and pedigree, the pace here is just SO fast! Yes last year's Yamaha is a REALLY good package now. And Zarco has shown excellence in Moto2. He was beautiful on the bike yesterday, very dynamic. But what is necessary to get each spot forward from mid pack is monumental and Zarco immediately running a pace where astronauts only tread on a satellite bike is a surprise. No knock on him, it is further praise. I like this kid!

.3 penalty
Rossi has such presence to be able to be in such a situation, glance back w his left hand relaxed, then drive through the next apex without losing rhythm. He was pushed off track. But he did gain some. Not a spot, time. A bit of a bullshit penalty? Yes. But with echoes of late 2015, #46, off track excursions (I loved that move after Marquez punted him, and strongly disliked what was both the Italian and Spanish media did after), and ALL the shite that followed that we all had to trudge through...what would you do if YOU were Mike Webb? I wouldn't want the job. Messy stressful terrain there.

Another note. As upset as we all were to miss out on the fight of the era coming and head to head blows, we have an even more anticipated one coming on the horizon now in the form of a closer championship. (If one must pine for what could be that isn't...bit of a bad habit, but we all do it a tad eh? The Ducati has lost some momentum under Lorenzo. And Lorenzo in Red. Perhaps the Suzuki w #99 would be a fit. And who for the Ducati if not Marquez and his style that would befit it so well? A new kid? Digression over). The championship looks fan-tastic:

Maverick Vinales is not perfect. He lacks some experience relative to Marquez and Valentino and is still getting to know the bike. He is manifesting a rare excellence and is brilliant to watch. He has the Yamaha a bit loose and is a very balanced rider. But he also has far and away the best package on the grid for now, the M1 is now what the Honda V5 was. (And no incidentally, I am not done taking satisfaction in Honda struggling a bit). Vinales will have some inconsistencies.

Marquez is on a very unforgiving bike lacking drive grip. He is forced to override it and risks crashing, he is stealing his last tenths from gravel traps. It is fantastic to behold. In my view he remains the best rider in the world.

And the great Valentino Rossi remains. He can "Hayden '06" these two as they suffer the occasional crash as we have seen. And as the Honda and Vinales both iron out their creases Rossi also may be poised to grab points via race craft, tires not expended in a slugging match, and other unseen delights.

Total votes: 98

race craft in Moto3 or his taking out Kallio at Valencia in Moto2.  He will have to show something when under pressure and at tracks where Yamaha has not done well for me to start buying into the hype (which seems to be much driven by anti-Márquez sentiment).

Total votes: 100

But you also forget that was a while back. I am finding out for a lot of riders who rise to the top it's all about how they used to make mistakes and how they learned from it. To me the Maverick of now is not the Maverick of old just as the Marquez of now is not the Marquez of old though sometimes the old Marquez's glimmer can still be seen :)

Total votes: 77

I agree with you 100%!!! Actually, I never expected Zarco to be this fast, but I DID think he was a remarkably smart racer. His racecraft in Moto2 is unmatched. Maybe his age was a red flag, but certainly that is not the issue now. He will only get better and eventually he'll have a full factory machine. His crews must be really excited about their prospects. Rins, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystery to me. He got his factory ride, but he is over rated. 

Total votes: 88

"Riders on Desmosedicis have been on the podium in 2014 and 2015, and they only missed out in 2016 because Andrea Iannone took out teammate Andrea Dovizioso in the penultimate corner."

Happy to provide proof-reading services :-)

Total votes: 88

Dovizioso was denied a podium position in Austin because Pedrosa torpedoed him. I think that's what David will have wanted to go for. 

Total votes: 85

I was not shocked to see David make this mistake, as I have made this mistake and had to go back and double check a few times.  But yes, Iannone was on the podium last year behind Marc and Jorge.

Total votes: 77

That was my last two paragraphs, written at 3:30am when I was almost falling asleep, so my apologies for that. I even checked the result, but clearly didn't read it right. Corrected now.

Total votes: 100

The reason Suzuki chose Rins is because everyone is fixated on Spanish riders, glad to see Zarco prove them wrong.

Total votes: 125

Look at how many Spanish riders we currently have in MotoGP. Dorna are actively trying to get in riders from other countries to balance out the numbers and have done so for years now. It's well known and has been mentioned and examined on this very site multiple times. Being Spanish is NOT a bonus these days, unless you ride for a Spanish team. Please stop perpetuating false narratives.

If there is one thing that everyone appears to be fixated on, especially during last year's silly season, it's age. Zarco is 26, Rins is 21. Suzuki wanted another young rider to nurture and be competitive with for the future.

I am not saying that this is the only reason Suzuki didn't sign Zarco at the end, but his nationality was by all accounts the least of their worries. In any case, it couldn't have turned out much better for Johann and I am delighted to see him shake up the establishment from the beginning. It's a joy to see and I'm not sure it would have been possible on the Suzuki.

Total votes: 104

Based on his form over the last 12 races, Morbidelli would likely be a long-term upgrade over Barbera, Bautista or Rabat (unless they can bring a lot more sponsorship money to a team than he can, of course).

Total votes: 80

I think that this race might be the making of Vinales... now we see how he deals with adversity and being a little on the back foot.

The gale force that has powered his sails through pre season and the first 2 races seemed to take a break, and now we see how well he regroups..

....I doubt they'll be any long term harm... but how he goes at Jerez will be interesting, where conceivably Marc/Dani/Vale are likely to be able to push him closer, than they could at the Johnny-come-lately (sic) tracks that make up the opening rounds...

I think he'll be fine, but he'll need to finish at all costs. Let's see...

Rossi is starting to look like his 2015 self.... and like in 2015, I think he'll need to have more in the tank than just (again, sic) consistently being on the podium if he's in with a shot of the title. That said, Rossi's euro season last year was very strong (give or take the bad luck of Mugello and error of [iirc?] Assen, both races he should of won)

Lorenzo seems more or less to be getting the Duc up to its native speed, the problem seems to be that the bike simply doesn't work as well as last year... Many have accused of Jorge of copying Rossi, let's hope that doesn't prove to be  very accurate in the case of the Ducati move...

for one thing (and slightly tongue in cheek, but only slightly) if Lorenzo fancies his old job back in 2019, he may find that Zarco has been offered it.

But, now they head to europe. So now we see.

Total votes: 102

>>for one thing (and slightly tongue in cheek, but only slightly) if Lorenzo fancies his old job back in 2019, he may find that Zarco has been offered it.

 

Or maybe Franco Morbidelli will be ready by then :-)

Total votes: 85

Trying to move beyond the right/wrong of this particular penalty, I find myself agreeing strongly with the argument advanced by Mat Oxley--that by going this direction we're opening a can of worms, heading into F1 territory, and basically screwing up the racing.

Okay, so we can somehow determine how much advantage was gained in a sector, or a corner, following a collision. Sounds fair. But let's dig deeper...how badly was the concentration and rhythm of the rider affected by the collision? That's gotta be worth something, right? So if his times increase for a few sectors, maybe we should take some time out? I'm sure we can add sensors that monitor rider stress, etc. They do it with the astronauts.

Or what if the bike suffered damage? For example, in Qatar, Rossi's rear camera was dangling off the whole race. Over race distance, the aerodynamic impact of that, on a 215 mph machine, might have added up to something. So maybe we should take a few tenths out? What if somebody ahead of me crashes, and I have to go off-line, or off-track, to avoid him. Do I get my sector/lap time adjusted for that?

And then you have to deal with the rider notification part. Pit boards clearly don't work, so we're either gonna need radios or data transmission. The latter seems more promising (radios are too NASCAR). Maybe there's a whole staff of time adjusters back in HQ, running a constant stream of adjusted positions back to a display on your dash. A whole new level of strategy and tactics. Yeah, you just passed Lorenzo, but you were actually a half-second ahead of him anyway dummy--why take the risk? If you're close to Cal or Jack, do your best to make a big show of losing time when you avoid the crash. Do NOT go off track or accelerate until you're sure it's copacetic with all involved.

And then, of course, you have to start thinking about manufacturer variances (why should Ducati blast down the straights like that?), individual rider handicaps...

In fact, ya know what makes the most sense? We're just gonna run this thing like the IOM TT. We'll start everybody at 10 second intervals, and just see how the times work out. No, wait...the faster guys catch up sometimes, which means they get held up, which isn't fair, and then you've gotta start adjusting again. So here: one bike on the track at a time. No traffic, no being held up, or being crashed into and gaining advantage.

But...no. That's not really fair either. I mean, what if it rains for Rins and lets up for Rossi? So really, I think we need to move this indoors too. Or maybe instead of trying to beat the other guys, we can make it like those "races" where you have to come closest to a set time?

Total votes: 161

Good points and hilarious too. Excellent.

Total votes: 105

For the penalty for a rider who gains advantage by leaving the track. Technically that's what Rossi did, though the gain was small. In other situations I've seen the rider forced to relinquish positions, and theoretically he could have been forced to allow Zarco past as Zarco was alongside VR before Rossi left the track. Race direction took into account the fact Rossi couldn't see Zarco and didn't really penalise him at all

Total votes: 100

It sounds to me like VR wants rookies to roll off the throttle when he shuts the door on them and was pissed that *he* had to roll off because he was on the outside.  Nothing wrong with that notion on VR's part, but since he continues to be a serious challenger for the world championship, it's not like he's going to be given more leeway due to his seniority. I suspect by the end of the season, when Zarco stuffs a past champion, it will cease being news and just be part of the race.

Total votes: 117

... VR won't ever mind a hard battle be it Zarco or any other rider. He was taken aback only because he had to lose the track momentarily. I'm sure he doesn't hold any grudge against Zarco at all otherwise.

Total votes: 117

I saw Zarco offer Rossi a handshake on the cooldown lap.

Rossi made a gesture as if to ask "WTF were you doing?" Then he accepted Zarco's hand.

I thought it was pretty cool.

Total votes: 97

I think VR's reaction to Zarco's move shouldn't be taken as a typical cribbing. I'm certain anyone who has been watching MotoGP for years would agree that VR hasn't and doesn't shy away from hard racing. So Marquez's light dig at the situation could be misleading.

It was just an overambitious move on Zarco's part I'd say, nothing more, and I'm pretty sure VR doesn't hold anything against Zarco either other than the initial, instinctive reaction to it (just like how Vinales reacted to founding VR in his line during Qualifying).

I believe all is well about this whole situation now. But discussions may continue about its overall fairness.

Secondly, I do not understand why HRC alerted Pedrosa about VR's penalty in the penultimate lap through the pitboard. What were they trying to do given that Yamaha itself didn't alerted VR of the same? Was HRC trying to distract Rossi off his rhythm because VR would notice their pitboard as well or wouldn't he? Because I was certain that telling Pedrosa about it then was going to be of no use.

Total votes: 112

Maybe HRC crews want to give clue to pedrosa, stick to rossi no matter what, maybe blocking him, or slowing him down and try to stick under his slipstream, etc..

but it seems either pedrosa didn't really get it or his bike is not possible anymore to do that kind of manuver, or maybe the pit msg just little too late to make pedrosa adjusting for that new information or .... pedrosa is just want to do fair race, :) , well many possibility 

Total votes: 71

So anyone who was within .3 seconds of Rossi at the finish needed to know about his penalty.  Is it possible to infallibly communicate that information using a pitboard?  I shudder to think of NASCAR or F1 style communications in MotoGP, but allowing even just 40 characters to scroll across their dashboard would make things better all around.  Instead of pit-to-rider, what about race direction-to-rider communications?

Total votes: 84

Did anyone notice the state of Alex Lowes' front tyre as he was picking it up out of the gravel? The tearing on the edge of the right hand side was clearly evident. I've had this a few times with a slick tyres from different manufacturers. Usually it means the tyre is over heating and tearing itself up due to either over grip... or under grip and spining at the rear. Strangely enough I don't remember getting this when I started using slicks in the 1990's. I've only encountered in the last 5-6 years. Perhaps those only Dunlops and Michellins where not as gripping as the new slicks, but by the power of greyskull they did not shread themselves in the mater of a 15-20 laps.

Seems the tyres are deciding who wins in some ways.... Again!

Total votes: 102

When asked, at the post race interview, what the issues might be with crashes etc, Rossi suggested that bumps were one issue but that 'balance' was most likely the problem.

I would suggest that in the search for putting all that power to the ground to get maximum acceleration that the rear is overpowering the front. Maybe trying to match the power/speed of the Ducatis is the root cause behind maximising drive especially if track characteristics add to the issue.

So its a set up/electronics decision made by the team/rider rather than a race durability or getting the balance exactly right.

The result is that the back pushes the front and starts to tear or badly grain the front aspecially on the least loaded side.

The problem is that when it starts to push the front in this way it doesn't generate carcass temp which means that its possible to easily have a no temp low side lack of feel and a feeling of no grip.

You might eventually find, as time goes by, that this characteristic is either why Vinales is quick and why he is more susceptable to the balance/temperature issue.

Marquez was experiencing the same issue because his team could see the tearing on TV and were warning him on his pit board.

 

Total votes: 93

What I'm sure wasn't picked up on was that both aprilias had knackered the tyres at roughly the same point. I remember them saying that espargaro had come into the pits with a ruined tyre, and at the same time, Lowe's was crashing with a ruined tyre too. But the commentators must have missed that.

Total votes: 70

They miss quite alot....  in FP3 the camera was following Miller.  He lost the front at turm one and managed to save a pretty decent slide on his knee and possibly elbow.......  Not a peep was said about it. 

Total votes: 59

of the 3 races so far this was my less favorite i must say. Though full of major surprises. I never thought for one second that MV was gonna crash (TBH i thought MM was gonna crash, not just because of the pressure, but also because of his career pattern and figures, I mean 2 crashes ONLY in one race week end? that's below average, what's wrong with him? smiley) More seriously though, I was very disappointed that MV did not get past lap 2 and very surprised. But it's just one race, I don't doubt for a second that he'll be there in Jerez, as fast as hell, battling for the lead.

The other unexpected surprise was to see Dani in such good form and his passes with MM were a real pleasure to watch.

What I certainly never ever expected, was to see VR leading the WC... Yes he is consistent, and yes we can never count him out, still i do not see him thriving and happily breaking like he used to: i hope they'll find a solution.

As for Ducati... well, who would have thought? they are going backwards! on "Ducati friendly" circuits! there is this old say "do not shoot at the Red Cross" so, I'll refrain from making any comment.

last but not least: the Zarco/Rossi incident : I would not dismiss this thing with a simple "this is racing baby". I think that VR was right in pointing out that Zarco should be a tiny bit more careful. First, given his choice of tires (soft/soft) I assume he knew he could not keep up the whole race. Second, if he was indeed faster (which it seems to me happened just in a couple of sectors for a couple of laps) he should have been coolheaded and make a pass where it's possible and where he can make it stick, not just trying to push with no strategy and above all being unable to pass Rossi! this could have ended like last year's Iannone/Lorenzo crash. Third, Zarco is very "physical" in his approach, we've seen that in the past and also in his starts this year. I have nothing against it, but I think it's important to understand the difference between being strong holding a position and just barging into other riders to make way. I find ironic that most people use Rossi as benchmark for bully passes, when in my opinion most of his, too many too count , overtakes are beautifully executed with clinical precision and very little barging.  So bottom line, yes this is racing, but there is a major difference between smart riding (with the occasional strategic paint swap) and not so smart blind use of force.

Total votes: 136

Rossi has obviously made far harsher passes than what Zarco attempted on him, so it is a touch hypocritical of him to tell Zarco to wind his neck in. 'This is not Moto2' is a nonsense comment. People have died in both categories, and in fact Zarco was a very safe rider in Moto 2.

Total votes: 123

Firstly, a great summation David. Indeed, blindly following a Vinales vs Marquez narrative circa 2017 has been put to bed. There exist many permutations with 15 rounds left. As an earlier poster noted, the bloke who is currently points leader may well do a 2006 Hayden. At the other end of 2006 was Loris Capirossi. He was on cue for the title until the Catalunya mess. Dovizioso is getting short shrift within Audi/Ducati/Marlboro right now. Reason : They are more concentrated on justifying massive investment in the Lorenzo deal than winning the title, hence all effort is thrown at Lorenzo's needs, rather than focusing on the title race, both manufacturer and rider angles. Dovi got taken out in Argentina again whilst headed for some good points. Austin, well, his bike developed 2 glitches over the weekend. Transition from M1 to D16 has never been easy.

Dovizioso transitioned from 2 stroke Honda to RCV Honda to...yes...M1 Yamaha, to D16 and beat out the likes of Cruthlow whom I like a lot. The more Ducati/Audi cabal wrap Lorenzo in cotton wool, the further they will go down the dark passage of Rossi circa 2011/12. I said before this signing that they needed to get Marquez on board D16. Suppo, having worked with Marc and Casey probably figured this from the get go. I hope Lorenzo's huge paycheck has some equally huge performance stipulations. Early days to be talking silly season for sure. Do Ducati/Lorenzo have some escape clauses inked? Hardly likely. I guess Ducati will just have to suck it up like with Rossi back then at the expense of Dovi, Redding, Petrucci, Barbera, Bautista, Baz. Make no mistake, I have always been a huge backer of Lorenzo and still am, but on a Ducati? Like Rossi admitted, he can't ride it to its level like Stoner. Never will 3 races in.

Total votes: 95

I'm relieved to now know that Austin can be every bit as good of an experience as Indianapolis (albeit further to travel to and much more expensive!).  Spent all three days there wandering the various viewing areas and finding myself at the right place at the right time - able to see the likes of 93, 35, 26, 99 and 04 out and about.  

Also had the pleasure and fortunate good timing to be grabbing a beer in the Velocity Lounge right as Kevin Schwantz was speaking to the fans inside.  I was able to get a question in to him about Zarco, which continued to come up over the loud speakers through the rest of the weekend!  Pretty cool.

As for the MotoGP race - disappointing to see MV crash out.  I believe a truly epic battle with MM would have surely ensued.  Rossi was outstanding, again, and continuing to capitalize on the opportunity gaps that exist on the periphery of the top step of the podium.  Lots of impressive performances from others out there, as well.  

Lastly, I must say (as a fan of the sport and no particular rider), that I saw nothing wrong with Zarco's move on Rossi and agree wholeheartedly with MM's summation of the event, or rather, his calling out of the need to be able to take it if you're going to dish it.  

 

Total votes: 96

...communications and Rossi's penalty incident, does anyone else think a Google Glass type heads-up device would be perfect for motorcycle racing?  The pits could transmit bits of information in short sentences, say, along the back stretch, and the rider could read them with relatively little impact or distraction.  The rider keeps his eyes focused down track without having to re-focus on something closer to the gauge cluster.  No looking off to one side, no extended looks away from the track at the gauge area, no troubles with noise interfering with the understanding, etc.  Personally, I think it'd be perfect.  You'd certainly have to take some care with the final design as real glass inside the visor next to the rider's eye is a no-no in the event of a crash, but with all the talented minds in the paddock I'm guessing it could be made to work.  I'd be interested to know if it's more distracting than talking on the radio.  After all, fighter pilots can get along with similar systems so why not racers?

Total votes: 99

dear VR46 has form for this,witness him doing the same at the Assen chicane ,

but he did ride a steady race,MM93 pulled out all the stops,and MV25 just got caught out,

 

great race for CC35

 

 

 

Total votes: 100

Rossi gained 0.3 so they took that away from him. After reading the justification for the penalty I think it was fair enough. No good argument against it.

Vinales falling unfortunately ruined the race somewhat. But it's good for the championship which is really starting now. Jerez will be interesting, we've seen quite a few Yamaha vs Honda battles there...

Total votes: 87

All in all it was a pretty good weekend. Except for the fact that Michelin brought an absolute crap front tire to the venue. I am getting tired of bad tires having such a major influence on the racing. Honestly, what is it going to take for Michelin to get their stuff together and bring a decent tire to the races? And it is not so much the rear - The rear tire seems very capable. But the front - they are not even close. FP3 was a joke. They have had a year of development and now they are 2 seasons in and the front tire is still inferior. If I were DORNA I would start getting concerned. 

Total votes: 87

makes for good racing and less dominence 

 

Total votes: 88

assertion that these new-fangled tarmac run off areas weren't keeping with the spirit of racing? I'm not able to (currently) dig the quote out but he felt that mistakes weren't punished enough when the rider could ride back onto the track via the tarmac 'ring road' as Rossi did on Sunday. 

Maybe if the nerfed Rossi was to hit the 'traditional' gravel trap at around 100mph, breaking numerous bones as the kitty litter grabbed him and spun him around like a whirling dervish. Oh and don't forget the bike would have to do similar, smashing itself into hundreds of thousands of dollars of souvenir-ready skip filler, would that be a more acceptable and deserved consequence?

Crikey, I can't stand F1 and don't ever want soulless circuits or riders who speak like they are from Kraftwerk or Devo but sometimes, just sometimes I remember that I could watch CS riding bikes for hours but when he opened his mouth.....

 

Total votes: 101

Wow - all those words just to build a strawman attack on a guy who retired years ago. I love the assumptions you made there regarding the apparently inevitable outcome of this incident. Pure histrionics and yet you get upvoted... ridiculous.

Total votes: 73

That so-called evasive move by Rossi is getting pretty well rehearsed! It's always the same. He's on the outside of the entry to a flip-flop series of turns. The rider on the inside has the line but Rossi closes down on him and appears to be nurfed, thereby cutting the inside of the next turn and putting distance on his rival. That he was successful against Stoner at the Corkscrew is amazing since he had to cross the dirt. But there was a lesson for him there and he has polished it. Assen was a little less risky, but Cota was a free pass! No curbs or anything to impede the manuever. Just stand it up and get on the gas! .3 was fair in the end, but the move successfully shed Zarco from being a threat. That was probably the biggest impact. Very thrilling, though. I liked it.

Total votes: 125

There are multiple times where Rossi has someone on the inside right at the apex and leans on them then stands the bike up to make it looks like he has been pushed off the track.

If Zarco was really at fault he would have run wide and not made the next corner.

Rossi said that he had only two choices - crash or run off. What about the 3rd option to concede and back off.... not in Rossi's handbook. 

Total votes: 117

You are saying : "If Zarco was really at fault he would have run wide and not made the next corner." Well.... it's not as simple and clear to me.
Look at his bike : he is almost straight up braking on collision route to VR who is leaning inside and turning. That's why I see a reminiscence of Iannone/Lorenzo crash : one is overconfident breaking too late and the other is slightly offline but already turning. Most of all, you can see that after the contact zarco goes straight out on the curb on the right : he did run wide! Nor his bike, rather not even an inch of his front tyre, was in front of Valentino
So the way I see it is zarco was way too confident in entering that corner without the necessary speed to make it happen
When VR said that Zarco should be more "quiet" he meant coolheaded.
And I must add that I heard zarco comment in French and to be honest I wasn't reassured: his statement was rather confused but he did say that he was not sure he was gonna make it in one piece but he tried it anyway....
This is what I call smart riding NOT.

Total votes: 105

IMO, Zarco seemed to be saying that the situation required an instantaneous decision. I believe he meant that if he had to consciously think about such split-second opportunities, he wouldn't attempt passes at all. 

Total votes: 53

I seem to be the only person who doesn't think Zarco did anything wrong. 

Total votes: 121

It IS possible that Zarco did nothing wrong
Rossi did nothing wrong
Mike Webb did nothing wrong
And neither did I in saying so.
-Let's me and you and everyone call our minor commentary transgressions a "racing incident"

And back in 2015...
Marquez did little wrong, bumping
Rossi did very little wrong taking a never chosen line
ON TRACK
(And then...lots was done wrong)

Everything is cool. Let's move forward. Jerez, battle commences! Gloves OFF. Europe is when the championship *really* gets started, right? Eleven days...

Total votes: 99

Simple.

Zarco 2014 Moto 2: 6th

Zarco 2013 Moto 2: 9th

Zarco 2012 Moto 2: 10th

While his double Moto2 championships have been downright impressive.  Rins took 3rd in the WC in 2016, and 2nd in the WC in 2015.  Before that he was runner up/ should have been the Moto3 WC in 2014 as he showed better racecraft than the younger marquez.

The real rope here is that Suzuki downplayed Zarco's ability on the GSX-RR based on what Maverick was doing with the same bike.  And all props go to Zarco for getting on Vale's 2016 M1.  Who needs to develop a bike when you can hop right on the best one with all the data you need.

Total votes: 81

I'm not sure about this "narrative" you write of David.  

I don't even buy into your sentiment re Vinales "nobody anywhere close to being able to match him" in the first 2 races.  Unless I'm watching the Trump version of MotoGP with "alternative races" I clearly saw 2 guys out front who easily had the legs on the rest of the field for the first handful of laps.  Yes, they crashed but in comparison Vianles did not look like the fastest guy on track, just the fastest finisher...which admittedly is kinda important, lol.  But bottom line (to my eyes) he looked a looooong way from unbeatable, especially in his battle with Dovi at Losail where he won by less than 0.5sec.

So I just don't see how you've managed to see him as unbeatable prior to COTA. 

Neither do I see how you managed to get "The subtext of Márquez' explanation is that Rossi himself is far too aggressive making passes" from Marquez' comments.  You assume a negative connotation that simply isn't there.  Marquez said that he himself makes hard passes, Rossi makes hard passes, and they should expect hard passes in return.  Nowhere does he say or infer that Rossi is "far too aggressive".  You stir a pot that has nothing in it.

 

Total votes: 87

You obviously don't read the internet much. The narrative is out there, I did not create it from whole cloth. 

Total votes: 99

Well, there is not much to create in narrative other than bearing witness to the sheer speed of Vinales... in CoTA he was so fast! He could easily match MM! And in the previous races he was fast and confident and gave the impression he was never at the limit. And I'm saying this being a Rossi fan: MV got everybody scared, particularly MM and VR for different reasons though

As for the Marquez comments I think there was a negative connotation, especially given the fact the VR was talking about a not very smart attempt at passing and MM was talking about hard passes in general. How many times have you heard VR complain about hard passes in his 20 plus year career? VR just said that Zarco should be a bit more careful. Dani concurred. I do too.

Total votes: 100

At no place he said you cannot be aggressive. Also being ok with aggressive manouvers is not tountamont to saying it is fine, good or advisable to always be super aggressive. If you watch Rossi overtaking then you see that he usually is super clinical and is only rarily aggressive. There is a right time and place for being aggressive. Being of the opinion that that wasn't it should be accepted. And obviously IMO in this case he was right, else Zarco would have made the move without forcing Rossi off track. Also he didn't in particular only critizise Zarco for this move, but rather for being too late usually with his moves. Rossi is a keen observer of all other riders, especially new ones entering the scene, and also already in Moto3 and Moto2. Petrucci said in an interview last year that he was visiting Rossi at home, and what was he doing there currently. Rossi was watching an old Moto2 race from years ago! And not only Rossi but Cal Cratchlow more or less said the same thing. He said he really likes Zarco's aggressivness yet MotoGP is not Moto2... Go figure..

Iannone (who was alse already critizised by Rossi for his rather illtimed aggresive moves as well although being a friend of Rossi) is a case in point that Rossi doesn't mind being aggressive per se, but the place, time and how is important. So yes, it is a complicated discussion and not possible to settle with a simple throw away line, like but..but..he was aggressive too ones.. That would only work if he said, you cannot be aggressive ever, which he clearly doesn't.

Please note: I am not saying Rossi must be right with his criticism (because I have not watched Zarco closely enough to know if he generally is too late, have you??), only that him being aggressive on occassion doesn't mean there is nothing he can say about other riders moves.

Total votes: 93

Not that it's owed, but I'd love to hear an objective explanation of what was actually unacceptable about Zarco's attempted manuever?  I'm only seeing it referred to as "aggressive", but nothing else.  

My recollection of the incident is as exactly as David describes above, but futher, that Rossi seems to "play dumb" to the fact the Zarco wasn't just inside of him, he was dead even - Rossi still upright and not impeded upon mid-corner.  Their tires were nearly perfectly parallel as Rossi tipped back in to, much to his apparent "surprise", find Zarco there...all aggressive-like...smiley  

In all seriousness, I do really wish to understand both sides of this, because if I'm in the wrong (which is certainly possible), that has bigger implications - that I don't understand the sport nor its rules!

Total votes: 78

seems like when the ducati isnt competetive the hondas need not worry about staying with them out of the corners. maybe just something or probabaly nothing

Total votes: 81

In my view of the Vale/Johann contact. Your description and Webb's explanation is exactly what I saw go down. Regardless of the failed pass, he gained a noticable chunk of real estate on Marc in front and all he needed do was roll off the throttle a second to allow that gap to get back to where it was. Case closed.

The announcers were of course completely oblivious to this simple fact (as are most it seems) and can only look at the two Yamahas w/o noticing the Honda ahead and how it fits in to the situation and I'm left fruitlessly yelling at them from my couch yet again... sad

Total votes: 94

I think one of the reasons Zarco is doing so well is because of his age.  I think he has worked out some of those issues that might plague younger riders, consistency to name one, and is using his experience to his advantage. 

I always like to think of Mick Doohan. Doohan wasn't on track to win a championship until the age of 28 and a leg injury held him back until 30.  

Why does every rider need to be 20 to be a rookie?  Absurd.  I almost think there should be an age minimum for the class. 

Total votes: 77

The are lots of ironies in life, and in racing.  Rossi's contention that Zarco should be "more quiet" stretches irony into the hilarious.  Who didn't enjoy watching him smoking that hard rear Michelin at Termas de Rio Hondo?  And making passes at the same time!  I bet he is glad Suzuki got a big hard-on for Rins, who has scored just 4 Moto2 race wins, to Zarco's 15.  Good as he is, even Zarco would have struggled on the inferior Suzuki.  But on Lorenzo's 2016 bike, he is really able to express himself.  Suits his very smooth riding style.  He also his own man, making tyre choices others eschew, and making them work.  It seems clear too that Franco Morbidelli learned a lot from Zarco last year and is now able to manage his tyres and win races.  Zarco is still learning the characteristics of the Michelins and once he has that sorted, I don't think podiums are out of the question.  I bet Herve Poncheral and Guy Coulon are delighted to have him and Folger aboard.  Back to the Smith/Crutchlow days - with less crashes.  Finally, Zarco and Folger are proving that the Yamaha is still the best all-round MotoGP bike, with Honda and Ducati the second best bikes.  Suzuki is a distant fourth, with Aprilia fifth.  And on that note, Sam Lowes shows he has no idea of chassis set-up - which is why he is always losing the front and ending up in the gravel trap.  Just like in Moto2.  Back then, he had a Kalex chassis but set it up far differently to Zarco, who got the bike dialled in then never touched the set-up, apart from spring and damping changes.  Looks as if 2017 is going to be another absorbing sesason.

 

Total votes: 64

 

Going with Tanker Man and reynard11 and others on this... I think Mike Webb, in that new era without foolish penalty points, got it right...maybe just a bit over-right, if such a think exists. There was no sanction. no penalty, no offence committed between Rossi and Zarco. Zarco´s move was on the limit but Mike Webb, a racer himself and a keen observer for many years (and Crew Chief of Wayne Rainey´s team when Wayne was team owner) simply saw a racing incident but what he also noted was that when Rossi returned to the track he had closed on Márquez. He had two options: oblige Rossi to give a position to Zarco or to wait for timing and scoring to indicate about what Rossi had gained. 

Since Zarco was still fourth when he "eased" Rossi off the track, it didn´t seem right to force him to give up a place (no question of "giving it back" because Zarco never had it. So, he saw that Vale had picked up .3 and mad that added to his race time as an adjustment.

Nothing wrong with the logic, but the precedent could prove to be a problem in the future. That is the trouble with precedents. This kind of problem and this kind of solution may become more frequent because of paved run-offs and because Race Direction now has the technical capacity to calculate extraordinary, involuntary advantage…EIA we can call it. 

Calculating what would have happened if nothing had happened takes into about .3 into the Twilight Zone.

Total votes: 75

mmmmmm...Assen 2015(?)...Rossi gets "punted" by MM93 at the final chicane, runs thru the gravel, n is the 'winner'...how does he 'tries to close the door on Zarco' make it different @ COTA 2017?? 'gets run off track, gets a major advantage', RD give him a 0.3 second penalty, what a crock!

Total votes: 71

Firstly, I am big fan of Zarco. He is a talented guy. I had an eye for him since his 125cc days. One guy earlier posted that his results in the first 3 years of moto2 were not impressive. One should look at the chassis he was using, they were not competitive ones. Like many I was appalled to see factories preferring Rins over him (Age is just a number). Anyway deep down I wished he would move to Tehc 3. 

Zarco's move a tough one. Why? let me explain. Rossi messed up the turn 1 and ran wide due to this he lost some time, this made Zarco belive that he can make a pass. But unfortunately,(1) the esses that follow are not overtake friendly, (2) Both of them are on Yamahas and medium tyres so there no great difference between the two.(3)Rossi himself was pushing to catch up with Marquez who was running away. So it would have been best had Zarco waited for more time waited for a better place to attack.

I think the penality was fair too. Rossi did infact gain 0.3 by running out. Also one has to understand the race directions intentions, If they punish Rossi, it sends a loud signal across all the classes. Such penalities are essential as they bring some order. 

Now the best part is, Once we move to Europe, the 2016 M1 (which was very dominant in the hands of Rossi) is now in the hands of Zarco. 2017M1 gradually coming to shape, I have a feeling that we will see all Yamaha Podiums soon. (Zarco must learn to conserve his tyres till the end)

Go Vale!! Go Yamaha!!!

 

 

Total votes: 48

Addy I think your comments are well justified too. Thanks!

Comments further above re Rossi cutting across a line that isn't his, bumping etc seem unjustified to me. Vale had no idea Zarco was coming, and it is clear that the overtaking rider is responsible for reasonably safe passing. All riders have this guideline. Rossi's unflinching adherence to his pace and ad hoc line change is part of what makes him Great. It shouldn't be mistaken for planning or intention.

Fortunately for all of us we are no longer in the "polite" era on the track. Parade laps without much paint swapping action is a thing of the past. The next generation is here via loose bar banging Moto2. Zarco and Marquez were never a part of the polite era, and Zarco can instinctively grab at an opening for a pass if he does so reasonably clean. This can involve touching. And disrupted/alternate lines. The passee isn't owed the best line through, any more than the passer is owed the line that their opponent is on. Remember that Rossi hasn't been a part of the polite era either...and the pliable envelope of acceptable passing was primarily massaged by he and beloved Marco Simoncelli, notably with Giberneau, Lorenzo and Pedrosa on the receiving end.

Good comment re the bigger context. There is also a less clear area in which there are contingencies.
* Repeat offender/pattern of behavior? Less leeway.
* Is it late in the race? More leeway than earlier.
* Part of a contested championship? Does it get consideration?
* What about a contested seat, contract, or pecking order within a team? Should it?

Some riders push for a more hands-off application of safe passing rules while on the track, some the opposite. The manner of doing so is off-track efforts.

Some of the on track behavior is to be ignored. Even appreciated as brave and cunning. Same perhaps for off track?

Note that race direction has no problem with what any riders did on track Sunday. One was just given a reasonable (albeit unsavory) time correction for gaining in an off track excursion. That isn't to become a line. The inside of the lower third of the Corkscrew at Laguna is somewhat. One rider found a line in there that no one would practice taking. Except the then new Moto2 loose bruiser apparently.

2015 it was Marquez that blasted into the side of Rossi a few turns before the end of a race. Luckily for everyone Rossi maintained control and his position via an AMAZING Baja 1000 like recovery. It was a more egregious line grab than Rossi did to Giberneau in Spain last turn yrs back...if Sete had such a line out of the beach to pip Rossi to the line how would you call that as Race Direction?

Off track efforts right after the race there were a bit much (from the Marquez corner initially) but reasonably expected. Race Direction did well to do little.

But the counter response from the Italians off track was out of line, way over the reasonable limits. The Spanish too later, the press everywhere poured race gas on this small fire.

When Rossi pushed Jorge so hard in Japan while returning from injury we had a clean, gloves off battle. There was pride at stake. And this is also how dominance is established. Some off track comments were a bit much, and acceptable.

Here is the rub. We all stomached a dangerous excursion for a YEAR in which our top riders were involved in a drawn out situation that necessitated more response from Race Direction (yes, THAT one in which it came to a head on track). They did. It effected the championship for the year.

Importantly, what Race Direction did over the last year has re-established order as you say. They must, it is they that make the guidelines be followed. Just like Honda cannot and should not dictate a rule book, neither is it to be for any rider to do so. Nor is a rider bound to not push back at Race Direction.

The riders coming through must do so with reasonable care. The rider being overtaken is not owed their preferred line unmolested. The young displacing the old, just as in any transition or corner on the track.

We are in a good way.
The likelihood of anyone reading this are small. Left here anyway.
;)

Total votes: 54