2017 Sachsenring MotoGP Round Up: On Unpredictable Predictability, Compromising Setup, And Yamaha's Satellite Team

If the 2017 MotoGP season has been anything, it has been entirely unpredictable. After two races, we were declaring the season over, and penciling Maverick Viñales' name on the trophy. A race later, and we were conceding that Valentino Rossi had taken over the lead of the championship, and that meant that whoever won the title would be riding a Yamaha. After four races the top four were within ten points, and we gave up on there being a favorite, only to change our minds again after Le Mans, where Valentino Rossi crashed out trying to beat his teammate, and Viñales took a 17-point lead again.

After Mugello, when Andrea Dovizioso won his first dry MotoGP race, Viñales led by 26 points, and was ahead of reigning champion Marc Márquez by 37 points. We had our favorite once again. Three races and two changes in the championship lead later, and we have given up again. The top four are back within ten points of each other again, and making predictions is looking increasingly foolish.

There was one certainty we could cling to, and would not allow ourselves to let go: At the Sachsenring, Marc Márquez takes pole, and then goes on to win the race. It has happened the last seven years Márquez has raced at the Sachsenring, from 125s to Moto2 to MotoGP. Surely he would repeat that again? Surely, Marc Márquez would break the unpredictability of MotoGP in 2017?

Keeping it random

Free practice brought uncertainty once again. Andrea Dovizioso and Maverick Viñales looked formidable in the dry, though both Márquez and his Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa were not far behind. In the wet, the Hondas were stronger, the conditions seeming to suit them, though there was the Ducati of Danilo Petrucci, Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia, and Jonas Folger and Johann Zarco on the Tech 3 Yamahas. Marc Márquez' domination was far from a foregone conclusion.

Predictability was back after qualifying. In weird mixed conditions, Marc Márquez imposed his will on the field in Q2, pushing ahead of Danilo Petrucci to take pole position. Eight races, eight poles. It looked like the young Spaniard had everything back on track at the Sachsenring again. But could he convert that into a win, just as he had done seven times before?

Moto3 gets Mir and mighty

The support classes promised a return to normality. The Moto3 class turned into a war of attrition at the Sachsenring, as the long string of left handers took its toll on tires, opening gaps and slimming down the field. A group of five riders got a gap early, the field breaking when Aron Canet could not follow the pace of Joan Mir, Romano Fenati, Marcos Ramirez, Nicolo Bulega, and Toni Arbolino.

Fenati had chosen the M tire instead of the H, gambling that he could make the softer rubber last and use the extra grip of the tire. It paid off in the beginning, but he once again failed to drive his advantage home. Mir timed his attack to perfection, striking at the bottom of the hill into Turn 12, beating Fenati on the brakes and taking over the lead. Mir rode a superb race, and with Canet crashing out, takes a comfortable 37-point championship lead into the summer break.

Fenati was forced to settle for second, but he did so gladly. Entirely delighted was Marcos Ramirez, who finally scored the podium he has been so close to several times this season. Two fourth places at Le Mans and Jerez, and battling in the leading group at Mugello, Barcelona, and Assen, it was clear a podium was coming for the Spaniard. The Platinum Bay Real Estate squad finally got their so coveted podium trophy at the Sachsenring.

A comedy of errors

If a small group battling for the win was par for the course for the Moto3 class in Germany, a duel for victory between two riders was much as in previous years in Moto2. It took a while for that duel to unfold, however. The three championship favorites got away at the start, Marc VDS teammates Franco Morbidelli and Alex Márquez being joined by Interwetten's Tom Luthi. Márquez highsided himself out of the race first, Luthi crashing six laps later.

That left Morbidelli leading the race on his own. But the race was not over by a long way: as the Italian's pace started to flag a little, Miguel Oliveira stepped up his and started taking chunks out of the Marc VDS rider. In the space of five laps, the KTM rider had made up two seconds, and was sitting on Morbidelli's tail. Oliveira was clearly sizing up the Italian for a pass, but never quite made it stick. This was deliberate, he told the press conference, deciding to wait until the latter stages of the race.

That would prove to be a mistake, but only one he would realize when he tried to pass Morbidelli. Try as he might, he struggled to get past on the brakes, before finally diving through at Turn 12 on the penultimate lap. His lead lasted just two corners, Morbidelli getting the bike stopped into Turn 1 after passing Oliveira again, then going on to take victory. It was a mature win from Morbidelli, and his sixth of the season, giving him a 37-point lead in the championship. Oliveira was disappointed, but accepted defeat as a result of the setup choice he had made. Behind Oliveira, Pecco Bagnaia crossed the line in third, taking his third podium in the first nine races of his rookie Moto2 season. Bagnaia is proving to be a remarkable talent, and his result in Germany merely underlines that impression further.

Setup compromises

Oliveira's fourth podium (at the Sachsenring, he was handed third in Barcelona, after Mattia Pasini was disqualified for using oil which contravened the mandatory specifications) is confirmation that the KTM is a competitive package. But watching the race, you were left with the impression that braking was the weak point of the KTM Moto2 bike.

When I asked Brad Binder about that, he said it was the opposite. "I feel like the KTM is stronger on the brakes than the Kalex." After the press conference, Miguel Oliveira explained that being beaten on the brakes by Morbidelli was down to a setup choice he made, not to the specific nature of the KTM. Turn 12 was at the bottom of the hill, Oliveira explained, and just before the turn, the track flattens out. "You can reach the bottom of the suspension really easily, and it's easy to lose the front."

If you fix this by stiffening the suspension, then you sacrifice some turning, losing ground through the many long corners which litter the circuit. "If you want to have turning here, you have to sacrifice a little bit the braking stability," Oliveira said. "But it's a very thin compromise, so in the fast part I can't overtake him, and in the braking, he made the difference."

Hometown hero

After normal (for the Sachsenring) Moto2 and Moto3 races, would the pattern continue in MotoGP? When Marc Márquez got the holeshot, it certainly seemed that way. Dani Pedrosa followed, a little slow off the line but getting excellent drive to compensate. Jorge Lorenzo sat in third, his confidence boosted by finding some grip in morning warm up. But Lorenzo would not be a permanent fixture at the front, the Ducati rider capable of putting in a couple of fast laps to stay with the Repsol Hondas, before his tire started dropping and he started to lose time, and with it, places.

As Lorenzo's pace slowed, Jonas Folger's improved, the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider capable not only of staying with the Repsol Hondas, but of passing them and challenging for the lead. He disposed of Pedrosa on lap five, then Márquez the following lap, provoking an almighty roar from the crowd. It has been a while since there was a German rider challenging for the podium at the Sachsenring, let alone actually leading the MotoGP race.

So long, in fact, that it left even Márquez and Pedrosa confused. "On maybe lap four or five Jonas passed me and I was like, hmm?" Pedrosa told the press conference. Márquez was even more surprised when the Tech 3 man came past. "When we start the race I was just there, trying to control, trying to save the tires, but then Jonas overtook me," he said. "In the beginning, honestly it was a great surprise because I say, okay, one more rider that can be between me and the others. But then after the laps start to be like, no, what are you doing here? Always very close, never drop. I was pushing a little bit more, little bit more, but he was just there."

Stepping out of the shadow

When Folger took the lead, there were many who believed his pace would not last. Folger would be no match for the experience and speed of Márquez. They turned out to be wrong: not only did Folger push Márquez nearly all the way to the finish line, but he had the Repsol Honda rider genuinely concerned up to the final laps. "The last five laps I gave everything," Márquez told the press conference. "It was not a good idea to arrive in the last lap, last corner with a German rider in the German circuit."

That final push put clear air between Márquez and Folger. It was to his credit that he did not try to ride over his capabilities to try to stay with Márquez. The German had already spent the entire race at a positively scorching pace, breaking the lap record into the bargain, but he had also maintained that pace and matched Márquez for 27 laps. He had learned from sitting behind Márquez and understood a great many things that may help him in the future. "At the end, I let Marc go," Folger told the press conference. "He has the most experience. I try to stay behind him. To be honest, I learned many things behind him."

It was a deeply impressive performance by Jonas Folger. The German has been overshadowed so far this season by the astonishing achievements of his Tech 3 teammate Johann Zarco. Unjustly, as Folger's season so far has been very impressive. In any other year, the press would be raving about the achievements of Folger. Unfortunately, while Folger has been surprisingly strong, Zarco has been out of this world. At the Sachsenring, those roles were reversed.

That is not to denigrate the achievement of Johann Zarco. The Frenchman made a mistake in FP3 which left him out of Q2, and he did not make it through that qualifying session. That left him nineteenth on the grid, and with a lot of work to do. But Zarco worked his way forward, eventually making up ten places on a track that is notoriously difficult to pass on, and finishing ninth. On its own, that performance is worthy of note. But at the Sachsenring, he had his teammate to contend with.

Championship changes

Where has the strong performance of the two Monster Tech 3 Yamaha riders come front? At Barcelona last year, team boss Hervé Poncharal lamented his lot, saying that riders only wanted to sign with factory teams, and rookies were no longer interested in joining a satellite squad. Yet here Poncharal is, with the two strongest rookies on the grid, and a pair of podiums to their name.

For Poncharal, it was clear that the team owed a great deal of its success to the changes in the technical and sporting rules over the past decade or so. "This wouldn't be possible without the changes we made to the championship," he said. "A lot of people laughed at the CRT, but the CRT and Open bikes helped us get where we are. We have a good bike now, but all the bikes on the grid are good now."

That 'good bike' once again finished ahead of the two factory machines. Is the 2016 Yamaha M1 (at the Valencia test, Yamaha wheel the factory bikes out of the Movistar garage and into Tech 3) a superior product to the bikes from last year? Maybe. When asked whether the factory Yamaha team should switch back to the 2016 bikes, Folger answered vaguely, but instructively. "I don’t know exactly what they were trying," he clarified," but it looks like they are going to the direction backwards, like 2016. But I’m not sure. They are struggling. We can see they are struggling."

Backwards chassis

Calling the new chassis which Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales tested at Barcelona, and raced at Assen and the Sachsenring a step 'backwards' is an interesting choice of words. Rumors – some very well informed – persist that the 'new' chassis the two Yamaha riders are using is actually the 2016 frame. Even if it isn't, it certainly resembles the chassis used by the factory riders last year.

It at least helped. Rossi fought his way forward from ninth on the grid to finish fifth, bested by his teammate Viñales who went from eleventh to fourth. Both riders had strong pace, and both were a lot more competitive than they feared they would be. A relaxed and upbeat Viñales came to talk to the press, looking more cheerful than he has been for at least several weeks.

"I was happy I could recover a lot of positions," Viñales said. "I made a good start and I’ve learned how to pass! We have to look at the positives and the bike was working quite well during the race. I lost a lot of time with all the other riders but it was a good race and I could do a lot of ‘21s. We still need to improve." His pace would have been good enough to follow Márquez and Folger in the race, but he too would have had to let them go at some point. "Being realistic today the best we could have done was P3, Jonas was also very strong," he said.

Viñales' improvement had come from a different approach to the electronics, but the Spaniard insisted there is still an awful lot of work still to be done. Viñales called for a return to the approach which had worked for them in the early part of the year. "We have to make the bike work like it was before," Viñales said. "Somehow in the races where we are struggling we modified the electronics and we reduced the power every race and now it looks like we need more power from the electronics! At some races we get very confused and we didn't keep the same line of the electronics during the season and changed it a lot. I hope Michelin can bring the same tires for many races and we can work really hard on the electronics, also today we were not 100% on the electronics, so we need to work and get the confidence with the tires and with the bike as we had in the beginning of the season."

Not quite there

Viñales' teammate had resigned himself to a fifth place finish. "Usually I'm not happy with fifth place, because I want to try to fight for the podium every week," Rossi said. "But after the weekend, the result is not so bad. Especially for the race that we do, because the race was very difficult, very tough, from the beginning to the end, always pushing to the maximum with somebody 0.0 behind. We are struggling a lot - we were also a little bit unlucky because during practice I broke the good bike two times."

Without the practice problems, Rossi felt he could have been a little further forward. He may not have had the pace of Márquez and Folger, but he would have at least been in the hunt for the podium. But at least the new chassis works how he wants it to. "Unfortunately we have just one chassis, so also for the work was a problem. But we were lucky it was dry, because I think in the wet we were struggling more. But fortunately was not like Jerez and Barcelona. We are able to work better on the bike and especially with the new chassis we can be more competitive and had a good pace, from the beginning to the end."

The factory Yamaha riders had lost out to the factory Hondas, however. Marc Márquez had once again proved indomitable at the Sachsenring, restoring some sense of order to the world of MotoGP. For eight years in a row, Márquez has converted pole position into victory at the Sachsenring, his 31st premier class win and his 57th over all three classes. In MotoGP, his win tally stands at 31 from 81 starts, or just over 38%.

Leader of the pack

It also restores Márquez to the head of the championship, something he had not expected just a few races ago. Before Assen, his friend and crew chief Santi Hernandez had sent him a message via WhatsApp telling him he would be leading the championship when the summer break started. Márquez trailed Maverick Viñales by 23 points at that point in time, so he was far from convinced. "I said, okay, what did you drink? Because we were very far," Márquez said.

On a touching note, Márquez dedicated the win to Nicky Hayden and his family, after Hayden sadly died just over a month ago. "Something special that I promised to myself, the first victory after Hayden’s accident is for him, for all his family, because he was a very good friend." A mark that Hayden had touched many lives throughout his career, both young and old.

While Márquez took victory, his teammate finished third, quickly running out of tire after seven or eight laps. He had been following Jonas Folger, and planning a counterattack, when he ran out of grip on the left side of the tire. "I tried to see where [Folger] was faster, but I can see that I was spinning a lot suddenly from very good grip to suddenly not so much grip," Pedrosa said. "So, I said don’t worry. It’s a long race and in this racetrack you normally spin a lot, but you are able still with the spinning to manage, to do a good lap time. But no, every lap I was losing more and more with them because they were going very fast. So, I couldn’t manage to be faster like in practice and I understood at this moment I had to settle for this position."

One that felt different

Pedrosa was not the only one to suffer such issues. Jack Miller, Danilo Petrucci, and Tito Rabat all reported similar problems. For Miller it left him very disappointed to finish in just fifteenth. Petrucci, too, was mystified, and frustrated at seeing a front-row start turn into a race-long slide into twelfth. "We had a program to switch maps every ten laps, and at the middle of the race, change the map of the engine brake," Petrucci said. "But it was not useful, because the bike after six or seven laps, became very difficult to open the throttle, everybody passed me on the straight, and it's quite strange to pass a Ducati on the straight. And especially Suzuki, Yamaha, KTM also. Pol passed me when I was in fourth gear."

Miller tried explicitly not to lay the blame on the Michelins. It was not a bad tire, he emphasized, but rather, "a tire that felt different," he said. "It didn't feel correct. Mainly on the left hand side, from five or six laps, from Turn 5, 6, 7, all the way up the hill on that left hand side, even on partial throttle or shut off, it just kept on coming round on me. I was just trying to keep the bike kind of neutral and calm the whole way through there. I was really fast in the back sector and the bottom of the hill."

Is this another sign of quality control issues with Michelin? It is hard to say. Dani Pedrosa may have had a problem with this tires, but that did not stop him from finishing third, just eleven seconds off the win. There were plenty of possible culprits which may have contributed. The track temperatures were hotter than they had been all weekend, and the race was run directly after Moto2 again. The impression that remains is that the Michelins are still sensitive to temperature, and if the temperature is higher or lower than expected, that can have a significant impact on both tire feel and tire performance.

New ways to get it wrong

Cal Crutchlow had a very different tire issue. For him, the problem was one of the front tire being overcooked as he rode in a group. On Saturday, Crutchlow had been adamant that he would race the hard front, but he backed out at the last minute and went with the medium tire. That had caused the tire temperatures to rise, which had in turn raised tire pressures, eventually triggering a warning light on the dashboard. Crutchlow had responded by backing off and allowing the tires to cool down a little, before trying to push again and get involved in a battle.

Speaking of dashboard messages, Hector Barbera received warning of a ride-through via his dashboard. Unfortunately, Barbera didn't look at his dashboard, and did not come in time. A few laps later, a new message appeared, this time informing the Spaniard that he had been black-flagged. The riders may receive the messages, but it is still clearly up to them to respond to them.

And so the summer break arrives, with four riders within ten points, and Dani Pedrosa just 26 points from the leader, Marc Márquez. Marc Márquez may have attempted to restore predictability by taking victory at the Sachsenring, but the championship is still way too close to call. Anything can happen in the next nine races. And if the evidence of the first nine races is anything to go by, anything will happen in the next nine.


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Total votes: 50
Total votes: 39

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Comments

In the last paragraph: "And so the summer break arrives, with four riders within ten points, and Dani Pedrosa just 26 points from the leader, Maverick Viñales."

Total votes: 59

Herve has every right to complain but he too must admit that on any "normal" year the sat Yamaha would start the season from a competitive position but would usually go backwards from there.  He needs to be carelful what he wishes for this year as he could start next year with a completely unpredictable 2017 Yamaha that they never managed to sort out.

Honda seem to run somewhere between 2 and 2.95 factory spec bikes while Ducati claim to be running 3.  This might be cause for some grief within the sat teams but it does allow the most competitive rider in the team a shot.  If Yamaha were to adopt the same strategy then I think Herve (and his possible eventual replacement VR46) would be in a much stronger place to recruit and secure decent riders for the longer term.  Just my 2 cents :-)

Total votes: 56

Yep. And I would add that 6 Yamahas could very well be out there when VR46 hits MotoGP. Why not?

The Aprilia looks to be abreast the Suzuki or surpassing it. Perhaps the battle for a satellite team will commence soon. I welcome the demise of 2 yr old 4th Ducati squad bikes,,and as many Yamahas as Hondas.

Folger - great ride mate.

Not a popular statement but Rabat and 3 other riders are a welcome addition to a different series. No, Kallio won't ever return. Barbera is unlikely to buy another ride. Baz is gone. Sam Lowes didn't. Miller doesn't in the dry. Iannone's balls and pride don't fit in the standard garage, and Smith better hone his commentating. Ready for some new faces. Lorenzo didn't wrap himself around the Ducati by mid season, hoping there is a "bye bye via performance here are a few hans" clause in their contract. Send him to Suzuki and anyone fresh into the seat.

Again, Folger - nice form!

Total votes: 49

There's alway going to be riders in the last positions. If you get rid of the riders you name and replace them, or not replace them and reduce the grid, there will still be riders in those last positions. Someone always has to finish last in a race. Doesn't mean he didn't deserve to be there.

Total votes: 48

"No, Kallio won't ever return."

Other than as a wild card (Austria seems likely)?  But yes, past his sell-by date.

"Barbera is unlikely to buy another ride."

Do they need to call security when they let him go, or does that only apply to ex-girlfriends?

https://motomatters.com/news/2013/05/10/hector_barbera_and_his_girlfrien...

"Baz is gone."

WSBK seems a natural place, but not on a Kawasaki, eh?

"Sam Lowes didn't."

Another shot at the Moto2 title or BSB (or WSBK if twins can accept racing against each other)?

"Miller doesn't in the dry."

Will he lose his sense of entitlement along with his MotoGP ride?  Is the Australian market important enough to Dorna to have a token Aussie in the series?

"Iannone's balls and pride don't fit in the standard garage..."

NA$CAR is a possibility, since they allow drivers to intentionally hit each other on the track.

"and Smith better hone his commentating."

Has to be better than that of James Toseland.

But who should replace these underachievers (beside the done deal of Morbidelli for Rabat)?

Total votes: 38

A couple of years back it was estimated that the motorcycle industry contributed around $3.6 billion per annum to the Australian economy. It's certainly the largest offroad motorcycle market in the world, per capita, and just about every offroad rider I know also has a roadbike or is in between roadbikes.

There's over 800,000 registered motorcycles in Australia, which has 24.5 million people.

So there's a few bucks in it, which is what this caper is all about.

Total votes: 29

rider from Italy or Spain in MotoGP is not going to make a noticible change in race attendence, or television/Videopass viewers, so bye-bye to Barbera or Rabat and hello to Nakagami is a win for Dorna.  So was wondering if Oz was as important as other non-represented countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Thailand, China, and Brasil (the USA does not make the list since Rossi could walk into most shopping malls without anyone recognizing him, and the sport bike and road racing markets are almost dead - only reason for keeping COTA on the schedule is pressure from Honda since it is almost a guaranteed win for Márquez).

*Aliens first-rate, astronauts second-rate, competent pack filler third-rate, consistently back of the field/out of the points fourth-rate.  Freak win at Assen 2016 not withstanding, Miller's results have been third-rate.

Total votes: 23

Miller's won a GP last year.  He's 12th at the minute behind the aliens + zarco and folger (aliens in waiting) + petrucci, crutchlow and Bautista.
Yes, clearly he's a terrible rider.   LOL.

Total votes: 23

Alien in waiting seems a bit optimistic after one podium finish in his home race (Abe, Checa, and Puig spring to mind as non-aliens who won home races) - soild astronaut still seems a more likely destination for Folger.

I admit to disliking Miller due to his sense of entitlement and hypocritical whining about how other riders caused him to lose the Moto3 championship (when if anyone had a right to complain it was A. Márquez), but he seems far from living up to his long-term billing as the next Great Australian - Gardner, Doohan, or Stoner he is not.  He should be ahead of Bautista (a rider on last year's bike who has crashed out of 4 of 9 races so far) if he is really a astronaut, and it seems if HRC agrees.

Total votes: 20

I am not that disappointed in Kallio's pace this time. Although he went and cooked his front tyre at third the distance, which may have been his or manufacturer's fault, in FP4, WUP and in fastest race laps he was ahead of both his team mates and some other factory riders incl. Rossi.

Total votes: 24

That and the fact he no longer actually races, its pretty good to me, far better than de puniet's effort on the suzuki a few years back

Total votes: 21

Lots of excitement seeing such a close championship halfway through. Great write up as usual! Minor point in the last paragraph... Dani is 26 behind leader Marc not Maverick. Enjoy your summer break!

Total votes: 35

What is happening in MotoGP? Are we really witnessing great racing or is it closer to the game of "musical chairs"? Not speaking specifically to this race but in general context of the season so far, I think what we are looking at is a racing under many changing conditions and there emerges one winner after another. It looks like it is not even about adapting to the conditions better but rather some (rider + bike) are more suited to certain conditions than others every weekend. It is not like the winner works on their riding skill better than everyone else every weekend to win the race. Is that the concept of racing, I ask? Or for any other sport, for that matter? To my view, in a sport, there are usually standard conditions with "little" variations thrown in and sportsmen have to consistently perform well in those to win over a period of time which they learn to do by practicing and building on their skills. If there is too much variation in conditions in a sport, then luck also becomes a factor, sometimes a big one. In MotoGP right now, it seems that the tires are playing such a big role at the moment that a race win is being decided by whose luck was good in a particular weekend in terms of getting the right tire for their style & bike and in smaller part by their riding skill & bike combination. Just imagine this, if there was a truly level platform, with every rider getting the same bike and setting it up with their own preferences, along with tires being "consistent" in performance - we would see much lesser number of winners in the championship. Normally, in a sport, the true performers consistenly perform well, however, there being too many variables in MotoGP at the moment, with tires being utterly important and being "seemingly inconsistent" weekend after weekend as Michelin continue to get their head around them, I cannot help but believe that championship is being decided by factors others than just the riding skill + bike. Just thinking out loud. I am not against multiple riders winning and am actually thankful to passing opportunities & battles this has generated but just wondering whether they are truly performing out of their skin for the last couple of seasons or actually there are no aliens. Because if the platform is supposedly more even now than ever, then aliens should still be aliens & win even more consistently. 

Total votes: 39

However, we are still seeing the usual top guys for the hunt of the championship. Yes, you can consider Dovizioso an exception in this case only because he hasn't been able to challenge for the championship so convincingly before. It is the first time he has looked so confident on the Ducati and that is brilliant.

Forget Lorenzo for this year. He may come into contention next year.

The best riders and teams will still be able to bring out the best combination of materials, talents and circumstances to work in their favor. While we cannot predict who's going to win the title, it shall be one of the regulars I would assume. Please understand that I'm considering Pedrosa a regular here as he is always in the top 4. And Dovizioso is very much possible too.

Total votes: 26

close to Assen for entertainment, still intriuging nonetheless. Aprilia's perfomance this weekend was excellent, perhaps a ray of hope there. So now the Honda does work when there is grip, or just certain kinds of grip or is that the Yamaha???  

Yet again we have a satelite Yamaha beating both factory machines in the dry, this is becoming quite regular and Herve should be very worried about what he will inherit next season, the 2017 M1 is a mess, a mess created by the mirage of top times from the newcomer in the preseason-whilst the vetran warhouse was complaining from the get go. The only saving grace is that their rivals have failed to capitalize properly-so far. If the weather is anything like last year we could see problematic conditions at Brno, Silverstone, Motegi, PI and Sepang. Not looking good for Movistar Yamaha. 

I can recall midway through 2011 when all of the punters were exclaiming the disaster that was Rossi's season on the Ducati, at this point in the championship in 2011 Rossi was in 4th place. Lorenzo's season so far cannot by described as a disaster-a far better term is needed, Ducati are paying this guy 20M Euros to be beaten by more than one Ducati in virtually every race. Only placing in the top 5 twice at very, very strange rounds. Outside the top ten 3 times and really nowhere in between. In 2011 Rossi was being lambasted even though he always beat his teamate and all of the other Ducati's and no one was coming even vaguely close to winning or even scoring a podium on that Ducati in 2011, Casey Stoner's record was being pulled out and put in Rossi's face at every press conference.

Now Lorenzo is being paid more and achieving far less whilst the bike in the hands of others is winning races and scoring podiums regularly in factory and satelite trim-yet is recieving far better treatment from the media and punters, popularity is a fickle beast indeed. And he is calling for big changes on the bike? WTF? So far the Ducati has been a very consistenly good machine, arguably the most consistent. I hope he has a clause like Cal did, for he needs to move on quickly, Lorenzo has been exposed like no other world champion that I've witnessed. This is truly abismal for a rider who was hired and paid accordingly to win a world title-I can't see Ducati wanting or needing to rebuild that bike at all and I can't see Lorenzo ever challenging for even a race win on that bike- perhaps the shrink they sent Marco Melandri to is still available?  

Total votes: 75

Folger - what a ride. Once more the factory Yams put to shame.

It's true that the new chassis appears to be more like the 2016 chassis, but then the 2016 chassis wasn't perfect. As amazing as the performance of the Tech3 riders has been, there has been something missing which Rossi kept saying was missing last year: End-of-race pace. We saw it demonstrated by the sudden drop-off of Folger's ability to stay with Marquez in the last few laps. It's happened to Zarco umpteen times. The 2017 bike has really good accelleration and top speed which were not great last year, and with the new frame which has 2016's flex, it has seen Rossi able to brake in the way he couldn't at the start of the year whilst seeing off Ducatis. Most importantly Rossi and Vinalez didn't fade at the end of the race. Just hope that Yamaha are busy building them both some extra frames during the summer. Seeing Rossi desperately trying to get his #1 bike back to the garage (twice!) wasn't a position a top factory team should be in, letalone the embarrassment of being outperformed by the satellite.

At the start of the year I had a very strong feeling that Lorenzo wouldstruggle on the Ducati, having seen another sensitive rider, Rossi, go through the mill one.

As Sttrain says, Rossi was crucified by detractors in his Ducati years for his relatively poor performance after leaving Yamaha and especially compared to Stoner.

I looked at Rossi results at the halfway point in 2011: 4th with 98 points. Lorenzo 2017 after 9 races: 8th with 60 points.

There are differing circumstances of course, different tracks, weaker satellites to name but two. But there are factors which stand out and put Lorenzo's performance in a worse light: As Sttrain said, this year the Ducati has been put on the top step by "no.2" factory rider Dovizioso, and podiumed twice by satellite rider Petrucci. Whilst not easy to adapt to, its comparative performance and consistency is massively improved over the last couple of years.

Unlike Rossi, Lorenzo doesn't have any Italian allegiances that made him stay on for a second year. If he doesn't improve second half he should do a Cal and walk away.

Total votes: 36

my 2 cents ... 

- Rossi was quite often bested by his teammate (Hayden), there was a stats check in the comments on this site, I'm sure someone has it nearby :)

- There were less factory efforts and even the satellites were mostly CRTs ... so i.e. just for qualifiyng being a second behind, you're 7th/8th ... this year you finish a second behind you're 20th ... 

Total votes: 51

No one has that stat because it does not exist. During those 2 very sad years Rossi was the best Ducati. And very seldom bested by his teammate - may he rest in peace.
And anyway it's a totally sterile point to compare 2 machines that are light years different. But I agree on the first comment: Lorenzo does.not even get a tenth of bad press compared to what was said at the time.about VR.
The Ducati is now a winning.bike. it certainly wasn't in 2011. And if proof is needed just guess why Stoner jumped ship and moved to Honda.

Total votes: 42

Went and checked ... 

first 9 races, $46 was ahead 6 times, #69 was ahead 3 times ... the difference after nine races was 13 points in favour of #46 ...

Regarding press & #99 ... I believe the main difference is that at the time Ducati was percieved as a race winning bike because of Stoner and the confidence on how #46 approached the Ducati campaign with the now infamous quote from Rossi/Burgess that they can fix the Ducati in 20minutes ...  Now it is widely accepted that Ducati is a wild beast to tame (even though AD/AI had results in the previous year) ... so a mather of perception / expectations ... no one really thought that JL will be winning from the go, however all the #46 fans could not believe their god was so uncompetitive ... 

Total votes: 41

I still think Aliens are still there. 5 riders ( Vinales, Marquez, Dovi, Rossi, Pedrosa) won races this Year. All are usually considered as Aliens or at least very fast rider (Dovi) . Nothing surprising here. What's new is the fact that 15 or 20 riders are in the same second in QP and during the race. if one alien has a bad day at work , he can hope a 8th place, maybe  worst whereas his main contenders grab 25/20/16 points. Huge gain & loss during each race explain in my opinion why the championship is so tight.  Aliens are still there but other riders are closer.  see Zarco's performance during the german Week-End. One mistake in FP3 made him go to Q1 and 19th on the grid. THat what makes this championship so interesting. in Assen and in Germany , 20 riders was in the same second.  No mistake allowed for the best riders in such a context. :)  

IMO, it explains as well Lorenzo results. Yesterday he was not so far off the pace (except Folger & Marquez). but in 2017 "not so far off the pace" means tenth or 14th ... not fourth or fifth when the grid was half full of CRT bikes.  

By the way , thks for the summary David. Exhaustive and fair as usual. I would just add a few words for KTM. They had a very solid Week-end. Promising for next races. I think they'll look after podium/win contenders next year and I'm sure they have an eye on Folger and/or  Zarco. Red-Bull money could help them to sign true podium/win contenders. 

 

Total votes: 44

Pom
- IMO Pol Espargro is a true podium contender, He pushed Marc to the wire in moto2 & won the crown next year with an impressive show of wins.

- BSmith - am with you, the guy is riding off of 1 win in the 125s.

Total votes: 40

No doubt Pol is a fast rider. I always loved his riding Style and I had high expectations when he arrived in MotoGP. But Podium contender ? It has yet to be proven because he were in the Tech3 team during 3 years without any podium. I'm afraid stats are a bit against Pol and it seems Yamaha thought the same when they had to Replace Jorge Lorenzo last year. 

Pol & Bradley are in the same boat for me. Had their chance to shine but never demonstrated the expected results to pretend to the best Factory bikes. Once KTM will have grown enough, I'm convinced they'll look after another type of riders, faster and more consistent during a whole championship.  

The fact Kallio's performance in Germany is very close from the two official riders doesn't help me to see them as podium and win contenders to be honest but I would be glad to be proven wrong :)  

 

Total votes: 29

If you're going to criticise people, at least do so with the correct stats... he had 3 wins in 125cc

Total votes: 18

something very plausible I think KTM are strongly looking at their most successful Moto2 cadet (and KTM's most successful rider this season) Miguel Oliveira. It might be a better spot for him than say, Tech 3, but only time will tell at how Yamaha will develop their bikes in the future.

Total votes: 29

Will Suzuki get development consessions back for 2018? As it seems highley unlikely, taht Ianonne or Rins could get on dry podium.

Total votes: 35

Excuse me for saying this, but some people should really lighten up. How could any MotoGP fan even dream to complain this season? We've seen nothing but highly entertaining, exciting races. Let's count our blessings! There is no need to be mourning about how unpredictable MotoGP racing has become. It's exactly what most people want to see and I am one of them.

Why is it that we have got so many different riders who could challenge for the podium? I'm sure Hervé Poncharal is right that the changes in technical and sporting rules of the last decade played a big role in this. I make a bow for the visionairies behind the scenes who made it happen, as I thoroughly enjoy what MotoGP racing has become. I love it!

Besides the rules I think that the new generation of riders are more professional than ever, leaving nothing to chance. What's more, they are so eager to learn. Listen to what Jonas Folger commented after the race: he learned. Rossi at his turn stated that he in fact is learning from the rookies by studying the most succesful of them.   

Should Hervé Poncharal be worried about next year? On the contrary. He should be enjoying every minute of his well-deserved succes of today and I'm sure he does. I can't wait for the second half of the season!  

Total votes: 35

I was upset Yamaha did not allow their riders to inform the press which chassis each rider raced on. This PR gag makes it seem as if team and riders are deeply divided on the issue and someone is upset enough for Yamaha to want to prevent a PR spat. They better be careful to not become too distracted though. Just like last year, suddenly Marquez is in the lead of the championship at its mid point despite the usual RC213V struggles and two DNFs. A little more and he might just get a points cushion to manage.

Total votes: 22

2017 has thus far been stellar. It has been ages since we got to the halfway stage with a championship this close to call. The great thing thus far is that the more fancied protagonists have escaped serious injury. Rossi picked up a few decent lumps earlier but got through relatively unscathed. The rest of the fancied top guns have had a remarkable run. Small yet significant mercy which contributes to the suspense uncluttered by the what if's marring a championship. Rossi 2010, Stoner 2009, Lorenzo 2011, Pedrosa...seems like always. Doohan back then. I hope all goes well for field of 2017. Each manufacturer or rather, current top three have a similar set of capability at any particular track. The differential is very small and Michelin window is not that big. So HRC, Yamaha and Ducati have to be on top of their game per track, per condition, leaving much in the hands of the crew and rider on the weekend which is great. Honda got it right at Sachsenring with their factory riders. Folger proved exceptional as did Zarco at his home race. The Movistar factory were at sixes and sevens but came out handily on the day. Team red can't be happy. After almost snatching pole with the Pramac GP17 only to see it all turn pear shaped after Friday's very strong dry run for #4. I agree with some earlier comments that suggest correctly so that half a second a lap deficit today can see you end up fifteenth whereas back then it was good for top 6.. I guess the big 3 all go to the summer break brainstorming. No distinct pattern is evident. If anything I would say power to #93 based on sheer ability no matter conditions, degradation,anything. Rider contracts? The only thing for sure is that KTM are playing smart, like HRC did and Yamaha to an extent. They have a conveyor belt of tallent from the junior ranks up and on. Ducati, Aprilia and Suzuki seem to jump for the flavour of the day without a rider program. They did get it right with the Pramac GP17 deal. Ducati, particularly would do well to field 4 Moto3 desmo's. How difficult can that be with Mahindra's confirmed exodus.?

Total votes: 32

"[The tire] felt different" - Miller

"The new [Catalunya] chicane is less than optimal" - Smith

"His performance is not what we expected" - Lorenzo/Iannone/Vinales' employers

"Zarco is performing pretty well" - Herve Poncharral

"The aero regulations are complete BS *angry gesticulations*" - Ducati (they don't play this game) 

Total votes: 27

I think some race watchers have got so close to the action they cannot see the wood for the trees...

'Pom' and 'mgm' are onto it:  have we EVER seen such close competition in the premier class?  I don't think even the days of the Suzuki RG500 saw such close lap times in practice and qualifying. 

Regarding the Rossi vs Lorenzo thing:  Rossi's first race on a Ducati saw him 16.4 seconds behind the leader and seventh.  Lorenzo's first race he was 20 seconds off the winner and 11th.  In their second races, Rossi was  62.2 seconds off the lead, and 5th, while Lorenzo crashed on the first lap.  Their third races:  Rossi 5th, +16.5 secs on winner; Lorenzo was 9th, +17.9 seconds.  Race 4: Rossi 3rd, +14.5 secs;  Lorenzo 3rd, +14.7 seconds.  Race 5: Rossi 5th, + 7.4 secs; Lorenzo 6th, + 24secs.  Race 6:  Rossi 6th + 64.5 seconds; Lorenzo 8th + 14.4 seconds;  Race 7:  Rossi 4th +30.6 seconds;  Lorenzo 4th, +9.6 seconds (30 seconds back this year would have been 12th).  Race 8:  Rossi 6th, +26.4 seconds;  Lorenzo 15th +1 lap.  Race 9:  Rossi 9th +27.5secs;  Lorenzo 11th, +25.6 seconds.  A pattern is starting to emerge here.  Rossi was better placed in his last few races in the first half of his first season on the Ducati, but further back from the leader.  Which takes us back to my opening comments.

Ciao.

 

Total votes: 38

You pull out the stat and then you cannot sum up the result properly?.. If I counted correctly it is 6 to 3 for Rossi in terms of who is closer to the leader in each specific race. And while I agree that the field is much closer now, which means with the same time you are placed worse now, Rossi was obviously still closer to the leader on a much worse bike.

However the only real comparision can be to other Duc riders in each year and that speaks very much for itself.

Total votes: 32

Poor performance from him. It has to be said, he is a rookie but Folger showed him some balls.

Rest? Meh. Maybe it's the track but there were very few exciting things happening.

Total votes: 28

Poor performance ? I don't want look like a fanboy but let me disagree here.

Ok he did a mistake in FP3, didn't choose to put a brand new front soft tyre for his time attack and fell. This mistake proved to be very costly. Q1 in full wet conditions against a bunch of "wet warriors" was the best recipe for a place at the back of the Grid. 

During the Race, he added a bad start to his 19th slot on the grid but escaped safe from the first lap (and it's not an easy task on such a tight track) and lap by lap, he overtook 10 guys , riding consistently in low 22 (same pace than Vinales or Rossi) and finished ninth , 7s behing Vinales in Fourth...  Surely it's not the best way to shine on TV but a poor performance it's not :) 

Surely Jonas Folger did much better though. Kudos to him. Stunning race from the German. Emulation between the two rookies began at Valence last year. I remember they was improving against each other at each run during the two days. :) 

Total votes: 36

Ah! Just when it got even more exciting we have a 4 week break. It's so frustrating! I know all these guys and teams deserve it but for us the couch experts, this waiting is torture!
Seriously though, I would have never thought of seeing 4 different championship leaders in 9 races. And 5 contenders in 26 points (yes I include Dani, he can be very strong in the second half of the season)
So in the excitement department it's all good. But I'm still at odds with figuring out the Yamaha situation. You cannot have a Jerez disaster and a Le Mans masterpiece in less than two weeks. Yam erratic behaviour is stunning compared to the other manufacturers. And i have not understood yet if Vinales is using the new revised chassis. Do you David? We know that VR does as he stated in every itw but what about MV : why is he so secretive about it?
My two cents on the season so far:
Yamaha is in trouble. MV has shown all his qualities but he needs to calm down. VR can still make miracles (Assen! A masterpiece)
Honda may still not be perfect but overall they are definitely more reliable and steady in improvements. The second half of the season should see them on top.
I'm still waiting for a Marquez/Vinales battle....
Ducati let me state the obvious: definitely a winning bike. They were competitive almost everywhere! And I wonder if the big suits in Borgo Panigale are regretting they let Iannone go. Most of Iannone stupid moves last year were due to the unhealthy inside competition created by their bosses. I know it's a wild guess that can never be verified but I really think that with Iannone instead of Lorenzo we would have had double podiums most of the time.
It's sad to see Suzuki going backwards
Tech 3 : Folger was impressive. But I doubt he could beat MM last Sunday. The German is getting more confident and I expect him to improve and deliver more. As for Zarco.... well I'm still not sure what to make of him. But I'm surprised that so many predict he'll take Rossi place when (if! ) the Italian leaves. NO WAY! There are too many younger talents out there, to recruit someone who'll be almost 30 in 2019.
One possible candidate: morbidelli. Let's see how well he does in his rookie year...
Next stop: Brno. A "Ducati circuit".... will Dovi confirm? I can't wait.

Total votes: 33

My guest is there is a big power struggle in the garage concerning the direction to follow on development. Yamaha chose from the begining, since the pre-season tests to favour Maverick inputs and let him lead the development. I notice from a few interview Rossi gave where he said Yamaha asked him to persevere with the 2017 bike instead of going back to the 2016, that he had huge concerns about the 2017 bike and could not enter corner in the same way. He did struggle to find his setup in the first few races but buckled up and did very well to finish on the podiums despite being nowhere in the practices. However you could see he was not able to ride to his full potential. When he made that mistakes for example in Le mans and then crashed chassing Vinales we could see he could race maybe at 99% but in a dog fight with maverick the limitation of the new bike was handicapping him a lot. Since the new chassis arrived Rossi looks more like his former self. Alright maverick did beat him in Germany but Rossi had only the warm-up to set up his favoured bike having broken down or because the track wass wet before that. Also the only reason Yamaha has asked Vinales not to reveal which chassis he is using is because he is simply using the old one from the start of the season and was keeping the new chassis to handicap Rossi even more. His plan worked well this time around since Rossi had problem with his favourite bike. If maverick is not going to use the new chassis he might as well give it to ROssi and the fact he chose not too is the only logical explanation Yamaha wanted to keep this a secret because maverick would have got lambasted for this and fans would have started to dislike him. Already he looks like a man very much under pressure and few times already we have seen him reacts aggresively via Rossi on track and then now marquez. I least from now on Rossi has got his scalpel back(a clean front end allowing him to enter corner like he wants and fighting straight back when he is overtaken) but i hope somehow Yamaha listen to him rather than maverick in terms of future development for the bike and fix the rear to make the tyres last the whole race.

Total votes: 32

This sounds like a nice thriller plot but i doubt it reflects reality. It was a bad combination of several contrasting factors. Yamaha developed a new bike based among others on the tires tested in Valencia which changed by the next test. Rossi was unhappy but Maverick was so fast from the start that even Rossi admits that he started doubting his own competitiveness. I guess that Jerez was a blessing in disguise: it made them realize that maybe just maybe Rossi was right : the new M1 had some weaknesses. Confirmed in Montmelo. The new changes seem to work. But i don't buy the narrative of the battle in the garage. I'm sure yamaha can afford two different chassis. And i don't think Maverick is like a spoilt kid that does not want to share the toy he is not using. They are treated equally and they both have one chassis. What puzzles me is that it's taking such a long time to produce a second one. And the secretiveness of Maverick. As for the little incident with MM93: the way i see it Marquez is.definitely not the innocent party. He slowed down let him pass and then pushed him. Purpose, motive, guilty.

Total votes: 20

Yeh PitBull Desmo Moto3 Yes.

Top idea Ducati have got form in 250cc gp racing I was just thinking that the other day. A desmo donk might have some advantages in the little class. Also the balancer tech they developed for the supermono might be useful & all. I am sure  Ducati raced Gps in the fifties & sixties with four stroke singles, haven't found any facts in a quick look.

Bradley Smith, with respect, Bradley is a very good motorcycle racer. Faster than I ever was or ever will be. He is no Barry Sheene is he? B.S.38 has not set the world on fire, or brought hoards of new paying punters to silverstone. Has he? Imho, MotoGp should be for the very best riders in the world. The best riders in the world, they are not Aliens. I know our American friends call foriegners Aliens. Save that term for bug eyed monsters from outer space, please.

Total votes: 26