Austria MotoGP Subscriber Notes, Part 1: Lorenzo And Zarco Recapped, And The Marquez vs Dovizioso War

Sometimes events overshadow events. The MotoGP race at the Red Bull Ring turned into an instant classic, pretty much as the last three editions have done, with the race decided at the last corner, but despite the adrenaline-filled, heart-pumping, edge-of-the-seat final few laps, it is the drama which happened off track for which this race will be remembered. The insanity of a rider stepping away from a MotoGP contract with no guarantees of a ride for 2020, and the insanity of a rider flirting with another factory with a few to swapping teams and manufacturers in the middle of a contract rather took attention away what turned out to be a fantastic race.

So let's get the off-track stuff out of the way first. Though I have covered both the Jorge Lorenzo situation and the Johann Zarco situation in some detail elsewhere, here is a quick recap of where we stand.

Jorge Lorenzo first, as that situation is now resolved. Over the summer break, it appears that Lorenzo had been in touch with Ducati about a possible return to the Italian factory, after having severely hurt himself on the Repsol Honda, and found it a far more difficult beast to tame than he had expected. That all came to a head in Austria, as the seat Lorenzo and Ducati were discussing was currently held by Jack Miller at Pramac Ducati.

Not worth the paper they are written on?

The problem was that Miller had a contract signed and sealed with Pramac Ducati, with only the signature of Ducati missing. Naturally enough, that upset Miller, the Australian not hiding his frustration and openly discussing the issue with the media. For a while, it looked like Miller could miss out entirely, though he kept hinting at another option should Lorenzo take the Pramac ride from him. Little could we imagine what he might mean.

That situation was resolved on Saturday night, when Lorenzo and Alberto Puig spoke by phone, and Lorenzo promised to complete his second year with the Repsol Honda team. It cannot have been a very friendly conversation. Neither Puig nor HRC have been particularly impressed by the fact that Lorenzo chose to fly to the Maldives over the summer break while he was recovering from two fractured vertebrae. Nor were they impressed by the fact that he posted about it on his social media channels, or that he did not look to be watching his diet particularly carefully.

Lorenzo is currently set to return at Silverstone, and is now back in Switzerland and training again. But the tension this episode will have created in the team will make for an uncomfortable return, especially once the press get a chance to question Lorenzo about his side of the story. Lorenzo has at least 28 races and 4 tests left to complete with the Repsol Honda team. The perceived breach of faith between him and Honda will be hard to heal.

Shock step

Ordinarily, Lorenzo's flirtation with Ducati would be the biggest news out of any event. But on Sunday night, Johann Zarco managed to put Lorenzo into the shade with the announcement that the Frenchman had asked to be released from his contract with the factory Red Bull KTM MotoGP team for the 2020 season, halfway through his planned tenure there. An unprecedented move, without a plan for the future.

The background to Zarco's split with KTM is self-evident. The Frenchman has not been happy with the KTM RC16 since he first swung his leg over it at Valencia. He has struggled to try to get to grips with a bike which requires a riding style diametrically opposed to his. Zarco is all smoothness and subtle inputs, while the KTM needs to be bullied and beaten into going faster. Zarco wants a loving, respectful, consensual relationship with his motorcycle, the RC16 is looking for some extreme BDSM.

There have been many moments through his short nine months with KTM which have appeared to have been a nadir, before getting worse. The episode at Jerez when he raged publicly at the bike after being spat off. Pulling in at Assen complaining of arm pump, then stating plainly he had no intention of seeking a medical solution to the problem. Turning up to the Brno test, where he had a pile of new parts to try developed with input from KTM's new test rider Dani Pedrosa, and then leaving shortly after lunchtime. But by then, he had already made up his mind.

What next for Zarco?

MotoJournal's Thomas Baujard, one of the very best journalists in the paddock, spoke to Zarco on Monday, and Zarco explained his decision. The front row at Brno, secured in wet conditions, had been a decisive moment, Zarco told Baujard. He realized then that he still had the speed to be competitive, and what he wanted was to be fighting for podiums and wins. He did not feel he was cut out to be riding around at the back, hoping for the bike to improve enough for him to be competitive. "I want to do things in a more pure way," he told Baujard.

Zarco had terminated his contract with KTM first, before turning his attention to alternatives for next year. He was confident of finding a ride, the Frenchman told MotoJournal's Baujard, and was aiming for a competitive bike in MotoGP. He was sure he would have more news at Silverstone, he said.

This seems hopelessly naïve. The seats in MotoGP are taken for 2020, with the only contracts not officially announced Jack Miller's seat at Pramac Ducati (and that is a matter of hours away from being confirmed) and LCR Honda Idemitsu's seat currently held by Takaaki Nakagami. That seat was created specifically for Nakagami as a Japanese rider, and the only question open there is whether he will have a 2019-spec Honda RC213V, or be able to convince HRC to give him a 2020-spec bike.

There are no other seats open. And with Fabio Quartararo riding as well as he is – much more about Quartararo later – there is no pressure on Dorna to help a French rider to promote the sport in the French market. Quartararo is on French broadcaster Canal+ as often as they can get him, and so Zarco only has himself to rely on.

That leaves Zarco with three options: wait for 2021, head back to Moto2, or head across to WorldSBK. None of those options are attractive, and none of them have much chance of securing him a good ride back in MotoGP in 2021. Like Jonas Folger, Zarco has scared off team managers, who are not sure they can trust him to fulfill a contract. Whatever the merits of Zarco's decision – and there is much to be said for walking away from a situation which looks pretty hopeless, especially when you are putting your life and health on the line every time you get on the bike – he has not made his chances of success in MotoGP any greater.

Johann Zarco is 29 years old. There are a host of youngsters in their early twenties sitting in Moto2 and chomping at the bit to get into MotoGP when everyone is out of contract at the end of 2020. MotoGP is due a clear out of older riders, and Zarco may find he has cleared himself out earlier than intended.

And what next for KTM?

http://www.speedweek.com/motogp/news/147500/Dani-Pedrosa-statt-Zarco-Bisher-kein-klares-Nein.html

Who will take Zarco's place? The obvious answer would be to move KTM test rider Dani Pedrosa into the KTM factory team. But that is unlikely to happen: Pedrosa is much happier as a test rider than as a racer, as he can operate entirely out of the public view, with only a handful of media commitments. I once made the mistake of asking Pedrosa during an interview what the worst thing was about MotoGP. "This," he replied.

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Source: 
year: 
2019
round_number: 
11
Total votes: 47
Total votes: 54

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Comments

As you say, we’ve seen Dovi take the fight to MM93 numerous times - but for my money this is his best effort yet.

Great summary!

You voted 1. Total votes: 24

My recollection is that things have been going backward for Johan since Raceday at the French GP last year. He seemed all at sea and promptly fell off early on. I think this was the time the Laurent Fallon fallout began or what he had been up to became known to Johan. He was never really his racy self for the remainder of his time with Yamaha. So sad.

Total votes: 16

i find the redbull ring to be a fitting replacement for my beloved, then castrated hockenheim.

Total votes: 16

Three important rules for a successful MotoGP career.

1) Never pass up the opportunity to use an Eddie Izzard quote, even if only marginally relevant.

2) Monkeys who last never completely let go of the branch they are holding without first securely grasping the next one.

3) When competing at musical chairs, I have found it beneficial to not smash all the chairs with an axe and then set the splinters on fire...while the music is still playing.

I am going to be very curious to find out what happens between now and Silverstone when JZ reaches into his magic hat and tries to pull out....what? A rabbit? An angry little monkey named "bitey"? A small handful or raisins? Oh, crap, those aren't raisins! Effing rabbit!! Cheers.

PS - As always, I hope for the best for JZ (and all the riders), and can assure the reader that no monkeys or rabbits were hurt while posting this drivel. OK, the monkey is limping a bit and has some swelling on one cheek, but damn, those little monkey bites really smart. Sorry. Cheers.

 

You voted 5. Total votes: 38

Love the use of that clip from Eddie Izard!! Made my morning!!!!

Brilliant race and eloquent summary as always David. Well worth the wait. 

You voted 3. Total votes: 18

I think this is good for everyone. Remember that Zarco came back to form after a brief slump following the French round at Tech3. Just one public chastizing comment from Herve about Zarco's pride, and he snapped back. He isn't tarnished for life.

Zarco - Orange needed to end ASAP. Both are free to work on 2020.

KTM doesn't see a great rider option, so asks Dani who declines then goes with a fortunate Smith for now. Say what you will, but there it is, and while Smith is far from preferred he will way outperform Zarco, isn't needed to test since they have Dani/Kallio, will cost pennies on the dollar, and will try his damn hardest. Safe and tepid for 1 yr.

Yamaha lost Folger to Moto2 and is looking for JUST SUCH a perfect tester fit. A bouquet of flowers and "honey we were made for each other, can I please come home? That other woman was nothing, really, and treated me real bad-like." Do not underestimate Zarco still on a Yamaha coming good. He may honestly earn a 2021 Factory Yamaha seat. This sort of experience can steel greatness or break it. I see 5 lucky folks - Zarco, Smith, KTM, Yamaha, and fans. I am personally looking fwd. Let's move on and let bygones bygone.

FANTASTIC race from Dovi and Ducati. Same for Quartararo on his "Moto2 and 3/4's" bike. Yamaha looks on track. KTM tire lasted and we have an Oliveira here just in time to not worry about Zarco. Bagnaia flipped an "Aha!" switch re how to ride the Ducati.

Good stuff

You voted 1. Total votes: 22

Have to think Bradly Smith is a safe menatal bet for KTM because they should be able to manage their expectations. Obviously a great young man that would make a fantastic rider coach, but Smith can’t deliver the goods when it matters. I still don’t understand how KTM thought their bike would match Zarco’s style when Smith, smooth as he is, suffered too.  

I love that Dovi brought a gun to a gun fight. Going into turn 2 from the start, we knew we had a good race ahead of us as that move was uncharastic from Dovi tha5 early on in a race.  If he brings that kind of aggression through the first half of 2019 we would have a different championship from today. I hope he paints both horeses on his helmet black. He sounds like he surprised himself by just ‘acting’ at that last turn vs analyzing. Hope his unconcious mind takes over more frequently.  

Total votes: 22

who knew you hung out on the dark web!!

“Zarco wants a loving, respectful, consensual relationship with his motorcycle, the RC16 is looking for some extreme BDSM.”

You voted 2. Total votes: 12

"Zarco wants a loving, respectful, consensual relationship with his motorcycle, the RC16 is looking for some extreme BDSM."

What a line. David, you have outdone yourself. LOL

 

 

Total votes: 20

have to admit when I read that line from David, I thought "that reminds me of the 999 versus the 996" ;-)

You voted 5. Total votes: 13

Being a professional and experimented rider in his late 29 twenty, is on the contrary an opportunity in the case of Johann Zarco. Yes, he put an end to his contract (signed by his former manager Fellon), and never felt at ease with that piece of wood which seems to be the KTM. But his talent and speed remain (third place on Q2 @ Brno), that's why some wise and wit guys into moto GP world, will call him to ride again on a bike that's suit his talent. Probably a Yamaha or a Suzuki, that is all I wish for him and for the racing moto GP show. Wait and see...

You voted 1. Total votes: 21

I was fully resigned to sit and watch the MotoGP race on Sunday to see who would come in second behind Marquez, but ended up jumping and fist pumping in celebration for Dovi's win.  What a titanic battle between the best two riders in the game today.  

You voted 2. Total votes: 29

Yes, jumps and fist pumps, so loud I startled my spouse! I continue to be irritated by the fact that Marquez is the greatest rider of this era.  ;-)

After calming down and re-watching this incredibly entertaining race, what impressed me was the comfort, control and incredible skill that these two rivals displayed with each other, while battling on the limit, start to finish. Touching bikes--yes. Bold moves into the smallest of gaps--yes. But they now know, even anticipate, each other, and both finished. Marc did not give in to his worst instincts, and Dovi was as daring as I have seen him. My favorite moment was Marc looking over to Dovi as they went side-by-side at ~300kph into T1.

No bowling balls (AI29, JL99, etc.), just a dream performance by the best in the world.

P.S. I am now officially and always will be an FQ20 fan. Wow.

 

Total votes: 25

My poor little son (7 months old) was so surprised by Dad shouting and waving his fist at the TV that he started crying :(

Couldn't help but laugh out loud watching the celebrations in the Ducati garage. Great to see the old blokes looking so genuinely stoked.

Total votes: 21

I haven’t missed a single motogp race in almost 15 years and have unfortunately considered halting due to my hatred of Marquez as a supremely talented but dangerous and dirty rider. I texted my motogp buddies i was going to sit this one out and asked if it was worth watching thinking i knew the outcome. 

You voted 4. Total votes: 27

I actually fell asleep during the race! 

 

But I have a good excuse. Watched MotoE, Moto3 & Moto2 before heading up to Sears Point all day in the 85+ degree sun and upon returning home 12 hours later and sitting down to watch MGP... made it about 7 laps before passing out... yeah getting old stinks. That and I also watch the races (not practice & quali mind) with just the ambiant audio and no screaming announcers. ;) Still finished it up proper before heading to bed and damn, the final pass, I admit it... I wasn't a believer, yelling at the tv don't try it Dovi, you'll either take the both of you out or you'll run it too wide and go out of bounds. How he threaded the needle and kept both tires right on the edge of the green... simply great!

Total votes: 15

 

zarco got ..  snafu 'd  by his old mananger ..   peroid. 

HRC/puig/ marc  they wont allow anyone in there  aera .. 

ducati are the back stabbers ...  as you are  pointing out . 

KTM  made some mistakes ..  they had a good squad ...

 

 

 

You voted 5. Total votes: 17

When, in a pre race interview, Miller intoned that JL might be at the Maildives, i thought he was being sarcastic. I mean it's a great destination but it doesn't exactly send the "I am doing everything possible to get back quickly'...rehab message, now does it? The unnecessary flights alone would seem to be an unproductive indulgence, and the other extravagance seems to have been the international mobile costs to everyone other than Mr Puig.

For the record that's the definition of a bad look Jorge. And,....no, those happy snaps didn't really help.  

Total votes: 9

One for the ages yes, I was there and enjoyed one of THE best weekends, and that’s apart from the racing as the place, the area and the country is just superb.

So, why my ‘BUT?’ Well, I was really enjoying myself until I spied a horrifying character being glad- handed amongst the VIPs (some real, many perceived..). It can’t be, really? Nooo, it’s someone who looks like him, no, NOBODY looks like him! It could only be the Gollum of motorsport, BERNIE ECCLESTONE!! David, please put my fevered mind at rest, he can’t be getting involved again can he?? All he did for F1 was make it the biggest cash cow ever at the expense of excitement and many of the real fans and the viability of legendary circuits as he chased his marinas-for-millionaires image; Monaco/Ascot/Wimbledon-type destination  ‘event’ where the beautiful, wealthy people congregate: some even know who’s competing! 

Sorry, but I’m terrified he’s going to even be let anywhere near our beloved sport, though I guess if MotoGP is doing as well as we believe, people like him are going to climb out of their dimly-lit lake under a mountain (sorry for the rubbish LOTR analogy).

Other than that, had a great time thanks. Oh no, hang on, there was one more observation which may be of no interest and possibly only in my mind. Why, of late, is MM so stone-faced? The last few GPs he’s ignored the cameras, the fans in park ferme, and not really interacted with us as he used to. Yes it’s a serious game but he’s changing, either for the ‘benefit’ of his rivals or maybe the strain is starting to show. Either way, he’s going a bit Formula 1 on us-hang on, HE’S SEEN BERNIE TOO!!!

I’m off, Motoshrink, over to you for the psychological profiling, of me, not the cast!..;-)

Total votes: 14

Neil Hodgson interviewed Bernie Ecclestone on the grid for BT Sport and Bernie let slip that he was thinking of putting together a MotoGP team! I'm not sure how much truth there was to his comment, or if he was just winding Hodgy up, but that would be a pretty interesting development if he did. Maybe he had a chat with Zarco after the race too...!?

Total votes: 8

^ Funsize, spot bang on w you on the Bernie rorschach test. The optimal amount of involvement from that shite bugger in MotoGP is NIL!

(Re MM countenance, agreed he has gotten a bit more serious w being on top and established. Normal/expected eh? I would just call it "comfortable and less to prove." While it doesn't make me popular I will say it, I like this kid! I also like it when he falls off or has a mechanical. And LOOOVE IT when he gets beat in a straight fight like he did last Sunday).
Viva Ducati/Dovi!! Made my week.

Honda = dwarves (greedy might)
Yamaha = elves (elegant etherea)
Ducati = hobbits (on their own for the love of racing)
Suzuki = (just human, sigh)
Bernie Eccleshitebone = Gollum (fixed...and do we even need him to lead us to his Mt F1 Doom?!)

Bernie,
NONE SHALL PASS

You voted 4. Total votes: 19

The same weekend Zarco announces an early end to his relationship with KTM, KTM announces the end of their participation in Moto2. Zarco is reminding me of Toseland (best results came at the beginning of his Motogp career) and KTM is reminding me of...well... KTM. Or the first time they pulled out of Motogp as engine supplier for Kenny Roberts KR project. Roberts was left high and dry until Honda came to the rescue. Of course Honda didn't help out Roberts just to be the hero. They wanted more data, hence another RC211V powered bike on the grid. Herve's press release sounds all bubbly and positive. Or is it that he is relieved they at least have Moto3 to fall back on. Less than six months after Tech3 teams up with KTM in Moto2 they have to bail out. How long has Tech 3 competed in Moto2? Since the beginning of the class in 2010. I wonder how secure Herve feels about his Motogp project right now. I wonder how confident he feels about Oliveira riding for him next year. KTM can't really criticize Zarco for giving up because they are doing the same thing (maybe by force from their investors) for the same reason (lack of results). I was thinking that Dovi may end up at KTM in 2021 (re pitbull) since Ducati has a history of screwing up with their riders. I agree 100% with Mat Oxley's article in motorsportmagazine.com. But let's see if KTM is still around in 2021. The Yamaha (and to a lesser extent the Suzuki) has proven to be the best rookie bike. Not sure where Zarco is going to fit in when all the rookies flood into Motogp in 2021. He's definitely not getting Miller's ride next year. Besides the V4 simply isn't Zarco's style. He got tired and faded out during the 2018 Assen slugfest. On a Yamaha. And he now has a history of giving up which is a red flag for team managers. And he has always looked like Rachel's boyfriend Ross on "Friends" - fine when everything is going his way, but on the verge of tears as soon as the apple cart starts to tip (mentally and/or emotionally fragile). 

Total votes: 13