2014 Sepang Sunday Round Up: Beating Doohan, Rabat's Reward For Hard Work, And Miller Mastering Marquez In Moto3

How big a deal is MotoGP in Asia, and especially in Malaysia? There were officially 81,896 spectators at the Sepang International Circuit on Sunday for the races. That is a lot. To put it in perspective, it is the seventh highest attendance of the year, more than either of the US rounds of MotoGP, more than Silverstone, more than either of the Italian rounds. There were 4,400 more spectators at Sepang than at Mugello. That is quite a turnaround: in 2000, the second year MotoGP was held at the circuit, only 32,375 people attended the race, spread over all three days. The three-day total is now close to 131,000.

It is testament to both the growing wealth of the region and the growing popularity of the sport. In the podium press conference, Valentino Rossi reflected on the change. "For a long period, we have no people on Sunday," he said. Little by little attendance had grown, until now, it is a race with an atmosphere all of its own. "Now it is full, the atmosphere on the main straight is like Barcelona or Mugello. The guys are crazy for MotoGP." It was a great victory for the sport, he said. Given that those 82,000 people are mostly sitting outside, in tropical temperatures of 36°C and humidity of over 50%, those guys (and gals) must indeed be 'crazy for MotoGP'.

Their efforts were amply rewarded on Sunday, with three superb races. They saw records equaled in MotoGP, a richly-deserved title tied up in Moto2, and an exhilarating and incident-packed battle in Moto3, which sets up a grand finale for the Moto3 title at Valencia. Reason enough to come back again in force in 2015, with the added benefit of seeing the circuit fielding its own team in Moto3 next year.

If anyone doubted Marc Marquez' desire to beat Mick Doohan's record of twelve wins in a season, they need only watch the fierce determination with which he approached the race at Sepang. Run wide by Jorge Lorenzo at Turn 1 and shuffled back to eighth in the subsequent melee, Marquez had his work cut out. While Lorenzo forced his way to the front of the race – taking a lot of risk in doing so, the Movistar Yamaha rider admitted in the press conference afterwards – Marquez worked his way steadily forward to sit on the tail of Valentino Rossi.

From that point on, Marquez played the waiting game. Dani Pedrosa had already crashed out after being passed by Jorge Lorenzo, though the Repsol Honda man had no explanation for the crash. "When Lorenzo passed me I was sat behind him. I went into the turn and boom, I lost the front," Pedrosa said afterwards. Though he remounted, the same thing happened again once he got up to speed, and again, the data showed no obvious cause for the crash. It was, Pedrosa said, a shame, as this was his best chance of winning a race, after showing such great form in practice.

The disappearance of Pedrosa left Marquez sitting behind Valentino Rossi, who was in turn engaged in chasing down Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo had set off like a scalded cat, but within three or four laps it became clear he was holding up Rossi and Marquez behind him. His pace was still strong, but he was taking odd lines, running wide at corners he wouldn't normally. After the race, it appeared that he had lost the traction pad from his tank, perhaps due to the sweltering heat and humidity at the circuit. The loss of a $25 piece of rubber may seem fairly trivial, but those pads are vital at this level of racing. With riders leaning so far off the bikes, they are controlling them using any part of the body available. That means gripping the tank with their thighs, putting pressure on the tank to control the movement of the bike, or help prevent them from sliding forward under braking.

That Lorenzo had a problem was particularly evident at Turn 1, where he kept running very wide, a natural consequence of running in too deep on the brakes and trying to force the bike through the right hander with the traction pad missing from the left side of the tank. The effort of trying to compensate for the loss of control drained Lorenzo's fitness. The Spaniard took the blame upon himself for not being fit enough. They had backed off his training program during the flyaways, and that had been a mistake, Lorenzo said. In 'the hottest conditions since he had been competing,' Lorenzo simply struggled to maintain his pace.

He was passed by Valentino Rossi on lap 10, with Marquez following Rossi through immediately. Once in the lead, Rossi tried to pull a gap on Marquez, but he pushed just a little too hard into the final hairpin, running wide and letting Marquez through. Rossi was not yet done, latching onto the tail of Marquez and hounding him for the second half of the race. It was clear he wanted to come past, running up the rear of Marquez into Turn 4, having a probe into Rossi's favorite passing place, Turn 9, and examining Marquez at the final hairpin as well. But with three laps to go, Rossi's tires began to fade, and he could no longer match the blistering pace being set by the Repsol Honda.

The Honda, too, suffers with worn tires, but the difference is that the bike will still turn, Rossi explained. The Yamaha has chatter on the front with a worn tire, making it impossible to keep up with Marquez. It was still a dramatic turnaround for the Italian, after the problems he had during practice. Rossi and his crew had found a small improvement during qualifying, then a bigger improvement during warm up. They had changed the weight distribution, he said, to "make a bike that loves the tires." To do so, they had sacrificed a bit of cornering and agility in direction changes. It had nearly come off, but the improvement fell just three laps short of perfection.

That came at the front. Marc Marquez managed the race perfectly, riding the bike home safely once Rossi dropped off the pace. Winning meant a lot, his last victory having been at Silverstone, two months previously. He celebrated by picking up a supporter's flag for his brother Alex, who uses the number 12 in Moto3. It was symbolic in many ways: it was his twelfth win of the season, finally equaling the record set by Mick Doohan. But it was also a sign of support for his brother, who had just been roughed up by Jack Miller in Moto3 (more on that later). After crashing out of three of the last four races, and having nothing for Jorge Lorenzo at Motegi, this was the boost he needed.

His tactics, he said, had been informed by the lessons he had learned in the last few races. He had been careful to spare his tires at the start of the race, knowing that tire life would be the key to this race. At the end, he knew he had something left, and could take control of the race and drop Rossi. Perhaps the most important lesson was to return to the way of working which had won him the championship. Instead of worrying about other things, he just focused on the job at hand, and worked for the Sunday. "It means that when we are concentrated for just the race, we can fight for the victory," Marquez told the press conference.

The win lifted a great weight from his shoulders. It was a visibly more relaxed and jocular Marc Marquez who appeared in the press conference, staying on after the MotoGP race conference to sit and watch his friend and training partner Tito Rabat during Rabat's Moto2 championship conference. He even asked the first question from the floor of that press conference, much to the hilarity of the assembled media. Now that he was a big-shot world champion, would Rabat still be willing to lower himself to training with the Marquez brothers? It was the kind of jest that marks the friendship that has grown between Rabat and Alex and Marc Marquez.

Will Marquez still be so relaxed once he gets to Valencia, though? The world champion made his intention clear at Sepang, now that he has matched Doohan's record of twelve wins in a season, he wants to beat it by adding a thirteenth at Valencia. If he is to succeed, he will need to focus once again just on the race, and avoid the distractions of making history. It is odd, though, that after Marquez' protestations earlier in the season that he had no interest in the record books, he should be chasing them so keenly as the year draws to a close.

The Moto2 race bore a close resemblance to the race that would follow it. Three men spent the first half of the race contesting the lead, then one dropped back to leave two, while the winner made a late break to lead in the final laps. Tito Rabat tried leading early, but as his tires started to wear, he decided that wrapping up the championship was more important than risking it all to cap it with a win. After Mika Kallio and Maverick Viñales passed Rabat, and both had a moment into Turn 5, Rabat settled for third.

Kallio pushed on, knowing he needed a win if he was going to have even the slightest chance of keeping the championship open until Valencia. He would need Rabat not to score, but he could only focus on what he could control. But Kallio was faced with a rampant Maverick Viñales, who was not about to let anyone else run off with victory. Viñales has found his feet in Moto2 now, and is disrupting the Marc VDS Racing monopoly at the front. The Spanish youngster has now won three of the last four races, and finished second in the other. He is clearly the real deal, and if he were staying on in Moto2, would be a real threat for the championship. But he is not. Instead, he is off to join Suzuki in MotoGP. Just how wise that move is remains to be seen, given the disappointing test results of the GSX-RR.

Cruising home in third was enough for Tito Rabat to clinch the Moto2 title, to his joy and relief. Unlike either the MotoGP or future Moto3 champions, Rabat has taken a long and circuitous road to success. From struggling to fit on a 125cc, and starving himself into unhealthy emaciation to try stay competitive, to paying his way through his Moto2 career, Rabat has slowly grown in competitiveness, getting faster most of all through hard work and effort, rather than relying on his raw talent. All three MotoGP podium riders sang the praises of Rabat, saying that he was an example for young riders. He was not a 'phenomenon' when he arrived, Rossi said, but he worked hard to get where he was. Most of all, Rabat was passionate about motorcycle racing. "I like Tito a lot," said Rossi, "because he is f*****g crazy for motorbikes!"

This passion, and his commitment to following that passion is what got Rabat where he is today, with a Moto2 championship under his belt. Up until this season, Rabat was a paying rider, forced to bring money wherever he raced. It did not help that his father owns a chain of high-end jewelers in Spain, and was seen as an easy touch for money to help his son's career. That changed when Rabat signed with the Marc VDS Racing team (much to the chagrin of the HP Pons team, where Rabat had raced for the past two season), paying him a salary and treating him as a normal, paid rider, expected to perform rather than just bring money into the team. It liberated Rabat, gave him the sense of self-worth, self-confidence needed to fight for championships.

But beyond that, Rabat's title is a reward for unrelenting, tireless hard work. Rabat lives and breathes motorcycle racing, living in his motorhome most days, parked up at the Almeria circuit, where he passes the time trying to shave yet another few hundredths off the track record he holds. He is out as soon as the track opens, and will be on track record pace by his second or third lap, despite the fact that the track is cold and he is the only rider out cutting laps. At the end of each day, he texts Marc VDS team boss Michael Bartholemy with his lap times. Rabat taught himself to weld, to allow him to repair his Moto2 practice bike when it gets damaged in crashes. After showing the team one particularly ugly attempt at a weld, they took him aside and taught him properly, mostly to save him from himself.

When Rabat isn't lapping alone at Almeria, he is with the Marquez brothers at the Rufea dirt track oval, practicing his skills on the dirt, and getting some lessons in close quarters racing. That had made a big difference, not just in the lessons learned riding dirt track, but also from the camaraderie with the Marquez brothers. That camaraderie extends beyond the Rufea track, all the way to the Marquez home in Cervera. The affection between Marquez and Rabat was clear at the press conference, Marquez genuinely delighted for Rabat, and proud of his friend.

The mark of Rabat came in his answers to questions about not moving up to MotoGP. Of course he would like to go, he told the press conference, but he wanted to go when he was ready. He was in a great team, he said, and he had an opportunity to learn the skills he would need when he did move up. His list of his own defects was disarmingly honest: he needed to improve in the early laps of the race, he needed to improve in the rain, he needed to improve in fighting aggressively for positions, he needed to improve in windy conditions. Once he had improved in those areas, he would be ready to make the move. "If you don't go up to MotoGP and do well, you have to leave," Rabat said. "I want to go there and stay."

The race of the weekend, however, was once again Moto3. The smallest class always has the best racing, but the closeness of the championship gave this race a real edge. Jack Miller came into the race trailing Alex Marquez by 20 points, and knowing he had to cut the gap as much as possible if he was to stand a chance of taking the championship at Valencia. Marquez, on the other hand, was all too aware of just how close he is to the title, and was perhaps a little too cautious at times around the track.

It was Miller who came best prepared to the race. He had spent the time leading up to the weekend studying old races, figuring out that the best chance of winning was to lead into the final corner. He practiced the move over and over again during the race, crossing the line in the lead seven times, and just behind the lead another seven times.

Miller also knew he needed to ensure that Alex Marquez did not try to run away with the race. To do that, he had to break the Spaniard's concentration and shake his confidence. He had to impose his will on Marquez, not just at Sepang, but to ensure that he was on Marquez' mind in the run up to Valencia. This race, Miller needed to try to score two victories, and follow up on the momentum he gained at his home race.

What unfolded was an electrifying spectacle, reminiscent of Valentino Rossi's victory over Casey Stoner at Laguna Seca in 2008. Watching the race, you knew this was not just about the result at this circuit, but about changing the course of the future. Miller controlled the race throughout, ensuring he was always at or near the front, passing straight back whenever he was passed. He also spent a lot of time ensuring that Alex Marquez knew he was there, trying to get into the head of the Spaniard. When passed by others, Miller passed quickly and easily. When passed by Marquez, Miller made sure his presence was known. The two engaged at least six times, and each time Miller emerged victorious.

The moves he made were hard, but all precisely within the letter of the law. He dived up the inside of Marquez three or four times, and when he did, he put his bike exactly where Marquez had intended to put his. He didn't ride his bike into Marquez, Miller said, he had just made it difficult for Marquez to turn into the corner. Miller's behavior was intimidating, and intended as such, but it was all just this side of legal.

Marquez' team, led by Emilio Alzamora, did not see it that way. After the race, Alzamora complained to Race Direction, who held hearings with Miller, Alex Marquez, and Danny Kent, who had got in Marquez' way on the final lap. After reviewing the incidents, Race Direction rejected Alazamora's complaints. Of the six incidents they looked at, four were disregarded immediately, Race Director Mike Webb told Crash.net. Two more involved contact, but after close study, they found that no rules were broken. Miller had been told that he was "very, very close to the limit of hard racing," Webb said, and both riders warned not to continue the feud at Valencia.

Key to the decisions of Race Direction was intent. The fact that Miller made the corner every time he tried the pass proved his intention was to get ahead of Marquez, rather than try to cause an actual danger to his opponent. Miller could back up his intent with ability, rather than making a wild and dangerous lunge in the vain hope that it might come off. It is a subtle, but important difference. To get a fuller picture of Race Direction's thinking, I highly recommend you read the piece over on Crash.net.

Both Miller and Marquez got some help from their teammates (in the case of Miller, Danny Kent may be on a Husqvarna, but he is racing for the same manufacturer and within the same team structure). Alex Rins dived up the inside of Miller at the final corner on the last lap, forcing Miller to settle for second behind Efren Vazquez. Danny Kent got ahead of Alex Marquez, and when Kent made a mistake coming out of Turn 6, forced to close the throttle, the pair lost the tow to the front. With Miller second and Marquez fifth, that allowed the Australian to cut the gap to just 11 points ahead of Valencia. The title is now well and truly open at the final round of the season.

Was Miller's behavior fair and sporting? Absolutely not. Was it legal? Completely. Miller's riding had the mark of a desperate man, one who knew what was at stake and was prepared to do whatever it took. He deflected any criticism of his riding with a reference to what Marquez had done to him. "As you know, with the Marquez' brothers, they touch a lot," Miller said, "so this for me is racing their way." Alex Marquez responded to the Spanish press that Miller had given a masterclass in the art of touching at Sepang. He had learned a few things, and was prepared for Valencia. His brother Marc Marquez was confident that Alex would hold his own at Valencia. "I think my brother has enough potential and enough body to do it too."

The previous Race Director Paul Butler told veteran US journalist Dennis Noyes that motorcycle racing was a contact sport. Current Race Director Mike Webb told me last year that it was a little more nuanced than that, that contact was permissible as an unintended consequence, but not as an aim in itself. At no point did Jack Miller seek to hit Alex Marquez, but what Miller did do is give Marquez the choice to either change his line or hit Miller.

It was not pretty, but it was perfectly legal. But then again, contrary to popular opinion, professional sports at the highest level are not pretty, not concerned with fairness or the Olympic ideal. Athletes at this level do not sacrifice what they do just so they can say they took part. They do not spend their days training, punishing their bodies, not eating, ignoring their friends, families and loved ones just for the honor of competing. The ugly truth of professional sports is that elite athletes are driven by an almost sociopathic desire to win, to beat other people. Even the happy, smiley, friendly ones.

Two quotes best sum up the attitude of elite athletes, and people who have dedicated their lives to winning. The first is from Liverpool manager Bill Shankly, who said "Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that." As an outside observer, George Orwell captured perfectly the spirit of professional sports, in his acerbic essay "The Sporting Spirit." "You play to win, and the game has little meaning unless you do your utmost to win," Orwell wrote. "Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting."

That war continues for the Moto3 boys at Valencia. Whether he realizes it or not, Alex Marquez goes into the race with the stronger hand. All Marquez has to do is sit on the wheel of Jack Miller and finish either one or two positions behind him. No need to take risks trying to beat Miller, no matter what honor demands. Better instead to let Miller expend his energy trying to shake him off, trying to put riders between himself and Marquez. Sitting on Miller's wheel would not be a particularly pretty way to win a title, but they when they write the record books, they leave out the part about how you did it. Alex Marquez will have to do whatever it takes to be champion. Jack Miller set an example for him at Sepang.

Total votes: 152
Total votes: 86

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Comments

When everything is taken into account I guess that Alzamora's complaint to Race Direction must be included in the list of things that a team can do to try and win by any legal methods.

If Alzamora thought there was even a tiny chance that Miller might be penalised then he was surely correct to complain!

Total votes: 166

A truly inspiring character personifying determination and hard work! Congratulations on a thoroughly deserved world championship!

Thanks David for chronicling his road to success in such detail. Truly inspiring...

Total votes: 155

Can't agree more. His personal and professional growth over the last years is remarkable and he very much deserves this championship after pretty much dominating all season and dealing well with everything that was thrown at him on and off track.

His press conference was also very interesting in that he openly talked about his mindset during the season, honestly assessed his own weaknesses and doesn't take anything for granted. I think the riders and paddock insiders who deemed him a good role model for young riders definitely have a point. Talent and that bit of luck only takes you so far, the rest is determination and hard work and I think Tito does both of that extremely well while staying likable and honest. I truly admire his attitude and wish him more success in the future, he's certainly worked hard for all of it.

Total votes: 146

Nor is the Brno crowd, the Silverstone Crowd, the Mugello Crowd and so on....

Total votes: 146

Marc Marquez reckons his little brother is even faster than he is.

Have a look at: http://www.superbikeplanet.com/image/2014/motogp/sepangrace/lowlight/l5.htm

Sliding at about 70 degrees to the trajectory, on wets, on one wheel. At a gazillion kph.

And his baby brother is faster? Forget the future challenge from Miller - the guy is upcoming toast. If Marquez Jnr. is quicker than this, then Captain Kirk would be saying 'Warp 5, please.. good... what the faaaaark was THAT, Mr. Spock?'

Miller might as well get a kick or two in while Marquez Jnr.'s backside is in the same multiverse.

Total votes: 138

He finished 10th in that 2007 ride I believe.......He also wild-carded for LCR at Laguna in 2010 and finished 11th. He ran last year at Laguna in WSBK and finished 8th in race 2

Total votes: 132

The fact is Miller is taking it to Marquez on a clearly slower machine, and would in fact be beating him if he hadn't been taken out by Marquez at Aragon. Marc is clearly a biased commentator when our comes to his brother, quick as his brother may be. A riders full potential can't be known until they compete at the highest level and whatever Marc says about his brother being quicker we won't know what his level will be until he gets there. Considering how Marc is dominating I'd bet against his brother being better, bit you never know.

And while impressive that pic of Marc sliding through that turn is nothing that hasn't been done just as spectacularly by heaps of GP riders at the same spot every year

Total votes: 169

Marc is just being an exemplary big brother by boosting Alex's confidence through a very tough year. Alex is no doubt fast, but Moto3 bikes are very different to MotoGP.

Lest we forget, Stefan Bradl and a handful of 125 riders beat Marc Marquez regularly. Yet, in MotoGP the story is quite different.

Miller's riding style on the Moto3 bike is very close to Marquez's, with the extreme late braking and hard acceleration. I believe he will do very well in MotoGP.

Alex's future is yet to be seen, as Moto2 is no guarantee of performance in MotoGP, as Stefan Bradl and Toni Elias have demonstrated.

The one maverick to watch at the moment is Maverick Vinales. Very few in the history of the sport have gotten up to speed on new machinery as fast as him, and that includes Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez. It's quite sad that he's moving to Suzuki next year. He should've stayed put in Moto2 and waited for a Honda. The sad state of MotoGP rules means that it's the Honda world championship at the moment.

Regardless, we'll get to see some good racing in 2016 once the rules are homogenized and Alex, Marc, Maverick and Jack are all on competitive Hondas.

Total votes: 126

Amen brother FD3SA!
Where have you been? I sense the power of the force is strong in this commentator...
;)

Total votes: 120

If you do look at that comment (the one that I have used as the subject), it is very obvious that the legality or illegality of the moves put in by Jack Miller are not being judged by any scale or mechanism which would accurately tell you what the limits of hard racing are and as per those limits how close a rider is to being illegal. It is an interpretation of Mike Webb. So I am a bit surprised David that you are so emphatic that what Jack Miller was doing was legal but unsporting. When something is judged by a person with only the benefit of how something looks to him on screen and it is just his brain telling him that it is legal, you should also consider that other people and other brains may "interpret" the same thing as illegal. Therefore I am surprised that you are so confident and emphatic about the legality of Miller's moves. Also I am not so comfortable with the separation of sporting from legal. What makes a sport a sport is the spirit in which it is played, but to say that you can still be a sportsman without being sporting but simply not doing anything illegal, for me seems to undermine the very idea of something being called a sport.

All those technical difficulties apart (they are difficult for me; sharper brains may not find them so) what I did get to see is that Alex Marquez deserved to get that 5th position and nothing higher. Through out the race it was so painfully obvious that he was going a little too wide at turns thereby giving Miller the opportunity to dive in and push him wide. How many more times did Miller need to do that before it dawned on Marquez that he had to change strategy and start doing things differently if he had to prevent Miller from doing the same thing again and again? I was so exasperated on the last lap when the all too familiar going wide and finding Miller pushing Marquez was happening this time with Miller's teammate slowing down in Marquez's way to decisively break Marquez's probability of catching up with Miller, I almost banged my head on the wall. Brotherly love may make Marc Marquez say things like Alex Marquez is faster than me, more precise and less all over the place, but the reality is and I am sure Marc Marquez also realised that Alex Marquez has no ability to innovate and think while racing and so he got beaten by somebody who was canny (sporting or legal or otherwise). It was pathetic to see lap after lap the same thing being played out.

You voted 5. Total votes: 152

Do bear in mind, he's only 18, still has a lot of learning to do. Marquez had to take those lines each time because the inside lines were already taken. In any case, I don't think I've ever, in 20-odd years of watching, seen a rider so repeatedly 'foul' another. These weren't block passes, this was Miller deliberately running Marquez wide in order to break him, and for me, that was unpleasant to see. It was a 'take me on and I'll cause you to crash' approach. That's very different from a 'I'm riding so fast that to beat me you risk crashing'.

If I was Marquez, I'd be more than a little tempted to take Miller out in Valencia. Dirty, but as Miller must agree, it's one way to get the job done.

Total votes: 150

When it comes down to it - Miller rode smart, Marquez rode dumb. Both of them are around the same age, but going by appearances only one really learns new tricks every time he goes out on the track.

And when your star is on the rise, any publicity is good publicity...

Total votes: 117

There were 3 fewer races in 1997. Doohan won 80% of the races that year. Marc will need to win 15 of 18 races this year to beat Doohan's record, which at this point is impossible. Makes Doohan's record even more impressive.

It's disappointing that DORNA are misusing statistics in this way. If I were Mick, I'd feel cheated.

Total votes: 167

...divided 12 by 15 in a Soup post, and got .866, so you've got him beat.

But I always suspected that he lacked the mental toughness to do math at this level.

Total votes: 132

A lot of the direct comparisons between today's racing and the racing of yesteryear completely fail at taking the vast differences into account. There are 18 races in a season since 2010 and only this year do the small classes go to every one of them, so a lot of these most points/wins/podiums/... absolute numbers don't add up even compared to a few years ago, let alone a few decades. Indeed it would be stranger if records were not continuously broken when going just by absolute numbers.

This is not to take away the achievement of today's riders though, it's just to be conscious (and appreciative) of the achievement of the past riders who were also riding in very different circumstances. Numbers and statistics are nice, but especially in racing they rarely tell the whole story.

Total votes: 134

You are absolutely right, Doohan won 12 races out of 15, while Marquez won 12 out of 17 (so far). It is not a fair comparison.

However, to score those 12 races, Doohan beat Tady Okada, Nobu Aoki, Alex Criville, Luca Cadalora, Norick Abe, Carlos Checa, Alex Barros, and Sete Gibernau. Ranking those riders by the number of wins they achieved in their careers in all classes, Cadalora is 17th, Criville is 35th, Barros is 101st, Okada is 114th, Abe is 191st and Aoki was outside the top 240.

Marquez has beaten Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, Pol Espargaro, Bradley Smith and Stefan Bradl. Rossi is 2nd in all time wins, Lorenzo is 5th, Pedrosa is 8th, Espargaro is 52nd, Dovizioso is 58th, Bradl is 134th, and Smith is 174th. Both Rossi and Lorenzo are ahead of Doohan in all time, all class wins, though only Rossi is ahead of Doohan in premier class wins.

That is also not a fair comparison, Doohan could only ride against the riders who were there at the time. Doohan's 1992 season is the true mark of the man's greatness, where he was beating Rainey, Schwantz, Gardner, Lawson, all while they were at or near the top of their game. 

It is also not a fair comparison, for Giacomo Agostini won 20 races in a row in 1968 and 1969. But the 1968 season was only 10 races long (Agostini won all of them) and the 1969 season was 12 races long. Both of those winning rates are better than Doohan's. However, you can only contest the number of races there are in a season, and you can only race the competitors who turn up on the grid. In Agostini's case, that was mainly people riding single cylinder 500s, as opposed to Ago's MV Agusta triple.

This, of course, demonstrates why making comparisons is pointless. Instead, the statisticians stick to numbers. Nobody is claiming Marquez has the highest winning rate. They are claiming that Marquez has the same number of outright wins in a season. That is a fact. And it is the only fact you can say about it. It is not better, or worse, because times are different. 

Total votes: 162

That was funny.
I read the comment and at the end I thought, wow top mark, that was a very intelligent reply and well articulated.
And wondered from which "user" was it from. Scrolled up to see the name and .... well ....

I do believe that there is a bit of race inflation. So the Espargaros of today may have more wins because they have also more races to compete on with the guys at Agostini's time (or Doohan). But I think no-one can argue that the level of competition Marquez is beating is way stronger than 20 or 40 years ago. Indeed his % is lower but hs achievement is in the same league as Doohan.

As much as those comparisons make sense. But to end on a funny note I could quote a strong footbal player of the 80s. They asked him if his team was stronger that the one in the 60s (a legendary one also). He answered "Of course, WE are, and we are ready to play a match with them tomorrow to prove it" :)

Total votes: 148

David, you too have fallen into the traps set by statistics.

Firstly Doohan only raced in the premier class in GP racing so to compare him statistically to the riders he beat that year - Tady Okada, Nobu Aoki, Alex Criville, Luca Cadalora, Norick Abe, Carlos Checa, Alex Barros, and Sete Gibernau - you must only rank by results in the top class.

This of course will diminish them further, but does that diminish Doohans achievements? No, the opposite is true. That they scored so few wins is a valid indication of Doohans dominance, not that his opposition was somehow sub-par.

Secondly the fact that before 1992 the wins were spread around amongst "The Greats" -Rainey, Schwantz, Gardner, Lawson- precisely because there was no dominant rider head & shoulders above the rest, thus allowing each to shine on their good days. By 1997 without Doohan we may have had another "Golden Age" with a large contingent of dissimilar riders fighting for the win.

Whilst I understand statistics help provide the sizzle to sell the product what is beyond the statistics is more interesting. When comparing Marquez & Doohans domination remember that Doohan did all his learning in the premier class & took a couple of seasons to record his first win. Also lets not forget that Doohans domination came after a crippling accident. Statistically Marquez may be ahead, but is that all the story?

Sadly another crippling crash robbed us of a spectacle similar to what we have now. Rossi never challenged & deposed Doohan as King of MotoGP. Micks crash in '99 saw to that. Now as we are treated to seeing Rossi resisting the challenge of Marquez it brings into sharp focus what we as spectators lost at the other end of Rossi's career.

Total votes: 138

Great analysis David, but let's not forget the elephant in the room: the machinery. Throughout the 2-stroke eras, you could be a talented privateer with a second hand bike that cost a few grand and if you had the skill, you could challenge for top 10. The 2-stroke era was by all accounts the golden age of racing, because the machines were very inconsequential to the results.

I've seen all of the 80s, 90s, and 2000s races, and the racing was completely neck neck throughout the 2-stroke era. The switch to 4-strokes marked a very big drop in relative competitiveness between the field which we continue to see to this day. We went from the most skill based motorsport, to something akin to Formula 1 where the machine counts for half (if not more) of the equation.

Unfortunately, this was due to Honda and their sociopathic desire for guaranteed victory. Once they had Dorna under their iron grip, and managed to change the displacement rules to favor 4-strokes, it was all over. Even to this day, unless you are on one of 4 bikes, you have precisely zero chance at race wins unless there is rain or massive incident. This is not how it used to be.

Why do you think the fuel requirements, electronics and engine allotment continue to change throughout the years? It's not to "save money". Honda is the only company with the R&D expertise to design a 4-stroke engine to run on 20L of fuel and last for 5 races all while running at max performance. This in fact puts the other factories at a massive disadvantage, as they can't continue to improve their designs. Contrary to popular belief, the materials to make a MotoGP bike cost nothing. It is the expertise of the top engineers that is a very costly commodity.

Sadly, the 4-stroke era has caused the decline and decadence of true racing, as now, unless you are on the right bike, you have no chance. Look at Alex Espagaro, Andrea Iannone, and soon Maverick Vinales, who will be struggling in MotoGP in spite of their massive talents and incredible past performances.

Dorna is slowly moving in the right direction with the rule homogenization of 2016, but I fear it's too little, too late. The viewership numbers have gone down, and outside of spain, the cost to get into grassroots racing has gone up astronomically. Ask any club racer how much it costs to run a Moriwaki MD250, or god forbid, the Honda NSF250R compared to the Honda RS125 of old. The RS125 allowed blue collar, working people to get their kids into racing on a platform that prepared and trained them for the world class, on a shoestring budget.

Nowadays, Honda's $13,000 MD250H and their $30,000 NSF250R not only cost an absurd amount to purchase, but cost about 5-10 times as much to maintain over a race season at race pace.

Honda's love of dominating motorcycle racing has destroyed it, all the way from MotoGP down to the club level.

For comparison, look at the Rotax MAX challenge in karts. Rotax doesn't make cars, and they are not a huge company. Yet, they run the most successful karting championship in the world, and it is the de-facto feeder class to Formula 3. How do they manage this? They run a very reliable, sealed, spec 2-stroke engine for the entire championship. No one gets to pay to win, and thus only the best talent moves up. Affordable, fair and competitive racing which allows talents to develop for the world class. That's what we desperately need in the motorcycling world.

If I ran Dorna, I'd call up Kalex and Rotax and tell them to design two bikes: one 50cc mini-gp bike similar to the Honda NSR50, and one 125cc bike similar to the Honda RS125. Both engines would be designed for reliability instead of performance, and be sealed and maintainable only by licensed Rotax technicians. Kalex would then design a frame for each, and the package would be produced in the thousands and sold worldwide as part of a spec feeder championship series mirroring the Rotax MAX. Champions of the 50cc series would move onto the 125cc, and subsequent champions of the 125cc series would go on to Moto3.

This would return motorcycling racing to the USA and the rest of the world, bringing in viewers and dollars. As for MotoGP, I feel that Dorna was on the right track with CRT's. They should've told Honda to put up with the new rules or pack it in. People want to see racing, and don't give a crap about the bikes. If Honda wants to advertise through Dorna's platform, they will have to play by the rules like everyone else.

Total votes: 128

Are you following current class developments in the new AMA-Krave American Nat'l series? Super interesting to me. I am very much in favor of what they are doing in the context of real-world complexities. Like everyone else but Dingbat also just plain excited to see anyone doing anything different that DMG but that is another story.

So they are synching up with the international rules largely, with a transition yr. Also running two classes concurrently each race. I am eager to see what comes of the lightweight class(es), they have announced everything else.

It needs to be financially viable, including getting backing from American dealers and importers. There need to be enough bikes available to supply racers. The racing needs to be good. It needs to also synch up w international series'. It needs to serve as a good atepping stone to get the kids onto them then into the middleweights. It also needs to not out-budget participants, grids need filling.

Do Moto3? Where do the bikes come from? Where does the financial support come from via buy in of the usual folks? How much would the bikes cost me to get into?

Do the KTM 390 single as a spec class? Not enough bikes avail for starters. Down the road maybe?

What is out there NOW at the club level, ubiquitous and cheap? Ninja 250's. Tons of them. What did Australia do? A Ninja 300 cup. Seems to work.

Yamaha just came out w a new 320cc R3 that should beat the Ninja. Honda's 300 single? Nope, can't compete. So everyone but Suzuki is in the production lightweight business now. Perhaps before yet another wee increase in displacement occurs and Suzuki arrives on the scene w a GSXR350 twin there could be a standardization. The performance #'s may well be pretty similar between the KTM and the Yamaha at very first glance. Wonder if the old 125GP bikes might be in that ballpark as well?

If KRAVE wants a go-to solution for next yr and beyond I wonder what folks think of this:
Consistent w their 'run two classes together' theme do so for the lightweights as well. Leave reinventing the class for 2 seasons from now when the landscape will be different. Cultivate the club level racers that already are out there in a thriving class already, the Ninja cup. Run them behind a smaller developing class. What is the best option there? I don't know enough to say. Kitchen sink of 125GP's, single production 4 strokes to 390cc, twin production four strokes up to 320cc, and then LATER shuffle that kitchen sink mess backwards to replace the Ninja Cup and front a Moto3 class? Will there be a different context to work with in a few yrs?

Sure would be nice to be able to run Moto3 now. Sure would be nice to have multiple manu's for a production lightweight class. Sure would be nice to have the sweet bike and close racing of a KTM 390 superstock class. Sure would be nice to have the gazillion Ninja 250 cup participants tapped into. Sure would be nice to drag oout all the cheap 125GP's. Sure would be great to emulate what is working w the Rookies Cups in Europe and Asia. Sure woukd be great if these weren't all rife with shortcomings and logistical pitfalls!

Color me vexed.
strokes up to 320cc

Total votes: 123

I hope the GSX-RR will get a big improvement over this winter. The bike looks quite slow in the previous tests.

Total votes: 139

What a weekend, the best weekend of racing I've seen in 20 years of watching at Sepang. Pedrosa was cheered when he fell off, Marquez and Vale cheered all the way, Lorenzo not cheered or booed. Well he was tired tired and it was was hot! Actually for the whole race it was considerably cooler than Saturday as a nice cool breeze picked up around 1pm. Enough excuses Jorge just deal with it.
The crowd was fantastic and the organisation actually gets better every year, it could take 2 hours to get to town after the race now I was in the hotel after one hour including dropping a friend off at the airport on the way. The crowd comes from Australia - it's cheaper to get to from Perth and better and cheaper accommodation than Phillip island, so its actually the home race for west Australians, there are thousands of Indonesians and Thais and all in all it is an outstanding weekend. The Malaysians have a lot of their own riders to cheer now and this year the all dissappointed, unfortunately. 3 years ago I thought about stopping because of the heat and the traffic, now I'm ready to book for next year again as soon as the tickets are available.
Well done Malaysia, and well done to the crowd and all the organisers of this fantastic event.

Total votes: 147

To cheer when a rider comes off, Pedrosa seems like a good sort to me. Some were also chucking bottles on the track I remember after the Simoncelli was killed as well, when RD wouldn't restart the race; charming, but I appreciate that it is a few knobs that can give a bad impression.

But, that MotoGP has another good home - very good news.

Total votes: 141

I think it is a measure of his popularity , ie none you pay your money and got to the event and express your opinions. There are no bottles apart from plastic water bottles at the event. I was there when Marco crashed, it was right in front of me. A very sad event but no one could have done anything to fix it or make it better whereever in the world it happens. I could see it was over and was going back by the time they officially cancelled it.

Total votes: 123

What he meant is that the crowd cheered him on... not cheered the fact that he fell. When he got back on the bike and came around next time, the crowd cheered for him (it was well into the race, so there weren't that many cheers for other riders going by at that time).

Edit : I was in the grandstands, so I know this first hand, in case that wasn't obvious.

Total votes: 141

Rins was helping Miller, not Marquez. On the parc ferme, Rins looked very happy that Miller finished ahead of his teammate.

Total votes: 142

So funny.. if that was the case then Rins would not have mounted that last turn up the inside pass on Jack that allowed Vasquez the run to the line. Rins stood to gain more if both Jack & Alex failed to finish, now his championship tilt has gone.

Total votes: 113

Rins was helping Miller. He was put in #2 rider after fighting for the championship last season. I was rooting for him to win this year, but now I want Miller.

Total votes: 128

Miller didn't do anything I haven't seen the Marquez brothers repeatedly do to other riders before. Particularly in Moto2, Marc used to run people wide at turn one on nearly every lap of every race. Just ask Pol, Iannone, Luthi, Redding, Smith, Bradl or anyone else who raced against MM in Moto2.

If Alzamora has a problem with that he should correct the behaviour of his own protégés first before complaining about other people.

Total votes: 149

What Marc used to do in Moto2 is 100% irrelevant when judging what happened on track between Alex Marquez and Jack Miller and it is disingenuous to say otherwise. I would challenge you to give ANY specific example of such blatant poor sportsmanship within the GP paddock (post 2002). Unluckily for Alex, I suspect Race Direction may have a similar bias to yourself which would be appalling quite frankly.

Furthermore, not once, has Alex Marquez, or any other ride ever, other than possibly Lorenzo in the last race of 2013 repeatedly bashed, barged (or rubbed!) into a competitor during a single race. I thought it was disgraceful, whether within a single person's opinion of being legal or not. If such riding does not warrant a single penalty point it is very questionable of the whole points system.

Also Miller and his team were quick to complain, officially and in the media after Aragon yet you say nothing about he not being able to take his own medicine.

I am almost positive Webb has ensured this will continue to Valencia by his own inaction, something he specifically states he wanted to avoid.

Total votes: 129

The whole Miller/Marquez storm in a teacup reminds me of a few seasons back. I can't remember who said it now but after 1 contentious last lap pass the straight faced explanation was: "I left him just enough room to come second" or words to that effect. I thought it was a classic line and pretty much sums it all up.

One wonders just what it would have taken for Marquez to realise he didn't have the pace to run away from Miller. It was obvious to the 81,896 spectators track side but the penny never seemed to drop for Marquez, and he just kept putting himself in a position where sooner or later he was going to find himself heading to Valencia with his points lead completely erased. He's almost certainly gone into the race trying to win the Championship there and then, but his ability to adjust his mindset as the race unfolded was non-existent.

He just didn't ride smart and he has left himself with a bit more work than he really needed to be doing.

Total votes: 140

Im not rooting for/against Miller or Marquez, but two things were obvious (to me):
1) Miller was delibertly pushing Marquez wide hoping for a minor/major mistake on his part (Alex). We can argue legalitys on this type of racing, but 4+ 'push ya wide' is showing intent.
2) why the hell Alex kept putting himself in that position over & over & over/etc again is stupifying to me. It showed me that he wasnt 'thinking' tactically or seeing the big picture. Stay behind Jack and at least NOT on the wide side of turn 1. Trust me.....he'll learn. Last race should be something.

#93: what can ya say....spectacular!

Total votes: 124

I think Miller's an extremely aware and intelligent racer, and he knew that--regardless of how clear his intention was--Race Direction was going to have a hard time justifying penalty points as long as he kept hitting the apex.

He says that he's just following the example of the Marquez brothers. Fair enough, but I'll be curious to see if he ever adopts the other bit of "racing strategy" that the Marquez brothers have mastered: being aware that you're much more likely to consistently be given the benefit of the doubt when you're unfailingly polite, up beat and clean cut, than when you're rocking a mullet and a chip on your shoulder.

For the sake of my own personal entertainment, I hope it's a lesson he never learns, but I suspect he'd save himself a lot of frustration if he did.

Total votes: 140

I'm not about to wallow in the quagmire of M3 intent. Great performances and entertainment across all classes. I for one was delighted for Tito and Marc.
What happened with Calvin and Andrea's bikes? All quiet on the Western front.

Total votes: 133

Somehow a cable got cut on Crutchlow's bike that killed the engine. How? Good question. Dovizioso's bike had some sort of fuel pump problem so whenever he opened the throttle it stuttered. Too bad since he was on target to be 10-15 seconds back - instead he had to cruise the last laps and ended 48 seconds back, losing 4 positions.

All three races were thrilling. Moto3 is always fun. Hope they don't kill each other at Valencia.

Total votes: 125

I never saw the moto 3 race due to getting my times wrong after the clocks went back but it is really annoying me that Miller is justifying his tactics by saying that it's the same as the Marquez brothers would use.

Marc has had several well documented visits to Race Direction but as far as I know Alex has only been summoned once, after Aragon.

It's a very easy way out for Miller to avoid responsibility.

Also he complained after Aragon so not sure why anyone's surprised by Alzamora doing the same.

You voted 2. Total votes: 131

Miller has never ridden against Marc Marquez, so how can he whine about how Marc races? His dull comments have just drawn a target on his back for when he gets into MotoGP. Miller is likely to continue his bad habits in the big class and the riders he'll be against will soon put an end to his antics. Arsing around at 200mph isn't acceptable. All the time Marc Marquez is top dog at Honda, Miller won't stand a chance of getting a factory ride.

BTW - Keith Heuwen excelled himself on Sunday. He told us we should listen to the bike engines, as he likes to do. I'd like to know when he gets to hear the bikes, because us viewers don't, there's far too much gabbling coming from the BT commentary team.

Total votes: 134

Exactly. Miller will never get a seat on one of the Repsol Honda's while Marc is on the other one.

Total votes: 127

If David Emmett says it's ok, I'll accept it, the guy has more sense in one day than me in a month. Well that and the obvious exageration by many spanish journos on twitter :)
I'm slightly annoyed though that Miller is always mentioning the Marquez brothers, as much as I'm annoyed with the Miller-Stoner comments.

You voted 5. Total votes: 150

I can definitely understand the desire to keep penalties (and penalty points) to a minimum to avoid becoming like Formula One stewarding of a few years ago.

Jack needs a major talking to though as he won't be able to behave like he has been doing in the top class next year. For me he rode like an utter muppet in Phillip Island as well - I get that his bike is slower than the Honda this year, I understand - and got away with it there too. Danny Kent wasn't too impressed with his antics in PI and he's his teammate!

Total votes: 136

Miller raced tough but fair in my opinion.

He had the pace and braking skills to position himself in front of Marquez every time without any of the riders getting hurt or falling.

That's an acceptable racing strategy that we don't get to see at every race because normally your opponent would play a counter move or alternative line that would make you look silly a couple of laps later.

Miller's strategy worked because Marquez had his eyes on the title and couldn't bring himself to think out of the box and change his lines, breaking points etc.

Is therefore my opinion that the light contacts between the riders where the result of Marquez obstinacy in not wanting to change his strategy.

Cheers

Total votes: 132

I mean, it's not like these guys were down in 15th place and Miller was intentionally holding up Marquez. No, they were still circulating fast enough to lead the race so they are entitiled to take whatever line they like if they are not endangering the other rider. And as has been pointed out the apexes were still hit, or another way to put it, why do they build a track 15m wide if you are only supposed to use a 3m band? Isn't the mantra "Use all of the track!" drilled into every budding racer?

And I think those saying "as long as Marc Marquez is at Honda, Miller won't get a Factory ride" have seriously lost perspective. This was one slightly contentious race not the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand.

Total votes: 127

It's clear to me at least that Miller's strategy is lead at every and any opportunity. He can't afford to play games/sit and wait because if he looses touch with the front group, it's all over. Phillip Island and sepang are both circuits that benefit the honda, so his only option was 100%.

Total votes: 113

Miller won the battle of racecraft.

Jack learnt his lesson from Aragon, and remembered what Race Direction said to him

So, no 'this or that' about Jack Miller's riding, Jack road to the Rules and the Rules as laid down by Race Direction.

Road Racing follows the FIM rules and Race Direction, not Social Media.

Total votes: 110