2018 Le Mans Sunday Round Up: Crashes Shape The Championship, Yamaha's Woes, Ducati's Decision, And Moto3 Madness

Looking back, it is always easy to identify the pivotal moments in a championship. Last year, it was the Barcelona test, when Honda brought a new chassis which gave Marc Márquez the confidence he had been lacking. In 2015, it was arguably Motegi, where Valentino Rossi stayed ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, but the effort it took in the difficult conditions left him drained at the start of a long and exhausting set of flyaways. In 2012 it was Misano, where a tire warmer got stuck to Dani Pedrosa's brake disc, forcing him to start from the back of the grid, and leaving him in a position to get tangled up with Hector Barbera, and crash out of the race.

In the midst of a racing season, however, such pivotal points are much harder to identify. Or rather, all too easy to misidentify. After Estoril 2006, everyone thought that Nicky Hayden's championship challenge was over. Valentino Rossi's heartbreaking engine blow up at Mugello looked like it would put paid to his shot at the 2016 title, but he still kept the fight alive for a long time. Anything can happen during the course of a season, so when we look back at a season we can easily overlook the drama of a single race that seemed important at the time. 2015 is a case in point: there were so many twists and turns that it is hard to pinpoint a single turning point, so fans and followers tend to pick their own.

Looking at it now, just five races into a nineteen-race season, it is easy to believe that the races at Jerez and Le Mans will be the turning points we look back at when the bikes are packed up for the final time after Valencia. The three-rider crash at Dry Sack two weeks ago, in which Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa managed to all take each other out without any obvious culprit being to blame, had a huge impact on the championship. And Sunday's drama-packed race at Le Mans will surely be spoken of in the same terms. Not just because of who didn't finish the race. But also because where some riders finished is going to have a profound impact on their futures.

Tempus fugit

Jorge Lorenzo knows that his future depends on his performance, and he went to work to secure his future from the moment the lights went out. Lorenzo may not have mastered the Ducati Desmosedici, but he has mastered the start, and he was off the line like a rocket, shooting from sixth into the lead through Turn 1 and entering the Dunlop Chicane ahead of a chasing pack. A couple of quick laps proved that Lorenzo could be fast, but not fast enough to shake the chasing group.

Behind him, Lorenzo had assembled quite an entourage, with Johann Zarco pushing Marc Márquez and Andrea Dovizioso wide into the chicane to take second. It was not a move which endeared the Frenchman to Dovizioso, and caused the Italian to decide to get past the Monster Tech3 Yamaha as quickly as possible. "My strategy was to go away from Zarco," Dovizioso said, "because Zarco already did in turn 2 something close to the limit, and I lose three positions."

Dovizioso did not ascribe malice to Zarco's moves, however. "I don’t think he’s doing it intentionally. I think it’s his way to approach the battle. Also this moment [the crash involving Tom Luthi] in the warm up. I just have to make the strategy against other riders. That’s why I just decide to get one rider in between us immediately, and after think about strategy."

First fallers

With Zarco dealt with, Dovizioso set his sights on his teammate. Jorge Lorenzo may not be as quick as Dovizioso on the Ducati, but he can lead, and he is almost impossible to pass once he is ahead. Lorenzo turned out to be the hurdle over which Dovizioso would stumble. The Italian put a clinical pass on Lorenzo going into the chicane, and got drive out as he headed down towards La Chapelle. But the pass left him a little bit off line, and that led him to brake a little later, causing him to lose the front and crash out of the race.

Dovizioso did not seek to place the blame anywhere other than himself. "I brake a little bit late. I was a little bit wide, so that I tried to make a slide on the rear and move the weight on the front a little bit. But the movement, I did two movements and came back. When I came back, all the weight went to the front. That’s why. In that point, I didn’t take care enough to lose the front, because it happened in the practice and I didn’t expect that. The reason is in the race there is always less grip than the practice, always."

The lower grip had already proved a problem for Andrea Iannone, who crashed the Suzuki GSX-RR on the first lap, despite starting from a strong position. Though the race took place in near perfect weather – bright sun shone down on a packed house – the hot sun had heated the asphalt and made the surface a little greasier than it had been in the morning.

Then there was the Dunlop rubber laid down in the first two races. Had the Moto2 rubber made the track more slippery? "Next question," Dovizioso joked. "Nobody knows. Every time is the same story." But it hadn't necessarily played a role in his crash, the Ducati rider said. "I still didn’t push until that point, because I was so comfortable. I had a really good speed. I didn’t put the front really on the limit until that moment. So I didn’t realize there was less grip than the practice. I didn’t care too much in that point. That’s why this happened."

Heartbreak at home

Lorenzo's brilliant blocking would claim another victim a couple of laps later. To the immense disappointment of the packed crowd, Johann Zarco crashed out of second at Garage Vert. Lorenzo's blocking tactics had forced the Frenchman to push beyond the safe limit in an attempt to find a way past, and he had been punished for it. "The problem was all these laps at the beginning and trying to overtake Lorenzo was too difficult," Zarco reflected after the race. "I tried to do it but I was losing a lot in acceleration, and then to catch him back and then to think about how to overtake him I think this took all my energy and I was more than 100%."

Zarco laid the blame squarely on himself, though he did not feel he had a lot of choice. The dilemma he faced was to try to force a way past and risk crashing, or wait and risk being caught and passed himself. "I did not expect to crash and I should have maybe waited to have less fuel and feel more comfortable, and for Jorge to slow to overtake him," Zarco said. "But the way he was pushing at the moment did not give me this possibility. If I had tried to wait even more I’m losing more positions. I’m in front of a wall and when you don't know what to do you have to give your best."

His decision had perhaps been influenced by the fact that it was his home race, and he was in no mood to settle for fifth. "When we started the race today it was necessary to accept that I have that machine to fight for victory and the others have other machines with their strong and weak points," Zarco said. "Maybe I must race and accept to finish fifth but I don't think it was the mood of the weekend and the mood of the day. I don't think the crash was about pressure it was the reality to give the best to dream about victory. I’ll keep it in mind because it will help me to grow."

Zarco refuted the idea that the pressure of his home race had got to him, but it is hard to see how it could have been otherwise. The crowds behind Zarco's race trucks and at the Monster Tech3 Yamaha hospitality rivaled those massed around Yamaha waiting for Valentino Rossi. The support Zarco received was truly remarkable, beyond the level at other races for their home riders. In France, Johann Zarco is clearly a phenomenon. A race win is on the cards sometime soon, but perhaps the cauldron of Le Mans placed a little too much pressure on his shoulders. This was, after all, only his second race crash in two seasons in MotoGP, the last coming at Qatar.

Living at the limit

But it had been a learning experience. Zarco had soaked up the pressure and tried to turn it into positive energy. He had seen the way that Marc Márquez managed races, and understood that while it is possible to push the limit sometimes, the key to success was balancing risk with reward throughout the race. "We can see that Marc is controlling more races but even when he is in control he can crash, and he saved a nice one today. It means a rider can still be better. Living at that limit I will understand it."

With Dovizioso and Zarco crashing out of the race, the championship took on a different complexion. Marc Márquez had gone from having a modest lead to seeing the potential to open a huge gap over his rivals. With only Jorge Lorenzo ahead of him, second place would have been enough, but Márquez had his eyes on more. The Repsol Honda rider had chosen the hard rear tire, and taken a few laps to get it up to the perfect working temperature, especially given the melee at the start of the race.

"I was the only rider with the hard rear, but this morning I feel really good and I think it was the key for the race," Márquez told the press conference. "I was able to keep a constant pace and I was so constant. Then we start the race and I knew that in the first two laps I will struggle because it takes time to get the correct temperature."

Zarco's tough pass on Márquez on the first lap and the chaos of those opening laps had caused him to reassess his approach. "Everything became more difficult when Johann overtook me in the third corner," Márquez said. "I was wide and then Iannone overtook me, then he crashed in turn 5. Then I nearly hit him. Two riders overtook me. Then I said, okay, cool down a little bit. Then I was pushing hard. I was trying to take the correct temperature on the tires, but then immediately I saw that - I was looking where Dovi was, because he had the best pace during all weekend. When he crashed, then my approach of the race changed a little bit. Then I was more calm. I take more time because I saw that the front tire was so critical."

Super saver

So critical, indeed, that he nearly managed to crash out of the race once again, folding the front in the chicane before saving it. It was nearly identical to the crash he had during FP3, but fortunately for Márquez, the result was different. "In turn 3 I had a moment like FP3," Márquez said. "I crashed there. This crash helps me to save on the race. When I crashed in turn 3, since that moment during all the race I was always careful there. I was so stiff. My elbow was like a stick there and when I lose the front just put the elbow and I pick up the bike."

With his tires up to temperature, Márquez could launch his attack on Jorge Lorenzo. By that point, lap 10, Lorenzo's resistance was starting to crumble. The Spaniard had been holding other riders off by braking late, parking the bike in the middle of the corner, then using the acceleration of the Ducati to fire it out of the corner. This forces anyone behind to stop their bikes too, but they can never match the acceleration of Lorenzo, firstly because of the fearsome drive and mechanical grip which the Desmosedici has, and secondly be Lorenzo is getting a head start.

Lorenzo's tactics have a weakness, however. Because of the way he is approaching the corner – more of a V shape, running deep and turning, then firing it out again – he will sometimes leave the merest hint of daylight on the inside, and that was enough for Marc Márquez to squeeze his Honda RC213V into. With Márquez on the inside line, Lorenzo was forced to stand the bike up, losing his drive.

Once Márquez came through, a whole procession followed. Danilo Petrucci followed a couple of laps later, and Valentino Rossi shortly after that. Then came Jack Miller on the second Pramac Ducati, and eventually even Dani Pedrosa made his way through. Lorenzo ended the race in sixth, and as third Ducati.

Tanking

He put his problems down to the difficulty of holding himself up under braking. The shape of the fuel tank, which is slightly revised for this year (and which isn't necessarily the actual container holding fuel) does not Lorenzo as well, and so he cannot support himself using the tank, he has to rely entirely on his arms. That was taking all his energy, he said. "Physically I didn’t have a good support with the full tank to keep my stamina up for all the race. I am suffering with this from the beginning at tracks like Austin and here where there is a lot of hard braking. Every lap it is a little bit more difficult to keep the corner speed so you need to slow down to turn the bike and they were getting closer before finally overtaking me."

Lorenzo is hoping to test solutions at the Barcelona tire test on Tuesday and Wednesday, where the teams are gathering to check the asphalt of the newly resurfaced track. Whether Ducati can fix his problems or not, he will have to start producing better results than sixth. There is a growing feeling of impatience with Lorenzo within Ducati, and a sense that they are disinclined to continue with him. He was paid a lot of money to come to Ducati and win a championship, but he is yet to win a race. Other options are also disappearing, as Suzuki appears to be inclining towards signing Joan Mir, rather than Lorenzo or Andrea Iannone. A decision on Suzuki's second rider is expected at Mugello. If they choose someone else, Lorenzo could find himself without a ride for 2019.

Run and done

The result of the race had been pretty much decided once Jorge Lorenzo started dropping through the field. Once past the Ducati, Marc Márquez was unleashed, running a pace that was virtually impossible to match. Virtually, but not completely, as Danilo Petrucci made a strong push to close the gap the Repsol Honda rider. Petrucci closed the gap to Márquez, helped in part by Márquez losing the front and then saving it at Turn 3. But once Márquez gathered himself up again, he soon put clear air between himself and the Pramac Ducati rider.

"I was pushing, and then when I start to see 1'32.3, 1'32.4 I say, okay, now he will be slower," Márquez told the press conference. That turned out to be a misconception on his part, however. "But then I see that he keep, he was pushing. I wasn’t able to open a bigger gap. My target was try to arrive 2 seconds, 2.5 because then you can manage better. But he was there in one second, 1.1, 0.9. Was difficult but I keep going, going, going. Last laps my tire still was consistent and maybe his tire drop a little bit and I was able to open a bigger gap."

Márquez rode home to take his third victory in a row in relatively comfortable style. The fact that he did it at Le Mans, a track which has never particularly suited him, is worrying indeed for his rivals. He is fast, but more importantly, he is feeling comfortable on the 2018 Honda RC213V. "Now we must be happy because I’m living a sweet moment between my bike and me," Márquez said. "This is the most important."

A fearsome lead

Márquez' strongest tracks of the year are yet to come: Barcelona, Sachsenring, Brno, Aragon, Phillip Island, Valencia. He leads the championship by 36 points already, not that far off his 42-point advantage at the same stage in the 2014 season, after he won the first five races in a row. Certainly, his rivals view their prospects as rather bleak against him. Valentino Rossi summed it up rather succinctly. "Marc have already a good advantage, but for me the worst thing for rivals is not the advantage in the championship, but is the speed on the track," the Italian said. "He’s the fastest man on the track, so I think that will be very difficult."

Certainly for Andrea Dovizioso, crashing out at Le Mans was a huge blow to his title chances. "It’s bad, really bad," he said. "49 points to Marc is very bad. I think he’s really good to manage every situation, so this is the negative point of today." But with fourteen races left until the end of the season, there is still everything to play for, especially given just how eventful the first five races of the season have been. "Is bad, but as you see from the first round to now, everything can happen in every race."

What gave Dovizioso hope is that he had been much more competitive at tracks which had been traditionally difficult for Ducati. "The really important thing is our speed, in Jerez and here, where last year it was very far," he said. "We did a really great job. I’m so happy about the feeling I have with the bike. Today for sure I was able to fight with Marc. Maybe I have a chance to make a gap also to Marc. That’s why I’m very disappointed. And I'm very sorry to the team, I want to say sorry to them. They did a great job this weekend. We started in a good position with a good speed. During the weekend we improved the bike, and our pace was amazing. I’m very sorry to the engineers at home because this is something that don’t have to happen. "

Where others falter

While it is indisputable that Marc Márquez is the fastest rider in the world at the moment, especially now that he has a bike that he can bend to his will, his lead in the championship is distorted by events. Clearly, Márquez has been fast. But equally clearly, his rivals have stumbled and made mistakes. Andrea Dovizioso's lead in the championship disappeared when he crashed out of Jerez, leaving Johann Zarco chasing Márquez. Zarco's crash at Le Mans means it is now Maverick Viñales sitting in second in the championship.

Look beyond Marc Márquez, and it is a very tight championship indeed. There are just 13 points separating Viñales in second from Dovizioso in ninth, with Zarco, Rossi, Petrucci, Jack Miller, Andrea Iannone, and Cal Crutchlow in between. Should Márquez falter, he could easily be swallowed up by the pack. But he will have to falter at least twice to give the others a chance.

Mr. 3mm

Danilo Petrucci rode an outstanding race, nearly strong enough to challenge Marc Márquez, but eventually he came up just short. He had not expected to be anywhere near the front, after finishing the first day of practice in thirteenth spot. But his team had dropped the forks by 3mm, and this had transformed the handling of the bike, making it a bike almost good enough to win on, Petrucci said.

"Sincerely it appears strange even to me," Petrucci told the press conference. "If you want to know, we go down with the front of the bike for just three millimeters, but in a bike with 280 horsepower three millimeters in the MotoGP change the weekend from thirteenth place to the first. It’s quite strange, but it works. All the weekend I was saying we are there but I miss that 1%, I miss something. We found that three millimeters that in life doesn’t change so much, but in a MotoGP race is a lot. The bike was very good."

Finishing second naturally raised questions of whether Danilo Petrucci or perhaps even teammate Jack Miller would take the place of Jorge Lorenzo in the factory Ducati team. Petrucci was brutally honest in joking about the reason Ducati might make that choice. "Because our salary is less," he quipped. "For sure, beating a factory Ducati is always important. Jorge is a great rider. He won a lot of championships. For sure, for the mind is very, very helpful. Maybe this bike is not a 100% fit for Jorge. I don’t know. I know this bike since three years because the first year I joined Pramac was with GP ’14, it was the very old bike. I think as you said, the choice for Ducati is between me and Jack. But is not a joke, but because our salary is less, for that reason."

Saving grace

Petrucci finished ahead of Valentino Rossi, but for a while, it looked like Rossi might be able to catch the Pramac Ducati. He held the gap to Petrucci at around a second, sometimes closing in but never able to make enough inroads to get back on his tail. But even a third place for Rossi was an achievement, given just how much trouble Yamaha are in at the moment. Or rather, the factory Movistar Yamaha team.

Rossi put his podium down to the excellent work of his team over the weekend. Things had been looking pretty bleak for much of the weekend, and indeed much of the season. But his team found some traction and grip, and this made him much more competitive. "The podium is always important, but it arrives in a difficult technical moment for us," Rossi told the press conference. "So is important for me, for the team and for all of Yamaha. After a good weekend yesterday in the quali I was slow. I started just from the 9th position and sincerely, I was quite pessimistic because the work that we did on Saturday at the end was not good. Yesterday we work hard and we made some modifications on the bike and work well. We improve a lot, improve the acceleration, improve the grip."

Rossi was far from optimistic about these changes being of much benefit at other tracks this year. Asked if the improvements had more to do with the nature of the track than permanent gains on the Yamaha, Rossi was blunt. "I would prefer to tell you that this is good also for the other racetracks, but unfortunately it was this racetrack that help us a lot," he said. "We don’t have particular problem. The problem are just that our opponents are a little bit faster. So we have to work." But he had hope that things might improve at Mugello, a track which has historically been good for Yamaha.

Win it or bin it

Rossi's good fortune did not extend as far as his teammate, and Maverick Viñales' finish, seventh place, nearly 24 seconds behind Marc Márquez, and 18 seconds behind the other Movistar Yamaha, presages big changes on Viñales' side of the garage. The young Spaniard was fiercely critical of his team, his frustration finding expression out on track. He dropped his pace by nearly a second in the latter half of the race, going from high 1'33s to high 1'32s.

That had nothing to do with the work of his team, Viñales said explicitly. "I improved because I was trying to crash in every corner of the track," Viñales stated, his face like thunder. "I only improved for that reason. I don't want to finish the race seventh, I want to finish the race in the top, so I didn't care if I crashed or not. I was trying to do my best. The first part of the race was horrible, I don't understand why, but I could not accelerate, and many riders overtook me, especially on the beginning of the acceleration. But anyway, things are not working well, and we have to change something, to make it work."

What has to change? Viñales refused to be explicit. "I don't know," he said in response to direct questioning. But he was generous with his hints. Asked why Valentino Rossi had finished ahead of him, he took another oblique potshot at his team, saying "I think they work much better through all the weekend, and also in that we can improve to work better, and make a better bike for the race."

What is Viñales alluding to? There have been rumblings of his discontent with his crew chief for some time now, as Viñales feels Ramon Forcada is too conservative in his approach, and not prepared to try radical changes to fix problems. Viñales is constantly pushing Forcada to make aggressive changes, as he told the media at Jerez, while Forcada prefers to make lots of smaller changes in search of the right direction. Whether Viñales is ready to demand Forcada be replaced is far from certain, but by going public like this, Viñales is making his unhappiness clear to Yamaha. Something will have to change if the fury of Viñales is to be abated.

0-15

That something needs to change at Yamaha is obvious. Le Mans made it fifteen races in a row since the Japanese factory last won in MotoGP, Valentino Rossi's victory at Assen the last time they stood on the top step. That is their worst dry spell since the 2002 and 2003 seasons, when they went for 18 races without a win. They went the entire 2003 season without a victory, with Alex Barros and Carlos Checa riding the M1. Only the arrival of Valentino Rossi, and the brilliant engineering of Masao Furusawa, brought them back to the top step.

When will Yamaha win again? Mugello has historically been a good track for the Japanese manufacturer, as has Barcelona. But Ducati is in outstanding shape, good enough to win at Mugello, and Marc Márquez could well reign supreme at his home Grand Prix. Yamaha may well need another Rossi miracle to pull out victory for them at Assen. That would stop the winless streak at 17, one short of the previous record. But until they do take victory, pressure will continue to build on the factory Yamaha team, and Yamaha's MotoGP project. At some point, Yamaha bosses will start to lose patience with those currently leading the project.

Aurora Australis

With a fourth place finish, Jack Miller is more than living up to expectations. He was a second behind Valentino Rossi, and a couple of seconds behind his teammate Danilo Petrucci on the GP18, and still feels he has room to grow. Above all, he was happy with this fourth place, as he felt he had completely earned it. "This is by far my best dry result ever," the Australian said. "To fight with those guys, and just to have visual of Marc the whole race does so much for your confidence, for your self-belief and stuff like that. He was just there. Keep working on it. That would be unreal. We just have to see what we can do."

He felt himself wishing for a longer race, for a change. "It’s the first time in my career that I’ve wished for a race to be longer, normally I'm screaming for the end of the race," Miller joked. "I was focused on him. I was working really hard to try and close the gap to him. I looked at the lap board as I went past and it said eight laps to go. I was just focused on trying to close down to him. I looked and I’m like, I’m catching him and I’ve got three or four laps and I’ll have him. I looked up and it was last lap. I’m like, you’re kidding! I did what I could on that lap. I closed it down to 0.9 of a second, but it wasn’t enough. It would have been nice to bring the Pramacs home in second and third."

Miller made no secret of his desire to be in the factory team, but he was also realistic that it wasn't his choice to make. "The decision I guess is entirely up to Ducati. For me, I’m content. Of course, like I’ve said all along, I’d love to be in that spot. But either way I’m going to be on the same bike next year, with or without the contract, but of course it’s every rider’s dream to be on a factory team. I would love to get there, that’s for sure." Ducati have an option to keep Miller at Pramac for 2019, and if they keep him, which they surely will based on his current form, he will be riding a Desmosedici GP19, the same as the factory team.

The hurt locker

Dani Pedrosa finished fifth, after passing Jorge Lorenzo. Pedrosa is still struggling with the injuries picked up at Argentina and Jerez, though his hand was starting to regain strength. His problem was the internal bruising on his right side, which was making it difficult for him to move freely. With the Barcelona tire test on Tuesday and Wednesday, he will have to wait until Wednesday night before he can be examined, and possibly have some fluid drained from his hip.

Cal Crutchlow was in much worse shape than Pedrosa, yet rode a brave race to finish eighth, ahead of Aleix Espargaro and Alex Rins. Crutchlow suffered a massive highside during Q1, and the consequences of that crash left him in hospital for the night. His injuries were more serious than they needed to be, however, as he had not changed his leathers between FP4 and Q1, and the airbag in his suit had gone off. That meant that when he was flung up into the air, there was no airbag to cushion his fall.

"It was completely my own fault, first of all," Crutchlow said. "The Alpinestars airbag works fantastically, but it only goes off once on our suits. And that's not because we want it to go off once, that's not to save weight, that's the way it's designed. It never went off because I never changed leathers. And I never changed leathers because I couldn't get in the other suit, because at the time - between FP4 and Q1 - I started to try to get in it, couldn't get in it for one reason or another, so I opted to keep the same suit. My own fault."

Normally, riders wear an undersuit to make it easier to get their leathers on and off when they are sweating. But some riders prefer not to wear them, for whatever reason. Perhaps Cal Crutchlow's search for any tiny detail to give him an advantage in the race extends to discarding as much weight as possible, wherever possible. A trait common among the many professional cyclists Crutchlow counts among his friends.

The importance of airbags

Crutchlow was honest about how the airbag would have reduced the injuries he suffered. "I've not even a shadow of a doubt that the suit definitely would have helped me, in terms of my injuries," he said. "The airbag goes straight over my hip, which I basically nearly broke. As I said my own fault for not changing suit, nothing to do with Alpinestars, nothing to do with anybody else. And it definitely would have helped me and protected me more."

Those injuries were serious enough to leave him hospitalized. "Sure, I winded myself but the big thing is - which is the really I stayed in hospital - was I have blood on the lung, I had a contusion to my pelvis area, I thought my pelvis was broke honestly because internally around my stomach area was really sore at the time and when I go to the Medical Center. I had a CT scan and they found there was a problem with the lung. The proteins of the heart were not good, that was another reason they kept me in, but it would have been the contusion of my arse. A contusion sends your heart protein strange. So that's why they kept me in and I had to have the oxygen for quite a long time yesterday. But I left the hospital this morning so I was able to come to the track and then go out this morning."

Crutchlow was upset that Race Direction hadn't red-flagged the session earlier, as he was still left lying on the track. "I was really upset at the time that the red flags didn't come out because I was lying at the side of the track with bikes coming past my head, with marshals around me that are also in danger," the LCR Honda rider said. "There's nothing we can do about it now…the red flag went out, but it went out after the checkered flag was out. I know it's a qualifying session but I was lay there absolutely unable to breathe but they were couldn't attend to me because they were watching where the bikes were coming from."

Moto3 madness

Race Direction came in for a lot of criticism during the Moto3 race as well. In what was a thrilling race with the cream of the class knocking lumps out of each other, with all the spectacle that entails. Jorge Martin, Marco Bezzecchi, Fabio Di Giannantonio, Jakub Kornfeil, Enea Bastianini, Niccolo Antonelli, Albert Arenas, and Andrea Migno, battled for most of the race, the action concentrated at the front between Martin, Bezzecchi, Di Giannantonio, and Bastianini.

In a hard battle, track limits are likely to be exceeded, especially on a Moto3 bike which needs to maintain as much corner speed as physically possible, and therefore sticks to wider lines. Race Direction came down hard on those exceeding the white lines, handing out penalties to all and sundry, though the variation in time penalties rendered the process by which they were obtained entirely opaque.

What made the situation even more troublesome was the fact that the race result was effectively decided by penalties. After a dramatic last corner, which saw Bezzecchi make the single mistake of his race, his rear tire gripped and then slipped in the final corner, tossing him off the bike and putting his KTM in the path of the oncoming Jorge Martin. Martin went down with Bezzecchi, leaving victory to Fabio Di Giannantonio. Or so he thought: after the checkered flag came out, Di Giannantonio was handed a 3 second penalty, robbing him of victory and demoting him to fourth place.

It was a heartbreaking decision for Di Giannantonio. This would have been his very first Grand Prix victory, and he had ridden an outstanding race. But he was handed a penalty with no explanation, at least not to the fans. Whether the penalty was justified or not, we do not know. We can only take the FIM Stewards Panels word for it. It would vastly improve the situation if they were to issue press releases after contentious races such as this, to explain what each of the penalties were, and why they were given. The way it was handled made it look amateurish and arbitrary.

Evel Kornfeil

If the spectacle of a last-corner pile up and the all-too visual heartbreak of Di Giannantonio, pulled from Parc Ferme with his head in his hands, was not enough for you, there was always Jakub Kornfeil. Enea Bastianini fell on the exit of the last corner, forcing Kornfeil out wide and through the gravel behind him. Unable to avoid Bastianini's stricken Honda, Kornfeil had no option than to try hold on and jump the Honda, and hope not to come off too badly when he landed. The Czech rider executed a nigh on perfect landing in the gravel, and continued his race, eventually finishing in sixth.

Di Giannantonio's penalty handed victory in Moto3 to Albert Arenas, his first win and his first ever podium. His teammate Andrea Migno took second, a stunning 1-2 for the Angel Nieto team. It was a much-needed boost for a hard-working but often cash-strapped team. Marcos Ramirez' third place made it a KTM podium shut out. This is something of a turnaround for the Austrian factory in Moto3, after Honda had walked all over them in 2017. New exhausts and an update to the engine (presumably on the inlet side, the engine internals being frozen for the year) made a big difference to the top speed of the KTM, the Hondas visibly struggling to get out of the slipstream to pass.

Young stars rising

In Moto2, Pecco Bagnaia continued on the path to his first world title, winning the race with relative ease. Alex Márquez finished second, losing yet more ground in the championship to Bagnaia. The Spaniard seems doomed to always find an obstacle in his path to a Moto2 title.

His teammate may prove to be yet another obstacle. Joan Mir took his first podium in Moto2, after a very strong weekend at Le Mans. No doubt boosted by talks with Suzuki over a MotoGP ride next year, Mir kept his teammate honest all race long. Mir's first victory is surely on its way sometime soon.

Also worthy of note was Xavi Vierge's ride. The Spaniard was supposed to start from the front row, but was forced to head to the back of the grid when he couldn't leave pit lane in time to take up his qualifying position. Vierge fought his way through the field to finish fifth, 9 seconds back from Bagnaia.

Mahindra's legacy

Pecco Bagnaia's victory in Moto2 uncovered another hidden strand in motorcycle racing. What do Bagnaia, who controlled Moto2 all weekend, and Jorge Martin and Marco Bezzecchi, the two main Moto3 protagonists have in common? They are all graduates of Mahindra, having ridden the Indian machine in previous years. Being underpowered, the Mahindra taught its riders that they needed to make the difference themselves, and find extra performance in their riding instead of the bike. Those lessons stay with a rider throughout their careers, allowing them to dig deep when they have to and ride around problems. That is a skill which will turn a good rider into a great one, and help them win championships by limiting the damage on bad days and maximizing their advantages on good days. Mahindra may not have scored a huge amount of success for themselves in Grand Prix racing, but they have left a lasting legacy.


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Total votes: 45
Total votes: 27

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Comments

If anyone hasn't seen the Kornfeil incident, seek it out (MotoGP tweeted it and MM retweeted). It was incredible, I've never seen the like of it!

Total votes: 40

... probably the most extraordinary sight I’ve ever seen in a GP.

Total votes: 23

I might have been mistaken, but did I see Jack Miller pass Lorenzo a P45 as he overtook him?

Total votes: 118

Lorenzo needs to be offering to ride for Suzuki for free before he's rding around car parks again.

Total votes: 26

It did occur to me a few days ago that Jorge might well find himself without a ride next year if he’s not careful. I expect he wouldn’t be the first big name to disappear into obscurity through letting his ego get the better of him. And it’s still the bike, not him! Someone needs to try to talk to him about why it’s sometimes better to take the blame on yourself, even if you don’t believe it’s true. Personally, if I owned Suzuki I’d be thinking, “so if I hire you, am I going to spend two years trying to make my excellent bike suit you”? Or should I hire someone who’ll never stop thanking me and give 110% every race.

I don’t gamble but all the same I’ll wager 5 chocolate buttons that Jorge will be on a Kawasaki in wsbk next year.

 

Total votes: 35

Its a shame, Lorenzo is a brilliantly talented rider, but his sulky and truculant attitude hinders him when things aren't going well. It seems WSBK will have to expand the grid for all those riders getting the boot from MotoGP though. Pity Redding and Smith, WSBK is already packed with fast superbiking Brits.

Total votes: 23

i think we may see two or three move back to domestic series like BSB. Overall this might be a good thing, wsbk for instance looks stale and a transfer of a few decent MotoGP riders could really shake it up.

Total votes: 22

Jorge is the 2nd best rider in MotoGP. The only one to win a WC in the Marquez era. 

Total votes: 24

Flying skills are what folk will be thinking about when Jacob's name come up, but he was the first of the riders to be given a 3 second penalty yet that seemed remarkably harsh seeing was pushed off the track at the chicane by a another rider doing as in the immortal words of the late Barry Sheene, stuffing it up the inside. Rather than closing the door and risking all, something that post Argentina Race Direction are keen for riders not to do, Jacob stood it up ran wide and lost track position. So why the penalty?   

Total votes: 29

I thought it was because he didn't rejoin correctly (i.e. dropped a place or two?)

Total votes: 16

Ok, fair. Rules state you get a penalty for exceeding track limits.  It's a sport with rules.  Stay in the lines or suffer penalties.  However, the FIM Stewards seem to have no rhyme or reason as to the times.  Di Giannantonio gained a place when he exceeded the track limits.  That's really frickin' easy! Don't level a penalty after they have crossed the finish line. Immediately have him drop a position.  It doesn't even take an extensive review.  "You gained a position. Drop one."  Hell, drop two if they want to be strict.  At least it happens during the race, and it's an easy one to call.  The other two major time penalties are a little more difficult because no position was gained.  Still, the Stewards could lay out some kind of expected time penalty before the race so the riders, teams, announcers, and viewers could all figure it out with some predictability.  "If you exceed track limits, and do not gain a position, then you will be docked 1.5s.  If you gain any positions you will be told to drop that number of positions +1," or some such statement like that before the race.  Yes, I recognize that in a tight pack it would encourage riders to intentionally gain one position because it's a lesser penalty than 1.5s.  I'm not saying that is exactly what the announcement should be.  I'm just saying something that can be predictable should be announced before the race starts, and definitely before the chekered flag falls!  It's pretty absurd when the professional announcers, that work for the company that sponsors the series, cannot figure out who should be where on the podium when the checkered flag drops.  It makes Dorna and the FIM look like bafoons.

Total votes: 25

For every track excursion, riders are given a 2 second penalty. If they lose track position or time in the process, that is subtracted from the 2 seconds (this was explained by Loris Baz on Twitter as a rule all MotoGP riders wanted).  That happened to Kornfeil (1.8 seconds), but in his case it was pretty unfair as Jorge Martin had swung into his line as JK was about to tip in, leaving him no room and sending him off track.  This wasn’t the first time JM did that in the race yet race direction did not “investigate” the passes (not that I’m saying there should have been a penalty but it would have at least put him on notice).

As for Fabio DiGiantonio, we didn’t quite get to see if he was attempting to go around the outside of JK or if JK was trying to pass him, but FD went off track and made a place.  So Race Direction gave him his 2 seconds plus an extra second for time/position gained.  FD would have known he gained a position and should have given it back up straight away as race direction might have looked on him favourable, seeing how close the tangle was.  But he didn’t, and he got a penalty. It’s a shame they weren’t able to issue the penalty sooner though and that would have been heartbreaking to have a win taken off you.

Total votes: 23

Could Korfiel's team have appealed the 1.8 secs penality & what time window is available to the teams?

Total votes: 11

 

Thank you, David, for the great report.

I’m appalled at the continuing incompetent actions of Race Direction: their erratic decisions and their lack of transparency is unacceptable. First Cal’s crash : it does not matter it’s quali time : there should have been red flags out immediately! To see the red flag AFTER the checkered flag was surreal! it makes me wonder: was it just sheer incompetence (again !) or a last minute thought to cover their back in case someone filed a complaint ? Since the Argentinian debacle i've been paying more attentionat RD decisions and actions and it seems to me that they are making one mistake after the other. As for poor "Diggia"... rules are rules, that I get, but how about a clear explanation? When did he make the mistake? why wasn't the team given notice? Why 3 seconds and not 1 or 15 ? it's just ridicolous. 

As for the race and pivotal moments... I will not argue here the pivotal moment in 2015... :) It's no secret where I stand, and obviously I disagree with you about being the motegi race...  IMO, the pivotal moment of this 2018 season was ... the season pre-tests. I remember writing something about the Honda's pace and how scary it was for the rest of the field.... The only thing I did not expect was Dani getting injured so soon. But basically Honda is right now the best package and there is no way that one ducati (Dovizio's) can stand against against 2 or 3 hondas... The championship is already done and dusted. And as you wrote, now it's the battle for first runner up. 

If Dovi had not binned it we would have seen a different race, with maybe a different outcome and a slight hope for a tighter championship... But even the cool strategic calm Dovi can make mistakes... I found interesting what he said about Zarco behnid him... he has a very good point in the fact that he knew that having him behind could have led to disaster as he was making some dumb moves... (not these precise words) : personally I don't think that Zarco lost it because of the pressure. Rather, it's a frame of mind that's been building since the end of last season both him and his manager Fellon, when they talk to the French press they always find a way to remind that JZ is better than the factory yamaha boys and that he is like Lorenzo, and i quote "is much better to beat Marquez on a KTM than on the same Honda" (sic). So, I think that he is losing his cool, and bulding up some fantasy where  he wants to play it as if he were a mix of Lorenzo and Marquez : he wants to do the holeshot like Lorenzo (to impose his pace - without aknowledging that so far his pace is never the best pace in the race) and then just overtake in barging mode à la Marquez  (that too, so far, did not take him too far). He is talented, no doubt, but his real place is between P5 and P8 depending on the track. Maybe this mistake in Le Mans, calmed him down a little and he will regroup and be competitve without the big head. Back to Dovi, his bike was really strong in Le Mans and I expect him to be great at Mugello, but it won't be enough for the championship fight.  Speaking of Mugello, not even a miracle will change the fate of the Yamahas : they said themselves that last week's test at the Italian track was a disaster... I'm getting ready for another very painful race week end. 

on a side note : there is another thing that the young rising stars have in common - at least Bezzecchi and Bagnaia : they are both with the VR46 academy.... 

last but not least : Kornfeil !!! meme of the month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total votes: 59

So, only now have a seen the Moto3 race. I think RD did fine and were correct to dish out extremely severe penalties.

Those riders are the least disciplined in all of the paddock and they constantly make a mockery of every rule they can between safe riding and adhering to track limits.

Giannantonio would have never done that if the track were surrounded by grass and gravel. Anywhere else he would have simply conceded the position and slotted behind. There were other instances as well of riders ignoring chincanes. I lost count of how many time they went over and off the kerb on the exit of the last corner.

So yeah, a lesson in track limits was necessary. Well done RD.

Hit one, teach a hundred.

PS: KTM seems to have recovered from the thumping they got by Honda in 2017.

Total votes: 25

As ever, a great round up and pleasing to see more observations and comments pertaining to the junior classes. I never miss the junior races. Jorge Martin is still my pick of the crop in a very tight (as ever) class. Its his consistency and KTM sure found some lost grunt at Le Mans versus Honda. Moto2. It looks like Alex Marquez is destined to be the eternal bridesmaid in this class. KTM factory riders Binder(also an ex Moto3 Mahindra graduate to Moto3 KTM) and Oliviera got the short end of the stick when Baldassari crashed out. It was catch up for them from then onwards. Xavi Vierge did a great job. MotoGP. mmm...Desperate Dovi and zero Zarco. Their crashes had all and nothing to do with 'ever widening roadblock' Lorenzo for the same reasons. They both knew they were in a fantastic space and knew Marc would be coming hard after 10 laps on the hard rear. Lorenzo did nothing wrong but he sure is an irritation on that bike with his early race pace(soft front) vs overall race long pace of the others. This championship is not Marc's yet but its sure bent his way by and large by his doings on any Sunday. Argentinian drama aside he is basically doing a 2014 repeat. Its great to sit on the couch watch the race, analyse it and reflect. You can't do that in the moment on the bike for sure but maybe you can figure out a different plan of attack for the next race given same circumstance. Dovi knows he can beat Marc in a straight fight and Marc acknowledges as much. Perhaps he may think of letting Marc take it to Lorenzo and follow through in future. I dunno. Lorenzo has made his intentions clear from my viewpoint anyway. ie; get the better of Dovi no matter what the end result. Which brings me to the last of the blank spots for 2019 within Ducati. Like Pit Beirer of KTM confirmed. KTM are running 4 Factory bikes next year whether official KTM or Tech3 KTM. Same bikes, same support. Go thee Ducati and do likewise. Pramac with Peco/Petrux and official Ducati with Dovi/Miller or whatever combo within Pramac. Lorenzo is more a spanner in the works for Ducati than an asset. Jarvis was talking up Yamaha running 4 bikes next year. Lorenzo should be welcomed back there much as Rossi was back then and help get the M1 back to its sweet all round roots. Joan Mir to Suzuki GP 2019 would be a good side bet right now.

 

Total votes: 34

When Dovi has the better bike/set-up (and resulting pace) so Márquez is over-riding the Honda to keep up and takes a low-probablility of sucess last-corner pass attempt, yes.  When the pace is relatively equal or better for Márquez, no.  In all these last corner battles, no one else on a Honda would have been anywhere near enough to Dovi to even make an attempt at passing for the win.

Total votes: 31

While I get your point, the same counts for Dovi: no one else on a Ducati rides it well enough to even get a chance for a last corner battle. 

Total votes: 19

I am baffled that Petrucci is so surprised about the effect of raising the front by three millimeters. I'm no MotoGP rider, just a sporty road & track rider, but on most bikes that makes a real diference in feel, unless they are very far off the right setting. Anything from two, three millimeters is noticable. This is nothing new to anybody who does a bit of fiddling with the preload of their front forks, which for ride height is effectively the same as dropping or raising the fork legs. Three millimeters more or fewer preload on the front forks is usually very noticable and can often mean the difference between feeling insecure and having a neutral steering bike with a planted feel. Very strange that at Pramac they seem to have found this out only now.

Still, even though I've known this for a very long time, I too am amazed by the fact that this is so. Just think about the amount of movement there is in the suspension, and even just in the tyre. That's already way more than 3 mm. It shows how sensitive motorcycle geometry is, and also probably why it's a permanent battle to get it right with all those suspension and chassis parameters.

 

Total votes: 37

Preload and ride height may seem to overlap but are not the same thing. Its possible that with LeMans having a bunch of heavy braking zones the team added a little preload to the fork for extra bottoming resistence and it negativly affected steering feel. At this point the forks can be brought up triple clamps to reset the ride height and maintain the new, desired fork action. The concept of juggling spring rates and preload front and rear to maximise suspension action, then adjusting ride heights front and rear - via fork position at the front and the linkage adjuster at the rear - to manipulate chassis balance works universially from humble roadbikes to MotoGP monsters.   

Total votes: 35

3mm??? ... How did they even come up with the number? or for the fact how did they even think about this in the first place? to tweak his travel. This gives us an idea how good the communication needs to be between the rider and his crew and in turn his crew understanding his requirement.

But still it just amazes me as to how they come up with these things, I remember in 2015 Vale's crew chief fiddled with something related to the wheels and Vale found his confidence back!!!

with so many parameters in place they come up with this ... Just stunning !!!

 

Total votes: 23

Can't tell if you are taking the piss?  Adjusting ride height is one of the basic setup options available to to anyone wanting to change the handling of their bike.

Total votes: 24

As a road rider, I've even found that it's worth adjusting the ride height as the tyres wear.  New tyres tend to turn in [too] quickly until they wear in - raising the front a few mm helps negate this.  When the tyres wear down a bit, lower the front a bit to regain the fast turn in.  This is one of the most basic bike handling modifications you can make - after setting the sag and damping on the suspension.

Total votes: 11

Every decision Yamaha have made since 2013 & the return of the Prodigal from Ducati have been in favour of the GOAT. He flounced off in the first place because JLo was besting him but since his return he's engineered the demise of two team mates who were both beating him out on the track. It was smart of Yamaha to sit on the fence when the wall first went up but extremely dumb for them to fail to back Vinales when his debut proved he was the one who could take the fight to Marquez at the start of last season. Now they are up shit creek without a paddle.  Jarvis will go - he should have exerted some discipline back when Rossi started spouting conspiracy theories about Marc. He's the architect of his own downfall. So will both crew chiefs probably - Jerry Burgess will pour them the first drink. Meanwhile the factory are too busy working on 'the succession' to recognise they may have a problem.  Let's leave it to Herve to break the news to them when Zarco finishes the season as top Yamaha rider and they're both off to wear orange.

Total votes: 78

but Jarvis should also go for Argentina - he should have told Uccio to shut up and go back to Rossi's motorhome, and talked to Márquez and Puig - a real lack of proper leadership was shown there.

Total votes: 47

Totally disagree: when Vinales swapped Suzuki blue for Yamaha bluer, Yamaha pretty much ignored Rossi’s feedback on the first iteration of the 2017 M1, obviously having the attitude that MV was the chosen one: “ A new sun (son) has risen!”. 

And so it was for the first few races of 2017: “winners are grinners” personified in MV, with a struggling VR. Only for the sun (son) to set unexpectedly early and Yamaha have been in the dark ever since, save for Rossi’s false dawn at Assen.

After MV repeatedly shrugged his shoulders as to what the issue was (by his own admission he could not explain what was wrong with the bike) Yamaha only relucantly turned to Rossi and said: “Pardon? Did you say something”

In the meantime Honda, hamstrung by a recalcitrant engine, made the absolute best of their chassis. Come 2018 and the chance to combine a great new engine, with a beautiful chassis, the best racer on the planet, and we are approaching a level of domination not seen since Agostini picked up the phone to find Count Agusta on the other end. Not quite unbeatable, but the RCV/MM combo is odds on to win every single race week. 

So no, this is not a Rossi problem, it is a Yamaha problem, exacerbated by a reluctance to chase Magnetti Marrelli staff as others have done. 

Total votes: 24

Pedrosa just signed with SUZUKI?!
Yep.
Lorenzo, Iannone, both quite good and getting cheaper by the day.
Petrucci looks great. Miller is strong.
Mir is the one they want.
A Repsol seat is a rare event. How long was Pedrosa on that bike?
Betting Honda goes with the kid and it works.
Ducati takes someone they know from within since Bagnia is signed. Petrucci, one yr deal.
Lorenzo to Aprilia?!

Edit - source redacted on Pedrosa to Suzuki. False alarm. Staying tuned.

Total votes: 28

Rumor has it that Lorenzo wanted to go to suzuki but asked so much money that Brivio is still laughing  tears in his eyes and cannot stop laughing out loud.

Mir is not so sure of wanting Honda because he does not want to be the gentle pet project while all eyes are on Marquez.

Ciabatti is seriously considering giving  Petrux Jorge's  seat.

Vinales is firing forcada

Why watch soap operas when we have real drama in the paddock? :)

Total votes: 30

the italian grapevine were working against Lorenzo? His rivalry with Rossi and Dovizioso, plus his Ducati struggles and the fact Petrucci and him are in direct contention for a seat give them more than enough reasons to try to weaken his stance in the paddock.

Just asking.

Total votes: 25

If you are really asking then let me tell you that ducati fans have always been almost nationality blind...proof is the worship of Stoner... pure devotion like the Napolitans with Maradona. In other words Lorenzo could be from mars or even from another galaxy, as long as he wins they don't care.  But he does not, win. Moreover he did nothing, nothing! to show some caring for the team. 

My post was just a joke about the rumors heard via different media.  The only truth in it was the Ciabatti part: i saw him in his post le mans interview and he said  that the odds in favor of petrucci were high and that by Mugello ducati will have made a decision.

Total votes: 31

I hope he finds a good ride next season. When he sits in his couch and guys like Karel, Simeon are racing in MotoGP, sooner or later fans will think there is something wrong here. Evenif he must accept a paycut I really wish he can stay.

Total votes: 32

I may be wrong but I thought Karel’s dad has bankrolled his racing career hasn’t he? Plus he’s never going to even win a race on that bike, barring everyone else falling off.

I guess the reality is that there are dozens of riders out there, maybe even hundreds, with the potential to win on a top factory bike, and part of what converts potential to results is attitude. So it’s probably fairer to look at the best midpack riders and ask, why Lorenzo rather than one of them?

Total votes: 27

Young talent is coming and this is good. Agreed w your comment re the value of a few top notch riders coming to WSBK, we are about to see a few.
Hoping that the pay to play backmarker customer situation at the rear of the pack that is sometimes seen as a solid thing isn't and is displaced by 6 more factory bikes in Jr Teams. Avintia may be the last of its kind for a while.

I think Jorge and Monster are doing some serious planning w Suzuki now. Hams shrinking by the day for the rider, program growing for Suzuki.
MarcVDS w Mir could be too.
Very interested in this trend!
(Tech3- KTM. Aspar-Aprilia? Sky46-Yamaha?)

Total votes: 17

Bartholomew left the event last weekend "to not escalate an unreasonable situation over explaining bills for 26K Euros that I am confident I would win in court about."
MarcVDS has ended their relationship. Contract reckoning. Ugly stuff.
Hope it works out. But if it isn't about establishing a Jr Team for Suzuki? Quickly not caring so much. Customers schmustomers.

Total votes: 29

JL is running out of options. I think this is one year that securing a seat early would've worked in your favour. Even if JL sits out a season there are plenty of great options coming up through the ranks in the next few years that to sign him after a year out may be a risk. 

 

2019 with no JL, if it happens who woudl've thought.

Total votes: 25

This puts his salary into perspective.  He took a huge gamble leaving Yamaha, who had offered him equal money/status with Rossi, and most likley an ongoing relationship assuming his results were maintained.  He's an easy guy to dislike, but I feel he has copped a lot of unwarranted flack for the money he asked to jump ship.  He asked, Ducati paid, deal done, no need for the pillory.  He risked his career by moving and unlike Rossi he does not have the pull to get himself back into Yamaha.

According to PecinoGP even Rossi had to offer his services for nix to get back to Yam, he craftily offered to ride for free but take a cut of sponsorship.  His popularity presumably had an effect on sponsors and thus he raked in the cash as well as being back on the right bike for him.  The bloke is no mug.

Where (if anywhere) Lorenzo ends up will be very interesting...

Total votes: 36

So Marc lost 25 in Argentina and that was matched by Dovi falling all on his own in Le Mans. But to even out things Marc will have to be taken out by Lorenzo and Pedrosa at Mugello 

Total votes: 18

"So, Bambi, when did you think the turning point was in this fight?"

"Well, Howard, I would say about three seconds into the first round, when he crushed my spine with his giant lizard foot"

Can anyone give Marc-zilla a run for the title? On a strictly one-on-one basis over the course of the season, I think the sober answer is either "No" or "Hell No!". I believe, and still do, that Dovi could (and may yet) give Marc a decent scrap for the crown, but only as part of a committed Team effort by Ducati. But Ducati doesn't have a Team; they have Dovi...and they also have the world's best paid drag racer, who unfortunately then treats the next 26+ laps as the strip return road and transforms himself into a rolling Majorcan Paracarro. Jorge was slow in sectors 2 and 3, and disturbingly slow when he had someone trying to overtake him (and would then promptly drop his lap times 3-4 tenths after being passed). In other words, to quote the movie Patton: "George, you're a pain in the ass". I don't know what his plans are for 2019, but it appears his fate is now controlled by Patrucci. Another great finish in Mugello by Danillo and I think Jorge's goose may be well and truly cooked. He is dragging around about two-million Euros of Monster Sponsorship money that will be gifted to whoever signs him, but will that be enough to put up with a rider who, many months after throwing a leg over this year's bike, suddenly discovers the GP18 doesn't fit his...well...groin region?? (and then promptly shares that little gem with whatever press still follows him). After a very difficult Sunday, I am pretty sure Dall'igna was not in the mood for: "Gigi, mi sono fatto male all'inguine".

And don't get me wrong, I have the very highest respect for Jorge's skill on a motorcycle. He is truly one of the very best that I ever saw, and maybe the best front-runner I ever will. But I cannot escape one very dark thought: The worst bit of luck Jorge Lorenzo ever had was winning the 2015 MotoGP Title. Not for any of the normal drama queen nonsense, but because that triumph precipitated the chain of events that led straight from the Valencia Podium to near Paracarro status. If for some reason he had been second in 2015 I really believe his future would have taken a much happier path, and he would still be riding a bike from Iwata perfectly suited for his amazing skills (and one that...evidently...provides all the groin comfort a man could ever want). It is almost a Greek tragedy, as of course Lorenzo cannot be in any way faulted for doing what champions are supposed to do, namely win. So he won...and then he lost. (Of course, the other explanation is that there may also be some gypsy crone in Tavullia with mad Stregheria skills that I, for one, never want to get on the wrong side of).

Speaking of Tavullia and witchcraft, kudos to Vale's crew for a great effort this weekend. Looking at the Sector 2 times (with the hard acceleration points out of La Chappele and Musee), Rossi was not only quick, but was quick the whole race. Fastest lap and fastest Sectors 2 & 3 splits on lap 17, which is also the segment of the race where Marc and Danillo were at their best. It's been a while since we have seen that from Rossi with an elevated track temp, but we will have to wait for Mugello to understand if this is a substantive improvement, or really down to the grip and topology of Le Mans. By the way, Michelin provided a nice explanation of why there were so many gravel naps Saturday and Sunday...high grip levels. While seemingly counter-intuitive, Michelin explained that at high grip levels, when the tire does break loose, it does so very, very quickly (and that releases a lot of energy). Low grip levels are actually more forgiving as the tire has stored a lot less energy, so recovery is a far better proposition.

A few random thoughts:

Danillo...brilliant. Imagine what he could have done with a four mm drop up front.

Miller has a lot more in the tank, and will only get better. When looking at lap and sector times he was one of four riders that were on a completely different level Sunday, but of those four he was the clearly the least consistent. The speed is already there, the consistency will come with a few more races.

Zarco didn't look like he had a winning set-up as the weekend went on, and his bike's stability looked pretty shaky Sunday. I also have last week's winning lottery numbers and yesterday's weather report if anyone is interested.

Dani had another brave ride, but not the speed of the leading group. He wasn't going to catch Miller or Vale no matter when he passed Jorge.

Cal has a fine brain in his head. He needs to give it a chance to help him. The "no airbag" stunt was idiotic. And for pity's sake,  stop worrying about who you are towing in practice. Several times already this year he has pulled over unnecessarily because, well, that is what all the fast guys do, and Cal is a fast guy. But trust me on this one, mate, you are not going to ruin your weekend just because Luthi is in your wake, nor are you are going to tow Hafizh onto a front row start and upset the cosmic balance of the universe. What you are doing is letting your tires cool off and losing opportunities. You only had 18 laps in FP3 while a lot of the riders (who wound up in front of you) had 20-24. And while you set an absolutely blistering final lap in FP3 (that would have completely removed any need to go though Q1), it went for naught as you were five bloody seconds late crossing the start/finish line on that attempt, so the session was over. Slowing down for a clear bit of track is fine. Slowing down because an occasional top 12 rider is behind you makes no sense. Glad that you are OK though. Cheers.

PS - One additional thought on the Marc VDS mess. The MotoGP bikes are leased from Honda. But Honda must have some very real concerns about the legal liabilities they may incur from the current state of Bedlam. They have no concerns about being paid, as Marc van der Stratten will take care of the bills, but just calling it racing does not negate the applicable EU laws when it comes to risk and responsibility, and Italy may actually be an (extreme) example of a place you do not want anything associated with you coming un-tethered at 200 mph and hurting someone without a very clear definition of roles and responsibilities for the safe preparation and operation of your leased equipment. Marc VDS canceled a MotoGP test session (scheduled for before the next race) on very short notice. Most fingers were pointed at M. Bartholemy as the villain, but I suspect that the Honda Shoguns back in Tokyo may have simply said "we let you race this weekend for the good of the sport, but you are not to touch our property again until you have a clear legal resolution to your issues". So, does this get hashed out quickly by Marc VDS...or will there be two less bikes on the grid at Mugello? Some additional insight available on Speedweek.com.

 

Total votes: 49

That's what I was thinking as well. They prepared a bike to be fast alone ( and QP proved it ) but not a bike to fight in the race. they exploited all the corner speed they could and sacrificed braking and/or acceleration. This kind of setup works in QP and if Zarco could have ran away alone. But the bad start killed this strategy and he had to obviously override the bike . the crash was a logical end of the whole process in my opinion.  Quite frustrating (I was on the track to see him fall in the gravel at Garage Vert Corner) . I'm not sure the M front tyre was the ideal choice neither. Zarco ran the Soft front almost all the WE. 

Surely he should have change his strategy and let Dovi and Marquez go and try to stay close. He could have been third or maybe fourth and would be a solid second in the championship but that kind of decision is more easy to take in a sofa in front of a TV. 

Looks very much Tech3's M1 was a limiting factor in my opinion.  Zarco has no margin to play with during the race.

But the sadest in this GP was to see Jorge Lorenzo so slow in the middle of the corner. It was obvious at "La Chapelle" corner. I mean... Jorge is the king of corner speed and to see him so slow is disheartening. Surely Ducati/Lorenzo relationship is kinda toxic for both. I'm not a Lorenzo fan but to see him disappear from the grid would be a total nonsense in my humble opinion. I hope he and his manager will understand they have to lower by much their expectancy in term of salary. Maybe to the point to ride for free as Rossi did for yamaha in 2013 as told us Manuel Pecino. 

Total votes: 30

This was very very funny. And many of the comments made in a more serious light seemed pretty enlightened too.

Motomatters is inspiring the best reader comments on the entire internet.

From now on I intend to appropriate: "Gigi, mi sono fatto male all'inguine". as my all-purpose incantation.

Total votes: 19

1) Marc Marquez must be one of the physically strongest (for his size) MotoGP riders; his crash-saving appears to require a substantial amount muscular effort, and his style - when viewed in slow motion - obviously requires a huge amount of strength to maintain.

2) Speculation: does Tech3 use different software compared to the factory Yamaha team?  I know myth-making is important, Zarco's wrist etc. - but we are long years from that being anything like reality.  Recall the huge advantage Honda had with the seamless gearbox.  I wonder if Tech3 is quietly using slightly different software.  I haven't looked closely enough to see.

Total votes: 20

Tech 3 are using the 2017 engine, which they already have a years worth of data for and is pretty much already as sorted as it's getting.

The factory boys are using a new engine, for which they have little data for and are struggling to get on top of.

I suspect all woes could be sorted if they had 2 weeks of solid testing, but this is a luxury that is pure fantasy unfortunately.

Macca

 

 

Total votes: 18

As for Cal, over the last half a season or more, I’ve been noticing Cal gesticulate quite often post practice and qualifying sessions, whilst coming down pit lane, and sometimes, even during the sessions.  Sometimes the hand movements look like some kind of sign language, sometimes like imitating playing a fiddle, other times…. Well, who knows.  But I do know they aren’t waving to the crowd.  He is trying to send some kind of message because he always seems to do it when the cameras are on him.  Cal does sometimes come across a bit mad (the crazy kinda mad) and I just can’t seem to figure out what these hand movements are all about? 

Has anyone else noticed this?  What is he doing?

Total votes: 23

Many of you fellow bloggers have put a fair assessment of where the current status of MotoGP is at.

A few have put in some interesting commments of how each rider has put themselves into the situation they all face now for the rest of the season.

One thing is obvious, unless Marquez breaks a major bone in his body, he and Honda are grinning all the way to the chequered flag in Valencia.

Yamaha... They obviously need to change their approach, or as Vale alluded to"I haven't got that much time left" and Vinales is such a weapon they should be exploiting him with a competitive machine as they did this time last year.

Ducati. Dovi will be kicking himself up the bum for his blunder this week but knowing he could be within single digits of Marc if he could have completed the last 2 races. Lorenzo will try but the harmony with the bike has not come soon enough, get yourself on the Suzi mate and I believe it may come easier for your ambitions.

Miller and Petrucci. Wow, what a great team battle at the moment. Jack has just jumped onto a Duke and is motoring. He understands why he isn't ready for a podium just yet, but is learning how to get there. Impressive. 

Danilo, been on the Duke for a few years now and has had solid results for a period now. I think if I were Tardozzi, Jack is the man for the future factory seat. Young,keen,learning and hungry and Dovi would either pick up his game even more consistently given the bike has been developed around him for many years now or win like he may still this year. 

Either way, Jorge has just not adapted quick enough to the red bike and will need to find a way to achieve the sucess he deserves.

Lots of young talent coming through like Mir,Bagnaia,Baldasari,Oliveria and co. so everyone should be put on notice.

Suzuki. Already have invested in Rins, fair enough. Iannone, volatile/fast/hot and cold as he can be, he has to learn consistency. Some patience needs to be the order in that camp.

KTM. Great move in securing Zarco. As long as he remains focussed and not distracted as this weekend proved to be, he is a definite title contender, just need to remained concentrated in the task aat hand. Pol will make sure he will get himself up to speed before next year so he remains a long term prospect.

Aprilia. Good to see they are keeping Aleix, smart move. Scott unfortunately has the Moto2 brigrade breathing up his a.r.s.e. Some one like PB or LB from Moto2 could use this as a stepping stone as Aprilia need some new,fresh input.

Poor ol' Dani didnt get a mention but even he must know that life in MotoGP is limited now, despite a fantastic career record. Best of luck.

The season may look one way traffic, but as we have all seen in recent years, it is not a forgone conclusion.

Bring it on I say.

 

 

Total votes: 20

Long time reader, finally admitted my addiction to motomatters and signed up today. First place I go after the race. Jinx, for the record, I saw the Bambi vs. Godzilla short in theatres when it came out. Hilarious. Good analogy, although you are exceeding even Cathcart sentence length. And, I believe that most comments (MatO esp.) are being far too nice to JL99. I have never been a Dani fan, but he took him out in France. And therefore Dovi.

Total votes: 22

As if the depth of talent in Moto2 wasn't already clogging the swim lanes in the Junior pool (38 different riders have started at least one Moto2 race already this year), there is something else to motivate riders to jump to the MotoGP class...changes.

The issue came up in a journalists' conversation with one of Joan Mir's people about the wisdom of moving up a class vs. staying in Moto2 for an additional year, and the crux of his reply was: "If you have to change to a completely new bike next year, why not make that change at the next level?" Of course, what was being referred to was the switch next year in the Moto2 class to Triumph 765cc Triples and the all-new chassis that change will require. So a lot of the reasons to stick around, at least for those who achieved some success with the current 600cc Honda Fours, are gone. While I am no proponent of having emancipated children try and sort themselves out on 250+ BHP brutes, I also acknowledge they would have to do so (all over again) in Moto2 next year as well (though with the thrill levels dialed back 100 BHP or so). And maybe there are worse ways to take the next step than throwing your leg over a fully sorted GP17 (or even a GP18 for the chosen few), which is surely a solid workman's tool of the trade. Hell, the GP17 has healed more riders than the Clinica Mobile (with one sad exception, an unusual case complicated by accute King Canute Syndrome).

Leaving aside the usual suspects everyone is already slotting into a factory or semi-factory seat for 2019 (hopefully using an erasable pencil), what about the back of the MotoGP grid? I would think that there are several seats that could be filled by some likely lads currently in Moto2. It's not like the bar set by Simeon, Abraham, and Luthi (or even Bautista, saving his Jerez ride) is impossibly high. At least it would not appear very high from the front end of the Moto2 grid (though a few current juniors might be sadly wiser after next year, with a whole new perspective on the actual talents of Simeon, Abraham, et al.).

There are risks to jumping ahead, but there are now additional risks to staying put. In past Moto2 seasons, if you were on a good team with a good bike this year, you could have every expectation that such would be the case next year as well. But with the 2019 changes, what if the new chassis wrapped around your Triumph motor is a dud? Where is your team in the pecking order for the revised swingarms and suspension linkages that tend to flood the first year of any new class format? What if it takes a while for Triumph to truly deliver "equal" power units across the grid, and you draw a few short straws? (Note: Honda has done an amazing job of delivering across-the-grid equality from their supplied Moto2 engines. Examle? 50 engines tested that were all within 1.2 BHP of each other (so they have a standard deviation well under 0.2 BHP engine-to-engine)). What is the risk of going from consistently in the top six to...well...pick a number between seven and thirty eight? Young riders have quite enough on their plates trying to develop their talents without having to develop a competitive racing package at the same time. It is asking too much of their squirrely little minds and besides, they all grew up wanting to be Marc Marquez, not Michele Pirro (I don't really have the heart to tell the hatchlings that Pirro is actually quicker than the lot of them, certainly not after my role in that Tooth Fairy...um...unpleasantness...back in their CEV/Moto3 days). 

I am not saying that there will be a Jailbreak out of the Moto2 ranks this year, with a commensurate reduction in the 2019 MotoGP class demand for razor blades...but I could see why it might happen. Cheers.

Total votes: 17

Conversely, with the Moto2 class being shook up, imagine the opportunity a couple of MotoGP riders, currently on the cusp of not having a seat, taking their skill to Moto2, developing a winning bike and securing themselves a championship.  As we have seen with some MotoGP riders, counting championships from the lower classes…. Still counts?

Total votes: 19

Call me Darwinian, but I am eager to shed the rear end of the grid handful.

Riders AND bikes. KTM new bikelings excepted. Pay to play backmarkers on GP16's and such?

Look where Hernandez is running in WSBK. Baz too. Or don't, the answer is further back than matters.

First the bikes. Two more full fat factory Yamahas, Suzukis, KTMs and Aprilias please. We know which bikes to shed.

Fastest riders that can be had, none of this "Dad's money?" stipulation. Let's loosen up the wildcard regulations, and have DORNA encourage tests in which more potential riders turn laps on bikes. The Factory outfits and Manu's need to see the Jr Teams as collaborators and pipelines rather than customers and competitors.

I LIKE Smith. In WSBK next yr, and maybe commentary boxes. Redding, Abraham, Simeon, Luthi and Beautista. I am just not attached to them being here relative to the potential of others. We know who they are and they are approximately equal in number.

Nothing personal Avintia, but you have slots that could be Sky46 Yam. And we could have Aspar Aprilia, MarcVDS Suzuki. Tech3 KTM of course. All with those fast kids.

Moto2 is shaping up to get really cool btw. Look at the list of who is putting together a bike to run the FANTASTIC 765 triple in. More HP, WAY more torque, better handling, less need for electronics.

Out w the old...

Total votes: 19