Aragon Subscriber Race Round Up: Honda's Biggest Problem, A Ducati Resurgence, Punishment Fitting The Crime, And Riding Without Winglets

Winning a MotoGP race is never easy. Even when the winner crosses the line with a huge victory margin, it's never easy. Riding for 42 minutes and 117 kilometers at close to maximum intensity is tough on the body, and tough on the mind. Disaster is only a momentary lapse of attention away.

That thought was on Marc Márquez' mind going into the race at Aragon. He had qualified on pole with a lap a third of a second faster than anyone else. In terms of race pace, he looked to be half a second a lap quicker than the rest of the grid. On paper, the race was in the bag.

That was pretty much what we thought at Austin back in April as well. But there, Márquez crashed out of the race on lap 9, after he had built up a lead of nearly 4 seconds. Up until that point, he had looked as unbeatable as ever at the Circuit of the Americas. But a minor hiccup with engine braking pushed the front, the bike getting away from him, and down he went.

Coming into Aragon, Márquez led the championship by 93 points. He could feel his sixth MotoGP title was within his grasp. He knew he had the pace to win comfortably. But the crash at Austin was preying on his mind, and he knew that a repeat would make his life unnecessarily difficult. Eyes on the prize, at all times.

Command and control

When the race started, it played out pretty much as expected. From pole, Márquez got the holeshot. By the end of the first lap, he had a gap of over a second, and the pace he set was four or five tenths faster than anyone else was capable of. At the halfway mark, he was 5.5 seconds ahead of the race for second place, and on pace to beat his own biggest margin of victory set earlier this year in Argentina.

Eyes on the prize. Márquez wasn't after his own record for the biggest winning margin. Or even taking another step closer to beating Mick Doohan's total of 54 premier class wins on a Honda. Or chasing Angel Nieto's total of 90 wins in all classes. Or even extending his winning streak at the Motorland Aragon circuit. The only thing that mattered was 25 more points for the championship, and increasing the gap to Andrea Dovizioso.

So Márquez eased off, managed the gap, gaining just over a second in the ten laps leading up to the final lap. Chickens were only counted once hatched, reared, and taken to market, and not a millisecond before.

Enough is enough

"He rode the perfect race, because he probably could have won by more," was Honda stablemate Cal Crutchlow's assessment of Márquez' performance. "He didn't need to, he managed the situation very well. It's not easy for 23 laps to have no reference and just lead like that, when he knows he has such a big advantage. When you have a guy half a second behind you, I think you can keep your concentration a little bit more a lot of the time."

Márquez acknowledged how great a role the race in Austin had played in the press conference after the race. "It was the main target during all the race to be focused, concentrate and be patient and don’t push too much, save the tires because I was saving the rear tire but also the front tire because with the medium I was struggling a little bit on the left side. But the experience of Austin was always in my head. So then I just keep going and I just try to understand and try to manage the distance, because what I learn in Austin is that doesn’t matter win by four seconds, twelve seconds, one second. The most important are the 25 points and it’s what we did."

It was the end to an almost perfect weekend for Márquez. They had arrived at the circuit with as good a setup for the Repsol Honda RC213V as they were going to get, he said. "We did an amazing job during all weekend. From the beginning we started in a good way. Just to know, to understand how good was the weekend, we raced with the setup that we started in FP1. This was something that was the first time in the year."

The only blemish on Márquez' record was a crash on Friday afternoon, falling at Turn 8 while testing the hard front tire. But it was a minor fall, the reigning champion walking away unhurt. All Márquez suffered was the inconvenience of having to return to the pits and lose time assessing tires. But it made no material difference to his quest for the 2019 title.

Big buffer

Márquez leads Andrea Dovizioso by 98 points heading into Buriram. If he finishes ahead of Andrea Dovizioso there, and in fourth place or better, he will tie up the title in Thailand. The chances of that happening are very good: Márquez has finished ahead of Dovizioso 11 times in 14 races, and he has never finished worse than second.

Wrapping the title up next round looks to be Márquez' mission. "Now we arrive in a circuit that last year already was a great battle between me and Dovi until the last corner, so this year can be more or less the same," he told the press conference. "The main difference for me is that looks like this year the engine is faster. So in Thailand there are the biggest straights, but then is a small part which will be more difficult. So we need to understand which is our level and which is Dovi’s level and try to fight for the victory. I already said on Thursday, my main target these last races is try to finish on the podium at every race."

That consistency is what is making it impossible to beat Marc Márquez in 2019. It is hard to take points from a rider who never finishes outside the top two. To beat him, you have to be even more consistent, and that means winning at tracks whatever the grip level, whatever the weather, whatever the other bikes are doing, whatever the disadvantages of your machine at a particular circuit.

An uncanny consistency

The difficulty of that challenge is illustrated by the last three rounds of MotoGP. In Austria, Márquez lost out to Andrea Dovizioso on the Ducati. At Silverstone, it was the Suzuki of Alex Rins which finished ahead of him. At Misano, Márquez just pipped Fabio Quartararo to the line, the Yamahas finishing second through fifth. The one unchanging factor in all these races is Marc Márquez.

Andrea Dovizioso addressed Márquez' consistency, and the factors which play into how the different bikes have performed at different tracks throughout the season. "I think the bikes are affected a lot by the Michelin tires, which kind of tires they bring to every race, and which grip you found in that track," the factory Ducati said. "Every time it's different. For example, if you can see that the Yamaha they were so fast in the practice, but at the end struggled a bit more in the race, I think because the grip is different in the race. You have to ride in a different way. I think they improved in some areas but still not in some others. Sometimes in these conditions they struggling. In Misano they were better. Every time it’s a different story."

A different story for everyone but Marc Márquez, that is. "The only strange thing is Marc," Dovizioso said. "He’s difficult to analyze because he’s always there and in every race and fight for the victory. That is very, very difficult for sure. He makes the difference."

Be careful what you wish for

That is both a blessing and a curse for Honda. Honda leads the constructor's championship by 306 points to Ducati's 241. Márquez has scored all but 6 of those points for Honda, Takaaki Nakagami grabbing 6 points in Austin after Márquez crashed out. By contrast, Andrea Dovizioso, Danilo Petrucci, and Jack Miller have all scored points for Ducati, Valentino Rossi, Maverick Viñales, and Fabio Quartararo have all scored for Yamaha.

In the team championship, the Repsol Honda team trails the Factory Ducati squad, 357 points to Honda's 333. Marc Márquez has scored 300 points in the championship, more than the combined total of 284 by Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi in the Monster Energy Yamaha team, more than the 209 combined points scored by Alex Rins and Joan Mir for the Suzuki Ecstar team, more than any other team combined.

Two factors are at play here. First of all, Marc Márquez' appetite for victory is voracious, and impossible to satisfy. He reminds me a lot of Eddy Merckx, the Belgian cyclist who earned the nickname The Cannibal. In 1969, Merckx won the Tour de France, picking up the prizes for best climber, best sprinter, and the combativity jersey as well for the most attacking rider. Márquez shares that same hunger, that same desire to dominate and crush the opposition, to leave no one in any doubt over who is the best in the world.

Leading where none can follow

But the second is that because of his success, Márquez has become the goose that laid the golden egg. The bike has been developed to give Márquez the tools he needs to win. That hasn't made the bike any easier to ride, but he doesn't care. The bike has more horsepower, and that means he can stay with the Ducatis on the straights, and rely on himself to handle the corners.

It is a problem which Jorge Lorenzo keeps butting his head against. "It's clear that to gain more power, we got some problems in the corners with the new bike," Lorenzo said after finishing 20th, 46 seconds behind his teammate. "So Marc is able to take the benefit of this power without losing so much in the corners. But when I tried the new bike in Jerez, I saw that something was missing in the corners. I told the engineers, but maybe it was too late to find a solution, and we needed to race with this engine. For sure, Honda is now working obviously to keep the power which is a big advantage with this bike, but to solve this problem that generates this in the corners for next year."

Lorenzo accepts that this is the way of the world, of course. "It's true that from the time he arrived in MotoGP, the bike followed the way of the fastest rider in the team, which was Marc," Márquez' teammate said. "As you know, Marc has a special riding style, very aggressive and hard-braking riding style, and the bike needed that to be able to work better for Marc. The bike offers this feeling to the rider, and you need to be able to ride similar to Marc to take the maximum. But obviously, Honda will follow a little bit the way of the fastest rider, as is normal."

Dilemmas for Honda and Lorenzo

The only incentive for Honda to fix this is if they lose Márquez, but with the Spaniard crashing less than last year, he is unlikely to go out due to injury. And as long as they can give him a bike he can win on, there is no reason for him to leave. Marc Márquez measures success by the number of race victories and championships won, and the control he has within Honda means the risk of moving to another factory is huge, even if the bike appears to be more competitive on paper. So Honda are stuck building a bike for Marc Márquez, reaping the rewards while they can. The prospect of losing Márquez is a bridge they will cross when they come to it.

That leaves Jorge Lorenzo with a massive problem. There were small signs of progress at Aragon, as the Spaniard continues his recovery from injury. "I think that apart from the result, which is not good, obviously, these 46 seconds are a lot, I think we can go away from here with some positive things," he said.

"I think in some practices and even at the beginning of the race, I could ride a little bit more with more flow, like at the beginning of the season, close to that part of the season. But obviously the injury affects a lot my physical condition and my pain when I am riding. And I lose a little bit from there." Lorenzo estimated that he would be finishing 15 seconds behind Márquez on the bike without injuries, rather than 46 seconds. But that is still a big gap to his teammate.

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Source: 
year: 
2019
round_number: 
14
Total votes: 21
Total votes: 19

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Comments

Great write-up as always. Seems asinine to me for Honda to give Lorenzo the boot after everything he's been through. Sure, the results haven't been there and he's been slow to recover, but with Marquez doing his thing, Honda doesn't really need a strong second rider to take points off rival factories. At least give Lorenzo the opportunity to recover, learn all he can about the bike, and come back strong in 2020. 

Total votes: 55

 

99  needs  more time ...  the injury in assen ..    its a bigg one ...  still need to recover   hope puig will shut up  

Total votes: 10

I found the quote from JL99 that if he were uninjured he would have finished 15 seconds behind MM, interesting. You could say that he's been riding injured for close to a year now, with the fractured vertebrae being the worst of all. It sounds like the most tenuous bond, between rider and machine has been split, replaced by fear, or at least, wariness. That's no way for a GP rider to achieve success. Whether that's repairable or not, we'll see. It's painful for us to track him riding down at the tail end of the pack, even when we understand the trials he's going through.

CC35, the next best Honda, finished 6th, some 5 seconds behind 2nd place AD04, with TN30 in 10th, 26 seconds behind Dovi. Honda sure could use a bike that's a bit more user friendly.

Another question I have, and this is an honest question, not stirring the pot. Whose development input is Yamaha following now? Earlier in the season, there were disputes between Rossi and Viñales. Has that been amicably settled? Because Yamaha certainly appear headed in the right direction.

I suppose a large part of the silly season will revolve around JL99. Will he stay or go? And if he goes, where to? With the Zarco question at least sorted for KTM, those questions will be next.

It's also interesting that MM has scored the vast majority of all the points for Honda.

Thanks for the great writeup, David.

Total votes: 5

Unless Honda are secretly developing a bike that is significantly more rideable, they are going to find themselves in the same spot that Ducati was when Casey left, when Marc leaves HRC. However like you said David, that’s a bridge that they will cross when they get to it. And ‘when they get to it’ could be when RedBull lure Marc to KTM in 2021. And that said, he does not need to prove anything by moving from HRC cos it’s a known and accepted fact that he is completely on a higher level than everyone else around him and one of the greatest of all time. 

Total votes: 14

I have always thought that as long as Honda has a MotoGP bike that Marquez can battle for the championship with, he will stay there. Which, as we know with Honda and as will be throughout Marc's tenure in racing, is always. Marc, like Doohan, is Honda. He doesn't have that restless desire for newness, it isn't his temperament.

Lorenzo and Honda, they are not getting along. It may work out, and may not...could go either way. They don't really owe each other much and know it. Honda will not stretch at all to accomodate him. Jorge, he is driven and focused to do just one thing, and will effort himself to get whatever bike he thinks will further that. The older he gets, and the more tumultuous his relationship with the circus, the greater his inclination to let go of the bike he is on in favor of the preferable one. Get her number, make her breakfast, but don't count on any plans. Not likely to be KTM, Orange is taking Honda riders and not-yet-developed rough rider potentials.

Jorge will get on a Suzuki or Yamaha though if possible. And, if the Duc turns a bit better, would grab one of the many full fat Red bikes. Or, the Honda starts to carve and rail sufficiently. From where we sit now, all of these are plausible, and more so than him languishing in the back on the wildebeest struck by lightning. After his great influx of hams several seasons ago, Jorge has not been primarily motivated by money. He is not done with his MotoGP efforts.

On managing tires, Dovisioso is indeed excellent at doing so during the race. So smooth and relaxed! Jack stressed his rear edge grip more, but it held up ok. It is difficult to say that Vinales' tire choice or harder riding cost him the podium. He got loose and aggressive battling with the two Ducatis and was giving it his all. His bike is SO down on power, and he thrives over riding forcefully. Had he been more smooth with his throttle, would he have been faster? Taken more successful lines while fighting Dovi and Jack?

Careful claiming that Maverick didn't get the best of his package Sunday. Jack may chat tires, and yes he saw Blue slides, but the Red drag race disgrace was the greater factor. Vinales ought to run the pipe, swingarm and wheelcover next round.

If Dovi manages his tires well during a race, it is Marquez that manages them over a whole weekend. He sorts tires and explores their performance on Fri and even during Q. Also importantly, it is Marc that needn't have a tire under him that is within a narrow performance window throughout a race. He skates his bike like a drunk teenager rally driving in snow. He also continuously adapts and shifts his riding style and strategy in response to changing grip. Then laughs about it matter of factly. No one is in second.

More Aragon thoughts, in one spot. Did you see Vinales' mistake costing him a podium?
It was swinging his leg over that engine. The behavior of he and his garage when he arrived spoke of open frustration, disappointment and apology. Maverick's form on the Yamaha was gorgeous. The drag race between Blue and Red? Ouch.

Ducati pulled it together for Sunday. Or, two of their four riders. (Bagnaia catching Petrucci wasn't supposed to be via #9 filling his suit with rocks). Really though, great job Dovi and Jack! And Red garages.

Contrast Dovi's forward progress from 10th with Rins. Rins and the Suzuki had pace Sunday! And unfortunately a bigger appetite for crumbs than his grid spot at the table accommodated smoothly. Dovi IS smart! Rins, we need a bit more consistency friend. A top 5 this weekend was in your cards. You were doing good work! Aggression with insufficient presence between the ears needs stronger Q's.

Good weekend Miller and Crutchlow. More ice creams and movies in Jack's trailer. It is working.

Aprilia did well. As opposed to KTM, this is largely a one off. And don't be deceived by Iannone stepping away from his mirror long enough to remember he is racing, he is no A.Espargaro and is wrapping up his MotoGP time. WELL PLAYED A.Espargaro! Fantastic race.

We got to see some nice formation flying to witness various manufacturers' bikes. Cornering lines, drive out, drag race. Oliveira is not fit yet and can't move around on the bike comfortably, but the Orange machine is a MUCH improved one. Stable, able to get turning, holding a line, good corner speed, getting power down, pretty good motor.

Marquez - lap #2, the explosive pace and huge gap...he took everything he wanted and doled out the crumbs. Beautiful form. This weekend was a microcosm of the 2019 championship in many ways. No one is in 2nd. The Yamaha coming good, but no way to compete with Ducati. Suzuki could, but lacks consistency and that next wee bit of form. Very interesting stuff amongst a close and diverse grid, that is having a grand battle for 2nd on out. Rather than a trifocal grid of Factory bikes, Satellite bikes, and CRT's, it is one of Marquez, everyone on the pace, then a mish-mash scrum of the rest. A customer bike with a rookie can win. An Alien on the winner's Factory bike can mark the back and trade their victory flag for a blue one. Dovi comes in second, but Petrucci's corner speed achievement matches that of Quartararo's trap speed. This era is a time of contrasts.

Lorenzo managed to beat Syahrin and Zarco's couch one more weekend.

This would be an ideal time to know what Quartararo thinks of the performance differences between his bike and the Factory one. He knows. It may be the least powerful bike on the entire grid. And we can ask ourselves a similar question about FQ20 - what a brilliant rookie!

Aragon offered plenty of entertainment for 2019, even if the win was sealed before the bikes came out of crates. The opening laps were brilliant. Much more to see than the TV can catch. Lots of VERY interesting battling. Thank you Michelin for your great work (Bridgewho?).

Marc may well win in Thailand. And one thought of his may end up being that it is preferable to do so in Japan. Which is...odd. Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki, and yes KTM - please please please bring yet more to the circus whilst Honda is napping a bit with their golden rider. Until then, very much enjoying the journey and 2nd through 15th or so. Good stuff indeed.

Total votes: 33

There is alot of pressure when you're EXPECTED, to not only win, but to decimate the competition. And he makes it look easy. Congrats Marc! We are witnessing history. 

Qual: WTF?!!? is with all these MGP riders looking over their shoulders waiting for a tow? Five minutes left and it looked like a M3 grid. David, is someone questioning this?

Last year, the FIM said that there would be a new helmet standard required for all classes, starting with 2019. This was pushed to June '19, and as of today, I can't find ANYTHING on this. David, you have any info on this?

Total votes: 8

I'm not sure where you are looking, however according to a press release issued by FIM and Dorna June 4, 2019:

"... the FIM Racing Homologation Programme for helmets (FRHP) came into force for Grand Prix and Superbike racing as of 3 June." ... "In addition to Grand Prix and Superbike racing adopting the new standard with immediate effect, it will be mandatory for all circuit racing competitions to adhere to the new FIM homologation process as from their first event of 2020."

Total votes: 2

A rider moves one centimeter before the lights go out and they get a ride through. A rider tags another ending their race and they get a long lap penalty. Sounds like reverse logic to me.

Total votes: 19

Great write-up, David.

It has been reported that, in the USA at least, businesses where a congregation of young people hanging around outside is seen as detrimental to commerce, a new technology has been deployed. Quite simply, they are blasting a very high frequency sound through an outdoor speaker system, one that is very unpleasant to young ears. Why isn't it also unpleasant to older ears? Because once humans transit their second decade the bandwidth of frequencies they are able to perceive changes. Even if you are tested and have excellent hearing, the very upper frequencies will be lost to those beyond their teenage years as a simple result of the natural changes to your body's ability to process sound at the very top of the audible spectrum.

"Michelins are about feel...Bridgestones are about faith" ~ Colin Edwards

Signal Strength and Sensitivity - Riders, especially the older stars, constantly talk...OK, whinge a bit...about the "feel" of the front end. That it doesn't feel stable, and so restricts their lap times. But maybe that outlook is now a bit Passe. Can we now be seeing, at the sharp end of the MotoGP grid, the age old dilemma presented by signal processing? I.e., when you increase signal strength you reduce bandwidth, or rather, when you increase bandwidth you decrease signal strength since the additional sensitivity will introduce additional noise to the system. You are gathering additional data, but resolving the useable data from the background noise is more difficult.

Front End Feel versus Ultimate Traction -  What if, by tuning your motorcycle to have really good feel (i.e., a strong signal), you are, at the same time, reducing the ultimate traction of the front tire? The upside is you know pretty much exactly where the limit is. The downside is that that limit is lower than on your competitor's bike, the one that is a pile of jangling nerve ends. No one has done a better job of understanding (and exploiting) this dilemma than MM + HRC. But to do so requires you to have two very rare items in your shopping cart: A rider who can filter the increased noise in order to find the additional traction available, and for that same rider to have the extraordinary reflexes required to deal with those situations (which will always be part of this equation) when signal noise causes him to over-step the traction boundary. Lacking either of those two characteristics means a rider may not be able to get everything out of the front.

Frisky and Fast versus Stable and Slow - Stability vs. response has always been the Devil's own Limb when it comes to performance. Want a platform that has the stability of a large anvil? Fine, you will now be as comfortably slow as a roadside paracarro. Want the ultimate in response? OK, here it is. But get used to the fact that your bike is now actively trying to kill you three times a lap. (As a side note, high performance military aircraft got past this in the late 1960's/early 1970's by introducing fly by wire controls where the pilot is no longer directly connected to the flight control surfaces. Rather, the pilot's inputs are merely a "request" made to the flight control processing system, and it is the onboard computers that decide how to make that happen without squishing the pilot to death or breaking the airframe. Ever since that time high performance military aircraft have been dynamically unstable. To be plain about it, without the flight control computer interceding, the aircraft is so dynamically unstable it will quickly fail structurally. But the upside is that with no inherent stability, there is nothing to impede the flight control system from taking the aircraft to the very edge of the envelope (where it begins to physically hurt the pilot. And the pilot's physical limit, not how strong we can make an airframe, currently defines the performance boundary).

Young Age and Treachery - So to get the most out of a modern MotoGP motorcycle, a rider may now need some specific arrows in his quiver. And I am not certain that the older generation of heroes has all that are required anymore. The first arrow is sensitivity, the same issue impacting all those skateboarders hanging around outside the 7-11, preventing honest citizens from getting another Big Gulp. Can the older generation "feel" the fainter signals that come from expanding the traction circle? So far the issue is, at best, in doubt. The constant litany of grievances emanating from the pit boxes of the older riders seems to point to their wanting a stronger signal, not an increase in sensitivity (why ask for a frequency you can no longer hear?). But this is not an isolated issue in and of itself. As has been previously noted, if you choose the path of quick and nervous, and can still sort out the fainter signals, you will then also need the reflexes to deal with that choice. And here is where I think the sorry truth lays; almost every sports medicine study points to a drop off in reflexes past the age of 30. Sometimes it is just an almost imperceptible decline, at the other end of the spectrum it can look like Wile E. Coyote dropping an anvil off a cliff. But once the reflexes decline, the tuning options are limited. If your Lizard Brain is no longer sharp enough to react in the microsecond required for a corrective input to be successfully applied, your future is all gravel and deployed airbags if you choose the quick and nervous path.

Nailing Jello to the Wall - This is not to say that riders can't be bloody fast and still win races while not joining in the more youthful pastime of Ringing the Devil's Doorbell and Running Away, but it now requires a convergence of events to work in their favor. Because response vs. stability is always a moving target. Variations in weather, track surface, track layout, and so forth means that you do not have the same signals from race to race, or even from the progression from P1 to Q2 over a single weekend, and fuel loads change lap by lap. If you are counting on the basic characteristics of your motorcycle to supply the needed signal strength, most likely you will almost always be under or over shooting the target. Que the whinging.

What Michelin Left Out, Marc Supplies - But what if your ultimate stability is not coming from the package, but from the rider (and that rider's input being put into practice by a well honed pit crew)? What if MM (and a few others, see below) have the native sensitivity to optimize the more fuzzy signal strength that comes with an expanded traction circle? He does this by probing all weekend long, and he has the reflexes to make this an un-lemming like exercise. Marc's apparent goal, from the time HRC rolls his bikes out of the trailer on Friday until he lines up on the grid Sunday, is to map out the best combination of bike settings...and rider settings...while being quite content in the knowledge that as the track changes, so can he. Everyone else is swapping compounds, weight distribution, rear linkages, and so forth. Fine. But you can only go through so many permutations on a race weekend, whereas Marc can adjust...well...Marc...lap by lap (or even corner by corner). Of course, Marc also plays with his bike settings, just as other pilots also make adjustments to their riding. But, as it stands, that is like saying that monkeys and jaguars are the same because they both have teeth. True enough, but who wants to bet on the monkey in a scrap with a jaguar? Relative differences can matter every bit as much as absolute ones, especially when lap times are recorded three places to the right of the decimal point. And Marc's approach means he is always in the picture, not just weekends when Venus and Saturn are properly aligned.

So Who has the Knack? - Well, besides MM. FQ20 seems frighteningly gifted in this area as well, which is why I think when Marc sees him he recognizes another big cat with dangerous looking teeth, as opposed to just another succulent baby monkey. Fabio let on about this at Misano when he disclosed that he was deliberately pushing the front past the limit in practice to fine tune his own signal processing (at the fast and scary edge of the traction envelope). Rins has potential, but leaves too much of the Lizard Brain mapping to Sunday. Vinales has the knack, but is not consistent. He needs a more rigorous approach from Friday onward, and to stop being the guy with one foot on the dock and the other on the boat. Jack Miller has the gifts, and has definitely upgraded his Friday to Sunday strategy this year, whereas Petrucci apparantly still needs those planets to be just right. Olivera may have the knack as well, but we will not know until KTM's racing philosophy stops being "Let 'er Buck". Zarco definitely has it, but for only one style of riding. Morbidelli may develop his abillities further if he remains healthy and his confidence continues to grow. Franco may be more like Dovi in this regard, requiring just a bit longer in the oven to be fully baked. For the older brigade? Vale has the sensitivity, but I feel (sadly, I have been following him since 1997) that his Lizard Brain is showing its age. Cal is close, but the pain/reward equation has perhaps now shifted to avoiding both. Jorge may or may not still posses both qualities, but he remains that rare case where perhaps he can still win with the higher signal strength/reduced bandwidth (because he has so many other weapons)...but the clock is running. Dovi may, of the older set, still have enough of both in reserve to remain a very dangerous adversary...for at at least one more year. But he desperately needs more corner speed from Gigi and his talented gnomes to show it to good.

So, Pierre, where did my Bloody Tire go? - When will the rest of the grid wake up to the essential rule of Michelin rear tires, which is: When in doubt about which tire to race on, use the soft one. For the life of me I can't remember when a top rider lost because his soft M-Tire gave up with five laps to go. And yet the same crews, again and again, are penalized by using one that is too hard. It is a decision that rivals the stupidity of the Evil Empire; "Oi, the rebels just blew up the Death Star, what do we do now? "Hang on, I have it mate...let's build another Death Star". The softer Michelin works because the brilliant design of the rear skin has a unique characteristic; within certain limits it self-protects from excessive thermal loads via deposition, i.e., it deposits rubber from the tire onto the track surface, resulting in a thinner tire contact surface, and thinner tire surfaces run cooler than thicker ones, all else being equal. Yes, all racing tires have deposition characteristics, but Michelin have raised this to an art form. A well chosen Michelin rear tire is said to have a significant reduction in mass over the course of a MotoGP race. I would love someone (I am looking at you, David) to get some feedback from Michelin about what they see as the optimum deposition levels, and how this data can be used by the teams to better understand the available compounds. And while I am up on my soapbox, spittle and invectives flying in equal amounts, if I were a Team Manager I would banish anyone in the crew who ever again used the terms "Hard, Medium, or Soft" to describe these Michelin compounds. Just call them Compounds A, B, and C, in no particular order, and let the data decide, not the pre-conceived notions from a few ancient crew chiefs who, as much as  I love and respect them, at times betray the fact that they once helped herd the animals off the Ark, and have not caught up with Gigi and his predictive tire software. I don't think Marc and HRC give a Tinker's Dam where Michelin rates tires on the Chewing Gum scale, and neither should anyone else.

Honda's Dilemma...and Everyone Else's - So, lot's of chatter about HRC putting all their eggs in the MM basket, and should that be a worry? I will stand right up and say no, it is the smart play. MM is 26, he has another 5 to 7 years on top. And if the future of MotoGP is nervous bikes exploiting an expanded traction circle, then who better to lead the way into this future? And understand, MM is not trying to make the bloody thing difficult to ride, just quicker. I am sure he welcomes less drama as much as the next fellow. But if this is the way forward, where will you ever find another talent capable of mapping this new land? In Marc HRC has a resource to both continue to expand the traction circle, and at the same time place little flags next to all the land mines he finds (without losing a leg in the process). This partnership points to a continued competitive advantage and a bike that will (eventually) be more accessible to future talents. The other path is to make a more geriatric-friendly bike that is only a bit slower than the current one. But that is not why Honda races. And while I still think Alberto Puig has the bedside manner of an undertaker, he does speak the hard truths (if you listen). When he questions Jorge's courage he is not doing so as an offense to Lorenzo's manhood, but rather to prod JL to accept that the world has spun, it is not 2015, and he needs the courage to examine and adapt to the new realities. As they say; "it was a brave man who first ate an oyster". To Marc...and everyone who wants to get to the winners circle before Marc has toweled off and quaffed his second Red Bull...I say "Bon Appetite", and embrace that high, lonesome sound coming from the front end. Cheers.

Total votes: 50

This only applies to certain signals and receivers: "when you increase signal strength you reduce bandwidth, or rather, when you increase bandwidth you decrease signal strength". It may be that MM has developed an UWB (Ultra WideBand) receiver, capable of hearing UWB signals barely above the noise background.

Total votes: 9

Great point, mate! What is perplexing is why different (but all supremely talented) riders, on ostensibly the same motorcycle* and the same tires, get such different results? (i.e., Vale finishing 15 seconds behind Fabio, and almost 18 seconds behind Maverick).

And at times this seems to be true even with fresh, sticky rubber (if we are discounting tire degradation as a separate, but related issue for now). I am convinced that modern riders, in this context, are really no different than the previous champions (like the great comments about Freddie illustrated). It would seem that some riders are processing traction data that the others cannot even detect, or the "others" are chasing a signal (through set-up) that doesn't exist anymore (with the current state of Michelin race rubber) in a fruitless search for the lost chord. It may be better to set up the bike so that it is easier to recover from a front end slide than to spend your weekend trying to banish those slides completely. I suspect that a lot of MM's work is spent optimizing how his bike deals with the inevitable instability issues, rather than chasing a solution to eliminate them all-together. Cheers.

*Well, "ostensibly" covers a lot of ground. FQ20 may be on an older version of the M1 chassis, Morbidelli appears to be using the latest Valentino spec, and Maverick is rumored to be riding Jorge's old kit from 2015-16. At least the colors match (in pairs). Cheers.

Total votes: 7

Mind blown.

"... It may be better to set up the bike so that it is easier to recover from a front end slide than to spend your weekend trying to banish those slides completely. .."

This is sort of like Kenny Roberts showing Eddie Lawson how spinning a tire got him through a corner quicker by helping point the bike in the right direction.

I can only shake my head in wonder.

Total votes: 4

All this talk of unstable motorcycles, front end control beyond the fold and how to use these to your advantage reminds me of Freddie Spencer. You could argue (and others will counter!) that he was one of the earliest pushing in this direction, pushing for 16 inch front wheels for quicker steering, greater agility and greater ability to push beyond perceived front end limits, engines that sacrificed mid range for top end and the ability to over rev to help with rear wheel steering etc.

Such a shame he wasn't around longer.

I watched several races in 1986 that he entered but sadly never showed at, from Daytona to GPs in Europe.
Up there with Rossi v Doohan never happening in the regrets for me.

Total votes: 4

Is the battle we won't see that bothers me most. All the more so because CS is still perfectly capabe of getting out there! He just teases us occasionally by entering an official test and setting the quickest time. Still fun to imagine though.  I still fantasize that Stoner will one day have a crack on the Yamaha to try and become the only guy to win a title on 3 brands. His talent deserves a record like that, but unfortunately he's more mentally fragile than Marquez, who has about as much raw ability. 

Total votes: 6

Much had been said about missing a Stoner VS Márquez fight. While Stoner could be just as freakishly fast as MM, he is no where near MM in race craft nor mental fortitude. And this is coming from a Stoner fan.

Laguna Seca 2008 was a good example. Rossi broke him that race and his season fell apart after that, falling off his bike a few more times, all while leading. 

He did well in 2011 on a Honda but 2012 he was very close to Pedrosa even before his injury. He never quite dominated Pedrosa the way Márquez did from his second season in MotoGP onwards.

In my opinion, Márquez is a much more complete package that Stoner ever was and while Stoner may challenge or beat him in races here and there, he would not be able to beat Márquez over a season.

Total votes: 14

As tempting as they are, these trans-time and space considerations never unfold to give us much more to hang our helmet on than ones' subjective feelings about a rider. Which are not a bad thing.

Stoner got very sick with something that went undiagnosed. Rode against a different grid on a different bike and different tires. His right hand sensitivity and bike feel was...wow. Riders can't really be extricated from their context. Marc would be better than Marc if he raced against Marc right now. You know?

Someday, Marc will get beaten. At that time the shine will come off a bit. Someone else will assert then that, given how he got beaten by (whomever) that (insert historical great) is better. It is a human thing to view the current state of affairs as THE pinnacle then extrapolate all else before as juxtaposed in relief. It has been done about every great one. It circles back to our feeling of awe about this Great within this particular situation. Which is...great!

I will agree that Marc Marquez is a VERY rare performer. Small cadre of peers. That drawer has room enough in it for Marquez and Stoner for me. And Valentino. Spencer. Agostini. Doohan. Hey, I think we need a touch bigger drawer...
;)

Total votes: 16

No list of greats is complete without Kenny Roberts. 

Total votes: 7

Maybe. Where he is from in CA is known as "The Armpit of the Earth," and my several conversations w him have all ended like crappy Western movies.

Total votes: 2

Not germane to the subject of motocycle racers' greatness. Plus humblebrag fail

Total votes: 14

Of course Kenny Roberts!
And, as per the original post ^ my subjective take about him, does it matter? I just don't like him much. My whole take here may be in line with yours in that differentiated way.

Total votes: 5

Also can’t help himself with the occassinal anti-USA barb. Sorry, Shrink. I like your posts (!) but you needed to be called out again similar to a few months ago!

Total votes: 5

Anyone from the U.S. knows that New Jersey is the armpit of the nation. And if you believe that the armpit of the world is located in California then you have not travelled much.

Total votes: 2

Though the story was set it Modesto, filming took place mostly in Petaluma, and San Rafael, in addition to San Francisco, Sonoma, Richmond, Novato, and Concord.

Total votes: 0

Watching MM93 is so much like watching Freddie in the early '80's, making the motorcycle do things no one else would even think to attempt. Watching Fast Freddie one could see the speed, unlike Eddie who was so smooth he looked to be riding down to the local pub (but was actually as fast as Freddie). Such a shame FS19 didn't have a longer career in F1. He was as talented on a bike as anyone, ever, imo.

Total votes: 1

I remember seeing a photo of Freddie back in the day that stopped me in my tracks - big black lines coming off both wheels, as he slid it round the bends. Back then that was an incredible thing to see, when as an ordinary road rider you’d absolutely crap yourself at a twitch from just the rear.

Total votes: 8

Yes!
Those bikes and tires offered WAY less feel and feedback too. The limit was not as pliable or forthcoming. He stole from hell with oven mitts, and brought heaven here, still smoking. Greek God stuff.

Total votes: 9

this talk of FQ having 500 revs less than the other Yamahas doesnt ring tru e to me.Maaverick couldnt pass him down the backstraight

Total votes: 4

Revs are not the only determinant of one's straight line speed. FQ was probably getting better exit speed which would more than make up for 500 revs.

Total votes: 10

David et al -

Is there anything in the rules from preventing a 3-bike factory team reoccuring similar to when Dovi, Stoner, Pedrosa shared Repsol spots.

Could we ever see a 3-bike Ducati Factory Team effort?

Total votes: 4

The rules explicitly ban running 3 bikes in a factory team, inspired in part by the 2011 example.

Nothing to ban fielding a full factory effort in a second team, though. 

Total votes: 6

....in my opinion, was to wrap up the championship at his home track at Aragon! He had a good crack at it, barring his crash at COTA and not winning another were be placed second! Let's see if he can do it next season!

Total votes: 2

I don’t mind if he wins every title for the next 10 years but I’d rather it came down to the last race of the season. There’s a certain emptiness each year once the championship is decided, it’s like the band played all their hits at the start of the show so all that’s left for the second hour is a string of b sides.

Total votes: 6