It turns out there is someone who wants to win the 2020 MotoGP championship after all. A couple of people in fact, and they are now starting to make an effort to actually win this thing. After last week at Misano, when the top four in the championship were separated by just 4 points, it was hard to discern a shape to the 2020 title chase. Unseasonably cold weather, a punishing track for tires, and the usual run of random racing incidents events shook up the championship at Montmelo. Now, a pattern seems to be emerging from the fog of racing war.
After Misano, just 4 points separated the top four. A week later, there are 24 points covering the first four places, and 8 points – twice what covered last week's top four – the gap from first to second place. The points spread between the top ten has nearly doubled, from 27 to 50 points.
At Misano, Takaaki Nakagami was highlighted as a rider still in with a shot of the championship, not least by Repsol Honda boss Albert Puig, in defense of the job Honda have done in 2020. The LCR Honda rider was seventh, but trailed the leader Andrea Dovizioso by 21 points. With 7 races still left to contest, Nakagami had a shot at the title which was anything but theoretical.
A week later, and Nakagami is still seventh in the championship. But his chances of actually lifting the 2020 title have gone from vaguely plausible to a very long shot indeed. Now, Nakagami is 36 points behind the leader, with only 6 races left. A 36-point deficit would require help from other riders to become champion, and to take points off Fabio Quartararo at two races at least. And if Dorna and the FIM are forced to cancel races once again if the second wave of Covid-19 currently gaining steam across Europe forces governments to impose new restrictions, then a 36-point deficit becomes pretty much insurmountable.
Shakeout at the top
At the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Montmelo, two clear championship favorites emerged, and two others let their title chances slip away. Fabio Quartararo seized control of the 2020 title chase, while Joan Mir established himself as the chief challenger.
Former championship leader Andrea Dovizioso was taken out of contention by another Ducati rider, Avintia's Johann Zarco (who in the same motion, also lost any lingering chance of a seat in the factory team once Ducati announce their 2021 MotoGP line up on Wednesday. Maverick Viñales needed no help taking himself out of contention, swallowed up without a trace in the first lap of the race, and never reemerging to mount a challenge.
What happened? There are a number of issues to cover in these subscriber notes if we are to describe how we got to where we are now, and where we go from here. So here is what we will be discussing:
- how a war of attrition ended up with Fabio Quartararo (almost) cruising to victory
- Fabio Quartararo's championship worthy rider
- the strength of the Suzuki, and especially Joan Mir
- the real favorite for the championship
- why tire options were so limited, and how different tire strategies created an intriguing race
- how disaster struck for Andrea Dovizioso
- is Franco Morbidelli's speed deficit as bad as he claims
- how Takaaki Nakagami is flying under the radar, and is in line for a podium soon
- why Maverick Viñales had a terrible race, and whether this is a permanent feature of his racing
But first, it feels right to pay tribute to the winner. Here is how Fabio Quartararo took victory in Montmelo, and what it means in the championship.
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