2012 Moto2 Catalunya Grand Prix Review: Racing Crimes Remain The Same

For the last couple of days since the Catalunya Grand Prix, I have been wondering and trying to find out why the FIM did not confirm the one minute race time penalty given to Marc Marquez by Race Direction, awarded because of the Catalunya Caixa rider’s risky action over Pol Espargaro during the last few laps of Moto2 race at Montmeló.

As everyone knows by now the Moto2 class continues to provide some of the closest battles for victory in Grand Prix racing history and, even more today than in the past 250 class times, the price paid by riders for this show is still living on the edge of disaster if they chase any chance of glory.

Maybe that was the main reason why Marquez decided to come back to the inside line of Turn 10 as soon as possible after a massive slide on his Suter, which looked to leave him out of the race or at least out of fighting for a place on the rostrum.

Maybe that was also the reason why Pol Espargaró decided to take as much advantage from his arch rival’s mistake on his over-geared Kalex. There are lots of things to have in mind before getting a conclusion on who was right or who was wrong; like each rider’s actions and the timing of those actions, and also the key decisions taken by Race Direction and soon later by FIM Stewards. But prior to expose a particular point of view on this critical question, let us have a look a race’s final contenders for victory, Andrea Iannone and Thomas Luthi.

Since the Moto2 class started in 2010, Andrea Iannone has been one of favourite riders for victory in every race. For some observers, even, the Italian is the fastest rider in the class. But he seems to need every aspect of racing in to be perfect in order to win –perfect settings, a good qualifying lap time and a perfect start of the race too, among several factors.

Once Iannone was on the track and felt comfortable as he did at Montmeló, it was clear that victory was going to him rather than to the more conservative Thomas Luthi. The Swiss rider may not usually fight for victory as hard as Iannone, Marquez or Espargaró do, but he combines consistency with being extremely fast too. Though Luthi is not a Red Bull sponsored rider, his second place in Barcelona “gave him wings” to leap into the lead of the championship standings. While Marquez was still off the podium because of the decision of Race Direction, Luthi was even further ahead on points from Márquez, but even the decision by the FIM Stewards to put Marquez back to third still leaves Luthi as leader of the series.

Crimes remain the same

No matter how long time passes, if you look back 25 years in Grand Prix racing, you’ll find that things may have changed a lot technically, the minds of the riders have done so too. As with Andrea Iannone in 2012, back in the 1990 season there was another flying Italian rider, Luca Cadalora, not a true world championship contender at the time –still riding Giacomo Agostini team’s works Yamaha YZR 250, before joining Honda in 1991-, but for sure a challenging rival capable of winning anywhere, at anytime. As Ianonne seems to be today, Cadalora needed everything right to be competitive.

However, it all came together for Cadalora once he joined the Rothmans Honda squad run by Erv Kanemoto in 1991. Cadalora won the title then and he repeated his performance in 1992 as the strongest rider on the track. He got it thanks to the Honda NSR 250's greater potential and also due to Erv Kanemoto’s experience giving the right help to a rising star, as he had done with Freddie Spencer a few years earlier. Cadalora also found with Kanemoto the calm and peace needed to become a fast and safe rider capable of winning at every race, and maybe something similar is what Andrea Iannone needs now to become a real championship contender in Moto2.

While Cadalora was still struggling on Agostini’s Yamaha in 1988, Jacques Cornu was the Swiss rider who, like Luthi in 2012, was fighting for victory against not only Cadalora, but also against the Spaniards Sito Pons and Juan Garriga, Frenchman Dominique Sarron and the reigning 250 world champion of 1987, the German Anton Mang.

Cornu won in Austria and France in 1988 and was finally third on points after Pons and Garriga at the end of the season, but never fought for the title against them. Sarron was leading the French connection at the time, but today France’s latest hopes in Moto2 are focused on young man Johann Zarco, so France will have to wait its moment in the new intermediate class.

Curiously, there is no German reigning champion at this time because 2011 Moto2 champion Stefan Bradl has already gotten involved in a bigger MotoGP survival experience, but those two Spaniards Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaró are a throwback to Sito Pons and Juan Garriga at a time when their duel divided the Spanish fans like only the Spanish Civil War had done before.

When Spaniards Marc Márquez and Pol Esparagaró got a win each in the first two races of the present season, Spanish fans and media started to dream about a no mercy duel like Sito Pons and Juan Garriga had in 1988, chasing Spain’s first ever 250 world championship. The main difference between Pons and Garriga’s duel and Marquez and Espargaró’s is that Pons and Garriga never crashed together throughout the entire 1988 season –although they came close to after smashing each other’s bikes in the last two corners of Sweden Grand Prix at Anderstop. But the 1988 season it self was full of incidents like those may change the course of the season several times in 2012.

You’ll find some examples of all this in the first lap of 1988 Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, when a hurried Pons charged Alberto Puig’s production Honda NS 250 –also nicknamed “diesel”- and both riders crashed. Later in the season, Honda satellite riders Pons and Sarron were fighting for victory in the last lap of Dutch TT at Assen when Sarron tried a desperate braking maneuver at the last chicane that ended in disaster for both riders. After crashing, Pons restarted the race, finished sixth and earned the same ten precious points that gave him the title over Garriga at the end of the year in Brazil.

More along those lines, in what became a bizarre situation in the last race of the 1988 season at the Goiania race track, Yamaha gave German rider Martin Wimmer some technical updates in order to join satellite riders Carlos Lavado and Luca Cadalora, to help Garriga against the massed ranks of Honda riders: Pons, Cornu, Roth, Sarron, Carlos Cardús and Masahiro Shimizu. What could Wimmer do to help Garriga? For sure, taking Garriga out of the track on the very first lap would not have been the first option, but that’s exactly what Wimmer did as soon as the green light was switched on. Neither Race Direction nor FIM Stewards applied any penalties then, and that also gives an idea about how the perception of things have changed in road racing in these recent years.

One or two guilty riders?

Coming back to the present season, it is difficult to determine if either Marquez or Esparagó did something worse than the other in Barcelona, because maybe both riders did something wrong.

With Iannone and Luthi in front but still very close, the Catalunya Caixa rider was very close to crashing in a way that recalled the kind of scary situations that have taken Shoya Tomizawa and Marco Simoncelli’s lives in recent time: a rider loses grip and gets it back, becoming dangerously exposed to riders and bikes coming after him.

Fortunately, Marquez was lucky enough to not be taken by his Suter into a critical situation –as Tomizawa and Simoncelli did-, and the corner was wide enough for Marquez to try to fix this riding mistake. It was natural to expect Marquez to come back as soon as possible to the inside line and not to lose his third place against Espargaro, and maybe he did not see Espargaro’s bike on his left hand side, but it is also clear that Espargaró is almost at the same level when Marquez hits him.

Marquez’s action may be a little too much in line with the opinion of some people in the paddock about the Spaniard’s riding style. He is an absolute talent when it comes to riding, but actions such as the one last season in Australia –smashing his Suter into Ratthapark Wilairot’s bike after the practice session was over-, the risky movement against Thomas Luthi this season in the last lap of Qatar Grand Prix or coming back to the inside line without checking as he did in Catalonia, reveal a riding character that knows no fear, one that we have all already seen may have a very serious impact in road racing safety matters.

Pol Espargaró’s over-geared Kalex would not give him too many options against Marquez’s better acceleration, and it was impulsive for him to take advantage of Marquez’s mistake. But, as you can see on the broadcast images, he loses a negligible amount of speed when Marquez was almost crashing, and tried to take advantage once the Kalex rider is sure that they are not going to collide.

Of course, doing this Espargaró lost the chance of being much faster than Marquez exiting the corner, which put him again at a position of disadvantage as soon as Marquez gets back on the throttle. Then, the Suter’s better acceleration gave Marquez the hope of not being passed by Espargaró and from the humble point of view of this writer, that was the key to a disaster waiting to happen.

The Superbike and 250 world champion John Kocinski used to say: "If you are going to have hit someone else’s bike, you'd better have your footpegs ahead of theirs if you want to avoid crashing yourself". Maybe the less than 20 centimetres by which Marquez was ahead were what saved him from crashing as Espargaró did.

More important than this, there’s a higher fact that blames both riders. All this did not happen on the last lap. Both riders were aware of that and they still tried a desperate action to keep third position behind Iannone and Luthi, which gives to both the chance of letting the other go. Marquez’s quotes to the media after the race, saying he was not carrying mirrors on his Suter – that’s why he could not know Espargaró was behind him - are just an offense to the intelligence of Espargaró and his audience. On the other hand, if Marquez could not see what was going on behind him, Espargaró had full vision of the situation and could likely have avoided the contact, letting Marquez come back to the inside line without any interference.

What is even more strange is the result of the FIM Stewards' decision to cancel the one minute penalty Marquez received from Race Direction. After HP Tuenti Espargaro’s team announced an appeal to FIM decision, Motomatters.com tried to speak to HP Tuenti and Catalunya Caixa teams, but both refused to make any comments until the FIM has felled its final verdict. It could take up to three months, but we guess it will come much sooner. In the meanwhile, nobody seems to know the basis of FIM’s decision.

2012
Total votes: 93
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Comments

Great article, and nice to see some more writing about Moto2. Every race weekend I'm looking forward to the Moto2 race as much as MotoGP. (It sucks that I have to spend half an hour finding a dodgy internet stream every time because for some ridiculous reason it's not broadcasted in my country, but that's another issue).

I really wonder what the long term plans are for this class. The original plan was to open up the engine formula to other manufacturers after three years. So that would be next year. But since then there's been nothing. Has Honda extended the contract? I can't find it anywhere.

Total votes: 126

...don't fix it.
Things have been fine with only Honda supplying engines. Why risk it escalating costs by having other suppliers join?

Total votes: 117

Because other mfr's should be allowed to compete, Honda has enough of a dictatorship in regards to rule making in the premier class.

Total votes: 123

Are you sure the other manufacturers are biting at the bit to compete? I'm not sure that Honda runs a high profit margin on the engines, but if made the engine non-uniform, you'd be opening a huge can of worms that would utterly ruin Moto2, in my opinion.

I don't even think Yamaha (the only other manufacturer that could possibly come close to Wanting to supply engines) wants to enter Moto2.

Total votes: 119

...but I have not read anything that says Marquez is deaf.  He certainly knew he was cutting across the bow of Expargaro, but was probably surprised he was that close.

My only question to Pol would be, "Did you not think you could move on to the paint?"

Marquez has arrived at a place where he feels he can block anyone at any time and, until he is penalized, will continue to view himself as entitled to do so.

Total votes: 123

about riders impact :
it is the same...after a crash...
- who is responsible or even able to check a motogp bike after a crash?
the rider the only thing he wants is to get back and open the throttle...
or makes him trying to save it till the end...
All ,even we from our sofa know that it is very dangerous to get in...but all they do...and then we say ''that's racing ''! similar to ''that's life'' in parallel situations...

about rules :
- It is obvius that FIM clean everything alright.
Fot the moment maybe it helps Marcuez but for sure this is not right for the sport .

i remember last year's race of 125 cc with Terol and Zarco...

great article !

Total votes: 111

I've watched the replays over and over again, and I don't want to throw another layman's opinion into the mix, but shouldn't the racing line be the deciding factor? Marquez went well off the line as he righted his motorcycle, and Espargaró stayed on it, right up until the moment he was hit. Also, from Pol's perspective, Marc was either about to crash or at least lose some serious time. Common sense, logic and physics state that Marc should not have recovered as he did, so Pol was in the right thinking that space was his for the taking.
If you step out of line at the grocery store - even for a second - to grab a loaf of bread you forgot, you can't expect the guy behind you to save your space in the queue.

Total votes: 131

I agree completely with Dave on this. Marquez left the racing line yet recklessly barged back in knowing Espargaro was right behind. Anyone who's ever been on a racetrack knows this is dangerous. Nobody can know with certainty what MM was thinking, but his claim that he didn't see PE sounds like a teenager's excuse to me. From my perspective, MM made a mistake while PE did not. MM was not willing to suffer the consequences (of losing a spot) and proceeded to force the issue. Context is also key as MM has now shown a bit of a pattern of "pushing" other riders. If there are no consequences for MM after Qatar and now Catalunya, what message does that send? Alternatively, might have been simpler for Pol to have shoved MM into a wall (when both off their bikes of course) to send his own message. Certainly more direct that waiting for FIM nonsense.

Total votes: 111

I have to agree; you see a hole, you fill it. Marc's save was impressive but his excuse was pitiful. Forget seeing OR hearing, he lost it and had to know Pol would be right there. Where else COULD he be, if for no other reason than to avoid what appeared to be a crash happening.

Total votes: 112

RACING 101: Do not abruptly change your line as the bikes behind you are reading you and hauling ass just like you are. For Marquez to dart to the inside is both entitled and impatient. To think another rider is not going to take the line when you tuck the front is optimistic at best.
The rest of the Moto2 riders already had a problem with Marquez's greedy technique of abruptly cutting in front of them after a pass instead of holding his line.
Pol did everything right given the situation.
The FIM's behavior is embarr'ass'ing.

Thanks for the article.

Total votes: 129

Excellent article, especially the spooky parallels with the 1988 season.

Personally I think Marquez made a number of dirty moves in that race, and others, and he needs to be penalised so he learns he shouldn't do these things. But, maybe a 1m penalty was too harsh for the FIM. If the penalty was 20s like Zarco received last year at the same track then Marquez would have come 11th and got 5 points. That would be more in line with previous decisions and maybe better in the FIM's eyes.

Total votes: 117

Watching the live TV broadcast, from my perspective I think Marquez was lucky to have saved that front-end lose. I'll say this much, the chassis set-up he has clearly results in a good amount of steering trail, otherwise it would have 'tucked' and he would have been down. Personally I think Marquez is an over-hyped spoiled brat, BUT to me this was a racing incident. Like most of us, Espargaro would not have been expecting Marquez to have recovered so fast, but this whole incident happened so quickly. How long did it take? Half a second? I think Race Direction was weak not to have taken action against Marquez for the incident at Losail when, in my view, he very deliberately swerved across the front of Luthi as he was making the pass. I haven't kept a copy of that footage, but at the time I did not think Marquez was completely clear of Luthi. I am sure that is why Luthi was very unhappy afterwards. TV commentator Nick Harris alluded to the fact a lot of the Moto2 riders have no time for Marquez riding behaviour, but in this case - the incident at Catalunya with Espargaro - I think he did what he did as he was recovering from a near crash, so he was barely back in control. As for Espargaro, well he did what any racer would have done, carried on his line - and no doubt would have expected Marquez to be off in the gravel. In an earlier time, a senior rider would have had a quiet word with Marquez. The kid is a great rider, no doubt, but we don't want him thinking he is above reproach. Perhaps this is why Race Direction took action at Catalunya - as a delayed response to the Losail incident. And that is quite the wrong thing to do. You punish people for dangerous riding WHEN they do that, not months later.

Total votes: 116

So Simoncelli got punished for his pass on Pedrosa in Le Mans (when he was ahead of Dani when they collided), but Marquez doesn't when he chops back across the racing line into Pol? Something stinks.
Great comparison with the 1988 too btw.

Total votes: 119

As I have posted on other threads in relation to this, Marco would be turning in his grave wondering how Marquez can get away without any official sanctions when Marco was marched up to the stewards and given a complete pasting.

I reckon you will find anyone near the front sending Marquez for a bit of 'gardening' on turn 1 at Philip Island if they get the chance.

All the racing I did, the Supp regs were always very clear - if you run seriously off line (or off track) it is your obligation to resume racing only when it is safe to do so.

Total votes: 114

I believe they were both at fault so racing incident.

As the rider behind you are the one that can see what is going on so have the best chance to prevent the accident from happening.

As the rider in front you should be careful when coming back onto the racing line but a few factors:
1. He was solely focused on the riders in front and trying to catch them back up (as most racers are) - yes he should have looked and that is why he is also at fault.
2. He would not have heard the bike behind til it was too late - you can hear somebody is trying to pass you but Pol was coming at him very quickly.

The difference with the Simo/Pedrosa crash was that Simo knew 100% that Dani was there and left him no space. The only problem I had with that penalty was the ride through. Gave him no chance to appeal.

Total votes: 115

I don't know what all the fuss is about. IT WAS A RACING INCIDENT. People should be rewarded more for trying to stay on bike. Early last season in MotoGP, Simoncelli was criticised for not being able to stay on the bike, yet when he tried to stay on the bike, it ended up costing him his life. If the penalty for Marquez had stood, the message would have been, oh you should have crashed out at that moment. BAD MESSAGE. It was no surprise that the stewards disagreed with race direction, and overturned their (race direction's) decision. Espargaro and his team will lose their appeal to overturn the stewards.

Total votes: 109

i'm with you, venancio luis.
A very nice article, a new point of view for people whose not familiar with racing especially moto2.

I think both riders share the same mistake. Wait, probably not mistake. Simply unawareness.

Marquez, who can finally recover from his-almost-crashing-moment, probably didn't notice that Espargaro was exactly right behind him. Though, he could have lowered down his 'ego' to immediately back on track and first checked whether Espargaro was near him since they were having a battle minutes before he almost crashed.

Espargaro, on the other hand, the only person who saw what happened to Marquez. He could have also loosen up his speed a bit before chasing the room for improvement after Marquez' incident just to make sure that there will be no collision between them if he carries on his work.

Though, at the end, i'm not a racer, so i don't really know whether that kind of awareness thing can be happend if you are in a real track.

Total votes: 108

Marquez' didn't see or hear Pol coming? BS nonsense. I was an absolute fan of Marquez till he started cutting people off. This started before the fuss at Qatar.

This event may be too close to say "it was 100% Pol/Marc's fault". But I must, as many people have, state that Marquez has been riding carelessly/fearlessly/dangerously. Whichever word you want to pick it could turn into a horrific sight that no one wants to see - good point in the article referring to Simoncelli's deadly incident (sure it wasn't the exact case, but it could have turned out the same).

My opinion on this incident: If rider is off race line, they are responsible for checking for other riders before going back to it. Do riders getting on a hot track from pit get right on the race line without checking?

Race direction & FIM - Boy, do they make themselves look worse and worse. Perhaps they are Greek politicians.

Total votes: 115

It's probably just me, but did anyone else see that Pol slammed on his front brake just as or after he hit Marquez which looked to me is why he lost control?

The only reason I comment at all is if that was true, then he should of just slammed straight into Marquez and take them both out :)

Total votes: 104

He was slammed by an idiot going from one side of the track to the other mid corner after losing control. Pol was not moving from side to side and was holding his line, and was hit at considerable force from the side on. He didn't dart into the postion in the last second, he was simply holding his line and giving Marquez plenty of room. Marquez cannot be trusted to race along side anyone which is something the best racers have always had respect with each other.

Total votes: 117