Jerez, Moto2 and Moto3 did not disappoint.

If MotoGP was weird enough having no racing for over 8 months – nearly 9 months, then Moto2 and Moto3’s predicament was just frustrating especially for the riders, a four mouth wait between Qatar and the second round at Jerez.

Moto3

Saturday saw Fenati, Antonelli, Arbolino and Ogura all progress into Q2, the four were only separated by 0.393s. Q2 was just as busy with Q1. Fenati was the top Q1 runner in Q2 with Tatsuki Suzuki. The championship leader and winner of round one taking pole. Andrea, Migno and John McPhee taking the remaining front row. Sunday saw the sun shine with blue skies at Jerez. First up was Moto3, waiting to blast down the first turn with the track at 36c and air temps 27c. Everything seemed perfect except of course there were no fans.

Into the first corner, of the 2020 Jerez Moto3 GP. Image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM

The red lights quickly faded away, and there’s some pushing and shoving but Suzuki got the holeshot by some margin – it seemed he was gunning for the second win from two. Foggia and Tatay crashed with each other at turn one. Suzuki had a blinding first lap with a sizeable gap with about 20 bikes following him with Migno and Fernandez making the top 3. Lap 2 saw Vietti take third from Fernandez. By Lorenzo’s corner the gap that Suzuki had, was now gone. By lap four Vietti had taken Migno and then Suzuki on the start-finsh straight. By the end of the lap, Suzuki was fifth and Arenas was fourth.

From lap five the standard Moto3 dog fighting began, with Arenas and Arbolino joining into lap six. Arbolino quickly made his way to second behind Viettti. Vietti and Arblino in second, stayed in front whilst Migno, Arenas, Fernandaz and Rodrigo were all where playing musical “chairs” until lap eleven when Arbolino scuttled past Veitti for the lead and kept it. Vietti couldn’t keep second place though, falling back to fifth.

It was now a fight between Arbolino, Alcoba, Arenas and Binder. McPhee was now sixth behind Vietti. Arbolino’s lead didn’t last long before Arenas quickly grabbed first in a sort of group mele which you weren’t quite sure who would be where, or was going to fall – a very typical Moto3 moment.

Into Lap twelve it was Arenas, Binder, Alcoba, McPhee and Arbolino in the top five. Suzuki, the once leader was hanging on in sixth but by the end of the lap having a resurgence to fourth. Arenas was hanging on in first, Moto3 style because McPhee had managed to go from fourth to second with Binder sliding to fifth. Arbolino was now back in the hunt. The tustle continued with Binder briefly taking second at the end of lap thirteen but by lap fourteen Arbolino had retaken second and McPhee was fourth.

Arenas continued to stay in first with the main three protagonists of Arbolino, McPhee and Binder swapping and sniping for places behind him. Arenas like Suzuki wanted a gap, but that gap never really appeared as each lap passed Lorenzo Corner they where swamped next to each other preying for any one but them to make a mistake. Coming up to Lorenzo Arbolino went wide, along with most the train behind him – except for John McPhee and by not going wide he took first into the start-finish straight.

It wasn’t until lap eighteen that we finally saw the lead change. Arbolino made his move down the back-straight with Arenas droping behind Binder for third. McPhee managed to create more of a gap than Arbolino or Suzuki ever did but maybe because of the excessive dog fighting behind him. Arbolino, Vietti, Binder and Arenas were not in any mood to settle for anything less than first. With less than 4 laps to go the fuse was lit for the fireworks, either somebody would go wide or crash. The four were ready to pounce on McPhee.

Again the back straight was the centre of the action with Arbolino snuffling out Mcphee’s lead and regaining first again. Binder crashes mid way through lap twenty-one. The final three left in the hunt was Arbolino, McPhee and Arenas. Into Lorenzo’s corner and Arbolino goes wide again, allowing Mcphee back into first place, going into the last lap.

Albert Arenas winner of the Jerez 2020 Moto3 Race. Image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM

McPhee kept the pace going into turn one on the last lap. But McPhee was being prevented by Arbolino and Arenas from creating any gap, because they were snapping and sniping at his heal, ready to pounce. Arbolino was indeed ready to pounce and he made his move down the back straight into the braking area. McPhee slid back to second, but Aranas wanted second and into the corners before Lornezo Corner, he made his move. McPhee was having none of it, he made his move going sharper and closer to the apex then Arbolino and Arenas did but by doing so he went wide on the exit into the straight, slightly touching the grass and promptly hitting Arbolino causing McPhee to crash in a plume of dust. Arbolino went on to stay on his bike and to take second, Ogu took third with Arenas taking the top spot.

Moto2

In Q1 Fabio DI Ginnantonio , Xavi Vierge, Hafizh Syahrin and Joe Roberts all progressed into Q2. Only Vierge could make any substantial improvement on their grid placings in Q2 with Ginnantonio last, Roberts sixteenth and Syahrin one place up in fifteenth. At the front it was Martin who took pole with the other Jorge (Jorge Navarrro) taking second with the final front row being taken by Sam Lowes

The second race of the day saw the battle of the Jorges for the holeshot, with Jorge Martin and Jorge Navarro in second with Sam Lowes on third. Martin made the holeshot, with the other two on the front being consumed by the rows behind them, resulting in a huge gap for Martin by the first corner. The other Jorge – Jorge Navarro, crashed into the kitty litter. By the middle of the lap after the long back straight, the top three had shaken out as Martin, Canet and Marini followed by Lowes with Schrotter in fifth.

jJorge Martin into the first corner of the 2020 Jerez Moto2 race. Image courtesy of Polarity Photo /KTM

Into Lap three, and we saw a break-away group of four; Martin, Marini, Canet and Nagashima. Marini was on a charge, and just after the long back straight, he made his move swiftly under cutting Martin. Marini first, Martin second and Nagashlm third, with Canet and Bezzecchi behind them. Jorge Martin was slowly but surely heading backwards, with Nagashima taking second at Lorenzo’s corner. At the end of lap five, Bezzecchi made the pass to take fourth from Canet.

The top three of Marini, Nagashima and Martin stayed that way with an increasing gap made by Marini into lap Seven, when finally Bezzecchi made his move along the back straight and going tighter into the apex pushing Martin back into fourth. Unfortunately for Bezzecchi, it was not to last because into turn 10 on lap eight, Bezzecchi’s front folded on him after going onto the rumble strip and he crashed. Schrotter, into turn 11 on lap nine crashed looking winded from the fall. Two riders crashing in one lap removed two potential candidates for the podium

With fifteen laps to go, Marini seemed, along with Nagashima and Martin content with their positions. That though wasn’t the case for Sam Lowes, as he was sixth on lap eight, he inherited fifth after Schrotter crashed. By the end of lap eleven, Lowes had caught and passed Canet for fourth. Lowes then started hunting down Martin for third. By lap eighteen, Lowes was only a second behind but Martin was starting to match Lowes lap times.

It wasn’t just Lowes thinking he could grab another place, Nagashima also contemplated the same thing as he was closing in on Marini. Into lap twenty-one, Lowes now only .6 seconds behind Martin but his pit board showed a 0.5s to push him forwards. As much as Nagashima was catching Marini, he was, with 3 laps to go stil 1.585s behind Marini. It was to be a last lap attempt for both Lowes and Nagashima.

Luthi meanwhile crashed on turn nine, on the 22nd lap but by the start of the final lap the gap was 1.562 to Marini, which meant that Nagashima had settled for second. Barring the racing gods intervening, the same went for Lowes who was now 1.158s behind Martin. Being racers of course, ‘it ain’t done ‘til the flag drops’ on your bike and that indeed was the case with the final five being Marini, Nagashima, Martin, Lowes and Canet.

Despite waiting over four months for the championship to continue we saw a polished race worthy of its wait. Whilst lacking the drama of the MotoGP race or the Moto3 race, it certainly wasn’t a filler race. Despite obtaining a second place, Nagashima maintains behind championship leader after the win at Qatar. Baldassarri second with Jerez’s race winner a worthy third. The long list of title contenders still have every chance given the nature of the intermediate round. That said, Nagashima is a surprise contender. Next up is the Gran Premio Red Bull de Andalucía or Jerez to you and me.

Pos. Points Num. Rider Team Time/Gap
1 25 75 Albert ARENAS Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3 39'26.256
2 20 79 Ai OGURA Honda Team Asia 0.34
3 16 14 Tony ARBOLINO Rivacold Snipers Team 0.369
4 13 16 Andrea MIGNO SKY Racing Team VR46 0.546
5 11 13 Celestino VIETTI SKY Racing Team VR46 0.634
6 10 25 Raul FERNANDEZ Red Bull KTM Ajo 0.682
7 9 2 Gabriel RODRIGO Kömmerling Gresini Moto3 0.753
8 8 24 Tatsuki SUZUKI SIC58 Squadra Corse 0.881
9 7 23 Niccolò ANTONELLI SIC58 Squadra Corse 0.986
10 6 5 Jaume MASIA Leopard Racing 3.646
11 5 71 Ayumu SASAKI Red Bull KTM Tech 3 3.751
12 4 82 Stefano NEPA Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3 3.936
13 3 55 Romano FENATI Sterilgarda Max Racing Team 4.157
14 2 21 Alonso LOPEZ Sterilgarda Max Racing Team 6.086
15 1 52 Jeremy ALCOBA Kömmerling Gresini Moto3 5.608
16   6 Ryusei YAMANAKA Estrella Galicia 0,0 6.098
17   11 Sergio GARCIA Estrella Galicia 0,0 6.256
18   40 Darryn BINDER CIP Green Power 17.642
19   27 Kaito TOBA Red Bull KTM Ajo 28.324
20   73 Maximilian KOFLER CIP Green Power 28.406
21   50 Jason DUPASQUIER CarXpert PruestelGP 28.64
22   89 Khairul Idham PAWI Petronas Sprinta Racing 28.844
23   9 Davide PIZZOLI BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy 29.026
24   70 Barry BALTUS CarXpert PruestelGP 33.352
25   53 Deniz ÖNCÜ Red Bull KTM Tech 3 +1'03.589
Not Classified        
    17 John MCPHEE Petronas Sprinta Racing 1 Lap
    92 Yuki KUNII Honda Team Asia 6 Laps
    12 Filip SALAC Rivacold Snipers Team 12 Laps
    54 Riccardo ROSSI BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy 15 Laps
Not Finished 1st Lap      
    7 Dennis FOGGIA Leopard Racing 0 Lap
    99 Carlos TATAY Reale Avintia Moto3 0 Lap

Data derived from Motogp.com

Pos. Points Num. Rider Team Time/Gap
1 25 75 Albert ARENAS Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3 39'26.256
2 20 79 Ai OGURA Honda Team Asia 0.34
3 16 14 Tony ARBOLINO Rivacold Snipers Team 0.369
4 13 16 Andrea MIGNO SKY Racing Team VR46 0.546
5 11 13 Celestino VIETTI SKY Racing Team VR46 0.634
6 10 25 Raul FERNANDEZ Red Bull KTM Ajo 0.682
7 9 2 Gabriel RODRIGO Kömmerling Gresini Moto3 0.753
8 8 24 Tatsuki SUZUKI SIC58 Squadra Corse 0.881
9 7 23 Niccolò ANTONELLI SIC58 Squadra Corse 0.986
10 6 5 Jaume MASIA Leopard Racing 3.646
11 5 71 Ayumu SASAKI Red Bull KTM Tech 3 3.751
12 4 82 Stefano NEPA Gaviota Aspar Team Moto3 3.936
13 3 55 Romano FENATI Sterilgarda Max Racing Team 4.157
14 2 21 Alonso LOPEZ Sterilgarda Max Racing Team 6.086
15 1 52 Jeremy ALCOBA Kömmerling Gresini Moto3 5.608
16   6 Ryusei YAMANAKA Estrella Galicia 0,0 6.098
17   11 Sergio GARCIA Estrella Galicia 0,0 6.256
18   40 Darryn BINDER CIP Green Power 17.642
19   27 Kaito TOBA Red Bull KTM Ajo 28.324
20   73 Maximilian KOFLER CIP Green Power 28.406
21   50 Jason DUPASQUIER CarXpert PruestelGP 28.64
22   89 Khairul Idham PAWI Petronas Sprinta Racing 28.844
23   9 Davide PIZZOLI BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy 29.026
24   70 Barry BALTUS CarXpert PruestelGP 33.352
25   53 Deniz ÖNCÜ Red Bull KTM Tech 3 +1'03.589
Not Classified        
    17 John MCPHEE Petronas Sprinta Racing 1 Lap
    92 Yuki KUNII Honda Team Asia 6 Laps
    12 Filip SALAC Rivacold Snipers Team 12 Laps
    54 Riccardo ROSSI BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy 15 Laps
Not Finished 1st Lap      
    7 Dennis FOGGIA Leopard Racing 0 Lap
    99 Carlos TATAY Reale Avintia Moto3 0 Lap

Data derived from motogp.com

MotoGP: Its Jerez to be back

Its July and after four months of delay, MotoGP roared into life and finally held its first race of the 2020 Championship in the sunny climes of Jerez with its spaceship start/finish. Four subjects became clear as the weekend went on and one of which we have known for a while: Marc Marquez, Alex Marquez/Pol Espargaro, Dovizioso/Ducati  and Quartararo/Rossi/Yamaha.

Q1 saw Rins and Pol Espargaro taking the the top two slots to forward themselves into Q2 and Binder lost out by .128s.

Q2 saw a new fastest lap, set by Fabio Quartararo, which saw Marc Marquez not being able to match the two Yamaha machines. Quartararo had a dominate session with him initially setting a time of 1:37.064 and his second run saw a time of 1:36.993. It took Vinales several attempts to beat that time, and put in a lap of 1:36.844. In the dying minutes Quartararo, went faster with a new track record of 1:36.705. The #93’s best saw him fall away to Quartararo’s time in the last two sectors.

Start of the 2020 MotoGp season, at Jerez round One.
Image courtesy of Box Repsol/Honda

That set up a front three of Quartararo, Vinales, and M.Marqeuz. Vinales made the holeshot, with Quartararo bogging down and in the first few meters and going 2nd, with Vinales grabbing  the lead. Backwards Quartararo went, because by the 6th corner, Miller undercuts him at the apex. By the second lap at turn one he was down to p5, with Quartararo going wide.

Whilst Quartararo, was busying himself going backwards, Vinales wanted to create a big enough gap from the man behind. Marc Marquez is not only is a great pole setter and race leader but he can hunt you down. Lap after lap, just waiting to pounce like a panther. Vinales’s gap making approach had a huge blow with a double wobble into turn 8, and MM93, was on the back of his wheel.

Lap 2 saw the gap between MM93 and Miller equalized, Quartararo’s backwards movement down the pack finally ended at Lorenzo’s corner. Miller crashes – a short race for him. Lap 3 was the time for Marc to pounce, with a shortened calendar season, he cannot afford to wait or to make mistakes. Actually none of the front runners can. Corner 5 where the Honda propelled Marc Marquez pounced, realizing that Vinales had gone slightly wide, undercutting at the apex, but Marc brakes and goes wide himself, Vinales retaking the lead as quickly as he gave it away but Marc continued to hound Vinales right up into the Pedrosa corner retaking the lead again. Vinales doesn’t give and tries again at Lorenzo’s corner. A.Espargaro crashes at the end of lap three.

Lap four saw a .5s gap between MM93 and MV12 but there were  signs that the Honda and Marc were at the limit, twitching and sliding wide (not by much but still visible). Lap 5 was an eventful yet expected result of the instability of the Honda, Marc motor-crossed through the kitty litter at turn four. Replays showed, Marc, sliding along and saving a near crash. Ending up back on track at p18, swiftly advancing to p16. How many more saves before a crash. That left the top three as Vinales, Miller and Quartararo. Quartararo, quickly started sniffing around the rear of Miller’s Ducati.

Vinales now had a 0.6s lead from Miller. But Miller had a problem in the shape of the Petronas Yahama coming towards him like a bullet and into Lorenzo’s corner, Miller goes wide and Quartararo nabs second. Meanwhile by the end of lap six, Marc was p14. Lap 8 saw Brad Binder crash but returning to the track and Marc climbing to twelveth place. Lap nine saw the top three compressed with Quartararo being the fall guy; Miller and Quartararo were ready for any mistakes. Vinales was making mistakes, and into Lorenzo’s corner he went wide allowing both Quartararo and Miller to slide past him. Both Yamaha’s where on softs, and at this stage with Rossi in an invisible eighth, it was seemly a great toss of the dice which now looks bad.

Andrea Dovizioso at Jerez 2020 MotoGP. Image courtesy of Ducati

The next couple of laps saw, the top five, of Quartararo, Miller, Vinales, Bagnaia and Dovizioso all staying together with little attempts to overtake. Meanwhile by lap thirteen, Marc was ninth, quickly taking Oliveira then Rossi  for eighth. Into Lorenzo corner saw PEspargaro taking Doviizioso and lap fourteen was ready and so was the Ducati that was powering Dovizioso, which with its grunt, allowed him to retake fifth place. P.Espargaro goes wide himself and allows Morbidelli to take p6, with Marc hunting them both down.

Lorenzo’s corner sees some more action with Dovizioso sliding past Bagnaia. Most of lap 16 saw Marc in eigth place who was watching in front of him two packs of Dovizioso, P.Espargaro, Bagnaia and Morbidelli scrapping. Lap seventeen saw Marc outbreak Morbidelli into Pedrosa corner. By turn eight, Marc passed Bagnaia. Into Lap 19 and we saw Marc around the back of PEspargaro’s bike ready to snaffle fifth place with fourth shortly after. Before that displacement was to occur, Rossi’s non descript race, came to a sad end with engine failure. By Lorenzo’s corner Marquez had just done the job on Doviziozo.

The 20th lap around Lorenzo corner saw the bunched up threesome of Vinales, Miller and Marquez, play undercutting with Marc Marquez taking 3rd away from Miller. But if Marquez thought that he could just ride on to take Vinales, he was mistaken as Miller in the next corner retook third but he went wide after passing so Marquez got his third position.

By Lap 22 Marquez was on the heals of number two; Vinales and it seemed inevitable that he would be quickly consumed by the Spaniard. But it was that same corner where Marquez had motor crossed earlier which punted him to eighteenth. Turn four decided to take a second helping of Marc’s position. This time the bike did not slide but high sides him onto the tarmac and rolling and bouncing him in the kitty litter. Marc initially managed to walk off to behind the railings and was looked at by the medical staff but was taken back via a stretcher. A later update confirmed that he had broken his right arm. He is due to have surgery on the 21st of July. With a shortened championship this could be enough to finish of any chances of retaining his championship.

With a 4.7s gap, Fabio Quartararo was on course to win the race, but behind him second and third were up for grabs. Morbideli came like a missile up to Miller’s bike down the back straight, causing Morbideli to wobble and nearly loosing it causing him to drop to sixth. Fabio Quartararo’s win is an important win for both him and his team and also for the French. Johan Zarco had been a great Moto2 Champion but now smeemingly lost in MotoGP due to both the bike and and his attitude, the French needed a new man to cheer. Hopefully things will change for Zarco. For Fabio it’s important because your debut win is always special and you have chosen the right team and after so many near misses last year its even more special.

Round one of the 2020 MotoGP. Maverick Viñales, Fabio Quartararo and Andrea Dovizioso at the podium celebrations. Image courtesy of Yamaha racing

Yamaha have improved their bike for the 2020 season, and with no Marc Marquez for at least another Grand Prix, it’s all for Yamaha to grab points to win the Championship, but which rider (and Yamaha), Vinales or Quartararo? Only time will tell, even with 3 or 4 races out and currently with zero points Marc can come back. Rossi is not on the pace to either Vinales or Quartararo, that has been amplified by this race. The result could be that Pertronas Yamaha SRT may not take his services for 2021.

Pol Espargaro, has signed for Honda for the 2021 season with Alex moving team and with the Jerez result it initally seems a good bet by the team. If Rossi is all at sea, Dovizioso could also be in the same boat. After being second in the championship for three years running there’s only so much in your tank!

Pos. Points Num. Rider Team Time/Gap
1 25 20 Fabio QUARTARARO Petronas Yamaha SRT 41’23.796
2 20 12 Maverick VIÑALES Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP 4.603
3 16 4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati Team 5.946
4 13 43 Jack MILLER Pramac Racing 6.668
5 11 21 Franco MORBIDELLI Petronas Yamaha SRT 6.844
6 10 44 Pol ESPARGARO Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 6.938
7 9 63 Francesco BAGNAIA Pramac Racing 13.027
8 8 88 Miguel OLIVEIRA Red Bull KTM Tech 3 13.441
9 7 9 Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati Team 19.651
10 6 30 Takaaki NAKAGAMI LCR Honda IDEMITSU 21.553
11 5 5 Johann ZARCO Hublot Reale Avintia Racing 25.1
12 4 73 Alex MARQUEZ Repsol Honda Team 27.35
13 3 33 Brad BINDER Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 29.64
14 2 53 Tito RABAT Hublot Reale Avintia Racing 32.898
15 1 38 Bradley SMITH Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 39.682
Not Classified
93 Marc MARQUEZ Repsol Honda Team 4 Laps
27 Iker LECUONA Red Bull KTM Tech 3 6 Laps
46 Valentino ROSSI Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP 7 Laps
41 Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 23 Laps
36 Joan MIR Team SUZUKI ECSTAR 24 Laps

Race results derived from Motogp

Rebooting MotoGP 2020 – we start at “home” – Jerez

After the aborted start at Qatar (ok the Moto2/3 guys whipped around the moonlit track), for the MotoGP fraternity, the 2020 MotoGP season reboots and hits “home” at Jerez from the 17th to 19th of July.

Any of the Spanish circuits could be classed as “home” but Circuito de Jerez – Ángel Nieto giving its full titles, usually provides some great racing with some brilliant passes.

The tower and the spaceship building over the start-finish line provide some great scenery yet also gives the riders some great reference points during the race.

Jerez is a 4.4km, 2.75 mile circult, with Marc Marqez winning last years MotoGp event and also holding the fastest lap of 1:38.051. The MotoGP race consists of 25 laps, Moto2, 23 laps and Moto3 22 laps.

You can watch a lap onboard from 2018 here:

MotoGP

Ever since Marc Marquez sat on the Repsol Honda, one saying started to come out “Only Marquez can stop Marquez”, typically that meant him to crash. But that now is in the form of his Brother; Alex. Jorge Lorezno left his contract early, after a horrendous year at the Honda works team, which ended up with him injured and he is now the Yamaha test rider. It will only be a matter of time before we see Lorenzo racing – body permitting.

Repsol Honda, with the Marquez brothers, have a family feel to it but that can quickly turn into a family feud as Alex has the ability to match his brother. Of course we have to mention the RC213V, will that still be as extreme as it was in 2019 which nearly became the Bronco Billy of 2019.

Yamaha SRT had a brilliant first year beating the Yamaha works team. Fabio Quartararo’s first year was equally outstanding, with six poles and five second places, which resulted in being fifth in the championship last year. The bike, whilst being kinder to the tyres than the works team, still has the issues that the works team has – lack of power. Franco Morbidelli, whilst being a star in the Moto2 championships, hasn’t set his debut year in MotoGP on fire. He can justifiably say that the combination of the bike, and having Quartararo as a team mate, may have been worth saying. Excuses wear thin, though.

Yamaha Racing, the works team, do not want a second year of embarrassment, especially with it being Valentino Rossi’s last year with the team. Maverick Viñales will be hoping that the lack of straight line speed will be less of an issue this year. Rossi will be hoping for the same, along with tyre wear, not to be a consistent issue with his front starts leaving him 7th or 8th by the end of the race in 2019.

Andrea Dovizioso, at thJerez 2020 July test. Image courtesy of Ducati

Ducati, Andrea Dovizioso having been runner up in the championship for the last three years running, must feel frustrated and yet happy that his form has been consistent. From 6 wins in 2017 down to only 2 last year, but collecting 8 more points (2017: 261 points; 2019: 269 points) has been the weak point for the team. So Dovizioso will be hoping that 2020 will be one of less frustration, and also winning his first MotoGP championship. Danilo Petrucci will be wanting to increase on his 2019 haul of one win and two 3rd places.

KTM, having mixed fortunes in 2019 in all 3 classes, they have finally made the decision to dump Moto2. Probably the right thing long term, as they have under performed since coming to MotoGP. Hopefully in doing so, Pol Espargaro will have a chance to fight for race wins.

Rest of the bunch.

Álex Rins will be wanting further wins this year. Team Suzuki Ecstar, have shown they can produce the goods, but the consistency isn’t there yet. Zarco is another one to watch – in the Moto2 class, he trailblazed but once in MotoGP, that came to a sudden halt. Jack Miller is in exactly the same boat. Of course, you can never rule out anyone in MotoGP in winning a race. One person missing is Cal Crutchlow. The LCR Honda, was not to his liking in 2019, after coming back from an injury which hindered his progress in 2019.

Moto2

Both the Moto2 and Moto3 classes completed one round at Qatar back in march with Tetsuta Nagashima wining round one. Both the top two riders from 2019 have moved to MotoGP: Marquez and Brad Binder. The loss of the 2019 top two will not result in any loss of quality. Far from it. Lüthi, Baldassarri, Navarro, Marcel Schrötter, Jorge Martín, Fabio Di Giannantonio and of course Marco Bezzecchi will all be fighting for the championship. To suggest a favourite for the championship would be crazy at this point.

Moto3

Albert Arenas, won Qatar Moto3, with John Mcphee 0.053 seconds behind. That sets up a great 2020 season with Mcphee, Masia, Foggia, Fernandez, Arbolino, Toba and of course Romano Fenati racing for the title. Fenati will want the racing to do the talking and not his explosive emotions.

Featured image courtesy of Box Repol

Michael Schumacher – a true great but left with no competition

When we watch sports – be it tennis, football (round and pointy) or our favourite motorsport series we look for the new star, that person who will shake things up. Senna did that in the Tolman, Niki in the Ferrari and Lewis in the McLaren, with one of the most awe inspiring first season’s in F1.

There’s one person I left off of that list, and that is Michael Schumacher. His rise to fame was nothing short of amazing jumping from Endurance cars  to F1 in the Jordan and then to eventually win seven Formula One World Driver Championships.

True greats end up with two situations which can be blemishes on their career, firstly teammates that look grey in comparison. Senna, Prost, Lauda, Alonso and Hamilton – barring when teammates were world champions themselves had less than stellar teammates, either via talent not being the same or because of contracts, is one thing that is to be expected. You aren’t going to be a world champion in a no.2 seat – ask Mark Webber. McLaren and Mercedes have mostly for instance run with no preferred main driver. Hamilton/Alonso and Senna/Prost are the two that most remember. But since Mercedes returned as a works team in 2010, their drivers have no preferential treatment. Alonso more or less dismissed the talent of Hamilton, and then scrapped with his teammate for the most of the season, perhaps to his cost and his Championship chances. Senna and Prost, were completely different in how they raced, both were racers. They mostly worked “well together” until well that corner at Suzuka and Senna, being Senna wasn’t happy with the tarmac being “inferior” to the P2 slot of Prost’s Mclaren.

One team in Formula One has traditionally has had contracted driver placings, that is Scuderia Ferrari S.p.A.. The system of number one and two drivers has worked well for them up until the mid 90’s. That started to erode, first with the paring of Eddie Irvine and then later with Rubens Barrichello from 2000. Both were fast drivers, and if Michael wasn’t there, they’d have probably won championships with Ferrari.  Both Barrichello and Irvine suffered from retirements, we won’t ever know if those were due to testing parts or for genuine reasons.

The 2006 Ferrari team at Brazil at Schumacher’s last race for Ferrari. Image courtesy of Ferrari

The second situation which nearly every dominant world champion faces (Senna and Prost didn’t as much), is that if you start to win as many world championships as Prost, Lauda, Senna, Vettel, and perhaps more acutely, Schumacher and Hamilton – well drivers retire, either to race in another series, or start their own vineyard!. Sometimes you are done with the sport, for which theirs many reasons, from health issues to the simple fact of not being good enough to be beat the best. But as a world champion you crave to have the best fight for the championship that you can, ideally not with the little new kid but that one, who has won a lot.

In any sport, you have golden eras, where there isn’t just one great but three maybe four individuals (and teams in team sports) who stand out. In Formula One we’ve had had the late 80’s, where we had, Piquet, Prost, Senna and Mansell whom where fighting for the world championship, they all became world champions.

In the 90’s we had Häkkinen, Hill, Villeneuve, Senna, Prost and Mansell all gunning for the championship. Schumacher won two world championships in 94-95 – early in his F1 career, it was a rich fabric of talent, that were World champions or in waiting. Schumacher became the best because he beat the best. But slowly one by one, they, had their names engraved upon the Formula One world champions trophy. Some jumped to another Series, Mansell to Indycar in 1993. Or others, going to less competitive cars, Villeneuve (British American Racing) and Hill (Arrows). Others simply stayed on a year and retired, Häkkinen and Prost. Senna, of course sadly lost his life at Imola in ’94.

He didn’t have the competition. Those world champion weren’t there, or in uncompetitive cars. Ferrari where the only competition, and Rubens was prevented from racing Michael, which came to a head in 2002 at the Austrian GP with Barrichello being ordered to let Schumacher pass him for the win. This lead to one of the most embarrassing podiums known in recent years.

Schumacher won in 94,95 and then from 2000,01,02,03 and 04 being his last championship win before he retired in 06. Those years (00 to 04) whilst showing his ability as a driver, to win. But you always felt with the team orders that win rate was partly Barrichello’s input as well as his own.

I entitled this piece, “Michael Schumacher – a true great but left with no competition” that is true, his existing competition of world champions left the sport one way or another. But he then had to fight off new competition in the form of Raikkonen and Alonso, whom ended up with three world championships between them. Alonso beat Schumacher in 2005 and 2006, Räikkönen nearly did so in 2003 but bested McLaren teammates Alonso and Hamilton in 2007 by one point.

Featured Image courtesy of Ferrari

MotoGP: Dovizioso Defies Marquez in Austrian Thriller – Part two

The laps Fabio Quartararo did immediately after he lost the lead were critical to his third place, pulling him away from Rossi behind who proved later in the race to be extremely tough to pass, at least for a rider without a straight-line speed advantage. Losing out to Rossi in the middle of the race would have given Quartararo the battle he has been waiting before between himself and The Doctor, but it may well have cost him the trophy he picked up as a result of his superior pace.

Rossi pointed to his rear tyre choice being the reason he missed out to Quartararo. The Italian had not been comfortable with the soft tyre throughout the weekend, neither over longer runs nor in a time attack, so his choice was a straightforward one to make. However, as Marquez, the Italian suffered with grip, and this was especially evident in his loss of time to teammate Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) behind in the final ten laps. Rossi was able to hold off his Spanish rivals, though, and in the end it was a positive race for the Italian and Yamaha, who notably improved in Spielberg compared to twelve months ago.

Valentino Rossi at the 2019 MotoGP race at the Rd Bull Ring. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Whilst Vinales was unable to pass Rossi in the final part of the race, Alex Rins was equally unable to pass Vinales. Once again, though, it had been the first part of the race that had cost Vinales a shot at the podium; losing out to Rossi on lap two meant he had to come up against that particular road block later in the race, and it proved one he could not overcome, finishing fifth in front of Rins – the #42 unable to do anything about either of the factory M1s despite Suzuki’s power gains over the winter.

Nearly eight seconds back of Rins was Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing), who took his best result in MotoGP with seventh place courtesy of, partly, the Ducati’s strength in Austria and, partly, of improvements made by the #63 and his team at the Brno test.

Just behind Bagnaia was Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), the pair coming across the line in a similar fashion to last year’s Moto2 race, where they duelled for the win. The Portuguese saved the face of KTM, after Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) retired on lap two with a mechanical problem. Espargaro was looking good for a top ten, and Oliveira took over when his machinery let him down – important in KTM’s home race and especially with the announcement of Johann Zarco’s departure from Red Bull KTM Factory Racing at the end of this season.

Danilo Petrucci ahead of Franco Morbidelli in the 2019 Red Bull Ring MotoGP Race. Image courtesy of Ducati

Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) finished a disappointing ninth. Since the summer break the Italian’s form has been disappointing, and Austria was no different; beaten in Ducati’s strongest circuit by three rookies on satellite bikes, one being a KTM and another a Yamaha, as well as the sole factory Suzuki and the factory Yamaha pairing. Fortunately for Petrucci, his contract is already signed for 2020.

Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) completed a difficult weekend aboard his satellite Yamaha with a top ten, rounding it out ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU) who probably did not help his chances of a 2020 RC213V for next year with an eleventh. Johann Zarco was twelfth, although that was not enough for him to decide to continue with KTM next year, whilst Stefan Bradl scored points once more for Repsol Honda Team in place of Jorge Lorenzo, who should be back in Silverstone. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was fourteenth ahead of Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing) who completed the points.

Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was the final classified rider, one lap down in sixteenth after a mistake on lap twenty-five when he was nine seconds off his own pace of mid-1’25s, before two laps over twenty-five seconds off the pace when he went a lap down.

When Pol Espargaro’s bike expired on the second lap in the middle of the slowest corner on the track, turn three, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL) was the unfortunate victim. The Brit had nowhere to go but into the back of the Spaniard who was unable to get off the line in time, and the #35’s race was over pretty much before it began.

Hafizh Syahrin (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) went down the lap after, and had to be hospitalized. There was concussion for the Malaysian, but he is expected to be okay for Silverstone.

Jack Miller Crashed out of fourth on lap seven. His fastest lap remained as the third-fastest of the race until the flag, a sign of the Australian’s potential. With the rumours circling around Miller’s future over the weekend, it was perhaps not ideal timing for the #43 to drop out of a race, but he was okay and his Pramac contract for 2020 is now signed.

The final retirement was Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing), who dropped out with eight to go.

Featured Image courtesy of Gareth Harford/Yamah Racing

“Put a Ring On It” – 2019 Austrian Grand Prix Preview

Beyoncé may have said “if you like it, then you should’ve put a ring on it”, but in motorsport we race the rings instead. Yes, it’s race weekend once again, as F1 is welcomed by the circuit previously known as the Österreichring!

It was known as such between 1969 and 1995, and then became known as the A1 Ring from 1996 to 2003. Finally, Dietrich Mateschitz bought the circuit and in 2008 started a reconstruction. From 2014, the newly-branded Red Bull Ring became host once again to a European round of the Formula One Championship.

The Red Bull Ring was originally 5.911km in length, with its weakness being its safety record and high speeds (second only to Silverstone during its Österreichring period). Something had to be done, and as such it was shortened to 4.326km in its guise as the A1 Ring, and again in 2016 to 4.318km.

Red Bull Ring sectors. Image courtesy of Pirelli.This weekend we head back to the Red Bull Rin  after last week’s French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard, which was dominated by Mercedes with Hamilton and Bottas finishing 1-2.

Can I mention hot air? No, not the untruths one may hear, but instead air streams from the African continent. Tyres could again play a massive part in the race this weekend, with it predicted to be one of the hottest days in Europe so far, courtesy of very warm air streams. Last weekend in France saw temperatures hit 56°C, but this weekend could hit 60°C. That alone will shift the working windows of the tyres and also will vary between teams . With higher air temps we could also see the 2019 aero regulations cause some teams issues with heat distribution.

Available tyres for the races up to the Russian GP. Image courtesy of Pirelli

The Red Bull Ring, following its 2014 redesign, is one of the shortest tracks on the F1 calendar, with the current configuration’s lap record being a 1:06.957, set by Kimi Raikkonen in 2018. With four sharp turns (T1, T3, T7 and T8) and three DRS zones allowing overtaking, the race is not a foregone conclusion.

Infograpics for the 2019 Red Bull Ring. Image courtesy of Pirelli

2019 has been a year of Mercedes dominance, with them having won all eight races so far – two for Valtteri Bottas and six for Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari has had correlation issues in their fluid dynamics simulation to wind tunnel analysis, hence the testing of new front wing and floor assemblies at Paul Ricard. With that issue presumably sorted, can their car finally show its promise?

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won here in 2018, and he will be hoping for that to happen again this year to finally break the Mercedes strong-hold on the championship.

And if Verstappen, Vettel and Leclerc can’t mount a challenge? It will, yet again, be between the Mercedes boys of Hamilton and Bottas.

 

[Featured Image courtesy of Colombo Images/Scuderia Ferrari]