Racing Legends: Casey Stoner

When talking about legends of grand prix racing, the name of Casey Stoner is never far from anyone’s lips. 

Stoner’s early career is somewhat unremarkable in terms of results. From dirt-track racing in the Australian outback, to honing his short circuit skills in the junior ranks of BSB and then through the 125cc and 250cc grand prix classes. His natural speed on a bike and his skill to ride any machine was undoubted, but throughout his junior years there was concern by many over his consistency.

His debut season in MotoGP, in 2006, seemed only to emphasise this. A regular front-row starter with LCR Honda, Stoner struggled for consistency over longer races – sending himself and bike barrelling through gravel traps as he tried to chase down those on superior machinery.  A pole position and a podium finish towards the end of the season provided a glimpse as to what was to come.

With Honda’s eggs at the time all devoted to Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa, Stoner had to jump ship if he was to become a serious championship contender.

2007 – Ducati’s Golden Year

Credit: Ducati Corse

Stoner’s arrival at Ducati was met with more than a few questioning murmurs from many quarters, after a difficult debut season with LCR Honda. The discontent was particularly vocal back in his home country. Despite having claimed a maiden win for the factory outfit, Troy Bayliss was shown the door to make way for his younger compatriot.

Stoner would be paired with Loris Capirossi, with the expectation that the Italian stalwart would initially set the standard, and the young Australian would gradually build to an even footing by the end of the season. 

Whether it was the plan, or a cryptic challenge from the team, Stoner’s response on track was something else. 10 wins across the season, including an emotionally charged victory at Ducati’s home race at Misano to wrap up his first world championship crown. 

Such was his relentless charge to the title, it’s impossible not to draw similarities with Valentino Rossi. Was this a changing of the guard? The media couldn’t help but stir that particular pot. It irked Rossi, and as the season drew on there was a growing sense of rivalry between them. Things came to a head at Laguna Seca when Rossi accused Stoner of breaking the track limits to force an overtake at the corkscrew. Rossi would famously ‘repay the favour’ the following season. Whilst the two would joust each other more often than not for top honours in the years to come, Stoner was too fast and too consistent to be stopped in 2007. 

The Desmosedici machine was undeniably fast – especially on low-fuel qualifying runs and in a straight line (the traditional strength of any Ducati). However, those doubting Stoner’s racecraft were silenced as he hauled and wrestled a fully fuel laden Ducati around the circuits with relentless precision. When forced to cut through the field after a less than clean start, Stoner relied on the skills honed way back on the dirt tracks in Australia, as he dived, carved and – occasionally – bullied his way through the pack. 

The final standings for the season said it all – Stoner finished the season winning the championship by an astonishing 125 point margin. Capirossi, for the record, finished 7th and over 200 points behind. 

Stoner remains to this day Ducati’s only MotoGP world champion.

2009 – Battle with Chronic Fatigue

Credit: Getty Images

After securing another routine victory at the opening round in Qatar, the Australian’s form fell off the proverbial cliff. Nobody could fathom why. In qualifying he’d still have the beating of everyone – often by the best part of half a second. After the Catalan grand prix fell apart so spectacularly, Stoner took the unprecedented decision of taking a mid-season hiatus. 

At first it was just suspected burnout. Sit out the next round or two and be back. The reality was far more complex. After numerous tests and consultations back in Australia, Stoner was eventually diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue – a condition he is still managing to this day. The condition has many symptoms – among them most prevalent are a complete lack of energy / total exhaustion with an acute state of depression and quite often acute muscle and joint pains. Heavy exercise or over-exercising increases the symptoms. 

With this in mind one can see how racing an 800cc prototype, particularly such a demanding bike like the Ducati, resulted in such a sudden blowout for Stoner. Critics were quick to question his mentality – and even state he no longer had the desire to race as hard as his rivals. The truth is, he physically and mentally couldn’t race and needed to recuperate away from the inferno that is grand prix racing. For more information about Chronic fatigue: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-cfs/ is a very useful starting point.   

Stoner’s decision to take a hiatus was vindicated immediately upon his return. He followed Lorenzo home to a comfortable second place at the Portuguese grand prix in Estoril, then demolished the field at Phillip Island to secure a hat-trick of victories on home-turf. 

Stoner was back.     

2011 – The Dream Come True

Credit: HRC Images

After relations soured with Ducati in 2010, Stoner signed for the Repsol Honda team. Emulating his boyhood hero, Mick Doohan. Once more he faced critics – this time aimed more at the team than the rider. The bike, whilst a competent competitor, had fallen clearly behind Yamaha in recent years. There was also the controversy of Honda employing three riders in their Repsol-backed factory team.

With a competitive bike underneath him again, and a team actively supporting his direction, Stoner was once more given an opportunity to fight for the championship. The season couldn’t have started better. Fast throughout testing, Stoner delivered at the opening round under the floodlights in Qatar, leaving the defending champion Jorge Lorenzo in a distant second place. 

The rivalry between Stoner and Rossi briefly resurfaced at the following round when the Italian – now at Ducati – lost the front wheel into turn one and took himself and Stoner out of the race. In the aftermath, Stoner uttered to Rossi the now famous line in racing folklore: “Your ambition outweighed your talent”.

Arguably, Stoner’s finest hour of the season came at a drenched Silverstone. The start was delayed due to the continuous downpour, but the decision was finally made to get underway. Whilst chaos reigned behind him with riders constantly tripping up on the treacherous surface, Stoner executed a wet-weather masterclass, negotiating every corner and braking point – almost drifting through every apex – with an elegance previously unseen by him. His teammate Andrea Dovizioso was the best of the rest, finishing 15 seconds adrift. The race effectively ended any hope Lorenzo had of retaining the title, crashing out halfway through the race, unable to stick to the Australian.

From then on, Stoner ensured he had it all his own way for the rest of the season. At Aragon he showcased another imperious lights-to-flag victory ahead of his other team-mate Dani Pedrosa. The result ensured victory in the constructors’ championship for Honda for the first time since 2006 with the late and much missed Nicky Hayden. Stoner’s personal triumph would be confirmed once again at Phillip Island. 

The weekend had been drummed up as a tribute to Mick Doohan – officially badged to mark 20 years since he joined HRC. Essentially, it was a grand gesture from Honda to mark Stoner realising his dream of following in his hero’s footsteps. Though before he could don the champions t-shirt again, he first had to fend off a spirited challenge from Marco Simoncelli, pushed all the way to the final lap before the Italian was forced into a mistake. 

Battle won, and cue the euphoric celebrations from rider, team and fans alike. A premier class world champion with multiple teams. Only a select few have managed to claim such an accolade.

Credit: Getty Images

2012 – The Curtain Falls

The Australian may have had a much shorter grand prix career than his contemporaries – he called time on his career just 7 seasons since making his bow in the premier class.

His decision to retire stunned the racing world, in much the same vein as his signing for Ducati and his decision to take time out did. Very fitting – above all else, Casey Stoner did it his own way throughout his career. His ability and sheer tenacity on the bike ensured that he succeeded wherever he went.

Any controversy that followed him was ultimately silenced by his results.

Racing Legends: Valentino Rossi

 

Credit: Getty Images

Whether it’s his infectious exuberance, his elaborate celebrations, his illustrious career, or his undeniable talent, it’s safe to say everyone has a reason to like Valentino Rossi aka. The G.O.A.T.

The Junior Years

It is amazing to think however, that his debut year in the 125cc class wasn’t magical. His talent though was clear. He pushed himself to new limits and in typical Rossi fashion, only took the one year to learn and the next year to win.

1997 was that year on the Aprilia, interrupting his Japanese rivals who were dominating the event, winning by 80 points over fellow racer Noboru Ueda.

It is also at this early start of his career that audiences first saw the iconic sun and moon design that has become Rossi’s signature motifs, albeit slight design changes throughout the years and where we first saw his showman side too, celebrating his victories. These celebrations would carry through as he progressed up the ranks, getting more elaborate and memorable.

The number 46 was now racing with the likes of Loris Capirossi and Tetsuya Harada. In 1998, Rossi moved up to the 250cc class and won five of fourteen races. Still with Aprilia and finishing an incredible second in the championship, only 23 points behind Capirossi.

True to form, he managed to turn second into first in 1999, winning both the race and the title at the Nelson Piquet Circuit at 20 years old, 48 points above Ukawa.

His celebrations that year included ones like the chicken, the angel riding pillion and of course the classic porta loo at the side of the track.

During this season he also managed to clinch Aprilia’s 100th GP win.

Credit: Getty Images

500’s

Moving to Honda in 2000 with renowned crew chief Jeremy Burgess, as a one-man team, Rossi again took one year to learn and one year to win. Rossi was now competing against names like: Kenny Roberts Jnr, Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa.

Although finding the transition hard from 250cc to 500cc racing bikes, it didn’t take the 21 year old long to win his first race at Donnington, in the top-class.

It was this year that the infamous feud between Rossi and Biaggi started to become apparent.

In only his first season, Rossi lost the title by only 49 points, behind Roberts.

Still riding the Honda, Valentino entered into his second year in the 500cc class in 2001, it was then that the iconic name The Doctor was founded. Overhearing at an airport the name ‘Doctor Rossi’ being announced, he thought the name sounded good, so adopted his own version. Previous names included: RossiFumi and Valentinik, but these understandably weren’t as catchy.

The Doctor secured his first pole in Welkom, became the first rider to win in all three classes at Brno and in the same year he won Honda’s 500th GP win. Rossi started to quickly rack up new records and had became a brand in his own right.

Credit: HRC Images

During this season the feud between The Doctor and The Roman Emperor (Biaggi) overflowed, making it highly entertaining for audiences around the world. While a scuffle happened off camera (at Catalunya – 2001), making all the wrong headlines and an official hand-shake took place to say sorry, their rivalry gained more momentum on the track.

At Suzuka 2001, Biaggi pushed out his elbow and nudged Rossi off track, this lead to Rossi passing him a lap later and putting his middle finger up to him. The rest of 2001 became a Honda / Yamaha dog-fight. This concluded with Rossi winning the last ever 500cc World Championship over Biaggi by a huge 106 points.

Then came a massive change to the premier class, as the two-stroke 500cc bikes were replaced with 990cc four-stroke machines.

MotoGP

After winning eleven races in 2002, including the first race of the season, Rossi had certainly become a household name and was furthering his conquest to earn the name G.O.A.T.

That year he raced among the usual faces: Barros, Biaggi, Gibernau and the late Daijiro Kato. Rossi won the title with four races left at Rio, leading once again, Max Biaggi. This time by a whopping 140 points.

Honda’s joy with Valentino was tempered in 2003 by the shock and sudden loss of fellow racer Kato, during the Suzuka race.

This year was also very strained for both the Honda team and Rossi, as Honda claimed it was mainly the bike that won the races and the rider was just the pilot. Even during those hard-times, Vale still managed to celebrate in the only way that he knew how. Memorably poking fun at Honda with the chain-gang gag.

Once again Rossi won this season over Gibernau by 80 points.

Credit: Getty Images

Then in 2004 came the biggest move. Rossi left his winning Repsol Honda team, risking everything, for the Yamaha M1, taking his crew chief with him.

Doubters said that Rossi couldn’t go ahead and win even one race on the Yamaha. They were proved severely wrong. Not only did he win races, he won the entire Championship again.

Welkom was welcome once more for The Doctor, after he won the opening race of the season against the likes of Hayden, Edwards and his main rival for the title Gibernau. The celebration that followed was clearly emotional for Rossi. He pulled over to the side of the track and after regaining his emotions embraced his M1.

There was plenty of on-the-track fights between the Italian and the Spaniard (Gibernau), which made for fantastic viewing.

To everyone’s surprise Rossi won the year 47 points clear of Gibernau. Collecting his fourth world title and sixth across all classes.

Jerez started off the 2005 championship, with a great battle between 15 and 46 after they collided on the last lap. However, during the race at Qatar, Rossi made a rare mistake and crashed. He blamed the Spaniard and ‘cursed’ him saying “he will never win another race”, this statement became oddly true.

Again with four races spare The Doctor secured his fifth title 147 points above Marco Melandri. Celebrating with ‘snow white and the seven dwarfs’.

Bad luck troubled Rossi throughout 2006, after a tyre failure, engine blow-ups and being knocked from his bike by Elias. Rossi heroically fought back during this season and going into the last race at Valencia he was eight points in front of the late American, Nicky Hayden. However, more bad luck plagued him and he fell, re-mounted and finished thirteenth. Hayden won his only title by five points.

2007 saw Rossi finish third in the championship, behind winner Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, in second.

Many people were saying, is that the end of Rossi?

Motegi – 2008 saw Rossi silence the critics and he won his eighth career title, across all classes, finishing on the GP rostrum for the 150th time overtaking Agostini’s record total of wins in the top class.

Bitter complications with Yamaha made 2009 a hard year for Rossi and his team. Even though it was tough in the garage he still took victory, finishing third in Malaysia, for his ninth World Championship, 45 points above his team-mate Lorenzo.

2010 was much of the same, Rossi’s love story with his M1 Yamaha came to an end, finishing the championship in third he made another massive decision.

Credit: Ducati Corse

Hoping to emulate his success in 2004, Valentino joined Ducati. The dream of an all-Italian team in 2011 ended awfully however. It seemed the only person who could tame the Ducati was Casey Stoner. The Australian memorably said to Rossi “did you run out of talent?”, which led many people to think, perhaps he was right.

Finishing sixth in the championship in 2012 two years in a row, the Ducati dream was not to be for Valentino and he returned to Yamaha.

2013 – Present

Rossi sacked his Crew Chief Jeremy Burgess in order to find fresh motivation. Burgess admitted they “had been chasing rainbows”. Still winning plenty of races and narrowly missing out on a tenth championship in 2015 by 5 points, Valentino is still be able to break records and be at the sharp-end of the pack. Having not won a title in eleven years, Rossi fully admits that he races for the love of the sport and the passion to have fun.

Will that illusive tenth championship be granted in his new adventure with Petronas Yamaha in 2021? And will he secure his 200th podium finish?

Whatever the outcome, the yellow army still flock to watch and support their hero at every race.

Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) takes the last win of the season

The last round of the 2020 MotoGP Championship took place on the 21-22 November at Portimao.

In the last race of the season, saw  the 7th new polesitter of the year as Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) beating Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) by 0.044 seconds with Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) completing the line up for the front row. World Champion, Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), had a disastrous qualifying and starts from 20th position. Will we see a 10th new winner of the season? Let’s find out.

The starting grid for the race looked like this:

Row 1 : Oliveira : Morbidelli : Miller Row 2 : Crutchlow : Quartararo : Bradl

Row 3 : Zarco : Vinales : P.Espargaro Row 4 : Rins : Nakagami : Dovisiozo

Row 5 : Binder : A.Espargaro Bagnaia Row 6 : A.Marquez : Rossi : Petrucci

Row 7 : Savadori : Mir : Rabat

The start of the 2020 MotoGP Portugal race. Image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM

With 25 laps of racing, the last race of the season gets under way with Oliveira getting off to a great start and going first into Turn 1 followed by Morbidelli, Miller, Crutchlow, P.Espargaro and Rins. Miller takes Morbidelli into 2nd but two turns later Morbidelli takes the place back. Mir has an incident with Bagnaia where there seemed to be touching of the wheels on lap 2 and loses a lot of time and drops right back.

By lap 3 Oliveira has pulled out a 1.3 second lead and Binder crashes at Turn 1 putting a very early end to his race. The battle for 7th place is with Zarco, Quartararo and Vinales and all three riders are on it. Nakagami takes Rins and moves up to 10th place.

Lap 5 and Oliveira has now a 2.4 second lead, Miller is staying hot on the heels of Morbidelli biding his time for his opportunity to get past. By the following lap the World Champion has moved up to 16th place with Rossi in 15th, A.Espargaro in 14th, Vinales in 13th and A.Marquez in 12th.

P.Espargaro takes Crutchlow into 4th place on lap 7 but Crutchlow, Bradl and Zarco all have eyes on that 4th place and they are all on it with good clean racing taking place. On lap 9 Crutchlow takes 4th but a few turns later loses it again to P.Espargaro.

Nakagami takes Quartararo into 9th place on lap 10, Quartararo fights back and gets the place back but then Nakagami goes underneath and past, this time he manages to keep the place.

Lap 11 and Oliveira has a comfortable 3.7 lead over Morbidelli and Miller. Dovizioso takes A.Marquez and Quartararo and goes into 9th place and the following lap A.Marquez passes Quartararo pushing him down to 12th. P.Espargaro has a huge moment allowing Crutchlow to slide past but two turns later he gains the place back.

By Lap 14 Mir is still in 16th place and is a second a lap off the pace of the front runners. Nakagami takes Rins on the following lap and the battle for 13th place between Quartararo, Vinales and Rossi is hotting up with all three riders absolutely on it.

With a 4 second lead, can Oliveira keep up this pace for the remaining 10 laps of the race? Mir slows on the track and heads into the pits and retires from the race with what looks like mechanical issues. Zarco passes Crutchlow into 5th place.

On the start/finish straight on lap 19 Vinales gets a wobble on the bike but he manages to hold it and his 12th place.

Lap 21 sees Crutchlow run really wide allowing Dovizioso, Nakagami, Zarco and Bradl to pass and he is now down in 9th. Miller is hunting down Morbidelli, can he catch him and make a pass in the remaining 4 laps?

A.Espargaro passes Crutchlow into 9th on lap 22 and the following lap Nakagami passes Dovizioso up into 5th place. Turn 4 Savadori crashes out of the race.

Valentino Rossi’s last ride for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

On the start/finish straight going into the final lap, A.Marquez and Zarco are battling for 9th and are side by side, A.Marquez just manages to out brake Zarco and grab the place. Miller is still trying to get past Morbidelli and on Turn 13 he goes underneath and past into 2nd place but Morbidelli comes straight back and snatches the place back but Miller pulls back past and starts to ease away.

Oliveira takes the chequered flag with a comfortable win and his second of the season with Miller taking 2nd and just behind is Morbidelli in 3rd.

An absolutely nail biting last race of the season with some incredible racing taking place. Huge congratulations to KTM and Oliveira on a brilliant win and to Ducati for taking the Manufacturers Championship.

Karen Bristow

Featured image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM

Joan Mir takes the 2020 MotoGP Championship

Round 13 of the 2020 MotoGP Championship took place on the 14-15 November at the Ricardo Circuit, Spain.

This race could see a new World Champion – Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) has a 45 point lead in the Championship ahead of joint second place riders Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team).

Qualifying was action packed including a huge highside by A.Marquez but thankfully he was able to walk away. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was fastest once again and took pole position followed by Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) making up the front row.

The starting grid for the race looked like this:

Row 1 : Morbidelli : Miller : Nakagami Row 2 : Zarco : P.Espargaro : Vinales

Row 3 : A.Espargaro: Bagnaia : Binder Row 4 : Oliveria : Quartararo : Mir

Row 5 : Crutchlow : Rins : Petrucci Row 6 : Rossi : Dovisiozo : Bradl

Row 7 : Rabat : A.Marquez : Rabat

With 27 laps of racing ahead, the penultimate race of the season got under way with Miller off to a great start and is first into Turn 1 but then runs wide allowing

Franco Morbidelli taking an early lead at the 2020 Valencia GP MotoGP race. Image courtesy of Yamaha Corporation

and P.Espargaro to sweep past knocking him back to 3rd position. Turn 2 sees Quartararo nearly coming together with Vinales causing Quartararo to run really wide off the track and he re joins at the back of the grid. The Championship leader, Mir, has made up two places and is in 10th position and Miller has passed P.Espargaro into 2nd place.

Going into lap 2 the top six are Morbidelli; Miller; P.Espargaro; Nakagami; Oliveria and Zarco. By lap 3 Quartararo has made up five places and is now in 17th.

Oliveria passes Nakagami on lap 5 and moves up to 4th place with Zarco now hot on the heels of Nakagami looking for an opportunity to get past which he finds on Turn 1 on the following lap and he goes on the inside to take the place but then goes down and slides into the gravel having been narrowly missed by Nakagami on his slide!

By lap 7 Morbidelli has a 0.7 second lead over Miller and lap 9 Nakagami receives a track limits warning for going onto the green on the track too often! Quartararo goes down at Turn 6 into the gravel along with his Championship hopes.

Nakagami took his place back from Oliveria on the last turn coming into lap 11 quickly followed by Rins pushing Oliveria down to 6th. On the last turn coming into lap 12 Mir passes A.Espargaro and moves up to 8th. Morbidelli has a 1 second lead over Miller but Nakagami puts in the fastest lap and is chasing in on P.Espargaro.

It looks like Miller has found some extra race pace on lap 17 and closes the gap on Morbidelli by 0.3 seconds. Into Lap 19, Nakagami has also closed the gap on P.Espargaro and goes for the inside coming into Turn 14 but he has a wobble, loses it, goes down and slides into the gravel and out of the race with P.Espargaro narrowly missing him.

Franco Morbidelli and Jack Miller fighting for first place at the 2020 MotoGP Valencia GP race. Image courtesy of Yamaha corporation

By lap 22 Miller has reduced the gap on Morbidelli to just 0.4 seconds, Miller is on it, but can he get past the leader in the next 5 laps?

The Championship leader, Mir, is keeping it steady down in 7th place and just has to keep doing what he’s doing to win the title.

By the penultimate lap the gap between Miller and Morbidelli is just 0.2 seconds – can Morbidelli hold the lead for the next two laps??

On the last lap at Turn 1 Miller takes the lead, by Turn 2 Morbidelli has taken it back, Turn 3 Miller goes back past but by the next turn he’s back in second. The two riders are absolutely on it, at every opportunity Miller is looking to get past and coming out of the last turn down to the start finish line it is a horsepower race to the chequered flag. Morbidelli just manages to hold off Miller and take the win. P.Espargaro, Rins, Binder and Oliveria complete the top six.

Absolutely fantastic racing, nail biting to the very end.

Mir passes the chequered flag in 7th place and seals the 2020 MotoGP Championship. Absolutely fantastic result for both Joan Mir and Suzuki (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – the first time in 20 years Suzuki has taken the driver’s Championship, the last winner being Kenny Roberts Jnr.

The last race of the season takes place next weekend, 21-22 November, in Portimao – don’t forget to set your alarms – it’s going to be a great weekend of racing.

Karen Bristow

Featured Image courtesy of Suzuki Racin

Joan Mir takes his first MotoGP Win at the European GP

Round 13 of the 2020 MotoGP Championship took place on the 7-8 November at the Ricardo Circuit, Spain.

Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) took his 2nd pole position of 2020 in what can only be described as wet conditions just 0.041 seconds ahead of Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) followed by Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) in a truly thrilling qualifying shoot out.

The starting grid for the race looked like this:

Row 1 : P.Espargaro : Rins : Nakagami Row 2 : Zarco : Mir : A.Espargaro

Row 3 : Miller : Oliveira : Morbidelli Row 4 : Binder : Quartararo : Dovizioso

Row 5 : Bradl : A.Marquez : Crutchlow Row 6 : Bagnaia : Rossi : Petrucci

Row 7 : Savadori : Rabat :

Maverick Vinales started from the pit lane as a result of penalties issued to Yamaha for engine valve issues.

With 27 laps of racing, the red lights go out and the racing begins with the pole sitter, P.Espargaro getting off to a great start going first into Turn 1 followed by Rins and Nakagami. By Turn 3 Mir has taken Nakagami into 3rd place and at Turn 8 A.Espargaro and Quartararo both have a synchronised crash into the gravel. Quartararo manages to re-join the race but A.Espargaro was not so lucky.

Alex Rins, Pol Espargaró and Joan Mir, in the European GP 2020 MotoGP race. Image courtesy of Suzuki Racing

Oliveira passes Nakagami on lap 2 pushing him up to 4th place and Rins took P.Espargaro on the inside in a smooth pass taking the lead. Mir is having a sneaky peak too but was not able to make a pass. Savadori crashes on Turn 14 on the following lap but manages to re-join the track.

Lap 4 and we see Mir pass P.Espargaro on the inside into 2nd place with Suzuki now in first and second place. The following lap Rossi comes to a stop on the track with what looks like engine issues and an early end to his return after being absent for the last two races (due to testing positive for Covid-19).

By lap 6 Vinales is up into 16th place from his pit lane start, Bagnaia goes down at Turn 2 and then Crutchlow at Turn 8, not a good season for either of them so far. A.Marquez takes Dovizioso into 9th place on lap 7 and Mir is right on the heels of Rins – can the Championship leader win his first race of the season today?

By lap 11 the gap between P.Espargaro and Mir is just 0.4 seconds, the KTM rider is not letting Mir out of his clutches. Morbidelli passes Dovizioso on the following lap into 9th place and now has his sights set on 8th place A.Marquez.

On lap 14 Vinales is now up into 14th place and Rabat heads into the pits and retires from the race. Nakagami has passed Olivieria into 4th place and is starting to close the gap on P.Espargaro.

Lap 17 sees Rins goes wide and Mir take full advantage of this and passes him on the inside taking the lead and by the following lap the gap between the two is 0.3 seconds.

Miller passes Zarco on lap 20 into 6th position. Mir is now pulling out a lead ahead of Rins of 0.6 seconds by the following lap and Nakagami has closed the gap on P.Espargaro to 1.8 seconds.

Andrea Dovizioso and Franco Morbidelli at the 2020 European GP, MotoGP race.. Image courtesy of Ducati

By lap 23 P.Espargaro is closing the gap on Rins and Dovizioso is all over A.Marquez looking to pass and on the start/finish straight on lap 24, Dovizioso makes the pass going into Turn 1 but leaves nowhere for A.Marquez to go except into a wet patch on the track and he goes down slides off into the gravel.

Mir now has a 1.3 second lead over Rins and Nakagami is closing the gap on P.Espargaro but with only two laps to go can he close the gap enough to make a pass? Dovizioso has moved up into 7th place having taken Zarco and Vinales has moved up to 13th place.

By the last lap Mir has a comfortable lead over Rins and takes his first MotoGP win ahead of Rins in 2nd place, P.Espargaro in 3rd and Nakagami in 4th place.

Mir now has a 37 point lead in the Championship ahead of Dovizioso followed by Rins in 3rd place and Vinales in 4th. There are 50 points up for grabs at the next two races – can Mir secure the Championship next weekend at Valencia or will it go down to the wire in Portimao the following weekend?????

Featured Image Courtesy of Suzuki Racing

Morbidelli takes his 2nd win of the Season in Aragon

Round 12 of the 2020 MotoGP Championship took place on the 24-25 October at Aragon, Spain.

Takaaki Nakagami’s (LCR Honda Idemitsu) claimed a stunning first MotoGP pole, the first time since Makoto Tamada in the 2004 Valencia GP a Japanese rider has started from pole position. Nakagami was quicker than 2nd place rider Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) by just 0.063 seconds and claiming his first front row of the season in 3rd place is Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar).

The starting grid for the race looked like this:

Row 1 : Nakagami : Morbidelli : Rins Row 2 : Vinales : Zarco : Quartararo

Row 3 : Crutchlow : Oliveira : P.Espargaro Row 4 : A.Marquez : Lecuona : Mir

Row 5 : A.Espargaro: Miller : Binder Row 6 : Bradl : Dovizioso : Bagnaia

Row 7 : Petrucci : Rabat : Smith

With 23 laps of racing, the red lights go out and the racing begins with the pole sitter, Nakagami getting off to a great start going first into Turn 1 followed by Morbidelli, Rins and Zarco. Turn 2 sees Binder and Miller touch with both riders going down and out into the gravel putting a very early end to their races. Nakagami then runs wide at Turn 5 and goes off into the gravel, ending his race and hopes of a podium finish.

Morbidelli is up in front ahead of Rins and Zarco. By lap 2 Mir is up to 5th, Quartararo 6th, Crutchlow 7th and A.Marquez is in 8th place. Lap 3, and Morbidelli has put in the fastest lap but Rins is right on his tail.

The following lap A.Marquez has passed both Crutchlow and Quartararo up into 6th position and is now closing the gap on Mir. Morbidelli is holding a steady lead and both he and Rins are pulling out ahead of third place rider Zarco. On lap 6, Mir passes Vinales and then two turns later A.Marquez follows by too and is now up to 5th place.

The gap between Rins in 2nd place and Zarco in 3rd is now 1.8 seconds and by lap 8 both Mir and A.Marquez are closing in on the 3rd place rider. Coming into Lap 10 sees P.Espargaro pass Quartararo very quickly followed by Oliveira but by the end of the lap Quartararo has claimed the place back from Oliveira.

Alex Marquez and Fabio Quartararo at the 2020 Teruel GP MotoGp Race. Image courtesy of Honda Racing

Mir passes Zarco to take 3rd placed on lap 11 with A.Marquez also having a look too. By the end of the lap A.Marquez manages the pass but in Turn 1 on lap 12, Zarco takes the place back and three turns later A.Marquez passes again but this time he makes it stick and is now chasing down on Mir. Unfortunaely, two laps later at Turn 2, A.Marquez crashes out thus ending his race.

For the last few laps Quartararo and Oliveira have been having a great scrap in 7th and 8th and have swapped places several times with some brilliant racing going on between the two riders.

Lap 17 sees Dovizioso getting it very wrong in the corkscrew and dropping from 10th to 12th place. Morbidelli is still holding a steady lead by lap 18 with a 0.8 second lead, can he hold off the pressures from Rins for the last six laps?

On lap 20 P.Espargaro has passed Zarco up into 4th and Petrucci has passed Dovizioso up into 12th. Morbidelli has now pulled out a 1.3 second lead on Rins and the following lap sees A.Espargaro coming to a stop at the side of the track with what looks like mechanical issues.

Going into lap 23, Morbidelli now has a 1.3 second lead over Rins and is looking good to take the win having ridden a superb smooth and consistent race from the start and indeed takes the chequered flag to take his second win of the season followed by Rins in 2nd place and Mir in 3rd.

There are three rounds left of the MotoGP season, 1 in Portimao and 2 from Valencia with the Championship standings looking like this:

Mir : 137 points

Quartararo : 123 points

Vin : 118 points

Morbidelli : 112 points

Dovizioso : 109 points

Rins : 105 points

What a brilliant weekend of racing from Aragon. Don’t forget to set your alarms for the next round on the 7/8 November.

Karen Bristow

Featured Image courtesy of Suzuki Racing

Rins claims his first MotoGP Win at Aragon

Round 6 of the 2020 MotoGP Championship took place on the 17-18 October at Aragon, Spain.

The Championship leader, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) claimed his 10th pole position for Sunday’s race ahead by just 0.046 seconds of second fastest Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and claiming his first front row position since the 2019 Americas GP, is Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol).

The starting grid for the race looked like this:

Row 1 : Quartararo : Vinales : Crutchlow Row 2 : Morbidelli : Miller : Mir

Row 3 : Nakagami : Petrucci : A.Espargaro Row 4 : Rins : A.Marquez : P.Espargaro

Row 5 : Dovizioso : Binder : Lecuona Row 6 : Zarco : Bagnaia : Oliveira

Row 7 : Smith : Rabat : Bradl

An empty Valentino Rossi garage due to him testing positive for covid-19 and will miss the Aragon GP and the Teruel GP (Aragon Circuit). Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing
Start of the AragonGP MotoGP 2020 Race. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

With 23 laps of racing, the red lights go out and the racing begins with the pole sitter, Quartararo not getting off to a great start and is beaten to Turn 1 by Vinales with Morbidelli in 3rd place. Rins had a fantastic start and moved from 10th place up to 4th whilst Crutchlow had a terrible start and moved down 8 places to 12th on the grid.

By lap 3 Vinales has pulled out a 0.5 second lead. Bagnaia’s race ends early after he enters the gravel and A.Marquez moves up into 7th place. By the following lap, Rins has passed Morbidelli up into 3rd and is now pushing Quartararo and manages to take the championship leader on lap 6 up the inside.

The battle for 6th place is hotting up as Miller is looking to pass A.Marquez and by lap 8, Quartararo is passed by both Morbidelli and Mir and pushed down to 5th place.

Lap 9, Rins passes the leader, Vinales, on the inside into Turn 1 and now A.Marquez overtakes Quartararo and has his sights set on Mir. Surely Quartararo has an issue with his bike as Nakagami takes him on lap 11 and two laps later its the turn of Morbidelli and Miller and a lap later by Crutchlow pushing him down to 14th on the grid and nearly out of the points.

Lap 14,  A.Marquez brakes very late to pass Vinales, and he is now up to 3rd place with his sights very firmly set on Mir. With 8 laps to go, is Rins going to be able to hold off Mir and A.Marquez who have pulled out a 2.1 second gap ahead of 4th place Vinales.

A.Marquez is looking to pass Mir and has a couple of attempts at passing and at the start of lap 19 he takes Mir on the inside and now has his sights set on Rins. Will A.Marquez be able to get his first MotoGP win at Aragon?

Battle of the Alexes, with Rins beating Marquez in the 2020 Aragon GP MotoGP race. Image courtesy of Suzuki Racing

By lap 20 A.Marquez has closed the gap on Rins to 0.17 seconds, is Rins going to be able to hold off the rookie for the last couple of laps? Lap 22 A.Marquez is right on the heels of Rins but suffers a huge wobble and thus losing valuable time allowing Rins to take a very well deserved first MotoGP win very closely followed by A.Marquez and then Mir in 3rd place.

What a brilliant weekend of racing from Aragon. Don’t forget to set your alarms for the next round at Aragon on the 24/25 October.

Featured image courtesy of Suzuki racing

Petrucci Takes a Fabulous Win at Le Mans

Round 10 of the 2020 MotoGP Championship took place on the 9-11 October at Le Mans, France.

The Championship leader, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) claimed pole position for Sunday’s race having snatched the lead on the final lap of qualifying from Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) with Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) making up the front row of the grid.

The starting grid for the race looked like this:

Row 1 : Quartararo : Miller : Petrucci Row 2 : Crutchlow : Vinales : Dovizioso

Row 3 : Bagnaia : P.Espargaro : Zarco Row 4 : Rossi : Morbidelli : Oliveira

Row 5 : Nakagami : Mir : A.Espargaro Row 6 : Rins : Binder : A.Marquez

Row 7 : Smith : Lecuona : Bradl Row 8 : Rabat

With 26 laps of racing, the red lights go out and the racing begins with the pole sitter, Quartararo not getting off to a great start and by Turn 1 he is in third place behind the Ducati’s of Miller and Dovizioso with Petrucci in 4th place but then Petrucci takes Quartararo pushing him down into 5th place. At Turn 3 Rossi goes down and that is the end of what was an extremely short race for him.

A drizzly chaotic start to the 2020 Le Mans MotoGP round. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

By the end of a very busy lap 1, three Ducati’s are leading the race with Petrucci now in the lead. As we go into lap 2, P.Espargaro takes Quartararo but he manages to grab the place straight back.

Lap 3 sees Rins take Crutchlow and P.Espargaro has another go at taking Quartararo and this time he manages to make the place stick despite nearly taking Quartararo out in the process. Rins follows P.Esparagaro too and the following lap Crutchlow passes and another place is lost for Quartararo with Smith now having a look to get past and he makes his move down the inside and the pole sitter is now down in 8th position.

Just at the end of lap 4, Marquez goes down the outside of both Quartararo and Oliveira taking him up to 8th place and he is hunting down Smith and on lap 6 he makes a smooth pass up into 7th place.

Rins has put in the fastest lap and is closing the gap on the Ducati’s. Smith goes down in the gravel on lap 10 and we can see him crawling away from his bike.

By lap 12 the gap between Rins and third place Miller is now down to 0.5 seconds and the following lap Rins goes up the inside of Miller into 3rd but Miller fights back and takes the place back but Rins is not giving up and is right on the heels of Miller.

The following lap we see Rabat crash out thus ending his race and Marquez zips past Crutchlow into 6th place. On lap 15 Rins has another go at passing Miller and this time he makes the place stick but not for long as by the end of the lap Miller has the place back again. Marquez has put in the fastest lap and is closing the gap on P.Espargaro and by lap 17 he is right on his tail. Morbidelli crashes into the dirt at turn 4.

At the end of the start/finish straight on lap 18 Dovizioso makes his move on Petrucci and takes the lead and Rins takes Miller but Miller fights straight back and keeps hold of his 3rd place. Crutchlow crashes out ending his race. Just before the end of the lap, Dovizioso, Miller, Rins and Petrucci enter the corner pretty much all together, Dovizioso runs wide allowing Petrucci into 1st place with Rins 2nd and Miller 3rd.

Lap 19 Miller passes Rins into 2nd place but then something lets go on his bike and he pulls over to the side and retires from the race. Marquez has now taken P.Espargaro and is up in 4th place but the following lap Rins crashes at Turn 3 and Marquez is now up to 3rd place.

Alex Marquez at the 2020 Le Mans MotoGP round. Image courtesy of Honda Racing Corporation

By lap 22 Petrucci has a 1.6 second lead over the Dovizioso in 2nd place and seems to have the race under control. Rins has managed to rejoin the race with the help of the marshals but he appears to have a marshals strap caught on the tail of his bike. He is flagged to pull over, he removes the strap and rejoins the race again.

On lap 24 Dovizioso runs wide allowing Marquez to go through into 2nd place, Dovizioso is desperately looking to regain the place but Marquez is holding him off for now. The penultimate lap P.Espargaro takes Dovizioso into 3rd place and Oliveria is having a look too and manages to get past but doesn’t keep the place and goes back down to 5th.

The final lap sees P.Espargaro closing the gap on Marquez but Marquez just needs to hold him for the remainder of the lap. Petrucci has control of the race and takes the chequered flag followed by a very jubilant Marquez in 2nd and P.Espargaro in 3rd.

Phew! That was an exciting and very busy race which unfortunately saw race retirements from Miller, Morbidelli, Crutchlow, Rabat, Smith and Rossi.

Makes sure you set your alarms for the next race which takes place in Aragon on the 16-18 October.

BK

Featured image courtesy of Ducati

Morbidelli takes his first MotoGP win

Round 5 of the 2020 MotoGP Championship took place on the 11-13 September at the San Marino Circuit, Italy.

Qualifying was dominated by Yamaha who took the first four places on the grid with a second pole position of this season for Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) who was just 0.3 seconds ahead of Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT). The championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) starts the race in 3rd followed by Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) who takes 4th spot on the grid. This is the first time in MotoGP that Yamaha have had a 1-2-3-4 qualifying.

Unfortunately Cal Crutchlow has been declared unfit for the race. Cal has not recovered from his recent operation as well as he would have hoped but does plan to be back on the track at Barcelona.

The starting grid for the race looked like this:

Row 1 : Vinales : Morbidelli : Quartararo   Row 2 : Rossi : Miller : Bagnaia

Row 3 : Rins : Mir : Dovizioso   Row 4 : Zarco : P.Espargaro : Oliveira

Row 5 : A.Espargaro : Nakagami : Petrucci  Row 6 : Binder : Rabat : Lecuona

Row 7 : Bradl : Smith : A.Marquez

With 27 laps of racing, the red lights go out and the racing begins with Rossi getting off to a great start but Morbidelli getting off to an even better start and is first into Turn 1 followed by Rossi, Miller, Vinales and Quartararo.

Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi at the 2020 MotoGP Misano GP. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

By lap 2 Rins and Mir are closing in on Quartararo. Rossi is right on the tail of Morbidelli looking for his chance to slip past and the gap is building between 3rd place Miller and Vinales in 4th.

Bradley Smith crashes out at Turn 14 of lap 4 putting an early end to his race and a long lap penalty is issued to Lecuona who stalled on the grid of the warm up but instead of starting from the back of the grid he took his grid place, hence the penalty.

The pace of the front runners is good with Morbidelli still out in front followed by Rossi and Miller by lap 7. Vinales has passed Quartararo and although Quartararo tried to get the place back, Vinales made the overtake stick and kept the place but at Turn 4 of the following lap, Quartararo goes down and although he manages to pick the bike up and get back on the track, he is now down in last place.

Lap 9 sees Rins make a move on the inside of Vinales followed by Bagnaia who is now up into 5th place. The gap at the front of the grid between Morbidelli and Rossi is 0.3 seconds on lap 10 but two laps later it has increased to 0.7 seconds. Rins is on the back of Miller looking to get past and manages to take the place at the beginning of lap 14. Bagnaia is also having a look to see if he can get past Miller and goes up on the inside to cleanly take the place and is now up to 4th. Miller has lost 2 places in the space of 2 laps.

Lap 15 and the gap between Morbidelli and Rossi is now 1.1 seconds but by the following lap it is 1.7 seconds. Morbidelli seems to have this race under control and is setting a good even pace. Mir is now up into 6th place and although he has a big wobble on lap 17, he manages to hold onto the bike and place.

Bagnaia is right on the heels of Rins and lap 18 sees Mir pass Miller up on the inside into 5th place. Rins and Bagnaia are now hot on the heels of Rossi. Quartararo goes into the pits on lap 19, comes out again on the following lap and goes down at turn 6 – cold tyres perhaps?

Morbidelli has extended his lead to 2.7 seconds by lap 20 and we see Bagnaia go up the inside of Rins into 3rd place and then the following lap straight up the inside of Rossi into 2nd with Rins also having a look to see if he can get past too. Despite a late braking manoeuvre in which it looks like Rins is going to make the move past Rossi, Rossi is not giving up the place and holds onto his place for the moment.

Franco Morbidelli winner at the 2020 Misano MotoGP race. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Turn 9 on lap 24 sees Rabat crash out and although he is walking away he does look to be in some discomfort whilst doing so. Mir is right up with Rins and now Rossi is back up with Bagnaia looking to get his 2nd place back. Bagnaia seems to be having a problem with the bike especially in the corners.

On the final lap Mir makes a move past Rins up into 4th place and now has his sights on Rossi’s 3rd place. Mir is definitely on it and moves on the inside of Rossi to take the last podium spot. Morbidelli comfortably takes the chequered flag for his first win In MotoGP followed by Bagnaia and a closely followed Mir.

What a brilliant end to an action packed race from the San Marino circuit. The action is set to return on the 18-20 September back at the San Marino circuit.

BK

Austria GP

This weekend’s MotoGP action came to us from the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

The track temperature were set to be HOT and indeed they were which resulted in an absolute cracker of a race. Ever since Marc Marquez suffered an injury and is currently recuperating, anyone can win this.

The riders have lined up on the grid ready to go and Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) had a good start leading at the first corner.

Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) is going back down the field on the first lap and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) is moving up the field.

Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) has lost 5 places on the first lap and Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) has gone down to 3rd place. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) had a cracking start to the race .

Andrea Dovizioso at the 2020 Austrian MotoGP race. Image courtesy of Ducati

Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) has been racing well in the first couple of laps and staying up there with everyone.

This circuit has 7 right and 3 left hand corners and although it is a shorter track than most circuits, by the end of the race they will have covered 75 miles.

You can see that the Ducati’s are finding the windy part of the track hard to keep the bikes under control.

Rins is in 12th place now and it is like the Suzuki on rails going around this track , it is an absolute pleasure to watch.

Rossi’s front end went down then but he managed to keep it upright, the Championship leader is dead last right now after making a mistake on Turn 4 so it’s going to be a slow race for him now.

A chaos strewn incident causes a Red Flag

Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) were side by on the straight coming down into Turn 3 and as they braked they made contact with each other and both bikes and riders went down.

In what can only be described as an absolutely terrifying few moments, both bikes hurtled towards Turn 4 at a tremendous rate of knots, both hitting the air-fence which slowed them down but then headed straight into the path of Vinales and Rossi with Morbidelli’s bike going through the gap between Vinales and Rossi and Zarco’s bike narrowly missing Vinales.

Thankfully Morbidelli and Zarco both got to their feet and after going to the medical centre for a check-up, both were declared fit.

This is the second red flagged race of the day, the first being in the Moto2 race.

The riders have been in the pits after the red flag whilst the marshals did a great job clearing up the debris and fixing the air-fence. After looking at a replay you can see Rossi’s bike was clipped in the incident.

Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) is getting instructions in the pit and Zarco is now out the race.

Rossi still looks in shock, we thought Rossi had seen everything except a bike coming though the air inches from his face. Now he has to get back on the bike and ride (there’s a song there somewhere).

Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales during the Austrian 2020 Race in which both riders avoided bikes re-entering the track. Image courtesy of Yamaha Motor Racing

All bikes that are in race condition are back out on track ready for a restart. The starting grid was decided on countback to the previous completed lap which meant that Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was on pole.

The Race Restart

Crutchlow starts near the back and it’s been a steady restart, Miller has a good start although he does go wide on the second corner but managed to keep the lead.

Rossi does not look on it right now since the red flag incident but Miller is pulling out a good lead of a second and everyone is behind him picking up the laps.

Dovizioso and Mir are closing in on Miller then Dovizioso carved past Miller into Turn 1 and at Turn 9 later in the lap, Rins followed Dovizioso through. Rins really was on a charge but then his race prematurely ended at Turn 6 when he went down and out. Barring a mistake on the part of Dovizioso, the win was his now.

The top three at at the chequered flag were as follows:

1st Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team)
2nd Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar)
3rd Jack Miller (Pramac Racing)

Great race today, and luckily we don’t have to wait long until the next race which is on the 21st to 24th of August,  back at the Red Bull Ring.

Featured Image courtesy of Ducati