The final dance.

Here we are: the final round of the 2021 season. And what a season it’s been, ending as always with the Valencia Grand Prix.

Qualifying:

Jorge Martin (Ducati) got a surprise pole with 1:29.936 from Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) in second, who crashed directly after taking pole just before Martin stole it from him. Jack Miller (Ducati) also finished off the front-row getting third place. Valentino Rossi who finished his last qualifying session before retirement secured tenth place.

Race:

Both the Repsol Honda riders were not to participate in the race as Marc Marquez was still suffering from his last crash and Pol Espargaro took a heavy fall during the qualifying on Saturday – an unfortunate end of the season for Honda.

However, it was a weekend for only one man. A sea of yellow filled the grandstands as audiences flocked to see Valentino Rossi for one last time. With only the hope of finishing in the top 10, would he be able to make it?

Martin got off to a flying start and led from Miller and Bagnaia, however Joan Mir (Suzuki) had other ideas and soon took 3rd from Bagnaia, pushing him back to 4th, leaving him sandwiched between the two Suzuki’s.

Lap 2 saw Miller pass Martin for 1st place but Martin was in a fighting mood and took it straight back again, seeing his chance Mir also passed Miller to take 2nd. Pecco didn’t want to miss out on a podium place and was side-by-side with Jack on the straight – beginning of lap 3 and managed to take the position from him. Next was Rins’ turn to battle Miller, coming out on top for 4th and also claiming fastest lap.

While one Ducati rider was getting beaten up, the other soon took 2nd place from Mir, knowing he had to hunt down Martin, for any hope of a victory. But while on a high, Rins also passed his team-mate on lap 4 of 27.

Could things get any worse for Miller? Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) was next to pounce, taking 5th place from him. But, the Ducati was unbeatable on the straight and soon took the place back. Fabio chose another place to again pass Jack later on the same lap.

Lap 5, turn 6 saw Takaaki Nakagami take an early exit from his race.

Meanwhile at the front Bagnaia closed down on Martin and kept checking for the right place to pass but Martin proved a difficult one to get a good place to do so. The two Suzuki’s also looked like they were ready to fight the Ducati’s for 1st and 2nd.

Rookie of the Year. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) was where he wanted to be, in the top 10, in 10th place but Enea Bastianini (Ducati) passed him to take the spot. Could Rossi do anything about it?

Miller and Quartararo continued to have mini battles for 5th place while Bagnaia continued to watch Martin for any weaknesses. With 18 laps to go Bagnaia attempted a pass on Martin but it didn’t stick.

With all front riders on the same tyre set-up (hard Michelin tyres on the front and medium on the rear) it was an even battlefield.

Suddenly on lap 11, turn 6 one of the front riders crashed out of the race. Rins was in the gravel leaving the two Ducati’s to battle it out on their own in front and leaving his team-mate to take 3rd position, with only a 0.726 second gap between him and them.

The gap slowly decreased as Mir caught up to the Ducati’s, closing the gap down to 0.493 seconds. Was Mir in for a chance of winning?

13 laps till the chequered flag and Bagnaia attempted to take the lead again. This time he was successful and took the lead over the finish line to mark the half-way point in the race. Mir and Miller still followed closely behind.

Taking the lead. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

But Bagnaia was soon pulling away from the rest of the field and the gap quickly got to 0.320 seconds. Was Martin starting to feel the results of being ill the night before? Martin had a nice position in 2nd with 1.316 seconds ahead of Miller, who had managed to pass Mir for 3rd with 10 laps to go. The Australian didn’t want to stop there though and he picked up the pace to close down on Martin. With 8 laps until the end the gap had decreased further to 1.285 seconds. Miller had said previously that he saw no point in playing it safe in the last round and wanted to get onto the podium and he did just that. He took fastest lap on lap 21 and continued to bring the gap down further still.

With 3 laps to go Miller had clawed the gap down to 0.317 seconds, was he able to pass for 2nd?

Last lap and last dance of 2021 saw Bagnaia leading with a gap increase of 0.914 seconds over the other two Dukes. But there was nothing the two riders could have done to change the results and Bagnaia won from Martin and Miller, who took the last podium place. The same three riders that had dominated qualifying also dominated the race.

Bagnaia took his fourth win in a row and Martin secured Rookie of the Year.

But the weekend was all about one man – the GOAT – Valentino Rossi. Yellow flags waved vigorously as he crossed the line in 10th place and all the riders stopped at the edge of the track and waited for him to come to them. Each one cheering, clapping and receiving a personal hug from the man that transcended the sport and made it what it is today. A very fitting farewell to an absolute legend who marked the end of an era.

Everyone wanted to say Thank You! Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

But we also said farewell to another Italian rider – Danilo Petrucci who also left Moto GP and will be competing in the Dakar for KTM. He will also be sadly missed.

Top Ten Race Results:

1st

F. Bagnaia

2nd

J. Martin

3rd

J. Miller

4th

J. Mir

5th

F. Quartararo

6th

J. Zarco

7th

B. Binder

8th

E. Bastianini

9th

A. Espargaro

10th

V. Rossi

Bagnaia wished to dedicate his race win to his Hero Valentino and I would like to say it has been a privilege and a joy to watch the career of the Titan of Moto GP, all the way from those 125cc days to Moto GP.

On behalf of everyone who has been a fan – old or new – we THANK YOU!

Taking his final bow. Courtesy of: Moto GP BT Sport Twitter page.

#GrazieVale

The 2021 season may be over but it will all start again in March 2022. Will a new victor emerge? Can Quartararo secure his crown? Will we see old riders come back to the fray? Whatever happens we will be there.

 

 

(Featured image: courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter page).

Pecco Conquers at Portugal

Qualifying:

Returning to Portugal for the second time this year it was Francesco Bagnaia’s (Ducati) turn to take pole and with it a new lap record – 1:38.725 also claiming his fifth pole in a row. Teammate Jack Miller took 2nd on the grid from last years champion Joan Mir (Suzuki) in 3rd – taking his first front-row start in 2021.

This year’s newly crowned champion however was down in 7th on the grid.

Race:

Clear weather conditions meant that the track was perfect for the race ahead.

Missing from this weekends race though was last weeks winner Marc Marquez (Honda), who unfortunately suffered from concussion during a training session mid week. Brad Binder rode in his place.

Starting from pole position, Bagnaia got a slightly poor start but it didn’t stop him from going into first place from turn one. Leading from Mir and Miller. Joan took an early 2nd place from Jack, knowing full-well he needed to get a good start to his race.

Lap one, sector 2 saw an early finish for Danilo Petrucci (KTM) as he crashed out, ending his penultimate race before retiring from Moto GP.

The Portimao track is an undulating track with plenty of ups, downs and tight corners, meaning that mistakes are easy to do. There were a few riders that went wide by the end of lap 2, but one rider that seemed to be reveling on the circuit was home-boy Miguel Oliveira (KTM), who had a great start and was up into 10th, taking 7 places with 23 laps till the end.

Down-hill on the track. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

All eyes were on Bagnaia though, who was out in front. He had gained fastest lap and had already started to gap from Mir. Bad luck surely couldn’t strike twice for the Italian? Having crashed from the lead last time out in Italy.

Newly crowned Moto GP champion Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) soon took fastest lap in 6th place. While in front of him Alex Marquez (Honda) and Jorge Martin (Ducati) scrapped for their positions.

Pecco responded to Fabio, gaining fastest lap and soon took two fastest laps in a row. The Italian was not going to give up this win. Meanwhile, A. Marquez also didn’t give up on his surprising 4th place fight with Martin and soon held firm with it, with Miller next in his sights. Marquez had chosen to have a medium front Michelin tyre and a hard rear, while all 3 riders in-front of him had opted for both medium. Would his tyre choice be a deciding factor later on in the race?

Lap 7, saw Iker Lecuona (KTM) fall foul to the track as he went wide, leaving his comfortable 8th place and rejoining the race down in 12th. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) was not so fortunate and also made a mistake, which caused him to crash out of the race on turn 1.

Meanwhile, at the front Bagnaia was metronomic and had managed to gap a slightly larger lead from Mir with a 0.663 second lead and Mir having a 0.944 second lead over Miller – who still had Marquez close behind.

In a race of his own. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 12 saw Marquez pass Miller for 3rd. Was Marquez finally getting to grips with his Honda? He was certainly having an impressive race. Whilst Quartararo and Martin battled for 5th position, Quartararo hit a bump on turn 13 and almost crashed, leaving him to wait a little longer before he could make another move.

Still in the lead and looking strong, Bagnaia was 1.501 seconds ahead of the Suzuki in 2nd and only half-way through the race could he keep this pace up?  Not only was Bagnaia’s Ducati looking in good form, so were the other 3 Ducati’s. Miller remained in 4th from Johann Zarco (5th) and Jorge Martin (6th). Keeping Fabio behind in 7th.

Bagnaia could indeed keep his pace up and was in complete control and was remaining consistent. With 11 laps until the end he had broke away from Mir and had a gap of 2.410 seconds. Mir was ahead of Marquez by 1.195 seconds. The front leaders were in their own race away from the rest of the pack.

But, Quartararo needed to make up spaces and soon found a way past the Ducati blockade, passing Zarco on lap 19. The two Frenchmen had a mini battle with Zarco being the victor and with that he also passed his teammate to take 5th place with 6 laps to go. Fabio followed suit and also passed Martin but on lap 21 of 25 (turn 5) he made his first major mistake of the season and crashed, creating his first DNF of 2021. After which, Martin also lost another place to Pol Espargaro (Honda).

Whilst all that was happening behind him, Miller was hunting down Marquez. Miller passed but Marquez passed straight back. On lap 22 Miller managed another pass and that time kept hold of it. Marquez was not going to let him have it that easy though and remained glued to the rear of the Ducati.

However, the race was quickly drawn to an end with marshals waving red flags. With only 2 laps until the checkered flag, Iker Lecuona tried to overtake Miguel Oliveira but ended up taking them both out. Both riders have been confirmed to be okay. As the race was more than three-quarters of the way through there was to be no restart and the results were as they were the lap prior:

Top ten race results:

1st

F. Bagnaia

2nd

J. Mir

3rd

J. Miller

4th

A. Marquez

5th

J. Zarco

6th

P. Espargaro

7th

J. Martin

8th

A. Rins

9th

E. Bastianini

10th

B. Binder

A. Marquez gained his best finish this year and with it the top independent racer this time out. Also worth noting was top Yamaha finisher Valentino Rossi who finished in 13th place, completing his penultimate race this year.

Congratulations all round. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Bagnaia took his 3rd top spot on the podium for 2021, claiming that he “enjoyed every single session this weekend”, Miller took his 4th podium of 2021 having looked confident and in great form all weekend.

Championship standings:

1st

F. Quartararo

267

2nd

F. Bagnaia

227

3rd

J. Mir

195

4th

J. Miller

165

Ducati also claimed the Constructors Championship this weekend and Zarco took Best Independent Rider of 2021.

The race may not have been the biggest of spectacles and may have seemed a little subdued but these races need to happen to make the truly special races stand out. One thing is for sure though audiences are witnessing history with Ducati coming back to their previous winning ways, new championship contenders coming forward and with only one race to wrap up the 2021 season – Valencia is sure to be a show-stopper.

Faultless Fabio tops an incredible year by taking the championship in Misano

Quartararo

After a 2020 campaign which promised to be so much more for Fabio Quartararo, the Frenchman showed exactly why he is a star of both the present and the future in 2021.

At the beginning of the 2020 season it looked like Quartararo was on course to dominate the entire year. But after a strong start the then SRT rider faded away as the rounds went on and Joan Mir took the crown.

But this year there was no doubting the Frenchman to take the title as he entered the paddock in Yamaha’s factory outfit with a fresh outlook on what was ahead of him. With two rounds still remaining in 2021, Quartararo currently has five race wins including 10 podiums to his name this year. Only six times in 16 races has he finished outside of the top three in the current campaign.

The title fight looked like it would be heading to Portimao as Pecco Bagnaia was set to take the victory in the Emilia Romagna GP but after crashing out with only a few laps remaining, Quartararo’s glory was confirmed.

After the race, the new World Champion said he is in disbelief at becoming France’s first premier-class title winner.

“I still can’t believe it! I can’t even talk, it feels amazing,” he said in a Yamaha press release.

“Maybe later I can talk a bit more. Right now, I’m living the dream! It feels good to also have my family with me, and we will enjoy this a lot tonight and until the end of the season.

“Of course this was not the way I wanted Pecco (Bagnaia’s) weekend to end, but I’m happy he’s okay. Now we are the World Champion.

“I have no words and I have no more liquid left in my body to cry. It feels so good, but I can’t even describe what I’m feeling right now.”

Quartararo
Credit: Yamaha MotoGP

But it wasn’t an easy task to clinch the championship in Misano. Wet weather in qualifying disrupted the Yamaha rider’s pace which saw him start the race down in 15th.

A cool and controlled charge through the pack however put the 22-year-old right where he needed to be when Bagnaia crashed out. Quartararo was tantalizingly close to making it the perfect finish with a podium position, but tyre wear and a charging Enea Bastianini ultimately led to him ending fourth.

But at the end of the top-three’s celebrations, the Frenchman took to the podium stand with his family in an emotional celebration.

“To be on the podium with a big part of my family and my family from the circuit – I have no words,” he said.

“MotoGP has been going on for quite a long time. To be the first Frenchman to win it is amazing. I’m also happy for Yamaha because they haven’t won a title since 2015, and today we won it again.

“It’s an amazing feeling!”

A truly deserving winner of the MotoGP Championship after what has been an impeccable year for Quartararo. All eyes will now be on 2022 to see if he can defend the crown.

Back-to-back victories for El Diablo

Controversy reigned in qualifying:

Local boy Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM – 88), took a tumble during the qualifying, which caused the yellow flags to be waved. During this time Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati – 63) was on his fastest lap and had also taken the lap record but it was taken away from him due to Oliveira’s accident, although the yellow flag was out of his peripheral vision at the time, rules state that his lap be removed.

Bagnaia was not the only rider to be unhappy with the qualifying results. Maverick Vinales (Yamaha -12) started in 12th, one position behind Bagnaia. Due to exceeding track limits by having both tyres on the green, although this was only by mere millimetres.

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda – 93), returned this weekend after his explosive crash in July at the start of the 2020 season. He seemed to take a tow from Alex Rins (Suzuki – 42) which gave Marquez a brief third place on the grid. But, his time was not enough to keep him there and he started in 6th place.

Courtesy of: MotoGP website

Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha – 20) – took pole, from Alex Rins (Suzuki – 42) and Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati – 5) who took up the front row. A surprise 8th place for Luca Marini (Sky VR46 10) with reigning Champion Joan Mir (Suzuki – 36) in 9th and regardless of his crash Oliveira rounded up 10th place.

Rookie Jorge Martin had a massive crash which unfortunately resulted in him not being able to race on Sunday.

Portuguese Moto GP race:

Portimao, with it’s undulating bends and tight corners proved to be the place for Frenchman Quartararo to take back-to-back victories, in the third round of the championship.

Courtesy of: MCNews.com

Starting from pole, it seemed it was going to be a straight-forward race for Fabio, but he immediately went backwards to 5th place. Letting Zarco claim 1st into the first corner, leading from Rins and astonishingly Marc Marquez progressed to 3rd place. Mir also went up 6 places from the grid as did Brad Binder gaining 9th place for KTM.

With track temperatures now at 41 degrees the next 25 laps were sure to be sensational.

Quartararo was quick to put in a fastest lap, hoping to gain places back as soon as possible, taking 4th place from Miller. Only to have the fastest lap soon to be taken by Aleix Espargaro on lap three.

Courtesy of: MotoGP website

The battle was heating up already, with riders trying to gain ground with Quartararo soon taking 3rd place on lap 4 and Rins who was hot on the heels of leader Zarco. The Suzuki rider soon secured 1st place but the Ducati power proved too much and on the straight it was taken back.

Lap five saw a mechanical failure for Pol Espargaro (Honda – 41) and sadly he made an early retirement from the race. Rins once again battled for first place, this time brakes won over power and he was able to hold onto it, while Quartararo took 2nd.

Braking too hard however, caused Miller to crash out of the race on turn 3, lap 6.

Sadly for local boy Oliveira turn 14 also saw him crash out on lap 7, but he managed to get back on the bike to finish the race in 16th place.

Hard rear tyres seemed to be the right call for the riders as Bagnaia passed Marquez for 8th place, making his way through the pack and Quartararo was hunting down Rins for 1st. Unfortunately, Yamaha rider Vinales could not do the same and was outside the top 15.

Into the first corner of lap 9, Fabio decided to take 1st place and pushed hard to break-away from Rins. Getting faster and faster sections the further into the laps he went. A brilliant ride from Binder saw him progress from 15th on the grid to 6th place by lap 11. With the two Marquez brothers claiming 9th and 10th.

Lap 13 saw Bagnaia take fastest lap (1:39:728), in 6th place. Closing down on Morbidelli. All the while Rins was putting pressure on Quartararo and trying to catch up enough to pass him.

Bagnaia making his way through the pack. Courtesy of: MotoGP website

Quartararo responded with another fastest lap (1:39:680).

The battle between the Frenchman and the Spaniard continued to escalate and Rins regained fastest lap (1:39:598) on lap 15.

A bump in the circuit caused Rossi to crash out with 11 laps to the finish and track limit warnings were handed out to Morbidelli and Vinales, the latter had already fell fowl to them in qualifying.

Still fighting for 1st place, Rins took fastest lap yet again twice in a row and was pushing himself to his limits trying to catch Quartararo. Sadly, it proved to be to much for the number 41 and he crashed out with only 7 laps to the end. Zarco gained 2nd place with Bagnaia 3rd and Mir 4th. Creating the four riders to break away from the rest of the pack.

Moments after Bagnaia took 2nd place from Zarco, the Frenchman fell, seemingly from another bump in the circuit. Quartararo now lead Bagnaia and reigning champion Mir.

Quartararo seemed to be able to handle the hard rear tyre and use it to his advantage. Slowly gaining a 5.276 second lead ahead of the other two riders who followed behind.

This gap proved to be too big for any of the riders to close down and Quartararo took a very clean victory, with no mistakes, at Portimao. Mir looked to have one last attack in him for 2nd, but Bagnaia gave nothing away. They claimed the last two places on the podium. Morbidelli, with a return to form, just missed out and finished 4th.

Morbidelli back on form. Courtesy of: MotoGP website

Marc Marquez made a herculean effort, even having to change his riding style for race-day and finished a respectable 7th place, remaining ahead of his brother.

Nakagami, who looked like he wasn’t going to be able to even start the race, due to injuries sustained in practice sessions managed to finish the race completing the top 10 riders.

Incredibly six different manufactures finished in the top 7 positions.

The championship standings:

  1. Quartararo (61 points)

  2. Bagnaia (46 points)

  3. Vinales (41 points)

  4. Zarco (40 points)

  5. Mir (38 points)

With two weeks to wait until the fourth round of the championship, will it be enough time for Marc Marquez to heal any further or has this race halted his healing progress? Will it be a third race win in a row for the number 20? Or will we see a new race winner in 2021?

 

Happy Birthday to Fabio Quartararo for Tuesday 20th April.

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP website)

Racing Legends: Marc Marquez

There are talented racers in Moto GP and then there are those who seem to be born to race. Ones that stand out from the crowd. Marc Marquez is one of those riders. With his natural ability, his intelligence, understanding of racing and his wonderful family support behind him, culminate to an unstoppable force.

Courtesy of: MichelinMotorsport.com

Born February 1993, in Cerevera, Spain. Marquez has always gravitated towards a career in Motorcycle racing. Thriving from his family’s love and encouragement, Marc has gone on to be a phenomenon in his own right. He has shown audiences worldwide that he has the passion, courage and correct character that all great champions need.

Starting off racing competitively in the Catalan and Spanish National Championships Marquez went on to race in the 125’s. Only six races into his first season he scored his first podium. Learning how to use the bike to his full advantage, he carried on this momentum into his second season in 2009. Finishing in the top 10.

2010 became the first actual taste of Marquez’s true talent. Winning the 125 championship, just 17 years and 263 days old. The second youngest 125 champion after Loris Capirossi, who was just 17 years and 165 days old.

Progressing into the Moto 2 class in 2011, Marquez only took one season to learn, conquering in 2012, becoming the new world champion.

Not wishing to carry on in Moto 2, Marquez then progressed again, this time to the Premier Class. Showing his determination to be a Moto GP champion, he won his first race on the Honda, in only the second race of the season in Texas, a new track for Moto GP. It was here that he also became the youngest ever pole setter, the youngest ever race winner of the top class at just 20 years and 62 days and he completed the full set with the fastest lap, a superb achievement.

He was soon breaking all the youngest ever records and setting new ones. In only his first year he managed the impossible – winning the entire championship, by only 4 points, over Jorge Lorenzo. The first time a rookie had won since 1978 (Kenny Roberts Snr). Becoming the youngest ever World Champion at 20 years and 266 days and the youngest rider to win back-to-back Grand Prix races in the Premier Class at Laguna Seca and Sachsenring.

Putting any doubters to rest, saying that he would only be a one-time champion, he won back-to-back seasons in 2014, securing victory with three races to spare. Setting new records for the most wins in a season as well as most pole positions in a year and beating Mick Doohan’s record of twelve race wins in one season. The same year saw his younger brother Alex also win a title, in Moto 3.

Winning five races and retiring in six, Marquez found himself finishing third overall in 2015, having not been able to match the consistency of Yamaha team-mates Rossi and Lorenzo. Having three collisions on-track with Rossi, controversy about his “aggressive riding style” drew criticism, yet again, from his fellow riders, namely Rossi with whom he had battled numerous times for the championship. Some racing fans turned against Marquez, even booing him on the podium, but things soon settled down again when Rossi and Marquez embraced in parc ferme after the race which followed the tragic death of Moto 2 rider Luis Salom.

Despite not winning the 2015 title, Marquez was still putting himself firmly in the history books. Becoming the first rider to win six consecutive races at one track – Sachsenring – his most successful track.

Courtesy of: Motorsport.com. A seemingly impossible save

However, having this set back in 2015 spurred him on to win in 2016 and once again be crowned Moto GP World Champion, in Japan. The culmination of new Michelin tyres and new bike restriction rules saw audiences witness nine race winners during this season.

Struggling at the start of the 2017 championship, Honda decided they needed to find a suitable set-up for Marc’s personal riding style. They soon found it and he went on to win the races at Germany, Czech Republic, Misano and Australia. Dovizioso, who was his closest rival that year, kept the championship alive up to the final round, but ultimately Marquez held onto his title.

Courtesy of: Asphalt & rubber.com. Soaking up the championship win.

With history repeating itself the following year, Dovizioso seemed to be Marquez’s main on-track rival in 2018, but several crashes ruled out his contention to be Moto GP Champion and Marquez once again won the title. This same year Dani Pedrosa, Marc’s team mate decided to retire, he was replaced by fellow countryman Jorge Lorenzo.

Marquez won eleven races in 2019, sealing victory with an impressive four rounds left until the end of the season. This was now his sixth Premier Class Championship title, having only been in the top-class for the past seven years. He has become the youngest rider in the history of Moto GP to win seven World Championships and the youngest rider to have won five premier-class titles. At the end of 2019 Lorenzo also retired, leading the way for Marquez’s younger brother Alex to partner up with him at Honda.

Courtesy of: Motorsport.com. Celebrating the 2019 win with brother Alex.

This team looked to be the perfect match, with the brothers being so close, they would share everything and hopefully bring both sides of the Honda garage together.

However, this was not to be. Having done so many impossible saves, Marc was unable to save his bike and had a very heavy crash in just the first race of the new season, in Qatar on lap 20 and broke a bone in his arm. This resulted in him having to miss the entire year. Having gone under numerous surgeries since the accident, he is determined to come back strong and fighting again in 2021.

Hopefully we will witness the same Marc Marquez we have grown to admire. With his unique racing style and positive attitude, there surely will be more records set and broken.

©2017 The Pitcrewonline