Legendary track lives up to the name!

Qualifying:

Dark clouds loomed above the Assen track, just waiting to burst, making every lap count for the riders.

Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) made the most of it and secured his 4th pole position this season ahead of championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) and Jorge Martin (Ducati) in 3rd.

Honda rider Pol Espargaro would be sitting out of Sunday’s race due to damage to his ribs and even though he set 3rd fastest lap Martin would be racing with an infected wrist.

Race:

The weather wasn’t exactly clear blue sky, but it was declared dry for race day.

The action started almost immediately: with lights out Joan Mir (Suzuki) and Luca Marini (VR46) collided into eachother, while Bagnaia got a flying start. Quartararo went wide on the first corner ending up in 4th place, but managed to pass Martin and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) through turns 2 and 3 to take back 2nd. Aleix wasn’t just going to let him have the spot though and on the next corner passed him right back. Slightly further back Marco Bezzechi (VR46) passed Jack Miller (Ducati) for 5th. As the first lap ended would the momentum continue for the rest of the race?

Leading the pack. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Starting lap two and Bagnaia led A. Espargaro, Quartararo and Martin.

By lap 3 Aleix had secured fastest lap while the rookie Bezzechi made a move on Martin to take 4th.

Bagnaia was having issues in front trying to shake Aleix. Behind him Fabio took fastest lap and was chasing them both down.

Lap 4 saw Miller take his penalty from qualifying in the form of another long-lap penalty. We all know how last weeks penalty ended up, would history repeat itself this time?

Suddenly with 22 laps to go El Diablo made a move out of nowhere, trying to undertake Espargaro into turn 5. Resulting in both the top championship contenders colliding into the gravel. Aleix managed to remain upright on his Aprilia and rejoin the race, albeit in 15th. Seconds later Fabio had also rejoined the race, in last position behind his teammate. Bagnaia, oblivious to the carnage behind him, then had a 1.064 second lead ahead of Bezzechi and Martin.

There didn’t seem to be any significant damage to Espargaro’s bike as he started to take positions back. By lap 8 he was in 14th place. Now a man on a mission, how far back up the pack could he manage?

Meanwhile the Yamaha weekend was going bad to worse as Frankie Morbidelli crashed out on the same corner as Fabio 2 laps later. On the next lap, turn 8, Darryn Binder also ended his race early and Fabio pulled into the pits to try to retire but was told by his team to go back out, with 17 laps left – this would prove to be a mistake.

Alex Rins (Suzuki) was Espargaro’s next target managing to pass him on lap 9 for 13th while his teammate, Maverick Vinales made a move on Brad Binder (KTM) to claim 4th place on lap 11.

The man on the move – Espargaro then made quick work of both the Gresini racers taking 11th and with it another fastest lap.

Yamaha’s mistake sending Quartararo back out to race resulted in yellow flags being waved for him on lap 13, where once again on turn 5 Quartararo crashed for a second time. This time high-siding from his bike and looking like he’d hurt himself.

Second crash. Courtesy of: BT Sport, Moto GP Twitter page.

Following on from his penalty Miller was up to 6th place by lap 15. Behind him Johann Zarco (Ducati) and Joan Mir (Suzuki) were battling for 8th but, it was Espargaro that calculated a move passing them both claiming the 8th spot for himself.

By this time there were wet weather flags being waved by the marshals, declaring it a wet race. The riders had a choice to either stay out on track or go the pits and swap their bikes. It must not have been raining very hard as no rider decided to swap.

Lap 18 and Vinales took 3rd place from Martin. Was Martin’s wrist starting to hurt from the infection? Was the rain starting to affect visibility or tyres? Whatever was effecting Martin he fell back to 6th. But his troubles didn’t end there – going from strength to strength Aleix made up another place with 7 laps to go and was catching Martin who was 2.176 seconds ahead. Could he manage to catch him in time for the chequered flag?

Next lap and Miller managed to pass his teammate for next year – Binder to take 4th.

By this point of the race, the rain seemed to have eased and the flags had stopped waving. With tension mounting could Bagnaia hold on for just 5 more laps or would the pressure get to him? Would the rookie be able to remain in his podium position? Could Vinales keep his first podium place for Aprilia? Where would Aleix end up? Would there be a classic Assen surprise at the end?

Miller was stalking Vinales and was looking likely to take the last spot on the podium, Maverick was riding defensively though – Miller knew he had to make a move and decided to with 1 lap to go but, he went wide and Maverick took it back. While behind them Espargaro had clawed the seconds down between himself and Martin and had taken 6th.

Last lap – Bagania led Bezzechi and Vinales but as they were crossing the line the Assen surprise came in the form of Espargaro taking 4th place, passing both Binder and Miller in a breathtaking pass on the last corner. In doing so claiming some more all-important championship points. Now with only 21 points between him and Quartararo.

Celebrating over the line. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Top ten race finishers:

1st

F. Bagnaia

2nd

M. Bezzechi

3rd

M. Vinales

4th

A. Espargaro

5th

B. Binder

6th

J. Miller

7th

J. Martin

8th

J. Mir

9th

M. Oliveira

10th

A. Rins

Vinales claimed his first Aprilia podium, Bezzechi claimed his first premier class podium, along with VR46’s first Moto GP podium and all was forgiven between Fabio and Aleix, after Fabio apologised to the Aprilia team and to Aleix.

Top four championship standings:

1st

F. Quartararo

172 points

2nd

A. Espargaro

151 points

3rd

J. Zarco

114 points

4th

F. Bagnaia

106 points

Courtesy of: Moto GP website.
Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

 

 

With 5 weeks to wait for the next Moto GP round at Silverstone (August 5th/ 6th and 7th), the teams and riders can take a well earned rest and come back stronger. The championship is still wide open.

The first half of the season may now be over but what surprises will the second half have installed for us?

 

 

 

Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP website.

El Diablo dominant in Spain

Qualifying:

Sunny conditions in Spain made for a good qualifying session seeing Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) claim pole with 1:38.742. Narrowly missing out on taking the pole for himself – Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) took second and Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), finished the front row.

Marc Marquez (Honda) was not present over the weekend due to having further surgery on his shoulder so Honda’s test-rider Stefan Bradl stepped in.

Sitting on pole. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Race:

All eyes were on the Spanish home-riders (which there were 8 on the grid on Sunday). The brilliant weather conditions remained for Sunday and the crowds were ready.

Aleix got a great start and instantly pulled ahead. But into turn one, Fabio took the lead. More action continued on the turn though as three bikes hurled into the gravel behind. It soon became clear that Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) had gone into the first corner too quick and couldn’t stop in time, taking himself and Alex Rins (Suzuki) out along with him. But, Rins was not the only rider, as Nakagami fell his helmet knocked against Bagnaia’s rear tyre, causing him to also crash seconds later.

The crash. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

It was an unexpected start to the race. However, perhaps a more expected start was how quickly Fabio started to eke away from both Aleix and Jorge Martin (Ducati), who were in second and third.

Another great start came in the form of the now, sole-running Suzuki – Joan Mir, who had made up an impressive 11 places. Starting 17th on the grid and by the end of lap one had made it up to 6th.

The closest they would be to Fabio this race. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 3 saw Martin pass A. Espargaro for 2nd while Quartararo put in the fastest lap.

Bagnaia managed to re-join the race, but only briefly, having to concede and retire to the pits.

With 21 laps to go, Quartararo got another fastest lap and was 1.627 seconds ahead of Martin. Fabio was pushing hard to get a substantial lead.

On lap 6 Marco Bezzecchi (VR46) ended his race early, crashing out on turn 10.

Another rider who had made his way through the pack was Enea Bastianini (Ducati), who was in 7th place and hoping his luck would fair better than the last race (when he crashed out of 6th place). But, bad luck continued to hamper ‘The Beast’ as he crashed out for the second time in a row, this time on lap 8 of 24, turn 5.

Back at the front, the lead had increased further to: 2.534 seconds.

The next lap saw last weeks pole-man Fabio Di Giannantonio (Ducati) tumble into the gravel from 11th place.

With 15 laps to go Aleix passed Martin on the home-straight to re-take 2nd place, knowing he had to get the gap down between himself and Fabio. But the Ducati riders – Martin and Johann Zarco had other ideas and managed to keep him with them. But, in doing so helped in extending Quartararo’s lead, which was 3.862 seconds with 11 laps till the chequered flag.

Martin wasn’t going to have any of it. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

‘The Martinator’ re-took 2nd on lap 16, wanting to catch Fabio himself, who had managed to add yet another second to his lead. Martin however, had the same problem Aleix had, he couldn’t gap the two riders behind him. Meaning all three riders remained in their group 3.420 seconds ahead of Joan Mir (Suzuki), who had managed to pass Luca Marini (VR46) to take 5th position.

4 laps remaining and Espargaro passed Martin again to claim 2nd once more. Both Spanish men wanted to impress at home. But, it would seem no-one was going to be able to catch Quartararo, who was nearly 6 seconds ahead of the group. (Not even chest protector issues would stop him this year).

 

6 seconds ahead for victory. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Fabio crossed the finish line with one lap to go, time to really concentrate to bring back the victory. Bizarrely though as Aleix crossed the line moments after he started to shake his head and slow down, seemingly the unthinkable had happened – perhaps he had an electrical fault on the last lap? But, then his hands went up waving to the crowd. He had mistaken his last lap as the last lap of the race. Only to suddenly realise there was still one more lap, rejoining behind Marini in 6th. There were no words to describe the disappointment he must have felt, handing over a solid podium finish. He did manage to pass Marini for 5th place but, it was Quartararo who crossed the finish line to take the win whilst celebrating by ‘checking his watch’. Martin finished 2nd and team-mate Zarco claimed 3rd.

Top Ten race finishers:

1st

F. Quartararo

2nd

J. Martin

3rd

J. Zarco

4th

J. Mir

5th

A. Espargaro

6th

L. Marini

7th

M. Vinales

8th

B. Binder

9th

M. Oliveira

10th

A. Marquez

Top Four championship standings:

1st

F. Quartararo

147 points

2nd

A. Espargaro

125 points

3rd

E. Bastianini

94 points

4th

J. Zarco

91 points

After two DNF’s in a row, it was nice to see Mir claim 4th position. There is now only 22 points seperating the top two riders, even with Aleix’s unfortunate mistake, the championship is still very close.

What will happen in round 10?

 

 

 

Featured image. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

A Mugello Dream Come True!

Qualifying:

Wet conditions during the qualifying saw some unexpected results.

Starting in Q1 Fabio Di Giannantonio/ DiGi (Ducati) went through to Q2 along with Marc Marquez (Honda).

During Q2 Marquez high-sided his bike on turn 2, landing hard on his head and shoulder. The bike caught on fire and the accident caused the qualifying to be red-flagged early on in the session.

But, it was the Rookie, Di Giannantonio who finished in pole with 1:46.156 alongside another Rookie – Marco Bezzecchi and his teammate Luca Marini (VR46 Ducati).

An all Italian front row in Italy, the fans were sure to see something special on Sunday.

Race:

The rain stayed away for Sunday, but there was further drama unfolding: big news was confirmed that Marquez would be undergoing another operation on his shoulder during the coming week. With this breaking news, speculation was spreading about if he should even be starting the race.

At lights out DiGi got away well but it was the VR46 rider Marini who quickly took the lead from fellow Italian, leading the whole first lap until back on the home straight when Bezzecchi re-took control.

Bezzecchi, Marini and DiGi. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) had a poor start and went from 5th position to 8th, by the second lap he had gained back one place and had started to hunt down Johann Zarco (Ducati).

Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) took 3rd place but DiGi fought back on the straight, starting lap 3. Quartararo wasn’t having any of it and quickly re-took the position back. Meanwhile, Bagnaia made his way into 5th, having already passed Zarco earlier in the lap.

Close racing on the iconic track led to the fastest lap going to Bagnaia who was looking to pass DiGi for 4th place.

Marini had been holding strong in 2nd but Quartararo was stronger, taking the position from him on lap 4. How was the rookie in 1st going to handle El Diablo closing up fast behind him?

19 laps till the end and Bagnaia managed to pass DiGi. Both Quartararo and Bagnaia were on a mission from the start. Bezzecchi was pushing hard at the front, claiming fastest lap and leading Quartararo, Marini and Bagnaia.

So much action had already occurred early on in the race, but more action was yet to come: Lap 5, turn 9 Pol Espargaro (Honda) ended his race early while Bagnaia passed both Marini and Quartararo in the same corner to take 2nd place and the fastest lap of the race once more.

Pecco now had Bezzecchi in his sights, how would the Rookie fair?

On another Ducati, further down in the field Jorge Martin set a new record (fastest ever top-speed at Mugello) – 226.2mph.

It was the Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro though who was moving through the pack, taking 5th position from DiGi, who was going backwards.

For the second time in a row Joan Mir (Suzuki) crashed out of the race, lap 8, turn 1. On the same lap, just moments later, his teammate continued the bad luck and also crashed out for the second time in a row at turn 12. Suzuki’s year was just getting worse.

Starting lap 9 of 23, Bagnaia finally passed Bezzecchi to take the lead. Meanwhile the original leader and pole-man had fallen down the positions to 9th place.

Bagnaia was quick to start eeking out his lead. He was soon 0.964 seconds ahead of the pack. Quartararo could see him getting away and soon took another place, going to 2nd. Could he catch up to Bagnaia?

With 13 laps to go, Bagnaia led Quartararo, Bezzecchi, Marini and A. Espargaro.

Leading the way. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The close racing continued however and Marini took 3rd from his teammate going into lap 12.

By the next lap the VR46 boys had swapped positions again, while Bagnaia continued his get-away and was now 1.164 seconds ahead of the Yamaha in 2nd.

Drama continued to reek havoc at Mugello as last race winner – Enea Bastianini (Ducati) took a tumble into the gravel on lap 14, turn 4 from 6th position.

Lap 15 saw A. Espargaro pass Marini to take 4th place. While Zarco and Martin fought for 5th spot, Zarco finally claimed it.

Two laps later and A. Espargaro’s calculations of trying to pass Bezzecchi come to fruition and he made the pass to go into 3rd. Could he make further history for Aprilia and have 4 podiums in a row? With only a few laps to go, audiences were on the edge of their seats.

Bezzecchi tried desperately to hold onto his new position (4th) but with only 3 laps until the chequered flag it looked likely that Zarco would pass him.

Last lap: Zarco had formulated exactly where to pass Bezzecchi and he did so, claiming the top independent rider spot. While at the front Bagnaia crossed the line in 1st to take that all important win! An Italian, on an Italian bike, in Italy – A Mugello Dream Come True! Bagnaia decided to celebrate his win with the fans by throwing his gloves and boots into the crowd.

Crossing the line victorious. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Top 10 race finishers:

1st

F. Bagnaia

2nd

F. Quartararo

3rd

A. Espargaro

4th

J. Zarco

5th

M. Bezzecchi

6th

L. Marini

7th

B. Binder

8th

T. Nakagami

9th

M. Oliveira

10th

M. Marquez

Happy faces on the podium. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

It was an impressive ride from Marc Marquez considering the news regarding his shoulder surgery. Wishing him all the best in his recovery period (he will be having 4 – 6 months rest), hoping to see him back to full fitness soon.

It was also an impressive ride from both the VR46 riders, managing to remain in the top ten by the end of the race.

Top four Championship standings:

1st

F. Quartararo

122 points

2nd

A. Espargaro

114 points

3rd

E. Bastianini

94 points

4th

F. Bagnaia

81 points

History is constantly being written: Bagnaia took his first win at Mugello and A. Espargaro managed to get Aprilia their first 4 podiums ever in a row in the premier class.

The 2022 season is so unpredictable and constantly surprising us. With the next round only next Sunday we haven’t got long to wait for even more action.

 

 

 

Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP website.

The Beast conquers at Le Mans

Qualifying:

An impeccable time was done by Francesco Bagnaia/ Pecco (Ducati) on Saturday during the qualifying, securing him pole position and an all-time new lap record with 1:30.450, from team-mate Jack Miller and Aprilia rider – Aleix Espargaro rounding off the front row.

Ducati dominate in qualifying. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

However, eyes were on Suzuki this weekend following on from the breaking news that they are going to resign from Moto GP at the end of the year, leaving riders Alex Rins and Joan Mir with no ride (as of yet). With this news, how would they fair this race?

France was also looking at home-hero’s Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) and Johann Zarco (Ducati) to produce something magical during the race, as a French rider has never won at Le Mans in the Premier Class.

The excitement was building:

Race:

As the riders lined up on the grid many teams were choosing to change their tyre choice minutes before lights out, due to the temperature heating up. But, which team was going to decide correctly?

It was a great start from Bastianini (Ducati), who shot into 2nd place behind Miller. Bagnaia went down two places to 3rd. Three Ducati’s led the two Suzuki’s in 4th and 5th.

Bastianini made an early mistake which put him down to 4th place, while Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) fought Yamaha-man Quartararo. But seizing an opportunity during their tussle, Marc Marquez (Honda) took full advantage and surprised everyone, by passing both riders to take 7th place.

By lap 3; Miller led Bagnaia, Rins and Mir. But it wasn’t going to stay that way for long:

Rins suddenly crashed out, ending his race early on turn 4. He managed to rejoin the race after having to go through the gravel, but unfortunately didn’t finish.

Suzuki’s weekend was one to forget. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Miller then led Bagnaia and Bastianini, with 24 laps still to go.

The next lap and it was Miller’s turn to make a mistake, causing him to go wide leaving Bagnaia to take the lead. On the same lap Remy Gardner (KTM) took a tumble out of the race.

Fastest lap swiftly went to Pecco. Was he about to check out?

Hopeful to put on a show for the French fans on lap 6, Fabio tried to overtake the Aprilia for 5th place but to no avail.

Fabio hunts Aleix. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 7 saw Raul Fernandez (KTM) crash out on turn 6, leaving his team-mate to pick up any points.

Back in 3rd place Bastianini seemed to have more pace than the leading Factory Ducati’s. It soon became apparent this was the case as with no warning, he snuck up underneath Miller and claimed 2nd.

Lap 15, turn 14 and it was Mir’s turn to end his race early, cutting Suzuki’s weekend short. With Mir now out, A. Espargaro was bumped up to 4th position and Fabio into 5th.

Only 13 laps until the chequered flag Bagnaia couldn’t seem to shake Bastianini. Was it just a waiting game for The Beast?

Running a good race, Jorge Martin (Ducati) crashed out on turn 9, lap 18. This would be his third time in a row this season.

On lap 21 Bastianini took the plunge and passed Bagnaia to take 1st place but Bagnaia wasn’t having any of it and passed right back again. Then everything happened so quickly: Bagnaia went wide on the next corner giving Bastianini the lead back again. Only moments after that Bagnia crashed out from 2nd on turn 14. Bastianini then had a 2.371 second lead ahead of Miller and A. Espargaro, with the two Frenchmen in 4th and 5th.

Bagnaia crashes out. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

With only 3 laps until the end, number 88 – Miguel Oliveira (KTM) also crashed out.

Last lap time and Bastianini was leading, putting in consistent lap times and a very strong performance – still leading Miller and A. Espargaro. Fabio tried to make a move on Aleix for 3rd but couldn’t quite find the right way to do it. Brilliant riding from Bastianini saw him cruise over the finish line, claiming his 3rd win this season for the Gresini Racing team, with Miller taking some fantastic points in 2nd and holding onto 3rd place, A. Espargaro continued his theme of making history for Aprilia with the first ever 3 consecutive podiums in the Premier Class.

Podium finishers. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter Page.

Top Ten Race Finishers:

1st

E. Bastianini

2nd

J. Miller

3rd

A. Espargaro

4th

F. Quartararo

5th

J. Zarco

6th

M. Marquez

7th

T. Nakagami

8th

B. Binder

9th

L. Marini

10th

M. Vinales

It’s still super close at the top for the 2022 championship. 

Top Four championship riders:

1st

F. Quartararo

102 points

2nd

A. Espargaro

98 points

3rd

E. Bastianini

94 points

4th

A. Rins

69 points

This season is so unpredictable, we can only guess what is going to happen next round in Italy. 

 

 

Featured image: “Podium Traditions”. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter Page.

Francesco Bagnaia and Ducati set to continue together in the 2023 & 2024 MotoGP Seasons

Ducati have announced that Francesco Bagnaia and Ducati Corse have reached an agreement that will see the Italian rider aboard the Ducati Lenovo Team’s factory Desmosedici GP bike for another two seasons. Here’s what they have to say:

Francesco Bagnaia. Picture courtesy of Ducati Lenovo Team

Born in Turin in 1997, “Pecco” Bagnaia made his MotoGP debut in 2019 with the Desmosedici GP of the Pramac Racing Team. He also contested the 2020 season with the same squad, achieving his first podium at the Grand Prix Lenovo of San Marino and the Rimini Riviera, where he finished second on the rostrum.Promoted to the official Ducati team last year, the Turin-born rider continued to shine after taking pole position and finishing third place in the opening GP of the 2021 season in Qatar and soon became one of the main title contenders. With nine podiums, four victories and six pole positions, Bagnaia ended 2021 in second place and is now looking forward to the new Championship, which will start on 6th March at the Losail International Circuit in Doha, Qatar.Francesco Bagnaia (#63 Ducati Lenovo Team)“Being a Ducati rider in MotoGP has always been my dream, and knowing that I can continue with the Ducati Lenovo Team for another two seasons makes me happy and proud. I have found a serene environment in the factory team: I feel very much in tune with my team and know that we can do great things together. Now I can only concentrate on doing well in this Championship. A big thank you to Claudio, Gigi, Paolo, Davide and all the Ducati Corse staff. I’ll try to repay their trust with my results on the track!”

Francesco Bagnaia and Luigi Dall’Igna. Picture courtesy of Ducati Lenovo Team

Luigi Dall’Igna (General Manager of Ducati Corse):“We are delighted to have Bagnaia with us for another two seasons. Since he arrived at Ducati in 2019, Pecco has shown great talent and the ability to interpret our Desmosedici GP very well, adapting to ride it in any condition. He did it, especially in the last season, during which he had significant growth and got to play for the World Title. The way he managed the races at Aragón, Misano, Portimão and Valencia, scoring four fantastic victories, is proof of his maturity as a rider. With these great qualities, we are sure that he has the potential to aim for the title with us”.

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.

A new champion is crowned!

Qualifying:

Poor weather conditions resulted in championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) qualifying in an unusual position of 15th on the grid.

Second-place-man in the championship Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) took another pole. Team-mate Jack Miller was second and it was a surprise last place on the front row, for fellow Ducati rider, Luca Marini getting his best qualifying result.

You can’t miss him! Luca Marini sported a new livery, in honour of his brother who celebrated his last race in Italy. Courtesy of: Sky Racing Team VR46 – Twitter Page.

Race:

If the weather was dramatic in qualifying, it certainly wasn’t for the race. However, the drama was there to stay:

The two factory Ducati’s gained a great start from the front and remained in first and second from Marc Marquez (Honda) who quickly got himself to third. Quartararo however, went backwards from 15th to 17th.

Straight away Miller became the perfect team player and took the defensive line against Marquez, keeping him at bay, to let Bagnaia get away. Bagnaia responded and quickly started to create a gap.

Ducati’s lead from the start. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Meanwhile, down in 17th, Fabio started ticking people from his list and by lap 3 was up to 12th position, on the same lap unfortunately, last years champion Joan Mir (Suzuki) was told he had a jump start and was given a long-lap penalty, but soon after that he crashed out alongside Birthday-Boy Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) on turn 2.

Marquez was pushing himself and soon claimed fastest lap. Could he keep this form up and fight for a podium spot? With his fellow Repsol Honda rider behind him he only had to focus on the two Ducati’s ahead.

But there was drama unfolding on the track and with 24 laps to go the first part played out. Jack Miller crashed from second on turn 15, trying to defend for Pecco – leaving him alone to fight for first.

Marquez took his opportunity and closed up on Bagnaia, piling on the pressure. It appeared he was able to turn his Honda better than the Ducati, his arm problems seemingly a thing of the past. Or was it due to the Michelin tyre choice between the two? Bagnaia chose to race with a hard front and medium rear, while Marquez chose a medium front and soft rear. Which set of tyres were going to prevail?

Also piling on pressure was Fabio, now up to 10th place, passing fellow Frenchman Johann Zarco (Ducati).

Crashing on the same lap however was Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) but he managed to rejoin, albeit in last place.

Continuing his hunt, Fabio was soon up to 9th place behind a group of riders, ready to pick them off one-by-one.

A technical issue resulted in Alex Marquez (Honda) having to retire early on lap 11 and Iker Lecuona (KTM) also retired early due to a crash on turn 1.

The tension meanwhile between first and second continued to build with Marc still looking like he was going to pounce at any moment on Pecco.

Quartararo started to pick off the riders in the pack and soon passed into 8th place, with 14 laps until the end. Whilst Fabio was riding high, disaster struck for another Ducati rider – Jorge Martin, who crashed out turn 1, lap 13.

The group in-front of El Diablo started to have mini battles for positions, bringing him into the fray. He soon passed team-mate Franko Morbidelli and number 10 rider – Marini, taking 7th place. With only 12 laps to go, could he progress any further? Any questions were answered when on lap 18 he also passed Alex Rins (Suzuki) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) for 5th position. He only had KTM rider Miguel Oliveria and Honda rider Pol Espargaro in-front for a podium spot. Could he do it?

Fighting through the pack. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Meanwhile, Bagnaia was responding to Marquez’s pressure and pushed for the fastest lap, trying to break away from the Spaniard.

But, the Ducati drama was not over and with only 5 crucial laps until the end, Bagnaia suddenly slid from first position into the gravel and alongside that his championship hopes. Ducati held their heads in their hands along with multiple fans who couldn’t believe what they had seen. Leaving Marquez to claim first and lead the race all the way to the chequered flag. Quartararo was also granted another position, but Enea Bastianini (Ducati), who had come from 16th place on the grid, had other ideas for Fabio and with only 2 laps until the end, looked like he might fight for 3rd.

The edge-of-your-seat drama continued on the last lap and Bastianini did indeed pass Quartararo for the last spot on the podium.

There was too many things happening all at once – Marquez crossed the line, proving all the doubters wrong with regards to his arm health. Bastianini passed Quartararo on the last lap. Fabio claimed the World Championship and local Hero Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) finished in 10th at his last home race.

Team-mates congratulate each other. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.
Never gets old – Rossi celebrates with fans. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

It was history in the making! Fabio Quartararo became the first Frenchman to ever claim the Moto GP World Championship title and along with it the first championship win for Yamaha since 2015.

It was also the first podium for Pol, racing for his new team and a second podium for rookie Bastianini in the Premier Class.

Fabio celebrated in style, walking down a red carpet to receive a golden helmet, alongside celebrations which included pyrotechnics and a live DJ.

Celebrations! Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Top 10 race results:

1st

M. Marquez

2nd

P. Espargaro

3rd

E. Bastianini

4th

F. Quartararo

5th

J. Zarco

6th

A. Rins

7th

A. Espargaro

8th

M. Vinales

9th

L. Marini

10th

V. Rossi

Top Four Championship results:

1st

F. Quartararo

267 points

2nd

F. Bagnaia

202 points

3rd

J. Mir

175 points

4th

J. Zarco

152 points

With only 2 races left for the season, will there be another new race winner? A third in a row win for Marquez? Or will El Diablo want to go out with an even bigger bang?

 

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP website).

Quartararo remains cautious, Bagnaia going for the win in Misano

Quartararo

The two championship rivals, Fabio Quartararo and Pecco Bagnaia, have both gave differing opinions on how they will approach this weekend.

Heading into the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Quartararo holds a 52-point lead in the Riders’ Standings.

With just two rounds remaining after this weekend, which means just 50 more points will be up for grabs, this is the first ‘match point’ the Frenchman has at claiming the title.

Fabio Quartararo, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP

But the Yamaha rider has said his mindset has changed since his second place result last time out in Austin and will be smart about how he rides this weekend.

“Austin was really tough but rewarding,” he said in a Yamaha press release.

“That second place was great for the championship, especially because we only have three GPs left.

“For this final part of the competition my mindset has changed a little. The last time we were in Misano, I was racing for the win and not thinking about the championship at all.

“Of course I will still do my best as always to get the best result possible this weekend, because that’s what I enjoy most, but I will try to be smart about it.”

When the MotoGP paddock headed to Misano just over a month ago for Round 14, Quartararo was beaten to the line by championship rival Pecco Bagnaia.

The Italian rider will need to be on the same form this weekend if he is to have any chance of winning this year’s championship.

The aim of the VR|46 Academy is to produce a premier class champion. Francesco Bagnaia Credit: Ducati Corse

Bagnaia has said the objective is clear this weekend, to win the race and keep the fight going to Portimao.

“To be back racing at Misano after the stunning victory that I took here in front of my home crowd a month ago is definitely very exciting,” he said.

“That weekend everything was perfect, and the two days of post-race testing were very positive for us. Nevertheless, we have to stay focused: our rivals will come to this Grand Prix much better prepared, and the track conditions will be different, with lower track temperatures than a month ago.

“It will be essential to work well from the first sessions. The objective will be to fight for the win and keep the Championship open until the end.”

Magnificent Seven for Marquez!

Qualifying:

Moto GP was back in America!

Viewers would have noted that Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) was missing from the Qualifying sessions (and indeed the race) as he took compassionate leave due to the tragic passing of his cousin Dean Berta Vinales, last weekend.

Q2 saw a surprise lap from Luca Marini (Ducati), which took him through to Q1 where he finished 9th on the grid.

But it was a third pole in a row for the other impressive Ducati rider Francesco Bagnaia. Putting in a time of 2:02.781 over Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) in second and Marc Marquez (Honda), who took last place on the front row of the grid.

Race:

It was the first time back on American soil since the pandemic struck. It should have been wonderful news but for many riders it caused some grievances – mainly due to the ever-deteriorating track conditions. It had become even more bumpy and the track surface even poorer, with visible differences in tarmacked sections. Some riders had even gone so far as to say that if the track wasn’t fixed they would not return next year.

Regardless of the track conditions, Marc Marquez was determined to win again at the Austin track. He gave himself the very best of starts, flying straight into first from third. Leading Quartararo and Alex Rins (Suzuki).

Marquez in a lead of his own. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 2 of 20, saw Jorge Martin (Ducati) pass fellow Ducati rider Bagnaia and gain fastest lap in the meantime. At the other end of the pack though Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) took a tumble on turn 12, but managed to continue on into the race, finishing 17th.

Lap 3 saw Jack Miller (Ducati) pass Brad Binder (KTM) and Joan Mir (Suzuki) for a place behind teammate Bagnaia, taking fastest lap from Martin soon after. Would Miller decide to remain behind Bagnaia or try to pass?

Gaps started to appear quite early on in the race with the Spaniard out on his own from Frenchman, Quartararo, then Martin and Rins. Marquez was out to prove that he could still conquer at COTA.

The leading riders had all chosen to use hard front tyres and soft rear tyres, except the Australian Miller, who had opted to ride with two hard tyres. Was there something that Jack knew and the others didn’t? Or was he gambling on his tyres having something extra towards the end?

Lap 5 saw Johann Zarco (Ducati) leave his race early and crash out turn 1. While teammate Martin passed Rins again, after losing an earlier battle between the two. He quickly started to pull away from the Suzuki and put some pressure on Quartararo, who was still in 2nd.

Second to third. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

It was then time for Miller to make his decision and on lap 6 he passed Bagnaia. Could he use his tyres and get near to the top four? Rins was soon in his sights and Miller quickly passed him for fourth place.

With 12 laps remaining the gap grew bigger still between first and second, with Marquez constantly doing metronomic laps from Championship leader Quartararo. The gap became 1.736 seconds.

It was a disastrous weekend for Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro, after having crashed numerous times over the weekend, he crashed once more- lap 10, turn 13, ending his race early.

Also half-way through the race Bagnaia passed Rins for 5th, knowing he needed to gain some more points on Quartararo for his championship hopes to stay alive. Was it too little too late?

Meanwhile, still leading, Marquez was busy proving all the doubters wrong about his physical abilities and was still gaining a lead over Fabio. Having created a 2.930 second lead. Quartararo stated that “it tastes even better than a victory” to remain in 2nd, knowing that he still had a lead over closest championship rival, Bagnaia.

Lap 13 saw Jack be the ultimate team-player and let Pecco past for 4th place. Having the precious championship points in mind for both Ducati and Bagnaia. Perhaps he was also having tyre issues with his choice of both hard Michelins, as soon after Rins passed him for 5th.

Miller lead Bagnaia before letting him past. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Continuing to put in impressive laps, Marc was stunning audiences with his continuous lead extension, up to 3.499 seconds from Fabio.

Bagnaia had another Ducati rider in front of him by lap 17, in the form of Jorge Martin. Speculation occurred when Martin went wide and soon after Bagnaia passed him to get the last podium position. Was this a purposeful maneuver from Martin? Or just a simple mistake? Whatever the reason Bagnaia went through while Martin received a long-lap penalty for cutting turns 4 and 5.

Last Lap:

Marquez had increased his lead even further and was 4.512 seconds ahead of Quartararo, who was also 4.513 seconds ahead of the two Ducati’s of Bagnaia and Martin. Martin decided to take his long-lap penalty and came back on track behind Rins for 5th place. Becoming the top independent race finisher. Mir nudged past Miller and in doing so Enea Bastianini (Ducati) passed them both to take 6th spot.

Marquez sailed over the finish line for his 7th win at the Circuit Of The Americas and for Honda’s 450th Premier Class podium. Celebrating in style with a tribute to the late Nicky Hayden #69.

Marquez celebrates victory with team. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Marquez was certainly back on form and was impressive from lights out.

Race Results (Top Ten):

1st

M. Marquez

2nd

F. Quartararo

3rd

F. Bagnaia

4th

A. Rins

5th

J. Martin

6th

E. Bastianini

7th

J. Miller

8th

J. Mir

9th

B. Binder

10th

P. Espargaro

Even though Mir passed Miller on the last lap, the stewards demoted Mir one place for irresponsible riding (results above include this decision).

Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) also picked up the last point and set fastest lap during the last lap.

Championship Results Update:

1st

F. Quartararo

254 points

2nd

F. Bagnaia

202 points

3rd

J. Mir

176 points

4th

J. Miller

148 points

With only three races left until the end of the season. Could we see Quartararo wrap up his championship next time out? Will Marquez continue to improve? Or will we see another new race winner for the year?

 

(Featured image- Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter page).

 

 

 

Dean Berta Vinales. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter.

Always in our thoughts: Dean Berta Vinales. Taken too young. 

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