Mighty Marc Marquez

Qualifying:

During the qualifying Johann Zarco (Ducati) took pole breaking Fabio Quartararo’s (Yamaha) row of poles. He then took a tumble on turn 4, with just over a minute of qualifying left. Moments later Takaaki Nakagami also fell – turn 1. Both incidents caused the yellow flags to be waved meaning that Zarco clinched pole from Quartararo, Jack Miller (Ducati) and Marc Marquez (Honda).

Clouds looming over the pole sitter. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Race:

Although being hot and humid at the Sachsenring Circuit, there were clouds above which caused concerns that it might turn to rain, but the race was not declared a wet race.

The 30 lap circuit, with it’s mainly left-hander corners, along with the weather conditions could potentially play into Marquez’s hands – but was this too much to ask?

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) led from the line, getting ahead of Marquez and Zarco. Whilst Marc went forwards, the championship leader went backwards. But it was Brad Binder (KTM) who gained the most places from the grid going up 6 places by lap 2.

M. Marquez soon took the lead from A. Espargaro, but Aleix didn’t want to give up the position easily and fought Marc for it. Meanwhile, Jack Miller (Ducati) and Quartararo had a tussle for 4th behind them.

Leading from the front. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

It was the reigning champion Joan Mir (Suzuki) who quickly got the fastest lap, but it was soon taken by Marquez, who was all to happy to start gaining a lead on Aleix.

It wasn’t long until Miguel Oliveira (KTM) stole fastest lap, twice in a row and also passed Quartararo for 5th place. He was picking up the pace and fast. He knew he couldn’t let Marc get too far ahead, whether or not Marquez was 100% fit or not.

Lap 5, turn 1, during a racing incident, both Alex Marquez (Honda) and Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) fell into the gravel.

On the next lap, it was Lorenzo Savadori’s (Aprilia) turn to end his race early.

Seeing Marquez eek his lead out further Miller decided he needed to make a move on Zarco and passed him with 23 laps to go, into 3rd place.

But then, it seemed the weather had took a turn and the white flags started to be waved, which meant that riders could come into the pits to change their bikes should they wish to – in preparation for rain. However, lap 10 saw the white and red flags being waved, signifying rain. The clouds never picked up momentum though and no rider came into the pits to swap their bikes.

The number 93 knew some riders who saw drops on their visors may slow down and he saw this as his moment to really push forward. The gap between him and Miller soon became 1.417 seconds with 21 laps to the end.

All bikes had medium and hard tyre combinations except Nakagami’s Honda which had a soft rear tyre. It was either going to be a masterstroke or a disaster, it was not the former.

As the rain became a little harder A. Espargaro went from 2nd to 4th and Fabio passed Johann, to take 5th place. It was now Marquez leading Miller, Oliveira and A. Espargaro, going into lap 12.

It wasn’t long into the 12th lap that Oliveira secured 2nd from Miller and went straight into hunting down Marquez. The gap between the two was 1.669 seconds.

Oliveira soon managed to get away from the rest of the pack and secured another two fastest laps in a row, trying to hunt down the King of the Ring, but Marquez responded with another fastest lap and extended his lead to 1.989 seconds, half-way through the race.

Meanwhile, at the other end of group – Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) and Franko Morbidelli (Yamaha) were having an awful weekend, fighting to not be in last place.

Mini battles started to form, mainly between Binder and Zarco for 6th place and Quartararo and A. Espargaro for 4th.

The gap between Marquez and Oliveira slowly declined to 1.411 seconds, with 12 laps to go – could Miguel catch Marc?

Oliveira hunting down Marquez. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Digging deep with 11 laps to go Marquez kept his consistent lap times and still led Oliveira, but Fabio and Jack had swapped positions in 3rd and 4th behind him.

A. Espargaro couldn’t hold onto his 5th place any longer from Binder, who needed to try and aim for a podium finish.

The gap dipped to just under one second between the Honda and the KTM in 1st and 2nd, with 5 laps to the chequered flag. But, Marquez responded in typical Marc-of-old style and found some energy and picked the pace up again and soon extended his lead to 1.095 seconds, which soon became 1.931 seconds with 3 laps to go.

During this time Zarco was passed by Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati), handing Fabio some more precious championship points and Binder passed Miller (whose tyres were starting to show signs of wear) for 4th place.

Last lap of the race and all Moto GP fans, regardless of who they follow or what team they support –  were behind Marc Marquez to just stay on his Repsol Honda and win. And that was just what he did! For the first time in 581 days Marc Marquez passed the finish line in first place! Keeping his winning record at the Sachsenring going, this was his 8th victory in a row in the Premier Class at the German circuit and the 11th win in a row from all classes. Marquez also took his 57th Moto GP victory.

Celebrating with his team. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Holding himself together in the interview after the race he stated that he wanted to try and fight for a podium finish and that he wasn’t sure he could go for the win, saying …”it was really hard to concentrate…”.

Oliveira finished 2nd taking three podiums in a row for KTM. In his post-race interview he said …”I’ll take a second anyday at Sachsenring to him…” and Fabio Quartararo took the last podium position securing important points for his championship lead.

There was nothing but respect for Marc in Parc Ferme from all the riders – they all know and understand what he has gone through and what he has had to do to get back to where he is now.

It is undeniable that Marquez is King Of The Ring!

Race results: Top Ten:

First

M. Marquez

Second

M. Oliveira

Third

F. Quartararo

Fourth

B. Binder

Fifth

F. Bagnaia

Sixth

J. Miller

Seventh

A. Espargaro

Eight

J. Zarco

Ninth

J. Mir

Tenth

P. Espargaro

Championship results: Top Four:

First

F. Quartararo

131 points

Second

J. Zarco

109 points

Third

J. Miller

100 points

Fourth

F. Bagnaia

99 points

The championship is still extremely close and hard to predict. What will happen in the next round at Assen? It is a typically good track for Yamaha, but will the race mirror this?

 

 

Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP

A twist in the tale at Catalunya

Qualifying:

It is a home track for many of the riders but it was a Frenchman that claimed pole.

During Q1 Marc Marquez (Honda) decided to follow and gain a tow from Jack Miller (Ducati). Unfortunately, given his best efforts, this didn’t help Marquez and he couldn’t manage better than 13th  place.

Marquez follows Miller. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Miller on the other-hand made it all the way through and finished on the front row. Even a crash didn’t interfere with his result.

Viewers may have noticed that Alex Rins (Suzuki) wasn’t out on track, this was due to a cycling accident that occurred off-track where he went into a Dorna vehicle and hurt his wrist. He would also not participate in the race.

Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) would start from pole (his fifth pole in a row this year). Miller second and Zarco third – finishing the front row.

Race:

The Catalan circuit always produces some entertaining races and this one was no exception. But there was a twist in the script book, which saw it  be thrown completely out of the window.

Prior to the race, Jorge Martin (Ducati) had an accident and was made to start from the pit-lane, from 15th slot on the grid.

Once the lights turned green it was all go – Miller and Miguel Oliveira (KTM) managed to get past Quartararo on the straight. Knowing they had to make a break for it and disrupt Fabio’s rhythm.

All riders were so close together, quickly creating battles between: Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) and Brad Binder (KTM). Miller and Quartararo. Joan Mir (Suzuki) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia).

Mir got a fantastic start and went from tenth to fourth by turn seven, lap one.

All within the first three laps Quartararo and Miller tussled for second place but Quartararo came out worse and made a mistake causing the other riders to take full advantage, pushing him down to fifth. Mir passed Espargaro. Oliveira got fastest lap. Zarco passed Quartararo. Bagnaia then took fastest lap. Quartararo re-took fourth position back from Zarco and Binder went into the rear of Vinales – both riders remained on the track and un-hurt and finally fastest lap went back to Oliveira.

Quartararo soon gained his composure back and started to hunt down the riders in front. He passed A. Espargaro and Mir was next on the radar. On the same lap, Pol Espargaro (Honda) crashed out of the race, turn 5, lap 5.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

All the riders knew they had to conserve their tyres as much as possible but it was hard to think this was in the fore-front of their minds as all top 6 racers (bar Oliveira) were constantly battling for positions. By lap 7, Quartararo re-gained second place, managed to get fastest lap in the process and was soon hot-on-the-heels of the KTM.

Meanwhile, Danilo Petrucci (KTM) crashed turn 9.

Riding well was Marc Marquez, with 17 laps left in 7th position chasing A. Espargaro and Zarco down. But then disaster struck and he crashed out (for the third time in a row) on the infamous turn 10. With Pol, his team-mate already out, neither factory Honda riders gained any points at their home race.

It went from bad to worse for Honda, with Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) receiving a long lap penalty for taking a shortcut through turns one and two. Alex Marquez (Honda) would take the best finish result for the manufacturer in 11th.

With 15 laps to the chequered flag Oliveira still led Quartararo, Mir, Miller and Zarco.

The next local boy to have a DNF was A. Espargaro, same turn as Marquez a few laps earlier.

Meanwhile at the front of the pack positions were being swapped again. Quartararo passed Oliveira on turn 5, half-way through the race. But the Portuguese rider had other plans and soon re-took the lead. Zarco passed Miller for fourth and Miller and Mir had a mini battle which saw Miller win.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Turn 10 soon took out yet another rider, this time it was the nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) who took to the dirt, with 8 laps until the end.

Iker Lecuona (KTM) then tumbled, turn 13, lap 18.

Six laps until the race finish gapping had started to appear between the racers. Oliveira and Quartararo were out on their own in 1st and 2nd. Zarco, Miller, Mir and Vinales were in another group fighting for the last podium position.

The number 88 (Oliveira) started to pull away from 20 (Quartararo) and Zarco was soon on his rear. Lap 22 Zarco passed his fellow Frenchman on the start-finish straight. Moments later Fabio lost the front of his bike a-little and he went off track but rejoined in-front of Miller. Slotting into third.

Then a very unusual thing happened, Quartararo’s leathers were suddenly open and he had pulled out his chest protector. Both things had become a safety issue but the race officials did not bring out a black flag for the rider. Instead he was allowed to carry on racing. The rules clearly state that “…equipment must be worn, correctly fastened, at all times during on-track activity”. This has caused controversy already. When asked at the end of the race Fabio was hesitant to give an explanation and said that enquiries were already being held on the matter and that the incident wasn’t his fault.

Courtesy of: Moto GP

However, on the last lap he received a three-second penalty for a different rule-break – a shortcut on turns one and two, just like Nakagami earlier on in the race. Meaning that his position in third was given to Miller.

Oliveira went on to win his third ever race in Moto GP, from Zarco and Miller.

Oliveira consistently putting in the laps. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

As there were only 15 riders to finish the race, everyone got at least one point towards their championship positions.

Championship results:

First

Quartararo

121 points

Second

Zarco

101 points

Third

Bagnaia

88 points

Fourth

Miller

87 points

Race results:

First

Oliveira

Second

Zarco

Third

Miller

Fourth

Quartararo

Fifth

Mir

Sixth

Vinales

Seventh

Bagnaia

Eighth

Binder

Ninth

Morbidelli

Tenth

Bastianini

Sachsenring (Germany) is next on the calendar – Sunday 20th June – Marc Marquez has never been beaten there. Will we see a miraculous win from the Spaniard or will there be a new King of the track?

 

 

Wishing all the best to Alex Rins and Suzi Perry in their recovery.

 

 

(Featured image: Celebrating with the fans – Courtesy of Moto GP)

Mugello Masterclass

Qualifying:

What a difference two weekends make! Not very far away from the LeMans track there wasn’t a rain cloud in sight this weekend at the Mugello circuit.

Mugello circuit. Courtesy of: Honda Racing Corporation website

During the qualifying session, the top 5 riders were so close, each within a shout of taking first place but it was Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) who took his fourth consecutive pole of the season from Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati), Johann Zarco (Ducati), Aleix Espagaro (Aprilia) and Jack Miller (Ducati) in fifth place. Upon being interviewed Fabio said that it was “…the best lap I have ever done…”.

Meanwhile Marc Marquez (Honda), who was struggling, used the qualifying session as a tester and only managed to gain eleventh on the grid.

Race:

The magic of Mugello was subdued this weekend with a very sombre cloud, following on from the news of Moto 3 rider Jason Dupasquier, who sadly passed away from injuries sustained during the qualifying session on Saturday. Every rider and fan was saddened to hear of his passing and it was another reminder of just how dangerous this sport, that we love, can be.

A minutes silence was held in his honour prior to the race.

From the very start drama reigned, as the riders were finishing their warm-up lap and lining up on the grid Enea Bastianini (Ducati) ran into the back of Zarco, who was slowing down ready to get into position. After this freak accident, Bastianini was unhurt but was unable to start the race, with no start delay announced. Zarco had minor damage to the back of his Ducati and was able to continue.

Bastianini at the start of the race. Courtesy of: BT Sport – MotoGP

For the first time as well this year, Quartararo’s Yamaha had the holeshot device installed, which Ducati first demonstrated in 2019. It is designed to mechanically lower the rear of the bike to reduce wheelieing off the line and improve acceleration at the start of a race. It seemed to do the trick as Quartararo got a great start with 23 laps to go, however it was Bagnaia that took the lead, at his home Grand Prix, from Quartararo and Miguel Oliveira (KTM).

A. Espargaro, starting in fourth place had a terrible start and managed to drop down five places.

Lap two saw the weekend go from bad to worse for Marc Marquez as he crashed out on turn three, after trying to overtake Brad Binder (KTM), causing Brad’s airbag to deploy which meant he had to race the next couple of laps with it inflated. It also caused Franko Morbidelli (Yamaha) to have to take evasive action to miss Marquez’s Honda, seeing him travel into the gravel, luckily both he and Binder were able to carry on racing.

Moments later on turn nine, Bagnaia, one of the home heroes, also crashed from the lead, after touching the white line at the edge of the track. (The white lines are notorious for being painted slippery edges that can cause riders to slip out of a race). This mistake granted Fabio the lead.

First place wasn’t Quartararo’s for long as the Ducati power of Zarco quickly took the lead on the straight and gained him the fastest lap.

A mini battle broke out between the two Frenchmen and soon on lap three El Diablo regained first.

Quartararo leading the way. Courtesy of: MotoGP

They weren’t the only pair vying for positions though as Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) and Michele Pirro (Ducati) fought for 9th place and the two Suzuki’s (Joan Mir and Alex Rins) tussled for 5th.

The Suzuki riders were also hot-on-the-heels, and gaining on last weekend’s winner, Miller – who had managed to make-up one place since the start in 4th.

The battle at the front fought on between the Yamaha and the Ducati, neither one of the racers wanting to give in. All too quickly though Quartararo managed to gain a slight lead on lap 4, which was just enough for Zarco not to be able to fight back.

Gapping started to appear on lap 5, with Quartararo and Zarco in the first group, Oliveira on his own and Miller, Rins and Mir in a battling group.

With the first rule of Motorsport – beat your teammate – ringing in their ears, the reigning World Champion – Mir and his teammate Rins continued to fight for fifth and sixth. With Miller holding and defending his position but a small mistake which took him slightly wide, on the last corner of lap 8, saw Rins go past. The straight was the Ducati’s time to shine and regained the place back with ease. Rins was still hanging on though and passed Miller again, later on the same lap Mir went through on Miller and Binder followed, leaving Jack back in 7th.

Courtesy of: suzuki-motogp.com/press

All the excitement happening behind him – Quartararo extended his lead – 1.792 seconds from Zarco then became 2.201 seconds by lap 10. Arm pump no longer an issue for the young Frenchman and the pressure he admitted he felt last year now in the past, he began to show just how metronomic his laps could be.

Oliveira had condensed the gap between himself and Zarco and had managed to pass him on lap 16. A 4.128 second gap between him and Quartararo however seemed more of an impossible catch. The Ducati power wasn’t enough and the KTM soon pulled away. Leaving Zarco in the clutches of Mir, who soon was able to pass him too.

It was quickly Rins’s turn to go past Zarco with 6 laps to go, taking fourth place. However, whilst trail-breaking into a corner on worn tyres, Rins had his fourth DNF in a row and crashed out, letting Zarco re-gain the position.

On lap 21, it was unfortunately, Honda’s top rider – Nakagami’s turn to also crash out of the race.

But, it was Fabio Quartararo who took the chequered flag for the third time this year and he dedicated his win to the young Dupasquier.

There was controversy with who was second and third on the podium though. Oliveira crossed the line in second and Mir in third. But, Oliveira was given a penalty and had to give a place away for exceeding track limits meaning Mir got second. Minutes later, it became apparent that Mir had the exact same penalty. The decision was made to let them both keep their original results.

Top 10 race results:

First

Quartararo

Second

Oliveira

Third

Mir

Fourth

Zarco

Fifth

Binder

Sixth

Miller

Seventh

A. Espargaro

Eigth

Vinales

Ninth

Petrucci

Tenth

Rossi

It is worth noting that this is Valentino Rossi’s (Yamaha) first top 10 finish in 2021.

Top 5 championship standings:

First

Quartararo

105 points

Second

Zarco

81 points

Third

Bagnaia

79 points

Fourth

Miller

74 points

Fifth

Mir

65 points

Who will be victorious next round in Spain? We haven’t got long to find out.

 

 

 

Thoughts and prayers go out to Jason Dupasquier’s family and friends.

Taken too young – too soon.

Ride on Ja50n Dupasquier.

2001 – 2021 Courtesy of: MotoGP

 

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of MotoGP)

 

A spectacle in Le Mans

Le Mans Qualifying:

Ever changing track conditions at Le Mans caused for some spectacular qualifying. For a few moments it looked as if Marc Marquez (Honda) was going to grab his first pole since 2019! But local boy – Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) had other ideas and snatched it away. Leading from Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) and Jack Miller (Ducati) on the front row. Marquez started 6th place on the grid.

Courtesy of: Superbike-news

Uncharacteristically, the championship leader – Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) qualified low down the grid in 16th place.

Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha), looked in good form and had a flying lap, which would have taken him to front row, but an almost high-side in the last corner, removed those hopes. He slotted into 9th place.

The unpredictable track conditions had meant that Sunday’s race had been declared a flag-to-flag race. The first one in four years – meaning some of the riders had never experienced this before.

This was going to be interesting:

Race:

Le Mans had it all – rain, sun, bike swaps, crashes, penalties! As the drama unfolded in-front of us, one thing was for sure – Miller gave yet another ‘Thriller’ race!

As the riders lined up on the grid, the dark grey clouds loomed overhead. Weather forecasts predicted the rain wouldn’t emerge during the race. Just in-case though it had been declared a flag-to-flag event, meaning the riders had their spare bikes ready with wet tyres on, should the rain interfere with the proceedings.

Miller got a lighting start and led the pack into lap one, from Vinales and Quartararo. But it was Pol Espargaro (Aprilia), that had a ‘moment’, rejoining in the middle of team-mates Rossi and Frankie Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha), Morbidelli had to take evasive action, leaving him holding his knee in the gravel. Already having hurt it during a freak pit-lane accident in qualifying. (He was able to later rejoin, but finished outside the points).

Miller takes the lead. Courtesy of: Motorsport.com

Vinales soon took first and started to slowly break-away. Were we seeing Maverick finally not letting the weather conditions mess with his head? M. Marquez was fighting for 4th place with Alex Rins (Suzuki) and Takaaki Nakagami (Honda)

All to quickly though, bustling started to happen in the pit lane, as the pit crews started to get the second bikes ready for the inevitable change over. Marshals were waving the red and white flags track-side and the riders now had the option to come in and switch bikes. The rain had come earlier than expected!

Quartararo took full advantage to the change of weather conditions and swept through to first place. Vinales, sadly couldn’t help but react negatively to the wet weather and immediately went backwards.

Jack wasn’t prepared to just let Fabio have first place though and soon they were battling for first.

The rain continued to pour, getting heavier by the second. Miller went into the gravel but saved himself and with 23 laps to go he and all the riders decided to enter the pit lane to swap their bikes. M. Marquez made a swift exit from pit lane securing first place. The reigning champion Joan Mir (Suzuki) however, accidently fell upon entering the pit lane.

Pitlane pandemonium. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Then turn four, saw his team-mate Alex crash. Both Suzuki’s were having a race they would want to forget.

Then seemingly disaster for the Ducati boys! Both Bagnaia and Miller got a double long-lap penalty for exceeding pit-lane speed limits. The speed limit is 60km/h but both were recorded as over it.

With Miller in third place, being led by Quartararo and Marquez, he didn’t want to give up any places, but he took his first long-lap the next lap (lap 9) and then his second on lap 10. Getting them out the way with quick.

Marc Marquez looked like his old self again and even pulled away from Fabio leading with 1.380 seconds and then by 1.973 seconds. He had said that these weather conditions could fall into his hands on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Rins had managed to return to the race with his second bike.

All hearts leapt in unison though as on lap 8, Marquez took a high-side from first position, on the final corner! Launching himself from his bike and rolling through the gravel. He managed to also re-join the race (using the same bike, albeit missing some of its wings).

With Miller taking his second penalty, Quartararo set about extending his lead. Little did he know that he too had collected a penalty. Never having raced a flag-to-flag race he had gone into the pit-lane to swap over his Yamaha’s just to ride into Vinales’s pit box. This was seen as a safety risk which meant he too had to take a long-lap soon. He decided to take it lap 12.

Cutting quickly through the pack, aware that this was his best chance at getting any points this race, Marquez was now the fastest man on track. Ignoring his pain and the rain.

An issue with Lorenzo Savadori’s Aprilia saw him retire from the race. On the same lap Miguel Oliveira (KTM) slid off on the nefarious turn 3. It soon took Rins as well, now his second time seeing the gravel during the race.

Meanwhile Marquez was still slicing through his competitors and with 13 laps to go was in 15th place. His younger brother Alex Marquez (Honda), it is worth noting, was having a brilliant race, from 19th on the grid to 5th by lap 15. By lap 17 M. Marquez had clawed back to 12th place.

Nakagami had his position taken away from him by one of the local boys – Zarco, who was picking up speed – quick. He was now in 3rd place with fellow country-man Quartararo in his sights and the leader – Miller not far away either. Could Le Mans finally have a French winner?

With 11 laps until the end, Aleix Espargaro’s Aprilia malfunctioned, leaving the team with DNF’s for both bikes.

Conditions changed again – the track had dried up and the rain ceased. All riders were on their second bike with wet tyres. They could return to the pits again and swap a second time for slick tyres but none of them wanted to be the first to juggle with fate.

Then absolute heartbreak – Marc Marquez crashed out again – turn 6, lap 18, from 11th place. This time he was unable to pick the bike up and return.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Miller had a 5.475 second lead over Quartararo, who had a 3.763 second gap to Zarco. But this was decreasing quick! Zarco had both medium wet tyres, where Miller and Quartararo had one soft and one medium tyre each. With the track getting drier each lap, the gap between the two Frenchmen rapidly shrunk. On lap 21 of 27 the gap was 0.696 seconds.

Johann passed Fabio with relative ease with 6 laps to go. Could he catch Miller?

Last lap – the track was completely dry – the riders were all still on wet tyres – there were two Frenchmen hunting down the Australian in first. But it was a Thriller performance from Miller who was in complete control, taking back-to-back victories! His first ever time doing this in the premier class and only his 3rd ever win in Moto GP. He is the first Australian to win back-to-back races since Stoner (Ducati) in 2012.

It was like a win for Fabio (who had never finished on the podium in wet conditions before) and Johann who rounded off the podium in France.

Top 10 race results:

First

Miller

Second

Zarco

Third

Quartararo

Fourth

Bagnaia

Fifth

Petrucci

Sixth

A. Marquez

Seventh

Nakagami

Eigth

P. Espargaro

Ninth

Lecuona

Tenth

Vinales

Championship Standings:

First

Quartararo

80 Points

Second

Bagnaia

79 points

Third

Zarco

68 points

Fourth

Miller

64 points

It was a rollercoaster ride for Miller who said “…they’re gonna red flag this for sure…” aren’t we all glad that they didn’t?

Miller and Quartararo in Parc Ferme – Le Mans. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Mugello (30th May) is the next round of the championship and is notably a Ducati track. Can the Dukes keep up this dominating pace? Or will Yamaha fight back and claim the top spot once more?

Bologna Bullets take first and second in Spain

Another pole for Fabio in Qualifying:

Everything seemed to be carrying on from the previous race weekend for Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), who managed to gain another pole, this time at Jerez, from his old teammate Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha) who claimed a solid second and Jack Miller (Ducati) clinching third.

During the qualifying Marc Marquez (Honda) however had another big accident on turn 7, ending up in the air barrier at the side of the track, coming out of it seemingly unscathed with a bruised leg and neck. He was cleared to race for Sunday, starting on the grid in 14th place.

Marquez. Courtesy of: Motorsport.com

Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) lead the second row alongside Taka Nakagami (Honda) and Johann Zarco (Honda) taking sixth.

Jerez Moto GP Race:

The Bologna Bullets take first and second in Spain, in the fourth round of the 2021 season.

It is a track not known to favour the Ducati’s, but from the start Miller went straight into the lead, from Morbidelli and teammate Bagnaia. Quartararo went backwards into fourth. But it was Joan Mir (Suzuki) who shot up four places into sixth position. Unfortunately, Alex Marquez (Honda) made a quick exit from his weekend, falling on lap one.

Lap two, turn two, Brad Binder (KTM) found himself in the gravel, but he was soon back on his bike and back in the race.

Taking fastest lap – Quartararo quickly took third place from Bagnaia.

Making it twice in a row for Alex Rins (Suzuki), he made a swift exit on lap three, sliding off the track.

With 22 laps until the chequered flag, Quartararo forced his way into second place and started to hunt down Miller, who couldn’t seem to use the Ducati power to its full advantage and hadn’t managed to break enough away.

Down in ninth place, Zarco had great race pace and took fastest lap from Quartararo.

Fabio took prime position to begin lap 5. The Ducati tried to take it back on the straight but it wasn’t quite enough and slowly had to watch as the number 20 steadily pulled away, quickly taking back fastest lap, getting into his rhythm and pulling further and further from the Australian.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

All the top six riders had picked medium front and rear tyres, creating an equal battlefield out on the track, but it was Bagnaia who seemed faster than Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) in fourth place and on lap 9, took the position from him.

Lap 10, on the flat turn two, Enea Bastianini went into first gear, let the brake off, creating the front to fold and he fell. Meanwhile, the front two riders focused on pulling away from third and fourth. Bagnaia was doing faster laps than fellow countryman Morbidelli, this allowed him to take third place with 11 laps till the end.

Brad Binder crashed for the second time, on turn 13, but this time was unable to carry on.

With 12 laps till the finish line Quartararo led Miller by 1.434 seconds. Miller to Morbidelli gap was 2.705 seconds. On lap 15, the gap suddenly dropped to 0.438 seconds between Quartararo and Miller. Then to 0.205 seconds. Then 0.063 seconds. Miller took the lead, passing Quartararo on turn 1, lap 16. The Australian started to immediately pull away from the Frenchman. With no seemingly physical problems, Quartararo fell towards the clutches of Italian rider – Bagnaia.

The gapping that had started to be created then turned back into a concertina effect, as the group closed up. It wasn’t soon until Bagnaia was on Quartararo’s rear and soon passed him with 8 laps to go. Morbidelli was next in line to pass the Frenchman on lap 18. Claiming the last podium place.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

It was now only a matter of time before the rest of the pack claimed their positions from Quartararo. Who definitely seemed to have a problem, some speculating that he may be suffering from arm pump.

Nakagami was fighting with Aleix Espargaro for 6th place and took it alongside 5th from Quartararo, almost in the same pass. Then it was Mir’s turn to to go up to 5th place from Quartararo and Espargaro. Vinales then took no mercy on his teammate and also claimed a position on lap 19.

Things went from bad to worse for Fabio as another two riders went past him on lap 20. Going from first to tenth in just two laps.

Meanwhile the Dukes eeked further away at the front. The normal racing at Jerez was being thrown-out-the-window, with the Ducati’s finally going good at the track.

Pol Espargaro was the next rider to pass Quartararo, this time for 10th place.

Morbidelli was faster than Bagnaia and was giving it everything he had to try and pass him for second place. Riding on the 2019 Petronas Yamaha however, meant Morbidelli can’t always use his full potential.

Then it was Oliveira’s turn to pass Quartararo to take 12th place, which also saw Fabio’s championship lead taken from him and given to Bagnaia. Another pass from Bradl gave further points to Bagnaia for the championship lead and with 2 laps to go Quartararo had fallen to 13th place, staying just inside the points.

But, it was a masterclass performance from Jack Miller, who gave us a ‘Thriller’ victory. His first in the dry for Moto GP. Claiming “…the last 7/8 laps were the longest of…” his career. Audiences will now be hoping this won’t be his only win of the season. The last time Miller was on the top step of the podium was at the Dutch GP in 2016. This wasn’t the only surprise for Ducati for the weekend though, as Bagnaia stepped onto the second podium spot.

Miller showing all his emotion. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Third place went to Morbidelli who “…gave more than the maximum…” and “… risked a lot and finally…was rewarded with the podium…”.

A brilliant fourth place went to Nakagami (who equalled his best race finish in Moto GP), with Mir in 5th, A. Espargaro in 6th, Vinales 7th, Zarco 8th, another impressive ride for Marquez, who finished 9th and 10th place went to P. Espargaro.

Updated championship:

Position

Rider

Points

First

Bagnaia

66

Second

Quartararo

64

Third

Vinales

50

 

Le Mans (next race) is one of the next three race tracks which are typically good for the Ducati’s. Will we see another Ducati whitewash? Or will someone else step up to the plate?

Thank you to everyone who has taken part in the Social Media black-out this weekend, together we can #DrawTheLine and #StopTheHate.

 

(Featured image, courtesy of: Getty Images)

Portuguese GP: The Rollercoaster Awaits

Image: WorldSBK.com

The 2021 MotoGP world championship arrives in Europe this weekend, at the stunning Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, on the southern coast of Portugal.

If ever there was a circuit specifically designed to put grand prix motorcycles through the ultimate test, this is undoubtedly it. With its 15 corners (9 right, 6 left), and constant changes of elevation, the circuit is affectionately known by the locals as “A montanha roussa” – The Rollercoaster.

World Superbikes were the first to arrive at the venue back in 2008. Amazingly, it took until the Covid-affected 2020 season before the grand prix paddock arrived – but boy was it worth it, with local hero Miguel Oliveira taking a thrilling victory aboard the Tech3 KTM. Now with the factory Red Bull KTM team for 2021, there is not just hope but expectation to deliver, from the home fans.   

Speaking of expectation, the unknown quantity for this weekend is undoubtedly the returning Marc Marquez. Having been given the green light by his doctor, the eight-time world champion will return to the premier class. The news would have been a morale boost for the Repsol Honda team, as new rider Pol Espargaro and HRC test rider Stefan Bradl endured torrid back-to-back weekends. 

Of course, we do not know what version of Marquez we will have back. Will it be the all conquering, all dominating rider who held an exclusive stranglehold on the championship from 2016-19? Only three riders: Giacomo Agostini, Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi have won more successive premier class titles. Or will we see an initially more reserved Marquez, allowing his body time to adjust back to the extreme rigors of racing at the highest level? Or will injuries have taken a terminal toll to any aspirations of equaling and surpassing Rossi’s haul of 9 world titles? Certainly all and sundry of the MotoGP fan base have been very vocal in their opinions. 

One thing though is certain – Marquez backs himself to the hilt. He has returned because he feels ready to fight for wins – not merely to make up the numbers on the grid. Love him or loathe him, we all await with bated breath for Sunday’s race. Only then will we truly know which Marquez has returned.   

Marc Marquez pole sitter in the 2019 , Aragón,MotoGP race. Image courtesy of Jaime Olivares/Box Repsol

With the emphasis of this circuit very much on cornering stability and speed, the likes of Monster Yamaha and Team Ecstar Suzuki will be licking their lips in anticipation. For Suzuki, they will be eager to put a difficult opening two rounds behind them and send a statement to the field that 2020 was no flash in the pan. Whilst the factory Yamaha outfit will be hoping to continue their stellar early season form, having taken the spoils in both Qatar outings with Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo.

The general consensus this week is that Ducati may well find the going tough here. Whilst the main straight does play to the strength of the V4 engine, and the bike has improved again on corner turn-in – the alarming rate (and indeed suddenness) with which their tyres wore out will be cause for serious concern. Jack Miller at least will now have full use of both his arms for this weekend. The Australian had been struggling with the dreaded ‘arm pump’ in Qatar, which prompted corrective surgery immediately afterwards.

Ducati’s main hope for success may well lie this week with Johann Zarco on the satellite Pramac Racing Ducati. The Frenchman found success in Qatar due to his very smooth riding style, eking out as much life from the Michelin tyres as possible. With tyre wear levels again expected to be high this weekend, Zarco’s ability to nurse the rubber home may yet ensure that Ducati Corse add another rostrum trophy to their collection. 

The team to watch out for this weekend is Aprilia. The Noale-based outfit have made serious improvements since last season. The new ‘slimmed-down’ V4 engine has brought a vast increase in torque for the lower gears, which has seriously improved cornering speed and stability. The trade off has been a loss of power top end. Aleix Espargaro claimed that he was losing as much as 20kph (12.5mph) down the main straight at Losail. Nevertheless, the team managed to finish round two in P10, but only 5.38 seconds behind race winner Quartararo. Both team and rider will be quietly confident that a maiden podium finish is not far away. 

Aprilia have wasted no time to ensure they keep up in the development race. 3-time premier class runner-up Andrea Dovizioso made his much anticipated debut for the team earlier this week, testing at the Jerez circuit. Whilst the team were understandably tight lipped regarding any data, the strongest rumour doing the rounds suggests that the Italian is closing in on a permanent race deal with the team. 

Credit: Suzuki MotoGP

So the King has returned, but the young pretenders are hungry. In his absence Joan Mir (Team Ecstar Suzuki) has shown he is one who can wear the crown. There are no slow riders in MotoGP, and nobody is given quarter on track for past reputation. Come 1 o’clock on Sunday afternoon, all eyes will be fixed on the 22 gladiators as the next chapter in the 2021 championship is written.

As the great Nick Harris used to say: “Let battle commence!”

Un et Deux – the French reign at Doha

Round two under the Qatar lights found some riders floundering and some soaring. If it was thought to be a repeat of last weekend then audiences were in for a shock.

The qualifying had the biggest surprise which came from the rookie, Jorge Martin who took pole! With a 1.53.106 second lap, snatching it from Vinales, who was confident he had done enough at the flag. Next position went to Martin’s team-mate and Vinales ended up 3rd to round off the front row. The Suzuki’s still seemed to have issues with qualifying and ended up in 8th and 9th. Rossi made changes to his bike which turned out to hinder his chances at getting another 4th in qualifying this time and ended up 21st on the grid.

Martin takes pole on Saturday. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

All riders started Sunday on both rear and front soft tyres again, with the exception of Oliveira, Binder, Lecuona and Petrucci. Perhaps they had thought a different strategy may help them in the closing section of the race. Once again, the wind was blowing and causing sand to go across the track, meaning the tyres would degrade quicker.

The two front Ducati’s got a flying start, with Martin leading Zarco but it was Vinales that went backwards as Aleix Espargaro came through and took 3rd place from the Spaniard, a very surprising Oliveira, who was 12th on the grid, shot into 4th . The next 22 laps were sure to be exciting!

By lap three, Rins had already made the fastest lap, eager to make it to the front early on, now in 3rd place, he started putting pressure on Zarco.

Lap four was Bagnaia’s turn to take fastest lap. But it was the Suzuki’s that were looking menacing as Mir came through to 5th place and Rins took 2nd from Zarco. However, the Ducati took back the position on the straight.

Meanwhile the factory Yamahas were sticking to their plan, which was to conserve tyres and were in 9th and 10th place.

With 17 laps to go Martin was still leading, in only his second Moto GP race, from Rins and Zarco.

Martin leads Rins. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Performing well in the flowing corners, the Suzuki was putting pressure on the rookie, but the straight, once again was the time for Zarco to pounce, re-gaining 2nd.

Trying to hunt down Martin, Rins took back 2nd place from the Frenchman on turn 10 – lap 8. He knew he had to breakaway from Zarco before the straight. With 13 laps to go Oliveira started to go backwards, unfortunately, the tyre choice didn’t seem to be any better.

The two Petronas riders were struggling as well – not even in the top ten.

The top nine riders however, were starting to breakaway from the rest of the pack and were creating their own race. Martin still lead, now half-way through the 22 laps, whilst Vinales was bringing up the rear. The first six bikes were all four Ducati’s and the two Suzuki’s. Espargaro on the Aprilia, was the only bike not with it’s teammate, out in front of the two factory Yamaha’s.

Mir and Miller were battling for 5th place on lap 13, Mir touched Miller going underneath him to take the position. But, coming onto the straight Miller (43) went wide and and seemed to go straight into Mir, forcing him to go all the way back to 9th. There was an investigation from the stewards but both times were seen as racing incidents.

Things went from bad to worse for Alex Marquez who had a second DNF in a row as he crashed on lap 14.

However, things were looking good for Quartararo (20), who was moving through the front pack and was now 4th, behind the Ducati’s, with 8 laps till the end. Battling for the position alongside Rins, he knew he had to create a chance in order to get on the podium. His teammate was now in 7th with Mir still in 9th place. It seemed the Yamaha’s tactic was paying off.

With six laps till the end, 20 took 3rd place from 43, it was taken straight back on the start-finish line but a mistake going into the first corner from Miller meant Quartararo re-took 3rd once more. The battle for the podium was heating up.

The two Frenchmen then fought for 2nd on lap 18. Zarco tried to defend but Quartararo’s Yamaha had conserved tyres better and was stronger on the corners, meaning he was able to take 1st place as well on turn 14, leading into turn 15, from Martin. The rookie had shocked everyone by leading for most of the race. Martin wasn’t going to give his position away easily and on the straight the Ducati roared past the Yamaha. But, Quartararo re-gained first place soon after.

With four laps to go it was anyone’s call who would win. Quartararo now lead Martin, Zarco and Vinales.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Top Gun’ briefly took 3rd place from Zarco, which took Zarco out of the top three for the first time the whole race.

‘El Diablo’ started to pull away from the two satellite Ducati’s and with Vinales putting pressure on Zarco, Zarco decided he needed to try and make a pass on his teammate. Martin went defensive with two laps to go, not wanting to give away his position. Vinales couldn’t keep up with number 5 and Rins took 4th place from him into turn one on the last lap. The penultimate corner of the last lap was Zarco’s last shot at 2nd, after admitting in the post-race interview he was acting as a “… bodyguard for Martin…” he decided to over-take his team-mate to finish 2nd.

It was Quartararo that took the chequered flag, taking his fourth Moto GP victory alongside fellow Frenchman Zarco. The first time in 67 years that two Frenchmen have stood first and second on the podium in the premier class. Martin finished an impressive third to round off the podium. Fourth was Rins, fifth Vinales, sixth and seventh place were the factory Dukes and Mir managed to make up two places since the collision with Miller to finish seventh.

Zarco stood on the podium for the 50th time and now leads the championship with 40 points. Proving to be consistent with two second places in a row.

This thrilling battle was the closest Moto GP race in 73 years. Teams learnt from last weekend and everyone seemed far stronger.

There is now a two week gap until the next event, but the big news is Marc Marquez is said to be making a return in Portugal, which leads into the many European races. Will we see a fit, strong and hungry Marquez? Will the other riders be too far ahead of him? Or will we witness a masterclass performance?

Whatever the outcome, it is sure to be a thrilling ride.

 

Featured image courtesy of: Moto GP website.

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.

MotoGP Valencia Test, Part 2: Suzuki, KTM and Aprilia

It might feel like the 2018 season has just come to an end, but the 2019 season is well underway at the Valencia tests for Suzuki, KTM, Tech 3 KTM and Aprilia.

Suzuki’s main weakness in 2018 was straight line speed, so they had a new engine for Valencia. It has a lot of power, but currently the Ecstar squad are looking for new electronic solutions to harness those extra horses, and as of right now they are faster on the old engine. Only Alex Rins tried the new motor, as Joan Mir looked to get himself better acquainted with the GSX-RR. The 2018 Moto2 rookie of the year had ridden one day with Suzuki after the Japanese Grand Prix back in October, but still had a lot of work to do to acclimatise himself to MotoGP. He did fairly well, ending the test less than one second off the top time.

 

Alex Rins and new Suzuki teammate Joan Mir. Photo curtesy of Suzuki Racing.

 

Johann Zarco got off to a tough start with KTM. He pinpointed corner entry as a weak point on the first day, and didn’t find the improvements he expected on Wednesday, ending 1.7 seconds off the top. On the other hand, Pol Espargaro had a decent test, which he ended 0.871 seconds off front runner Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha). He had a revised version of KTM’s Yamaha-style aero fairing, as well as some new electronic solutions and no doubt a raft of different chassis’ and engine specs to try. Like Yamaha, KTM suffered with tyre wear last year, hence the electronics focus.

The Tech 3 KTM riders did not have such a great time. Miguel Oliveira highlighted braking as something he needed to work on, as he adapts to the carbon disks of MotoGP. His teammate, Hafizh Syahrin, also made some progress on Wednesday, but feels he needs more time to understand the RC16. Of course, both Syahrin and Oliveira have the additional difficulty of their team changing manufacturer.

Aprilia seemed to have a mixed test. Aleix Espargaro was quite fast, if somewhat indifferent about a new chassis from Noale. In comparison, Andrea Iannone was pleasantly surprised by his first contact with Aprilia. He was running 2017 bikes because it is from last year’s machine that the 2019 bike will derive. There were two crashes for Iannone on the second day, which he put down to him finding the limit with a new bike. Bradley Smith also got his first contact with the Aprilia, using a 2017 and a 2018 machine. He wasn’t too far from Iannone’s time which, considering his job title of test rider, should perhaps worry Aprilia a little.

As previously mentioned, Joan Mir had a brilliant debut on the Suzuki but arguably Francesco Bagnaia’s first appearance on the Pramac Ducati was even more impressive. He ended his first real MotoGP test just 0.6 seconds from the top. Braking is Bagnaia’s main focus at the moment, which is a common thing with new MotoGP riders. His competitors will hope he can’t find too much time there. Fellow rookie Fabio Quartararo also made some big improvements on Wednesday, to end just over one second from Vinales and in front of Iannone on the Aprilia.

 

Fabio Quartararo at the Valencia MotoGP tests, November 2018. Photo curtesy of SIC Racing Team.

 

Franco Morbidelli also had a stunning test; to be four tenths ahead of Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) on his first day with Yamaha was really quite impressive. The young Italian was especially complimentary about the smoothness of the M1, and commented on how easy it was to ride in comparison to the 2017 Honda RC213V he rode during his 2018 season.

Although, the undisputed hero of the Valencia test was Tito Rabat. He rode his Reale Avintia Ducati to 15th on the second day, 1.1 seconds off Vinales, and completed 59 laps. The first day of the test was nothing more than exploratory for Rabat, as he looked to see if it was even possible to ride in his current condition. On Wednesday he made some more progress, but realistically it won’t be until Sepang that he will really start focusing on the setting of his GP18. The MotoGP paddock now heads south to Jerez, where they will have the final chance to define their direction before the winter break.

 

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