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.

First win of the year for El Diablo!

Qualifying:

Unpleasant wet conditions for Saturday qualifying in Portugal saw Johann Zarco (Ducati) take pole position from Joan Mir (Suzuki) in 2nd and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) in 3rd. However, a pleasant surprise saw Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) finish on the second row and teammate Luca Marini in the middle of the third row.

Zarco qualifying in the rain. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The wet weather wasn’t as welcoming for others though – Enea Bastianini and Francesco Bagnaia crashed out, resulting in both riders receiving injuries.

The Home-Hero Miguel Oliveira (KTM) could only manage 11th on the grid. What could he do in the race though?

The wet conditions always manage to shake things up. Would the weather continue into Sunday?

Race:

Sunday: raceday and the black clouds still loomed large above the beautiful Portugal track but, with only 20 minutes of practice in the drier conditions, how would the racers fair?

Mir got a fantastic start from 2nd taking the lead straight away from Quartararo and Jack Miller (Ducati). But an even better start was from the other Suzuki in 23rd place – Rins propelled himself into 11th and soon took 10th place before the first lap was even complete. Up 13 places from lights out!

Mir got away. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 2 saw Zarco pass Miller for 3rd place and the fastest lap quickly went to the best Yamaha rider – Quartararo, who was in 2nd place, but was hunting down first-place man Mir.

Close racing. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The two World Champions were out in the lead and by lap 4, Fabio had passed Joan, whilst taking fastest lap again. He continued to keep pushing and put in fastest lap after fastest lap, gaining a lead over Mir and Zarco.

Lap 5 – Rins continued to improve on positions and was soon up to 8th place.

Sector 4, lap 6 saw Jorge Martin lose the front of his Ducati, ending his race early.

The two Repsol Honda riders battled for 9th and 10th with 19 laps to go, resulting in Marquez winning the position from P. Espargaro. Meanwhile the brothers of both riders fought further up for 5th place. It was A. Espargaro that won this one over A. Marquez (Honda). However, he soon had to defend his new place from Rins, who had managed to also pass A. Marquez.

Lap 10 – the current championship leader, Bastianini broke up the two Repsol Hondas, taking 10th from P. Espargaro, but going into sector 2 he crashed out of the race.

Crashing out. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Black clouds continued to loom large above but with only 11 laps until the end, they didn’t look like they would disrupt the proceedings.

Back at the front of the ‘rollercoaster’ track, Quartararo continued his pace and took another fastest lap, putting further distance between himself and Mir, who was under pressure by Zarco.

With 14 laps left, Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) crashed out but managed to rejoin, after clipping the back of Brad Binder’s KTM, who later crashed out himself on lap 18.

Fabio was controlling the race from the front with a 3.269 second gap ahead of Mir. But Zarco had other plans and soon passed Mir for 2nd place. The Ducati-man couldn’t make the pass stick though and the Suzuki was straight back in front.

The next lap (lap 9), Zarco tried again. He had learnt from his mistake on the previous lap and managed to remain in front, claiming 2nd place. This resulted in Mir then being under pressure by another Ducati, in the form of Miller who was close behind.

But more surprises were due: disaster struck as seconds later Miller tried to pass Mir for the last podium position, into turn 1, only to take both himself and the Suzuki out of the race, hurling them into the gravel.

The crash from 3rd and 4th meant that Quartararo then lead Zarco, A. Espargaro and Rins, who remember had unbelievably come from 23rd place!

With 6 laps to go, Bagnaia was also up to 9th place, fighting his shoulder injury against the relentless undulating track.

Two laps until the chequered flag and the Marquez brothers were fighting eachother for 6th. Marc managed to get the place from Alex but Alex took it back on the straight, leading into the last lap.

Last lap – Quartararo took his first victory this year and his first victory since August last year (at Silverstone) 5.776 seconds ahead of Zarco and A. Espargaro. Marc managed to take 6th back from Alex over the line as Bagnaia also stole 8th spot from P. Espargaro.

Home-Hero, Oliveira finished a respectable 5th.

Happy faces. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Top ten race finishers:

1st

F. Quartararo

2nd

J. Zarco

3rd

A. Espargaro

4th

A. Rins

5th

M. Oliveira

6th

M. Marquez

7th

A. Marquez

8th

F. Bagnaia

9th

P. Espargaro

10th

M. Vinales

Quartararo is now the fourth different winner of the season, with 5 races already complete, would we see a 5th? Could it be the seemingly illusive first win for the other French rider – Johann Zarco?

Top four Championship:

1st

F. Quartararo

69 Points

2nd

A. Rins

69 Points

3rd

A. Espargaro

66 Points

4th

E. Bastianini

61 Points

Two men are now equal on points for the championship lead and the others are very close behind. It is still anyone’s to take.

With only 1 week to wait, who will be victorious in round 6 of the 2022 season?

 

 

 

Featured image: That winning feeling. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Victory in Indonesia!

Finally after 25 years Moto GP returned to Indonesia. The sun was shining and the crowds were cheering. A huge welcome in the form of a procession went through the streets, which included the Moto GP riders and the Indonesian President.

The beauty of the island is incredible. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Qualifying:

Surprisingly, Marc Marquez (Honda) crashed out twice from Q1, resulting in him not qualifying for Q2. Going through to Q2 was Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Ducati).

Pole winner was current champion Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), with an all time lap record (1:37.067) and teammates Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco (Ducati) finished the front row in 2nd and 3rd.

Pre-race practice:

Bad luck continued to follow Marc Marquez and during the pre-race practice session he had another crash, this time much worse than the previous ones and was taken to hospital where it was concluded that he had severe concussion and would not be fit enough to race. Of course we wish him a speedy recovery.

Race:

The sun did not last however. Lighting struck the track, thunder rumbled through the hillsides and rain poured from the black clouds above. The race was delayed for 2 hours while race direction decided whether or not to go ahead with it. A Shaman from Bali was even brought over to deal with the rain. It seemed to work and within half-hour the rain subsided enough for the pit lane to open. It was decided that the race would in fact go ahead but, would be cut short from 27 laps to 20.

Soon the bikes were lining up on the grid, the clouds still loomed large but at least the rain had eased. It was finally lights out!

The rain poured! Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Front the front Fabio got a great start and was leading the pack with Jack Miller (Ducati) and Miguel Oliveira (KTM) in 2nd and 3rd but it was Joan Mir (Suzuki) that made the best of starts going from 18th to 8th.

Quartararo lead from pole. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

At the start of lap 2 though, Oliveira had passed Quartararo to take the lead. If that wasn’t bad enough for Fabio, Miller then decided to steal 2nd from him too. Now flying, Miller took a couple more corners and passed Oliveria for first place as well.

The front three riders managed to quickly create a gap from the rest of the field and Miller immediately put in the fastest lap.

With spray causing visibility issues, Quartararo suddenly found himself being left behind by Miller and Oliveira who were already 1.217 seconds ahead. He was in the clutches of Zarco and Alex Rins (Suzuki). On the straight both riders managed to pass him with ease with 17 laps to go.

Miller once again took fastest lap.

Rins was now in 3rd place but could he catch up with Miller and Oliveira? Who were now 2.340 seconds ahead.

Lap 5 of 20 – Oliveira saw that he had more pace than Miller and passed the Ducati, taking fastest lap in the process.

88 leads 43. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Meanwhile, race-favourite Bagnaia had an almost-crash which resulted in him being pushed back to 12th.

Lap 8 – turn 1 – Jorge Martin (Ducati) crashed out after passing Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha) on the straight, after hitting a wet patch on the track.

The lonely Repsol Honda of Pol Espargaro also had a moment but was extremely lucky and managed to stay on the bike, with only 12 laps to go.

Back at the front, Oliveira was putting the hammer down and got yet another fastest lap. The treacherous conditions did not faze him at all.

Fastest lap however, would not remain his for long as Zarco from 4th place decided he was ready to fight. He took fastest lap and soon after 3rd from Rins and was hunting down Miller for 2nd.

Rapidly the gap between him and Miller decreased with 8 laps till the end and another fastest lap went to Zarco. Could he steal the win?

It was Quartararo’s turn now and he too started to push and also passed Rins to take 4th place.

As action appeared at the front, the battle for 8th place was also heating up. Luca Marini (VR46) lead that pack from 8th, the Binder brothers behind him in 9th and 10th and the Espargaro brothers behind them in 11th and 12th all fighting together for those valuable points.

Back at the front and Zarco had caught Miller up, they began their fight for 2nd place. But it was Fabio that had come along with Zarco who stole 3rd from Zarco on lap 15. The two Frenchmen battled for the spot but it was Quartararo who came out victorious. Fabio was not done there though and soon after passed Miller as well for 2nd. Miller found himself once again in the clutches of Zarco.

With all the battling going on behind him, Oliveira was just gathering more and more time between himself and the remaining podium finishers. The gap had increased to 4.443 seconds with 5 laps to go. But did Fabio have another trick up his sleeve? Could he find something even more extra to catch Oliveira?

Fastest lap – Quartararo!

4 laps until the chequered flag and Zarco finally passed Miller to take 3rd place.

Meanwhile, the battle still raged on for 8th position. With rookie Darryn Binder (Yamaha) having taken 8th, A. Espargaro (Aprilia) 9th, Bastianini 10th, P. Espargaro 11th and B. Binder (KTM) 12th. Heating up further still, three-a-breast went into a corner at one point – D. Binder, Bastianini and A. Espargaro, but it was B. Binder that triumphed and took the 8th place, everyone bravely fought for.

D. Binder lead the pack. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

In a league of his own, out in front Miguel Oliveira took his KTM over the line, Quartararo celebrated his 2nd place and Zarco managed to keep the last podium spot, taking 3rd.

Top 10 race finishers:

1st

M. Oliveira

2nd

F. Quartararo

3rd

J. Zarco

4th

J. Miller

5th

A. Rins

6th

J. Mir

7th

F. Morbidelli

8th

B. Binder

9th

A. Espargaro

10th

D. Binder

Last weeks superb winner Bastianini, after battling hard, finished 11th place.

Championship standings:

1st

E. Bastianini

30 points

2nd

B. Binder

28 points

3rd

F. Quartararo

27 points

4th

M. Oliveira

25 points

At one point the race didn’t look like it was even going to happen, but aren’t we glad it did? Some surprising results in Indonesia and a fantastic track to return to. Only two weeks to wait to find out what will happen in round 3!

 

 

Featured image courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter

An unexpected win under Qatar lights

The wait is finally over, the predictions are in – who will win the opening race of the 2022 season?

Qualifying:

There were some interesting results, in less than favourable weather conditions. Jorge Martin (Ducati) took pole and fastest lap. Second was Enea Bastianini (Ducati) and taking last spot on the front row was Marc Marquez (Honda), who was declared fit enough to start the new season. Last year’s championship winner – Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) struggled to get to grips with his bike and qualified 11th with teammate Franco Morbidelli directly behind.

Pole for Martin. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Race:

From pole Martin got an awful start to his race, starting with a wheelie from the line and almost rode into Bastianini, resulting in Martin going down into 8th spot. Pol Espargaro (Honda) on the other hand had a flying start and was quick to take the lead from teammate Marquez and Brad Binder (KTM).

Joan Mir (Suzuki) passed Bastianini for 4th place, while pre-seasons favourite to win, Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) languished down in 14th place.

Riding on last years Ducati, Bastianini was quick to put in the fastest lap but Mir’s teammate Alex Rins (Suzuki) soon beat it while overtaking Quartararo on the straight to go into 8th on lap 4.

Current champion – Quartararo struggled during the whole weekend. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

At the front P. Espargaro started to break away from the pack as the riders behind battled for positions. Lap 6 of 22 – Bastianini was ready to pounce on Mir and soon took full advantage, taking 4th place.

Binder was next – passing Marquez after Marc made a small mistake and went wide.

Ducati’s rider Jack Miller had to retire from the race on lap 7 and VR46’s racer Marco Bezzacchi crashed out on the last corner on lap 8.

Crashes seemed to come in thick and fast – lap 10, turn 1 Alex Marquez (Honda) ended his weekend. Miguel Oliveria (KTM) fell from 11th place – lap 11, turn 1. Then a shock crash between Bagnaia and Martin, meant both riders went into the gravel due to Bagnaia trying to overtake underneath Martin and losing the front. Three Ducati’s had exited early from the first race of the year.

Under the floodlights of Qatar number 55 (P. Espargaro) slowly increased his gap from Binder and Bastianini. The gap went to 1.063 seconds.

Bastianini had had enough of seeing the rear of the KTM though and soon passed Binder for 2nd place on the straight. He went slightly wide on the first corner but managed to hold his new position. This only let Espargaro’s lead intensify further to 1.406 seconds with only 8 laps to go. Could Bastianini push his Ducati to fight for the win?

It didn’t take him long to take chunks out of the lead and soon the gap had decreased to just 0.856 seconds with 7 laps to go. Then it was 0.500 seconds and Bastianini’s dream of winning his first race was in sight.

Taking fastest lap for the second time in the race Bastianini was pushing hard to get close to Espargaro. Meanwhile his brother Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) managed to pass Marquez for 4th.

Bastianini had chosen to race with a rear medium tyre as apposed to Pol’s soft. Was his tyre fairing better in the closing stages of the race? – it appeared so, as Bastianini blasted past the Repsol Honda on the straight, leaving Pol to make a small mistake and run wide into the first corner, resulting in him re-joining the track, only to be behind Binder.

The 2019 Ducati was soon taking full advantage of being in the top spot and soon had a gap of 1.446 seconds ahead of the KTM and the Honda.

It was down to the final lap and all Bastianini had to do was hold his nerve and take his bike over the finish line to take his maiden victory in only his second year.  As the chequered flag waved there were tears all around, not only for the young Italian but also for the whole Gresini Racing team. Bastianini had proved his dream could come true.

Winning feels good! On the podium with Bastianini and Nadia Padovani. Courtesy of: Moto GP BT Sport Twitter page.

Top ten riders results:

1st

E. Bastianini

2nd

B. Binder

3rd

P. Espargaro

4th

A. Espargaro

5th

M. Marquez

6th

J. Mir

7th

A. Rins

8th

J. Zarco

9th

F. Quartararo

10th

T. Nakagami

2022 is the longest season ever for Moto GP, but what will the second round in Indonesia hold for us on 20th March?

 

#UnitedForPeace

 

 

Featured image – Enea Bastianini. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

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.

From pole to maiden win!

Qualifying:

Warm weather and good track conditions saw Ducati dominate in Spain.

Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) took an all-time lap record for pole position and Ducati’s 50th pole in the Moto GP class while his team-mate took a sensational second. From Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), who rounded off front row in third.

Ducati one-two in qualifying. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Aragon saw the return of Maverick Vinales, on an Aprilia (his new team for 2022) and last weekends two Brits – Jake Dixon, riding for Petronas Yamaha and Cal Crutchlow, riding for the factory Yamaha.

Race:

Track temperature remained at a high level, reaching 42degrees by lights out. The Ducati’s had been superb in qualifying but Marc Marquez (Honda) was on home-ground with numerous victories already in place at the Aragon circuit. Starting from fourth on the grid, on a track better suited for his injured shoulder, could he perform at his best once again to take two victories this season?

Bagnaia was quick off the line but it was Marquez who soared up to 2nd place, ahead of Jack Miller (Ducati) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia). Unfortunately, luck was not on Alex Marquez’s (Honda) side and he took a tumble on the first lap.

Fabio’s luck didn’t go too well for him either and he went from 3rd to 7th. Could he work his way back through the pack?

Good luck however was on the side of last years race winner Alex Rins (Suzuki), who had risen 5 places from where he started on the grid.

Lap two saw Britain’s Jake Dixon crash in sector 2, bringing an early end to his second Moto GP race.

Soon Quartararo and Brad Binder (KTM) were scrapping for 7th place but while that was happening Bagnaia claimed fastest lap. Putting in a lot of effort to try and break free of Marquez, but Marquez never released him and constantly sat on his rear – watching.

Binder. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

By lap five, Rins had made good progress and was up to 12th place and there were mini battles forming throughout the pack – Miguel Oliveira (KTM) and Johann Zarco (Ducati) fought for 14th place, while Iker Lecuona (KTM) and Brad Binder (KTM) fought for 8th place.

Marquez soon stole fastest lap from Bagnaia, all the while watching and formulating a plan.

Bagnaia leading. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

All the riders, apart from Zarco, had chosen to use hard front Michelin tyres and soft rear. Did Zarco know something the others didn’t? Would we see a change in pace later on in the race?

First and second started to break away from Miller in third and 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th created their own group.

With 12 laps to go Miller went wide and A. Espargaro and Joan Mir (Suzuki) took advantage and passed but Mir went one further and also passed Espargaro for last place spot on the podium.

With all this happening behind them, Bagnaia and Marquez extended their lead even further to 3.405 seconds.

Rookie Enea Bastianini (Ducati) and Quartararo battled it out for 9th place, which brought Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) into the fray. But it resulted in Nakagami passing both Bastianini and Quartararo on lap 14 of 23. The fight then switched between Nakagami and Bastianini, with the Japanese rider winning the place.

The gap between the leading pair extended further still with 4.226 seconds between them and Mir.

Fabio was back up into 8th place after Iker went wide on lap 18.

Predator mode was fully activated for Marquez with four laps until the chequered flag, as he closed down further on Bagnaia, all of his waiting, watching and planning were put into action.

Bagnaia was warned of his proximity and rode defensively, keeping him at bay.

With 3 laps to go:

Marquez passed Bagnaia but the Ducati rider took the position straight back and rode defensive into turn 12.

Marquez passed him again, but again Bagnaia re-took the lead.

2 laps to go:

Marquez tried once again, but once again Bagnaia out-braked Marquez and remained in 1st.

Another pass from Marquez, saw Bagnaia pass right back.

The lead was momentarily Marquez’s for the 5th time but for the 5th time Bagnaia took it back.

Last lap:

Turn one saw Marquez go back into the lead but it was taken straight back by Bagnaia.

Marquez passed again soon after but he went wide and Bagnaia needed no invitation and re-took the lead again.

The final attempt on turn 12 saw Marquez pass again, he got into the lead but went wide and in doing so exceeded track limits. Bagnaia fought a hard but respectful battle and beat Marquez to victory, to claim his maiden win in Moto GP. A healthy 25 points meant he climbed up the championship ladder into second place and he became the 8th different winner for 2021.

It was an even sweeter day for Ducati as it was not only their 50th pole position in Moto GP which accumulated into a win but it was also their 50th anniversary of their first entry into the Moto GP championship (12th September 1971 – Monza).

Podium finishers. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter.

Top Ten Riders:

1

F. Bagnaia

2

M. Marquez

3

J. Mir

4

A. Espargaro

5

J. Miller

6

E. Bastianini

7

B. Binder

8

F. Quartararo

9

J. Martin

10

T. Nakagami

The only Yamaha rider to gain any points during the race had relatively poor finish but it still sees him leading the championship:

Championship top four:

1

F. Quartararo

214 points

2

F. Bagnaia

161 points

3

J. Mir

157 points

4

J. Zarco

137 points

Making history for Ducati and himself, Bagnaia proved he has what it takes to be a Moto GP winner. Will we now see a new championship contender for 2021?

 

 

Featured image. Courtesy of: Ducati Course Twitter.

Fabio finishes first!

Qualifying:

Conditions were cold and cloudy at Silverstone during qualifying, which didn’t help with tyres. One man though seemed to revel in the weather and made pole for the first time in his Moto GP career – Pol Espargaro (Honda)!

It looked like it was going to be Jorge Martin (Ducati) who was going to ruin the celebrations as he put in the fastest lap with few seconds to spare, but the lap was removed as he exceeded track limits – he qualified 4th on the grid.

Pol lead Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) and Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) on the front row.

Pole felt like a win – P. Espargaro. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Race:

The cloudy conditions remained in place for Sunday, with highest temperatures of just 22 degrees.

There was a sell-out crowd for round 12 at Silverstone, with many of the fans gathering to witness Valentino Rossi’s (Yamaha) final race at the iconic British track. They also cheered for Cal Crutchlow, who again came back from retirement to race at his home-track, this time on the factory Yamaha alongside Fabio. Team-mate to Rossi on the Petronas Yamaha, Jake Dixon made his debut at Silverstone.

Due to Covid restrictions last year, Moto GP did not attend Silverstone so audiences were hyped up to witness something special. In the last six years there had been six different winners, could there be a seventh in seven?

Tyres seemed to be an issue at the track and whilst waiting for the warm-up lap the top three riders in the championship all changed their tyre combination to a mixture of soft and medium.

Pol Espargaro got a great start from pole and was soon leading the race from Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia). Bagnaia quickly made it through to second place but it was taken back by Aleix.

A shocking move from Marc Marquez (Honda) on lap one meant that he took out Austria’s (race one) winner Jorge Martin (Ducati). Neither one of the riders were able to get their bikes properly started to rejoin the race.

But disappointment for two riders went to elation for two others. Both Espargaro brothers were first and second from Bagnaia in third.

Weighing up his options, Aleix tried to pass Pol for first on lap three, but to no avail.

With 18 laps to go, Fabio took 3rd place from Pecco and soon had his eyes set on the two brothers ahead. Fabio had the fastest lap and quickly took second place from Aleix. Pecco seized an opportunity to also gain a place from Aleix but the Aprilia rider was having none of it and regained 3rd back within quick succession.

Lap 5 of 20 saw Quartararo take the lead and the gap just slowly kept getting larger and larger. There was nothing the rest of the pack could do to catch him. With 15 laps until the end, the gap was already 1.007 seconds.

Fabio leads the way. Courtesy of Moto GP website.

But what could Austria’s second race winner – Brad Binder (KTM) pull out of the bag this weekend? He was in 13th place with 14 laps to go.

Quartararo was in his element, finding his groove and setting better and better lap times. He soon was 2.031 seconds ahead of P. Espargaro, A. Espargaro, the two Suzuki riders in 4th and 5th and the factory Ducati’s in 6th and 7th.

Tyres became a factor for many of the riders during the race and two names that felt this the most were Valentino Rossi and Francesco Bagnaia. By lap 8, Rossi had been overtaken by Alex Marquez (Honda) in 8th place and Bagnaia had gone into 7th position, having been overtaken by Jack Miller (Ducati). P. Espargaro had also been caught and overtaken by Alex Rins (Suzuki), for 3rd.

Extending his lead, Fabio was 2.617 seconds ahead of A. Espargaro, Rins, P. Espargaro and current Moto GP Champion – Joan Mir (Suzuki).

The British crowds roared loudly for their fellow riders – Cal Crutchlow and Jake Dixon, but for all their efforts they were unfortunately in 17th and 19th place. This didn’t dampen the fans though because they were both riding well.

We could get used to this sight – Dixon on Petronas Yamaha. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Meanwhile Rins, who had propelled himself from 10th on the grid had taken 2nd place from A. Espargaro, who made a small mistake and went wide, with 9 laps to go until the chequered flag.

Lap 13 saw A. Marquez take 7th place from Bagnaia, who passed him with relative ease, as the Ducati’s tyres had worn out.

The race leader however, was managing his tyres extremely well and had extended his lead even further to 3.458 seconds. Rins was trying everything to get the gap down between himself and the Frenchman, but he just couldn’t break away from Aleix.

Unlike, Miller who was quickly closing the gap down between himself and Pol. Pol made an unfortunate mistake on lap 15, which meant Miller breezed past him to take 4th.

With three laps to go, things went from bad to worse for Bagnaia, who had gone from 9th to 12th place within a few laps and finished the race in 14th, gathering only 2 championship points. Sitting in second in the championship prior to the race, he has plummeted down to 4th.

The last lap was Miller’s last attempt to get onto the podium. He managed to pass A. Espargaro for 3rd but Aleix passed him right back for a last lap battle. It was Aleix’s time to step up onto the podium for the first time in Moto GP and for his Aprilia team.

A. Espargaro and Miller. Courtesy of: Moto GP website,

Fabio’s lead was too great and he took his 5th race win this season with a massive gap of 3.467 seconds ahead of Rins and A. Espargaro.

Despite his mammoth efforts, Binder finished a respectful 6th in the race.

Finally, for his last race on British soil, the eight-time World Champion, Valentino Rossi finished 18th, but still celebrated for the crowd.

Rossi celebrating for the crowd. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The pattern continued with a seventh winner at Silverstone in seven races and for the first time ever in Moto GP history, the top six finishers were all different manufacturers.

Top Ten Race Finishers:

1

F. Quartararo (Yamaha)

2

A. Rins (Suzuki)

3

A. Espargaro (Aprilia)

4

J. Miller (Ducati)

5

P. Espargaro (Honda)

6

B. Binder (KTM)

7

I. Lecuona (Ducati)

8

A. Marquez (Honda)

9

J. Mir (Suzuki)

10

D. Petrucci (Ducati)

Championship Results:

1

F. Quartararo

206 points

2

J. Mir

141 points

3

J. Zarco

137 points

4

F. Bagnaia

136 points

The 22 year old Frenchman dominated the field once more and took valuable championship points in the race. But the current champion now sits in second place, could we see a swing in the title-run and see Mir defend his number one spot?

 

Featured image: Podium finishers. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter page.

Round two at Austria – Sensational!

Qualifying:

Jorge Martin (Ducati) and Miguel Oliveira (KTM) made the top ten and went through to FP2.

It looked like Quartararo had secured pole but Martin put in an all-time lap record (1:22.643) and stole pole in the last few seconds. Pushing Fabio to 2nd, Franceso Bagnaia (Ducati) went to 3rd and Johann Zarco (Ducati) 4th.

The big news that was announced was: Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) had been suspended from racing, due to last weekends antics on track. It was discovered that he had tried to blow up his Yamaha M1 engine, possibly causing serious danger to both himself and others. It is believed that he will not compete in any further races this year.

Race:

The weather was hot and humid in Austria, with massive black rain clouds looming above the track. The race was declared dry and would be a flag-to-flag affair. But, if hopes for a repeat of last weekend’s Austria race were anywhere near, they were soon to be dashed.

Martin sat in pole and got a fantastic launch, quickly leading Bagnaia, Zarco and Quartararo. Immediately, as all four riders went into turn one, the white flags started to wave signifying that bikes could then be swapped.

Bagnaia soon took the lead and Martin and Quartararo tussled for 2nd. Marc Marquez (Honda) was also battling at the front, gaining 4th and then 3rd place by lap 3. By lap 4, he had made it into 2nd. He was the only rider to have a soft (rear) tyre.

By lap 6 all top five riders kept swapping positions, none of them wanting to give an inch.

With the black clouds heavy with rain above them, a few rain drops suddenly started to appear and thunder rumbled in the distance. It was then the time for white and red flags to be waved on turn 2, meaning there was rain in that sector.

Rain clouds above. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 8 of 28, saw Quartararo take the lead, but it was quickly taken back by Bagnaia on the start-finish line. Bagnaia took his chance and soon started to gap from the pack. By the half-way point in the race, there were more gaps appearing between the riders.

Meanwhile the black clouds continued to gather and then drama ensued:

The start of the second part of the incredible entertainment came from Enea Bastianini’s Ducati. The fairing suddenly broke free and flew off onto the side of the track, causing him to have to retire.

Bastianini’s side exposed. Courtesy of: BT Sport Moto GP replay.

Zarco then crashed out of the race on turn 9. Marquez and Quartararo continued to fight with each-other for 2nd place, behind Bagnaia and in-front of last weekends winner in 4th. But an unusual mistake from Fabio meant Marquez was suddenly on the back of Pecco. On lap 22 he took the lead with a sensational maneuver, but Bagnaia was quick to respond and re-took first within seconds. That of course brought Quartararo back into play.

7 laps to go, the rain became heavier, causing Oliveira to crash on turn one. Everyone was becoming more and more tentative into the corners. Jack Miller (Ducati) and Alex Rins (Suzuki) decided that was their moment to enter the pits and swap their bikes. Would this prove to be effective, with very little race left?

Racing like they were on ice, all front five riders continued to circulate on slick tyres and not only that, they continued to fight for positions!

Marquez led Quartararo, Bagnaia, Martin and Binder. Incredible passes upon passes continued. Hands were being thrown in the air, regarding the poor weather conditions but the race was not going to be stopped as it was a flag-to-flag event.

Bagnaia leading Martin. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Then with no hesitation all 5 front leading riders went straight into the pits to change to their wet weather bikes, leaving the KTM rider, Brad Binder alone to lead the race from Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia), Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) and Valentino Rossi (Yamaha). Only nine riders remained on slick tyres, on a very wet track.

It was hard to believe that then there was only three laps remaining until the end. Binder was riding an incredibly brave race, skidding and sliding in ever-increasing hazardous conditions.

Marc Marquez crashed out on lap 26, turn 1. He had been riding all-in and unfortunately couldn’t quite pull it off. He managed to get back on the bike and later said “this is my best Sunday of the year”… “it’s only one championship point but I really enjoyed getting it”. Meanwhile, Binder was doing the unthinkable and started to break away from the rest of the riders, with only 2.6miles of track to the line. Could he hold on? Could he bring KTM’s first win at their home track in Moto GP?

The riders behind Binder were racing incredibly slowly – most of them having stayed out on slick tyres. A. Espagaro and Iker Lecuona (KTM) battled for 2nd. Luca Marini (Ducati) passed his brother (46) and Espargaro. But it was the ‘Bagnaia Bullet’ that came from no-where and passed everyone to gain 2nd place! Following close behind were Martin and Mir. Leaving Binder to get his second victory in the premier class. He was given a 3-second penalty for exceeding track limits on the last lap, but he had hardly any control over his bike in the treacherous conditions. The penalty didn’t effect the result though, in the end he managed to gain 12 seconds from his nearest rival, even with Bagania racing through to gain 2nd. Brad’s gamble had indeed paid off!

Podium finishers. Courtesy of: Moto GP (Twitter Account).

The number 33 became the 7th different winner in 2021 and the rookie Martin secured not only his 2nd pole in a row but his 2nd race podium as well.

Top Ten Race Results:

1

Binder

2

Bagnaia

3

Martin

4

Mir

5

Marini

6

Lecuona

7

Quartararo

8

Rossi

9

A. Marquez

10

A. Espargaro

Updated Championship Reults:

1st

Quartararo

181 points

2nd

Bagnaia

134 points

3rd

Mir

134 points

4th

Zarco

132 points

What a race?! The championship hunt is hotting up once again, with Quartararo’s lead now less and Zarco unfortunately dropping to fourth. Bagnaia and Mir are now on equal points. Could we see Mr. Consistency rise in the ranks once again and fight to remain World Number One?

What will we witness next round at Silverstone in two weeks time?

 

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP website).

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