The end of an era: Grazie Vale!

How do you sum up this Entertainer, this Role-Model, this Legend?

He has entertained audiences for the past 26 years, winning races and fans throughout the world, bringing new and old supporters to watch the spectacle that is Moto GP. His undying enthusiasm and passion for the sport that he loves has brought smiles and tears to many. His ups and downs shared and felt by all.

The infectious smile. Courtesy of: Autocarindia.

Starting in 125’s (now equivalent to Moto 2) on the Aprilia in 1996:

The young boy from Tavullia, Italy, who entered into the 1996 125cc World Championships didn’t start off lighting the world on fire, but little did we know he soon would. Starting his pattern of one year to watch and learn and second year to win, he went into 1997 with his first championship title, collecting 4 poles and 11 race wins, which would crown him Champion. It was here that we first saw the entertainer that fans would adore, dressing up as Robin Hood at Donington – one particular celebration that stands out and also adopting the iconic Sun and Moon design that he has carried with him through the years.

Winning the 125’s Championship – 1997. Courtesy of: Aprilia website.

Progressing to 250’s (now equivalent to Moto 3) again on the Aprilia:

Rossi took another year to watch and learn and then became champion in 1999. Ditching the name Rossifumi and emerging as Valentinik. He continued to entertain the crowds with his celebrations on track, with the infamous Chicken riding pillion and the porta-loo gag. During the championship winning season he accumulated five poles and nine wins.

The Porta-Loo gag. Courtesy of: MCN

Following the pattern – watch and learn then win the next year, he moved up to the premier class: 500’s (now Moto GP):

With the dominating force of Mick Doohan winning everything in the premier-class, the racing was taking a bit of a lull and audiences were lacking in their numbers but even though the dominating force was due to change no-one was quite prepared for just how much!

Enter: The Doctor.

Another name change for Rossi saw him become The Doctor, a name that has become synonymous with him, just as much as the number 46 has.

Rossi teamed up with Doohan’s ex-crew chief Jeremy Burgess, who proved to be just what he needed. An impressive rookie season saw Rossi take 2nd in the championship and then in 2001 he became the last 500cc (2-stroke) World Champion. Taking 11 wins and 4 poles and along with that Honda’s 500th victory.

Enjoying the win. Courtesy of: Successbod website.

Spectators began to grow in their masses to watch this mesmerizing force that is Valentino Rossi, bringing with them a sea of yellow.

Moto GP – 2002: (the biggest-ever change in technical regulations):

Rossi was on the Repsol Honda – the first year of 990cc (4-stroke) and he pathed his way to glory once again, claiming 11 wins and 7 poles. Remaining with the same team for 2003, but with new team-mate the late Nicky Hayden, Vale again claimed the Moto GP crown with 9 wins and 9 poles.

Victory celebration- issued with a speeding ticket, to poke fun at being told he had the fastest bike on the grid. Courtesy of: Pinterest.

But then when he was on top of the world he did what many people thought was the impossible and decided to do a ‘ridiculous move’. Many times we watched in awe at his talent but nothing more than when he switched teams. Why would he leave a championship winning team, one that had dominated for so long and ride for an under-dog team?

The under-dog team = Yamaha. The reason = A challenge.

The relationship between Rossi and Honda had slowly deteriorated, with Honda claiming that it was all the bike and not much to do with the rider. Rossi taking offence by this lack of respect up and left to prove a point and prove a point he did.

Taking along with him his crew chief and most of his team, they went into the 2004 championship with very little testing during the winter period leaving Rossi to ride his first race on the Yamaha in 2004 at Welkom and incredibly he won! Breaking Yamahas longest losing streak and beating Giacomo Agostini’s record run of 22 consecutive top-three finishers in the process. Finishing the season with 9 wins and 5 poles.

Many people thought it would be too difficult or nearly impossible to win a race let alone the entire championship. But, Valentino is no normal rider. If people weren’t supporting Rossi already then they were now.

The iconic moment. Courtesy of: GP-Inside.com

Staying with Yamaha for 2005, Rossi was joined by another American – Colin Edwards. Vale won for a second year in a row alongside Yamaha and clinched  his 50th premier-class win. At Donington he mesmerized us by winning on water and miming playing a violin over the line. He took a total 11 wins (the highest number of premier class victories in a season on a Yamaha) and 5 poles.

2006 was a close year for the title and went right down to the last race in Valencia to see who would be crowned. It was between the reigning champ – Rossi and old team-mate Hayden. Consistency was key for Hayden and he became the only other rider other than Rossi to win the 990cc era. Rossi finished 2nd overall.

Another hard year for Rossi and Yamaha in 2007, saw them finish 3rd in the championship, only securing 4 race wins. Casey Stoner became another new champion. But, not letting any of this get to him Rossi won back his crown in 2008 becoming the most successful rider in the top-class with 69 wins, overtaking Agostini’s record total of wins. He accumulated 9 wins for the season, 2 poles and another title under a different formula – 800cc. He became the first rider to become champion on four different types of motorcycle and with that – Yamaha’s most successful rider.

8x Champ. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The showman carried on his winning streak and in 2009 remained Moto GP World Champion for the 9th time (in all classes), accumulating his 100th win of his career, 6 wins for the season and 7 poles. In 2010 Rossi announced it would be his final year with Yamaha as he decided he would switch manufactures once again to Ducati. He missed the most races of his whole career during that season after breaking his leg, when he did return though it was like he had never left. He was strong but couldn’t quite catch up.

9x champ – 2009. Courtesy of: GPone.com.

Ducati, as it turned out was not a great career move for the Italian, even though on paper it seemed like the dream team. The Doctor couldn’t produce miracles this time and ended up returning to Yamaha after 2 seasons with Ducati and that is where he remained. He finished 4th in 2013, being a runner-up for the crown in 2014/ 2015 and 2016. What could have been 12 championship wins was never to be. In 2017 Rossi was 5th, then 2018 rose back up to 3rd in the championship. He finished 7th in 2019, 15th in 2020 and for his last year in 2021 he finished 10th.

Even though the last few years he hasn’t been fighting for those wins we are all used to witnessing, it doesn’t matter because he transcended the sport and has become synonymous with Moto GP and can never be replaced. He has made Moto GP what it is today and even though he will leave a hole, we all know the racing will still be just as good as always and of course his VR46 team, with it’s young Italian riders will be there to carry the flag.

Final ride in-front of his yellow sea. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

This living legend, leaves behind a legacy and fantastic memories from fans and riders alike. Ending his illustrious career the way he wanted to, having raced for 26 seasons, finishing 235 times on the podium (more than any other rider in the history of the sport) and accumulating 115 Grand Prix Victories. The stats are truly astounding!

We may never again watch the iconic rituals of The Doctor or the sheer joy of his winning celebrations and the on-track battles but the memories will stay with us forever. Etched in our minds are the fights between him and his rivals – Max Biaggi, Sete Gibernau, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez. Who could forget the moment on the corkscrew at Laguna Seca between Vale and Casey? Which had us all on the edge of our seats, or the last corner at Jerez with Sete? Holding our breath.

Laguna Seca – Cork Screw. Courtesy of: Blogspot.com

He has inspired so many people, not just celebrities like F1 driver Lando Norris or fellow Moto GP champion Fabio Quartararo, but millions of people around the world. You say Valentino Rossi and people just know. He has a natural ability to make people want to support and cheer him on with his charisma and affection for all his fans. The whole Moto GP paddock admire him and it showed with the last race in Valencia 2021. The whole pitlane came out for him and every rider got a private hug – his popularity is unhinged.

For us that have had the joy to watch his incredible career, it has been a privilege. He has become a Titan of Motorbike racing and we all know God-like status’s never fade, his name will be there along with Sheene and Agostini forever.

You have written the most amazing story and you will be missed. But as we all know “it’s not the end, it’s the next chapter” – Rossi.

Thank you Vale for the memories. Courtesy of: Moto GP BT Sport twitter page.

 

 

(Featured image. Courtesy of: Moto GP website).

Images Courtesy: Moto GP website/MCN/ The Guardian/ Blogspot and Daily Star.

Pecco Conquers at Portugal

Qualifying:

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

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

Race:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top ten race results:

1st

F. Bagnaia

2nd

J. Mir

3rd

J. Miller

4th

A. Marquez

5th

J. Zarco

6th

P. Espargaro

7th

J. Martin

8th

A. Rins

9th

E. Bastianini

10th

B. Binder

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

Congratulations all round. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

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

Championship standings:

1st

F. Quartararo

267

2nd

F. Bagnaia

227

3rd

J. Mir

195

4th

J. Miller

165

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

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

A new champion is crowned!

Qualifying:

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

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

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

Race:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrations! Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Top 10 race results:

1st

M. Marquez

2nd

P. Espargaro

3rd

E. Bastianini

4th

F. Quartararo

5th

J. Zarco

6th

A. Rins

7th

A. Espargaro

8th

M. Vinales

9th

L. Marini

10th

V. Rossi

Top Four Championship results:

1st

F. Quartararo

267 points

2nd

F. Bagnaia

202 points

3rd

J. Mir

175 points

4th

J. Zarco

152 points

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

 

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP website).

Magnificent Seven for Marquez!

Qualifying:

Moto GP was back in America!

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

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

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

Race:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second to third. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Lap:

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

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

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

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

Race Results (Top Ten):

1st

M. Marquez

2nd

F. Quartararo

3rd

F. Bagnaia

4th

A. Rins

5th

J. Martin

6th

E. Bastianini

7th

J. Miller

8th

J. Mir

9th

B. Binder

10th

P. Espargaro

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

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

Championship Results Update:

1st

F. Quartararo

254 points

2nd

F. Bagnaia

202 points

3rd

J. Mir

176 points

4th

J. Miller

148 points

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

 

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

 

 

 

Dean Berta Vinales. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter.

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

Perfect Pecco at Misano!

Qualifying:

A few unexpected crashes from Marc Marquez (Honda), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) and Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) during the qualifying session meant yellow flags had to be waved and some riders were caught out by this, by not putting in a good qualifying lap.

One rider not to be caught out was Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) who bagged a second pole in a row. Also claiming a second, second place was team-mate Jack Miller (Ducati) from Quartararo in third, taking the last spot on the front row.

Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) had yet another team-mate, this time with former Moto GP rider Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha). He also had another helmet design, following on from last years design (Viagra pills) being substituted for a pink bow in honour of the announcement of his soon-to-be baby girl. Would this helmet bring him any luck for the race on home ground?

Rossi with new helmet for Misano. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Race:

With the riders getting prepped on the grid, grey clouds started to loom above them and the temperature at the track dropped but it was declared a dry race by the start.

Grey clouds over the grid. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

When the lights went out it appeared that Bagnaia may have had a jump-start but stewards quickly assessed the situation and he just started as he meant to go on – perfectly.

Marc Marquez was quick off the line and was soon in fourth place with Jorge Martin (Ducati) close behind, who had passed A. Espargaro.

Starting from 12th place – Bastianini had quickly made up places and was soon in 9th. Would he be one to keep-an-eye on?

Bastianini starting to make ground. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Pecco created a gap straight away from Jack and Fabio, already 1.231 seconds ahead and secured fastest lap in the process. While Fabio and Jorge Martin scrapped for third position behind. But it was not to be for Martin, who crashed out on lap 3, turn 14.

The man to watch (Bastianini) flew through the field and soon passed A. Espargaro for 5th place. While Miller took fastest lap behind his team-mate, in the lead.

Next up on Bastianini’s list was M. Marquez, they had a fight for 4th position but the Ducati man came out the victor. Could he make it to a podium place? The gap between himself and Quartararo was 3.486 seconds – it seemed it could be done with 11 laps to go.

Both front Ducati’s had chosen to race with hard front Michelin tyres and soft rears, compared to Yamaha which had front hard and medium rear. Would the soft tyre choices prove to be effective for the Dukes? Or would the Yamaha conserve tyres more effectively?

While it was elation for the factory Ducati’s in 1st and 2nd, it was deflation for the Pramac Ducati’s. In quick succession both Pramac Ducati riders soon had long-lap penalties. But for Martin, who had managed to get back on his bike, found himself in last place and took his penalty but soon after retired out of the race.

Pecco continued to extend his lead from Miller while Quartararo continued to stalk him for 2nd place. With 14 laps till the end Quartararo took a stop to the Ducati dominance and passed the Australian for 2nd, trying to claw back the lead that Bagnaia had created, which was 2.818 seconds ahead.

It appeared that Miller’s rear tyre may have degraded as Bastianini had him in his sights by lap 16.

The young Italian was on a mission – he claimed fastest lap on lap 17 and again on lap 18. Closing the space between himself and Miller to under a second. Whilst Alex Rins (Suzuki) crashed out in sector one, Bastianini claimed a third fastest lap in a row. He was just 0.180 seconds behind Miller. But the number 43 couldn’t hold off the number 23 any longer and on lap 19 Enea passed Jack to take a podium place.

Third for Enea. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The gap between Bagnaia and Quartararo was closed down to 1.254 seconds. Did Bagnaia have the same tyre concerns as Miller? With just 5 laps until the end the gap was down to 1.089 seconds.

But then the gap was suddenly increased again to 2.628 seconds – maybe Bagnaia had been conserving his tyres all along? Or had Quartararo made a small mistake?

The pressure was building between the Italian and the Frenchman as Quartararo seemed to find something last minute as well and was soon back behind Bagnaia. But as Bagnaia had proven last weekend, he was ready for a fight, with the taste of one victory, he wanted more.

Bagnaia defends first. Courtesy of Moto GP website.

With two laps to go Fabio appeared to be setting himself up to pass Pecco. The gap had decreased to just 0.271 seconds. But Bagnaia managed to hold off his advances and took back-to-back wins from Quartararo and Bastianini – who rode an incredible race and took his first podium in Moto GP on a 2019 Ducati.

Marquez and Joan Mir (Suzuki) managed to pass Miller, who couldn’t quite defend 4th place, on the last lap. But Miller was soon promoted to 5th place as Mir had exceeded track limits on the last lap.

It was the perfect weekend for Pecco – taking back-to-back poles and back-to-back wins!

Misano Podium 2021. Courtesy of: Misano World Circuit, Twitter Page.

Top ten race finishers:

1

F. Bagnaia

2

F. Quartararo

3

E. Bastianini

4

M.Marquez

5

J. Miller

6

J. Mir

7

P. Espargaro

8

A. Espargaro

9

B. Binder

10

T. Nakagami

Championship results:

First

F. Quartararo

234 points

Second

F. Bagnaia

186 points

Third

J. Mir

168 points

Fourth

J. Zarco

141 points

What can we expect for the next round in two weeks time at Austin, Texas? Will Quartararo be in a comfortable position to claim the World Title? Will there be a 9th new winner? Or will the Ducati’s reign supreme once more?

 

(Featured image – Courtesy of Moto GP website).

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).

Rookie reigns in Austria

Qualifying:

With the five week break finally at an end, the qualifying saw Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) snatch pole from Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati), in the closing minutes. Only seconds later to find that he transgressed track limits on turn nine, which resulted in him ending in third.

Marc Marquez (Honda), was on a hot-lap but crashed out and finished in eighth.

But it was the rookie Jorge Martin (Ducati) who claimed pole, for the second time this season. Riding a sensational lap of 1:22.994, bagging pole and a new all-time lap record along with it.

The front row was now: J. Martin, F. Bagnaia and F. Quartararo. The Ducati’s looked dominant in Austria, with all four bikes on the front two rows. Jack Miller (Ducati), Joan Mir (Suzuki) and Johann Zarco (Ducati) rounded off the front.

Grey clouds over-head. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

If fans were getting withdrawal symptoms from bike racing then this race was sure looking like it was going to quench that.

Race One:

All eyes may have been on Jorge Martin, in pole but all hearts were with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) who, on just Thursday, had announced this was going to be his final season racing.

With rain clouds looming large overhead, the Styrian Grand Prix was about to be on its way, after being declared a dry race.

Bagnaia got a great start from Martin, but Martin was quickly leading the race. Marc Marquez (Honda) chose a more aggressive tactic, after having a poor start and trying to gather positions quickly, he made a move past Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia), nudging him in the process, causing him to go wide and also pushed past Quartararo to go into fourth place. This caused an on-track argument between the two Spanish riders later, on track.

The pack. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Mir reacted well and quickly went from fourth to second as Bagnaia re-claimed first. Marquez seemed to be in all-out attack-mode but fell back to sixth place after his fiery start.

The championship leader, Quartararo picked up the pace and soon had fastest lap moments before red flags began to wave.

Flash back to 2020, Franco Morbidelli and Johann Zarco collided, causing their bikes to hurtle through the air, across the track and land cartwheeling in-front of the path of then team-mates Rossi and Vinales, understandably shaking both riders up before they re-started the race, after a red flag.

Since then, the track has been slightly modified. That should have been the only an odd occurrence however, this track seems to entice odd occurrences, only this time, lap 3 of 28 saw the wildcard and ex-Moto GP race winner Dani Pedrosa (KTM) fall leaving his bike stranded in the way of on-coming riders. Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia) rode straight into the KTM, causing both bikes to immediately erupt into flames. The race was red-flagged, signaling an end to proceedings. The marshals were quick to respond and fortunately neither rider nor marshal were hurt.

Just another freak accident in Austria, has made some question the suitability of this track for racing.

All bikes returned to the pits as fire extinguishers, brushes and man-power set about cleaning up the mess caused on track.

Race officials check the track is okay for the re-start. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

As the race was only on lap 3, it was re-started with just one lap being removed. The stewards allowed Pedrosa to start again but unfortunately for Aprilia, Savadori could not re-join.

A quick-start procedure took place during the second attempt, which meant pit lane re-opened for 60 seconds ahead of a sighting lap where all riders took their original grid positions and one mechanic met them at their lines. They then went out for their warm-up lap and the race continued thereafter.

Although, it was a disaster for Maverick Vinales (Yamaha), who stalled prior to the sighting lap on the grid and had to start his race from the pit lane, going from ninth to last.

Race Two:

The dark grey clouds still overhead had refrained from raining and continued to watch alongside the few spectators at trackside for take-two of the Styrian Grand Prix.

It was the Ducati power both times, this time Martin got another great start but Miller soon took the lead.

Quartararo nudged past M. Marquez, who in-turn nudged into none-other than Aleix Espargaro again and again he went wide.

Mir looked like he was on a mission, wanting to break up the Ducati rule. He was soon on the back of Martin and took second place on lap 2.

Mir hunts Martin. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 3 saw Martin re-take second and Bagnaia went backwards into eighth place. The re-start did not go the same way for him.

With 24 laps to go, Martin re-took the lead from Miller, Mir and Quartararo.

Things went from bad to worse for A. Espargaro, on lap 6 he pulled to the side of the track and had to retire due to a mechanical failure.

Miller and Quartararo had a mini battle between themselves. And soon all five front riders took fastest lap within quick succession of each other.

Martin and Mir broke away from the pack as did Quartararo, Miller and Zarco, creating their own group. The gap between the two groups quickly extended to over 3 seconds.

Vinales also couldn’t turn his luck around and ended up getting a long-lap penalty, putting him back to last place again, in 21st, due to exceeding track limits. Track limit warnings were thrown about to all sorts of riders, including the race leader Martin, who was still leading with 11 laps to go.

With 10 laps to go, Miller looked set to strike on Quartararo, closing him down on every corner. But then, he crashed out on turn 7. He returned to the track but had to end his race sooner than expected and pulled into the pits, leaving Fabio in third position, to race alone.

Another long-lap penalty was handed out to the other Espargaro brother – Pol, for also exceeding track limits.

Having led for most of the race, Jorge Martin, the rookie reigned supreme and took victory for the first time for himself and Pramac Ducati in the Moto GP class. Having come from a hospital bed earlier on in the season, due to an accident which left him with numerous broken bones he was now on the top step of the podium. Securing both the pole and the win! He is now the 6th different winner in 2021.

Take a bow – Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Brad Binder (KTM) rode a sensational last lap and finished an incredible fourth place, passing Zarco and Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) on the way to the line.

Bagnaia however was given a 3 second penalty on the last lap, for also exceeding track limits and was demoted out of the top ten, promoting Dani Pedrosa into tenth.

Top ten finishers:

1st

J. Martin

2nd

J. Mir

3rd

F. Quartararo

4th

B. Binder

5th

T. Nakagami

6th

J. Zarco

7th

A. Rins

8th

M. Marquez

9th

A. Marquez

10th

D. Pedrosa

Current Championship Standings:

1st

Quartararo

172 points

2nd

Zarco

132 points

3rd

Mir

121 points

4th

Bagnaia

116 points

Moto GP will be returning to Austria again next weekend, as will British rider Cal Crutchlow (Petronas), who even though didn’t produce a spectacular race result this weekend after stepping in for injured rider Franco Morbidelli, he will do so again for the next two races. Will we see a top ten or podium finish for fan favourite Cal?

 

(Featured image: courtesy of Moto GP website).

Round 4 WorldSBK Donington Park Race 1

World Super Bikes makes a welcome return to Donington Park after missing out last year due to the Covid 19 restrictions. The historic track, being the place where it all began back in 1988, hosting the first ever WorldSBK race.  Would we see history in the making this weekend?

Dramatic scenes at Donington. (Courtesy of: WorldSBK website).

Championship leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) was looking in scintillating form, setting the fastest time in FP 1, as well as in a wet FP3. With the heavens opening to make for a wet Superpole, it wouldn’t dampen Rea’s pace, topping the grid in an unbeaten time of 1:40.101. Completing the front row would be the BMW teammates, Michael van der Mark  1:40.626, and Tom Sykes in 1:40.763.

The weather for Race 1 was looking typically mixed for a British summers day. With a massive downpour earlier in the morning, the race was declared wet, even although by start time the track was dry in most places. Tyre choice would be crucial, and it seemed most of the grid was going for slicks.

Lights out, and it was Jonathan Rea who got the hole shot into turn 1, closely followed by the two BMWs of van der Mark, and Sykes. It was Toprak Razgatlioglu (Yamaha) with a wonder start who was grabbing all the headlines early on, scything through the field from a lowly qualifying position of 13th, by turn 1 he was already up to 5th place. Winner last time around in Misano race 2, Razgatlioglu (TR) wasn’t hanging about, getting past both BMWs by the end of the first lap.

T.R was now hunting down Rea, who nearly went down after his rear tyre hit a damp patch. Further back in the field it was still very close, Gerloff (Yamaha) was passed in the Melbourne Loop by Redding (Ducati) who subsequently went down at the top of Craner Curves. The damp track was causing havoc, who was going to be able to hold their nerve? Another crash through the Craner Curves and its Christophe Ponsson (Yamaha) who went down.

T.R was now caught up to Rea and made his pass on lap 2. Across the start/finish line to begin lap 3, Rea again slides at the top of Craner Curves, this time running off the track and down across the wet grass, somehow managing to avoid a massive crash, rejoins the track to remain in 2nd place. Razgatlioglu lays down the first marker by putting in a fastest lap of 1:33.292.

Spectators get a fantastic race. (Courtesy of WorldSBK website).

Van Der Mark (BMW) was now right behind Rea after his excursion, and looking for a way past. Further back it was Leon Haslam (Honda) in 5th place clawing his way up to Sykes in 4th, while Gerloff in 7th was closing up to Alex Lowes (Kawasaki) in 6th. Both Razgatlioglu and Gerloff were using the slick soft X-tyre, and it was noticeable in their times.

With 20 laps to go, Razgatlioglu already held a gap of 3.1 to Rea, and was slowly applying more pressure, putting in another fastest lap of 1:32.706. The world champion would respond the next lap setting a new fastest lap of 1:31.441. It was turning out to be ‘anything you can do, I can do better.’

Again, with 18 laps to go Rea puts in another fastest lap of 1:30.648, reducing the gap to T.R to 1.948. He wouldn’t be giving up any time soon. With the track mostly dry now, faster times were being set. Razgatlioglu responded with 17 laps to go, setting a new fastest lap of 1:30.126. The drying track was still catching some riders out, with Andrea Locatelli (Yamaha) crashing hard, but he managed to walk away unhurt.

Another big moment for Rea at Redgate turn 1 with 15 laps to go, the rear stepped out, the slide is saved, but Rea lost valuable time to T.R. With the sun now shining down onto the track, the fans were being treated to absolutely sublime racing. Donington we missed you!

With 13 laps to go, van der Mark was getting closed down quickly by his team mate in 4th, and Lowes in 5th. Gerloff got through on Haslam with 12 laps to go. In a ding-dong battle, Sykes decides to make a move on his teammate, opening the door for Lowes, van der Mark now going from 3rd to 5th. All the while Gerloff was gaining on the trio.  Into the Melbourne Loop van der Mark runs in hot, and bumps shoulders with Lowes, somehow both riders managed to stay on, but this allowed Gerloff to gain a place – moving up to 5th.

Meanwhile at the front with 11 laps remaining, Rea puts in a new fastest lap of 1:28.908, hoping to claw his way back to T.R. The gap now at 3.4. Immediately the next lap T.R responds with a 1:28.815, not allowing Rea to have any momentum. Tito Rabat (Ducati) retires due to a mechanical problem.

With 9 laps to go Lowes makes a move on Sykes, out-braking him into the Melbourne Loop – pushing him wide, this in turn leaves Gerloff space to dive inside Sykes, going from 3rd to 5th in one corner. Last corner, turn 12 (Goddards) and Gerloff drives up the inside of Lowes, aggressive riding by the Texan – now on for a podium.

Razgatlioglu now lapping Jonas Folger (BMW) with 8 laps to go, showing no signs of slowing down. The gap to Rea now at 3.9. Drama for Gerloff going into turn 12 with 7 laps to go, he loses the front end and goes down, managing to get back on track now in 8th position, no doubt seething under his helmet after all the work he did earlier.

Lap 18 of 23 and the gap between Razgatlioglu to Rea now at 4.2, with Rea seemingly having accepted his 2nd place, or possibly not able to respond anymore to Razgatlioglu’s lap times – tyre wear almost certainly an issue for both riders now.

With 5 laps remaining Alvaro Bautista (Honda) had steadily moved up to 7th from a grid position of 16th, although he had Gerloff looking to make a pass on him, which he did, pushing him back a position. Gerloff was now hunting down Haslam in 6th place with only 4 laps remaining. Meanwhile at the head the gap between Razgatlioglu and Rea was now up to 5.0.

Last lap – late drama, Razgatlioglu’s bike looks to be spluttering from low fuel, he managed to cross the line, but lost the gap he made to Rea, who crossed in 2nd place.  Lowes the local lad, gets 3rd place for his 200th WSBK start.

Sportsmanship between first and second place. (Courtesy of: WorldSBK website).

There is a star on the Turkish flag, and Razgatlioglu no doubt surely is one, with a bright future ahead of him. After an action packed race 1, what will the Superpole race, and race 2 bring?

Race Results:

  1. Toprak Razgatlioglu – Yamaha
  2. Jonathan Rea – Kawasaki
  3. Alex Lowes – Kawasaki
  4. Tom Sykes – BMW
  5. Michael van der Mark – BMW
  6. Leon Haslam – Honda
  7. Garrett Gerloff – Yamaha
  8. Alvaro Bautista – Honda
  9. Lucas Mahias – Kawasaki
  10. Axel Bassani – Ducati

Out – Jonas Folger – BMW, Tito Rabat – Ducati, Andrea Locatelli – Yamaha, Scott Redding – Ducati, Christophe Ponsson – Yamaha.

Championship Standings:

  1. Rea – 169 pts
  2. Raz – 154
  3. Red – 104
  4. Low – 104
  5. Rin – 86

 

(Featured image – courtesy of: BBC)