A twist in the tale at Catalunya

Qualifying:

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

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

Marquez follows Miller. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

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

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

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

Race:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

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

Meanwhile, Danilo Petrucci (KTM) crashed turn 9.

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of: Moto GP

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

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

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

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

Championship results:

First

Quartararo

121 points

Second

Zarco

101 points

Third

Bagnaia

88 points

Fourth

Miller

87 points

Race results:

First

Oliveira

Second

Zarco

Third

Miller

Fourth

Quartararo

Fifth

Mir

Sixth

Vinales

Seventh

Bagnaia

Eighth

Binder

Ninth

Morbidelli

Tenth

Bastianini

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

Mugello Masterclass

Qualifying:

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

Mugello circuit. Courtesy of: Honda Racing Corporation website

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

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

Race:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quartararo leading the way. Courtesy of: MotoGP

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of: suzuki-motogp.com/press

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 race results:

First

Quartararo

Second

Oliveira

Third

Mir

Fourth

Zarco

Fifth

Binder

Sixth

Miller

Seventh

A. Espargaro

Eigth

Vinales

Ninth

Petrucci

Tenth

Rossi

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

Top 5 championship standings:

First

Quartararo

105 points

Second

Zarco

81 points

Third

Bagnaia

79 points

Fourth

Miller

74 points

Fifth

Mir

65 points

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

 

 

 

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

Taken too young – too soon.

Ride on Ja50n Dupasquier.

2001 – 2021 Courtesy of: MotoGP

 

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of MotoGP)

 

A spectacle in Le Mans

Le Mans Qualifying:

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

Courtesy of: Superbike-news

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

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

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

This was going to be interesting:

Race:

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

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

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

Miller takes the lead. Courtesy of: Motorsport.com

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

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

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

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

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

Pitlane pandemonium. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

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

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

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

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

Top 10 race results:

First

Miller

Second

Zarco

Third

Quartararo

Fourth

Bagnaia

Fifth

Petrucci

Sixth

A. Marquez

Seventh

Nakagami

Eigth

P. Espargaro

Ninth

Lecuona

Tenth

Vinales

Championship Standings:

First

Quartararo

80 Points

Second

Bagnaia

79 points

Third

Zarco

68 points

Fourth

Miller

64 points

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

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

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

Bologna Bullets take first and second in Spain

Another pole for Fabio in Qualifying:

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

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

Marquez. Courtesy of: Motorsport.com

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

Jerez Moto GP Race:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated championship:

Position

Rider

Points

First

Bagnaia

66

Second

Quartararo

64

Third

Vinales

50

 

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

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

 

(Featured image, courtesy of: Getty Images)

Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) takes the last win of the season

The last round of the 2020 MotoGP Championship took place on the 21-22 November at Portimao.

In the last race of the season, saw  the 7th new polesitter of the year as Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) beating Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) by 0.044 seconds with Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) completing the line up for the front row. World Champion, Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), had a disastrous qualifying and starts from 20th position. Will we see a 10th new winner of the season? Let’s find out.

The starting grid for the race looked like this:

Row 1 : Oliveira : Morbidelli : Miller Row 2 : Crutchlow : Quartararo : Bradl

Row 3 : Zarco : Vinales : P.Espargaro Row 4 : Rins : Nakagami : Dovisiozo

Row 5 : Binder : A.Espargaro Bagnaia Row 6 : A.Marquez : Rossi : Petrucci

Row 7 : Savadori : Mir : Rabat

The start of the 2020 MotoGP Portugal race. Image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM

With 25 laps of racing, the last race of the season gets under way with Oliveira getting off to a great start and going first into Turn 1 followed by Morbidelli, Miller, Crutchlow, P.Espargaro and Rins. Miller takes Morbidelli into 2nd but two turns later Morbidelli takes the place back. Mir has an incident with Bagnaia where there seemed to be touching of the wheels on lap 2 and loses a lot of time and drops right back.

By lap 3 Oliveira has pulled out a 1.3 second lead and Binder crashes at Turn 1 putting a very early end to his race. The battle for 7th place is with Zarco, Quartararo and Vinales and all three riders are on it. Nakagami takes Rins and moves up to 10th place.

Lap 5 and Oliveira has now a 2.4 second lead, Miller is staying hot on the heels of Morbidelli biding his time for his opportunity to get past. By the following lap the World Champion has moved up to 16th place with Rossi in 15th, A.Espargaro in 14th, Vinales in 13th and A.Marquez in 12th.

P.Espargaro takes Crutchlow into 4th place on lap 7 but Crutchlow, Bradl and Zarco all have eyes on that 4th place and they are all on it with good clean racing taking place. On lap 9 Crutchlow takes 4th but a few turns later loses it again to P.Espargaro.

Nakagami takes Quartararo into 9th place on lap 10, Quartararo fights back and gets the place back but then Nakagami goes underneath and past, this time he manages to keep the place.

Lap 11 and Oliveira has a comfortable 3.7 lead over Morbidelli and Miller. Dovizioso takes A.Marquez and Quartararo and goes into 9th place and the following lap A.Marquez passes Quartararo pushing him down to 12th. P.Espargaro has a huge moment allowing Crutchlow to slide past but two turns later he gains the place back.

By Lap 14 Mir is still in 16th place and is a second a lap off the pace of the front runners. Nakagami takes Rins on the following lap and the battle for 13th place between Quartararo, Vinales and Rossi is hotting up with all three riders absolutely on it.

With a 4 second lead, can Oliveira keep up this pace for the remaining 10 laps of the race? Mir slows on the track and heads into the pits and retires from the race with what looks like mechanical issues. Zarco passes Crutchlow into 5th place.

On the start/finish straight on lap 19 Vinales gets a wobble on the bike but he manages to hold it and his 12th place.

Lap 21 sees Crutchlow run really wide allowing Dovizioso, Nakagami, Zarco and Bradl to pass and he is now down in 9th. Miller is hunting down Morbidelli, can he catch him and make a pass in the remaining 4 laps?

A.Espargaro passes Crutchlow into 9th on lap 22 and the following lap Nakagami passes Dovizioso up into 5th place. Turn 4 Savadori crashes out of the race.

Valentino Rossi’s last ride for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

On the start/finish straight going into the final lap, A.Marquez and Zarco are battling for 9th and are side by side, A.Marquez just manages to out brake Zarco and grab the place. Miller is still trying to get past Morbidelli and on Turn 13 he goes underneath and past into 2nd place but Morbidelli comes straight back and snatches the place back but Miller pulls back past and starts to ease away.

Oliveira takes the chequered flag with a comfortable win and his second of the season with Miller taking 2nd and just behind is Morbidelli in 3rd.

An absolutely nail biting last race of the season with some incredible racing taking place. Huge congratulations to KTM and Oliveira on a brilliant win and to Ducati for taking the Manufacturers Championship.

Karen Bristow

Featured image courtesy of Polarity Photo/KTM

Interview: Can Oncu on his 2018 win and what his plans for 2019

Can Oncu, Moto3. Photo curtesy of Red Bull KTM Ajo

 

After a whirlwind last Moto3 race of 2018 in Valencia, Can Oncu solidified his place on the grid with an impressive debut and a record-breaking win. The 15-year-old Turk became the youngest GP winner and the first Turkish winner of a GP, smashing many more records along the way. Winner of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup (with his twin brother Deniz securing second place) and finishing 24th(out of 36) in the Moto3 standings after only one race – the trophy cabinet will be well stocked in the Oncu household after this year. Oncu’s 2018 might have ended in spectacular style, but his 2019 season will continue with Red Bull KTM Ajo as he races for the Finnish team in Moto3 and chases down even more podium finishes. A new flurry of Moto3 riders will be filling the grid in 2019, as Jorge Martin, Fabio di Giannantonio, Marco Bezzecchi, Nicolo Bulega and Enea Bastianini all head for debut Moto2 seasons. However, the Turk will have competition from Aron Canet, Gabriel Rodrigo and Lorenzo Dalla Porta, as well as newer riders like Celestino Vietti. Jade du Preez put some questions to the youngster, to find out how you celebrate such a historic win, and what’s next for the rookie to accomplish.

 

Jade du Preez: How do you feel after your first win?

Can Oncu: I really wanted race with Jorge Martin and Marco Bezzecchi before they went to Moto2. I was lucky and my wish was fulfilled. Martin was my favourite all year long. That I can get involved in the front I spotted FP2 and FP3 and after qualification it was clear. Martin and Bezzecchi brought a very good performance all year. I was very surprised that I won. When I heard after the race that I had broken some records I could not believe it – the youngest Moto3 rider of all time, the youngest Moto3 rider to win a race, and more. Everyone from the paddock congratulated me. Except from the north pole and south pole, congratulations were sent to me from all over the world. The feeling of happiness is really indescribable. I thank everyone who supports me.

 

JdP: What are your goals for 2019 since you’ve already won a race?

CO: I know that I am not perfect, that I still have much to learn and I try hard to do so. Aki Ajo and my race team help me and my brother. I will try to be in the top 10 at the end of the year.

 

JdP: How did you celebrate your win in Valencia? Did you cheat on your diet, hangout with friends, etc.?

CO: I was celebrating with my entire team and eating delicious food in Valencia. I do not like alcohol, I like fruit juices. When I arrived at home in Alanya I was immediately visited by many friends and suddenly we had a party.

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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