The final dance.

Here we are: the final round of the 2021 season. And what a season it’s been, ending as always with the Valencia Grand Prix.

Qualifying:

Jorge Martin (Ducati) got a surprise pole with 1:29.936 from Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) in second, who crashed directly after taking pole just before Martin stole it from him. Jack Miller (Ducati) also finished off the front-row getting third place. Valentino Rossi who finished his last qualifying session before retirement secured tenth place.

Race:

Both the Repsol Honda riders were not to participate in the race as Marc Marquez was still suffering from his last crash and Pol Espargaro took a heavy fall during the qualifying on Saturday – an unfortunate end of the season for Honda.

However, it was a weekend for only one man. A sea of yellow filled the grandstands as audiences flocked to see Valentino Rossi for one last time. With only the hope of finishing in the top 10, would he be able to make it?

Martin got off to a flying start and led from Miller and Bagnaia, however Joan Mir (Suzuki) had other ideas and soon took 3rd from Bagnaia, pushing him back to 4th, leaving him sandwiched between the two Suzuki’s.

Lap 2 saw Miller pass Martin for 1st place but Martin was in a fighting mood and took it straight back again, seeing his chance Mir also passed Miller to take 2nd. Pecco didn’t want to miss out on a podium place and was side-by-side with Jack on the straight – beginning of lap 3 and managed to take the position from him. Next was Rins’ turn to battle Miller, coming out on top for 4th and also claiming fastest lap.

While one Ducati rider was getting beaten up, the other soon took 2nd place from Mir, knowing he had to hunt down Martin, for any hope of a victory. But while on a high, Rins also passed his team-mate on lap 4 of 27.

Could things get any worse for Miller? Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) was next to pounce, taking 5th place from him. But, the Ducati was unbeatable on the straight and soon took the place back. Fabio chose another place to again pass Jack later on the same lap.

Lap 5, turn 6 saw Takaaki Nakagami take an early exit from his race.

Meanwhile at the front Bagnaia closed down on Martin and kept checking for the right place to pass but Martin proved a difficult one to get a good place to do so. The two Suzuki’s also looked like they were ready to fight the Ducati’s for 1st and 2nd.

Rookie of the Year. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) was where he wanted to be, in the top 10, in 10th place but Enea Bastianini (Ducati) passed him to take the spot. Could Rossi do anything about it?

Miller and Quartararo continued to have mini battles for 5th place while Bagnaia continued to watch Martin for any weaknesses. With 18 laps to go Bagnaia attempted a pass on Martin but it didn’t stick.

With all front riders on the same tyre set-up (hard Michelin tyres on the front and medium on the rear) it was an even battlefield.

Suddenly on lap 11, turn 6 one of the front riders crashed out of the race. Rins was in the gravel leaving the two Ducati’s to battle it out on their own in front and leaving his team-mate to take 3rd position, with only a 0.726 second gap between him and them.

The gap slowly decreased as Mir caught up to the Ducati’s, closing the gap down to 0.493 seconds. Was Mir in for a chance of winning?

13 laps till the chequered flag and Bagnaia attempted to take the lead again. This time he was successful and took the lead over the finish line to mark the half-way point in the race. Mir and Miller still followed closely behind.

Taking the lead. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

But Bagnaia was soon pulling away from the rest of the field and the gap quickly got to 0.320 seconds. Was Martin starting to feel the results of being ill the night before? Martin had a nice position in 2nd with 1.316 seconds ahead of Miller, who had managed to pass Mir for 3rd with 10 laps to go. The Australian didn’t want to stop there though and he picked up the pace to close down on Martin. With 8 laps until the end the gap had decreased further to 1.285 seconds. Miller had said previously that he saw no point in playing it safe in the last round and wanted to get onto the podium and he did just that. He took fastest lap on lap 21 and continued to bring the gap down further still.

With 3 laps to go Miller had clawed the gap down to 0.317 seconds, was he able to pass for 2nd?

Last lap and last dance of 2021 saw Bagnaia leading with a gap increase of 0.914 seconds over the other two Dukes. But there was nothing the two riders could have done to change the results and Bagnaia won from Martin and Miller, who took the last podium place. The same three riders that had dominated qualifying also dominated the race.

Bagnaia took his fourth win in a row and Martin secured Rookie of the Year.

But the weekend was all about one man – the GOAT – Valentino Rossi. Yellow flags waved vigorously as he crossed the line in 10th place and all the riders stopped at the edge of the track and waited for him to come to them. Each one cheering, clapping and receiving a personal hug from the man that transcended the sport and made it what it is today. A very fitting farewell to an absolute legend who marked the end of an era.

Everyone wanted to say Thank You! Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

But we also said farewell to another Italian rider – Danilo Petrucci who also left Moto GP and will be competing in the Dakar for KTM. He will also be sadly missed.

Top Ten Race Results:

1st

F. Bagnaia

2nd

J. Martin

3rd

J. Miller

4th

J. Mir

5th

F. Quartararo

6th

J. Zarco

7th

B. Binder

8th

E. Bastianini

9th

A. Espargaro

10th

V. Rossi

Bagnaia wished to dedicate his race win to his Hero Valentino and I would like to say it has been a privilege and a joy to watch the career of the Titan of Moto GP, all the way from those 125cc days to Moto GP.

On behalf of everyone who has been a fan – old or new – we THANK YOU!

Taking his final bow. Courtesy of: Moto GP BT Sport Twitter page.

#GrazieVale

The 2021 season may be over but it will all start again in March 2022. Will a new victor emerge? Can Quartararo secure his crown? Will we see old riders come back to the fray? Whatever happens we will be there.

 

 

(Featured image: courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter page).

Pecco Conquers at Portugal

Qualifying:

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

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

Race:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top ten race results:

1st

F. Bagnaia

2nd

J. Mir

3rd

J. Miller

4th

A. Marquez

5th

J. Zarco

6th

P. Espargaro

7th

J. Martin

8th

A. Rins

9th

E. Bastianini

10th

B. Binder

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

Congratulations all round. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

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

Championship standings:

1st

F. Quartararo

267

2nd

F. Bagnaia

227

3rd

J. Mir

195

4th

J. Miller

165

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

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

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. 

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).

Un et Deux – the French reign at Doha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin leads Rins. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Featured image courtesy of: Moto GP website.