Unauthorized Fausto Gresini GP Racing 1997-present

November 15, 2014


Fausto Gresini has been an owner in the most difficult of spots for most of his 27 years at the helm of grand prix motorcycle racing teams, generally burning his own money or money he has personally raised from sponsors.  As a rider himself in the 80′s, he won world titles in the 125cc class.  His teams have included a kaleidoscope of title sponsors and have won titles in the 250cc, Moto2 and MotoGP classes.  Heading into 2015, he has a right to feel jinxed.

We assume Mr. Gresini to be self-aware, able to acknowledge that his efforts to create championship racing teams over three decades has been a constant struggle against a number of tides.  A strong nationalist, Gresini has always wanted to run a purely Italian team, riding Italian machines with Italian riders and joyful Italian sponsors. However, as a satellite team owner, what we in youth soccer used to manage and refer to as a “B Team,” Gresini has experienced few highs and numerous lows, watching his teams compete for titles in the premier class of MotoGP.

Fausto Gresini, the owner of a satellite team, needs to divide his time between driving the techs and riders, and charming sponsors to sign on the dotted line.  Over the years, these have included names such as Elf, Avo, Telefonica, Fortuna, Movistar (in 2005), and, recently, San Carlo, the big Italian chip manufacturer–snacks, not integrated circuits–from 2008 through 2012.  It is impolitic to observe that during the period 2001 to 2014 his teams have experienced two world champions–Daijiro Kato in the 250 class in 2001 and Toni Elias, the winner of daijiro_katothe intial year of Moto2 bikes in 2009–and the loss of their two top riders, Kato in 2003 and Marco Simoncelli in 2011.

Despite Fausto Gresini’s best efforts, success, or budding success, has been followed twice by tragedy that has set his program, such as it is, into the state in which it now exists, one of tarnished former greatness.

Gresini Racing, including the label of the sponsor of the season, has always had to work harder than his factory counterparts, most recently the factory Yamaha and Honda teams.  Gresini was a Honda man for decades, through the years 2003-2005. Sete Gibernau finished second for the year in 2003 and 2004, with then youngster boy toy Marco Melandri taking 2nd in 2005, 4th in 2006, and 5th in 2007.

Gresini Roars Back after Kato Death

Gresini had overcome the racing death of Kato in 2003 and had come back strong with Gibernau and Melandri in 2003 and beyond, San Carlo by his side from 2008-2012.  His fortunes turned south during 2007 with Melandri in MotoGP but turned north again in 2009 as journeyman Toni Elias won the Moto2 title.

Suddenly, in 2010 along comes Marco Simoncelli, the tall, gangly goofy-looking Italian free spirit who had managedMARCO-SIMONCELLI-1 to wrap his 6′something frame around the 250 cc bike in 2008 tightly enough to take the championship, followed by a third place finish in 2009. Gresini had signed the loose charismatic cannon to a two year contract in 2010 while the full-grown Melandri finished 10th and left for greener pastures.  Simoncelli himself managed 8th place in 2010,  getting joined by Hiro Ayoyama on the #2 bike who would take 10th the following year; the Italian spent most of the off season testing sessions near the top of the Alien rankings.

As the 2011 season approached, life was looking up for Fausto Gresini.  In addition to a for-real competitive MotoGP team of Somencelli on the #1 bike and Aoyama on the #2, he was looking at a promising Moto2 team featuring Michele Pirro, who can ride, and Yuki Takahashi, the great Japanese hope.  (Both would disappoint, with Pirro finishing ninth for the season and Takahashi 11th.)

Simoncelli, ruling the headlines but a hazard to himself and those around him, began the 2011 season showing promise on the factory-supported RC213V, but crashing out of three of the first six races, ruining the season of Dani Pedrosa at Le Mans, getting chippy with Lorenzo at a press conference, and slugging it out in the media with Albert Puig, Pedrosa’s Svengali, who seemingly had enough at that point to later re-define his job away from both Pedrosa and Simoncelli.

A disruptive force was Gresini Racing’s Marco Simoncelli in early 2011.

Lightning Strikes Again

Simoncelli, as we all now know, got things turned around in the second half of the 2011 season, with 4th place finishes at San Marino, Aragon and Motegi.  His second place finish at Phillip Island showed him capable of taking podia on a regular basis, all things being equal, which they never are.  Along came Sepang, along came the unthinkable, and Simoncelli was, instantly, snatched from the board.  The personal tragedy was accompanied by a corporate disaster, as the rug had suddenly been violently pulled out from under the Italian sponsors.  San Carlo would stick around for another year, a year in which they were left with Spanish underachiever Alvaro Bautista who was the only credible rider available late in the 2011 season, when they were suddenly bereft looking ahead to 2012.

Bautista who, one suspects, was never Gresini’s first choice on any count–ethnic, performance history–never did much with the Italian’s beloved factory-supported Honda (5th in 2012, falling to 11th in 2014) leading, ultimately, to Honda making it, um, unfeasible for Gresini to field a Honda-affiliated team in 2015.  This coincided with Aprilia’s decision to enter the MotoGP fray a year earlier than had been previously announced, intending to field a two-man factory team in 2015 under the expert direction of, guess who, Fausto Gresini, and giving themselves a year to adjust to the program before Michelin enters in 2016 with the new line of MotoGP tires.

Gresini, still today stuck with the increasingly dysfunctional Bautista, finally signed the aging, microscopic Melandri in early November to ride the second glued-together Aprilia factory entry in 2015 , as Melandri was going to be a victim of corporate Aprilia’s decision to support MotoGP at the apparent expense of a highly successful World Super Bikes program that had produced titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

There’s just something about running with the big dogs…

A Look Ahead

Gresini, for all his efforts, despite brutal events which disrupted the fabric of two separate teams, and through a financial crisis that continues in Italy, finds himself today heading up a factory Aprilia team that plans to enter two glued-together prototypes while they develop a new from-the-bottom-up prototype for 2016, complete with Michelin tires, for their amico, although they were, through financial worry and corporate dithering, unable to prevent chief engineer Gigi Dall’Igna’s discouraging defection to Ducati Corse.

Despite his best efforts, Gresini is still stuck with Bautista and, now, with an aging Melandri, kind of an Italian Colin Edwards, whose grizzled features and extensive tenure are promoted as being directly helpful to Bautista, who has proven himself mostly un-coachable since winning the 2006 championship in the 125 cc class.  Bautista, always super-concerned with his appearance and less with his performance, has managed to finish twice in 13th place for the struggling factory Suzuki program in 2010 and 2011, and as a seriously underachieving factory spec Honda rider for Gresini in 2012 through 2014, able to deliver only 5th, 6th and 11th place finishes for the name sponsors in those years.

Honda said sayonara to Gresini at the same moment Aprilia decided to compress their timeline to enter MotoGP in 2015, putting Gresini in charge of two riders, lending to the belief that Gresini had been looking.  The program will be a bottom third team in the grand scheme of things, its riders likely to get lapped during a race or two.  Whether the underfunded Italian group can produce a competitive MotoGP setup for 2016 remains to be seen.

If Fausto Gresini has anything to say about it, Aprilia will come out in 2016 with an Italian name sponsor, factory support, a brand new bike and a new Italian rider to replace Bautista, with Melandri either hanging around or not, depending upon the availability of a stud Moto3 rider, such as Romano Fenati or Enea Bastianni, who could fill the vacuum at the top of the 2015 Moto3 class left by the graduation of Marquez, Miller, and Rins.  Such could presage the assumption of the #1 Aprilia bike in 2016 by an aggressive young Italian stud able to compete with a grid, all of whom are going to be adjusting to new controls and new tires.  A world full of Marquezes and Espargaros.  Rossis and Lorenzos. Vinales and Smiths.

It could happen.  One never knows.  Tires change everything.  Electronics and data have taken over.

At Least For Now

At least for now, Fausto Gresini will have some help from Aprilia keeping things together while life at the top of MotoGP prepares to adjust to common ECU hardware and new rubber in 2016.  Though there is less to do on the money side, there is much to do on the high octane side, which is where he’s probably most comfortable anyway.

Fausto Gresini’s MotoGP team will not challenge for a world championship in 2015.  He will probably be around, perhaps in a good way, in 2016, when things change for everyone.  He’s survived the loss of two riders and more sponsors than most people can name.  But there he is, riding herd on a group of paisano gearheads, still with that damned Spanish guy, and now with the old Italian guy, trying to glue together a credible effort for the home team in 2015 and beyond.

Are Fausto Gresini’s salad days behind him?  Probably.  Is he still in position to enjoy himself and get some visceral return on the investment of his time and effort as a year-round owner and operator?  Seems that way.

Perhaps he’s developed the perspective, after 27 years in the business, and with the passing of two riders, to be able to live life in the moment, to not obsess on what might have been, to accept his position in the corporate superstructure of a team as well as his prospects for achieving his goals, which haven’t changed in 27 years.  Perhaps he’s had to, in the words of Stonewall Jackson, “elevate them gun sights just a little lower, boys,” understanding where he currently stands in the scheme of GP racing, where there are the haves and the have nots.

Gresini is a poster child for an athlete incapable of generating consistent winning results as a coach, owner or engineer after a sparkling career behind the handlebars.  He could never coax performance at a level he could himself achieve from the bulk of the riders with whom he worked.  Kato and Simoncelli were exceptions, in more ways than one.

We return to the original question.  Questions, actually.

Does Fausto Gresini have a right to feel jinxed?  Most definitely.  Does Fausto Gresini have a realistic chance of coming back in 2016 with a competitive Aprilia factory team?  Depends on how you define realistic.  Is Fausto Gresini fully engaged in making things happen with his new team?  Undoubtedly.  Is Gresini, like Melandri, on the back end of his career?  Probably.  Would he do it all over again in much the same way?  Probably.  Would he give anything to have Kato and Simoncelli back?

You’re kidding, right?


Valencia Test Times Wednesday 11/12/2014

November 12, 2014

Day 3 Valencia Test Times

Valencia Test Times Monday 11/10/2014

November 11, 2014

Day 1 Valencia Test Times

Attention Dani Pedrosa: Here’s what the future looks like

November 10, 2014

Two years from today.  Video courtesy of MotoGP.com.


Alex and Marc Marquez on RC213-V Hondas at Valencia.


Marquez win caps epic MotoGP sophomore season

November 9, 2014

MotoGP 2014 Valencia Results, by Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

In the modern era of MotoGP, no rider has crafted a season comparable to Marc Marquez in 2014. Among the records he established this season are most wins in a single season, becoming the youngest rider to repeat as world champion, and claiming the most poles in one season. At age 21, the MotoGP world is his oyster. As announcer Nick Harris asked repeatedly during today’s contest, where will it all end?

2014 MotoGP World Champion

Double world champion Marc Marquez celebrates his 13th win of the season in Valencia.

The bulk of the on-track suspense today was provided by the weather which, having been idyllic all weekend, brought just enough rain during the premier class race to jumble what should have been an orderly procession. As the grid lined up, an azure sky suddenly filled with black rain clouds. Once the sighting lap had been completed, the pit crews commenced a frenzied effort to put the #2 bikes in wet setup, changing out virtually everything but the engines and decals in a few frantic minutes.

It began to rain lightly immediately after the start, which found Pramac Ducati overachiever Andrea Iannone leading the usual Alien suspects—Valentino Rossi, Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo—at the end of Lap 1. The factory Ducati contingent of Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso were right up there too, and the crowd at the front had a number of fans watching through their hands, dreading what could easily have been a multi-bike, season-changing snafu which, somehow, the contestants managed to avoid. On Lap 2, Race Direction showed the white flag, indicating the riders could pit to change bikes at their leisure. By Lap 3, Movistar Yamaha icon Jorge Lorenzo had fallen back to 7th position, his psychological issues with wet tracks, born at Assen last year, clearly visible and a harbinger of bad things yet to come later in his day.


Suzuki wildcard Randy de Puniet during his brief appearance at Valenia 2014.

Approaching mid-race, a number of predictable things began to occur, as fuel loads dropped and Iannone’s tires began to decompose. On Lap 10, Marquez went through easily on Rossi into second place, waged war with Iannone for most of a lap, and went through on the Italian the next time around into the lead he would hold for the rest of the day. On Lap 13, wildcard Suzuki rider Randy de Puniet fulfilled our prediction and retired from the race, disappointing everyone, myself included, who had hoped for more from Suzuki’s return to MotoGP. By the end of Lap 15, the Aliens owned the top four spots on the grid, with Marquez leading Rossi, Pedrosa challenging from third, and Lorenzo seemingly holding on for dear life in fourth.

Rossi at Valencia

The ageless Valentino Rossi on his way to second place for the day and the 2014 season at Valencia.

The rain arrived again on Lap 18, with the leaders giving up roughly eight seconds per lap trying to stay upright. Lorenzo and Iannone, losing ground fighting over 4th place and with little to lose, pitted and changed bikes, a decision Lorenzo will have all winter to regret. Praying for a drenching rain that never came, the two re-entered the race out of the points. Predictably, their rain tires, with a lifespan measured in minutes running on dry asphalt, quickly dissolved, with Lorenzo retiring on Lap 25 and Iannone finishing a lap down. Once again, the rain had stopped as quickly as it started, and the race was dry for the duration. Marquez, Rossi and Pedrosa, running 1-2-3 since Lap 12, would finish in that order, giving Rossi second place for the year, a remarkable accomplishment for the 35 year old wonder. Rossi, though still a force to be reckoned with, believes he can challenge for the title in 2015, a vivid example of the power of adrenaline over sound judgment.

Elsewhere on the Grid

The little races-within-the-race provided some excitement for folks who follow such things. Factory Ducati #1 Dovizioso pipped defecting teammate Cal Crutchlow at the flag for 4th place in a battle that raged all day. The Espargaro brothers, Aleix and Pol, ran together most of the day, with little brother (and Rookie of the Year) Pol pushing his satellite Tech 3 Yamaha to a 3/10th margin over Aleix on the Forward Racing Yamaha, cementing 6th place for the season at big brother’s expense. Pol’s teammate, Brit Bradley Smith, had been in contention for sixth place for much of the second half of the season, but a brief off-track excursion late today produced a 14th place finish and confirmed an 8th place result for the season.

A Story of Two Half Seasons

A cursory examination of the results attained by the factory Honda and Yamaha teams in Rounds 1-9 versus Rounds 10-18 shows a dramatic turnaround in fortunes. Marquez and Pedrosa combined for 373 points in the first half versus 235 in the second. Rossi and Lorenzo combined for only 228 points in the first but came back with 320 in the second. Had Marquez not completely dominated the first half of the season, the championship battle leading up to today’s race would have been far more interesting. This, of course, is the old “if a bullfrog had wings” argument easily dismissed by discerning readers:


The 2015 Season is Already Here

Having turned out the lights on the 2014 season today, we look forward to the changes on the 2015 grid that officially start tomorrow. The grid parts company with the PBM team and riders Michael Laverty and Broc Parkes, but is joined by the factory Suzuki team, Aleix Espargaro and Moto2 grad Maverick Vinales onboard (Vinales likely sporting a penalty point or two from his silly takedown of Mike Kallio in the Moto2 race today).

Jack Miller1

An unhappy Jack Miller, who got pushed around just enough to miss a world championship by two points in Valencia.

Moto3 tough guy Jack Miller, who won the riveting battle but lost the war to Alex Marquez in Moto3 today, jumps up to join Cal Crutchlow on an expanded LCR Honda team. Eugene Laverty makes the move from World Super Bike to MotoGP to join Nicky Hayden on an energized Drive 7 Aspar Honda team. Coming along for the ride is Frenchman Loris Baz, who will team up with Stefan Bradl at the Yamaha-powered NGM Forward Racing group. And great things are expected from Scott Redding next year, as he reunites with his homeys at Marc VDS Racing and their new MotoGP team, playing with a factory option Honda.

In addition to Bradl and Espargaro, Cal Crutchlow will change livery tomorrow, making his first appearance on a factory option LCR Honda. Alvaro Bautista rode his factory Honda for the last time today, having been deservedly demoted to the tenuous factory Gresini Aprilia “Modest Expectations” team, second rider, if any, yet to be named. Andrea Iannone gets bumped up from Pramac to the factory Ducati team alongside Dovizioso, the Italians seeking resurrection in 2015 under the mystical hand of Gigi Dall’igna. And Danilo Petrucci gets a boost from Octo IodaRacing to Pramac, with his spot going to a determinedly optimistic Alex de Angelis.

In Summary

A season which began with Jorge Lorenzo crashing out on Lap 1 at Losail ends with three symmetric podium celebrations at Circuit Ricardo Tormo. The new Moto3 world champion, Alex Marquez, stood on the third step of the podium today. The new Moto2 champion, Tito Rabat, stood on the second. And the new MotoGP champion, Marc Marquez, stood on the top. For the first time in MotoGP history, two brothers are champions, joined in triumph by their best friend and training companion. Allegedly, the three conduct the most vigorous in-season and off-season training regime in the sport. It is appropriate, therefore, that we salute all three with a quote from our old friend Aristotle, who observed centuries ago that “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Thanks to all of you who have faithfully followed this column this year. We look forward to hooking up with you again next spring for what promises to be another memorable year of grand prix racing.

2014 Valencia Race Top Ten



2014 Top Ten

Aliens have plenty at stake in MotoGP season finale

November 5, 2014

MotoGP 2014 Valencia Preview, by Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

For the 20th time in 22 years, MotoGP steams into the season finale with the title already decided. Repsol Honda phenom Marc Marquez, fresh off his white-knuckled win in the Malaysian furnace arrives, title in hand, looking to break Mick Doohan’s 1997 record of 12 wins in a season. The Twin Powers at Movistar Yamaha, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, have an appointment at Circuit Ricardo Torma to decide whom will finish second in 2014. But Repsol #2 Dani Pedrosa, having screwed the pooch (twice) in Sepang, may have some plans of his own this weekend.

victory helmetMarquez, who clinched his first premier class title last year in Valencia with a strategic third place finish, comes back to Spain in 2014 confident, relaxed and ready to eclipse Doohan’s 1997 record. Generally, when the term “win or bin” is used in MotoGP, it’s an expression of desperation, i.e., unless I can find a way to win this thing I might as well pack it in. In Marquez’s case, it means quite the opposite. He has the freedom to go all out in pursuit of the win, with no real downside if he pushes his RC213V past the limit. Finishing second, in this case, gets him little more than a DNF; might as well go all out.

The battle for second place between Rossi and Lorenzo finds the Italian protecting a 12 point lead, with the Spaniard forced into the conventional “win or bin” posture while still needing help from the field. The most likely scenario in which tiebreakers would come into play would have Lorenzo winning the race and Rossi finishing fourth; other mathematical possibilities exist (Lorenzo finishes second, Rossi finishes seventh, etc.), but are so remote as to not deserve mention.Rossi & Lorenzo

The bottom line: If Lorenzo wins and Rossi finishes fourth or worse, Lorenzo takes second place. Likewise, if Rossi crashes out and Lorenzo finishes fourth or higher, Lorenzo wins. In any event, Lorenzo needs a dominating performance, and/or Rossi must suffer a Pink Floyd-esque momentary lapse of reason for the Mallorcan to have any chance of salvaging second place in 2014. The smart money is on Rossi.

Whither Dani Pedrosa

For Repsol Honda #2 Pedrosa, Valencia represents an opportunity for a bit of redemption after a miserable last quarter of the season. Engaged in a knife fight with Rossi over second place for most of the year, he won at Brno, giving him a 13 point lead over the Italian and a comfortable 49 point lead over Lorenzo with seven races left. At that point, a top three finish in 2014 appeared to be a lock.

After getting edged out of a podium finish by Rossi at Silverstone and an acceptable 3rd place finish at San Marino, the wheels fell of Pedrosa’s 2014 season. A bad decision at Aragon, bad luck at Phillip Island and a bad race at Sepang brought it all crashing down. At Aragon, he waited one lap too long to pit as rain came to the Spanish plain. He was the victim of terrible decision-making by LCR Honda pilot Stefan Bradl at Phillip Island, getting taken down from the rear with no warning or means of avoiding the crash. And he lost the front not once but twice on the hot, greasy Malaysian tarmac, thereby guaranteeing himself an unsatisfying fourth place finish for the year.

pedrosa_marquezOther than having signed a new two year deal with Honda earlier in the year, 2014 has been forgettable for the diminutive Spaniard. This weekend’s fray, however, offers the opportunity for him to make a meaningful impact on the season itself, as follows:
• A win here, which would be his fourth in the premier class, would deprive his irritating teammate of a record he would dearly love to secure. Take THAT, gran bateador.
• Similarly, a win Sunday would almost certainly deprive countryman Lorenzo of his slim chance to finish second this year, which has some appeal of its own.
• Finally, a fight with Rossi, with nothing on the line, could result in the Italian finishing far enough down in the order to miss second place for 2014 and lose a small sliver of his legendary luster.

Clearly, these are hollow goals for a professional as competitive as Dani Pedrosa. But as the saying goes, when life hands you lemons, the least you can do is make lemonade, even if you happen to be traveling 190 mph wearing a funny-looking leather jumpsuit.

Randy de Puniet and the Return of SuzukiRandy_DePuniet_c_GnGjpg

RDP was in the news this week, discoursing about the present and future of the Suzuki MotoGP program and his place in it. De Puniet, who has spent the past year testing and developing the new GSX-RR bike, will be a wildcard at Valencia. He expressed some disappointment that he had not been tagged as one of the two factory team riders for 2015, but candidly admitted that both Vinales and Espargaro are faster than him. He also suggested that Suzuki would be well-served by fielding a two bike satellite team going forward, as such are the source of the data contributing to the relative success of the factory Honda, Yamaha and, to a lesser extent, Ducati programs.

Call me cynical, but I’m thinking de Puniet must have floated this particular balloon past the suits at Suzuki corporate more than once without any positive response. Having failed in that, he apparently decided to go public with idea, in the hope of generating some pressure on his Japanese masters in excess of that which he was able to generate on his own. I suspect the chances of this idea getting adopted, with Randy on one of the satellite bikes, are two—slim and none. At any rate, it will be good to see him back on track at Valencia, as he has ridden there every year since 1999. And, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that he qualifies higher than he finishes. Just sayin’.

The Best Race of the Weekend: Moto3

Jack MillerWith Tito Rabat having clinched the Moto2 title last time out at Sepang, the only title still up for grabs is in Moto3. Season leader Alex Marquez, Marc’s little brother, holds an 11 point lead over young Australian overachiever Jack Miller, whom we were able to meet and chat with in Malaysia. The guy says all the right things, and is a legitimate threat to take the Moto3 title this weekend, if bad things happen to Marquez, which they are unlikely to do.

The set-up between Marquez and Miller is essentially identical to that of Rossi and Lorenzo, so there’s no point in going through the scenarios. The Moto3 battle up front in Malaysia was breathtaking start to finish, with neither rider, nor any of the top five finishers, showing any quit. Marquez can title by playing it safe, while Miller is squarely in “win or bin” mode, plus praying for help from the racing gods.

The weekend forecast for Valenciana is dry, so the finale should not get screwed up by the weather. The race goes off at 8:00 am Eastern time in the U.S., and we’ll have results, plus our annual literary reference summing up the season, right here on Sunday evening.

Last chances abound in Malaysia

October 23, 2014

MotoGP 2014 Sepang Preview, by Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com.

After the carnage in Phillip Island, the prospects of the various Aliens have changed significantly. If pending 2014 champion Marc Marquez is to challenge Mick Doohan’s all-time record of 12 wins in a season, he needs to win here. Dani Pedrosa, having spent the bulk of the season in second place, now finds himself fourth, looking up at both of the factory Yamahas, who made hay at his expense Down Under. Jorge Lorenzo, who many gave up for dead back in May, could finish the season in second place. As could teammate Valentino Rossi, who, at age 35, is entering the realm of “timeless elegance,” the finely crafted Swiss watch of motorcycle racing.

Rossi & LorenzoThat the events at Phillip Island were unusual is borne out by the fact that the last all-Yamaha podium in MotoGP took place at LeMans in 2008. With Tech 3 Yamaha sophomore Bradley Smith having stayed upright long enough to register his first premier class podium, there was plenty of weirdness to go around. One thing is certain—the new Bridgestone asymmetric fronts don’t work in cold weather. Whether they will work in hot weather, or any weather at all, remains to be seen; it will likely be quite some time before riders volunteer to try them again.


Sepang International Circuit

MotoGP returns this week to the tropics in Kuala Lumpur, where it’s always mid-summer; no concerns about windy cold weather here. And it returns with Repsol Honda Golden Boy Marc Marquez in a definite slump, having won just once since Indianapolis in August and having crashed in three of the last four events. Back in August, eclipsing Doohan’s 1997 record looked like a foregone conclusion; now, it appears to be a longshot. Personally, early in the year, I used to think that one of the amazing things about Marquez was that he never lost concentration. Now, it appears certain he has lost something; call it concentration, or motivation, or interest; whatever it was back in July is gone. For now.


Simoncelli’s last race, at Phillip Island.

Recent History at Sepang

A recap of recent events at Sepang must necessarily start with the 2011 round. Heading in the premier class race that day, the charismatic and fearless Marco Simoncelli had survived a series of incidents early in the year that had given him a reputation for recklessness. He crashed out of the lead at Jerez early in the year, and got into a verbal shoving match with Lorenzo during Round 3 at Estoril. He crashed carelessly in the rain at Silverstone, and took Lorenzo out of the race at Assen. He enjoyed his first career podium at Brno, followed that with three solid 4th place finishes, and podiumed in second place at Phillip Island the preceding week. The bizarre, arcing low-side that took his life at Sepang came just as he seemed to be hitting his stride as a rider, when his future was at its very brightest.

Recall that was the same weekend that Moto2 phenom and title contender Marc Marquez hit an unseen puddle of water in FP1 and went ragdoll, ending up with a concussion that gave him double vision for six months and almost stopped his career before it really ever started. This accident, in turn, handed the Moto2 title to Stefan Bradl, who leveraged it into a promotion to the premier class with LCR Honda that he has now worked himself out of, to dangle the preposition.

The 2012 race can be summed up in these four words: James Ellison finished ninth. Six of the 20 starters crashed out of the race. Pedrosa won, followed by a cautious Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner, who was there only to tune up for his annual and final Phillip Island coronation the following week. The race was called after 13 laps. And, just for the record, Nicky Hayden finished fourth in Sepang for the sixth time in his premier class career. If MotoGP were to keep a stat for Most Fourth Place Finishes at a Single Venue (Career), Hayden would own it.

Last year at Sepang, Dani Pedrosa gave one of the performances that, in years past, would have seen him win by 12 seconds. He slingshotted out of the five hole at the start and was sitting on leader Lorenzo’s pipes midway through the first lap. He then basically pushed Lorenzo out of his way and took the lead for good on Lap 5. Teammate Marquez, after a few bumps and grinds with Lorenzo, would take over second place and protect it all day, effectively ending Lorenzo’s quest for a repeat of his 2012 title. That Pedrosa would end up winning by a mere three seconds confirms what we all know—there was no Marc Marquez out there when Dani was running away and hiding from the field in previous years.

This Stuff is Harder than it Looks

WP_20141023_023In traveling to Sepang this week, I’ve learned a few things about this sport that I hadn’t understood before. We watch the riders and crews competing during practice and races and see a lot of concentrated effort focused on maximizing performance. We see none of what goes on behind the scenes. Nothing of the brutal travel schedules that have these guys crossing timezones like they’re lane markers. Nothing of what it takes to pack the entire grid into three 747s immediately after the race so things can get unpacked and on track in time for the next one. Nothing of the high stakes negotiations that take place between owners and sponsors, venues and race organizers, the host countries and the rights holders that ultimately pay the freight for this breathtakingly expensive pursuit.

Malaysia itself is a study in contrasts. Vast, gleaming skyscrapers built in the middle of steaming jungles. All of the trappings of Western culture—Westins, Victoria’s Secrets, and Johnnie Walker Black (who helped me write this article tonight) in the midst of a Muslim-majority country complete with remote villages lacking the most basic services. A vibrant multi-cultural mix of Malays, Chinese, Singaporeans and Indonesians competing in a market economy within a complex set of rules and social mores of which Westerners are completely oblivious. It is, in turn, dramatic, elegant, scary and emblematic of paradise lost. In my home town of Indianapolis, I used to remark on the land under active cultivation only, like, seven miles from the state capitol building. Here, one notices the glass and steel skyscrapers within a few miles of triple canopy jungle.

Malaysia calls itself The Land of Adventure. (They’re not referring to the 20-some hours it takes to get here from New York, which is an adventure in itself.) The adventure will continue this weekend as the big bikes of MotoGP hit the tarmac of the gorgeous Sepang circuit dodging rainstorms in hot pursuit of fame and fortune. We’ll have race results right here on Sunday evening.

Rossi, Yamaha exploit Honda disaster Down Under

October 19, 2014

MotoGP 2014 Phillip Island Results, by Bruce Allen  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Rossi & LorenzoSimply looking at the final results, the 2014 Tissot Australian Grand Prix appears to have been a clear Yamaha triumph. In fact, it was a demolition derby in which the winners managed to survive, rather than dominate, the proceedings. True, at the end it was an all Yamaha podium, featuring Rossi on top, followed by Lorenzo and first-timer Bradley Smith. But with nine riders having crashed out or retired, the phrase “you need to be in it to win it” has never been more true.

The weekend featured the debut of Bridgestone’s latest creation, the asymmetric front tire, one which looked great on paper but proved to be the ruin of several top riders. Designed to withstand the searing temperatures generated on the left side of the tire in high speed lefthanders, it proved ineffective in cool conditions under braking into the rights, causing the shocker of the day–series leader Marc Marquez crashing out of a four second lead on Lap 18, appearing as though his front tire was made of glass, replicating the almost identical crash Yamaha icon Jorge Lorenzo experienced in FP1. Young Pol Espargaro suffered the same fate on Lap 25 while challenging for his first ever premier class podium. From a spectator’s point of view, it appears Bridgestone still has some work to do on this particular model. Plenty of work, in fact.Dani-dani-pedrosa-9702356-435-380

That the top Honda finisher today was Alvaro Bautista in 6th place demonstrates the scale of the Debacle Down Under for the Minato factory. Repsol #2 Dani Pedrosa got hit in practice by Karel Abraham, then got assaulted again on Lap 6 by crazy “Crazy Joe” Iannone, who plowed into the rear of Pedrosa’s bike without a prayer of getting through cleanly. Iannone and his Pramac Ducati went flying up and off the track, while Pedrosa managed to stay upright, only to pit on Lap 7 in sheer disgust. The incident will be looked at by Race Direction in Sepang, with a stern slap on the wrist possible for the Italian rider, while Pedrosa’s chances to finish second for the season suffered a serious blow. Iannone appeared to suffer a bump on his knee, which qualifies as “just desserts” in our opinion.

The third bizarre incident took place on Lap 19 and involved LCR Honda defector Stefan Bradl and Forward Yamaha’s Aleix Espargaro, who graduates to the factory Suzuki team next year. Similar to the incident on Lap 6 (and an earlier incident at Indianapolis), Bradl attempted to fit himself into space that didn’t exist, smashing into the rear of Espargaro’s bike. Bradl and bike immediately left the premises, while Espargaro continued on for a few hundred yards before pulling off into the grass and smashing his windscreen in frustration. He was probably irked, in part, by the thought that his little brother would overtake him in their season-long battle for 6th place in the standings. But Smith’s podium and Pol’s own crash means they’re still separated by a single point, only now fighting for 7th, as Smith went through on both of them.Bradl

The fourth and final shocker today involved my boy Cal Crutchlow, who had qualified his Ducati GP14 in second place—on a dry track—and had climbed from 9th place on a terrible first lap to third at the end of Lap 22. On the next Lap he blew by Lorenzo into second place and appeared interested in Rossi’s whereabouts, his Desmosedici looking fast, stable and dangerous. On the final lap, with second place firmly in his grasp, and a second podium in three outings his for the taking, he simply lost the front for no visible reason. In doing so, he reminded us of an NFL wide receiver who gets behind the defense, makes the catch, high-steps 30 yards all alone, and spikes the ball on the five yard line. And so it is that Crutchlow, with a higher opinion of his riding ability than almost anyone anywhere, remains stuck at 63 points for the season and, as predicted here last year, sits well behind both of the Tech 3 Yamaha riders, proof that in MotoGP as elsewhere, you gotta be careful what you wish for.

crutchlowAfter the race, Rossi was ecstatic, having won in Phillip Island for the first time since 2005. Lorenzo was dejected, complaining that his front tire was destroyed, and that his poor choice prevented him from challenging for the win. Tech 3 pilot Bradley Smith who, from a distance, appears to have no eyebrows, was shocked and elated to discover, only after the checkered flag flew, that he had podiumed, so busy with what was happening around him that he was completely unaware of what had been going on in front. He acknowledged getting pushed around earlier in the race, and was suitably self-effacing during the press conference, attributing his first premier class podium to luck and the work of his team. It is gradually becoming easier to understand why Herve Poncharal chose Smith for his #2 bike back in 2012 rather than Scott Redding, although Redding’s future is exceedingly bright, with the Marc VDS team soon to be in the premier class fold.

Calamity at the Top = Celebration at the Bottom

With the likes of Marquez, Pedrosa, Bradl, et al failing to finish today, it became an all-you-can-eat banquet for the back markers of the premier class. Danilo Petrucci, the heavily-bearded hope of Octo IodaRacing and soon to be Pramac #2, saw his season points total increase by 44%, adding four points to his previous total of nine. For Avintia’s Mike di Meglio it was a 50% increase, the last rider crossing the finish line adding two points to his previous four.

From there, the percentage increases were otherworldly. Alex de Angelis, having taken Colin Edwards’ seat on the Forward Racing team, doubled his point total for the season by finishing ninth, going from 7 points to 14 for the year. Another big winner today, in percentage terms, was Paul Byrd’s hapless Michael Laverty. Laverty, who is seeing his MotoGP career come to an end just as his brother Eugene’s is starting, experienced a 150% increase in his point total for the season in just one cool, windy afternoon. Coming into Round 16, he had amassed two (2) points in 2014. Today, he earned four. And although this may not sound like much, in truth, well, it really isn’t. Byrd and Laverty have some fierce defenders amongst the readers of this column, but they’re just not terribly good at either the racing or the business of raising money and bamboozling sponsors. Fans of David versus Goliath will applaud every single point these guys earn, but there has to be a better way to make a living than this.

The king of the have-nots today, however, was Hectic Hector Barbera, once again propelled by Ducati power for Avintia after a year and a half away from Pramac Racing. Not only was he the top Open class finisher today, but his 11 point, fifth-place finish, on top of the three points he had earned all season before today, represent an almost incalculable increase of 366%.

That, my friends, is some racing. A day of functionality in a season of despair.

The Road to Kuala Lampur

The Repsol Honda duo of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa were the big losers today, Marquez coming back to the pack while Pedrosa dropped from a tie for second for the season to fourth place. We will be traveling to Malaysia this coming week to keep an eye on things at Sepang next weekend, posting a few extra bits between now and then on Facebook and Twitter .

Unlike Phillip Island, Sepang is a very Honda-friendly place, and we look for Marc and Dani to get back some of the mojo they left behind in Australia. But Rossi and Lorenzo, each having now won twice this season, both believe they can compete with the Hondas, so it promises to be an exciting “penultimate” round of racing. Watch this space during the coming week for news and views from the self-styled Land of Adventure.

Pedrosa, Rossi and Lorenzo ready to rumble for 2nd place

October 18, 2014

MotoGP 2014 Phillip Island Preview, by Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

In what is likely to be a preview of the rest of the decade in MotoGP, three Aliens not named Marquez will begin their assault on the vice-championship this week at Phillip Island. Heading into Round 16 Down Under, a mere three points separate Yamaha ironman Jorge Lorenzo from teammate Valentino Rossi, who sits tied with Repsol Honda mini-Marc Dani Pedrosa. While world champion Marc Marquez’ mom dusts off some space in the family trophy case for the 2014 hardware, there’s plenty of racing left this season. victory helmet

Late in 2012, while MotoGP legend Casey Stoner was busy winning his sixth consecutive Australian GP here, we suggested it might be fitting to rename the track Stoner Island, an idea widely ignored in Australia but adopted, strangely enough, in San Marino, which renamed its own circuit in memory of the late Marco Simoncelli. Given the fact that Simoncelli missed his chance to win a premier class race, while Stoner’s victory count is somewhere in the 40’s, you wouldn’t expect much resistance to the idea from the locals, who have precious little else to brag about. A couple of tennis players from back in the 60’s, maybe. Whatever.

Who, you may be wondering, holds the record for the second-most wins at Phillip Island, presuming Stoner owns the record? I mean, after all, we’re squarely in the midst of trying to generate some excitement over an impending battle for second place in 2014. So, again, who has the second most career wins at Phillip Island? Casey Stoner, that’s who, with his six. Valentino Rossi, with seven, holds the record, with one win having come in the 500cc class in 2001 and two in the 250cc class in 1998 and 1999. OK, so Stoner had the most premier class wins; we’ll give him an asterisk for his trouble.

Now, for $500 and the game, who won the race in 2006, in between Rossi’s four in a row and Stoner’s six? Nicky Hayden? No, dude has only three career wins in the premier class, none of which came in Australia. Dani Pedrosa? No, he was a sullen, aggressive rookie in 2006 and finished 15th that year. Drum roll, please…the winner of the 2006 Australian Grand Prix was… Marco Melandri onboard the Gresini Honda.

More Recent History at Phillip Island

STONER_PI2012 marked the last of Stoner’s six wins at his home crib. That year, Jorge Lorenzo struggled to second place, some nine seconds in arrears. Five seconds behind Lorenzo was Cal Crutchlow on the Tech 3 Yamaha, scoring his second career podium in the premier class that day. Pedrosa, pedaling as hard as he could over the second half of the season to catch leader Jorge Lorenzo, lost his marbles on Lap 2 and saw his day and his season come to another dismal end. The best race-in-the-race that day saw Andrea Dovizioso win a thrilling run to the flag, punking both Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl and their respective Hondas by a few hundredths of a second.

Last year’s race was a fiasco from start to finish. Over the previous winter, the track owners had invested $3 million resurfacing the circuit, making it the grippiest, fastest circuit on the calendar. And, incidentally, the most rubber-hungry surface on earth. With its host of high-speed bends, the riders were generating enormous amounts of heat in the tires, which were decomposing beneath them as fast as the crews could put them on. Bridgestone, in its infinite wisdom (read: unwillingness to spend the money testing their tires on the new surface), arrived in Australia to a symphony of complaints, ranging from Carmelo Ezpeleta to the kid who drives Jorge Lorenzo’s scooter in the pit area.

By Sunday, Race Direction was issuing Orders of the Day every half hour. The race was shortened from 27 laps to 26, then to 19, then to 19 with a mandatory tire change by the end of Lap 10. The teams set up two bikes for each rider, each equipped with soft tires and half a tank of gas, and the lights went out. As Lap 10 was ending, Lorenzo and Marquez were leading, running shoulder to shoulder. Lorenzo exited into pit lane as Marquez, inexplicably, kept right on going, only to pit at the end of Lap 11.marc-marquez-black-flag

The combination of a flurry of ad hoc rule changes being translated into three or four different languages with riders’ lives and millions of dollars of machinery hanging in the balance proved too much for Marquez and his team, whose late tire change resulted in a black flag DQ on Lap 15, handing the race to Lorenzo. The win kept the Mallorcan in contention for the title, which he only grudgingly surrendered two weeks later in Valencia. Pedrosa and Rossi made up the rest of the podium, with Rossi pipping Crutchlow and Bautista at the finish for the only satisfying moment of the entire day.

You Heard It Here Last

We have been somewhat derelict in keeping up with the rider changes happening in the second echelon of MotoGP in preparation for the 2015 season. This is due in part to the fact that every single motorcycle publication on earth has published the abundant team press releases, including ourselves. At this point, all but two or three seats have been claimed.

Familiar faces changing livery for 2015 are headlined by Cal Crutchlow and Stefan Bradl, as the Brit takes over for Bradl on the #1 LCR Honda and Bradl downshifts to join Forward Racing. Danilo Petrucci goes from the Ioda Racing frying pan to the Pramac Ducati fire, where he will join Yonny Hernandez on the junior Corse team. And Aleix Espargaro gets to realize his dream of riding for a factory team, as he moves from Forward Racing’s Open class machine to the new Suzuki GSX-RR.

At least four new faces will grace the grid next season. The Drive 7 Aspar team is giving Hiro Aoyama the boot in favor of Eugene Laverty, who joins the premier class, alongside teammate Nicky Hayden, after several productive seasons in World Superbike. With Paul Byrd folding up his tent next year, we are spared the sight of two Lavertys on the grid, as brother Michael is “evaluating opportunities” in WSBK and British Superbike, i.e., scrambling to find some kind of ride on road courses rather than dirt ovals.

Up-and-coming Moto2 grad Maverick Vinales brings his game to MotoGP joining Aleix Espargaro on the factory Suzuki. Forward Racing, having ejected Colin Edwards and, in turn, been jilted by the elder Espargaro, will make a go of it with Bradl and Frenchman Loris Baz, all 6’3” of him, who will try to fold himself around the Yamaha powered machine, elbows and knees sticking out all over the place, sure to remind some of us of Super Sic the way he used to look on his Gresini Honda. But without question, the highest profile rookie heading into 2015 will be Jack Miller, the young Australian skipping a grade, moving directly to the premier class from Moto3 on a three year deal, the first of which is likely to be spent in various hospitals around the globe. Crikey, but that’s a steep learning curve, Mr. Miller.

Fausto Gresini, in his eternal quest for Italian riders for his satellite squad, has abandoned his relationship with Honda in favor of a low budget operation with Aprilia for the next few years, with Alvaro Bautista somehow retaining his #1 seat with the team, a second rider yet to be named. Scott Redding moves to Marc VDS Racing and their shiny new factory spec Honda, which should elevate the Brit’s game and set up some interesting fights with countryman Crutchlow on the same bike. Hayden, Laverty, Miller and Karel Abraham will be the beneficiaries of an upgrade in the so-called customer Hondas, as the Japanese factory switches out the severely underpowered RCV1000R in favor of what they’re calling the 213V-RS, powered by this year’s fire-breathing RC213V engine in conjunction with a standard ECU and complete with Open class fuel, engine, testing and tire concessions.

Like I said 1400 words ago, there’s still plenty going on in MotoGP. The Marquez Years are upon us, and we must look past young Marc, seeking our pleasure in the profane, the ridiculous and the sublime, all of which are in lavish supply as the 2014 season wends its way to the finish line at Valencia in November.

We’ll have Phillip Island results right here on Sunday evening.

Samurai Marc Marquez seizes second consecutive premier class title

October 12, 2014

MotoGP 2014 Motegi Results by Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com.

On a cloudy, cool Saturday afternoon in Haga District, Tochigi, Japan, 21-year old Repsol Honda pilot Marc Marquez clinched his second world championship in the premier class of MotoGP. This follows earlier championships in the Moto2 and 125 classes, giving him four titles in five years of grand prix racing. We at Motorcycle.com are impressed.

Victory signGrand prix motorcycle racing fans often speak about the Alien class of riders, typically comprised of the four savants that make up the factory Honda and Yamaha teams. In almost every round of every season, it is these four souls from which the three podium celebrants emerge. This lack of variety is one of the shortcomings of the sport, at least in the premier class. In the two underclasses, the concentration of power is more diluted, and the result is more exciting, less predictable races.

Heading into today’s race at Motegi, all four of this year’s Aliens had a part to play in the drama which unfolded. Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa and Movistar Yamaha #2 Valentino Rossi were responsible for keeping young Marquez from securing the title by whatever means necessary; one or both had to beat him to keep the chase alive heading to Phillip Island next week.

Jorge Lorenzo, who has fairly dominated the second half of the 2014 season after a calamitous first half, was under no such pressure, having been eliminated from title contention weeks ago. For him, the war was over, despite having several battles left to wage. An accidental collision with Marquez, however, would not be the worst thing for his factory Yamaha team on this day. Such things are, after all, possible on two wheels in close quarters at high speeds. And a possible explanation for the presence of Yamaha factory test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga as a wildcard entry on a factory spec YZR-M1 for Divine Wind Racing. Just sayin’.

Disorder at the Start

Being on the wrong side of the International Date Line, qualifying at Motegi took place locally on Friday, with the resulting grid finding all four Aliens in the middle of a Ducati sandwich, factory #1 Andrea Dovizioso having qualified brilliantly for his second career pole, and Pramac Racing overachiever Andrea Iannone starting from the six hole. The special status Ducati enjoys in the premier class, somewhere between factory and open specs, allows the Dueling Andreas to qualify on pillow-soft rear tires that would not last a third of a race, but which are great for front row starts.

The start of every race, when the red lights go out and 20-some guys release their brake and clutch handles at the same time, is the most dangerous 20 seconds of the entire day. The mad dash to the first turn results in a substantial amount of contact between riders. In the lower classes, especially Moto3, it is not surprising to see half a dozen riders leave the macadam, stomping their feet and shaking their fists at one another. On the big bikes, riders generally trade a little paint and keep on trucking, occasionally falling back in the pack but staying upright.

Thus, it was not surprising today to watch #5 starter Lorenzo veer into #4 starter Marquez heading into turn one, causing the defending champion to briefly rise up and lose two or three spots. He would regain them in the next half lap, by which time Rossi led the field, followed in close disorder by Dovizioso, Iannone and Lorenzo. Marquez and Pedrosa were, at this moment, kind of lost in the sauce, an increasingly frequent problem for Pedrosa in 2014. But by the end of Lap 1, the leaders were Rossi, Lorenzo, Dovizioso, Iannone, Marquez and Pedrosa. Two minutes into the race, one must guess Marquez had but three things on his mind: Must. Catch. Rossi.Rossi 2014

Marquez Seeks Out #46

The rest of the afternoon was, in hindsight, fairly predictable. On Lap 4, Marquez passed Iannone into 4th place, with Pedrosa doing the same to the Italian the next time around. Lap 5 was noteworthy as Lorenzo went through on teammate Rossi into the lead he would maintain for the rest of the day. On Lap 6 I noted that Pedrosa was running alone in 5th place watching his season end in front of him.

On Lap 9, Dovizioso ran his Ducati a bit wide in one of the mid-lap turns, allowing Marquez through into 3rd place with the blue and yellow of #46 now directly in front of him. Rossi’s pit board immediately informed him that, in essence, the weight of the world now rested squarely on his shoulders, that it was up to him to hold off the young Spaniard for 15 laps or else turn out the lights on the 2014 season. As we now know, it was too much to ask for the 35-year old nine time world champion, or anyone else for that matter.

Marquez Finds #46

Lorenzo, by this time, was in his private place, leading by roughly 3 seconds and laying down fast laps one after the other; sadly, aside from his team, no one seemed to care too much. The 43,000 fans in attendance were focused on the contest for second place as Marquez gradually, inexorably tracked down his idol, closing the gap steadily until Lap 15, when the two briefly traded positions, Rossi surviving the first challenge. The second would come on the following lap, as Marquez smoothly, cleanly and effortlessly went through on the Yamaha and made it stick. Both Rossi and Pedrosa would push their machines to the absolute limit for the remaining 10 laps in a doomed effort to overtake Marquez.

It wasn’t happening.

And that was that. The day ended with Lorenzo, Marquez and Rossi on the podium for the fourth time this year. The celebrations in both the Yamaha and Honda camps seemed just a shade muted, as Yamaha claimed a double podium on a day in which they were eliminated from the title chase, while Honda locked down another world championship but was denied the pleasure of seeing Marquez on the top step of the podium.

victory helmetYoung Marc did claim the mantle of utter coolness by virtue of the gold helmet he wore for his victory lap and the elaborate Samurai ceremony staged to honor him as a new member of the esteemed warrior class of ancient Japan. In it, Marquez unsheathed the sword of honor and used it to cut the string that tethered a white balloon with the #1 stenciled on it, releasing the balloon toward the heavens and securing the young Spaniard’s place in his adoptive country’s ancient tradition of sledgehammer symbolism and truly whacked out honorifics.

Samurai celebration

On to Phillip Island

MotoGP now confronts a month of anticlimactic denouement. True, the contest for second place for the year could not be closer, with Rossi and Pedrosa tied and Lorenzo trailing the two by a mere three points. We’ll see a few wildcard entries, with Suzuki scheduled to make a cameo appearance at Valencia prior to its full-fledged return to the premier class next year. We’ll catch you up on the last sips of the silly season and forthcoming news from the Marc VDS and Gresini Aprilia teams. A measure of the existential crisis confronting the rest of the premier class season is the growing anticipation of the post-race testing slated for Valencia in November.

How fitting is it that the sun should begin to set on the 2014 season in The Land of the Rising Sun? Congratulations to world champion Marc Marquez!

MM victory continues


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