© Bruce Allen. Exclusive to Motorcycle.com
Cal Crutchlow first Brit since 1981 to win a GP
With three wet/dry races in the last four rounds, MotoGP fans should be getting accustomed to strange results. Aussie Jack Miller came out of nowhere to win at Assen on his satellite Honda. Marc Marquez held serve at The Sachsenring, but was joined on the podium by Cal Crutchlow and Ducati pilot Andrea Dovizioso. Today, the abrasive #CalCulator won his first ever premier class race ahead of Yamaha icon Valentino Rossi and Marquez. Cosmic justice prevailed—the biggest day in modern British racing history had virtually no impact on the 2016 season series.
The practice sessions leading up to today’s race were warm and dry, with most of the usual suspects at or near the top of the sheets. As usual in 2016, at tracks where the new ECU and Michelins haven’t been tested, it took some of the riders awhile to sort things out. Dani Pedrosa, for example, ended the respective sessions 11th, 15th, 6th and 4th, and had to make it out of Q1 before starting the race in ninth place.
As qualifying session two approached the 15-minute mark, it looked like a race—Marquez, chasing Lorenzo’s impossibly quick qualifying and track record lap, found himself, late in a very quick lap, in a close encounter with Pol Espargaro on the Tech 3 Yamaha and Rossi on his Movistar Yamaha. Marquez went through on both, hot-knife-through-butter style, on his way to an inconceivable track record lap of 1:54.596. Rossi, unaware he was in Marquez’s way, seemed surprised when #93 blew past him and then barely dodged the slower Espargaro. At the end of the session, it was Marquez, Lorenzo and Iannone on a very strong front row. Had Marquez been running in clean air, he could have touched 1:54.2.
Sunday Dawns Gray and Wet
As we’ve seen numerous times this season, two sunny days of practice yielded to a rainy, wet, miserable Sunday. This reduced the Sunday attendance from 138,000 last year to 85,000 today. Moto3 ran in a downpour; Moto2 in a steady rain until the last few laps. As the premier class tilt approached, there was mass confusion in the garages and on the grid regarding tire choices. And, in the end, it was tire choices that determined the outcome of the race.
As everyone knows by now, the correct choice for this race was the hard option front and rear. At this writing, I am aware that five of the top eight finishers put hard tires on the rear—Crutchlow, Rossi, Loris Baz (17th to 4th), Hector Barbera, and Eugene Laverty (15th to 6th). Marquez, expecting a flag-to-flag affair, went with soft/soft, as did Andrea Iannone. Danilo Petrucci, who finished seventh on his Pramac Ducati, appeared to have the hard rear, but this is unconfirmed. And while the riders on the softer tires had things their way during the first half of the race, it was the harder options which delivered the win to Crutchlow, second to Rossi, and fourth to a surprised Loris Baz in his best ever MotoGP result.
Some selected glimpses of the standings at various points in today’s race show:
- Crutchlow finishing Lap 7 in 12th place;
- Rossi finishing Lap 9 in 10th;
- Baz finishing Lap 8 in 14th; and
- Eugene Laverty finishing Lap 11 in 14th.
All four finished in the top six. Once the tires warmed up and the fuel loads dropped, the riders who had rolled the dice on the hard rears began rolling through the field, while the rest of the grid, with the notable exception of Marquez, began sinking like anvils. Andrea Dovizioso waved the red flag on his Ducati when the center of his rear Michelin disintegrated on Lap 10. Teammate Iannone finished the race with no rubber in the middle of either tire.
Marquez, who led briefly, realized early on that managing his tires would be critical to finishing the race, as the rain stayed away but the track remained damp. And despite the fact that he spent a good deal of the day in fourth and fifth position, none of the riders in front of him presented any threat to his championship lead. Rossi went through on Lap 16, but took only four points out of Marquez, while the Catalan’s lead in the 2016 championship stretched from 43 to 53 points. Calling Marquez’s performance today a salvage job is inaccurate. It was, to be fair, a strategic triumph after a bad roll of the dice on tires.
Which Brings Us to Jorge Lorenzo
The best metaphor to describe defending triple world champion Jorge Lorenzo’s experience this weekend is descending from the penthouse to the outhouse. The man cannot race in the rain any longer, an Achilles heel that may stand in the way of any future championships for one of the best dry riders in history. He owned the track record on Saturday; he failed to finish the race on the lead lap today having made at least two, and perhaps five, separate pit stops. Race coverage of his travails ceased after the second stop.
His lap times for laps 17-21 were all well over two minutes. He came in on 17 and basically stole his #2 dry bike over the animated objections of crew chief Ramon Forcada. One lap later he returned to the pit and jumped back on his #1 wet bike. From there it gets confusing, but on Lap 20, a lap down to the leaders, he suddenly appeared in the midst of Barbera and Marquez, acting as if he were fighting for the lead, having apparently lost his mind. I’m not sure there is a journalist brave enough to attempt a post-race interview with Lorenzo. He ceded second place in the 2016 race to his rival Rossi and embarrassed himself in the process. For a man with a very high machismo coefficient, things cannot get much worse.
As to what follows, many of you knew it was coming.
“As Far as I’m Concerned, They’re All Wimps”
Thus spoke Cal Crutchlow in the post-race interview with Dylan Gray, preening over his ballsy choice of hard tires, about the other 19 riders on the grid, three of whom have won multiple premier class world championships.
Today was Cal’s first premier class win. His beloved wife presented him with his first child several weeks ago. He’s young, handsome, wealthy and getting paid ridiculous jack to do something he would gladly do for free had he arrived in this world with a trust fund. Yet, somehow, he finds the need to insult his colleagues—all of them—irresistible, and in the most demeaning way imaginable. By impugning their manhood. By asserting he was the only rider—he wasn’t—intelligent and bold enough to make what amounted to a lucky choice of tires. In essence, for having the balls and brains to have rolled a seven in a craps game.
You are the MAN, Cal. Rolling a seven. On a day when a Brit won a premier class race for the first time in 35 years. At a track where, in dry conditions, you would have done well to finish sixth, if at all. In the presence of Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez, each of whom would absolutely eat your lunch in a match race in dry weather on identical equipment. I’m starting to think, as skilled as you are, you’re missing a chromosome. That you may have invested a few thousand enrolling in the Donald Trump School of Tact and Grace. And, finally, that you will never again appear on the top step of a MotoGP podium, that Brno 2016 will stand as the high water mark of your classless career.