MotoGP 2015 Motegi Preview

October 6, 2015

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to

Round 15: The Bruise Brothers Square off in Japan

mothra-vs-Godzilla - CopyThe MotoGP website is somewhat predictably promoting this week’s tilt between Movistar Yamaha tough guys Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi as “The Clash of the Titans.” Which, to an on-the-street local racing fan here, would naturally bring to mind Godzilla. If, in fact, the Motul Grand Prix of Japan gives us a replay of Mothra vs Godzilla, I assume the indomitable lizard triumphs, suggesting that Rossi will play the role of Mothra. It is easy to envision Lorenzo on the top step this weekend, surrounded by Honda pilots, Rossi’s margin at the top of the 2015 heap vanishing in the haze.

This is the way racing is supposed to be. It’s a relationship thing, really. Rossi and Lorenzo have known each other as friends and rivals for a decade. Together, they’ve already given their present employer Yamaha the 2015 Manufacturer’s championship. They have a bazillion world championships between them, and Rossi’s current 14 points advantage. Lorenzo’s, um, demeanor when he came up as a rookie in 2008 was such that they built a wall down the middle of the garage and had to be kept separated. Since then, each has mellowed, Lorenzo has matured, and Rossi, somehow, remains humble, irrepressible and fast. Beating one another is one of their great pleasures in life.

It doesn’t get much better than this. If you’re a Honda fan, you can still have a good time. You’ll just have to wait for Rossi & Lorenzonext year to have a rider in contention for a world championship. This is The Year of the Yamaha.

Recent History at Motegi

2012. Heading into the race Yamaha Chico de Oro Jorge Lorenzo led Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa by 33 points, with Stoner in third recovering from the ankle he trashed in Indianapolis. That day, Pedrosa beats Lorenzo and Gresini Honda’s Alvaro Bautista (?) comfortably in as empty a win as you’ll ever see. During the race, Stoner has issues, as does Rossi, plodding on his Ducati. Spies crashes off the factory Yamaha early, Crutchlow off his Tech 3 Yamaha late. Pedrosa, with all the momentum, leaves Japan trailing the rock-hard Mallorcan by 28 points with two rounds left, the fat lady singing in the background.

The 2013 race was summarized elegantly by this publication, as follows:

Sick of all the attention the racing gods were getting in the run-up to this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, the weather gods put on a show of their own. They sent Typhoon Lekima barreling toward the island on Thursday, summoned a 7.1 earthquake on Friday night, and topped it all off with Typhoon Francisco on Saturday, making a shambles of the weekend practice schedule. Undeterred by the weather, defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo ran a perfect race on Sunday, winning against all odds, and setting up a meaningful season finale against Marquez in Valenciana. Take THAT, weather gods!

Last year it was All Aliens, All the Time as Lorenzo led a pack of highly-paid pursuers to the finish line, with Marquez, Rossi and Pedrosa all following on their factory machines, the time between 1st and 4th a mere 3.1 seconds. Though Diviozioso took the pole, the four Aliens were grouped from the 2 to 5 holes. Marquez, leading the series, conceded first place to Lorenzo and clinched the title. The race featured contact between Lorenzo and Marquez on Lap 5 which arguably cost the Catalan the race. The Samurai ceremony afterwards was cool if somewhat ironic, in that a number of fans might have been offended while most western observers were clearly stoked.Samurai celebration

Comings and Goings

The team lineups are beginning to shape up for 2016, the year of the “spec” ECU and Michelins. The four top factory teams will remain the same. A supposedly revived Gresini Aprilia team will feature MotoGP underachievers Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl. Brit Sam Lowes reportedly has a contract with Aprilia for 2017-18, meaning one of the two vets will have to go. My take on this is that Fausto has barely tolerated Bautista all these years since Simoncelli, and that Bradl hadn’t had enough time to get under his skin yet but surely will. Big changes underway for the Gresini team this offseason.

The Monster Tech 3 team is to stand pat with Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith as expectations there continue to rise. Pramac Ducati gives Yonny Hernandez’s seat to Scott Redding, who needs all the grunt the Desmosedici can muster, to team with the ascendant Danilo Petrucci. (I’m not sold on Redding in the premier class yet, but am totally sold on Gigi Dall’Igna.) LCR Honda continues with the disappointing Cal Crutchlow, and Marc VDS signs Tito Rabat to a factory Honda, coming up from Moto2, to take Redding’s seat. The Most Blessed Jack Miller, the Anointed One, has a full ride with factory Honda and will land either on LCR or VDS.

Team Aspar, seriously negotiating a change from Honda to Ducati equipment for 2016, has signed Hernandez. Their second seat appears up for grabs, with incumbent Eugene Laverty enjoying no advantage going in. Deposed incumbent Nicky Hayden appears surely to be headed to World Super Bike, where he can expect to contend for titles again.

Avintia Racing stays with Ducati, Hector Barbera and the recently-signed Loris Baz aboard. The French Baz appears to have a surprisingly bright future at 6’3”, making the jet setters look like teenagers while whipping his cobbled-up Yamaha toward the top of the heap for open class riders.

Farther down the food chain, two of the remaining three teams looks to be out of business next season. Most likely to continue with Alex de Angelis is brave little Ioda Racing, hoping to field a two man satellite Aprilia team, rider #2 as yet un-named. Forward Racing seems doomed, and Karel Abraham’s future with his dad’s Cardion AB team is in doubt as he seems to have permanent damage from a foot injury he suffered last season. Dude needs to retire.

All of which suggests that KTM, upon their entry to the grid in 2017, may bump a team out of the chase, in addition to skimming a couple of up-and-coming riders, perhaps on their way up from Moto2. The chase is intended to be more competitive due to the standard ECU, which writers elsewhere have described as something of a target-rich environment for tampering behaviors similar to those admitted to recently by Volkswagen. Regardless, MotoGP continues, at its core, to be rather biblical, as you will always have the poor with you, the “privateer” teams that struggle every season but can’t pull themselves away easily. Those of you who have stood or rode on the tarmac understand the juice that drives these behaviors. I should be nicer to these guys.

The Thing is…

Everybody tells me the tires are everything. Whomever adjusts to the new Michelins most quickly will take the lead in the championship next year. It is probably going to be the worst year in MotoGP history to bet on the outcome. Though it could easily last only for a season, or even part of a season, there could easily be a shakeup in the Aliens lineup come 2016, the older riders becoming most vulnerable. Suppose Rossi decides to go out on top. Suppose Yamaha begins flirting with Marquez.

It promises, at the least, to be interesting.

Your Weekend Forecast…

…couldn’t be worse for most teams. Sunny on Friday and Saturday with a 90% chance of rain on Sunday. I was going to suggest people “plan to listen to the Spanish national anthem after the race, not the Italian.” But if it is a wet race, all bets are off on the outcome, with Rossi clearly holding the upper hand. Once again the weather gods appear poised to influence the standings.

Mothra may be feeling pretty good about the rematch.

MotoGP 2015 Aragon Results

September 27, 2015

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to

Lorenzo seizes the day, cuts into Rossi’s lead

Factory Yamaha pilot Jorge Lorenzo, in a race he absolutely needed to win, did so convincingly, leading wire to wire on the dusty plains of Aragon. Thanks to Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa, he reduced his deficit to teammate Valentino Rossi from 23 points to 14, as Pedrosa held off repeated assaults from Rossi over the last five laps. Fans around the world expected Rossi, who hasn’t won a race on Spanish soil since 2009, to take Pedrosa’s lunch money late in the day. But the diminutive Spaniard willfully held on, denying Rossi four points he badly wanted, and tying his best result of a winless year.

Lorenzo in the rain at Le MansAs expected, the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday featured Lorenzo and defending world champion Marc Marquez, looking fast and dangerous on the #1 Repsol Honda. Marquez shredded the track record in qualifying on Saturday, earning yet another pole. His start today earned a C from the judges as he exited Turn 1 in third place behind Lorenzo and Andrea “Ironman” Iannone, racing again with a recently dislocated shoulder.

Marquez went through on the Italian later in Lap 1 and set his sights on Lorenzo. Unaccountably, as he was closing on the Mallorcan on Lap 2, he lost the front in Turn 12, backdropped by the massive stacked stone wall that always makes me think of The Inquisition. For the fifth time this season, young Marquez ended up in the gravel, the result of an unforced error caused, one would think, by youthful exuberance, overconfidence, a feeling of invulnerability or, most likely, a combination of the three, the magic of 2014 clearly gone. Until he learns to manage his emotions more effectively (the same problem Lorenzo had in 2008) he will not win another world championship.marquez_crash

As strange as it sounds, the lessons of 2015 may end up serving Marquez well. If he learns he doesn’t need to use every ounce of the considerable speed he possesses during every single moment of every single race, he will keep the shiny side up and compete for the next 10 or 12 world titles. Again and again we’ve seen the veteran Rossi keeping his powder dry and his tires intact, looking for the ideal opportunity to pass a rival and earn points. Winning a race by 12 seconds counts no more than winning by 12/1000ths; points is points, a fact often overlooked by youthful combatants.

67,000 Fans Held Their Breath

With Rossi glued to Pedrosa’s tailpipes all day, the mostly Spanish crowd waited for the inevitable takedown, when Rossi would go through and begin thinking about Lorenzo. Pedrosa passed the wounded Iannone on Lap 3, Rossi on Lap 4. (Iannone’s expected late day fade, due to pain in his shoulder, never materialized, as he finished a very gutsy fourth today, some 16 seconds clear of teammate Andrea Dovizioso.) Round and round they went, Rossi never trailing by more than 4/10ths nor less than two, until Lap 19.

Dani-dani-pedrosa-9702356-435-380Over the last five laps, Rossi attacked the Spaniard no less than four times, going through briefly only to get re-passed in the next turn. He would try twice in Turn 1 and twice more in Turn 4, Pedrosa never conceding a thing. As the crowd began to turn blue from oxygen deprivation, Lorenzo took the checkered flag, with Pedrosa gasping his way to second and Rossi taking an exhausting third.

During the post-race press conference, Pedrosa acted surprised when asked how he was able to withstand Rossi’s repeated attacks, a measure of the confidence with which he still approaches his trade. As his tenure with the factory Honda team approaches its end, he will be an asset to one of the newer teams—Aprilia or Suzuki or KTM—anxious to retain his services once HRC bids him farewell. Despite never having won a premier class title, he has forgotten more about this stuff than guys like Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera have ever known. Even if you’re a big Nicky Hayden fan with a long memory, Dani Pedrosa deserves your respect.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Five riders spent the shank of the day fighting over fifth place. Borrowing from the book of Genesis, “in the beginning” it looked like Tech 3 Yamaha little brother Pol Espargaro enjoyed the inside track, until he went walkabout on Lap 4, falling from fifth to tenth place, ultimately finishing ninth. This sounds worse than it actually was, as he finished only two seconds behind Dovizioso in fifth, separated by big brother Aleix on the Suzuki Ecstar, LCR Honda hooligan Cal Crutchlow, and teammate Bradley Smith. Smith, notably, had a forgettable weekend, qualifying 10th and finishing 8th, though still managing to hold onto fifth place for the season. Lame duck Pramac Ducati rider Yonny Hernandez completed the top ten, pipping Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales at the flag, despite a slew of pre-race flyovers from the Spanish Air Force, one of the two F-16’s emblazoned with Vinales’ #25.

Non-finishers today, besides Marquez, included the hapless Alex de Angelis, crashing out on Lap 6, Pramac Ducati overachiever Danilo Petrucci, who lowsided on Lap 10 for his first time outside the points all season, and a visibly pained Karel Abraham, who retired his open class Honda on Lap 12, apparently having re-injured his troublesome left foot. Karel, buddy, do the industry a favor and give it up. You’ve got a law degree and a rich father. Go put on an expensive suit and take clients to lunch, and let this MotoGP thing go. 38 points in three seasons–dude, it’s just not happening.

The Big Picture

In two weeks, the ass-dragging, sweat-soaked Pacific flyaway commences in Japan, with three races in three weeks. 14 points now separate Rossi and Lorenzo, two of the most talented riders on the face of the earth, on the same equipment, sharing the same garage. Old and crafty versus young and fast; the fable of the tortoise and the hare on two wheels. We all know how that ended. Whether the same holds true in MotoGP remains to be seen. Personally, I have my doubts.

Marquez now leads Iannone by a meagre 12 points in the battle for third place and looks vulnerable. If Iannone manages to capture third place for the year, I will be conferring Alien status upon him, certain that Gigi Dall’Igna will provide him a further-improved ride for 2016. Bradley Smith enjoys a four point advantage over Dovizioso for fifth place; it would be great to see the wide-eyed Brit finish the season in the top five. Whether Dovizioso will allow this to happen, if indeed he can do anything to prevent it, is yet another unknown. Pedrosa, now trailing Dovizioso by only ten points, could easily jump up to fifth place for the year based upon what he showed today, after having endured a wretched start to the 2015 season.

Ducati, Yamaha and Honda all have a dog in the fight for eighth place, as Petrucci, Crutchlow and Espargaro the Youngermotogp-suzuki-espargaro-vinales are separated by only five points. At the tail end of my attention span, the two Suzuki teammates are separated by a mere two points in the contest for 11th place. Certain Rookie of the Year Vinales, it would seem, has more on the line, in that ending the season as the #1 rider on the team would bolster his chances of securing a ride with one of the more established factory teams commencing in 2017.

As October approaches, we find one of the factory Yamaha Bruise Brothers lighting candles for sunny skies and the other praying for rain. Is it even possible that the 2015 MotoGP championship hinges on the weather? The mind reels.

MotoGP 2015 Aragon Preview

September 22, 2015

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to
For Jorge Lorenzo, winning—right now—would be fine

After the debacle at Misano, factory Yamaha stud Jorge Lorenzo observed that capturing the 2015 MotoGP title requires only that he win the remaining five races. His Plan A, which to many seems unlikely, could give way this weekend to Plan B, which would have teammate Valentino Rossi crashing out of a race or two. But Rossi, on average, crashes maybe once a season, most recently at Aragon a year ago. Lorenzo, who loves racing on the dusty Spanish plain, needs to make some hay on Sunday; beating his teammate has never been so important.

Rossi & LorenzoSince Lorenzo’s four round winning streak ended at Assen, Rossi has outpointed the Spaniard by 22 points, half of which came last week with his somewhat disappointing fifth place run in the rain of San Marino. Rossi’s reliability is one reason he’s fighting for a championship at age 36. Since the beginning of the 2012 season, he has started and finished all but three races to Lorenzo’s five. Both are consistent, but Rossi has the edge.

The main thing Lorenzo has going for him this weekend is the venue; Rossi simply hasn’t been very good in five outings at Motorland Aragon. Granted, during two of those years he was wrestling a pre-Dall’igna Ducati, which explains some of it. But while Lorenzo has gone 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 2nd and 1st, Rossi has finished 6th, 10th, 8th, 3rd and not at all last year. For Lorenzo, that’s the good news. The bad news is that anything other than a solid win this weekend will put him in the trick locker, a nice working definition of the term “pressure.”

I have failed to mention double defending world champion and factory Honda wonderboy Marc Marquez, who won last Marquez in Sepang 2013time out and is likely to be a major fly in the ointment for Lorenzo on Sunday. The young Catalan figures to be in the middle of things this weekend, complicating life more for Lorenzo than Rossi. Let’s just call a spade a spade and suggest that Lorenzo needs to beat both Rossi and Marquez at Aragon. Almost any other order of finish works in Rossi’s favor, and the grueling Pacific swing beckons.

Recent History at Aragon

In 2012, Round 14 was Dani’s Revenge, as Pedrosa, whose season went up in smoke following his last-row-start-first-lap-crash at Misano two weeks previous, won comfortably. Lorenzo finished a conservative, relatively risk-free second that day, while Monster Tech 3 scrapper Andrea Dovizioso pushed his satellite Yamaha to the limit on his way to a gratifying third place finish (joyfully pimping teammate Cal Crutchlow at the flag) and subsequent “promotion” to the factory Ducati team in 2013. Over the last half of the 2012 season, Pedrosa epitomized the “win or bin” metaphor so often spoken of in racing (generally by Brits) by winning six of his last eight races and crashing out of the other two. Despite piling up his highest career point total in 2012, Pedrosa would end the year 18 points behind Lorenzo, a short, swarthy bridesmaid once again.

In 2013, rookie Marc Marquez, unaware that Aragon was a Yamaha-friendly layout, calmly went out, took Jorge Lorenzo’s best shot, and beat him by 1.3 seconds. Valentino Rossi, in his first year back on the factory Yamaha after the painful two year exile with Ducati, took a rather hollow third, some 13 seconds behind Marquez. The rookie phenom’s 39 point lead over Lorenzo at the end of the day would prove insurmountable. Notwithstanding the gratuitous DQ he absorbed at Phillip Island three weeks later, Marquez went on to clinch his first premier class title with a smart, strong second place finish at Valencia in the season finale.

Last year’s Gran Premio Movistar de Aragon provided fans with 44+ minutes of two-wheeled slapstick, a memorable flag-to-flag affair that left the day’s results scrambled. Exhibit A: The factory Hondas of Marquez and Pedrosa crossed the finish line in 13th and 14th places, respectively. Factory Yamaha icon Valentino Rossi finished the day in the medical center, having run off the track on Lap 4 into a bog which grabbed his front tire, held it fast, and ejected him into the tire wall, concussed, dazed and confused. While Lorenzo won going away, the big story was Aleix Espargaro, who drove his satellite Forward Yamaha from a tenth place start to a thrilling second place finish over Cal Crutchlow, pipped once again, and his factory Ducati. In retrospect, this may have been the all-time high water mark of the entire Forward Racing project, now in tatters, desperately trying to finish the season, its owner under indictment and Toni Elias now occupying the #2 seat behind poor Loris Baz.

Austria Yes, Indiana No

IMSThe odds finally caught up with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway prior to Misano, when the provisional 2016 calendar was released. Gone was the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, voted the best round of the season just the previous year. In its place will be The Austrian Grand Prix, to be run at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, roughly 100 miles southwest of Vienna. With but nine turns per lap, it seems likely to favor the Yamahas and Ducatis. The Hoosier in me is screaming “not a very interesting layout,” but we shall save that observation for next year.

A second transatlantic crossing, with Laguna Seca having been scratched from the calendar in 2014, has always been expensive, and has seemed a long way to go for not much. The Motor Speedway is cool if you enjoy watching four-wheeled vehicles going fast and turning left, but the infield section, flat as a board, was never great for bikes. Despite drawing 60-70,000 fans, the stands always looked three- quarters empty, due to the fact that they were always three-quarters empty. The real shame in all this is that it undoubtedly means the demise of the MotoAmerica round in Indy as well as curtains for the AMA Indy Mile at the fairgrounds, which Midwestern racing fans will tell you was one of the finest events in all of motorcycle racing.

If Carmelo Ezpeleta has his way, the calendar will grow to 20 rounds later this decade. If the United States were a better market for the manufacturers, promoters in this country would figure out a way to put together a three race American round consisting of Laguna, Austin and Indianapolis early in the season, with the Pacific flyaway bookending it in the fall. Instead, the grid is likely to find itself schlepping to places like Thailand, Finland (???) and even ultra-ambitious Kazakhstan. Yikes.Kazakhstan

Your Weekend Forecast

As of Tuesday evening, the chances for rain in metropolitan Alcañiz this weekend are zero, with temps hovering around 80ºF. With no rain in the forecast, the Aliens are likely to control things, as much as things can be controlled at 200 mph on two wheels. Look for Rossi to lay back a little to watch Marquez and Lorenzo beat each other’s brains in. With Marquez hungry and Lorenzo desperate, Rossi can play tortoise, keeping his eye on the big picture. With autumn coming into view, Jorge Lorenzo enjoys no such luxury.

MotoGP 2015 San Marino Results

September 13, 2015

The Misano preview article never made it to WordPress.  Enjoy it here.

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to

Lorenzo title hopes damaged as Rossi extends championship lead

As Round 13 of the 2015 MotoGP championship got underway today, the racing gods were thoroughly bored, watching Jorge Lorenzo put another old fashioned Misano beatdown on rival teammate Valentino Rossi and just plain rival Marc Marquez. So they decided to have a little fun, turning on the rain around Lap 6 and turning it off again during Lap 16, forcing a double flag-to-flag affair for the first time in recent memory. When the laughs died down, Marc Marquez had a win, two Brits finished on the podium, Rossi extended his championship lead, and Jorge Lorenzo was in the medical center getting x-rays.

The weekend practice sheets led us to believe that today’s race would be another Lorenzo/Marquez wrestling match, and that Marquez, and the world, would be in trouble if Lorenzo got away early. Which is exactly what happened, Lorenzo and his Yamaha Z1 going metronomic in the lead halfway through Lap 1. The expected parade dissolved during Lap 6, when the rain flag came out.  Jorge-Lorenzo-Smile-HD

Most of the riders entered the pits at the end of the lap, leaving the three Alien leaders gingerly pushing their machines over the new and an increasingly-soaked racing surface, upon which they had had exactly zero minutes of wet practice. At the end of Lap 7 the three leaders entered the pits, jumped on their wet bikes, and headed back out. Let the record show that factory Ducati #2 Andrea Dovizioso led the race at the end of Lap 7 while Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith led after eight, the first MotoGP lap he has led in his career.

There is no communication between riders and their garages during races, meaning that in flag-to-flag affairs it is solely up to the rider to decide when to change bikes. On a day like today, with the weather playing tricks, it was the timing of the pit stops that ultimately decided the finish order. Mercifully, it was not another of those the-race-is-decided-on-Saturday things; today, the race was decided on track, specifically inside the helmets of the riders.

Decisions, Decisions

Thus far, we know the bulk of the field changed at the end of Lap 6, the three leaders waiting until a very pivotal Lap 7, in which Mark VDS Brit Scott Redding had a small lowside which convinced him to change to his wet bike and led to an almost-three minute lap. Redding changed back to slicks on Lap 14. Parenthetically, Marquez went back to his dry bike on Lap 18 while the two factory Yamahas, rubber flying off their front tires like shrapnel, ignored their pit boards and stayed out, Lorenzo finally making the change on Lap 21 and Rossi on Lap 22.

BSmithThe biggest decision of the day, however, was a non-decision. Smith, who has shown steady improvement each year during his MotoGP tenure, never did enter the pits and rode the entire race on slicks. This led to some interesting lap times in the middle of the race (2:12 on Lap 14) but saved him an immense amount of time not changing bikes and strolling down pit lane twice. In fact, as evidenced by the startling fourth place finish today of Loris Baz on the Forward Yamaha, it would be interesting to compare today’s finishing order with the number of laps each non-Alien rider spent on their wet bikes. Surely Smith, Redding and Baz were the most daring riders today, spending the bulk of a damp Sunday afternoon on slicks.

Late in the Day

And so it was that Jorge Lorenzo, who can be excused for having expected a bit of a cakewalk today, started Lap 22 from pit lane on cold slicks, trailing a bunch of riders, amongst them Rossi, who had yet to pit. And so it was that Lorenzo, pushing to the max trying to chase down the Italian, lost the front in Turn 15, got launched into thin air, and followed his destroyed bike on a painful high-speed fustercluck through the gravel, his day, and possibly his season, lying in ruins around him. He pounded his right hand into the gravel twice in sheer frustration. Later, it was reported he was in the medical center getting x-rays on, among other things, his right hand.

Lorenzo’s string of podiums at Misano, intact since 2007, fell by the wayside in the worst way imaginable. Meanwhile, teammate Rossi, who finished the day in a triumphant (?) fifth place, saw his personal string of podiums end at 16, but in a good way. His 11 points today stretched his margin over Lorenzo to 23 with but five rounds remaining. He escaped Misano, which has been all but owned by Lorenzo for most of a decade, intact. And if Lorenzo has physical issues that are not fully resolved within two weeks at Aragon, Rossi could be sitting in the catbird seat.

RossiWe should not overlook Marc Marquez, who today earned perhaps the most meaningless win of his career. He actually dominated the conditions, timing his pit entries perfectly, having learned the Lesson of Aragon 2014, when he stayed out way too long and ultimately crashed out. Surely, his fans around the world, joined by Rossi and his massive worldwide following, hope the young Catalan runs the table this year. A strong finish to the season will make it that much harder for Lorenzo to earn the points he will need to interfere with Rossi’s 10th world championship.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Loris Baz, whose fourth place finish was the best result for any open class rider this year, did nothing to hurt his rumored switch to Avintia Racing next year. He has pretty much locked up the open class title for the season. The tall 22 year-old Frenchman looks like anything but a MotoGP rider—shades of Marco Simoncelli—but has had a surprisingly successful debut season in MotoGP. Moving up to Avintia, where he might actually get paid, would be a nice payoff for a nice guy.

The factory and Pramac Ducati teams, joined by wildcard Michele Pirro, have seen better days on their home soil. Pirro, who qualified fifth, found himself with deal-breaking electronics issues early, and had to start the race on his wet bike; never quite getting things sorted out, his day ending for good on Lap 10. Suddenly fearsome Danilo Petrucci, who podiumed last time out in the rain, enjoyed a top ten start and beat factory Andreas Iannone and Dovizioso to the finish again, the three finishing 6-7-8 respectively. (Yonny Hernandez crashed his Pramac entry on Lap 10 and collected an oblivious Alex de Angelis, the one Italian rider who is actually from San Marino, adding to his season of woe.) Dani Pedrosa, Alien Emeritus, drove his Repsol Honda to a nondescript ninth place finish, eclipsing Aleix Espargaro and his Suzuki Ecstar by 2/10ths of a second.

Next Up: Aragon

It will be two weeks until the grid descends upon dusty, ancient Aragon, then another fortnight until the frantic three-races-in-three-weeks Pacific flyaway. One hopes that the racing gods got their share of belly laughs today and will have the decency to lay off for the rest of the season. By bolstering the belief of Italian Catholics that God is an Italian Catholic, millions of Rossi fans around the world are giving thanks tonight for Valentino and the heavenly mysteries that brought rain to eastern Italy for twenty minutes on a Sunday afternoon in September.

Misano Top Ten 2015

Top Ten Year to Date

MotoGP 2015 Silverstone Results

August 30, 2015

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to

Rossi, all-weather Alien, wins in Britain

Round 12 of the 2015 MotoGP season was shaping up as another Marquez-Lorenzo cage match, the two brightest lights of the sport hammering the grid during four free practice sessions. They qualified one-two, with Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi, the other usual suspects, making up the top four. The Racing Gods waited to intervene until just before the sighting lap, and a dry race suddenly became a wet race–just what the Doctor ordered. Rossi’s much-needed win put 12 points between him and Lorenzo as the flying circus heads for Vale’s home crib at Misano.

2013; 2013 MotoGP; Circuit of the Americas; Dani Pedrosa; Honda; Jorge Lorenzo; Marc Marquez; Podium; Repsol; Sport Bike Race; Yamaha; Yamaha Factory Racing

The main Spanish contingent at today’s British Grand Prix got collectively rolled, as now-former world champion Marc Marquez flipped his Repsol Honda RC213V out of second place in pursuit of Rossi at Turn 1 of Lap 13. Lorenzo, who led early, gave us no reason to doubt our belief that he hates riding in the rain; having fallen as far back as sixth place by mid-race, he managed to recover sufficiently to finish fourth, going through on Dani Pedrosa late well after Marquez had left the building. With all of his damage-control modules in the red, Lorenzo managed to limit his debit to teammate Rossi today to 12 points; it could have been much worse.

That there was an all-Italian podium today is, in itself, surprising enough. That little-known Danilo Petrucci, on the Octo Pramac second string Ducati, would stand on the second step today, is a true shocker. While factory #1 Andrea Iannone was missing in action this weekend (qualified ninth, finished eighth), Petrucci put on a one-man showcase of his wet-riding skills, after having started in 18th place, slicing through the field, passing a couple of Aliens along the way, keeping Dovizioso (who secured his first podium today since Le Mans) behind him and, late in the day, putting himself in position for an attack on his friend and idol.

Rossi at ValenciaRossi, having received word from his pit board that his paisan was closing the gap, finished the race with a few fast laps to help Danilo avoid the dishonor attendant upon a third-tranche Italian rider contemplating a take-down of Valentino Rossi. Such would be comparable to elbowing Dr. Desmond Tutu out of the buffet line at a Queen’s reception.

In England, that sort of thing just isn’t done.

The Battle of Britain

With three genuine Brits and a citizen of their former penal colony in Australia in the line-up, much was on the line Jack Millerregarding post-race bragging rights. Cal Crutchlow and teammate Jack Miller were flying early in the race, while Bradley Smith and Scott Redding were lost in the sauce. Young Miller, in fact, was gaining so many place so fast that he temporarily forgot the fact of his earthbound-ness, only to be reminded of it on Lap 3 when he went hot into a slow lefthander and collected Crutchlow. The announcers subsequently speculated that Cal might administer a brief etiquette lesson to the enthusiastic Australian later in the garage.

Which left Smith and Redding to carry, figuratively, the Union Jack. For Redding, the announcement came today that he would be leaving Mark VDS Racing for a seat on the second string Octo Pramac Ducati being forcefully repossessed from Yonny Hernandez. Thus, predictably, Redding would have his best day ever in the premier class, finishing sixth after starting 7th, neatly trading places with Smith in the process. Smith was not okay with this, but at least had the pleasure of having watched teammate and rival Pol Espargaro go ragdoll on Lap 14.

On a dry day, both British riders might have entertained thoughts about fighting for the podium. Today’s rain tamped down the annoying tendency of the Ducatis, from factory to Avintia, to consume racing slicks at a maddening rate. Thus would we end up with two Desmosedicis on the podium and three in the top eight, compared to only two Hondas. We are reminded that the Ducati, in almost all of its previous iterations, has been surprisingly stable in the wet.

The Big Picture

Rossi & LorenzoMarc Marquez sealed his fate today as if it weren’t already sealed. No more conjecture about a third consecutive title. We’re left with the Bruise Brothers on the factory Yamaha team. Heading into Silverstone, most people’s money was on Lorenzo, who had more wins, and more pace, than does Rossi at this stage of his season/career. The smart money overlooked Lorenzo’s glaring difficulties running in the wet, as the past two weeks were the first instances in 2015 where weather had anything to do with race day. Now, it must be acknowledged, the weather can play a huge role in how the season turns out; it may have already done so.

Is it oversimplifying things, with a third of the season left, to suggest that Lorenzo will have things his way on dry tracks and that Rossi will enjoy the advantage on wet ones? Lorenzo at Aragon, Phillip Island and Sepang? Rossi at Misano, Motegi and Valenciana? Someone on odd calendar days and the other on evens (there are four odds and two evens left.) One thing is certain—now that Rossi has a lead, however small, he is not going to give it away. Just as on the race track, he is not going to make the unforced error that would hand the season to Lorenzo. He will take what the defense gives him, make himself very difficult to pass, figuring it will be enough to take him through November. For Rossi, there will no risks, crazy or otherwise, until and unless the chips have come completely down and it’s win or bin for the season. Is there anyone reading this who doesn’t salivate at the thought of Rossi and Lorenzo heading to Round 18 tied for the championship?

Elsewhere on the Grid

Suzuki Ecstar teammates Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales finished in their customary ninth and 11th spots, but traded places, with Espargaro taking the six points. Surprisingly sandwiched in between the two Suzukis was chronic underachiever Alvaro Bautista in 10th place, tying his previous best finish of the season at Catalunya. Bautista’s teammate Stefan Bradl, who has been schooling the Spaniard since the day he arrived from Forward Racing, was gracious enough to crash out today, allowing Bautista to enjoy his top ten finish.

American Nicky Hayden enjoyed his best day since Le Mans with a respectable 12th place finish coming off the back of the seventh row. Hector Barbera, Mike de Meglio and Alex de Angelis were the last three riders to score points today.

A Quick Look Ahead

Then there is this Johann Zarco, who is busy these days trashing the Moto2 division. Today, he gradually worked himself to the front of the grid after a mediocre start, where he led pretenders Tito Rabat, Alex Rins and Alex Marquez on a merry chase for perhaps 13 laps. As things got a little tight toward the end, he casually dropped his lap time by two seconds for each of the final three laps, winning going away. Not many riders who can do that.

Johann Zarco, a man with a future in MotoGP.

Johann Zarco, leading Moto2 by 85 points, is clearly ready for MotoGP, but is MotoGP ready for him? With the grid expected to shrink to possibly 22 seats next season, and all of the good ones spoken for, would Zarco consider moving up to the premier class with a second-rate team, or would Moto2 present a better opportunity, with things expected to open up again in 2017? Rabat is taken care of for next year, being re-united with Mark VDS. Everyone else—Kent, Lowes, Zarco. Baz, de Meglio, etc., is scouring garage sales for Ouija boards, seeking answers to open-ended questions.

Or praying to The Racing Gods, who made their presence felt today, intervening on behalf of Valentino Rossi as well as Carmelo Ezpeleta, the Dorna CEO who seeks the closest of close MotoGP championship races in 2015.

MotoGP 2015 Silverstone Preview

August 24, 2015

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to

Lorenzo has the edge on his teammate in Northamptonshire

The Welsh Grand Prix was to have taken place this weekend at the £315m Circuit of Wales, going by the name of Ebbw Vale, where it will, someday, reside in Blænau Gwent, both of which seem to need some extra letters. Unfortunately, the organizers were unable to deliver the stadium on time for this year’s calendar. The 2015 British Grand Prix will continue at Silverstone for the next two years, after a short detour through Donington Park.

Dorna would have been happy to leave Silverstone, despite a spate of expensive investments plowed into the facility. Dorna wanted to notch a new country in its corporate bedpost with a purpose-built facility in Wales that no one can pronounce and which is likely to have worse weather than Silverstone and Donington, if that’s possible. Donington would have been happy to sign on for the year it would take to finish the Welsh facility, but Dorna was not pleased with the condition of the Leicestershire track, pronounced it unfit, and appealed to Silverstone to hold the race one more time this year. Silverstone replied that they would be delighted to host the race for another two years, but that a single year just wasn’t on. Dorna, testes in a sling, agreed, putting the first of many screws to the ownership group in Blænau Gwent who will have to sit on a finished stadium for an entire year, the price of trusting Ezpeleta and his henchmen. Who do they think they are, Formula One? Even though they brought it on themselves, the Welshmen must be scratching their heads.

Recent History at Silverstone

IRossi & Lorenzon 2012, Jorge Lorenzo, on his way to his second premier class title, won fairly easily on one of the dry days here. He was joined on the podium by the Repsol Honda duo of Casey Stoner (+3.3 seconds) and Dani Pedrosa (+3.6). The race of the day, however, involved Nicky Hayden on the factory Ducati and his eventual successor, homeboy Cal Crutchlow, on the satellite Tech 3 Yamaha. Crutchlow had had a mishap in practice that left him with a mangled left ankle. At race time, Crutchlow left his crutches behind, went out and rode the wheels off his Yamaha, going from seven seconds behind Hayden on Lap 13 to a few feet in front of him at the flag. A healthy percentage of the crowd probably went home not exactly certain who had won the race but well aware of who finished sixth.

The 2013 British Grand Prix, another dry race, was one of the best of the year. Marquez, with a 26 point lead over Dani Pedrosa after Brno, dislocated his shoulder in the morning WUP (nearly taking Alvaro Bautista’s RC213V in the teeth as he, too, slid off three seconds later) and then commenced a daylong hot pursuit of Jorge Lorenzo before finally succumbing at the flag by a microscopic 8/100ths of a second. Pedrosa, in the mix all day, crossed the line third, a second and a half behind Lorenzo. The Spanish slugfest up front left Rossi and the other factory bikes sucking wind off in the distance. On a day that appeared ripe for the field to close the gap to the leader, Marquez left Great Britain sore, but leading the championship by more (+30) than when he arrived. Perhaps the best British Grand Prix in the modern era.

Last year’s gorgeous British GP made it three dry races in a row, a strong portent of miserable conditions in store for this year. With a front row of Marquez, Dovi and Lorenzo, the two Spaniards again went off to fight their own private battle, Lorenzo in the early lead. Marquez took a run at him on Lap 14, but couldn’t make it stick. On Lap 18, though, after a little bumping and grinding, the young Catalan wonder went through for good on the way to his 11th win of the season. At the wire, it was Marquez, trailed by Lorenzo (7/10ths ) with the top five made up of Rossi (+8.5), Pedrosa (+8.7) and Dovizioso (+9.2). The win put Marquez 10 for 11 on the year, brimming with confidence and the additional benefit of having Mo Mentum working for him on the road to Misano, where he squandered it all, earning exactly one (1) championship point, finishing 15th after a silly low-speed moment on Lap 10.

It’s All About the Yamaha Now

The 2015 championship has boiled down to a seven round season as Bruise Brothers Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi sit tied atop the racing world after 11, with Lorenzo holding the tiebreaker. Rossi has not won since Assen and will be challenged in qualifying again this week at the longest circuit on the calendar. Though this race traditionally belongs to Lorenzo and Marquez, the fans will be watching Lorenzo and Rossi, who continues to attract fans in greater numbers and tenacity than any other combatant on the grid. The Italian marketing machine is going to have his hands full with his Mallorcan teammate, with two long fast tracks up soon on the calendar, sandwiching Misano. LorenzoLand, like The Diaspora, can be found in many locales around the world, including Silverstone and Aragon.

From here, it looks likely that Lorenzo will want to jump out in front on Saturday, as per usual, leaving Marquez to tangle 2014 MotoGP World Championwith Rossi. Rossi really must qualify on the front row to have a chance of “pulling an Assen” here; a third row start and this one is over. Chalk Silverstone up as another race that will be won on Saturday. Rossi found a way to win last year at San Marino, a track much better suited to his riding style. But it won’t suffice for Rossi to simply win at the tracks where he’s expected to win, as Lorenzo can count at least four remainders as definitely Yamaha-friendly; Rossi is going to need a couple of upsets. Starting at Silverstone, as the old joke goes, couldn’t hoit. Adding a wildcard as fast and unpredictable as Marquez will make no one’s life easier, likely affecting Rossi more than Lorenzo. If Marquez can manage to win a few of these last rounds, he will reduce Lorenzo and Rossi to fighting for second and third, a single point at stake. Could get interesting on Sundays.

Your Weekend Forecast

Old Reliable is calling for clouds, with temps in the high 60’s – low 70’s, along with plenty of trouble available for riders on out laps on a cold track with cold tires. Virtually guaranteed that at least one MotoGP rider will eat it on an out lap, in addition to numerous others in Moto2 and Moto3. Forward Racing either will be there or they won’t. Silly season rumors are heating up—Redding to Ducati, Sam Lowes and Danny Kent moving up to give the British a bigger, if not necessarily better, group of challengers to the Spaniards currently dominating the class. Bradley Smith will sign his Tech 3 contract this weekend. Cal Crutchlow will probably have to stay with LCR. Tito Rabat is being linked with the Marc VDS team on its way to being abandoned by Redding. Yonny Hernandez appears to be out of work in MotoGP next year. Joann Zarco is going to need a place to land in the premier class, although sticking in Moto2 wouldn’t be the end of the world for him. Lots of stuff to discuss on Sunday afternoon.

The big bikes go off at 8:00 EDT. We’ll have results and analysis on Sunday evening.

MotoGP 2015 Brno Results

August 16, 2015

© Bruce Allen.  Excluive to

Lorenzo shreds the field, seizes championship lead

The 2015 bwin Grand Prix České republiky gave the amped-up crowd of 138,000 a somewhat disappointing high-speed parade, with six of the top 8 starters crossing the line in the same position they started. One of these was polesitter Jorge Lorenzo, who drove his Yamaha YZR-M1 to the fastest lap ever recorded on two wheels in qualifying on Saturday. Leading unassailed from wire to wire, Lorenzo pulled into a tie with teammate Valentino Rossi for the 2015 world championship and, holding the tiebreaker, punched Rossi out of the lead for the first time this year.

Lorenzo in the rain at Le MansRossi pulled a rabbit out of his hat in the final minute of qualifying on Saturday afternoon, putting himself on the front row (third position) for only the 16th time in his last 100 outings. Resurgent world champion Marc Marquez, coming off two consecutive wins, qualified second, giving the world what the announcers referred to, over and over again, as a Dream Front Row. With Lorenzo and Marquez escaping at the start, and Rossi getting swamped back into 5th place, the dream ended in the first turn.

Lorenzo simply had another of those piston-like days where he appeared to coast to the win, never challenged, cool as a cucumber, while those behind him were sweating their asymmetric rears off trying to keep up. Marquez spent the day in second place, looking like he might be biding his time as he did in Indianapolis, until around Lap 8, when his tires dropped. Trailing by only 4/10ths at the end of Lap 6, he would end the day 4.5 seconds down, with Rossi six seconds farther back. A thorough, convincing beatdown at a track perfectly suited to Jorge Lorenzo. I’m surprised he doesn’t win here every year and that they don’t rename the track LorenzoLand.

True Grit

Dani-dani-pedrosa-9702356-435-380As we’ve observed here before, Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa has the hardest luck and a pair of the biggest cojones on the grid. His chances for a first premier class title in 2015 were ruined in March when he had to undergo a complicated surgery to deal with his chronic arm pump issue, causing him to sit out rounds 2 through 4. He returned to action at Le Mans, barely, and was making steady progress back into contention when a mechanical issue in FP2 on Friday sent him flying over the handlebars and re-injured a left ankle that already contained a good deal of titanium from previous misadventures. Despite a visible limp, he managed to qualify ninth, getting pushed back to 10th at the end of Lap 1.

Once he settled in, Pedrosa wove his way through the field until the middle of the race when, sitting in sixth place, he found himself running behind a pair of factory Ducatis, Iannone and Dovizioso intransigent in their refusal to get out of his way. With his adrenaline spike having subsided, along with the painkillers in his ankle, Pedrosa gritted his teeth and took on Dovizioso in a battle for fifth place that lasted from roughly Lap 13 until the final turn of Lap 22, at which point Pedrosa emerged in front of Dovizioso in the run to the wire. And though the result was a rather meaningless fifth place in a lost season, it provided another glimpse of the man within the man who is Dani Pedrosa, the Rodney Dangerfield of MotoGP, who doesn’t get nearly the respect he deserves from folks like me.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Tech 3 Brit Bradley Smith, still without a contract for next year, put his satellite Yamaha in the middle of row two in bradley_smithqualifying and managed another respectable seventh place finish today. With the factory Ducatis having received upgraded engines, they had an easier time at Brno than they have of late, probably costing Smith a spot or two in the final standings. Smith’s Tech 3 teammate Pol Espargaro, 2016 contract in hand, qualified and finished eighth, and now trails the Brit by 25 points heading to the 2/3 mark of the season.

It was a case of trading places today on the factory Suzuki Ecstar team. ROY Maverick Vinales qualified seventh and was on the way to his 11th consecutive finish in the points when he crashed out on Lap 17. Teammate Aleix Espargaro, who has found the going very rough over the past several rounds, completed his worst qualifying session of the year on Saturday in 15th place, but managed to pull things together sufficiently during the race to finish ninth, despite trailing his brother by 20 seconds, enough time for Pol to enjoy a cream cheese kolache in pit lane waiting for big brother to show up.

Pramac Ducati stalwart Danilo Petrucci, who, like Avintia Racing’s Mike di Meglio has to shave, like, three times a day, was unable to recreate his qualifying magic in Indianapolis, where he started fifth, beginning the day’s action down in 13th position. He kept things together sufficiently to finish tenth, as Vinales and Crutchlow crashed out in front of him and Hector Barbera fell to 16th place.

Perhaps the saddest statement of the day came from announcer Nick Harris, who was so busy applauding the efforts of Loris Baz cutting into Barbera’s lead for the open class championship that he forgot that Baz’s season is probably over, due to the criminal issues surrounding the Forward Racing team’s owner. Baz is probably the latest victim of the old adage that it’s difficult to soar with eagles when you work with turkeys.

Finally, lest I be accused of un-American activities, Nicky Hayden started 21st and finished 17th, a minute and two seconds behind Lorenzo. Were he a mechanic instead of a rider, his work today would be referred to as “turning wrenches.” And while the ever-upbeat Hayden claims to still enjoy his job, the numbers argue otherwise. How much fun can it be for a former world champion to finish behind the likes of Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera?

The Big Picture

While the Movistar Yamaha teammates are ostensibly tied in the standings, Lorenzo holds the tiebreaker as well as the advantage heading into Round 12 at Silverstone. Rossi has not been a factor in the British Grand Prix for a decade, since it was run at Donington Park. Lorenzo has three wins and a second in Britain over the last five years. Rossi was quoted this week as saying that if he expects to win the title this year he needs to start winning races again, his last win having come at Assen back in June.

Marquez told a little bit of a white lie today after the race, stating that his goal for the weekend was to cut into Rossi’s advantage over him. (I suspect his real goal was to watch both factory Yamahas go pinwheeling into the tire barriers while he ran away from the field for an easy third consecutive win.) True, he is now only 52 points out of the lead for the year, whereas he was 56 points out yesterday. Marquez had absolutely no impact on today’s race, other than putting a smidge of pressure on Lorenzo during the first six laps. One can only say that as regards equipment, riders and race management, Team Yamaha is superior to Team Honda in 2015. A few more performances like we saw from Jorge Lorenzo today will earn him his third premier class title and cement his place in racing history.

There is no taking of prisoners in LorenzoLand.

MotoGP 2015 Brno Preview

August 11, 2015

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to

Yamahas thinking title; Hondas thinking commotion

Factory Yamaha kingpins Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, a mere nine points between them, would probably enjoy fighting things out for the rest of the season in a series of match races. Going one-on-one on empty tracks for bragging rights in 2015. While attendance on Sundays probably would not decline by all that much, the rest of the grid, most notably Repsol Honda threats Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, would prefer to be involved. By “involved” I mean trading paint in tight spaces, hoping to disrupt things sufficiently for Marquez, at least, to have a shot at MotoGP title #3. Rossi & Lorenzo

Sadly, as we saw last week in Indianapolis, 2015 has devolved, as pretty much every season does, to four Aliens and everyone else. My penchant for slicing the grid into five or six tranches has proven to be a waste of time. There are, in fact, only two tranches—the factory Yamaha and Honda teams, and everyone else. The glimpses of grandeur we witnessed early in the season from the factory Ducati contingent have become sparse. The hope we held for a return to racing glory by the factory Suzuki team is, at best, premature. The Gresini Aprilia team has not disappointed; their prospects heading into the season were nil. The satellite Honda and Yamaha teams are respectable, but do not appear capable of winning anything anytime soon. And the open class, again in 2015, must be content to fight for points in ones and twos. In the words of Bruce Hornsby, that’s just the way it is.

heidi_klum_51Which brings us to Brno, the only place in The Czech Republic, other than Prague, any of us has ever heard of or can pronounce. I’ve been calling Brno a Yamaha track for years, despite the fact that Big Blue hasn’t won here since Lorenzo in 2010. Whether it’s a Yamaha track or not, it should be. It’s the Heidi Klum of MotoGP circuits—long and graceful, with gently undulating curves, perfect teeth, and a sexy Eastern European accent. Any mention here of 140,000 intoxicated Czechs wishing to get up close and personal would be entirely inappropriate.

Recent History at Brno

Round 12 in 2012 found Repsol mighty mite Dani Pedrosa at the top of his diminutive game. Entering the race 17 points Dani-dani-pedrosa-9702356-435-380behind Lorenzo, he fought off a cabal of Yamahas, pipping  Lorenzo at the wire, with Tech 3 malcontent Cal Crutchlow finishing a surprising third, six seconds ahead of teammate Andrea Dovizioso. Casey Stoner, Pedrosa’s teammate, sat this one out with the ankle he demolished at Indianapolis. Trailing Lorenzo by only 13 points on Sunday evening, Pedrosa would go on to run the table in 2012, other than his ruinous crashes at Misano (the stuck tire warmer debacle) and Phillip Island (pressing so hard he almost came out of his socks). Lorenzo beat him by 18 points for the championship, the closest Dani would ever get to a MotoGP title.

In 2013 rookie Marc Marquez, suddenly the king of the hill, won at Brno for a fourth straight victory, edging teammate Pedrosa by 3/10ths with Lorenzo another two seconds back. He ended the day leading Pedrosa by 26 points and Lorenzo by 44 with seven rounds left. A desperate Lorenzo got off early, hoping to run away from the field, but the Hondas gradually reeled him in, Marquez going through on Lap 16 and Pedrosa three laps later. The podium celebration was memorable, as the Spanish national anthem was followed by a recording of Don Meredith singing “Turn Out the Lights, the Party’s Over.” MotoGP meets Monday Night Football behind the remnants of the Iron Curtain. (My memory of that afternoon may not be quite accurate.)

Last year Brno was the site where Marquez’ amazing winning streak came to a curious halt, stopped, as it were, by Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Rossi tout ensemble. Having watched the race pretty carefully, it appeared to me that Marquez just wasn’t that into it, that he let himself be beaten rather than forcing the issue. It was Pedrosa’s first win in 10 months, his last having come at Sepang in 2013. What had evolved over the course of the season was an “anyone but Marquez” mentality that seemed to grip the rest of the grid. That day, it was Iannone who tangled with Marquez twice early, with Rossi having volunteered to keep the rookie at bay later in the race. Not that it mattered, as the championship had been decided well before then. In 2014 it took a village to keep Marquez off the podium.

Rumor and Innuendo

Leading first with innuendo, Claudio Corti has to be the lamest of lame ducks this weekend. Imagine subbing on an open class Yamaha as the #2 rider on a team in such desperate financial straits that Round 11 is likely to be its last dance ever. Such is Forward Racing’s plight heading into the Czech Republic. Stefan Bradl has already bailed, and hard luck Loris Baz, who came out of virtually nowhere to present a credible challenge for the open class title, will find himself homeless come Sunday evening. Bringing in Corti for the team finale reminds me of when we were kids on the 4th of July, lighting off ladyfingers one at a time until we finally realized just how lame we were and lit off the rest of the pack all at once. At least it will give the other half of the crew something to do besides gape at the brolly girls.

BradlThe most interesting rumor of the week has Stefan Bradl replacing Yonny Hernandez on the Octo Pramac Ducati next year alongside Danilo Petrucci. Hernandez was having a pretty good year early in the season but, like the Dueling Andreas of the factory team, has dropped off the pace of late. Bradl, who flirted with Ducati back in 2012, must feel that Aprilia is several years, perhaps decades, away from having a competitive bike. And while there exists considerable sentiment in the paddock around having a Japanese rider, some Brits and a German or two to build attendance and bolster marketing efforts, no similar sympathy appears attached to the Pride of Colombia. Hernandez could easily find himself a competitive ride in World Super Bike next year. He and Nicky Hayden could make a formidable pair fronting for Ducati.

Quick Hitters, and Your Weekend Forecast

Captain America - 1969After going seven for seven in the United States over the past three seasons, and in need of a snappy nickname, Marquez should consider Captain America. He, perhaps alone among all the riders, will be sorry to see Indianapolis fall off the calendar…Sito Pons, Chief Cheddar at Pons Racing, seems to have known what he was doing last year, signing ascendant rookie Alex Rins to a two year deal. This will shield the 19 year old from any temptation to jump to MotoGP for what is likely to be a very difficult 2016. I suppose the possibility exists that Pons may want to do a Marc VDS and put together his own MotoGP team for 2017, as the herd looks to be thinning over the next season and a half. Teams with real sponsorship issues include Forward Racing, LCR, Aspar, and Ioda; plenty of room on the 2017 grid for a well-financed Pons Racing team.Alex Rins

Not wishing to dwell on Heidi Klum any more than necessary (as if that’s possible), the weather forecast for this weekend is hot hot hot. As in temps in the 90’s, pop-up thunderstorms a distinct possibility, more like Sepang than Brno. A layout favoring the Yamahas with conditions favoring the Hondas—a recipe for unpredictability. Q2 on Saturday is likely to tell the story once again.

heidi_klum_51The race goes off at 8 am EDT, and we’ll have results right here Sunday around noon.  First on the web with results and analysis.

2015 MotoGP Indianapolis Results

August 9, 2015

By Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to

Marquez wins Battle of Indy; Yamaha still winning the war

What is likely to be the final Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix today produced two memorable shootouts. Up front, defending Honda world champion Marc Marquez dogged Yamaha stud Jorge Lorenzo for 24 laps before stealing his lunch money at Turn 1 of Lap 25 and holding the Mallorcan off for the final three laps. The undercard featured Yamaha icon Valentino Rossi and Repsol #2 Dani Pedrosa in an equally riveting daylong battle for third place. Rossi prevailed after half a dozen lead changes over the last 10 laps, keeping his string of 2015 podia intact and his lead over teammate Lorenzo at nine points.

Alex RinsComing on the heels of a breathtaking Moto2 tilt, with a front group of five riders, eventually won by rookie and soon to be MotoGP pilot Alex Rins, the MotoGP race was much more of a mano a mano affair. Kind of a Noah’s Ark thing, the animals boarding two by two. A pair here, a pair there…

At the start, Lorenzo rocketed out of the three hole to lead the pack into Turn 1, trailed by Marquez, Pedrosa, Ducati #1 Andrea Iannone, Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith and Rossi, whose loss today was once again assured in qualifying on Saturday. By the end of Lap 5 Rossi had taken over fourth place, and the lines were drawn. At that point, Rossi trailed Pedrosa by 1.6 seconds, but you got the impression that the Italian marvel wasn’t going to go down without a fight.

2014 MotoGP World ChampionBy Lap 14, Rossi trailed Pedrosa by a mere three tenths. While Lorenzo continued to lead Marquez, who appeared to be biding his time letting Jorge do the “donkey work,” I made a quick note: Y H H Y –> H Y Y H. This was my shorthand prediction that the Yamahas would move from positions one and four to finish second and third. Midway through the race, my suspicion that Marquez would eventually take down Lorenzo while Rossi outraced Pedrosa was, in the end, rewarded. Prior to the race I had envisioned two Hondas and one Yamaha on the podium; that prediction turned out wrong by 18/100ths of a second, Rossi’s margin over Pedrosa at the line.

At this point in 2015 there can be no argument that Marc Marquez has returned to his otherworldly form of the past two seasons. For the first 25 laps today he was maintaining strict control of his RC213V, not throwing the front into the turns and waiting for the rear to show up. Once he made his move on Lorenzo he engaged his “reckless abandon” setting and turned the dogs loose. Lorenzo would get close several times over the last three laps, but he wasn’t going to get past young Marquez late in the day. Pedrosa, who had improved steadily between Friday morning and Sunday, qualifying second, appeared ready, willing and able to podium today. There was a time when Pedrosa would have taken on the two leaders once his fuel load dropped, but that day appears to have passed.Rossi

Rossi, for his part, will either figure out how to deal with the 15 minute qualifying sessions or see perhaps his last best chance for a tenth world championship vanish before his eyes. He may be the fastest raceday rider on the grid, but his habit of consistently digging himself a hole on Saturday and trying to climb out on Sunday will eventually burn him. Lorenzo, much more interested in Rossi than Marquez, adjusted his strategy for qualifying, opting for three runs rather than two, simply in an effort to gain a front row start today. Had qualifying been limited to 13.5 minutes rather than 15, Lorenzo would have started at the back of the second row, his race strategy blown. This year, more than any year in recent memory, races are being won and lost on Saturday.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Ducati #1 Andrea Iannone qualified seventh and finished fifth today on his 26th birthday while teammate Andrea Dovizioso went seriously walkabout at Turn 2 of Lap 1, re-entered the race in last place, i.e., behind Toni Elias, and pedaled his posterior off for a distasteful ninth place finish. Dovizioso, once the model of consistency and control, had amassed a total of four (4) points in the previous four rounds before hitting a seven point jackpot today.

Iannone barely held off Brit Bradley Smith and his Tech 3 Yamaha, nose thoroughly out of joint over the fact that his teammate, Pol Espargaro, who trails him in the 2015 standings by 24 points, received a shiny new contract with the team for next year while Smith received bupkus. (I gotta think it’s the hair, or lack thereof.)
Anyway, Espargaro held off LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow today for seventh place while rising Octo Pramac star Danilo Petrucci, who had received a major tow on Saturday into a second row start, completed the top ten riders.

The two Suzuki guys had utterly forgettable weekends in Hoosierville. Rookie Maverick Vinales qualified ninth and finished 11th, while the elder Espargaro, Aleix, dawdled through Q2 to start 12th and could only manage a 14th place finish. While it’s safe to say the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is not terribly friendly to any of the manufacturers, it seems distinctly unfriendly to the Suzukis. Team Ecstar will probably be thrilled to see Indianapolis fall off the calendar next year.

Just for the record, lest I be accused of ignoring the only American on the grid, Nicky Hayden had a criminally bad hair day today on his way to finishing 16th. Kind of a weak semi-mullet with a painfully lame mini-ponytail on top. The kind of haircut that would be much better suited to World Super Bike.

The Big Picture

Movistar Yamaha maintains control of the 2015 championship, with Rossi on top of Lorenzo by nine points and Lorenzo leading Marquez by 47. Even though Marquez has gathered 70 points over the last three rounds, Rossi has earned 57 and Lorenzo 49. At this rate, Marquez will not catch Rossi until Round 24, a virtual impossibility in an 18 round season. Iannone holds a solid grip on fourth place, 32 points ahead of Smith and 35 points ahead of former Ducati #1 Dovizioso. Despite having started three fewer races due to injury, Pedrosa now leads wannabe Alien Cal Crutchlow by six points, with Pol Espargaro a single point farther back. Vinales rounds out the top ten with 62 points.

Looking Ahead

It’s a short week until Round 11 at Brno, The Circuit That Desperately Needs a Vowel. Forward Racing is slated to perform its swan song in the Czech Republic, with the pitiable Loris Baz riding their last open class Yamaha until and unless he breaks it prior to the race. Karel Abraham figures to return to his Cardion AB Honda, since all his aunts and uncles will be there cheering for him to earn a point or two.

Brno is one of those long flowing circuits that tend to favor the Yamahas, so Marc Marquez will need to bring his A game if he intends to continue to cut the gap between himself and the Bruise Brothers. This doesn’t appear to present much of a problem, in that he once again looks unbeatable. But there don’t appear to be enough battles left to allow him to win The War of 2015.

Indy 2015 Capture



YTD Top TenCapture

MotoGP 2015 Indianapolis Preview

August 4, 2015

Aliens expecting close encounter at The Brickyard.

By Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to

MotoGP starts the back nine of the 2015 season this week in Indianapolis with all four Aliens looking fast and frisky. At the top of the heap, a mere 13 points separate factory Yamaha grandees Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. Factory Ducati interloper Andrea Iannone, in third, sits squarely in the crosshairs of defending world champion Marc Marquez, who finally has his Repsol Honda figured out. Hard luck Dani Pedrosa on the #2 Repsol bike, health fully restored, loves Indianapolis. Expect an all-Alien battle for the podium in the Hoosier heartland heat on Sunday.

Marquez swims across the lineHaving been given last rites after his third DNF of the year in Catalunya, Marquez has since returned to his frightening form of the past two years with a podium in Assen and a win at The Sachsenring. But 52 points separate him from second place; conventional wisdom suggests it took too long for him to find the proper frame and settings for an historic second half rally. While he’s finally doing well—really well—both Rossi and Lorenzo are at the top of their respective games, giving meaning to the term “veteran.” Moreover, while Indianapolis remains a Honda-friendly venue, the next four rounds—Brno, Silverstone, Misano and Aragon—are all painted Yamaha blue.

To put himself back in title contention for the home stretch, Marquez must be Rossi & Lorenzoessentially flawless. And both Rossi and Lorenzo need to experience some serious adversity. Some might say the Bruise Brothers are overdue for a fall or two, while others will insist they can easily stiff-arm the young Catalan wonder over the next nine rounds. The wildcard in all of this is the intra-team competition at Yamaha, with both riders determined to do whatever it takes to win the title. For these two, suffering greatly from the sin of pride—machismo–second place is little different from last. Shades of 2009.

Recent History at Indianapolis

2012 saw Dani Pedrosa win going away, followed by Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso on the Tech 3 Yamaha, and Casey Stoner, who rode essentially on one leg, having broken an ankle in qualifying on Saturday. Stoner’s first loss in his last four American outings would be followed by three DNSes, putting an end to any hopes he might have harbored about a repeat world title. Nicky Hayden who, along with Stoner and Spies, crashed in qualifying, broke his wrist and had to sit out his home race. 2012 was the high water mark of Ben Spies’ brief MotoGP career, as he started on the front row but blew his engine while chasing Pedrosa in 2nd place. He would move down to Ducati for a miserable 2013 season before exiting MotoGP for good at the end of the year.

Marc Marquez’ win at Indy in 2013 gave him a hat trick of hat tricks for his first remarkable season in MotoGP. It was his third consecutive win at Indianapolis, the other two having come in Moto2. It marked his third consecutive win in 2013 following superlative outings at The Sachsenring and Laguna Seca. And it was his third consecutive win in the US, following wins in Austin and Monterey. Pedrosa took second place that day, Lorenzo third, and Rossi a distant fourth. Having topped the time sheets in every practice session, the defending world champion’s win on Sunday came as no surprise.

Last year Marquez made it four in a row at Indianapolis, beating Lorenzo by 1.8 seconds and Rossi by 6.5. He was running in third place when the two Italian leaders, Rossi and Dovizioso, had their own close encounter on Lap 6, forcing both to run wide and opening the door for Marquez. Modifications to the layout and to the racing surface during the offseason made Indianapolis more Yamaha-friendly than it had previously been, but the Catalan’s win last year put him 10 for 10 in 2014, his cushion by then so large that he was able to coast to the title despite a relatively ordinary second half season. Lorenzo, as we know, mounted a furious second half charge which fell short but which helped propel him to a strong start this year.

Silly Sponsorship Season Surprises

Events of the past three weeks have revealed just how tenuous many of the sponsor relationships are in this game. In a boutique sport like MotoGP (as opposed to a mass market industry like the NFL), owners often need to seek out sponsors who, sharing William F. Buckley’s famous view on yachtsmen, “enjoy standing under a cold shower tearing up $100 bills.” Several dominoes have fallen recently, the most unsavory being the jailing of Forward Racing boss Giovanni Cuzari on charges of money laundering, tax evasion and bribery, with an investigation of LCR Racing’s lead sponsor, CWM (Capital World Markets) boss Anthony Constantinou on charges of sexual harassment running a close second.

BradlForward Racing will not compete in Indianapolis, leaving the team in disarray and ascendant rookie Loris Baz unseated in the midst of competing for the open class championship. Forward lead sponsor Athina Eyewear has now bailed as well, and the team has released the struggling Stefan Bradl from his contract just in time for the German to sign up for the #2 Gresini Aprilia seat recently vacated by one Marco Melandri. [With Bradl having to come to grips with the pokey Aprilia, and Toni Elias subbing for Karel Abraham on the Cardion customer Honda, things look to get very crowded at the back of the pack in Indianapolis.]

All of the above has put the fortunes of both Forward Racing and LCR in jeopardy for 2016. And, while Bradl has kept his iron in the fire, moving from the Forward Yamaha to the Gresini Aprilia cannot be viewed as a career advancement. If such action had occurred on track, it would have been referred to as “a gigantic moment.” Meanwhile, it appears likely that LCR will be unable to field a two bike team next year, with Jack Miller’s prospects, bolstered by HRC, for continuing with the team apparently stronger than Cal Crutchlow’s, as the Brit has seriously underachieved, while running his mouth and burning yet more bridges, on his Honda RC213V this season. Poor Cal may have to go crawling on his belly back to Tech 3 which, in my opinion anyway, would be foolish to part with Pol Espargaro in favor of the consistently disgruntled and older Crutchlow.

Regular Early Silly Season Stuff

A loyal reader has pointed out how 2016 looks to be a lousy year to be a rookie in MotoGP, what with the adopted changes in electronics and tires combining to throw a one-two punch at everyone and sure to make life especially difficult for newbies. Add to this the fact that the riders in the upper tranches are already contracted for 2016. The emerging sponsorship difficulties at the back of the pack, Nicky Hayden’s long-expected move to World Super Bike notwithstanding, and rumors swirling around Johann Zarco, Tito Rabat and Sam Lowes suggest there may be more bums than seats available next year. It is easy to imagine the grid shrinking for a year before KTM joins the fray in 2017.

Your Weekend Forecast

With conditions at the IMS expected to be hot and humid, look for the Hondas to enjoy their usual advantage in such conditions. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Marquez at the top of the podium and Pedrosa on a lower step, with either Rossi or Lorenzo making up the final rostrum spot. We’ll have race results and analysis right here on Sunday afternoon.

2013; 2013 MotoGP; Circuit of the Americas; Dani Pedrosa; Honda; Jorge Lorenzo; Marc Marquez; Podium; Repsol; Sport Bike Race; Yamaha; Yamaha Factory Racing


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