Posts Tagged ‘Repsol Honda’

2010: Lorenzo enjoys a late lunch at Jerez

April 25, 2017

© Bruce Allen

Filet of Rossi on Lap 21; Roast of Pedrosa on Lap 27 

The Gran Premio bwin de Espana at Jerez de la Frontera on Sunday was a hash of the worst and the best that MotoGP has to offer.  The first 22 laps were an absolute parade with virtually no lead changes and little drama, aside from guys pushing 200 mph on two wheels.  The last five laps were a masterpiece by Jorge Lorenzo, who moved from fourth place to first for his first win of 2010.  In the process, he again demonstrated the patience and strategic thinking he has lacked until now.  It appears that his development as the heir apparent to Valentino Rossi may now be in its final stages. 

Sunday was a perfect day on the dazzling Spanish Riviera.  The usual suspects had qualified well on Saturday, led, somewhat surprisingly, by homeboy Dani Pedrosa, who apparently solved the suspension problems that had plagued him all year.  Pedrosa was on the pole, followed by Lorenzo, Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi.  Nicky Hayden, Randy de Puniet and Colin Edwards completed Tranche One on this round, and it looked as if the long-suffering Pedrosa might enjoy his first day in the sun since his win last year at Valencia.

Recall that Round 1 in Qatar had left Casey Stoner gasping for air, Valentino Rossi looking impregnable, and Jorge Lorenzo sporting the long-awaited maturity he had lacked as recently as last season.  Lorenzo’s balls-to-the-wall racing style had secured second place in the world in 2009, but the three DNFs he recorded in his reckless (not wreckless) style had probably cost him the championship.  At Qatar, Nicky Hayden looked rejuvenated, Andrea Dovizioso looked threatening, and rookie Ben Spies looked ready for prime time.

As they say here in Spain, “Bienvenido a Espana.”

For the bulk of the first 20 laps today, it was Pedrosa, Rossi, Hayden, Lorenzo, Stoner and Dovizioso going round and round.  There was some action in the seven-to-eleven spots, but I’m generally too busy to pay much attention to that stuff.  Several riders went walkabout early on, including the soon-to-be-late Loris Capirossi and Aleix Espargaro.  Pramac Racing’s Espargaro recovered and re-entered the race, only to spend most of his day working feverishly trying not to get lapped by Pedrosa.  Ben Spies retired on Lap 7 with mechanical issues.  By Lap 20, the guys in the row front of us started passing big joints around, noticeably bypassing us.  One of the gorgeous brunettes (a dime a dozen in these parts) in the stand next to us was fiddling with her split ends.  “Off in the distance, a dog howled.”

Suddenly, it became obvious that Jorge Lorenzo had found something.

On Lap 10 he had passed Hayden without breaking a sweat, and began patiently lining up Rossi.  By Lap 21 he was on top of Rossi, and then past him.  Pedrosa, who led all day by more than a second—plenty in MotoGP time—led Lorenzo by .8 at that point.  I was thinking it would end up Pedrosa/Lorenzo/Rossi, a nice day for the hometown crowd, when Lorenzo left Rossi in his wake and drew a bead on Pedrosa.

Everyone knows the depth of enjoyment Jorge Lorenzo experiences passing teammate and arch rival Valentino Rossi.  Judging from how Lorenzo handled himself on the last three laps of this race, it’s possible he enjoys taking down Dani Pedrosa equally well.  Teammate or countryman?  Countryman or teammate?  Who really knows what’s going on in Jorge Lorenzo’s head?

Not that it matters.  Both Lorenzo and Pedrosa performed as expected in the last five laps of the race.  Lorenzo exerted his will on his bike and his countryman.  Pedrosa rode well in the lead and folded when it mattered, running wide in a late right-hander and allowing Lorenzo through, conceding the path to the win.  Talking a brave game all week long and then lacking los cojones at the moment of truth to hold his ground and force Lorenzo on to the brakes.  The book on Dani is “doesn’t like to mix it up in the corners.”  The book had it dead right today.

All in all, it was a great day to be a Spanish racing fan.  Early in the morning, it was 18-year old Spaniard Daniel Ruiz starting the day by winning the first Rookie’s Cup race of the season.  Pol Espargaro took the 125cc race while many of the fans were still finding their way to their seats.  Toni Elias, fresh off his crash in Qatar and nursing a bad wrist, battled Thomas Luthi and Shoya Tomizawa all day and finally prevailed for his first Moto2 win before his home fans, most of whom were delirious with joy at the end of the race.  Lorenzo and Pedrosa took the top two spots on the premier class podium.  And although the fans claim to prefer Pedrosa to Lorenzo, as Jorge hails all the way from Barcelona, for God’s sake, it appears they’ve grown a little weary of Pedrosa’s mad Chihuahua routine, his underdog-singing-the-blues rap.  There was no shortage of Lorenzo fans in today’s crowd.

Elsewhere on the grid, Pramac’s Mika Kallio had a great day, starting dead last and finishing 7th.   Marco Melandri recovered from a dreadful outing in Qatar to finish 8th today.  LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet qualified 6th and finished 9th, making him two for two this year qualifying better on Saturday than he raced on Sunday.  Alvaro Bautista recovered from a last lap fall in Qatar to finish 10th and claim the Top Rookie of the Week award from Hiroshi Aoyama, who won it at Losail but struggled today, finishing 14th.

The top five finishers in a great 17 lap Moto2 race today included Elias, Shoya Tomizawa, Thomas Luthi, Yuki “Crash” Takahashi and Simone Corsi.  The race was red-flagged early due to a pile-up involving some nine bikes, the first of what promises to be many such collisions in the overcrowded Moto2 field.

The crowd seemed as interested in the 125s today as they were the big bikes.  Espargaro claimed the top spot on the podium, flanked by two other Spaniards, Nicolas Terol and Esteve Rabat.

On to Le Mans for Round 3.

MotoGP 2015 Indianapolis Preview

August 4, 2015

Aliens expecting close encounter at The Brickyard.

By Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com.

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

MotoGP 2012 Laguna Seca Results

July 29, 2012

An edited version of this article will appear on Motorcycle.com on Monday, complete with hi-rez photos.  Until then, please enjoy this summary of the MotoGP 2012 U.S. Grand Prix.

Stoner Outduels Lorenzo in Replay of 2011 Classic

Defending world champion Casey drove his Repsol Honda RC213V past Yamaha mullah Jorge Lorenzo into the lead on Lap 22 of today’s U.S. Grand Prix for a convincing and refreshing win, his third at Laguna Seca.  This turn of events provided observers with a startling déjà vu of last year’s race.  Stoner’s Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa finished third both years, adding the same eerie similarity to the podium celebration and post-race press conference.

I knew something weird was happening in Monterey when I glanced at the results of the first two practice sessions and noticed that the top five spots in each were identical.  FP3 was mostly fogged out, and the Repsol Honda team blew it off in the garage playing euchre rather than tackling The Corkscrew blindfolded.  Lorenzo snatched the pole from Stoner on the last lap of the QP, and then Stoner topped Lorenzo in the warm-up practice on Sunday morning by a full 1/1000th of a second, after waiting an hour for the fog to clear.  Although the podium duplicated last year’s rostrum, the lead-up to the weekend was vastly different.

Recall last year.  Heading to California, Stoner was enjoying a string of seven straight podium finishes, and led defending champion Lorenzo by 15 points.  Lorenzo had been having a great season until he crashed out at Silverstone and finished a lowly sixth at Assen.  Curiously, on Saturday Stoner had given himself virtually no chance of winning, all but conceding the round to his Alien rivals, a master class in sandbagging.

Despite having amassed a total of eight (8) points in the last two rounds and trailing Lorenzo by 37, Stoner started this weekend quick and got better each day.  Curiously, he was the only one of the top six riders to choose the softer option rear tire on a day when the sun was quickly heating the racing surface.  My thought was he would try to jump out to the lead and hope his tire held up long enough to fend off his challengers late in the race.  And though he was able to go through on Pedrosa on lap 3, it took him 22 laps to pass Lorenzo.  At that point I, for one, expected the Spaniard to win the race, thinking that his rear tire would outlast Stoner’s.

Wrong.  The Australian did a masterful job managing his rubber, and still looked strong at the end of the day.  Lorenzo, visibly exhausted after the race, didn’t have enough left in his tank to mount a serious rally at the end.  Pedrosa observed after the race that the soft tire was too soft and the hard tire had no grip, and seemed pleased to have finished third.

When the tire dust cleared, the standings at the top of the 2012 chart had tightened slightly.  Stoner became the first three-time winner at Laguna, where Hondas have won four of the eight races since 2005; it is inarguably a Honda-friendly layout.  Lorenzo, with four consecutive poles but only one win, enjoys a larger lead leaving California than when he arrived.  Pedrosa is, as yet, uninjured in 2012.  Heading into the summer break, everyone has something they can feel good about.

Well, Not Exactly Everyone

Laguna Seca lived up to its reputation as a thorny place to ride motorcycles at high speeds.  By lap 2, both CRT pilot Michele Pirro and Pramac Racing designated victim Toni Elias had crashed out.  Two CRT pilots retired with mechanical problems or, more likely, Corkscrew-induced psychological issues, and James Ellison crashed on lap 20.  None of these mishaps had anything to do with anything.

That would change on lap 22, when the luckless Ben Spies endured an ugly crash out of fourth place, ruining yet another weekend for the wayward American.  No one on the grid tries harder, or has less to show for his efforts.  As the old blues standard laments, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”  Having injured his heel in a QP crash, Spies may have added to his medical woes ending his day with an Olympic-caliber double back flip in the tuck position, with a degree of difficulty of 4.3 out of 5.

The last and most surprising fall of the day occurred on lap 29, when Valentino Rossi, who never crashes, lost it at the top of the corkscrew for his first DNF of the season.  We knew Rossi had a lot on his mind before the race, with the speculation about his future with Ducati and rumors of a return to the factory Yamaha team swirling.  His Italian employers sent one of their Bigga Bosses to California to make The Doctor a final offer for next year, somewhere in the neighborhood of €17 million ($21 million) to waste another of the last few years of a great career wrestling the demonic Desmosedici.  Vale didn’t appear to have much on his mind at all after the crash, wandering around in the gravel looking like he’d had his bell rung, waiting for his own personal fog to clear.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Tech 3 Yamaha teammates Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow spent another lovely Sunday afternoon bashing each others’ brains in, finishing 4-5 for the fourth time this season.  Nicky Hayden, glowing after having signed another one year contract with the Italian factory, went through on rookie Stefan Bradl late in the day to claim 6th place, relegating the German to a still respectable 7th in his first visit to Laguna.

San Carlo Honda’s Alvaro Bautista started 7th and finished 8th, another nondescript day at the office for the young Spaniard.  Aleix Espargaro, clearly the cream of the CRT crop, finished ninth, with” Kareless” Abraham rounding out the top ten in his first return to action since Barcelona.

Bits and Pieces

The Hayden-Ducati marriage appears to work better for Nicky than for Ducati, as his best days are well behind him.  Over the past three seasons he’s managed a single third place finish each year, and the last of his three (3) premier class wins came back in 2006, when he somehow won the world championship with a thin 252 points.  (In 2008, Pedrosa would finish third with 249 points.)  Other than name recognition, the Kentucky Kid doesn’t bring much to the party any more.

Rumor has it that Fausto Gresini, the volatile manager of the San Carlo team, is courting Andrea Dovizioso to return to the Honda family that so unceremoniously dumped him last year.  Fausto has clearly lost whatever confidence he ever had in Bautista.  Whether he can convince Dovizioso to wear Honda colors again is problematic.  Personally, I think Dovizioso has earned the second factory Yamaha seat, and that Rossi could again be competitive on the factory-spec San Carlo Honda.

An interesting bit of trivia concerns the Constructors Trophy awarded each year to the manufacturer whose riders earn the most points.  Not surprisingly, Honda and Yamaha sit tied at the top of the pile.  But third place Ducati is much closer points-wise to the Aprilia ART bikes than to the two Japanese manufacturers.  We’ve come up with a term to describe the increasing irrelevance of the Ducati MotoGP program:  Suzukification.