Posts Tagged ‘Sport’

MotoGP Valencia Preview

November 6, 2017

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Dovizioso vs. Marquez: David vs. Goliath 2017 

So, 2017 has all come down to this–a technical showdown between Repsol Honda studmuffin Marc Marquez, gripping a 21-point lead, and a determined Andrea Dovizioso, virtually hopeless onboard the Ducati GP17, for all the marbles on Sunday. Even if Dovi wins, Marquez has to finish worse than 11th in order to choke this one away. To clarify, it is a showdown in only the most technical, theoretical sense. It will take a Dovizioso win and direct intervention by the racing gods to keep Marc Marquez from MotoGP title #4 on Sunday. 

Decades ago a nominally Catholic friend of mine came up with a premise as to which team eventually wins the NFL Super Bowl each season, The Blessed Quarterback Theory. Each year it’s just the blessed quarterback’s team that wins, regardless of anyone’s skill or resume. Paging Mark Rypien and Trent Dilfer. Works the same way in MotoGP. You look at the saves Marquez has made since coming up. Jorge Lorenzo was blessed in 2015. If Dovi somehow pulls it off on Sunday—millions hope he will—it will be because he, not Marquez, was the blessed rider in 2017. Otherwise, it’s status quo ante.

Recent history at Valencia 

The 2014 race was wet-ish and the title had been decided weeks earlier. Lorenzo slid out of the race late in the day. Marquez took the largely decorative win joined on the podium by Rossi and Pedrosa. The day’s procession culminated in the coronation of Marquez for the second time in his first two years, and the MotoGP world appeared to be his oyster.

No one who reads this stuff is likely to forget the 2015 season finale, at which Jorge Lorenzo won from pole while loathed championship rival and “teammate” Valentino Rossi, having been penalized for his antics with Marquez in Sepang the previous round, was forced to start from the back of the grid and could only (only) make his way back to fourth place at the finish.  There was additional controversy as to why the Repsol Honda team appeared to ride as wingmen for Lorenzo, never seriously challenging him over the last few laps.

Last year, Lorenzo was anxious for a win in his final race for Yamaha, wanting to go out on top after a difficult season.  Marquez wanted to cap off his third premier class title with an exclamation point, as well as to avoid an awkward podium celebration.  Jorge ended up winning the race, Marquez secured the title, and the podium celebration was awkward, the Spanish national anthem blaring in the background, Lorenzo over-celebrating and Marquez looking somewhat abashed, as if he were crashing Lorenzo’s party, along with Andrea Iannone, who was, in fact, crashing Lorenzo’s party.

Of the Aliens or former Aliens, Pedrosa has three wins and three podia in 11 starts. Rossi has two wins and six podia to show for 17 starts since 2000, but the most recent of those was in 2004, when Marquez was 11 years old. Jorge Lorenzo, in eight premier class starts, has four wins and a third-place finish in 2009 to go along with several violent DNFs. Vinales has bupkus, but this is a Yamaha track. Or used to be.

Marquez can boast a win, two places and a show in four MotoGP tries, barely breaking a sweat. Just once, I’d like to see him race here in anger with something on the line.  Back in 2012, he won the Moto2 race here after starting 33rd. As for the factory Ducati team, you have one rider who desperately needs to win on Sunday and his currently winless teammate who has dominated at Ricardo Tormo in recent years.

This could get interesting. What is that term again?  Team orders?

A Word About Valentino Rossi

“You have to believe in what they can do, not what they’re doing.”

A.J. Hinch, Manager, World Champion Houston Astros

Over long periods of time, we all evaluate what these riders have done. The coach was referring to his leadoff hitter, and I’m talking about the folks who expect #46 to win his 10th, and last, MotoGP title in 2018. With Rossi, an objective assessment of what he’s done since his last title in 2009 suggests he peaked around 2008-2009. But the folks who wear goofy yellow wigs and set off smoke bombs and bombard me with constructive criticism believe in what Rossi can do—they’ve watched him do it for years—not what he’s doing. He is arguably the best MotoGP rider of all time. Just. Not. Now. Now, he is competitive—highly tranched, but not realistically expected to win titles. Unless you’ve got the wig and the smoke bombs and the Kool-Aid…

Final 2017 Tranches

After Round 16    Phillip Island 

Tranche 1:   Marquez

Tranche 2:   Rossi, Vinales, Dovi, Pedrosa, Zarco, A Espargaro, P Espargaro

Tranche 3:   Petrucci, Rins, Iannone, Redding, Miller, Crutchlow, Lorenzo

Tranche 4:   Baz, Bautista, Smith, Abraham, Rabat

Tranche 5:   Lowes, (Folger), Barbera 

After Round 17    Sepang 

Tranche 1:   Marquez, Dovizioso

Tranche 2:   Rossi, Vinales, Pedrosa, Zarco, A Espargaro*, Lorenzo

Tranche 3:   Petrucci, Redding, Miller, Crutchlow, (P Espargaro)↓, Bautista↑ 

Tranche 4:   Baz, Smith, Rabat, Iannone↓, Rins

Tranche 5:   Lowes, (Folger), Barbera, Abraham 

After Sunday’s race we will compare the above tranching to the actual results, i.e., how many of the riders were in the correct group according to the final points. Folger, a top tenner all year, will get hosed, but that’s the way it goes. He would likely be a 3. 

(Wonder how Zarco and Folger feel about moving UP to the 2017 Tech 3 Yamaha M1 next season. Wonder if they’ll ask to stick with the 2016 iteration.) Zarco’s bank account gonna get laced in 2019 fo’ sho’. 

Final Thoughts and Weekend Forecast

Perhaps the reason Valencia is awarded the last race each season is the weather. Not that it’s always great, but because when it is great, it’s really great. The long- range forecast for the weekend is sunny, breezy, dry and perfect, with daytime temps reaching 70° F. Enough sun to warm the track and tires for the riders, and paradise for the teams and fans.

As I’ve said elsewhere, I think the best thing that could happen to this race would be for Marquez to blow an engine, slide or go walky out of the points in the first lap or two. This would eliminate any touchy, don’t-be-the-guy-who-cost-Marquez-the-title riding around him, which ain’t nobody need.

What it would do is make for an astonishingly meaningful race if Dovizioso is at or near the front with one or two of the other fast movers. Teammate and homeboy Lorenzo, who desperately wants his first win on the Ducati and has team orders to “help” Dovi. Homeboy Dani Pedrosa, untitled in the premier class, with team orders to beat Dovizioso. Homeboy Maverick Vinales, whose bike historically loves a dry Ricardo Tormo and who needs to fulfill my preseason prediction of four wins. Cal Crutchlow. Andrea Iannone. Sam Lowes. Someone.

So, as the sports seasons—football, basketball, hockey—start getting juicy in the United States, MotoGP is preparing to call it another year.  Reason #644 in my book 1000 Reasons MotoGP is Invisible in the United States, subtitled “Yet Another Reason I’m Not Rich and Famous.”

We are looking forward to a memorable race on Sunday, and will have results and analysis right here sometime, um, Sunday. Probably earlier if it is revealed that Andrea Dovizioso is the blessed rider of 2017. “Dog Bites Man” can wait until later in the day.

Next Stop: Indianapolis

August 18, 2008

Here’s what we know heading into Event #14 on the MotoGP circuit at the Brickyard on September 14:

Rossi is the man.  By far, the best rider out there this year.  He is going to be hard to beat for the title, which is not to say he may not be beatable at the IMS.  The long main straight at IMS has got to favor Ducati, whether it’s Stoner or the new guy, Toni Elias.  And some people wonder whether Stoner is big enough physically to handle that bike of his, which he’s laid down twice in the last two races.  The two Spaniards, Lorenzo and Pedrosa, crossed the line between bravery and recklessness more than once and are paying for it with their fractures.  They’ll be back, as fast and dangerous as ever, and soon.

World Championship Standings after 13 events:

Pos. Rider Nation Team Points
1 Valentino ROSSI ITA Fiat Yamaha Team 237
2 Casey STONER AUS Ducati Marlboro Team 187
3 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team 172
4 Jorge LORENZO SPA Fiat Yamaha Team 120
5 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA JiR Team Scot MotoGP 110
6 Colin EDWARDS USA Tech 3 Yamaha 102
7 Chris VERMEULEN AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 99
8 Nicky HAYDEN USA Repsol Honda Team 84
9 Shinya NAKANO JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini 83
10 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 77
11 James TOSELAND GBR Tech 3 Yamaha 75
12 Toni ELIAS SPA Alice Team 66
13 Alex DE ANGELIS RSM San Carlo Honda Gresini 49
14 Sylvain GUINTOLI FRA Alice Team 42
15 Marco MELANDRI ITA Ducati Marlboro Team 41
16 Randy DE PUNIET FRA LCR Honda MotoGP 40
17 John HOPKINS USA Kawasaki Racing Team 37
18 Anthony WEST AUS Kawasaki Racing Team 33
19 Ben SPIES USA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 10
20 Jamie HACKING USA Kawasaki Racing Team 5
21 Tadayuki OKADA JPN Repsol Honda Team 2

Brno Results:

Pos. Rider Nation Team Total time
1 V. ROSSI ITA Fiat Yamaha Team 43’28.841
2 T. ELIAS SPA Alice Team + 15.004
3 L. CAPIROSSI ITA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP + 21.689
4 S. NAKANO JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini + 25.859
5 A. WEST AUS Kawasaki Racing Team + 29.465
6 C. VERMEULEN AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP + 30.608
7 M. MELANDRI ITA Ducati Marlboro Team + 36.453
8 A. DE ANGELIS RSM San Carlo Honda Gresini + 36.750
9 A. DOVIZIOSO ITA JiR Team Scot MotoGP + 38.822
10 J. LORENZO SPA Fiat Yamaha Team + 39.573
11 J. HOPKINS USA Kawasaki Racing Team + 39.610
12 S. GUINTOLI FRA Alice Team + 40.892
13 J. TOSELAND GBR Tech 3 Yamaha + 1’11.490
14 C. EDWARDS USA Tech 3 Yamaha + 1’21.133
15 D. PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team + 1’37.038
16 R. DE PUNIET FRA LCR Honda MotoGP + 1’38.407
DNF
C. STONER AUS Ducati Marlboro Team 16 Lap
Rossi winning at Brno.  Courtesy of motogp.com

Rossi winning at Brno. Courtesy of motogp.com

Here is motogp.com’s report on the race at Brno in the Czech Republic on Sunday August 17:

Valentino Rossi once again benefited from Casey Stoner´s misfortune for a second consecutive MotoGP victory, crossing the finish line first at the Cardion ab Grand Prix Ceske republiky. The Fiat Yamaha rider´s win –coupled with an early crash from his title rival- increased his lead to 50 points in the standings and dealt a crucial strike to his World Championship chances.

Stoner was caught by surprise on the sixth lap when out at the front. He had over a second of advantage over Rossi after taking the holeshot, but slipped his front wheel out on the new Brno asphalt and was lowsided into the gravel. It was Stoner´s first DNF since his joining the Ducati Marlboro team for the 2007 season.

Ducati were, however, represented on the podium in the Czech Republic, courtesy of Alice Team rider Toni Elias. The Spaniard had experienced problems on the sighting lap –a sign that did not bode well for his race- but burst through the 800cc stars ahead of him from thirteenth on the grid. His second place marks the first podium for both he and his satellite team in 2008, and he became only the second satellite rider to step onto the rostrum this year.

Another podium first came from Loris Capirossi, as the veteran made his maiden appearance on the rostrum for Rizla Suzuki. The Italian had taken off from the end of the third row, but showed that there was still life in his MotoGP career by making Suzuki the fourth manufacturer with which he had taken a top three finish in the premier class.

Shinya Nakano paid back Honda for their decision to supply him with a factory spec RC212V for the remainder of the season, giving an immediate return with fourth place for San Carlo Honda Gresini. The Japanese rider was the highest placing rider for the manufacturer, with Michelin-shod factory man Dani Pedrosa way down in fifteenth place.

Riding for his future in MotoGP, Anthony West had the best result of his premier class career onboard the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-RR. The Australian came home fifth after a superb ride, holding off fellow countryman Chris Vermeulen.

Marco Melandri finished seventh in a race that will do much to aid his cause, whilst the top ten was completed by Alex de Angelis, Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo. The latter two were the only Michelin riders amongst the first ten past the line.