Posts Tagged ‘Valenciana’

MotoGP Valencia Setup

October 30, 2017

© Bruce Allen.                      October 30, 2017

Nine years since Casey Stoner won on a Ducati at Valencia, yet Dovizioso has to win on Sunday or else. Yamahas have done OK, too.

Assume Marquez slides out of the race on Lap 1. I know, I know.

In addition to Dovi, not counting Jorge Lorenzo, who wouldn’t dare, there are still four or five guys who are ready, willing and able to win in Valencia, which means Dovi has his work cut out for him. Guys who could be leading or closing on him as the last lap approaches. Maverick Vinales. Johann Zarco. Rossi? Probably not, for a number of reasons. Dani Pedrosa, Marquez’ wingman for the weekend, who could win the race and give his teammate a title at the same time. Who doesn’t give a shit about Andrea Dovizioso or Ducati. Cal Crutchlow. Aleix.

So, what we may get is what we asked for—a last lap battle for a title—between Dovizioso and somebody, just not Marquez, with nine years of history running against the Italian. Marquez, one believes, is not going to do too much fighting this weekend. Dovi is going to do nothing but fight. And I can’t imagine too many people getting too geeked up watching Dovi win and Marquez finish a distant sixth, say, and winning the title anyway.

If, on the other hand, Marquez is running by himself in 7th place with two laps left, riders who might have been deferring to Dovi, if any, could change their minds and go after him. Even Lorenzo, whose team orders would have likely expired by then. I would pay good money to see Lorenzo and Dovi going neck and neck during the final lap, even with the title effectively out of reach. Lorenzo wanting his first win on the Ducati. Dovi wanting to keep his disappearing title chance alive.

That would be worth the price of admission. In fact, the odds, as I see them, are pretty high that we will have a dramatic last lap or three, with the title possibly on the line. Take THAT, F-1.

If this site had the horsepower, I would offer up a real survey.

Survey: Rider Most Likely to Fight with Dovizioso over the Last Two Laps:

◊ Maverick Vinales
◊ Johann Zarco
◊ Dani Pedrosa
◊ Cal Crutchlow
◊ Aleix Espargaro

MotoGP 2015 Valencia Results

November 8, 2015

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Jorge Lorenzo seizes win, snatches 2015 title from Rossi

The record books will show that Jorge Lorenzo’s win today, together with Valentino Rossi’s 4th place finish, gave the 2015 championship to Lorenzo by five points. There will be documentation attesting to the fact that Valentino Rossi passed 20 riders in the first 10 laps, ultimately making it up to 4th place on the grid, at which point he was spent.

LorenzoCaptureThere will be no explanation, visual or otherwise, why either of the Repsol Hondas didn’t give Lorenzo a serious go on the last two laps; the term “team orders” has ceased to exist. The three points given Rossi by Race Direction after Sepang were, in the end, decisive.

The bells are not ringing in Tavullia tonight.

Setting the Stage

Jorge Lorenzo laid down “the best lap of my life,” in his words, on Saturday to capture pole in a race where getting away at the front would solve a lot of problems. Joined on the front row by Repsol Honda troublemakers Marc Marquez and the suddenly-hot Dani Pedrosa, Lorenzo earned the best possible track to the title on Saturday.

Everyone know Rossi would be starting from the back row. Everyone had done the math about where Rossi would arrive when. Lorenzo knew, as we all knew, that winning the race meant Rossi’s eventual placement was less of a concern; anything outside of second would put the Italian in 2nd place for the season.

pedrosa-marquezThus, on a Honda-friendly track, in front of a sellout crowd and actual millions watching on TV around the world, Jorge Lorenzo exerted his will upon the field and his top competitors to win in Valencia. In a must-win situation he showed us his mental toughness and again brings into question why he bothered to get involved in the Rossi/Marquez tiff. Had he floated above the controversy, his title would shine a lot brighter than it does. He reminds me of my wife’s strong suggestion that I never resist an opportunity to keep my mouth shut.

On the Track…

…The Usual Suspects took their places, Lorenzo followed closely by Marquez, Pedrosa trailing and, eventually, Rossi occupying fourth, unable to do anything about the action so far in front of him. For Rossi to claim the title, he needed both Marquez and Pedrosa to treat Lorenzo rudely, going through to put the Mallorcan in third place.

Amazingly, Lorenzo led Marquez and Pedrosa at the end of Lap 1 and at the end of Lap 30, without having to withstand a serious challenge of any import along the way. This oddity, which also resulted in an all-Spanish podium, is a little fishy. The casual observer, if the top three wore the same livery, might deduce that #93 and #26 were protecting the back of #99. The world will never know.

The worst part of all of this, as we know, is that the specific sanction imposed upon Rossi by Race Direction after Sepang had a direct bearing on the outcome of the season. What if Race Direction had, in its wisdom, assessed Rossi a two point penalty, slapping him on the wrist but allowing him to qualify? Is it that hard to see him finishing second from a second row start on a day the factory Hondas were not getting froggy?

And with triple world champion Lorenzo in effect criticizing the penalty as too lenient, is there any reason to suppose the team won’t be building a wall down the middle of the garage again in 2016, the way it was in 2009? No warm and fuzzies here.

Elsewhere on the Grid

bradley_smithPol Espargaro lashed his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha to the line three seconds in front of teammate Bradley Smith to capture fifth place for the day, Smith just showing Andrea Dovizioso and his Desmosedici the shade. Aleix Espargaro brought his factory Suzuki across the line in eighth, with Crutchlow and Danilo Petrucci bringing the LCR Honda and the Pramac Ducati, respectively, to the flag filling out the top ten.

Farther down the food chain, Maverick Vinales, Michele Pirro and Yonny Hernandez ended their year in the points. Vinales will continue with Suzuki in 2016, Pirro will continue to test for Ducati, and Hernandez moves to Aspar team but will remain on the junior class Ducati, teaming up with Eugene Laverty who stays with Aspar. Today, in his last MotoGP start, American Nicky Hayden finished 17th and out of the money, but he finished, as has been declared a MotoGP Legend, with three career wins and a championship to show for his body of work in the premier class. I hope he can find a competitive team and win a title in WSBK, one of the genuine nice guys in the industry.

Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl finished 14th and 18th today, and will begin practicing on the new Aprilia MotoGP bike on Tuesday in Jerez. Brit Scott Redding ended his generally fruitless association with Marc VDS Honda and will be suiting up for Pramac Ducati alongside Petrucci. (Scott, wouldn’t it have been easier just to lose 15 pounds?) Marc VDS will, in 2016, be bringing Tito Rabat up from Moto2 to ride alongside Jack Miller. Loris Baz will join top open class rider Hector Barbera at Avintia Ducati.

The top factory and satellite teams are standing pat, meaning some riders will not have seats for next season. This is life in the slow lane of MotoGP.

The Final Big Picture of 2015

Lorenzo edges Rossi for the title, with Marquez third and Pedrosa fourth; the Aliens remain unchallenged. Andrea Iannone outpoints Brit Bradley Smith by seven to claim fifth, with Smith the top satellite rider in sixth. Dovizioso slips to seventh place for the year, ahead of Brit Crutchlow in eighth. And Pol Espargaro pips Danilo Petrucci by a single point in the race for ninth place. The two Suzukis finish 11th and 12th, Espargaro outpointing his rookie teammate by eight.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

So MotoGP now has four respectable, competitive manufacturers, two of which have Alien class riders. The rule and tire changes for 2016 will shuffle the deck to a degree, but should not change the order of Aliens. Several junior class riders—Alex Rins and Miguel Oliveira among them—are soon going to be working in the premier class, along with some talented young Italian riders.

The Marquez-Rossi flap this season has exposed some weakness in the relationship between teams and sponsors, with some sponsors seizing upon the opportunity to back out of agreements going forward. Repsol is having a terrible year, courtesy of cheap crude oil prices, and was offended by the event, as was Honda, as was Movistar, as was Yamaha. There is no reason to expect that these types of incidents won’t continue to occur in the coming years.

Indianapolis is gone from the calendar, replaced by Austria, and the calendar is lengthened by a week. Testing this week at Jerez marks the beginning of next season, new bums on new seats. New tires. New electronics.

Goodbye to 2015

Each year, we try to find a quote that summarizes the season we’ve just seen. Without even doing the research, I recalled a statement from a movie several years ago that I believe sums up 2015 for Jorge Lorenzo. Heading into the season, there was faint hope that he would be able to compete with Marquez. As Marquez faltered, Rossi rallied, and Lorenzo was in a season-long dogfight.

There were plenty of points in the season where Lorenzo could have given up. In response to one, he went on a four race win streak. He kept it close until the very last week of the season, and had enough left to seize the day when the opportunity presented itself. He kept the faith.

It could have been Jorge Lorenzo that the young proprietor of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was speaking about when he observed,

“Everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out,
it is not yet the end.”

We look forward to bringing you MotoGP again next season.

MotoGP 2015 Valencia Preview

November 4, 2015

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

45 Minutes to a Championship

The two weeks leading up to the deciding moment of the 2015 MotoGP title have been unsatisfactory. Unsatisfactory in the extreme. For only the third time in 24 years, the premier class title will be decided in Valencia. But title contenders and factory Yamaha teammates Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi have gotten wrapped around the axle in a dispute with Repsol Honda #1 Marc Marquez that has stolen the spotlight from the race and shifted it to, of all places, an obscure courtroom in Switzerland.

Tossi-vs-marquez-di-sepanghis is so 21st century. A high-stakes sporting event engenders controversy on the track, the organizing body fails to fully resolve it to the satisfaction of the principals, and the lawsuits start flying. Deflategate on two wheels. Rossi fans are outraged. Marquez fans are outraged. Lorenzo and his fans, firmly in command of the low moral ground, insist Rossi should have been black-flagged on Lap 7 in Sepang, effectively handing the 2015 championship to #99.

Actually, it’s probably a good thing this is happening in the 21st century rather than the 19th, when Italy might have declared war on Spain.

Not having a dog in this fight, as well as being on deadline, I just wish for the whole thing to be settled. Now. Let Rossi’s penalty points be removed. Make him start from the back of the grid. Whatever. Just please don’t kick the can down the road and leave it to be fully adjudicated until next year. We, the fans of MotoGP, need closure. Preferably before Friday. As I’ve said before in this space, right now would be fine.

Recent History at Valencia

In 2012, Jorge Lorenzo had clinched his second premier class title at Phillip Island two weeks earlier and had nothing at stake in this one. The weather was, like a decent rosé, semi-dry. It had rained before the race, and was spitting at the start, but would end up dry, the worst possible conditions for the riders. A select few, including Lorenzo and Yamaha test rider Katsayugi “Catman” Nakasuga, took to the grid on slicks. Four others, having made their sighting lap on wets, would change over to slicks and start from pit lane. The remainders enjoyed one of the flag-to-flag affairs that almost always scrambles the results.

By the end of the day, Lorenzo had experienced a highside courtesy of pokey James Ellison, Dani Pedrosa had runDani-Pedrosa-2013-HD-Wallpaper-Photos away from the field, and The Catman, in the upset of the decade, occupied the second step of the podium between Pedrosa and Casey Stoner, who had run the last race of his first career. (Rumors floating around have him reuniting with Ducati for 2017, which I’ll believe when I see it.)

The 2013 finale was won by Lorenzo in a hollow victory, having failed to keep Marquez out of the top five, resulting in the remarkable rookie’s first premier class title. Lorenzo’s problem that day wasn’t Marquez but Dani Pedrosa, who kept pressure on the Mallorcan all day sufficient to prevent him from coming back to the field in an effort to hinder Marquez. Rossi, at the end of his first year back with Yamaha, was unable to lend his teammate a hand while finishing fourth. The Order of Aliens at season’s end was Marquez, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Rossi, an accurate reflection of their body of work over 18 rounds. Had Marquez not tagged Pedrosa’s traction control cable in Aragon, things might have worked out differently.

Last year’s race was, again, wettish, though the title had been decided weeks earlier. Lorenzo crashed in the rain with six laps left as Marquez was joined on the podium by Rossi and Pedrosa. The day’s procession culminated in the coronation of Marquez for the second time in two years, and the MotoGP world appeared to be his oyster. Little did we know then the trials 2015 held in store for him.

Of the four Aliens, Pedrosa can claim the best record here, with three wins and three podia in nine starts. Rossi has two wins and six podia to show for 15 starts since 2000, but the most recent of these came in 2004 when Marc Marquez was 11 years old. Jorge Lorenzo, in six premier class starts, has two wins and a third place finish in 2009 to go along with several violent DNFs. Marquez can boast of a win and a third in two MotoGP tries, barely breaking a sweat either time. Based upon history, one would expect the two Repsol Honda pilots to end the day on the podium, joined by a factory Yamaha rider to be named later.

A Riddle, Wrapped in a Mystery, Inside an Enigma

For the factory Yamaha team, preparing for the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana must feel like preparing for a wrestling cage match against, like, six different guys. One thing is certain: should Lorenzo outpoint Rossi by seven or more points, the title is his. Six points or less, the Italian walks away with his record-tying tenth world championship.

Should Rossi’s penalty points stick, his mission becomes clear. Starting from the back of the grid will force him to throw caution to the wind, put his head down, lay on the horn, and make every possible effort to emerge close to the front, assess where things stand vis à vis Lorenzo, and go from there. If the penalty points are thrown out or “deferred” in some fashion (gag me), his predicament will then resemble that of Lorenzo, as expressed so eloquently back in the early 70’s:

“I can’t make decisions, I don’t know which way I’m gonna turn.”
–Ray Davies, The Kinks
Acute Schizophrenia Blues

This is not a “win or bin” situation for either rider. Assuming Pedrosa and Marquez qualify well and become part of the front group, Lorenzo, and perhaps Rossi, must then engage in an exercise economists refer to as “game theory.” Neither can afford to crash, yet Lorenzo must figure out a way to keep Rossi behind him and a few other bikes between himself and Rossi. What Rossi does will affect Lorenzo’s strategy, and vice versa. One mustn’t go slow, but going too fast is risky, too. And it’s all complicated by the fact that the Ricardo Tormo circuit suits the Repsol Honda riders far better than it does the Yamaha duo. All of which ignores the agendas of a number of non-Aliens on the track as well.

Two points here: Dani Pedrosa is on a very hot streak and is likely to have a material effect on the outcome. And this weekend, perhaps more than any in recent history, the pit boards are likely to tell the story.

Most of the articles I’ve read about this weekend’s race steeply discount Rossi’s chances if he is, indeed, forced to start from the back row. That Marquez was able to win a Moto2 tilt from the exact same spot several years ago is, at this moment, almost poetic. The putative Greatest of All Time may have to approach, at age 36, a feat his likely successor accomplished while still in his teens. And while it’s arguably harder to slice through the entire MotoGP grid than a Moto2 grid, it is not beyond reason to suggest that Rossi, if anyone, can pull it off.

Rossi and Lorenzo BreakupThe weather forecast for the weekend is, at this writing, idyllic. Every ticket has been sold. The riders and their teams have aired their dirty linen. The CAS is sifting through facts and allegations. The camaraderie between Rossi and Lorenzo that developed between 2013 and now is history. Lin Jarvis and Livio Suppo are as nervous as Mike Tyson in a spelling bee. The table is set, and the guests are on their way. Warm up your DVR, because this is one you may want to watch again.

We’ll have race results and analysis right here on Sunday morning

MotoGP 2012 Valencia Results

November 11, 2012

An edited version of this article, complete with hi-rez photos, will appear on Motorcycle.com today or tomorrow.  Until then, enjoy the raw version here.

Dani Pedrosa wins for the seventh time to close out 2012 

The Gran Premio Generali de la Communitat Valenciana got underway today in the worst weather conditions possible for MotoGP racing—half wet and half dry.  20 minutes before the start, the 22 crews were going completely mental, trying to decide whether to send their guys out on slicks, rain tires, or perhaps one of each.  The resulting demolition derby left eight riders licking their wounds in garages and provided perhaps the strangest podium of the year. 

Valencia was the fourth race of the season in which the rostrum featured the two Repsol Honda pilots, Pedrosa and the retiring Casey Stoner, flanking a factory Yamaha rider.  In each of the previous three—Jerez, Estroril and Laguna Seca—that rider was Jorge Lorenzo, who was today gunning for his 17th podium of the season.  Having clinched the 2012 championship last time out in Australia, it was the only goal left for him today, but it was a biggie, an all-timer that might have stood for years.  Today, however, the man in second place was Katsuyuki Nakasuga, the factory test rider assigned to take the injured Ben Spies’ seat for the finale.

To understand how this came to pass, we direct your attention to the fourth sentence of our preview article of Round One in Qatar back in April:

For the first time ever, the high fliers of MotoGP will be overtaking slower CRT bikes in the turns during the second half of races.  Courting disaster, if you ask me.

On Lap 14 today, race leader Lorenzo came up on the rear of the Paul Byrd Motorsports nag beneath James Ellison who, heading into the race, held 28 points, a complete non-factor all season, having already lost his seat for 2013 to “rider unknown, just not James Ellison.”  It appeared that Ellison was unaware of the major presence behind him, as he failed to yield and held his line in the turn, forcing Lorenzo to brake hard, move off the dry line, wobble furiously, and go airborne in a violent high side that ended his day and hopes of securing a spot in MotoGP history.  With Lorenzo in the gravel, Ellison plodded on, apparently unaware of the disaster he had just been involved in, only to come this close to repeating it two laps later with the new race leader, Pedrosa, who somehow managed to save his bike and day. 

 Cluster at the Start 

If you look up “mass confusion” in the dictionary, you’ll likely find a picture of the grid of today’s race, with the caption, “Pandemonium reigns at the start of a grand prix motorcycle race.”  Most of the riders chose rain tires for the start, with the notable exceptions of factory Yamaha riders Lorenzo and Nakasuga and rookie Stefan Bradl.  Four riders—Pedrosa, Crutchlow, Nicky Hayden and Alvaro Bautista—entered pit lane after the sighting lap to change bikes, preferring to start from there on slicks rather than from the grid on wets.  To illustrate the scale of disorder, the race leaders at the end of lap one, all on wet tires, were:

  1. CRT champ Aleix Espargaro
  2. Yamaha Tech 3 refugee Andrea Dovizioso
  3. Casey Stoner
  4. Lame duck Ducati icon Valentino Rossi, and
  5. Bradl, on the LCR Honda

The riders electing slicks gambled and won; the track dried fairly quickly, and the downpour forecast for later in the afternoon held off until the race had ended.   One by one, riders entered pit lane to ditch their wets in favor of slicks, with all losing at least 25 seconds and some as much as 40 in the process.  As these issues were getting sorted out, the crashing began:

  • Ducati’s Nicky Hayden, lap 3.
  • Avintia Blusens’ Ivan Silva, lap 3.
  • CRT back bencher Roberto Rolfo, lap 7.
  • Stefan Bradl, lap 10, making it six Valencia GPs in a row that he has failed to finish.
  • Lorenzo on lap 14
  • Pramac Ducati’s Hectic Hector Barbera, lap 17.
  • Claudio Corti, slated for a full time ride in 2013 for NGM Forward Racing, lap 18; and, finally,
  • Crutchlow, who crashed out of second place, lap 23.  Seems like Cal is most likely to crash out of races when he’s in the top three spots; guy needs to learn how to handle success a little better.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Nakasuga, visibly overwhelmed at the podium celebration and post-race press conference, had qualified in 16th place, about as expected, but followed teammate Lorenzo’s example at the start by choosing slicks.  Despite instructions from the brass not to trash the bike, he found himself somehow running in the top three, and keeping up nicely, by lap five.  Once Lorenzo and Crutchlow had left the building, he had second place pretty much to himself, providing the feel-good moment of the year.

Stoner, who fell to 16th place changing bikes, got his rhythm and began overtaking the field, eventually going through on Bautista’s San Carlo Honda on lap 29 for a fitting podium finish in his last outing.  Being Stoner, he had been quoted earlier in the weekend as “not being happy with the new tarmac.”  We will all miss his racing; I, for one, will not miss his incessant whining and complaining.  At the end of the race, we saw his pit board, which read “GONE FISHING.”  If the fish aren’t biting, I fully expect to see Casey quoted in the New South Wales paper complaining about his tackle and bait.

Michele Pirro, on his way to being evicted from the #2 seat at San Carlo Gresini, enjoyed a bit of paying forward by finishing sixth today, the best ever finish for a CRT bike.  Take THAT, Fausto.  Andrea Dovizioso, on his Tech 3 Yamaha for the last time, and Karel Abraham, likewise on his satellite Ducati for the last time, were the only other riders to finish on the lead lap.

Valentino Rossi, riding as the #1 factory Ducati rider for the last time, described the Circuit Ricardo Tormo this week as a “Mickey Mouse circuit.”  After qualifying in 11th place and finishing today’s race tenth, more than a lap down, I would have to describe his as a Minnie Mouse effort.  It’s hard to conclude that Rossi didn’t quit on his team today, and it appears he has also helped Filippo Preziosi lose his job as technical director at Ducati.

And So It Goes

MotoGP underwent a great deal of change this year, with more in store going forward, in the way of rules, riders, teams, and circuits.  The Next Great Rider, teenager Marc Marquez, moves up to take Casey Stoner’s seat on the Repsol Honda team starting Tuesday.  Marquez has millions of fans and almost as many critics of his aggressive riding style.  He won today’s Moto2 race after starting from the back of the grid, thanks to a close encounter with Simone Corsi on Friday.

Marquez will inject new life into the premier class, and appears ready to challenge for Alien status sooner rather than later.  To his critics, and to bring our coverage of MotoGP to a close for another year, we offer up a bit of Rudyard Kipling, from his poem entitled “If”:

“If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

…Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!”

                             — Rudyard Kipling