For those of you whose loyalties lie elsewhere, let’s be clear: Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo deserved to win the Gran Premio d’Italia TIM today. After a poor qualifying session on Saturday, he slingshotted his way into the lead in Turn 1 of Lap 1, withstood heated challenges from teammate Valentino Rossi and rival Marc Marquez, and crossed the finish line a blink of an eye in front of Marquez. But heading into the second third of the 2016 season, storm clouds are building on his horizon.

First Valentino Rossi and later Marc Marquez pressed hard but Jorge Lorenzo managed to hold them both off.

Drama on Saturday

Ducati pilot Andrea Iannone, who had been a blur in practice all weekend, laid down his fastest lap midway through Q2 and goofed off thereafter, believing he had claimed pole. He failed to account for #46 and his almost infallible sense of the moment. Rossi scorched Mugello to secure the pole on his last flying lap, sending the crowd into paroxysms of joy. Minutes later, teammate-in-waiting Maverick Vinales pushed his Suzuki to the very limit, crossing the line a mere 9/100ths of a second behind Rossi, dropping Iannone to third and Marquez to fourth, with an unhappy Lorenzo relegated to the five hole. Aleix Espargaro managed sixth, producing a rock-hard first two rows featuring both Suzukis, two Yamahas, a single Honda and, somewhat surprisingly, Iannone’s lone Ducati.

It’s never too early to develop team chemistry.

The drama/collusion between Rossi and Vinales offers a useful glimpse into the future, as Vinales flirted with the all-time track record on a relatively inferior machine. Remaining deferential to his soon-to-be teammate, his performance on Saturday served notice that Vale should dismiss any presumption of occupying the #1 seat on the team next year. Maverick Vinales is, arguably, The Next Great MotoGP Rider.

Yamaha Blows Up on Sunday

The faces in the Yamaha garage tell the story.

I’m trying and failing to remember if I’ve ever seen a Yamaha four-stroke throw a rod in MotoGP. Yet Jorge Lorenzo lost one in the warm-up practice on Sunday morning at the end of the front straight. No harm done, other than putting a dent in his limited engine allocation for the year. But when Valentino Rossi lost his engine on Lap 9 while in hot pursuit of Lorenzo, that was a different story. What had been shaping up as a classic all day intra-team battle with title implications devolved instantly into Rossi’s second DNF of the season and a 37 points deficit to Lorenzo for the year. Both incidents appeared to involve engine braking, perhaps pointing out a flaw in the seamless transmission Yamaha worked so hard to develop over the past few years. Team press releases later this week will provide some clarity.

Fans Left Breathless at the Finish

Alvaro Bautista, Loris Baz and Jack Miller all crashed out on the first corner. Bautista took the blame for cutting their day short but Baz was the worst for wear, breaking his right foot.

The start of today’s race took the qualifying results from Saturday and dumped them into a VitaMix superblender. Compare the starting grid with the standings after Lap 1:

Rider Qualified End of Lap 1
Rossi 1st 2nd
Vinales 2nd 11th
Iannone 3rd 8th
Marquez 4th 4th
Lorenzo 5th 1st
Espargaro 6th 3rd
Pedrosa 7th 7th
Smith 8th 6th
Petrucci 9th 10th
Redding 10th 9th
Pirro 11th 12th
Dovizioso 13th 5th

The record will show Lorenzo having led all 23 laps, apparently enjoying another of his patented cakewalks. Nothing could be farther from the truth. He spent the first eight laps fighting off relentless pressure from Rossi; it was easy to envision the mutual disrespect, in conjunction with the primary MotoGP edict to beat your teammate, leading to disaster, with both riders in the gravel. Suddenly, in contrast to the yellow smoke that had filled the air all day, there was an enormous cloud of white smoke billowing from Rossi’s pipes. Some of the 99,000+ fans might have thought a new pope had been elected; the reality that their idol’s day was over sent a number of them heading for the exits, any reason for hanging around having gone up, as it were, in smoke.

Rossi fans came out in droves at Mugello. Unfortunately for them, their yellow smoke foreshadowed the smoke that came out of Rossi’s M1.

Rossi having left the building, Lorenzo was able to take a momentary breather until Marquez and his RC213V showed up on his rear tire. Marquez remained there, apparently lining Lorenzo up, for 13 laps, with Lorenzo, the unmovable object, refusing to budge. Twice Marquez tried to pass at the end of the front straight, both times running wide, allowing Lorenzo to retake the lead. The last lap was one for the ages, the riders trading paint and positions half a dozen times, with Marquez exiting the last turn with a 10 meter lead and minus his left elbow slider. But Honda’s Achilles heel in 2016, crappy acceleration exiting the turns, once again bit Marquez, as Lorenzo slipped in behind him, pulled around 50 meters from the line, and won by a 100th of a second.

Jorge Lorenzo managed eke across the line ahead of Marc Marquez by just 0.019 seconds.

Iannone won his second-half-of-the-race battle with Dani Pedrosa to claim the final spot on the podium, which appeared to belong to Dovizioso until he made an uncharacteristic mistake on Lap 19, running hot and way wide, allowing both Iannone and Pedrosa through. Having started 13th, having failed to advance through Q1, Dovi was probably happier today than he was yesterday. Iannone undoubtedly enjoyed putting one in the eye of Ducati after losing his seat for next season. With but a decent start he could have won the race today, as his pace after the third or fourth lap was dazzling.

Farther Down the Food Chain

Count Scott Redding among those whose races ended early.

Pedrosa showed some pace during the last six or eight laps today, finishing fourth for the third round in a row, followed by Dovizioso. Vinales ended his day in sixth place, his sensational qualifying performance long forgotten, while Tech 3 Yamaha Brit Bradley Smith enjoyed his best performance of the season, crossing the line in seventh. The top ten was completed by Pramac tough guy Danilo Petrucci, Suzuki afterthought Aleix Espargaro and Michele Pirro on another Ducati wildcard.

For the record, LCR Honda egoist Cal Crutchlow doubled his point total for the season with a sparkling 11th place finish. Shut my mouth.

The Big Picture

Lorenzo now leads the season by 10 points over Marquez, a source of confidence for the Mallorcan if not one of security. Rossi, despite deserving better, finds himself 27 points behind Marquez and only 12 points ahead of Pedrosa, with Vinales another seven points back. A gaggle of riders sits in the 40’s – the Espargaro brothers, Hector Barbara and Iannone. Eugene Laverty, the great Irish hope, closes out the top ten. That Barbera is the highest ranked Ducati pilot a third of the way through the season says something, though I’m not sure what.

Put your hands up if you had this guy as the lead Ducati rider on the season. Now put your hands down, you liars.

A Question for Readers

Someone please enlighten me. How is it that Honda, with a reputation for overly aggressive acceleration for years, comes into 2016 with a bike that accelerates so poorly as to cost young Marquez today’s race and several others already this year? Most recently, Marquez blamed his crash at Le Mans on pushing too hard to compensate for the lack of power exiting the turns. Put Marquez on the Yamaha and I would be happy to argue he would be undefeated this season. Honda needs to thank their lucky stars they have Marquez; any other rider would be residing in Pedrosa’s neighborhood, with 60 or 70 points to his name.

While Honda still a lot of work to do, Marc Marquez is still just 10 points behind Jorge Lorenzo in the championship points chase.

About Those Storm Clouds on Lorenzo’s Horizon

Jorge Lorenzo is by no means a shoe-in for the 2016 title. He has engine allocation concerns. He has a number of circuits – Assen and The Sachsenring leap to mind – in his immediate future where he doesn’t normally do well. He has a hungry and angry teammate to contend with. Marquez is out-riding him on a slower bike which he suggested today in the post-race presser the engineers are getting figured out.

Assen and the Sachsenring loom ahead but for now, Jorge Lorenzo can celebrate being #1.

Vinales is juiced and will be a factor once he learns how to start races. Rossi was reported to have spent the damp FP1 doing practice starts, working on getting up to speed in a hurry without wheelies or burning up his clutch. Vinales should take a lesson from his teammate. This reminds me of the old joke in which a tourist with concert tickets, visiting New York City for the first time, accosts one of the locals. “Excuse me, sir, but can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Practice, man, practice.”

2016 MotoGP Mugello Results
Pos. Rider Team Time
1 Jorge Lorenzo Movistar Yamaha
2 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda +0.019
3 Andrea Iannone Ducati +4.742
4 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda +4.910
5 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse +6.256
6 Maverick Vinales Suzuki Ecstar +8.670
7 Bradley Smith Monster Yamaha Tech3 +13.340
8 Danilo Petrucci Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati +14.598
9 Aleix Espargaro Suzuki Ecstar +18.643
10 Michele Pirro Ducati Team +22.298
11 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda +27.936
12 Hector Barbera Avintia Racing +35.712
13 Eugene Laverty Aspar Ducati +38.032
14 Stefan Bradl Aprilia Gresini +40.094
15 Pol Espargaro Monster Yamaha Tech3 +59.811
16 Yonny Hernandez Aspar Ducati +1:04.397
Not Classified
Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha 15 Laps
Scott Redding Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati 15 Laps
Jack Miller Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda 0 Laps
Alvaro Bautista Aprilia Gresini 0 Laps
Loris Baz Avintia Ducati 0 Laps
2016 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 6 Rounds
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 115
2 Marc Marquez Honda 105
3 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 78
4 Dani Pedrosa Honda 66
5 Maverick Vinales Suzuki 59
6 Aleix Espargaro Suzuki 49
7 Pol Espargaro Yamaha 48
8 Hector Barbera Ducati 43
9 Andrea Iannone Ducati 41
10 Eugene Laverty Ducati 36
  • spiff

    For such a great race why do I keep feeling this SUCKS?

    • Gruf Rude

      No idea, as it was a GREAT race and Michelin finally showed up with a working tire. Two blown engines has got to add a worry factor for the Bruise Brothers, though . . .

      • spiff

        I’m a Rossi fan. 🙁

  • Shlomi

    What can i say, this weekend promised telenovela as we all waited for Rossi to win Mugelo. Instead we got the robot Lorenzo win again. Lornezo is a great rider, just to see how he can circle the track for 20+ laps all on the same pace +/- 1 second is amazing. This week he even gave a glimpse that he can also win a dog fight with Marquez. But why we are all sad to see him win especially at Mugelo, and why the hell his engine not explode during the race?

    • BDan75

      I dunno…I try to be as even-handed as I can despite my admitted Rossi partisanship, but there’s just something about Jorge that makes it hard to cheer for him, even as you admire his skill.

      This is random, but when I think about Rossi and Lorenzo, I always think of the old “Frank Grimes” episode of the Simpsons…

      • William Marvin Parker

        Well Yamaha may feel the same as you..they allowed JLO to get away to Ducati and he’s younger and usually faster than Rossi right now. Jorge rode a great race..can’t help thinking Rossi blew his engine trying to keep up with Lorenzo..

        • BDan75

          Keep tellin’ yourself that…

      • kenneth_moore

        I can think of some pretty good reasons not to like Lorenzo, starting with how he and Marky Marq behaved in the final races last season. Add that to his ridiculous post-win antics and you have a snotty little brat who isn’t half the man of the true champions who proceeded him.

        He’s going to go to pieces when he moves to Ducati and doesn’t have the Yamaha under his sorry ass.

    • john phyyt

      Disagree . Bruce said it: Lorenzo won a brilliant race. All you wetting your kleenex about Rossi , give me the hump.

      • Shlomi

        Lorenzo didn’t win the race it was Marquez and Honda who gave it to him. I never seen such a slow Honda vs. Yamaha since Edi Lawson days….

      • Bruce Allen

        Is “give me the hump” a Bonzo Dog Band reference? If so, my respect for you would go even higher!

    • Bruce Allen

      Watching Lorenzo practice his trade is like watching a metronome set to 60 bpm. Tick tock tick tock tick tock…It takes a special kind of talent to make riding a bike at 200 mph seem dull. I get tired of all the Rossi stuff, but I was pulling for him today, hoping he could carve up Lorenzo and make all the Italian beauties come in their shorts.

      • Shlomi

        Just tell me why his engine didn’t blow up on race time? Why Marquez gave up 50m on 200 meters straight. This one was pure luck.

    • Y.A.

      Nope, the race was great for me. I was pretty sad for Rossi but his fans need to learn to enjoy the sport too. I heard a bunch of people say they were so distraught they turned off the race once Rossi’s engine grenaded. Ridiculous. There’s always the next race guys.

  • Y.A.

    The RC213V is struggling for reasons that are manifold, but all come back to HRC’s obstinate culture. Long and short of it is Marquez dominance made them complacent, wasting 2 seasons of development.

    -They got caught with their pants down on electronics, adamantly refusing to bone up on the inevitable move to spec electronics and relying on their proprietary software down to Valencia 2015….

    -They senselessly prioritized making more and more horsepower they couldn’t put down, letting their chassis languish

    – As I said they were blinded by Marquez’ radioactive talent as well as his ability to abuse Bridgestone’s outworldly front tire, demonizing any and everybody on the brakes

    – Specific to this year, they reversed engine rotation like the rest of the grid, which was supposed to aid in agility, but ironically exacerbated their grip issue…. forward spinning engines add gyroscopic inertia which blunts agility, but prompts a reaction in the bike that helps the rear tire dig in acceleration (at the expense of more wheelies) and initiate front weight transfer during engine braking

    – Specific to Honda, they are still using that screamer firing order, which smears engine pulses and exacerbates grip problems, in contrast to the big bang/offset crank configurations of the rest of the grid. Again, something they could easily have tried in testing but refuse to out of pride it seems

    HRC is destroying itself with its refusal to change. Everyone else has spent the last few years improving and developing…. the RC213V has regressed and is completely out of its element in this Michelin/spec electronics era. It’s demoralizing to watch as a Pedrosa fan. I was really hoping the rumors of his move to Yamaha were true. He deserves a bike that works

    • john phyyt

      Bruce says “How is it that Honda, with a reputation for overly aggressive
      acceleration for years, comes into 2016 with a bike that accelerates so
      Honda better wake-up , as it is affecting their engineering reputation. PLEASE HONDA DO SOMETHING.

      I can’t disagree with your comments because I am not there. Only the screamer comment appears odd. V4 has “traction pulses” built in and screamer produces the most horsepower thereby aiding acceleration.

      • Y.A.

        I am almost certain a V4 can be configured to have even firing pulses like a conventional inline 4, in which case there would be no traction pulses. Even if there are traction pulses, they are not as strong and spaced out as a big bang/crossplane situation, which means HRC would still be at a disadvantage.

        And I would bet Honda’s engine is making a ton of HP. Problem is a good amount of that HP is not getting to the ground when they need it most, because the somewhat even firing order and low crank inertia overwhelms the tires instead of helping them hook up. Ducati’s V4 has an offset crank to get more of that traction pulse action so they don’t have that problem.

        • john phyyt

          Remember Doohan: Letting the Screamer ; shout down the opposition. V4 2 stroke with twice the ignitions per revolution. No electronics except in riders limbic CNS. Also V4 may have packaging advantage -width and Mass centralisation. Remember polar movement around front and rear wheel axis seems to limit acceleration and braking. Also in this race this ( P.O.S) finished 2nd and 4th could have easily been 1st and 3rd. ,,, . Yes Honda needs to work , and thay will.

          • Bruce Allen

            I could listen to you two go back and forth for hours, with absolutely nothing to contribute on my end. Kinda like watching Venus and Serena practicing in the back yard.

    • William Marvin Parker

      Yea HRC have arguably the best rider in Marquez, but even he can’t overcome the flaws of the Honda last season plus.. That being said, I like the screamer engine for a V4. Sounds like an angry 2 stroke..

      • Y.A.

        The screamer is a nice change from the rest of the field…. problem is it puts down power like a 2 stroke too. You watch any Honda on board, they are getting nuked coming out of every corner. It’s got to be infuriating for Honda riders.

    • Bruce Allen

      Y.A., I can’t disagree with you. I mean it. You’ve probably forgotten more about motorcycles than I’ve ever known. I’m flattered that you can read this stuff and not call me out for being a wanker.

      • Y.A.

        Ha, thanks man. I’m no expert at all, I only got into motorcycles and MotoGP in 2013 or so. I am an engineer though so it’s basically my job to analyze problems. I can’t turn it off. HRC’s problems are largely organizational and they manifest themselves in a bike that HRC’s own people have called “sh!t” off the record. Dare I say it but HRC is in a funk like pre-Gigi Ducati. They need a big shakeup to get out of it.

  • Old MOron

    What a fantastic battle in a fantastically anticlimactic race. Thank the moto gods for Moto 3 and Moto 2.

    • Bruce Allen

      Emphatic yes to Moto3, no to Moto2. I was getting worried that they would keep flagging riders and re-starting the race until it had been reduced to zero laps and the qualifying standings would count for the race. Talk about a fustercluck. Just let ’em ride, bitches.

      • Old MOron

        Ja, Moto2 was clucked by race direction, but the action on the track was fantastic. I’m glad Zarco won, as I feel he is under appreciated.

      • BDan75

        Everybody always says that about Moto3, but many races are so crazy that it almost seems random to me.

  • JMDonald

    Did I miss it? Who did Crutchlow blame for his finishing the race?

    • Bruce Allen

      He called out the restaurant where he had dinner last night, claiming the iced tea had so much caffeine it kept him awake half the night, and Simone Corsi, the Moto2 rider whose pink leathers made Crutchlow throw up in his mouth right before MotoGP took to the grid.

  • john burns

    Lorenzo deserved it? What? Rossi won the pole and was on his disrespectful ass the whole time. I kept hoping Lorenzo’s engine would blow, too. No such luck… when was the last factory Yamaha engine DNF? this is bullshit man… Go Vale, Go bERNIE!!!!

    • Bruce Allen

      It’s not JL’s fault that the Honda is so weak or that Rossi lost his engine. I agree that it appeared Rossi would have overtaken Lorenzo during the race, but as he himself said, “Shit happens.” And no one should question Marquez’ brilliance, whether they like him or not. Any other rider would have been 7 seconds behind Lorenzo at the end on that POS RC213V.

      • TroySiahaan

        And if J-Lo did one less lap in practice, that woulda been a double DNF for Yamaha! Yikes…

    • Gruf Rude

      Rossi may have been ‘on his ass’, but despite multiple, desperate tries, he couldn’t pass him. Rossi was bound to destroy his tires at the rate he was over-riding.

      • john burns

        Bulloney it was lap 8! History has shown anytime VR is able to run Lorenzos pace, he finds a way to break his cold little heart on the last lap. And those are my favorite GPs to watch. That one hurt…

        • Bruce Allen

          David Emmett suggests Rossi spent so much time in Lorenzo’s slipstream that he starved his engine of air, causing the temp to rise and the resulting failure. Just a little more fuel for the fire.

  • Ozzy Mick

    I’m sorry I missed the race – sounds like it was exciting right down to the wire! I know I’m more than 5 days late but, hey – I’m in retirement in Australia and we can be a little slow at times, but don’t tell Miller that.
    Mr. Allen, enjoyed your humour and analytical ramblings, as always, especially this:
    “This reminds me of the old joke in which a tourist with concert tickets, visiting New York City for the first time, accosts one of the locals. “Excuse me, sir, but can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?”
    “Practice, man, practice.”

    which in turns reminds me of the Spanish and Italian tourists riding their Yamahas and Hondas around Ireland, trying to find their way to Dublin. They stopped and asked a local,”Which is the quickest way to Dublin?”

    The Irishman replied,”Will you be riding or walking?” to which the tourists said,”Riding.”

    “Oh, aye, then that’ll be the quickest way!”