An idea that was once viewed as preposterous is now causing some MotoGP fans to become bored. The notion that one rider could sweep an entire 18 race season, in the midst of Aliens, bad weather, reckless competitors, a bunch of ticky-tacky rules, and plain old bad luck, has been widely dismissed for the last 40 years, since the ancient days of Giacomo Agostini. And yet here we are, on the cusp of one of the most amazing feats in motorsports history.
The athletic world, in general, recognizes greatness but worships consistency. In the major sports, the MLB record least likely to ever fall is Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak in 1941. The despicable New York Yankees won five straight World Series titles between 1949 and 1953. Between 1966 and 1974, the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team won 88 games in a row, as well as seven consecutive national titles. And in high school sports, the Carmel, Indiana girls swim team holds the U.S. national record for all-time consecutive state championships with 28 in a row, beginning in 1986. The girls who won it last year weren’t even born when the streak started. This is the stuff of which legends are made.
In 2007, the New England Patriots went undefeated in the regular season – the first since Miami in 1971-72 – only to get upset by the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. A couple of years later, the Indianapolis Colts at 14-0 had a shot at an undefeated season and kicked it away by resting their starters before the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Colts’ strategy proved to be no better than the Patriots’, as Indianapolis also lost in the Super Bowl. Colts management was viewed locally as idiots, giving up a chance to do something that had only ever been done once in favor of trying, and failing, to do something that had been done over 40 times; a number of fans, including yours truly, are still a little ticked off over that one.
In MotoGP, the three year period between 1968 and 1970 saw the legendary Agostini go undefeated in every 500cc race he started, although he sat out a few rounds, for whatever reason. In 1968, though, it was a 10 race season. Throughout the period, Agostini’s MV Agusta enjoyed something like a 30 HP advantage over his nearest competitors, so the playing field wasn’t exactly level.
The same cannot be said about Repsol Honda pilot Marc Marquez in 2014. With eight rounds left in the 2014 season, one would have to say the odds are still against him. But they’re getting shorter every week. Of the remaining circuits, only Brno and Phillip Island offer Yamaha a distinct advantage, the others being largely neutral or Honda-centric. Clearly, the only rider capable of beating Marquez is Marquez himself, through a bad decision or just plain carelessness. Of the two, at this point a bad decision – being overly aggressive in a turn, or somehow selecting the wrong tires – is more likely than a loss of concentration.
Marquez figures to clinch the title sometime around Aragon. It will be interesting to see if he backs off even a smidge thereafter. In this corner, we think he will go for greatness. And, if he should accomplish the implausible this year, you get the sense he will aim for the impossible – a repeat performance – in 2015, before the global tire change takes place in 2016.
It could happen. And whether he pulls it off or not, his legacy is already cast. In Joni Mitchell’s words, he is “as constant as the North Star.”
Recent History at Brno
In 2012, Repsol Honda mighty mite Dani Pedrosa went one-on-four with the prototype Yamahas and came away the winner, “pipping” eventual world champion Jorge Lorenzo in the last two turns. Cal Crutchlow, on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, enjoyed the first of four Tech 3 podiums with a surly third place finish, 12 seconds off the pace. Other than the Lorenzo/Pedrosa tussle, there wasn’t much to cheer about at Brno in 2012.
Last year, there was plenty going on at Karel Abraham Sr.’s playground. Lorenzo spent the day towing Marquez and Pedrosa around the track while the two Repsol riders kept their powder dry and waited for their fuel loads to drop. Without so much as a “by your leave,” Marquez flew past Lorenzo on Lap 16, followed three laps later by Pedrosa, and that was that for Lorenzo’s last remaining thoughts of repeating as world champion. Farther back in the pack, Valentino Rossi, returning on the factory Yamaha, schooled Gresini Honda’s Alvaro Bautista on the last lap to secure fourth place. Factory Ducati stud Andrea Dovizioso did much the same thing to teammate Nicky Hayden to finish seventh. Aleix Espargaro did Colin Edwards, Danilo Petrucci did Hiro Aoyama and so on, all the way down to 19th place, where Karel Abraham Jr., getting plenty of love from his homeys, punked Bryan Staring by 3/10ths. Something for every taste and budget, as it were.
An Apology, of Sorts
I don’t know who writes a lot of this stuff, but their work leaves plenty to be desired. Sunday’s Indianapolis results article, for example, completely ignored the heroic efforts of the Tech 3 Yamaha duo of Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith. The pair finished the day fifth and sixth, respectively, after each suffered grievous bodily harm during practice. Smith had another impressive high side that “re-opened” his left pinky, whatever that means. And Espargaro, during a huge moment in FP4, jammed his left boot into the asphalt, flew up in the air without losing his grip on the handlebars, and came down hard on his, um, package. He joked with the announcers afterwards that he would be singing with the castralto section in the MotoGP choir practice that evening, sounding during the interview like Tiny Tim on helium. One assumes he was wearing a cup during the race.
Your Weekend Weather Forecast
You would think that by now I would have learned to stay away from predictions, but I was an econ major in college and old habits die hard. Two predictions I’m pretty confident about, though – Leon Camier will substitute again for Nicky Hayden on the Aspar Honda, and Alex de Angelis will spend some time on Colin Edwards’ Forward Racing FTR/Yamaha. He will probably spend some time off the bike as well, if you catch my meaning.
The weekend weather forecast for the metropolitan Brno area is a little sketchy, with temps expected to be in the low- to mid-70’s and little chance of rain. As for the race itself, one would need his head examined to suggest that Marquez will not win on Sunday. All three of the other Aliens have enjoyed substantial success at Brno. Personally, I believe we’ll see pretty much the exact same top four in Brno as we saw last week in Indianapolis. Of course, as they like to say around here, some people believe chickens have lips.