Any doubt that Repsol Honda wonder Marc Marquez is giving Movistar Yamaha star Jorge Lorenzo anxiety attacks was erased roughly two seconds before the start of today’s Grand Prix of the Americas. Lorenzo, desperate to regain some momentum after a disastrous performance in Qatar, jumped the start as badly as a teenaged bridegroom on his wedding night. Confusion at the start gave way to a fairly predictable outcome in this, the season of Jorge Lorenzo’s discontent.

The Marc Marquez reign continues with another win at Circuit of the Americas.

What was expected to be a Repsol Honda clambake in Texas turned out to be just that, as Marquez and teammate Dani Pedrosa obliterated the field, propelling Honda to the ninth win in their last nine races on American soil. Notably, Marquez became the first premier class rider since Mick Doohan in 1995 to start and win the first two races of the season from pole position. If there was any disappointment for HRC it concerned LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl, who was unable to hold onto his third place start and lost out on a second career podium to, of all people, Andrea Dovizioso on the Ducati with an asterisk, a mediocre Factory bike made competitive only by its Open class fuel load.

The inane group selfie fad has now infected MotoGP podiums.

Lorenzo’s faux pas at the start also appeared to ruin the day’s prospects for Aleix Espargaro, who had qualified fourth on the NGM Forward Racing Open class Yamaha. While Lorenzo was busy earning a ride-through penalty, Espargaro appeared glued to the tarmac as the lights went out, and dropped like a brick from fourth place to 12th. From there, he would eventually finish 9th, providing a mirror image of his results in Qatar, where he started ninth and finished fourth. Oh, and turning my speculation concerning his podium-worthiness to sheer nonsense.

While Marquez and Pedrosa were going off on their own for a ride in the country and a picnic, the battle for the third podium spot raged on. For most of the day, it was the property of one Andrea Iannone on the Pramac Ducati, as strange a sight as we’ve seen in MotoGP for years. Crazy Joe must have literally ridden the tires off his Desmosedici, as he faded badly late in the day, ending up in seventh place.

Early in the race, Iannone held off challenges from Cal Crutchlow, Bradl, and Valentino Rossi, causing me to think he might actually do the impossible, given his miserable rookie year in 2013. During the last half dozen laps, though, he could only watch as Dovi, Bradl, Bradley Smith on the satellite Yamaha and, finally, Smith’s rookie teammate Pol Espargaro went by. Nonetheless, he had the satisfaction of crossing the finish line ahead of Rossi, his countryman and idol.

Jorge Lorenzo was uncharacteristically sloppy in jumping the start.

Jorge Lorenzo was uncharacteristically sloppy in jumping the start.

Rossi, for his part, joined Lorenzo in the Yamaha pity party after the race. Although he was laboring during the practice sessions on a track ill-suited to his bike’s strengths, he kept up this chatter all weekend, wanting us to believe he and Jorge had a little something up their sleeves that would throw sand in the Repsol team’s seamless gearbox. Alas, it was not to be.

Rossi finished Lap 6 3/10ths of a second out of third place, looking like The Doctor. By the end of Lap 11 he was sitting eighth, a full five seconds off the podium. He ended his day in eighth position, 25 seconds off the podium, looking like he NEEDED a doctor, in one of the first six races of 2014 he describes as crucial in determining whether to continue in MotoGP next year or not.

Paging the REAL Jorge Lorenzo

While Rossi’s day was troubling, Lorenzo’s can only be described as bizarre. For years, he has been Mr. Consistency, Mr. Unflappable, churning out one fast lap after another, seemingly oblivious to the struggles of those around him. Now, in a contract year, he crashes out of the lead in Qatar and makes a rookie mistake – a Moto3-sized rookie mistake – in a critical situation in Austin, where he would have needed a virtually flawless performance just to podium. For the season, he currently resides in 16th place, trailing the likes of Hiro Aoyama, Yonny Hernandez, rookie Scott Redding and the ancient, soon-to-be-retired Colin Edwards, in the hunt for the 2014 title.

Few would have believed it if you said Jorge Lorenzo would be trailing Hiro Aoyama in the championship race after two rounds.

Few would have believed it if you said Jorge Lorenzo would be trailing Hiro Aoyama in the championship race after two rounds.

For a number of reasons mostly having to do with his professional comportment and disciplined approach to his work, Jorge Lorenzo is maybe my favorite single rider on the grid. It pains me to have to say it, but it ain’t gonna happen this year, Jorge. Your success in even-numbered years has come to an end. I suspect your Japanese masters are equally concerned about your future with the team. As Yogi Berra once observed about big league baseball, 90% of the sport is 50% mental. Marquez, it seems, has made his way under your skin, and he is six years younger than you, in a young man’s game. The Catalan problem is here to stay.

Elsewhere on the Grid

In addition to the miserable days enjoyed by Messrs. Lorenzo and Rossi, Cal Crutchlow, piloting the factory Ducati he so fervently sought, had what some might describe as a very Ducati day himself. The good news – he managed to avoid the electronics issues that have plagued him off and on since the beginning of the year. The bad news – the bike was performing so poorly early on that he found it necessary to pit on Lap 10 to change from the medium to the soft rear tire. Rejoining the party in last place, he pushed his new, cold, soft rear tire too hard, experienced a violent low-side crash, and had to be carried off the track with apparent damage to his right hand or wrist.

Andrea Dovizioso's podium was a pleasant surprise for Ducati. A couple more however, and Ducati riders will loose some of their extra fuel advantage.

Andrea Dovizioso’s podium was a pleasant surprise for Ducati. A couple more however, and Ducati riders will loose some of their extra fuel advantage.

Riders having had a positive outing in Austin, in addition to Dovizioso, who came from 10th place at the start to his podium finish, included Bradley Smith (started eighth, finished fifth) and rookie Pol Espargaro (started 11th, finished sixth.) The “Taller than Mickey Rooney” award today was shared by Crutchlow (top Ducati qualifier in seventh) and Nicky Hayden (top Customer Honda finisher in 11th position). For Hayden, who started the race mired between rookie Redding and Pramac Ducati rider Hernandez, World Superbike must be looking better every day.

Tech3 Yamaha teammates Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro had impressive races, both finishing ahead of the factory riders

Two Weeks to Argentina

The playing field gets leveled for Round Three, as the MotoGP grid takes it on the road to South America for the Gran Premio Red Bull de la Republica Argentina. From the air, the Autódromo Termas de Río Hondo seems to be one of the flowing layouts that have typically been friendly to the Yamaha set. But the issues confronting the Movistar Yamaha garage – Lorenzo’s mental Mardi Gras, Rossi’s advancing age – combined with the extra-terrestrial performance of the Repsol Honda team render any apparent advantage moot.

Colin Edwards may have DNF’ed at COTA but the bigger news from the weekend was his plans to retire at the end of the season.

One of the things my wife hates about the NFL (and there are plenty) is when game announcers gravely describe a week three game as “critical” for some team. Yet, in an 18 round MotoGP season, it’s safe to say that the Argentine Grand Prix represents a critical juncture for team Yamaha. A third outing to start the 2014 season that finds Marquez and Pedrosa standing on the top two steps of the podium may force Fox Sports 1, which has expanded its U.S. coverage of the sport to two hours on race days, to air re-runs of The Simpsons, rather than more images of Lin Jarvis holding his head in his hands.

Just sayin’.

2014 MotoGP COTA Top Ten Results
Pos. Rider Team Time
1 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda
2 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda +4.124
3 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse +20.976
4 Stefan Bradl LCR Honda +22.790
5 Bradley Smith Monster Yamaha Tech3 +22.963
6 Pol Espargaro Monster Yamaha Tech3 +26.567
7 Andrea Iannone Pramac Ducati +28.257
8 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha +45.519
9 Aleix Espargaro NGM Forward Yamaha +47.605
10 Jorge Lorenzo Movistar Yamaha +49.111
2014 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 2 Rounds
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1 Marc Marquez Honda 50
2 Dani Pedrosa Honda 36
3 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 28
4 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 27
5 Aleix Espargaro Forward Yamaha* 20
6 Andrea Iannone Ducati 15
7 Stefan Bradl Honda 13
8 Nicky Hayden Honda 13
9 Bradley Smith Yamaha 7
10 Pol Espargaro Yamaha 6
* indicates an Open Option entry.
  • Y.A.

    Ducati’s podium had nothing to do with “extra fuel”. The V4 engines on the grid are generally pretty fuel efficient… Yami is the one with the fuel problems. Ducati has made big strides in the development of the GP14; their first dry podium since Misano 2012 commands more respect than you’ve given it. Do you even know what has changed with Ducati from last year to now? Similarly more respect is due to Colin Edwards… whole article tries too hard to be “edgy” and just comes off as crass and naive.

    • John A. Stockman

      I completely agree with that post. Ducati’s first podium in 2 years was an accomplishment not given proper credit. Nothing was said about the condition of Rossi’s front tire…a bit of amateur-level research would have turned up photos of a shredded front tire and common-sense would have revealed the WHY of Rossi and his performance later in the race. His ability to even make it to the finish on that tire deserves some respect, also not acknowledged. Lorenzo does seem to be mentally off, and mosquitoes on the tear-off does not really explain why Jorge took off when the lights came on, and not when the lights went off. I really appreciate that Fox Sports 1 & 2 continue to air MotoGP, but the fact that there was 8 missing laps during the two 3 minute commercial breaks in Moto3 and Moto2 still says a lot about where the sport is in America regarding coverage and respect. Respect it has earned and deserves as a legitimate/true top-level, athletic pursuit that requires a world-class amount of physical and mental talent. Ball sports pale in comparison to the levels these athletes operate at, yet it is still marginalized and denigrated by American “sports” networks.

      • Bruce Allen

        John, I doubt Dovi would have ended up on the podium had Lorenzo not gone cuckoo-go-nuts at the start, but it appears the Ducati is, in fact, getting better. I’ll try to be more, um, sensitive on this subject going forward. As to Rossi and his tires, I submitted my article 90 minutes after the race ended, and well before images of his tire were readily available. (Sometimes this type of “instant analysis” results in some unfortunate misses.) As to the comments from our other dissenter, I’ve looked over his 74 comments, and it seems he has something rude to say to pretty much every writer on the site. So, now that I’ve been Y.A.’d, I feel like I belong. If you want crass and naive, read some of my stuff from 2009.

        • John A. Stockman

          Hey, none of us who are passionate about this, and post our experiences and opinions, are immune to that. You are doing your job, and I appreciate that. I’ve done the same thing; my determinations about motorcycling and racing them are not popular. I’ve seen what the bad-a$$ biker attitude (the DILLIGAF-ers: Do I Look Like I Give A F$%k) has done to motorcycling in this country and how it has negatively shaped JQ Public’s opinion about motorcycles and the FACT they think racing motorcycles is NOT an athletic discipline requiring a tremendous amount of strength and super-human mental focus. In this country, it’s all ball sports, which is rammed down everyone’s throat from the day they’re born as the top athletic endeavor. Folks that I meet every day that don’t ride, and never will, think all motorcyclists are “bikers”. They denigrate racing them saying “they don’t need talent/strength to do that, all they do is sit on the bike and twist the throttle…”. Quotes because I have heard those exact words from ball-sports-have-the-only-real-athletes folks, so many countless times it makes me sick at the ignorance. I went through monumental challenges to be able to ride again. My DISQUS posting-history on a couple motorcycle forums tell about those experiences. I couldn’t have had that level of commitment and go through what I did without a tremendous level of passion. Any motorcycle racing enthusiast has had to deal with the marginalization that comes from the ball-sport crowd and the general public. But go to any European country, and they are revered as true athletes. Here, motorcyclists/racers are also-ran “bikers”, on murder/donor-cycles with death wishes. Why? Because some have embraced (including OEMs) that DILLIGAF, bad-a$$ attitude. My grandfather (my avatar pic) taught me to present motorcycling in a positive fashion. How? You get, keep up, and practice your training, so skills remain sharp and you wear your “kit”. You act respectful to others by, as just one example, not pissing them off with the loud-pipes-save-lives BS and a DILLIGAF attitude. You bet I’m not popular; I know it only takes one dildoe to ruin it for a lot of folks like me who do care about how motorcycling and racing them is perceived. I’m sure that if we sat down and had a conversation about these exact issues we’re passionate about, we’d have much more in common than these miniscule differences that come up occasionally. Keep up the good work, and continue to speak your mind, Bruce. I always learn something which improves my perspective.

  • Backroad Bob

    This track, with its combination of stop and start turns at One, Eleven, and Twelve, elevation changes at Turns One, Twelve, and Nineteen, and only one section that flows (Turns Two to Eleven) tests the best riders in the world like no other track. This proves Marquez, Vinales, and Miller (the three race winners) are amazing riders if you didn’t know it already. They were the only ones able to smoothly negotiate Turns 1 and 11. Those two turns had all the past MotoGP champs stumped except Marquez. Repeatedly during practice and qualifying, top rider after top rider went through One and Eleven, chopped the throttle, drifted to the outside of the turn, sat up, looked back and just shook their heads. If you could have seen their faces you would have seen expressions of surprise and disgust. They just couldn’t figure out what they were doing wrong on these turns.
    It will become known at some future point that tires played a huge role in this race unless this gets squashed. When the front tires on a half-dozen front-runners’ bikes are disintegrating, someone will get a good talking to. Part of the problem is Bridgestone brought 2013 tires, claiming they didn’t have enough of the abrasion-resistant 2014 tires to go around. When the once-mighty Valentino Rossi goes
    backwards from the start, something’s majorly wrong. It was sad to see. It must kill him.
    Rossi, Pedrosa, and Lorenzo can’t figure out how Marquez does what he does. It was like Stoner on the Ducati or when Rossi first came up. You’re witnessing history at every race Marquez is in. A once in a generation rider with phenomenal natural talent. No one knows if Marquez himself even knows how he does it. You’d have to talk to him to find out. Joey Dunlop was the same way.