MotoGP 2014 Silverstone Preview
The grid exhales and says, “Now what?”
So, I imagine most of you reading this are saying “I told you so,” taunting me for my naiveté in believing Repsol Honda pilot Marc Marquez could run the table in 2014. Victory has a thousand parents; defeat is an orphan, etc., etc. But after the surprising result in Brno, there’s still plenty to discuss. Including the possibility that Marquez might one day go Pee Wee Herman and claim, “I meant to do that.”
Watching the race, it appeared to be just another ordinary win in the making for the young Repsol Honda icon. He failed to start well from pole, got caught up in a little traffic, and trailed a few Italian riders early on. Nothing we haven’t seen before. By Lap 12 he was in third position, roughly two seconds behind Jorge Lorenzo’s Yamaha and a mere 3½ seconds behind leader and teammate Dani Pedrosa, with ten laps to go. A day at the beach. Marquez was running consistent sub-1:57 laps and everything appeared normal. With fuel loads down and tires hot, it looked to be Marquez time. Despite the fact that both Pedrosa and Lorenzo appeared fast and smooth, win #11 looked ready to get chalked up.
Instead, the most amazing thing all year happened – nothing. Marquez got passed by Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha back into fourth place, and, from there, made no visible effort to go for glory. I’ve been told that the TV broadcast was completely jacked up, so those of you who depend upon Fox Sports 1 wouldn’t have known, but to me it looked like Marquez made a conscious decision not to go for the win. Maybe he had tire or setup issues he refrained from discussing afterwards. Maybe it was the stress and strain of beating the entire grid like a drum since Losail that finally got to him. Or perhaps he just felt the risk of trying to catch Pedrosa on that particular Sunday was too great. Perhaps, in the end, he was unwilling to risk a title everyone has already conceded him for the unlikely prospect of accomplishing the impossible, sweeping an entire major motor sports season.
We won’t get a chance to find out at least until he has mathematically clinched the title. 126 points by Aragon, 101 by Motegi, 76 by Phillip Island. Once he has won the title, with a few rounds left, we might get to see another situation like we saw in Brno with a radically different outcome. Here’s the truth – the man doesn’t need to explain anything to anyone. Although I was surprised that he lost in Brno, I was more surprised he didn’t make an attempt to podium. This was the first premier class race Marquez finished that he DIDN’T podium. Ever. Even if going for the win was judged not worth the risk, Marquez appeared fully capable of taking third place from Rossi whenever he felt like it.
Cal Gets Another One Wrong
“Everybody believes you can just jump on a Honda and be
winning. It doesn’t happen like that at all” – Cal Crutchlow
That’s probably true, if you’re Cal Crutchlow. If you’re Casey Stoner, or Marc Marquez, you actually can just jump on a Honda and be winning. A sizeable majority of you would, if asked, name them as two of the greats in MotoGP history. So, in truth, if you’re a completely awesome, extra-worldly rider-God, which Cal wants us to believe he is, you’ll just jump on the Honda and start winning, which he won’t. So far, during his three-plus years in the premier class, he’s explained to us, with the patience of a saint, that not having a factory ride held him back. Then, when he got the factory ride he so desperately sought, his futility on it was attributed, publicly, to the fact that it was the WRONG factory ride. A terrible factory bike. An old scrapped out Baltimore City garbage truck with most of the wheels removed-caliber terrible factory bike. There goes the spokesman gig.
Now, Cal seems to be preparing us for disappointment and under-achievement, this time on the fastest bike on the planet. His new LCR Honda will be essentially identical to the bikes Marquez and Pedrosa ride to podiums every week, but there’s every reason to believe Crutchlow will not be bumping either of them off the rostrum anytime soon. With this prospect clearly in mind, he then goes public with an endorsement of Johnny Rea as his desired teammate. This reminds me of my occasional strategy when out in public, that of getting my picture taken standing next to a really fat guy so I appear relatively thin. Wanna seem fast? Team up with Johnny Rea and put him on a Honda production racer. Cal will kick Johnny Rea’s ass, as he should. He will also spend much more time with the likes of Andrea Dovizioso and Scott Redding than he will with Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez. Cal, as they say on ESPN on Monday nights before the football game – come on, maaaaaan.
Recent History at Silverstone
Back in 2012, Jorge Lorenzo was on his way to his second premier class title, and won fairly easily at Silverstone on one of the rare dry days there. He was joined on the podium by the Repsol Honda duo of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa in second and third, respectively. The chase of the day, however, came down to Nicky Hayden on the factory Ducati and his eventual successor, Cal Crutchlow, on the satellite Tech 3 Yamaha. Cal, you will recall, had a slight mishap in practice, such that when he was facing north his left ankle was facing more-or-less south. Too injured to walk!! – Crutchlow went out and rode the wheels off his Yamaha, going from seven seconds behind Hayden on Lap 13 to a few feet in front of him at the flag. A healthy percentage of the crowd probably went home unaware of who had won the race but damned certain who finished sixth.
Last year’s British Grand Prix was simply one of the best races of the year. Marquez dislocates his shoulder in the morning WUP (nearly taking Alvaro Bautista’s RC213V on the chin as he slid off three seconds later) and then goes out and chases Jorge Lorenzo all day before finally succumbing by 8/100ths of a second, leaving Pedrosa, Rossi and all the other prototype bikes sucking wind. On a day that appeared ripe for the field to close the gap to the leader, Marquez left Great Britain sore, but leading the championship by more than when he arrived. I would gladly watch that race again. Tonight.
Your Weekend Forecast
Going with Weather.com for what may be the last time, the weekend forecast for the Northamptonshire vicinity calls for temps in the 60’s and only a slight chance of rain all three days. “Hello, England, this is the United States in early April calling.” At least the conditions (although there’s no snow in the forecast) are unpredictable, even if the results really aren’t. Marquez and Lorenzo will end the day on the podium, joined by Pedrosa or Rossi, as is the custom these days in the premier class.
The race goes off at 8 am EDT, and we’ll have results right here Sunday evening. Just in time, perhaps, for the start of another streak.