For the third round in succession, Movistar Yamaha stud Jorge Lorenzo jumped out to an early lead, switched on the autopilot on his YZR-M1, cranked up Kings of Leon on his MP3 player, and never broke a sweat in winning the Gran Premio d’Italia TIM. What was suspected after Le Mans has now been confirmed at Mugello – Jorge Lorenzo is the man to beat for the 2015 MotoGP championship. The only way things could get any worse for Honda’s double defending world champion Marc Marquez would be if Lorenzo were to steal his girlfriend.
The European Union has done little to dispel the rampant nationalism extant in most of the continent, and the motorsports rivalry between Italy and Spain has never been greater, with Spain having dominated MotoGP for the last five years. The rejuvenation of Valentino Rossi and the resurgence of Ducati in 2015 have given hope to Italian racing fans, 91,000 of whom were in attendance today hoping for an Italian victory, whether by man or machine. Were it not for Lorenzo, as strong as he’s ever been, they’d have fished their wish, as Andrea Iannone took second from pole on his Ducati GP15 while Rossi finished third on his Yamaha for his 10th podium in a row dating back to last year.
For Honda Racing Corporation and poster boy Marc Marquez, it was another wretched weekend in a season of wretched weekends, the lone exception being Round 2 in Austin. Saturday may have been the single worst day of Marquez’ premier class career, as he finished FP3 in 11th position, the meaningless FP4 in 5th, suffered the ignominy of consignment with the dregs to Q1, and failed to advance into Q2, resulting in his starting the race from 13th position, the only time in his MotoGP career he has failed to start from the first two rows. But as the race started, he looked like the Marquez of 2013-14, climbing to 3rd place by Lap 3, looking loose and dangerous perched on Iannone’s pipes.
Iannone, Monty Python’s Black Knight of MotoGP, racing with a bad left shoulder and fractured right elbow, would become a brick wall around which Marquez was unable to navigate while Lorenzo was cruising off into the ether. After 15 laps of trying, Marquez went after the Italian again in Turn 3 of Lap 18 where the front of his RC213V washed away, sending him into the gravel for his second DNF of the young year.
For HRC, Lap 18 would get worse. Moments later, Rossi went through on the tough Dani Pedrosa, looking recovered from his arm pump surgery early in the season, and who had spent much of the day in fourth place. Rossi, having started eighth and faded to 11th early in the day, outraced much of the field on his way to yet another podium. Despite leading the 2015 championship, Rossi knows that he will ultimately fall to Lorenzo unless he can get his merda together in qualifying, something he has generally been unable to do since the advent of the two-15 minute QP sessions in 2013.
Elsewhere on the Grid
Andrea Dovizioso, who qualified 3rd on Saturday and spent a good part of Sunday running with the group challenging for second place, retired with a mechanical issue on Lap 14 described as “rear wheel chatter.” The chatter may have been about Iannone challenging him for the #1 seat on the Ducati team; Dial-A-Nickname Joe does love himself some GP15. Pedrosa finished fourth – bravo Dani – in front of up-and-coming Bradley Smith, who flogged his Tech 3 Yamaha from the 11-hole at the start to another credible 5th place finish, following the #1 rule in motorsports which is “Beat your teammate by half a second”, as Pol Espargaro crossed the line sixth.
Steadily improving Maverick Vinales, on the #2 Suzuki Ecstar, finished seventh for his best result in MotoGP while teammate Aleix Espargaro, still struggling with injuries suffered at Jerez, had another “sorely” disappointing DNF. Spots 8 through 10 were occupied by Ducati, with wildcard Michele Pirro driving a GP15 to eighth, Danilo Petrucci finishing ninth pending an inquiry from Race Direction concerning an incident on Lap 3, and Yonny Hernandez closing in tenth place. Constructor-wise, Round 6 produced another top ten comprised of four Yamahas, four Ducatis, one Honda and one Suzuki.
In addition to Marquez, other high profile crashers today included Jack Miller, enduring his indentured servitude on the CWM LCR production Honda, aging Nicky Hayden on the Aspar Honda, Stefan Bradl, heading for oblivion on the Forward Racing Yamaha, and Cal Crutchlow, who banged up a thumb in the morning warm-up and, like Marquez, chose the hard option front tire, which let him down on Lap 21 as he fought Smith for fifth place.
I would be remiss if I failed to suggest that part of Iannone’s success today, under extremely painful conditions, may have been due to the radically upgraded brolly girl assigned to keep him in the pre-race shade. She, in turn, may have been to blame for Joe coming this close to jumping the start as the lights were going out. Let’s just leave it at that.
The Big Picture
Movistar Yamaha owns the top two spots a third of the way into the season, with Rossi still leading Lorenzo by a scant six points; those two warriors could easily trade places in Barcelona. Tranche Two, The Ducati Strata, finds Dovizioso two points in front of teammate Iannone, Iannone having the momentum leaving Italy. In fifth place sits the dejected Marquez, on the bubble. Difficult to say at this point whether he will rally back into the top three or, instead, go all immature and find himself sulking with the Tech 3 and CWM LCR entries. My prediction of his return to prominence this weekend looked good early, but it’s pretty clear that Honda will not win a title this year in MotoGP. The two Suzukis and Danilo Petrucci on the Octo Pramac Ducati close out the fight for top ten status.
Although Jorge Lorenzo is clearly one of the more popular riders in MotoGP, he doesn’t seem to inspire the rabid fascination of fans the way Rossi and Marquez do. Fortunately for you, the reader, I have discovered why this is. When Lorenzo is dominant, as he has been for the last three trysts, the race becomes dull, at best a fight for second place. When Rossi or Marquez is winning races, it’s almost always some kind of dramatic, come-from-behind, paint-trading, barely-under-control affair that sets fans’ blood boiling. Watching Lorenzo win is like watching iron rust. Watching Rossi tracking down some unfortunate frontrunner or Marquez barging his way into the lead brings on head-bobbing, body-twisting gesticulation, full of “oh nos” and “oh yesses”, punctuated by grunts, groans and shouts. Put another way, watching Rossi and Marquez win is like having sex with a partner, while watching Lorenzo win is like being, um, home alone. Fun, but not nearly as satisfying.
On to Barcelona!
|2015 MotoGP Mugello Top Ten Results|
|1||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||–|
|2||Andrea Iannone||Ducati Corse||+5.563|
|3||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||+6.661|
|4||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+9.978|
|5||Bradley Smith||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+15.284|
|6||Pol Espargaro||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+15.665|
|7||Maverick Vinales||Suzuki ECSTAR||+23.805|
|8||Michele Pirro||Ducati Corse||+29.152|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||Pramac Ducati||+32.008|
|10||Yonny Hernandez||Pramac Ducati||+34.571|
|2015 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 6 Rounds|