The Repsol Honda duo of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa were so fast this weekend they seemed to exit the space-time continuum, re-entering in 2014 amidst a rewind of last year’s German Grand Prix. Marquez, loving himself the 2014 chassis he hauled out after Barcelona, comfortably led every practice session. As in 2014, he and Pedrosa qualified 1-2 and finished 1-2, relegating the factory Yamaha team of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo to also-ran status. Rossi, however, extended his championship lead over Lorenzo to 13 points, and left for summer vacation in a fist-pumping celebration of a near-perfect first half season.
Marquez now owns pretty much every record worth owning at The Sachsenring. Six consecutive wins from pole. Fastest lap ever. Sure, teammate Pedrosa owns the most career wins here, but the most recent, coming in 2012, is fading into memory. It would surprise no one if Marquez ties that one next year and pummels it into submission in 2017. And while Karel Abraham’s dad owns the Brno circuit, Marquez can now claim to own The Sachsenring, lock, stock and podium.
Today’s race was contested only until Lap 5. Lorenzo got off to a slingshot start from the three hole and held the early lead; my notes on Lap 3 read “JL won’t hold up.” Marquez went through Lorenzo easily two laps later and disappeared into 2014, leaving Lorenzo, Rossi and Pedrosa in his contrail. The three remaining Aliens hopscotched positions from there. Rossi went through for good on Lorenzo on Lap 9. Pedrosa repeated the Mallorcan assault on Lap 11. Pedrosa, then, looking like a 2010 version of himself, went through on Rossi on Lap 17, delivering the final top four standings. Rossi would get close to Pedrosa several times before submitting around Lap 27 determined, above all, to extend his 2015 lead on Lorenzo.
Marquez, celebrating his first win since Austin in April, would probably concede that today’s triumph falls under the heading of a Pyrrhic victory, coming after so much devastation as to mean relatively little. There are no bad wins, but, trailing series leader Rossi by 65 points, there aren’t very many good ones, either. Meanwhile, the resurrected Rossi now has 13 successive podia under his belt; the expression “regular as a piston” comes to mind. Even if Marquez returns to the form he showed us over the previous year and a half, there do not appear to be two other riders capable of consistently keeping The Doctor off the podium. Rossi is living proof of a lesson Marquez is learning only this year – you don’t need to win every round to take the title. Being consistently competitive will overcome occasional flashes of brilliance. Consistently.
Elsewhere on the Grid
Coming into Saxony, the Ducati contingent was surprisingly candid about their chances this weekend, conceding that the layout was not favorable to their bike’s strengths. Then, Andrea Iannone on the factory team and Yonny Hernandez on the Pramac team, neither of whom received the memo, went out and qualified 4th and 5th respectively. Iannone would finish 5th today which, as teammate Andrea Dovizioso crashed out for the third time in the last four rounds, elevated him beyond question into the #1 seat on the factory team, sitting an astonishing 3rd for the year. (I recall writing about Dovizioso only a month ago that “the guy never crashes.” Since then, he has determinedly made a liar out of me.) Hernandez slipped to 12th at the finish after battling for eighth place most of the day, while teammate Danilo Petrucci, in the midst of a highly gratifying season, came home in 9th, the #2 Ducati on the grid. Maverick Vinales, on the Suzuki Ecstar, set an all-time record today by becoming the first rookie ever to score points in his first nine races.
Tech 3 Yamaha rider Bradley Smith, he of the rapidly vanishing hairline, described by Nick Harris as “the best starter on the grid,” again finished a respectable 6th after qualifying 9th, putting just a little more distance between himself and Cal Crutchlow. Prior to the start of the season, Crutchlow gave the clear impression he and his factory-spec Honda would be the top Brit on the grid, but such has not been the case. With Dovizioso’s fortunes sinking below the horizon, Smith has now pulled into a tie with the Italian in 5th place for the year. All Smith needs to do in the next couple of years to become a credible candidate to succeed Rossi on the factory Yamaha is secure dual British/Spanish citizenship and some high quality hair implants.
Rich Men, Poor Men
Most of you are probably too young to grock the 1980’s TV miniseries reference. But since the ouster of Gresini Aprilia #2 Marco Melandri this past week, the grid is now graced with two sets of brothers. First and foremost are the Espargaro brothers Aleix and Pol, riding a factory Suzuki and satellite Yamaha respectively, with little brother Pol sitting in 9th place for the year while Aleix, the victim of some bad luck and poor decision-making, resides in 12th. Aleix’s streak of front row starts ended today at two, the Suzuki somewhat surprisingly struggling at a track seemingly well-suited to it.
At the other end of the food chain are the Laverty brothers, Ulstermen Eugene and now Michael, toiling on an Aspar customer Honda and the #2 Gresini Aprilia, respectively. Collectively, for the season, the Spaniards lead the Irish 108 to 7, this comparison only slightly skewed by the fact that Michael completed his first MotoGP race since last year today in 20th place.
Junior Class Headlines
Danny Kent tightened his stranglehold on the Moto3 title with another convincing win today, which is not news. The fact that riders three through nine – seven riders! – were separated by .64 seconds IS news, something that could only happen in Moto3 and maybe the Rookie’s Cup. Imagine losing out on nine championship points by 6/10ths of a second.
Belgian Xavier Simeon won the Moto2 tilt today, holding off season leader Johann Zarco over the last three laps for his first career win. Never having heard the Belgian national anthem during a podium celebration, I was not surprised that Simeon got choked up, as it sounds like a cross between Richard Strauss, Josef Hayden, Todd Rundgren and ELO. Personally, I too would hate to have that mess as my national anthem, preferring “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream, for example.
First Semester Exams, Then Vacation
A number of teams are going off for some private testing this week, then it’s off to summer vacation for a few weeks of Early Silly Season before returning for Round 10 in Indianapolis. Today’s podium occupants must feel pretty good heading out of town for holiday, Jorge Lorenzo somewhat less so. Despite the fact that we have now returned to an Alien class comprised of the Usual Suspects, things at the top of the food chain are sufficiently unsettled to promise an interesting second half. One would have to be completely jaded to complain about the prospect of watching Rossi, Lorenzo, Marquez and Pedrosa in their current forms slugging it out for the rest of the year.
|2015 MotoGP Sachsenring Top 10 Results|
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||–|
|2||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+2.226|
|3||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||+5.608|
|4||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||+9.928|
|5||Andrea Iannone||Ducati Corse||+20.785|
|6||Bradley Smith||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+23.212|
|7||Cal Crutchlow||CWM LCR Honda||+29.881|
|8||Pol Espargaro||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+34.953|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||Octo Pramac Ducati||+35.875|
|10||Aleix Espargaro||Suzuki ECSTAR||+37.253|
|2015 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 9 Rounds|