Heading into Mugello two weeks ago, the world appeared to be Movistar Yamaha matinee idol Valentino Rossi’s oyster. Sure, he was sitting in third place, courtesy of his slide-off in Austin. But he was within striking distance of both Repsol Honda nemesis Marc Marquez and teammate/rival Jorge Lorenzo. His sense of the moment led many to expect a dramatic win at his home crib. Instead, a blown engine on Sunday has put him squarely behind the eight ball, the not-so-magic eight ball that had falsely predicted something grand in Scarperia.

His immediate problem, of course, is Round Seven, the fast-approaching Spanish Grand Prix #2, otherwise known as Barcelona, Catalunya and, to the Spanish riders who love her like eight year-olds love their mothers, Montmelo. With three wins in the last four outings here, Jorge Lorenzo would marry her tomorrow if she were, you know, human. Marc Marquez, the holder of the fourth win during this period, his only one here in three premier class outings, has nothing against older women, and would gladly whisk her away to Monaco for a long off-season weekend, were such a thing possible.

Valentino Rossi would be in a much better position going into Catalunya if his Yamaha M1 hadn’t suddenly taken up smoking. Filthy habit, that.

Rossi, winless here since 2009 and no big fan of anything Spanish, normally wouldn’t give her a second look. He would disrespect her father and call her mother a filthy puttana. Unfortunately for The Doctor, he has to make nice this weekend. Mistreat Montmelo and she will bite you in the ass, leaving a mark. She prefers Spanish men, having given all 25 points of herself to them for four years running. If you’re Italian and have designs on a 10th world championship, you had better bring flowers, a little something frilly for her mama, and be on your best behavior during qualifying and on race day. Montmelo has not given herself to Rossi since 2009, and, not being fooled by the roses and lace, she would like nothing better than to kick his culo Italiana down the road to Assen.

Recent History at Catalunya

Jorge Lorenzo has finished on the podium six of the last seven times in Montemelo. Four of those were wins including here, in 2013.

Back in 2013, Factory Yamaha #1 Lorenzo won a number of battles at the Gran Premio Aperol de Catalunya. He beat challengers Dani Pedrosa and Marquez to the line for his second consecutive win of the season and his second in a row at Montmelo. He beat the Spanish summer heat that had a number of riders seeing stars, and the racing surface itself, which was hot, greasy and abrasive. Disaster lurked just around the bend, however, as he crashed heavily at Assen the next time out, and followed that with another brutal off at The Sachsenring, opening the door for rookie Marquez to take his first premier class title that fall.

Catalunya 2014 took place during The Year of Marquez, as the sophomore sensation first went hammer and tongs with Yamaha mullah Rossi, followed by a knife fight with teammate Pedrosa. Marquez ended up winning his seventh straight 2014 race by half a second over Rossi after Pedrosa, forcing the issue late in the day, touched tires with Marquez and got the worst of the encounter, finally settling for third. Those of us who thought we had seen the best of MotoGP at Mugello two weeks earlier were treated to an even more compelling race that day, as both Rossi and Pedrosa looked capable of winning.

Marc Marquez was victorious in 2014 but didn’t fare as well last season.

Whatever faint hopes double defending world champion Marquez held for a third consecutive title in 2015 ended on Lap 3 at Montmelo when, frantically chasing Lorenzo from second place, he ran way hot into the sharp lefthander at Turn 10, left the racing surface and dumped his Honda RC213V in the gravel, his day and season done. With Lorenzo having jumped out into the lead on the first lap, and knowing what would happen if he let the Mallorcan get away, Marquez had no choice but to try to force the issue early. At the end of the day, he trailed Rossi by 69 points and Lorenzo by 68. Game over.

Jorge Lorenzo won at Catalunya last year but Marc Marquez crashed out after just three laps.

Catalunya was one of six DNFs suffered by young Marquez last year. And though he’s solved that particular problem, at least for now, he has yet to solve the acceleration and handling issues that have plagued the factory Honda for the last two years. He is being forced to override, testing the limits of Michelin adhesion, every week. His present 10-point deficit to Lorenzo is due to a crash at Le Mans while he was riding as if possessed; though he finished the race, he had but three points to show for his efforts that day. At a track like Montmelo, such comportment can be hazardous to one’s health and well-being.

Scott Redding Selects a Role Model: Cal Crutchlow

Cal Crutchlow needs to do a little less of this and a little more of staying on his saddle.

Quoting from an article published Tuesday in a reputable racing publication, “Crutchlow denied that his confidence was down, and does not believe that backing off to ensure he finishes races is the answer.” Which is exactly what he was, um, “encouraged” to do by LCR management at Mugello, probably along these lines: “Listen, Cal. Is that short for Californicate? Whatever. Wreck another of our bikes during today’s race and it’s your bollocks. You will be limping to the unemployment line tomorrow. We will tear up your contract and the lawyers you hire to enforce it. You’ll never ride in MotoGP again, because you won’t be physically able to climb up on the saddle. We are SICK and TIRED of your mouth and your crashing out of every bleeding race. Finish the effing race. Or else.” The article went on to capture Cal using a LOT of conditional verb tenses:

“At the end of the day, you put me on a Yamaha, I’ll hammer the two guys that are on the satellite Yamahas, there is no shadow of a doubt.”

“You put me on the satellite Ducati, I’ll hammer them guys as well.”

“I am pissed off at this situation but I can’t get myself out of this situation. What can I do?” Well, Cal, you could go postal in the media, light a fire under your employers, and watch your contract not get renewed. Is there anyone reading this who expects to see Crutchlow riding for LCR again next season? Having previously given the finger to both Yamaha and Ducati, if someone were to film his racing biography it would have to be titled Burning Bridges: The Cal Crutchlow Story.

Not to be outdone, Scott Redding, of Octo Pramac Ducati and with a full 16 points to show for his body of work this season, in the same publication, expressed his intent to remain with the Pramac team next season while acknowledging his disappointment at not having been tagged for the factory Ducati seat next to Jorge Lorenzo. Sounding like Pramac would be damned lucky to keep him.

As if.

He then launched into a whinefest, reminding me of my five-year-old grandson when he suspects his big brother receives an incrementally larger slice of cake for dessert: “To do the contracts so early is a bit unfair and all the top guys keep changing around in the factories so it doesn’t give the younger guys the opportunity,” he said. He continued, “I am 23, I’ve got maybe two years here and then try again, who knows what could happen in the future.” One thing that could happen in the immediate future, Scott, is someone like Johann Zarco or Franco Morbidelli or Lorenzo Baldassarri could take your seat at Pramac and send you trundling off to World Superbike.

Despite trailing six other Ducati riders on the season, Scott Redding somehow thought he earned a chance on the factory team for next season.

Seriously, I am not anti-Brit. I’ve happily visited the country several times, have friends who live there, hope, for their sake, they stay in the European Union, love fish and chips, the whole lot. I would love to see these guys taking podiums; the steady diet of Spanish and Italian riders (paging Aussie Casey Stoner) gets a little old after a decade or so. But these two, speaking as if they are God’s gifts to motorcycle racing, need to shut up and take some points. They need to look at the scoreboard and acknowledge they will be lucky to be riding for ANYONE next season. They are in Tranche Five, wallering, as we say in Indiana, in the muck at the bottom of the MotoGP food chain.

British racing fans do have some hope in Sam Lowes who currently leads the Moto2 championship chase.

They should NOT be getting quoted anywhere popping off about what they’re going to do, or could have done, or would have done. In Tranche Five, the only people to whom you dictate terms are the crew guys going out to pick up lunch.

The race goes off early Sunday morning in the U.S. We’ll have results and analysis right here later in the day.

  • Old MOron

    Bravo, Bruce! Tranche five, ha ha ha.

    • Old MOron

      To be fair, it must be very difficult to carry the hope of England on your shoulders. They can be so sarcastic and merciless when they deride someone who’s failed them.

  • spiff

    Redding drives me nuts, god bless him, but I wouldn’t hire him. Now Crutchlow. I actually think he could ride the hell out of a good bike, but if he can’t recognize the edge of an inferior bike by now you have to wonder. I did read the article where he was quoted. Classic Crutchlow. 🙂

    So…Go Rossi!!! End transmission.

    I actually think he will (Reference to Go Rossi). If Rossi didn’t break think he would have won two weeks ago. Had a very Assen feel to it. Marquez will be there because he is freaking good (dont like him) and ditto Loenzo (dont like him). Difference between the two is the Yamaha. Iannone and Maveric round out the top five.

    If Michelin brings anything less then perfect it will be a Rossi Marquez shoot out.

    • Bruce Allen

      I’m guessing Lorenzo, Marquez, Rossi on Sunday. As for CC, he was very good on the Tech 3 Yamaha, but the guy must be an absolute pain to work with. Wouldn’t want to work with him myself–too much drama, too much finger pointing. Redding, who I had picked to show big improvement this year, sounds as if he’s just lost his mind.

      • Old MOron

        Hmm, you left the prediction out of your original story. I think you’re close, but I also think that Vale can beat Marc. In fact I think he can beat Jorge, too. Maybe that’s just the fan in me.

        The track has a long straight. That will favor the Ducs and hinder the Suzooks. Still I hope that Maniac Joe, Dovi, Maverick, Aleix… and Petrux9 will fight for the podium. Okay, that’s prolly a big ask for Petrucci. How about top independent rider?

      • Curtis Brandt

        You’re picking early! But you’re just that good. I always wait until after Q2. Though my top three will still look something like yours.

  • Vrooom

    Crutchlow showed a lot of promise when he first entered GP. Not sure what happened. Like you said, Burning Bridges, The Cal Crutchlow story. Given I don’t like the two Spanish lovebirds Marquez and Lorenzo, I’m hoping Maverick shows up for Spain and Rossi for Italy. Maverick is young and doesn’t seem to realize he’s supposed to slack off after getting a big contract from another manufacturer. Yeah those canoodling Spaniards will surely be in the mix.

  • DKing

    I would so like to see Rossi come back with a win on the Spaniards’ home turf. There is quite a long straight on this circuit; so maybe Iannone will be there too..

  • Curtis Brandt

    Very interesting season. Nice and close at the front, at least until Rossi’s engine let go at Mugello. (Did anyone notice that this looked similar to when Ben’s went on the front straight at Indy a few years ago? Surely a different problem…right?). It’s absolutely all up for grabs so far, and no sign of resolution soon.
    A couple of observations –
    I couldn’t care less that Honda are struggling with their bike – it’s on them for making such a razor-edged machine that required both MM’s deep talent and NASA level electronics to stay on course. Meanwhile the Bruise Brothers will continue to enjoy the apparently sweet and well-rounded blue bikes and Ducati will be right up there spoiling any time their riders can keep the shiny side up for the duration of a race. Has anyone thought about how excited Dall’Igna must be to have Lorenzo signed for next year? That Duc might just be the best bike out there right now. Remember, Dovi was about a 3rd place finisher when he rode the Honda in a period where the RCV was clearly superior. Next year, Honda may still be struggling with their bike (though, for their sake, I hope for a quicker turnaround than Pedrosa is predicting), the Yamaha will be as well-rounded as ever, but 99 will have more motivation than ever (and still has youth on his side).

  • spiff

    The second tier silly season is playing out. Pol to KTM. I thought it would be his brother, but he is looking at Aprilia.

    • Old MOron

      Poor Alex feels hard done by. I guess I don’t blame him. He would be a good catch for Aprilia.

      • spiff

        Aprilia doesn’t seem to be a good catch. I like the brand (I own one), but they aren’t showing promise. Maybe they need someone who can set up the bike.

        • Old MOron

          Both Bradl and Bauti brought a lot of Honda perspective to the project. Aleix would bring Yamaha and Suzuki experience. That has to be good for Aprilia.

  • Gruf Rude

    Yamaha has learned that the engine failures were due to faulty electronic settings which caused over-revs (valves into pistons). The spec ECU was not as sophisticated as last year’s Yamaha factory unit and did not control revs as it should have when the rear tire unweighted over a rise. Easy fix and good news for the Bruise Brothers as riding a grenade might otherwise interfere with concentration . . .

    • Old MOron

      Interestingly, some have called this explanation into question.
      Why did Jorge’s replacement engine not suffer the same fate? it used the same electronics, and had to endure twenty-odd laps of that same over-revving.

      • Gruf Rude

        My guess would be that after Lorenzo’s engine blew that morning, he smoothed his already ethereally smooth touch just that littlest bit more and as a result wasn’t unweighting and over-revving quite the same as Rossi. To me, at least, Rossi seemed to be riding with a bit more abandon . . .

        • spiff

          I’m not sure they knew what the problem was before the flag dropped. Also it didn’t look like Lorenzo was saving anything.

      • Starmag

        Also, why didn’t any other manufacturer have engine-destroying over-revving over the bump on the straight?

  • Mikenc1515

    Amen about Crashlow and dRedding!

  • JMDonald

    I predict Cal will finish without incident. That would be two in a row wouldn’t it? Not sure who he will blame. Go Rossi.

  • Bruce Allen

    Guys, I’m feeling fractious today, and would love nothing better than to argue with all of you, even those few who agree with me on occasion. But I have some stuff going on in my life right now that makes this impossible. Look for race results late on Sunday. Peace.

    • Old MOron

      TCB, Bruce. We’ll all be here on Sunday.

    • spiff

      Hope all goes well.

  • spiff

    Moto2 rider Salom, passed away. god speed. Changing the track layout.

  • Bruce Allen

    The death of Luis Salom should remind all of us that the risks these riders take, even the “slow” ones, are truly monumental. Everyone feels horrible when something like this happens. But the weekend has not been scrubbed, and I’m looking for information about the revised layout for Saturday and Sunday. RIP Luis Salom.

  • Old MOron

    Thanks for the update, Bruce and Spiff. I haven’t wanted to read anything since I learned Luis died.

  • Old MOron

    Wow, the new track layout has really helped the Hondas. It almost doesn’t seem fair. But it is!

    Jorge was nowhere in FP4, but sure found something for QP2. I hope he and Vale find even more during tomorrow’s warm up. Otherwise the Hondas, esp Marquez, are going to just disappear.

  • spiff