The picturesque Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli welcomes the 2016 round at a critical point in the season. Repsol Honda phenom Marc Marquez sits on the cusp of clinching his third premier class title, with the Movistar Yamahas of Vale Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo in desperate pursuit. Four non-Aliens have won the last four rounds. Parity has set in. The Suzuki, factory Ducati and LCR Honda teams are legit. The Aliens finally have company – the premier class is no longer just their sandbox.

Fifty points in 2016 is a lot more than it was in 2013. More contenders, more traffic at the front, faster back markers. Rain becoming the norm. The Pacific Swing looming. The Yamahas will be pressing – win or bin is all that is left for them. Marquez can afford to play very carefully. He can also afford to occasionally vent his competitive juices with a multi-lap high-speed joust with the GOAT in Britain.

With seven different winners in as many races, we’re seeing an unprecedented level of parity in MotoGP. Maverick Vinales and Cal Crutchlow were the most recent winners.

Marquez is now the careful, strategic thinker. Cal Crutchlow, with three podia including a win in his last four, has suddenly become the fast, semi-demonic force that Marquez was back in 2013, despite being a decade older.

Final Thoughts on Silverstone

Loris Baz suffered fractrues in the lower tibia and ankle on his right leg from the Silverstone crash. WSBK racer Xavi Fores will race in his place at Misano.
  • Loris Baz’s ankle injury and Pol Espargaro’s bumps and bruises: Could have been worse. Think falling down a flight of concrete stairs.
  • Factory Ducatis had arm pump issues Sunday. Great. Andrea Dovizioso is hurt and Andrea Iannone is still too excitable.
  • Silverstone has the race again next year, with a track option for 2018. Is Wales ever going to happen, or is it just another pipe dream gone up in smoke? At least the executive director of the group trying to put Ebbw Vale on the map got his home landscaping upgraded.
  • Great to see MM and VR and CC bare their teeth and get a chance to really go at one another, fast and clean and ridiculous. Rossi has forgotten more about racing than most guys ever know, and Marquez has the gyroscope and reflexes to do the impossible. Crutchlow is on a hot streak, hot enough to send Marquez into the Great Wide Open Sunday after contact late in the race.
Marc Marquez tangled with Valentino Rossi and a surprising Cal Crutchlow last week at Silverstone.

Marc Marquez tangled with Valentino Rossi and a surprising Cal Crutchlow last week at Silverstone.

Recent History in Misano

Round 13 in 2013: rookie Marc Marquez breezed into San Marino in first place, leading teammate Dani Pedrosa by 30 points and defending champion Lorenzo by 39. Lorenzo gave the crowd one of his machine-like performances, taking the lead early, putting his head down, and recording 27 smooth, fast laps, with Marquez unable to get any closer than 3 seconds and second place. As the day ended, Marquez increased his lead to 34 points with five rounds left in the season.

The Valentino Rossi faithful were rewarded in 2014, seeing their idol win at Misano for the first time since 2009.

The 2014 GP TIM di San Marino e Della Rivera di Rimini will be remembered locally for a number of pleasant things. The fans got to see their idol, Movistar Yamaha wraith Valentino Rossi, win for the first time since Assen in 2013 and for the first time in Italy-ish since San Marino in 2009. They were lifted by the joy of watching that stronzo Marquez lay down his Repsol Honda going perhaps 80 kph. They saw their national bike, Ducati, place two Italian riders in the top five. All in all, it was a good day to be Italian. In the end it was a better year to be Marc Marquez.

As the Misano round of the 2015 MotoGP championship got underway, the weather gods were thoroughly bored, watching Jorge Lorenzo put another methodical sleeper on rivals teammate Valentino Rossi and the annoying Marc Marquez. So they decided to have a little fun, turning on the rain around Lap 6 and turning it off again during Lap 16, forcing a double flag-to-flag affair for the first time in recent memory.

Shifting weather conditions turned last year’s race into an entertaining double flag-to-flag race.

When the laughter died down, Marc Marquez had a win, Bradley Smith and Scott Redding finished on the podium, and Rossi (5th) had extended his championship lead to 23 with five left. Jorge Lorenzo was in the medical center getting x-rays, having high-sided shortly after the second pit stop on cold tires and in desperate need to catch Rossi. Per fake Yamaha press release hours later, “Comrade Lorenzo has no issues riding in the rain. That is an order.”

Told You So. Mostly.

Some time back I did a segment in which I was banging on about how riders who jump ship for big money during the season go on to have down years. Turns out I’m mostly right. As re: Maverick Vinales – a closet Republican, I’m one of those who view facts that contradict my thesis as mere inconveniences.

Rider 2015 After 12 Rounds 2016 After 12 Rounds
Lorenzo 224 146
Iannone 150 96
Smith 115 42
Vinales 67 125

The exception to the rule – there’s always one, or two or, in this case, three – are the brothers Espargaro. Pol leaves Tech 3 next year for KTM, while Aleix leaves Suzuki, reluctantly, for the Gresini factory Aprilia effort. Here are their numbers, with the two brothers each showing remarkable consistency:

Rider 2015 After 12 Rounds 2016 After 12 Rounds
P. Espargaro 81 81
A. Espargaro 60 60

OK, fine. Here’s the rest of the guys I’m interested in who stayed put:

Rider 2015 After 12 Rounds 2016 After 12 Rounds
Rossi 236 160
Marquez 159 210
Dovizioso 120 89
Pedrosa 102 120
Crutchlow 74 86

As a recovering economist, I could easily argue that staying put produces a random and largely neutral distribution of outcomes. But, if your rider just got signed by the competition, be prepared for a bad season.

Unless it’s an Espargaro, in which case it will also be a bad season. But for different reasons.

Thinking about it some more, it is obvious that the number of riders each year who experience an objectively good season can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Your Weekend Forecast

The weather this weekend is expected to be Riviera-ish, low 80’s and dry on Friday and Saturday, with a chance of weather moving in on Sunday afternoon (!). Personally, I doubt it will rain, based solely upon the law of averages.

As to who might end up on the top step of the podium: Candidates include Marquez, Rossi, Crutchlow and Vinales. Lorenzo if conditions are perfect and no one calls him any bad names. Iannone if he can pay attention for the full 45 minutes. Pedrosa if he simply says, “To hell with it,” puts his head down and rides.

Dani Pedrosa hasn’t won since last season and has just two podium finishes this season. Judging from the list of recent race winners, we can’t entirely count Dani out this weekend.

The practice sessions on Friday and Saturday will be revealing. Who will be the hot rider this weekend?

We’ll have results and analysis right here later on Sunday.