Occasionally in this world, team sports produce individual accomplishments that stay etched in people’s minds for years. We know that Marc Marquez qualified on pole at the Sachsenring for the seventh consecutive time. We know that he won at the Sachsenring for the seventh consecutive time. We know that in doing so he became, at age 23, the seventh winningest rider in MotoGP history. It is important, however, to acknowledge the work of his crew that made all of these sevens possible.

To quote the late Prince: “All seven and we’ll watch them fall/They stand in the way of love/And we will smoke them all.”

Qualifying Issues for Aliens

Previously at Assen, it was Dani Pedrosa’s day in the barrel on Saturday, when he had to join the dregs in Q1 and failed to make it out, starting in 16th place and never making an impression in qualifying or the race itself. This Saturday it was defending triple world champion Jorge Lorenzo’s turn. For the first time since the current qualifying format was adopted in 2013, Lorenzo had to go through Q1 to get to Q2, which he did, by just 5/100ths of a second ahead of Cal Crutchlow, despite crashing hard late in the session.

Qualifying was a total mess for Jorge Lorenzo.

Barely 20 minutes later, in Q2, Lorenzo parted company with his bike again, smashing his #2 while the crew was still busy putting #1 back together. His scooter ride back to the garage was a sorry sight. For the second round in a row, he started from 11th place on the grid, the sole difference being that in Assen he had to contend with the rain, while here the qualifying conditions were perfect. It appears Lorenzo has lost confidence in his tires, his bike and perhaps himself. This is a man in need of a vacation.

When the smoke cleared on Saturday, Marquez sat on pole, with Valentino Rossi looking dangerous on his Yamaha M1 in third. But three of the top five spots belonged to satellite entries: the occasionally amazing Hector Barbera sitting second on the two-year-old Avintia Ducati; mudder Danilo Petrucci in fourth on the year old Pramac Ducati, and Pol Espargaro, who coaxed his Tech 3 Yamaha into the five hole. Even in dry conditions, things were shaping up oddly in Germany.

Hectic Hector Barbera qualified a surprising second

The only breaking news from Saturday was that Crutchlow was angry after qualifying, starting from 13th when any wanker could clearly see he would have been on the second row but for Bradl’s stupidity blah blah blah…(yawn)… However, this time he proved to be right. And – MO will be the only racing site to provide this factlet – for the third and final time this season, he doubled his point total in one hour. As usual, he diluted the goodwill generated by his performance today with a nasty post-race interview with Dylan Gray, taking credit for being the only rider with the “balls to go out on a wet track on slicks,” which is 1) incorrect, and 2) self-aggrandizing, never a pretty combination.

Sunday Dawns Gray and Wet

Johann Zarco beat future Tech3 teammate Jonas Folger in the Moto2 race by a mere 0.059 seconds.

The undercard races were fascinating. Malaysian rookie Khairul Pawi simply ran away with the Moto3 tilt for the second time in his rookie season, again in the rain, after starting from 20th on the grid. Then there was the thrilling run to the wire in Moto2, where Johann Zarco, heading to Tech 3 Yamaha next season, pipped future teammate Jonas Folger at the flag on a surface that was wet-ish, but not drenched as it had been for Moto3.

Things looked grim in the Repsol Honda box after Marc Marquez crashed in warm-up, severely damaging his RC213V in a race where flag-to-flag conditions looked likely.

Other than the abbreviated FP1, none of the MotoGP practice sessions had been run in the wet. Marquez crashed heavily during the soaking morning warm-up session and was lucky to escape without the remnants of his RC213V embedded in his torso, after rider and bike went cartwheeling through the gravel together. Four hours before the race was to go off, Marquez’s crew had an intact #2 bike and, off to the side, an engine, two wheels and a pile of steel and fiberglass fragments they needed to instantly convert to a functioning MotoGP machine, with no time to do it, and a potential flag-to-flag situation in the offing.

Decisions, Decisions

Everyone started the race on wet tires but teams were keeping a close eye on the weather report.

The race started with everyone on rain tires. Marquez got off to a good start, but was immediately overtaken by Rossi, then Andrea Dovizioso on the factory Ducati. On Lap 3 Petrucci went through on both Marquez and Rossi into second place, seizing the lead from Dovizioso on Lap 4. Suddenly, passing Marquez became fashionable. Jack Miller – yes, that Jack Miller – did so on Lap 6; Hectic Hector Barbera got in on the act on Lap 9. Marquez was sinking like a stone. He went hot into Turn 8 on Lap 11, spent some quality time in the gravel, and re-entered the fray trailing Pedrosa, Crutchlow, Scott Redding and Andrea Iannone, although Petrucci had crashed out of the lead on the same lap. If someone had offered me the opportunity to bet my house against Marquez at that point I would now be homeless.

Danilo Petrucci hurries out of the pit to rejoin the race while his crew puts out a fire on his other bike.

While all this was going on, the rain had stopped by Lap 7, and the beginnings of a dry racing line were becoming visible from the helicopter. On Lap 13, Iannone changed bikes and went back out on the Michelin intermediates (perhaps “indeterminants” would be a better name). Chaos reigned on pit row; crews were working madly, changing tires and brakes. Dylan Gray was going mental, trying to suss out what was happening. His guess was that the teams were fitting intermediate tires and steel brakes. He would be proven wrong.

Loris Baz was the second rider to enter pit lane when, suddenly, Marquez himself entered after Lap 17. When #93 returned to the track, Nick Harris and Matthew Brit, calling the race, became semi-hysterical upon discovering that Marquez’ crew had fitted his bike with slicks and a dry setting. What had been a pile of breathtakingly expensive junk barely four hours earlier had become the fastest bike on the track.

The leaders, all on wet tires, were at this point lapping in the 1:35 range. Marquez, squeezing his bike into a racing line perhaps a foot wide, completed Lap 23 in 1:28. The leaders, other than Jack Miller, entered the pits on Lap 24, way too late to challenge Marquez. Miller, having decided to go down with his ship, finally pitted on Lap 26 on his way to a very respectable, if ill-considered, seventh place finish. The Pawi/Miller parley, offered by London bookies at a billion to one, was history. Marquez eased back on the gas on Laps 29 and 30 and still won by 10 seconds.

By the time most teams headed to the pits it was already too late.

In the post-race press conference, Marquez revealed that he and his crew have decided that the intermediate tires “do not exist for them.” The startling decision to put him back out on slicks, which I had been crediting to a cerebral Santi Hernández, had actually been made weeks earlier. We have observed in past years that MotoGP teams are “teams” in only the loosest sense, as the #1 rule on track is Beat Your Teammate. Today, however, it became clear that this is, in fact, a team sport, that the sublime efforts of a supremely gifted rider will often be scuttled by lackluster work from his crew (see Bradl’s race here in 2014). For the Repsol Honda #1 crew today, it was, indeed, a brilliant team effort that produced a scintillating win.

The Big Picture

Marc Marquez came to Germany leading the 2016 chase by 24 points and left leading by 48 as Jorge Lorenzo again failed to show up in any meaningful way, finishing 15th with his head down, his hopes for a fourth world title in 2016 in tatters and totally at the mercy of the weather. Teammate Rossi lost more ground again today, coming in eighth and trails now by 59 points. Marquez likes to say that Assen and the Sachsenring offer opportunities to gain or lose a lot of ground. Even if that’s true for every circuit on the calendar, he took control of the championship over these last two rounds, making it hard to argue with him.

The top ten finishers, listed below, were interesting, as is often the case in flag-to-flag contests. The Ducati contingent had another highly productive weekend, thanks mostly to the weather, which also contributed to a dismal outing for Suzuki Ecstar – Maverick Vinales 12th, Aleix Espargaro 14th. The grip problems the Suzuki experiences on dry surfaces are magnified in the wet, according to team principal Davide Brivio.

Most of the grid heads to Austria tonight for two days of testing. Marc Marquez, the 2016 championship now his to lose, is heading to the beach. It is reasonable to expect that before he leaves tonight he will have picked up a big dinner check, a small thank you to his crew for a big job well done.

Before the race, the MotoGP community gathered to observe a moment of silence to remember the victims of the attack in Nice, France. Loris Baz, From Sallanches, stands in the center next to MotoGP president Carmelo Ezpeleta and beside him, Hervé Poncharal of the French Tech 3 team.
2016 MotoGP Sachsenring Results
Pos. Rider Team Time
1 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda
2 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda +9.857
3 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse +11.613
4 Scott Redding Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati +11.992
5 Andrea Iannone Ducati +22.755
6 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda +18. 692
7 Jack Miller Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +26.043
8 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha +26.449
9 Hector Barbera Avintia Racing +26.614
10 Alvaro Bautista Aprilia Gresini +31.274
11 Eugene Laverty Aspar Ducati +41.208
12 Maverick Vinales Suzuki Ecstar +42.158
13 Bradley Smith Monster Yamaha Tech3 +1:03.129
14 Aleix Espargaro Suzuki Ecstar +1:06.091
15 Jorge Lorenzo Movistar Yamaha +1:17.694
16 Tito Rabat Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +1 Lap
17 Loris Baz Avintia Ducati +2 Laps
18 Yonny Hernandez Aspar Ducati +3 Laps
Not Classified
Pol Espargaro Monster Yamaha Tech3 13 Laps
Danilo Petrucci Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati 18 Laps
2016 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 9 Rounds
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1 Marc Marquez Honda 170
2 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 122
3 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 111
4 Dani Pedrosa Honda 96
5 Maverick Vinales Suzuki 83
6 Pol Espargaro Yamaha 72
7 Hector Barbera Ducati 65
8 Andrea Iannone Ducati 63
9 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 59
10 Eugene Laverty Ducati 53
  • Starmag

    Rossi, with dreams of yet another championship, must be ruing the day the Carol Channing/Joker lovechild/gravel pilot was born. With any more races like the last two, The Doctor may wish he had a Tardis.

    Mr. Smooth made a point (Ha!) of again proving he’s like a cat when it comes to water.

  • Old MOron

    Fantastic race summary, Bruce. Really good. You can be glad you didn’t bet your house against Marquez, and I can be glad I didn’t fall for the Miller-Pawi parley.

    Just the same, full credit to Miller. He stayed out too long, just all the others in the leading group, but he pipped Rossi at the end for 7th place.

    Shame about Cal. Just when you’re tempted to offer him a figurative pat on the back, he shoots his mouth off in parc ferme.

    • Gruf Rude

      Cal really needs a filter. In fairness though, his ‘balls’ comment referred to his initial hard front rain tire choice, not the slicks.

      • Bruce Allen

        You’re right, Gruf, and so am I. He was referring to his hard option front rain tire. And he is an asshole to pat himself on the back so hard. If one of his opponents were to comment on what a huge pair he has, I would be impressed. Him saying it about himself, not so much.

        • Gruf Rude

          Bruce, I completely agree with both of us (grin!)

    • Ozzy Mick

      Pawi is a surprise, or maybe not? I was brought up in Malaysia – it rains a lot there, bucket loads of it, often with surface flooding. They only have 2 seasons – wet, and very wet!
      Miller’s gamble didn’t pay off. Maybe he should punt for a Ducati ride and get closer to emulating his countryman and former world champ?

      • Old MOron

        Pawi wow-whee! I get up at 05:00 to watch the Moto GP race, but I watch the other races during the day. Just saw Moto 3. Pawi was amazing. Near highside? No problem, throttle on!

  • JMDonald

    A Marquez win will always be a hollow victory to me. I just can’t seem to Get behind him.

    • Gruf Rude

      Apparently a victim of the Rossi PR machine.

      • JMDonald

        No. It is important to have integrity. Marquez doesn’t seem to have much If any. Without it you are less than your accomplishments. A lot less. That’s all.

        • Bruce Allen

          I don’t understand your disdain for Marquez. I don’t know about you, but I was pretty much of a jerk when I was 23. With all the money and influence and women and hangers-on, I’m a little surprised he’s as grounded as he appears to be. Do you harbor ill feelings toward #26 for his attack on Nicky Hayden in 2006? He’s the most talented rider of his generation if you believe, as I do, that Rossi was the most talented rider of his generation. You know–the previous one.

          • JMDonald

            No disdain. No ill will. Just another day in MotoGP racing. Marquez is who he is. He’s no worse than a lot of guys. Who am I to blow against the wind?

    • Prakasit

      Same here, a masterful rider but difficult to root for.

  • spiff

    Been out and about and didn’t watch anything this weekend. I dont think I will watch any of it.

  • Shlomi

    I cant believe that Rossi with all his experience gave this one a way. This is second time that he does not listen to his crew who clearly had more information regards the lap times of Marquez. But to be honest Rossi would loose it anyway as his bike was with the intermediates while to win this one you needed Slicks on the last 10 laps of the race.
    Way to go Honda, who proof that even with inferior bike, a well organized team, and tactic riders (wow Marquez matured so much this year) are taking this championship without being the fastest

    • DKing

      Completely agree with you there. I thought Rossi was throwing it away when he refused to pit early. I’ve generally always been a Rossi fan for the most part, but Marquez’s awesome ability to ride plus his new found ability to think with his head and ride a smart race is sure making it easier root for him.

  • Old MOron

    Just watched the Moto 2 race. Wow, what a barnstormer. There were five guys who crashed twice in the same race! I really like Zarco. He can slice and dice with the best of them, or he can keep his cool and manage a situation. Glad to see him win.

    I also watched some interviews on motogp.com. Lorenzo complained that his team told him to pit (and change bikes) too late in the race. After his miserable performance, after all his crashing, after wobbling around like a big pussy, he still had to throw his team under the bus. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say about Ducati next year.

  • schizuki

    Absolutely superb write-up, Bruce. Give yourself a Crutchlow-strength balls-waxing for that.

  • Vrooom

    “The only breaking news from Saturday was that Crutchlow was angry” You’ve got to stop making me laugh at work Bruce! Still, a second place for Cruthlow is going to feed his ego for a couple of seasons. Disappointing finish from Rossi. Personally I throw up a little bit in my mouth when I say it, but Marquez had a hell of a come back.

  • Old MOron

    Have you MOrons seen the times from the first day of testing in Austria? Holy smokes, 8 of the top 9 riders are on a Ducati. Okay, Repsol Honda is not there, but factory Yamahas are, and they are s-l-o-w.

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