The 2017 Czech Motorcycle Grand Prix, after much pre-race sturm und drang, turned out to be a fascinating six-lap race with a 16-lap warm down. Series leader Marc Marquez, with the best meteorologists of any crew, pitted at the end of Lap 2 and changed from soft rain tires to slicks before the thought occurred to many of his competitors. He summarily seized the lead on Lap 6 and never looked back.

As Sunday afternoon approached, the crews were in a collective lather trying to figure out the weather and pursuant tire combinations. Marquez changed from a hard rear rain tire to the soft while on the track, a minute before the sighting lap. Confusion reigned, the sky an off-putting combination of clear blue sunshine and heavy gray clouds. It was declared a Wet Race.

We have seen this before from the Repsol Honda crew. They out-thunk and out-worked the factory Ducati and Yamaha teams today, who had their #2 bikes set up for rain, while the Repsol team had both #2 bikes, #93 and #26, set up for the dry. Marquez, who has learned the hard way the benefits of pitting punctually on a drying track (see Phillip Island 2013, etc.), was the first to do so, Dani Pedrosa the second, and rookie Johann Zarco the last of the frontrunners to come in.

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Jorge Lorenzo and Ducati’s new fairing were the talk of the paddock this weekend. Lorenzo led the first three laps but dropped all the way down to 19th after swapping bikes.

A number of riders, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi among them, were forced to stay out longer than they wanted because their bikes weren’t ready. Lorenzo, especially, was hindered by his own team today. This must be unusually painful in that he had led the race from jump street for three laps, then was 19th for awhile before ultimately finishing another dismal 15th.

One of the best things about this sport is that the rider makes the decision when to come in for the change, despite the new messages flashing on his screen. Marquez seems to have an extra muscle that allows him to hit the apex, as it were, when it comes to these flag-to-flag events. And a crew that can roll with him.

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An all-Spanish podium of Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and Maverick Viñales paid tribute to the late Ángel Nieto.

Qualifying

Q2 was more or less predictable, given the heat. The battle for pole became one of circuit (Yamaha- and Ducati-friendly) vs. conditions (Honda heat), and conditions won out. Marquez unloaded his second consecutive pole lap with about a minute left, and nobody mounted a serious challenge after that. Rossi and Pedrosa had already completed the front row, while Andrea Dovizioso on the Ducati, LCR’s Cal Crutchlow, nursing a damaged vertebra and Lonesome Jorge Lorenzo made up row two.

The Anointed Maverick Viñales, who had struggled all weekend, managed only the top of row three, along with Danilo Petrucci and Alvaro Bautista, both of whom had passed through Q1 to get that far. Zarco (Tech 3 Yamaha), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) and Loris Baz (Avintia Ducati) completed the top 12.

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Maverick Viñales qualified seventh but fought his way onto the podium.

Alex Rins (Suzuki) qualified in front of 10 other guys, since most of his fractures have now healed. Just sayin’. Brands that failed to make the grade yesterday included Jonas Folger (Tech 3), the indifferent Andrea Iannone (Suzuki) and Jack Miller (Honda), cooling his heels, anticipating climbing aboard a Ducati GP17 in November.

Down the line in Moto2, veteran Mattia Passini took pole for Kalex, trailed in short order by Miguel Oliveira (KTM) and Franco Morbidelli (Kalex). Oliveira has ridden the KTM factory MotoGP bike and claims to love it, as all good Moto2 riders should. He will find his way to MotoGP in short order. Morbidelli is already going; Passini has been there, done that, got the T-shirt and got out of town.

Gabriel Rodrigo secured pole in Moto3, ahead of rising stars with names like Romano Fenati (2nd), Joan Mir (4th), Nicolo Bulega, Bo Bendsneyder and Fabio Di Giannantonio. In their customary frantic fashion, 23 riders qualified under 2:10, with six of those under 2:09. Closer than a rush-hour bus in August.

With Sunday barreling down on them, the MotoGP riders went to bed Saturday night not knowing what to expect in the way of weather when they woke up on Sunday. Or tire choices. Or race strategy. Or anything much beyond the fact that Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi had qualified one-two and were sharpening their blades, smiles in place, for Sunday’s soiree.

Aliens Flirt with Disaster

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There was no stopping Marc Marquez after he swapped machines on the second lap.

With Marquez disappearing from sight and the 2017 title up for grabs, the other contenders spent an alarming amount of time not contending today before making impressive saves. Dani Pedrosa sat in 8th place for a couple of early laps. Viñales was loitering as low as 13th on Lap 5. Rossi, who led briefly early, returned from his pit in 14th place, 28 seconds behind Marquez. That he made it back to 4th place at the flag is testament to his continued excellence at making lemonade out of lemons. Andrea Dovizioso, who I had expected to fight for the win today, finished Lap 6 in 15th place before rallying to 6th. All had the pace. None had the crew or, for that matter, the rider.

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Cal Crutchlow ignored medical advice to sit out of qualifying after injuring his back in a crash during practice. LCR says Crutchlow was checked after qualifying and tests showed no signs of serious injury.

Both Pedrosa and Marquez gained ground on the Aliens today. Crutchlow’s gritty performance, nursing a very sore back and taking 5th place, gave Honda three of the top five finishers at a track not particularly well-suited to the bike’s strengths, which are few. The Tech 3 Yamaha rookies Zarco and Folger, either of which I had predicted could win today’s race, made a hash of things, with Folger crossing the line in 10th and Zarco limping home 12th. Zarco spent a few early laps in podiumland and too many laps before pitting. If you look up the noun “rookie mistake” in the dictionary, you’ll see his devilishly handsome face with his name in parentheses below it.

Elsewhere on the Grid

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Alex Rins showed signs of improvement as his injuries finally seemed to be healing.

My boy Alex Rins finished in the points in 11th place. Depending on how the season ends, it is not out of the question that he could challenge Zarco and Folger for ROY consideration. Petrucci, running as high as 3rd in the early going, got passed by five riders, easy as you please, on his way to 7th place. Aleix Espargaro, who had been very high on the leader board early, got tangled up with Iannone in pit lane, was penalized three positions (for an error by his crew, releasing him at the wrong time) and still managed 8th place, miles ahead of teammate Sam Lowes and, more importantly, directly in front of little brother Pol on the KTM, who had to be happy for a top ten finish regardless.

The Big Picture

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Andrea Dovizioso did not try the new fairing Jorge Lorenzo used this weekend. In the midst of a title chase, Dovizioso may not want to change anything yet until the aerodynamics develop further.

Yesterday, Marc Marquez had three Aliens sitting within 10 points of him, all slavering away at the idea of unseating him today at Brno. And while Pedrosa lost ground to him (-26 to -31), the Repsol Honda duo gained ground on everyone else, including Dovizioso and the Yamahas. The order of the top five riders hasn’t changed, but Marquez now leads Viñales by 14, Dovizioso and Rossi by 20-something, and Pedrosa by over 30. For the triple world champion, who trailed Viñales by 37 points after Round 2, it’s getting easier to breathe. He looks and sounds like 2015 was a fluke and that he is, in fact, King of the Universe. Maverick Viñales may have to wait his turn.

Moto2 and Moto3 Results

The Moto3 championship became a, ahem, Mir formality as the brilliant young Spanish series leader held off hotheaded Italian Romano Fenati in a bit of a damp clinic on how to punk your rival. Fenati is officially the second-best rider in Moto3, as he has now finished second in four races in a row and five for the year. Oh, and Bulega plays up his resemblance to Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and has the best hair in Moto3. That’s it.

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Thomas Luthi benefited form the restarted Moto2 race, winning a six-lap sprint.

Today’s Moto2 race was red-flagged due to rain and re-started as a six-lap sprint. Mattia Pasini and Franco Morbidelli had the first race by the throat, but both got splattered in the sprint, Pasini crashing out and Morbidelli getting swamped all the way down to eighth. Veteran Thomas Luthi took advantage of series leader Morbidelli’s travails, winning easily and cutting his deficit to the Italian in half.

On to Austria

Testing at Brno tomorrow for some of the teams, then back at it again on Friday at The Red Bull Ring, the Bonneville Salt Flats of MotoGP, in scenic Spielberg, Austria. Last year Iannone and Dovizioso made it a Dueling Andreas sweep for Ducati. With Iannone busy working himself out of a job at Suzuki, and Jorge Lorenzo stumbling around the Ducati garage with his fly down, it appears to be up to Dovizioso and Petrucci to carry the flag next week. The factory Yamahas of Viñales and Rossi will be feeling the pressure of dealing with Marquez who, at this point, should mainly be interested in trying to beat Viñales every time out.

Marquez, on the other hand, will be feeling little pressure heading to Schnitzeland. A podium there would be nice but not necessary. Keeping the shiny side up and finishing the race are important, while keeping a close eye on Viñales is just good business.

We will have a fresh new set of tranches ready for you by mid-week as we gear up for Round 11 in Austria.

Let Valencia Decide.

The MotoGP community honored the late Angel Nieto who passed away last week.

The MotoGP community honored the late Angel Nieto who passed away last week.

  • Starmag

    The weather gods did their best to throw a monkey wrench into this one, but it still ended up with aliens on factory Hondas/Yamahas on top. No Jackass-like surprises here.

    It would have been great to see another Dovi podium to break up the H/Y parade and get him closer to earning his own UFO. Maybe next week.

    MM dropped back from the leaders right before he pitted. If he did it on purpose so the leaders wouldn’t see him pit, thereby giving him an advantage, it was really shrewd. Who knows if it was on purpose though.

    The only thing more amazing than the Czech umbrella girls was VR and MV charging through the field after pitting.

    • I concur re: the brolly girls. Dovizioso, indeed, had a serious upgrade in his. This website needs more in-depth insight into the lives of brolly girls, without whom guys like Alvaro Bautista would get sunburned necks and the whole MotoGP edifice could crumble.

      • Old MOron

        Yeah, the Brolly Girl GP. You should summarize that race, too. Did you see that redhead doing her little twerk before Moto3?

        • Curtis Brandt

          Well. Guess I’ve gotta watch the Moto3 race now!

          • Old MOron

            Well, it was cute rather than sexy. But you’ll enjoy the Moto 3 race just for itself.

          • Curtis Brandt

            “cute rather than sexy”, interesting you should say that, also true of Moto3 bikes! LOL.

        • spiff

          Yamaha, including Tech 3, usually haventhe girls that get me going all Ralph Furley

          • Old MOron

            Ha ha, upvote for good ol’ Ralph Furley.
            I guess the more modern archetype would be Quagmire, but compared to him, Furley had class.

      • hasty hughie

        Bruce, do have a handful of fives and getting enough corn nuts?

        • Try that one on me again. I’m sleep-deprived.

          • hasty hughie

            OK, are you writing on your laptop from a strip club for a bunch of old wankers? It seems to me that the world is changing and motogp needs to change too. The men and women I ride with aren’t buying the old school man in the garage with a can of cheap beer and cigarettes, looking at a tool calendar hoping that someone submissive is making him dinner etc. Maybe that happens in the trumptopia, but not where I live. Now are you getting it? Time to wake up and say goodbye to the brolly girls, they were just an illusion anyway. Of course, if I am in error here and the opinions expressed in your comments are endorsed by your editors, then I apologise. Clearly, I am on the wrong site.

          • Your previous post went something like this: “Bruce, do have a handful of fives and getting enough corn nuts?” I’ll let the readers weigh In on the brolly girl issue. I want to weigh in on my insistence that sentences have subjects. Compound sentences should have at least one, and perhaps more than one, subject. Your slur would have been more coherent, and thus effective, if it went like this, “Bruce, do you have a handful of fives and are you getting enough corn nuts?” BTW, I have three daughters, a wife of 42 years, two granddaughters, don’t drink, haven’t been in a strip club for 30 years and have no idea what they serve for snacks. I’m even going to upvote myself, which I almost never do, because I don’t take crap like this from anyone, not even readers. 🙂

          • Old MOron

            I wonder if “hasty hughie” refers to grammatical haste or judgmental haste.

          • hasty hughie

            I will agree with Old MOron and say that he is correct on both counts. Also, I appreciate his brevity, nicely done. Bruce, why go all sideways to endorse your readers’ opinions that brolly girls are appropriate roles for women and point out that you think my comments are crap? You could have said something simple such as, “that’s a bunch of crap”. Clearly, I am on the wrong site. Be well, hh.
            ,

          • Not the wrong site. Probably just the wrong writer. I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. The other guys are very good at this stuff. Sorry I got animated there.

          • hasty hughie

            OK, we good. After all, I may have been hasty. Now back to racing, go Yamaha!!!!

          • hasty hughie

            We good. After all, I may have been too hasty. Back to racing, go Yamaha!!!!!

          • Old MOron

            How about that Valentino, topping the time sheet on Monday?
            I read something interesting on motogp.com:

            Maverick wants to use the quasi-winged fairing this Sunday because it aids acceleration.

            Vale does not want to use it because while it aids acceleration, it also hinders top speed.

          • hasty hughie

            Can’t wait, hope Vale and Maverick take it to Mark, dicing it up, no weird surprises, no equipment failures, not about tire choices or strategy errors, just heads up racing. Would love to see the season go down to the wire like when edwards and bayliss fought it out in wsbk. Of course, the desired end for me would be Yamaha on top, especially if it was 46 champion again.

  • Old MOron

    Great write-up, Bruce. Hilarious stuff: “With Iannone busy working himself out of a job at Suzuki, and Jorge Lorenzo stumbling around the Ducati garage with his fly down, it appears to be up to Dovizioso and Petrucci to carry the flag next week.” Har har, I can’t wait for next week.

    Listening to Marquez in parc ferme, I think he lucked into things (nothing wrong with that). He said he changed to the soft rain tire at the last minute because he couldn’t get comfortable on the harder tire. He started going backward almost right away, so he pitted, and then things couldn’t have gone better.

    Poor Zarco. What a rookie mistake. Although he only stayed out one lap longer than Valentino, so you can’t blame him too much.

  • Old MOron

    I loved watching Fenati ride around the outside – in the rain! He can’t seem to beet Mir in Moto 3, but I’m hoping he’ll do better on the bigger bikes in Moto 2. In the meantime, Mir is a class act, so I’m happy to see him do well.

    • BDan75

      I know it’s petty, but I root against Fenati every time. Started disliking him after his on-track tantrum with Ajo, and felt confirmed in that after VR et al. fired him over his behavior in the garage. That guy apparently got a double helping of the little man syndrome.

      • I get the sense that he has seen the error of his ways. His comportment has been much better of late. Dude passes on the outside like it’s normal.

      • Old MOron

        Ha ha, that kill switch trick is one of my favorite things about Fenati. That, and he’s fearless.

        Just the same, I don’t blame Sky VR46 for firing him at all. He had it coming. But I hope with age comes calmer perspective.

  • spiff

    Marquez was brilliant. He ran the race backwards, and everyone else ran for second.

    • Whether it was intentional or not, it most surely worked.

      • spiff

        It was totally intentional. NASCAR does the same thing when racing road courses. Get as much time on the track with the better tire, and get all variables (switching bikes) out of the way. That way if something goes wrong you have time for plan B.

        He wanted to start on slicks, but some would have followed suit. One rider, can’t remember who, mentioned slicks to Dillon, which was discounted.

        Perfect suprise, and deception. First, no one had time to react on the grid. Second, as the race started and he dropped like a stone everyone discounted him, and the early pit stop looked like an act of desperation.

        Lastly, if it did rain? He would have been in the cat bird seat.

        He and the team owned the race. Only down side I see is that it is a shame they didn’t let Pedrosa in on the game. Guess he was a sacrificial lamb. At least they told him to set the second bike for the dry.

  • JMDGT

    One down two to go.

    • Old MOron

      You hoser, you’d better not be right.
      http://disq.us/p/1kopfm7

      • JMDGT

        I thought Marquez would smell blood after the last race of the first half. It seemed possible he would try to win the first few of the remaining races after the break. If he does depending on how high the other guys finish he could win the championship well before the end of the season. Who knows? Can’t wait to see how it shakes out. He has a great, thinking team behind him.

        • Old MOron

          Last year the Ducati Ring was not kind to the Hondas. I hope it’s the same this year.

  • spiff

    One more thought. I am afraid our man Bruce is correct. If Honda figures out the wheelie thing everone, including Vinales, is screwed. This bike is just forcing him to perfect late braking.

    He is the best talent. His team is strategizing at a different level than the others (see today’s results). They have the money, and on top of all if that, their resources are second to none. Their ability to build the bike (their facilities) and their data/experience are the envy of most.

    (All this coming from a Yamaha guy.)

  • Old MOron

    So that crazy fairing seemed to do Lorenzo some good at the start of the race, but once he switched to slicks, he was nowhere. I know he was slow to get out of the pits, but still, he did nothing on track with slick tires.

    • spiff

      Do you know his times? This fairing his what some would call a “final hope”.

      • Old MOron

        Here you go, Spiff: http://resources.motogp.com/files/results/2017/CZE/MotoGP/RAC/analysisbylap.pdf
        Looks like Lorenzo was one half to one full second slower than 46 and 93 after about lap 7 when all were on slicks.

        • spiff

          Good find. So now the question is who was riding at what personal pace. I think these fairing will be a little help here and ther for an individual’s pace, but won’t improve the quality of racing much if at all.

        • Gruf Rude

          Just looking at the time sheets, it appears that everyone forced to ride in traffic was down a second or so from their times with clear(er) track. In fairness to JL, his team’s screw-up dropped him into the bottom of the pack and he was being held up by a lot of riders running a second slower than himself.

          • spiff

            His team told him not to come in yet. They were behind setting the bike up for the dry. Unlike Dovi who stayed out, he thought it better to come in and supervise.

          • Old MOron

            I recall Dylan Gray’s coverage of pit lane. Shortly before Lorenzo went in, Dylan noted that his bike was not ready yet. Also, they had on-screen graphics when a team sent the “come in now” message to their rider’s dash board, and Lorenzo’s graphic had not flashed on the screen. At the time, it certainly did seem like Lorenzo came in unbidden.

            But he has stated unequivocally that he was called in before the bike was ready. http://www.motogp.com/en/news/2017/08/07/lorenzo-the-bike-wasn-t-ready/235874
            “… when the team signalled to me to return to the pits the bike wasn’t ready and we lost a bit of time, which ruined the rest of my race.”

          • spiff

            I don’t believe Lorenzo. They called him and not Dovi? I wouldn’t want to be on his team.

          • Old MOron

            You’re not alone. Only one of his mechanics chose to follow him to Ducati.

          • Old MOron

            I agree his team made a blunder, and I suppose it’s possible that he was held up by slower riders. On the other hand, Dovi was able to fight his way forward after changing to slicks. So were Maverick and Valentino.

            I’m not bagging on Lorenzo (on this occasion). Just saying that the new fairing didn’t seem to help. But he did tweet very optimistically regarding next week’s race at Ducati Ring, so let’s see how he goes there.

          • If Lorenzo can’t win in Austria this little experiment is over.

          • Old MOron

            So is this the extent of your preview for this week?
            I want my MOtv!

  • Curtis Brandt

    Great commentary as usual, Bruce!

    I watched only the last few laps, going to need to go back and watch the start.

    All this talk of predictions and results makes me wonder: does anyone here participate in the league on MotoGP.com? It would be informative to see the proverbial money where the proverbial mouth exists.

    • Old MOron

      LOL, why would we pay money on motogp.cpm when we can flame Bruce here for free?!

      • spiff

        Mutually exclusive events. Motogp.com has prizes. Gonna flame Bruce just on principal. 🙂

        • Old MOron

          Trying to keep up with Bruce takes all of my cognitive capacity. Nothing left for fancy league predictions.

      • Curtis Brandt

        Believe you can participate in the league for free (edit, scratch the equivocation, you CAN play the league for free, I’ve done it). Totally separate from the for-fee coverage (which is excellent and very much worth it, but again that’s another topic).

        • Old MOron

          Thanks for the info. And I agree the coverage here is great. As Spiff notes, we flame Bruce just on principle. Hi, Brucey!

          • Hi guys. It’s not like I don’t ask for it. My dad always emphasized for me the importance of having a straight man when you’re doing comedy. I just happen to be the straight man for the lot of you. Doing my job.

          • Old MOron
    • I tried the previous version of the game a few years ago. Kept forgetting to make my picks. The game needs a buy-in to jog one’s memory.

  • Chocodog

    Good summary, Mr. Allan enjoyable read.

  • Chocodog

    The question had come up, did MM put on the soft rear rain tire so that no one would suspect why he was sliding back at the start? Was the strategy all along to drop back so the leaders wouldn’t see him pit, then take the advantage the early stop gave him? Or did it just play out that way as luck would have it?

    Who knows, only the MM crew and MM.

    • spiff

      I think that was part of the plan.

  • Vrooom

    I was afraid Lorenzo might have a decent race for a few minutes there. Marquez skunked everybody on the tire change, got to give him credit for being smarter than the rest of the grid, but I have to admit I’m grinding my teeth doing so. 🙂

  • elgar

    Such a promising first 2 laps…JLo leading, and all the ‘aliens’ jockeying for position…sigh. MM would have most likely won anyways, but it sure would have been nice to see the top 5 contenders battle it out rather than watch the effects of a flag to flag race with the staggering 20 secs advantage for 1st place. The flag to flag needs to be eliminated as I feel that it would provide closer racing.

    • spiff

      We need the diversity in racing. Just like a nice rainstorm once in a while. This race will be remembered for some time. We also need others to think outside box. Other guys should be remembered for being clever, not just the 93.

      • elgar

        Indeed, diversity is great. Flag to flag would be great in a 2hr long NASCAR type race…in a 45 min MotoGP race, less so. I really would prefer to see the best riders in a close and hard fought race, battling for 1st position rather that ‘fate/strategy’ gifting a 21 second lead to arguably the best rider and removing him from the battle resulting in a battle for the 3rd position on the podium. Albeit, that battle for 3rd was decent!!

        • My friend elgar is not, apparently, a big fan of strategy. 🙂 C’mon, man! Marquez out-foxed the field, including his own teammate. Like a four-move checkmate in chess. The hidden ball trick in baseball. Props to any rider who can pull that off.

          • elgar

            Au contraire Bruce! I’m a big proponent of strategy as I firmly believe in the school of ‘look ma, no hands!’, and ‘Here, hold my beer…’ mindset. D’oh!!

  • Sayyed Bashir

    In case nobody noticed, KTM finished in 9th place, 1.4 seconds per lap behind the leader and ahead of Folger, Rins, Zarco, Abraham, Miller, Lorenzo, Redding, Rabat, Lowes and Iannone. Go Team Orange!

    • spiff

      From one KTM fan boy to another. Fuck yeah.

      • Old MOron

        Did you ever notice that Kool-aid and KTM both begin with K?
        (I got orange flavor just for you!)
        https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81n%2BvdGXS%2BL._SY550_.jpg

        Glad you’re enjoying your bike. Oh, yeah! 🙂

        • Sayyed Bashir

          Krazy begins with K too. To be in the top 10 in the first race of the second half of their first ever MotoGP season with a brand new untested bike with a steel trellis frame and WP suspension and third tier riders is pretty good progress. As Bruce said so eloquently three months ago “I think KTM is on a highly positive vector”. Go KTM!

          • Old MOron

            Relax. I was just teasing Spiff. Good on KTM. I hope they continue on a highly positive vector.

          • Channeling Seinfeld’s Kramer: “Oh they’re on a positive vector alright.”

  • Patriot159

    Whats up with the teams not being ready? Caught off guard? Day dreaming? I’d love to hear Lorenzo’s post race comments. Inexcusable.

    • Conventional wisdom at the start was that it would rain again early in the race. Thus, everyone went out on rain tires, soft or hard. As you point out, the crews should have had the #2 bikes set up for dry, in the event of a Pony Express switcheroo flag-to-flag. Apparently they prep the bikes in case issues arise during the out or sighting laps. The Repsol crew apparently made the change once the race started; the others didn’t. Good call.