The small fleet of 747s that is the MotoGP Moving & Storage Company lands this week in Barcelona for the second of four Spanish rounds. The track, recently reconfigured for safety reasons, has been roundly criticized by the riders as no longer fun or “MotoGP-worthy.” Blah blah blah. By the time Friday rolls around, every rider with a drop of Spanish blood in him will be banging on about the history of Montmelo and overflowing with optimism about his team’s prospects. Business as usual amongst the yachting class.

Maverick Viñales and his factory Yamaha M1 sit on top of the world, stiff-arming half a dozen wannabe chasers, learning his trade and thinking seriously about a world championship. He had nothing substantial to gain from any effort to track down eventual winner Andrea Dovizioso on Sunday; 20 points was plenty that day. There were Ducatis everywhere. The Hondas appeared to offer but two settings, “SLOW” and “DANGEROUS.” If only that pesky Danilo Petrucci hadn’t been on his back the last third of the race, he could have relaxed a little.

Maverick Viñales fought hard with Andrea Dovizioso before deciding to play it safe and accept second place at Mugello.

Alvaro Bautista had a memorable day, flogging his Ducati GP16 to a solid 13 points. And Tito Rabat’s game is so messed up that on a day when the rest of the Hondas were simply trying to stay shiny side up, he finishes 11th for the second round in a row, his best outcomes since Brno last year, four spots ahead of Jack Miller, second only to The Great Marquez amongst the Hondas.

Recent History at Catalunya

Catalunya 2014 took place during The Year of Marquez, as the fearless sophomore sensation first mixed it up with Yamaha mullah Valentino Rossi, followed by another close encounter with teammate Dani Pedrosa. Marc 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 bounced wide, allowing Rossi through, ultimately settling for third.

Catalunya was Lorenzo Land in 2015.

Whatever faint hopes Marquez held for a third consecutive title in 2015 ended on Lap 3 at Montmelo when, frantically chasing Jorge Lorenzo from second place, he dumped his Honda RC213V in the gravel, his day and title aspirations done. With Lorenzo having leaped 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 for Marquez while the war between the factory Yamaha teammates continued, as the Brits say, to hot up.

Last year’s classic featured a struggling but gritty Lorenzo getting “Iannone’d” on Lap 17, leaving Rossi and Marquez to slug it out for the rest of the day. Rossi prevailed after a challenge from Marquez subsided when his pit board flashed “LORENZO KO.” Pedrosa finished a respectable third, followed some distance back by Viñales on the Suzuki.

Last year’s race was marked by the tragic death of Moto2 racer Luis Salom who crashed during Free Practice 2.

A brief review: Rossi, Lorenzo, and Marquez have enjoyed victory here recently, while Pedrosa and Viñales have been sniffing around. Everyone is saying the new layout favors everyone but them. Other than Viñales, the Aliens will be pressing this weekend. After Mugello, Pedrosa and Lorenzo have some splainin’ to do concerning the status of their Alien cards.

Tranching Around

A win last weekend pushed Andrea Dovizioso to top tranche.

This re-ranking is tempered by the fact that the tires played a distinct part in Sunday’s results. That, and the fact that it’s all totally arbitrary to begin with.

After Round 5:

Tranche 1: Viñales, Marquez, Rossi, Pedrosa
Tranche 2: Zarco, Crutchlow, Lorenzo, Folger, Dovizioso
Tranche 3: Petrucci, Miller, Redding, Baz, A Espargaro, Iannone
Tranche 4: P Espargaro, Barbera, Bautista, Abraham, Smith
Tranche 5: Lowes, Rabat, (Rins)

After Round 6:

Tranche 1: Viñales, Marquez, Rossi, Dovizioso↑
Tranche 2: Zarco, Crutchlow, Lorenzo, Folger, Pedrosa↓, Petrucci↑
Tranche 3: Miller, Redding, Baz, A Espargaro, Iannone, Bautista↑
Tranche 4: P Espargaro, Barbera, Abraham, Rabat↑
Tranche 5: Lowes, Smith↓, (Rins)

My sense of symmetry is offended by the presence of only two active riders in Tranche 5. I keep wanting to put someone like Karel Abraham in there. Also, Tranches 2 and 3 are, unfortunately, over-booked; according to FAA regulations, one rider needs to move down a notch from each. We’re asking for volunteers…

Michelin Still Pedaling Hard to Keep Up

Cal Crutchlow grouched about Michelin’s tires at Mugello.

Readers, your boy Cal Crutchlow has been running his mouth again, after Sunday’s disastrous outing at Mugello. Claims the tires brought by Michelin had been designed for the Ducatis, that even the hard option was way too soft for the Honda riders. Also used the term “ruthless” to describe Dani Pedrosa’s riding style, which I think is a bit of a reach.

Same old problem for the Hondas in Italy – having to put too much load on the fronts during braking to make up for the absence of acceleration on the back side of the apex. Marquez said much the same thing. Not sure why things appear to be a puzzle every week for Michelin with a year’s experience under their belts. The Lorenzo/Ducati contingent won the hard vs. soft carcass debate which, with a medium front/soft rear configuration, works like crazy for the Ducs, as we saw Sunday, when it’s not too hot on the track. Let’s just say that starting next year in Mugello I don’t want to hear the Honda contingent wailing anymore. Michelin can’t be the tire of choice for two manufacturers and the tire of last resort for the other four. Another full year is plenty of time to sort this out.

Upcoming Weekend and Calendar Issues

Sunday’s race is the first of three in the next four weeks before the overly long summer vacation. While Montmelo will likely remain a rider favorite, and Assen as well, not too many guys like The Sachsenring. All too often the cold, wet conditions in these latitudes play an oversized role in the world championship. Except for 2015, the races at Assen have been pivotal. We’ll take a closer look at The Sachsenring stuff next time.

Marc Marquez has just two podiums (and as many DNFs) in six races this year.

The long-term forecast for metropolitan Barcelona is for clear skies and warm temps over the weekend. Honda weather. Honda needs some weather, some juju, something cosmic going for it this weekend. If I were Marquez I would seriously be lobbying to be allowed to use my 2014 frame again. This machine he’s on is not competitive. He shouldn’t have to work as hard as he (and Pedrosa, and Crutchlow…) have to in order to get some kind of drive out of the corners.

This is a Honda-friendly track, more so, if you believe Valentino, than it was before the new turns. Marquez will be pressing, and the weather appears to be favorable. I have him winning the race, Viñales second, and Johann Zarco third. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that. Were I to follow my heart, I would have Marquez, followed by Zarco, Crutchlow, and Rossi, with Viñales walking back from a gravel trap, shaken, not stirred. Cal simply for the entertainment value. I also confess to finding myself pulling for Marquez, as a man of his obvious skill – never mind how you feel about him as a competitor/Lorenzo-lover/Rossi-rival – should have more bike suitable to his prodigious talents. Honda does NOT want him looking around in 2019.

As usual, the race goes off at 8 am EDT in the U.S. and Canada, in likely addition to some locales in eastern South America. We will have results and analysis right here in a jiffy thereafter.

  • Prakasit

    Pedrosa, Marquez, and Vinales(with tilde over n) in that order. BTW, Bruce, any opinion on the up and coming Thai MotoGP in 2018?

    • Rossi doesn’t like the track. I don’t like the idea of turning the three week ordeal of the flyaway rounds into a barely survivable month.

      • spiff

        …and summer vacation is to long.

  • Old MOron

    Bruce, you nailed the tranches this week. Good onya.
    Maybe you’ll understand the tire situation next week!

    I have a feeling that Marquez, Vinny, and maybe Vale and Dovi are going to like the new chicane.

    • Ozzy Mick

      G’day OldMO, how the heck are ya!
      I realise that motor sport improves the breed yada yada… but what tyre choices did racers have 20 or 30 years ago, not to mention electronics.
      Just stirring the pot…

      • Old MOron

        G’day, Mick! I guess you finally got back from walkabout, eh? Welcome!

        We’ve been giving Brucey his rash of shit lately. Try it. It’s fun!

        G’day, Bruce 🙂

        • Ozzy Mick

          Haha…yeah, back from a 6 month walkabout.
          G’day Bruce.
          I think Brucey baby thinks “g’day” is an Aussie swear word.
          I asked him what he thought about Marquez crossing over to Suzuki following his spec that MM may leave Honda if they fail to give him a better bike, but no response from the Scribe as yet.

  • JMDGT

    I am woefully incapable of predicting the outcome of any Moto GP race. That is what makes it so enjoyable.

    • JSTNCOL

      “That’s why we line up on Sunday”

    • spiff

      After watching everything, including qualifying, I think it is unfortunate that I can only up vote you once.

      • JMDGT

        Moto GP and the TT are two of the best things in life. Umbrella girls are right up there too.

    • spiff

      All you had to say was “Dovi”, and we’d have followed you right off the cliff.

      • JMDGT

        Something seems to be right with Ducati. I never once thought two in a row.

  • Good write, Bruce! Anyone else bummed to see the Suzukis under-performing this year? Last season had me psyched to see a 4-way duel between manufacturers… I guess it was really a 3-way duel + Vinales.

    • Not a good fit with Iannone. Have yet to see what Rins can do. Wasted year, from the looks of it.

      • Ozzy Mick

        Any thoughts on Marquez moving to Suzuki in 2019, Bruce?

        • JSTNCOL

          I think KTM would be a more likely spot for him to land. If he gets fed up with the lack of progress with the RC213V.

          • I would LOVE to see KTM make big progress this year and next, maybe snag Marquez when he’s fed up with wrestling the RC213V. Don’t see Suzuki having a strong shot unless they can find 15-20 hp.

          • Ozzy Mick

            Wow, KTM!
            That’s a big call, but if they can get competitive by 2019, stranger things have happened!

          • JSTNCOL

            If anyone can build a competitive bike in two years it’s KTM. Their budget is ginormous. And their ambition is just as BIG. And watching the way things have unfolded this season and last, the way Ianonne has struggled on the Suzuki where last year Maverick made it work pretty well, and Ianonne did well on the Ducati, the Suzuki is clearly not a competitive bike. And it probably won’t be. And Marquez teamed with Rins… no way. Can’t see him landing at Yamaha either. That would make the 46-99 garage look like a knitting circle. And Zarco. And Rossi. Maybe Marquez could land a seat at Ducati. But I don’t see Dovi going anywhere anytime soon. Jorge could pack it in after 2019, but I expect Ducati will keep him aboard at significantly reduced rate for promotional purposes. If Jorge is still feeling ambitious he might contemplate a Repsol Honda ride should one become available. No way Marquez goes to Ape. That pretty much leaves KTM the last house one the block. With a fairly competitive bike, an ambitious manufacturer with an outrageous budget, and an ambitious racer that wants to exceed other’s record achievements. It all makes sense to me anyway.

          • spiff

            Marquez will retire on the Repsol.

          • JSTNCOL

            Probably.

  • Starmag

    “Viñales walking back from a gravel trap”

    “I also confess to finding myself pulling for Marquez”

    I have to agree with both of those, although we won’t be making any fans from the silly “Spanish Conspiracy!” contingent who see everything through yellow colored glasses. MM rides like he’s possessed, doesn’t t-bone anyone, smiles, and generally takes responsibility and doesn’t blame others. ( Plus he kicked a “reporter’s” ass who tried to “award” him a “sh*t trophy”). I sure don’t wish ill of Mav, but it would be more interesting if the points were closer.

  • spiff

    Don’t feel bad for Marquez or Honda. They have the most lobbying power on the grid. An example is Marquez on a factory bike in his freshman year. If Honda can’t figure out how to get the bike to exit a corner, and leave it up to the rider to enter hot that is on them.

    The tire selection needs to be standardized. It should be the same week in and week out, hard/medium/soft. Front and rear. The asymmetric option should be a combination of these three compounds. Michelin keeps changing what is supposed to be constant. Tires shouldn’t be a variable.

    And yes. Go Rossi!!! End transmission.

    • Old MOron

      Agree with everything but the tires. I think Michelin are doing okay.

      • spiff

        If the tire is the same every week then you can tune your chassis to them. Then at the track you work on set up. As teams show up with new parts they will know if the bike is better or worse. My concern is a team shows up with swingarm and decides that it is only better with this carcass compared to that carcass. Then they would be matching components to tires.

        • Old MOron

          The tire cannot be the same every week because the track and the weather are not the same every week.

          • spiff

            Touche, it makes sense if they show up with a different compound for different surfaces. The rest of the tire needs to be consistent. I don’t trust, especially when money is involved. Less variables just keeps things straight forward. Also as I said above, if the tire keeps changing the bike needs to change with it. I would rather watch a practice where guys are fine tuning set up, not searching for one.

            Again I concede, different surfaces need specific compounds.

      • Gruf Rude

        I disagree that Michelin are doing fine. While I agree that different compounds are needed for different tracks, I think Michelin is flailing. Spiff is right; almost every race the teams all end up madly trying to re-adapt to tires that just are not even consistent tire to tire. I cannot recall a season where so many riders are commenting about how the bike suddenly changes when a new but supposedly identical Michelin Is fitted.

        I also don’t think they need two years to get up to speed. Anyone remember Rossi bailing on Michelin when Bridgestone showed up with their new tires a few years back?

  • spiff

    Bruce, you mentioned possibly revoking some alien cards. You are correct. Aliens are those who can be a threat on any given Sunday. Pedrosa (as much as I like to see him run well), and Lorenzo have good day once in a while. Aliens have bad days once in a while.

    For those who say it maybe the bike in Lorenzo’s case, I say nope. Unlike when Rossi and Hayden had trouble taming the Ducati, plenty of riders have made this generation bike work (Stoner was a stud among aliens). An alien would adapt.

  • Kos

    Funny to hear Rossi’s comments on who the new track will favor. I say him, as NOBODY is better at finding inventive passing lines through a chicane.

    As a one-time racer, I say Mav walking back from a mechanical. I can’t wish a fall on any of these guys, at the speeds they travel.

    Next year (with humorous sarcasm): Stoner, becoming bored with retirement, comes back winning on the Ducati!

    • If he does, he’ll weigh a few ounces less, as Arianna will have his nuts hanging in the hall closet.

      • spiff

        I figue he would lose a couple of pounds if that happened.

  • Vrooom

    Much as I don’t think that Marquez can pry himself out of Lorenzo’s bed to go looking for a new bike, he’s a good enough rider that he deserves one. That was just for you Bruce, though not a struggle. Lorenzo still needs to earn his tranche 2 paperwork I think, and Baz might be a candidate to move to the other side of the tracks. Vinales, Dovi, Zarco, Rossi I’m just going to throw out there as someone who never gets this right.

    • Tranche 2 should accommodate the top ten riders who aren’t Aliens. I’m leaving Lorenzo where he is for now. Double secret probation.

      • Old MOron

        He had a pretty good Friday, and you’re looking pretty smart so far.

        • And they change horses in the middle of the stream, going back to last year’s chicane. Jackass ought to be happy.

          • Old MOron

            Yeah, pretty funny. But his persistence paid off!

  • Old MOron

    Wow, the Yamahas are nowhere. Marquez ran out of unrashed suits and helmets. And Jorge is on the front row!

    Looking at FP4, it seems like the race is Pedrobot’s for the taking. Just about everyone else has a shot at the podium. I expect either a lot of crashing or a lot of tiptoeing around tomorrow – possibly both!

    • spiff

      93: out of suits, helmets,… bikes.

  • Old MOron

    I’m sure Bruce dutifully submitted his race report already. Ahem.