After recording no wins between Donington Park 2009 and Sepang 2016, Ducati #1 rider Andrea Dovizioso has now taken two wins in eight days, recording superlative rides at both Mugello and now Montmelo. A few days before Mugello he pronounced the GP17 unwinnable in its current configuration. Gratifying to see his analytic skills are no better than mine.
Practice and Qualifying
Q1 timesheet looked mostly normal – three Hondas in the top four – until I laughed out loud at the sight of Sam Lowes in seventh, at which point I suspected it was a circus out there. Four riders failed to record a time on a drying track.
FP2 had more anomalies, Jonas Folger sitting third and Tito Rabat sixth among them. Marc Marquez was looking strong on the brakes; Jorge Lorenzo took second. Jorge must be riding counter-intuitively, having stated to the press that riding the bike “normally” does not work for him. At 140 mph and above and in traffic I’m sure his lizard brain reverts, which is why he cannot currently compete effectively.
Race Direction, changing horses in the middle of the stream, announced on Friday night that, for safety reasons (and perhaps to enhance Marquez’s chances of tightening the 2017 championship), the 2016 chicane would be used starting in FP3 and for the rest of the weekend, due to concerns about the racing surface where the old crappy asphalt and new crappy asphalt met: bumps, low grip, different composition, plague, locusts, etc. Marquez, on Saturday, expressed his gratitude for their consideration by crashing four times, with a fifth fall on Sunday for good measure.
This was also good news for Jack Miller, who had been mistakenly using the 2016 chicane during all eight of his FP1 laps, until he was black flagged. But it meant that FP3 alone would determine who went through to Q2 and which two of the remaining 13 would have to earn spots in the front four rows. (I may have messed up the tire controversy last time out, but I KNOW Lorenzo has been lobbying to have FP3 deemed the only session to determine qualifying pools.)
10 Lambs, in FP3 order: Hondas Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, Alvaro Bautista (Ducati GP16) and Aprilia jinx Aleix Espargaro, Dovizioso, Lorenzo and Andrea Iannone, the Pramac Racing team, Scott Redding leading Danilo Petrucci, and Hector Barbera, looking on Friday like he was doing motocross on his GP16, fighting it to a draw on Saturday morning.
13 Goats, in arbitrary order: both factory Yamahas, both Tech 3 Yamahas, Cal Crutchlow, the Marc VDS team, Loris Baz and the Down’N’Outs – Suzuki sub Sylvain Guintoli, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith (Laverne and Shirley) on the KTM, my boy Karel Abraham (Ducati GP15) and Sad Sam Lowes’ Aprilia.
Q1 was going to be a show. Six Ducatis had automatically qualified to chase the Repsol Hondas in Q2; the law of averages itself increased the statistical likelihood of a Ducati win on Sunday.
Viñales and Folger fought their way through Q1, leaving notables with names like Valentino Rossi, Crutchlow and Johann Zarco to start back in the pack, Crutchlow from 17th. Rossi and Zarco, especially, missed out on Q2 by a few hundredths of a second each.
Obviously, Dani and Jorge heard about our challenge to their Alien credentials on Wednesday, as Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Danilo Petrucci formed the front row during Q2; Marquez, having crashed four separate times during the day and having completely run out of motorcycles, would still start Sunday at the top of the second row, Viñales ninth in his worst qualifying yet on the Yamaha. Bradley Smith crashed heavily in practice and sustained injuries to his left hand that would keep him out of today’s race.
Several weeks ago we observed that Petrucci needed to fish or cut bait on the Ducati GP17. With a podium at Mugello and a front row start here, he has clearly responded to our encouragement. (Yes, we are aware he crashed out of fifth place in today’s race. Musta thought he had enough tire left to go for fourth.)
The 2017 Catalan GP
With Cal Crutchlow, Johann Zarco and the factory Yamahas stuck in the middle of the pack at the start, the lead group formed up with Jorge Lorenzo trying and failing to get away on his factory Ducati, followed by the Repsol Hondas, Dovizioso keeping his powder dry in fourth. Lorenzo’s day went from good to bad to good again, as we watched him slip from first to as low as ninth before finding something when his fuel load dropped, ultimately finishing fourth when Petrucci went down on Lap 23.
Up front, as Lorenzo was fading out of the picture, Dovizioso was keeping cool tracking the Hondas. Marquez and Pedrosa were making momentary moves on one another through the middle of the race until Lap 17, when Dovi went through on Pedrosa into the lead he would keep for the rest of the day. Marquez later passed Pedrosa who appeared, reputation aside, to have shot his tires to pieces earlier in the race.
For most of the day, the factory and Tech3 Yamahas (with the exception of Jonas Folger, who was able to stay in touch with the lead group until his own tires began to disintegrate) loitered around in the middle of the pack, unable to make any impression on the lead or even second groups. Late in the day Johann Zarco had recovered enough ground to punk teammate Folger for fifth, while both Rossi and Viñales made gradual progress in the second half, Rossi ending his day in eighth while Viñales suffered to tenth place, hometown humiliation, and six points.
Despite all the problems the Yamaha teams experienced over the weekend – none passing directly through to Q2, Folger and Viñales the only escapees from Q1 – eventually all four finished in the top ten. Riders having notable days today (keeping in mind that all things are relative) included Rossi (S13, P8) and Crutchlow (S17, P11). Zarco was most impressive, having started 14th and finishing fifth, while Dovizioso, who started from the top of the third row, has pulled himself into credible contention for the 2017 title. Today’s results leave him in second place, trailing series leader Viñales by a mere seven points. During the after-race presser he said, “Today was the first time in my career I win a race without pushing to the limit.” Uh oh.
Michelin still has issues when the temperatures soar, as they did today. With venues like Aragon, Brno, and Sepang yet to come, Michelin needs to develop a compound for both fronts and rears that will stand up to the heat. I agree with readers who have expressed the opinion that the Michelins perform fine in cool and moderate temps. But with a quarter of the races held in places where it can get as hot as Sepang, my own personal vision of hell, the races devolve into a competition to see who can nurse their tires through the entire however many laps.
Alex Marquez won his second race of the season in Moto2 after a disastrous first two seasons in the middle division. Some years ago, around 2013, I read comments that suggested Alex was faster than Marc one-on-one, and that Alex Rins, currently on the injured list, was faster than either of the Marquez brothers. Such has not turned out to be the case. Alex is only 21 years old, and if he has finally figured out the 600cc Moto2 Kalex, it’s only a matter of time until he gets his ticket punched to MotoGP. It appears unlikely he will compete with his brother or rival Rins for quite some time. It also appears that folks were overstating Rins’ potential, based upon what he had shown us in MotoGP prior to his injuries. No instant sensation like Marquez and Viñales.
Joan Mir, leading the Moto3 series for Leopard Racing, will be moving up to the Estrella Galicia Moto2 team next year on a three-year deal that sounds like the third season might be with Honda in MotoGP. Mir pulled off a scintillating win today at Montmelo to pad his lead in Moto3. The Moto2 race today was not up to its usual riotous standard, as Marquez led wire to wire in the first truly easy race I’ve ever seen him complete in Moto2. I keep waiting for him to morph into the second coming of Marc. Perhaps today was the day. Probably not.
Two weeks to the Assen/Sachsenring back-to-back. The plot, at this point, has truly thickened. Now there are five riders with legitimate aspirations to the 2017 title. We leave you with a cliffhanger until we arrive at Assen: Will there be five riders in Tranche 1 for the first time ever? Could Valentino Rossi fall into Tranche 2? Stay tuned.
|2017 MotoGP Catalan Grand Prix Race Results|
|1||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Corse||44:41.518|
|2||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||+3.544|
|3||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+6.774|
|4||Jorge Lorenzo||Ducati Corse||+9.608|
|5||Johann Zarco||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||+13.838|
|6||Jonas Folger||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+13.921|
|7||Alvaro Bautista||Pull&Bear Aspar Ducati||+16.763|
|8||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||+20.821|
|9||Hector Barbera||Avintia Racing||+23.952|
|10||Maverick Viñales||Movistar Yamaha||+24.189|
|11||Cal Crutchlow||LCR Honda||+28.329|
|12||Loris Baz||Reale Avintia Ducati||+33.281|
|13||Scott Redding||Octo Pramac Ducati||+35.200|
|14||Karel Abraham||Pull&Bear Aspar Ducati||+39.436|
|15||Tito Rabat||Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda||+40.872|
|16||Andrea Iannone||Suzuki Ecstar||+43.221|
|17||Sylvain Guintoli||Suzuki Ecstar||+44.655|
|18||Pol Espargaro||Red Bull KTM||+48.993|
|19||Sam Lowes||Aprilia Gresini||+55.492|
|DNF||Danilo Petrucci||Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati||2 Laps|
|DNF||Jack Miller||Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda||12 Laps|
|DNF||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia Gresini||18 Laps|
|2017 MotoGP Top 10 Standings After 7 Rounds|