The Existing World Order in MotoGP remained intact on Sunday in Barcelona. A resurrected Jorge Lorenzo won his second race in a row, from pole no less. He has shuffled the tranches more than he has the standings, as the riders look ahead to The Cathedral at Assen.

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Make that two in a row for Jorge Lorenzo as #99 quickly turn his season around.

Practice and qualifying

At the close of business on Friday the fast five had a distinctly Latin look about it, as it consisted of the sons of families with names like Lorenzo, Iannone, Viñales, Dovizioso and Rossi. Spanish and Italian grand prix racing royalty. Marc Marquez was dawdling down in 12th place, at risk of having to pass through Q1, barring some kind of breakthrough in FP3. But his race pace was solid; it’s easy to suspect he was more concerned about what he might have to do in Q2 than he was about getting there.

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Marc Marquez made a rare appearance in Q1, after crashing in FP3. Marquez still managed to qualify second behind Jorge Lorenzo.

In addition to the usual suspects, Hafiz Syahrin and Tito Rabat kept showing up in or near the top ten during the practice sessions. In FP3, they bracketed the four-time MotoGP champion in 8th, 9th and 10th places. Dutifully on to Q1 trudged Marquez, along with Syahrin, Jack Miller, Franco Morbidelli, Alex Rins and the three KTMs, Mika Kallio on another wildcard. During the somewhat meaningless FP4, Marquez recorded another historic save, in Turn 14, re-writing the laws of physics with his right elbow and knee sliders, dug into and destroyed by the tarmac. Marquez, reinvigorated, later led Taka Nakagami, a pleasant surprise on the second LCR Honda, into Q2.

The second qualifying session in Barcelona was, despite being virtually (statistically) random, a humdinger. Marquez laid down a quick early lap which looked like it might stand up, with Jorge Lorenzo in his garage having some kind of invective-soaked spasm. Andrea Dovizioso was whipping his Ducati GP18 into the front row, looking dangerous. Lorenzo returned to the track late and, on his last qualifying lap and stole the pole, making it 10 straight front row starts at Montmelo.

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Andrea Dovizioso qualified third, joining Lorenzo in putting two factory Ducatis on the front row.

A late high-speed crash left my boy Cal Crutchlow starting from 10th. Maverick Viñales and Andrea Iannone were joined on Row 2 by gatecrasher Danilo Petrucci. Valentino Rossi and Johann Zarco found themselves consigned to Row 3, joined, again, by that Rabat guy on the Avintia Ducati. And poor Dani Pedrosa, his future unclear, whose spirit needed a boost and instead took a beating over the weekend, limped home to start 11th, having started from pole just last year.

What About The Flipping Race?

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Marc Marquez had the early lead but Jorge Lorenzo soon took control.

Marquez took the hole shot at the start and led for a full lap before Lorenzo went through into a lead he wouldn’t have even considered giving up. Marquez flirted with the limit while trailing Lorenzo all day, getting dogged himself by Dovizioso. Until Lap 9, when the Italian crashed out of third place at Turn 5, his day and season in tatters. This bummer, in turn, promoted a lurking Valentino Rossi into podium contention.

Around and around they went. The order of riders didn’t change much for the next 15 laps. Cal Crutchlow snagged fourth, and the much-abused Dani Pedrosa pimped Maverick Vinales at the flag for fifth place. Experience 1, Skill 0. And the racing itself was inferior to the Moto2 and Moto3 races, which were, as usual, off the hook.

What We Learned at Montmelo

We think we learned that Ducati, Lorenzo and Honda may all be suffering from buyer’s remorse tonight, given his current form. Honda, at a minimum, keeps him off a Ducati that now suits him for the next two years. Lorenzo could stay hot for two or three more rounds and put himself back in the 2018 conversation.

Marquez rode a smart race, keeping Lorenzo honest all day without taking any undue risks. He also managed to stay clear of Rossi.

Andrea Dovizioso’s title aspirations suffered a serious hit today as he crashed out of his third race in four outings. It’s gotta be in his head.

Andrea Dovizioso blamed himself for the crash, saying he pushed too hard trying to catch Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo.

Valentino Rossi is still relevant to the championship, but he will need something really, um, unlucky to happen to Marquez to be considered a serious contender for the title.

12 of the 26 starters failed to finish the race. Some good ones – Dovizioso, Rabat, Miller, Aleix and Syahrin – recorded DNFs. And so Franco Morbidelli gets two points for finishing three laps down.

Taka Nakagami was one of several riders who failed to finish, here taking Bradley Smith out with him.

What About the Big Picture

Marquez goes from leading Rossi by 23 to leading Rossi by 27. 11 points stand between riders #3 and #9. Lorenzo, Dovizioso and Iannone all enjoy 66 points after 7 rounds. Lorenzo’s trajectory is straight up, while Dovi’s is straight down. Iannone is less predictable. One rider who is painfully predictable is Dani Pedrosa, who has crashed out of alternating rounds all season. Don’t bet on him to finish at Assen.

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That’s three consecutive third-place finishes for Valentino Rossi. Throw out the mess in Argentina and he’s been the most consistent racer this season.

In order to keep the KoolAid drinkers off my neck, I’m promoting Rossi to Tranche 1 with Marquez. It’s something of an honorific, as his best days are clearly behind him. 12 wins since 2009. But still finishing races, still standing on the podium, ready, willing and able to step up to the top whenever circumstances permit. He deserves respect, but you really shouldn’t bet on him to win anymore.

Marquez is holding things together at the top, making saves other riders can only dream about. If Lorenzo goes off and wins the next three, all Marquez needs to do is keep it close. His margin is such that, short of a royal blowout, Lorenzo’s hopes of a title in 2018 are modest.

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Marc Marquez continues to have a comfortable lead, now sitting 27 points clear of Valentino Rossi.

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Tranche 1: Marquez, Rossi
Tranche 2: Vinales, Zarco, Petrucci, Crutchlow, Dovizioso, Lorenzo and Iannone
Tranche 3: Miller, Pedrosa, Rins, P Espargaro, Rabat, Bautista
Tranche 4: Morbidelli, Syahrin, A Espargaro, Nakagami
Tranche 5: Redding, Smith, Abraham, Luthi and Simeon

Bits and Pieces

To no one’s surprise, Jack Miller has signed a new one-year contract with Pramac Ducati, joining Pecco Bagnaia on what promises to be a fascinating 2019 team. It turns out that Petrucci’s contract with the factory Ducati team is also for one year only. When is this guy ever going to get some respect? He has been winning with inferior equipment his whole career. Now that he is fully up to speed as a factory Ducati rider he should be a consistent threat to podium.

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He may not have the resume of Jorge Lorenzo, but it’s hard to argue against Danilo Petrucci earning the second factory Ducati spot next season.

Here’s an instant quiz: How many total world titles across all classes were standing on the podium on Sunday afternoon? Lorenzo, Marquez and Rossi?

Today, as in Mugello, was Hammer Time for Lorenzo, looking more like the old Lorenzo, on rails, churning out lap after lap within 2/10ths of each other. He is mesmerizing; I literally nodded off, having slept poorly the night before.

Sitting here thinking I don’t expect Lorenzo to fare as well at Assen as he did today at Montmelo. But I didn’t expect him to win here either. Or at Mugello. So, what do I know. I pretty much just work here. If, miraculously, Lorenzo does dominate in the Low Countries, he must be considered a legitimate threat to fight for the title.

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Jorge Lorenzo is red hot at the moment.

A fortnight ago, Lorenzo was ‘washed up and left for dead,’ in the words of Mick Jagger. Tonight, he’s thinking about a hat trick, an effort that would cement his claim to have earned a part in the championship conversation.

In the meantime, as we submit this piece, we hope Aron Canet is OK after a big crash in the Moto2 race. He was stretchered off the track to the medical center.

The Undercards, in eight seconds each:

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Enea Bastianini pulled out a victory in Moto3.

In Moto3, Enea Bastianini punked Marco Bezzecchi at the wire, with Argentine Gabriel Rodrigo third. Jorge Martin led a parade of riders who crashed out of the race, leaving the door open. Rodrigo secured his first career podium in grand prix racing.

In Moto2, 19-year-old Frenchman Fabio Quartararo took his first win, stiff-arming KTM star Miguel Oliveira pretty much all day, with Alex Marquez holding onto third. At the top of the Moto2 food chain, Bagnaia leads Oliveira by a single point after seven rounds, trailed by Marquez and Lorenzo Baldassarri. The races in both divisions are regularly breathtaking, worth the price of the video subscription.

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Fabio Quartararo scored his first win in an entertaining Moto2 race.

On to Assen

The MotoGP Flying Circus returns to The Cathedral at Assen in two weeks, a revered place capable of delivering upsets. Anything can, and often does, happen at Assen. Expect huge heaping doses of optimism from all the top riders, as it’s in their contracts that they must bubble over with pre-race excitement.

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The MotoGP community gathered before the day’s races for a moment of silence for 14-year-old racer Andrea Perez who died in a crash last week whiel competing in the CEV Moto3 Junior WOrld Championship.
2018 MotoGP Catalunya Results
Pos. Rider Team Time
1 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati Corse 40:13.566
2 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda +4.479
3 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha +6.098
4 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda Castrol +9.805
5 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda +10.640
6 Maverick Viñales Movistar Yamaha +10.798
7 Johann Zarco Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +13.432
8 Danilo Petrucci Alma Pramac Ducati +15.055
9 Alvaro Bautista Angel Nieto Ducati +22.057
10 Andrea Iannone Suzuki Ecstar +24.141
11 Pol Espargaro Red Bull KTM +36.560
12 Scott Redding Aprilia Gresini +38.229
13 Karel Abraham Angel Nieto Ducati +1:21.526
14 Franco Morbidelli Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +3 Laps
Not Classified
DNF Hafizh Syahrin Monster Yamaha Tech3 4 Laps
DNF Tito Rabat Reale Avintia Ducati 6 Laps
DNF Jack Miller Alma Pramac Ducati 7 Laps
DNF Bradley Smith Red Bull KTM 11 Laps
DNF Takaaki Nakagami LCR Honda Idemitsu 11 Laps
DNF Alex Rins Suzuki Ecstar 13 Laps
DNF Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse 16 Laps
DNF Xavier Simeon Reale Avintia Ducati 17 Laps
DNF Aleix Espargaro Aprilia Gresini 20 Laps
DNF Thomas Luthi Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda 21 Laps
DNF Sylvain Guintoli Suzuki Ecstar 22 Laps
DNF Mika Kallio Red Bull KTM
2018 MotoGP Top 10 Standings After 7 Rounds
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda 115
2 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha 88
3 Maverick Viñales Movistar Yamaha 77
4 Johann Zarco Monster Yamaha Tech 3 73
5 Danilo Petrucci Alma Pramac Ducati 71
6 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda Castrol 69
7 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati Corse 66
8 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse 66
9 Andrea Iannone Suzuki Ecstar 66
10 Jack Miller Alma Pramac Ducati 49