Sadly, the 2018 Pramac Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland lived up to its advance billing. Marc Marquez, starting from pole for the ninth consecutive year, got a little swamped by a couple of Ducatis at the start. By Lap 5 he had moved past Danilo Petrucci into second place. On Lap 13 he went through on Jorge Lorenzo into the lead. With factory Yamaha pilots Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales playing catch-up over the second half, it was a routine ninth win in a row for Marquez in Germany as MotoGP makes the turn heading for the back, um, 10 starting at Brno in August.

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Officially, Germany hasn’t had a king since the abdication of Wilhelm II 100 years ago, but we can at least crown Marc Marquez the king of Sachsenring?

Practice and Qualifying

Since FP4 doesn’t really count for anything and is mostly used for working on race set-up, the results after FP3 are important. This time around, the lambs heading directly into Q2 included most of the usual suspects. Dani Pedrosa snuck into 10th place in front of Andrea Dovizioso, sentencing the Italian to a second qualifying run – Q1 – in his increasingly futile effort to chase down Marquez.

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Andrea Dovizioso was just a hair behind Dani Pedrsoa in qualifying, forcing him to go through Q1.

Notice how close Alex Rins (in 9th place) was to 1st place – 0.252 seconds – and to (Q1) 11th place – 0.125. Andrea Iannone pushed his Suzuki to within a tenth of the track record, which looked primed to fall. Rossi, struggling, only made it through on Saturday morning by the skin of his teeth. And let’s dispense with any discussion around his finishing Friday in 17th place being all part of the plan.

The Q1 goats included Dovizioso by 0.048, along with the suddenly tepid Johann Zarco, Jack Miller, who has cooled off, the KTMs and the rest of Tranches 4 and 5. The Ducatis failed to improve, sending only three riders – Petrucci, Lorenzo and … Alvaro Bautista? – directly through to Q2. My concern that Bautista would join Franco Morbidelli with the new Petronas team was apparently unfounded, as he is reportedly searching for a World Superbike seat for next season. Leaving unanswered, of course, the question of Morbidelli’s teammate, now that Pedrosa is hanging up his leathers. (I keep hearing the name Fabio Quartararo getting thrown around.)

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Ahead of the Sachsenring round, Dani Pedrosa announced he will retire at the end of the season. Marc Marquez may have won the last six races at Sachsenring, but we’d be amiss to forget that Pedrosa won three in a row before him, making it nine straight wins in Germany for Repsol Honda.

Q1 was pretty straightforward, as Dovizioso responded to the imperative and made it through while Taka Nakagami, on the strength of one fast late lap, joined him on the passage through to Q2. Aleix Espargaro flirted with Q2 for much of the session, but it would have been for naught anyway, as he was penalized six grid spots for lollygagging in the racing line during FP3 (for the second time this season – repeat offender).

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Danilo Petrucci fell just short of his first career MotoGP pole. Petrucci has shown he can swing with the factory boys, earning his spot with Ducati Corse next season.

Q2 was another morality play in reverse, in which the swarthy underdog (played by Danilo Petrucci) who had never won a premier class pole sat in first position, owning the new track record, as the checkered flag waved. His impending problem was that Marquez, the fair-haired boy conqueror, had successfully started his final lap before the flag fell. During what felt like injury time in soccer, Marquez survived three separate wobbles to lay down a 1:20.270, relegating Petrucci to second and Lorenzo, looking dangerous, to third. Poor Danilo. And putting the staff here at 5-for-7 for the season, hitting .720 breaking track records for the year.

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Make that nine-straight pole positions at Sachsenring for Marc Marquez, including two in Moto2 and one in the 125cc GP class in 2010.

There it is again. Nine straight poles in Germany. Marquez looked utterly capable of dominating the proceedings on Sunday, especially if he were to enter Turn 1 of the first lap leading the pack. Petrucci and Lorenzo, his front row buddies, seem to be bristling, raring to go, another testament to the progress Ducati Corse has made during Dall’Igna’s tenure. Viñales, Dovizioso and Rossi hogged the second row, giving them at least a puncher’s chance on Sunday. Iannone, doing a good Snidely Whiplash impression with his new stash, could manage no better than 8th after blistering the field twice in practice. This track is tight and moving through traffic is as difficult as anywhere on the calendar.

The Race

Other than the mayhem leading up to the race, the German grand prix was a bit of a snooze. The carnage started on Friday, when Mika Kallio, on a KTM wildcard, took a header into an inflatable wall followed closely by his bike. He sustained a serious knee injury which, it appears, will end his season. (It could also mean a gig next year for Bradley Smith as a test rider for KTM.) During the morning warm-up on Sunday, Aleix Espargaro attempted to launch his Aprilia into a low earth orbit, sustaining a chest injury that kept him out of the race. Franco Morbidelli gave his bad wrist a try on Friday before calling it a weekend, the team calling upon Stefan Bradl to sit in for him.

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Pol Espargaro made contact with Andrea Iannone on the third corner of the opening lap and then crashed into Iannone’s Suzuki teammate, Alex Rins.

On Lap 1, Pol Espargaro lost control of his KTM machine, which then took out an unsuspecting Alex Rins. And the LCR Honda contingent was pancaked during the race, Nakagami losing it on Lap 7, my boy Cal Crutchlow on Lap 10.

There was some good action farther back in the pack all day, but I’ve only got two hands. Suffice it to say that some people, perhaps fans of Petrucci, left today feeling buoyed by his razor-thin margins to Marquez in search of his first pole and Viñales in search of another podium. The ride of the day goes to Alvaro Bautista, horribly badmouthed in this space for years, who pushed his Ducati GP17 to fifth place, ahead of both Dovizioso and Lorenzo, the big factory studs.

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Giving credit when it’s due, Alvaro Bautista was impressive today, finishing fifth behind Danilo Petrucci but ahead of Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso. That’s four Ducati riders occupying fourth through seventh, with the satellite riders finishing ahead of the factory riders.

The Big Picture

The 2018 MotoGP championship is now officially Marc Marquez’ to lose. He leads the ageless Valentino Rossi by 46 points heading into the break, with Rossi teammate Viñales another 10 points in arrears. Yamahas scored a lot of points today but were never a threat to actually win the race. Ducati riders turned in some blistering practice times, and their top four riders finished 4th through 7th, but again, they just weren’t competitive over the last three-quarters of the race.

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Valentino Rossi scored his fourth podium in the last five rounds and yet his points deficit behind Marc Marquez increased by 16 points over that span.

The virtually unavoidable conclusion is that this is Marquez’ personal sandbox and the rest of y’all can just tussle over second place. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Marquez camp votes to retain Sachsenring as the venue for the German Grand Prix. Rins took whatever hopes Suzuki entertained today with him as he got skittled on Lap 1. Oh, and for you KTM freaks out there, let us not fail to mention Brad Smith’s stunning top ten finish.

Tranches After Assen

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

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With another strong race, Danilo Petrucci gets bumped up to Bruce’s second tranch, joining Valentino Rossi and others but a clear step behind Marc Marquez.

Tranches After Sachsenring

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

Postscript

By way of historical context, Germany’s “long racing heritage,” entirely missing today, is still celebrated here at what was, 75 years ago, ground zero for The Final Solution. Dresden was needlessly firebombed by Allied planes late in the war in retribution for the Nazi firebombing of Coventry, which the Allies knew was coming, but were prevented from warning the residents out of fear of revealing they had cracked the German military codes. We should not gloss this over. MotoGP doesn’t take us to a lot of places that were so brutally consumed by WWII, and we should honor them when we are visiting.

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Five-time World Champion Mick Doohan was on hand to congratulate Marc Marquez on his victory. There’s still half a season left to go but Marquez looks all but certain to lock up his fifth MotoGP title.
2018 MotoGP Sachsenring Results
Pos. Rider Team Time
1 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda 41:05.019
2 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha +2.196
3 Maverick Viñales Movistar Yamaha +2.776
4 Danilo Petrucci Alma Pramac Ducati +3.376
5 Alvaro Bautista Angel Nieto Ducati +5.183
6 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati Corse +5.780
7 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse +7.941
8 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda +12.711
9 Johann Zarco Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +14.428
10 Bradley Smith Red Bull KTM +21.474
11 Hafizh Syahrin Monster Yamaha Tech3 +25.809
12 Andrea Iannone Suzuki Ecstar +25.963
13 Tito Rabat Reale Avintia Ducati +29.040
14 Jack Miller Alma Pramac Ducati +29.325
15 Scott Redding Aprilia Gresini +34.123
16 Stefan Bradl Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +16.416
17 Thomas Luthi Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +49.369
18 Karel Abraham Angel Nieto Ducati +1:01.022
19 Xavier Simeon Reale Avintia Ducati +1:16.692
Not Classified
DNF Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda Castrol 21 Laps
DNF Takaaki Nakagami LCR Honda Idemitsu 26 Laps
DNF Alex Rins Suzuki Ecstar
DNF Pol Espargaro Red Bull KTM
2018 MotoGP Top 10 Standings After 9 Rounds
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda 165
2 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha 119
3 Maverick Viñales Movistar Yamaha 109
4 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse 88
5 Johann Zarco Monster Yamaha Tech 3 88
6 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati Corse 85
7 Danilo Petrucci Alma Pramac Ducati 84
8 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda Castrol 79
9 Andrea Iannone Suzuki Ecstar 75
10 Jack Miller Alma Pramac Ducati 57