MotoGP Madness descends upon the British Midlands this weekend as Round 12, the two-thirds mark of the 2017 season, arrives. Repsol Honda prodigy Marc Marquez maintains his lead in the series at 16 points, but only 35 points separate the top five riders. A single mishap for #93 and it’s anybody’s season. But Marquez was down by 37 points after Mugello, and has gained 53 points on the field in the last five rounds. His pursuers need to evacuate or get off the pot if they want to Let Valencia Decide.

The factory Yamaha contingent of Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales are constrained in this effort by the appearance, if not the fact, that the 2016 M1 carrying Tech 3 rookies Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger around the great tracks of the world is a better bike than the 2017 iteration. We saw this previously at Honda, where the 2014 model of the RC213V was so superior to the 2015 model that Marquez switched to the 2014 chassis midway through the 2015 season in an effort to salvage his only non-championship campaign since coming up from Moto2 in 2013.

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At the beginning of the season, Maverick Viñales was battling the Hondas and Ducatis for wins. Lately, however, he’s been mixing it up with the satellite Yamahas.

The opinions of the riders are mixed. I have not heard Rossi complaining about the bike any more this year than in previous years, other than 2011-12 when he was exiled to what was then Ducati Island. Viñales has no frame of reference. He undoubtedly thought he had died and gone to heaven when he won three of his first five premier-class races on the Yamaha. Since Mugello, though, he has lost to at least one of the Tech 3 riders every time out. What other possible explanation can there be for two rookies snapping at the heels of a future hall-of-famer and the arguable GOAT? It’s gotta be the bike.

Recent History at Silverstone

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After his magical streak of 10 wins to open the 2014 season ended with a fourth-place finish at Brno, Marc Marquez responded with win #11 at Silverstone.

The 2014 season was The Year of Marquez. He had reeled off 10 wins in a row to start the season, followed by his curious fourth-place finish last time out at Brno. With a lead in the championship of 53 points, many thought Brno was a bump in the road. Some thought otherwise, that somehow Marquez might have been “broken.” Silverstone, making it three dry races in a row in that wettish year, was where we would find the answer.

With a front row of Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo, the two Spaniards went off to fight their own private battle, Lorenzo in the early lead. On Lap 18, after some classic paint-trading, Marquez bulled his way through on his countryman, proving that just because you haven’t started shaving yet doesn’t mean you aren’t sporting a large pair. At the finish, it was Marquez, trailed by Lorenzo (+0.7), the top five completed by Rossi (+8.5), Dani Pedrosa (+8.7) and Dovizioso (+9.2). At least Vale had the pleasure of pimping Pedrosa at the flag. Dovi’s GP14 was still difficult to ride.

2015: The year Lorenzo, with an arguable assist from Marquez, snagged the title over Rossi at Valencia. Round 12 that season was shaping up as a Marquez-Lorenzo cage match, the countrymen and rivals hammering the grid during the four free-practice sessions. They qualified one-two, followed by Pedrosa and Rossi. The weather gods got involved just before the sighting lap, and a dry race suddenly became wet. Rossi’s outstanding win in the rain put him 12 points in front of Lorenzo as the flying circus headed for Vale’s second home crib at Misano.

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Maverick Viñales earned his first MotoGP victory at Silverstone last year, also ending a Suzuki drought that dated back to 2007.

Last year, on a beautiful summer Sunday in the British Midlands, a red flag on Lap 1 slimmed things down to a 19-lap joust. A Suzuki won a premier-class race that day for the first time since 2007, with young Maverick Viñales ending his day standing jubilant on the top step of the podium. He was joined there by my boy Cal Crutchlow and a desperate Valentino Rossi, who won a knife fight with Marc Marquez for the final podium spot. Despite this, Marquez left Britain smiling as always, leading the season by 50 points, not a whisker on his chin.

Yamaha-Friendly has become Ducati-Friendly

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Andrea Dovizioso raced with Ducati’s new fairing design for the first time in Austria, netting him his third win of the season.

Andrea Dovizioso has won three times this year, at Mugello, Catalunya and now Austria. Throwing out Austria, which some say was added to the calendar for the express purpose of giving Ducati a venue they can dominate, we looked at recent results at the other two cribs. At each, Marquez won in 2014, with Yamahas taking both in 2015 and 2016. My conclusion is that Ducati’s success is coming at Yamaha’s expense. We have spoken over the years about how some tracks favor a particular brand, and for all those years it was only Honda or Yamaha. Now Ducati has been added to the mix. And Silverstone, with its long lines and fast turns, is built for speed.

Latest Rider Reports for 2018

Courtesy of a bevy of releases and reports elsewhere, we suspect or know most of the following. Alvaro Bautista will stay at Aspar. Karel Abraham appears likely to stay as well. Takaaki Nakagami will officially join Crutchlow at LCR Honda. Reale Avintia Racing appears to want to sign Tito Rabat, for whatever reason. Perhaps they suspect his fortunes will improve on a satellite Ducati versus his lackluster results on a satellite Honda. Sam Lowes, Stefan Bradl, Mika Kallio and Thomas Luthi are rumored to be contending for the second Marc VDS bike alongside Franco Morbidelli. And Xavier Simeon, late of Moto2, is in the running to displace Loris Baz at Avintia. Many of these are still in the rumor stage.

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LCR Honda signed Takaaki Nakagami to race in MotoGP next season. Nakagami currently sits seventh in the Moto2 championship with three podium finishes for Idemitsu Honda Team Asia.

Re-Tranching for the Helluvit

After Round 10:

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

After Round 11:

Tranche 1: Viñales, Marquez, Dovizioso, Rossi, Pedrosa
Tranche 2: Zarco, Bautistaꜛ, Folger, Crutchlow, A. Espargaro
Tranche 3: Barbera, Miller, Petrucciꜜ, Baz, Lorenzoꜛ
Tranche 4: Abraham, Iannone, Rinsꜜ, Reddingꜛ
Tranche 5: P. Espargaroꜜ, Rabat, Smith Lowes

This is becoming a three-tiered Usual Suspects diagram. There are nine or ten riders consistently in the top two tranches, and another similar number regularly in the bottom two. Tranche three, the median, if you will, gets movement from both directions; there should be more variance in Tranche 3 than in the 1&2 and 4&5 combinations. Like it or not, Alvaro Bautista seems to be a Tranche 2 guy, Lorenzo a #3. Andrea Iannone, Alex Rins, Scott Redding and Pol Espargaro have joined the have-nots and not-yets at the bottom of the bowl, all moving in the wrong direction at the wrong time of year. Meanwhile, Tranches 1 and 2 are more or less static.

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Alvaro Bautista belongs in the second tranche – as long as he can keep the rubber side down, at least.

A more enterprising writer with, say, an advanced degree in economics, would model the rankings for each rider each week, compare it with the chart of their results, perform multiple regression analysis on the two curves, whip out a couple of derivatives, and lose to boredom every single reader he ever had in one chart. He would, however, have an interesting graphic representation of the relationship between a rider’s objective performance and his subjective ranking. Perhaps all this tranching stuff is just a big popularity contest.

Your Weekend Forecast

The long range forecast from weather.com shows (what else?) cool and damp conditions expected for the weekend. Temps in the high 60’s, chance of rain each day. Perfect conditions for cultivating mold, but not so much for motorcycle racing, especially for Honda, whose bikes like it hot. I expect to see two Spaniards and one Italian on the podium Sunday afternoon humming the Spanish national anthem. We’ll have results and analysis right here as soon as possible thereafter.

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  • Starmag

    A repeat of the finishing order of the Red Bull Ring would be good for me and I’m a MM fan. It would keep the top of the order close and interesting.

    Looking foward to some close racing, Ducati competetiveness, and some lovely crumpets.

    • spiff

      Starmag, really Marquez? Are you Spanish? I need more coffee. 🙂

      • Starmag

        https://www.motorsport.com/motogp/news/marquez-playing-with-motogp-rivals-vinales-crutchlow-926447/

        http://www.crash.net/motogp/feature/872592/1/folger-gives-insight-into-marquez-strength

        Your boy Rossi calls him “that little f*****g bastard”, which to me shows jealousy, which is really praise. I like Rossi the GOAT, but IMO he’s won enough. The whole inane “Spanish Conspiracy” started with Rossi foolishly trying to bury MM in front of his peers in a press conference. If you’ve ever taken a management course they specifically tell you not to call out anyone in front of peers. Creates bad mojo. Never a good idea to give extra incentive to your main competitor. Ask Mick Doohan about that. To think that MM colluded with everybody’s favorite punching bag JL to deny Rossi the title, is, well…..more than a stretch IMO. Silly.

        I think I’m in pretty good company with his rival’s opinions who are much better placed and much better riders than I to judge his talent. They all seem in awe of him. Even Stoner, who Rossi admitted he wasn’t capable or willing to ride like, didn’t have the amazing knee, elbow and chin saves that MM is capable of, which wouldn’t mean anything if he didn’t win, but I’ve noticed he’s pretty good at that too, even when DP is having problems. Stoner was good at steering with sliding the back end around, (he had to be with that model Ducati), but even he didn’t slide around both ends like MM. If one is an MM hater, they are in for a rough ride, MM is going to win a lot more. Plus he genuinely seems happy most of the time which is more than I can say about his competitors. He also seems like a good sport to me and gives credit where due and accepts blame. I’m just an American who appreciates talent, not a Spaniard. You are entitled to your own opinion of course. Your tiger may want to re-evaluate his pick of Vinales, who seems like a great talent but it’s weird that I’ve never seen the guy smile.

        • spiff

          Wow, I hit a nerve. Lol We all know Marquez is one of the greats, and enjoy watching him.

          PS, the Tiger only smiles after a successful day of hunting. Been pretty spare lately. Rossi can smile all day long because he has proven himself, and does it now because he loves it. Vinales still has to prove he deserves the M1.

          • Starmag

            No probs. I will note that in my first, non-novella comment, although a fan, I’m willing to see him lose for the sake of a closer championship.

          • spiff

            Would you mind if he foul a plug two races in a row? I think that is what is needed.

          • Starmag

            Ah, you got the memo from Yamaha Headquarters I see.

            I think if anyone is going to beat him, it should be fair and even up, like Desmo Dovi last week, so there’s no question and no excuses. It doesn’t always work out that way though. I know you’re kidding, but it’s hard to see his team making any big mistakes. They seem to be really good at rolling the dice when necessary as well. For what it’s worth, I’d be just as happy seeing Dovi win the championship this year just to mix things up and have something other than a H/Y win it. I don’t have any 93 paraphernalia.

          • spiff

            I want like to hear from anyone who would be against Dovi winning it.

  • Old MOron

    I like the forecast. It bodes well for the Yamahas. On the other hand, Marquez goes well in flag-to-flag races. Oh well, I don’t care. It would make for great drama if all of the pursuers were obliged to evacuate in treacherous conditions.

    • spiff

      “Marquez goes well in flag-to-flag races” is a bit of an understatement. When is the last time he was off the podium in one?

      • Old MOron

        Hmm, do you have a problem with understatement?
        I could overstate everything, like a certain Harley-KTM guy 🙂

        • Born to Ride

          Don’t forget he bought a Bandit, and now seems very pro-Suzuki as well.

          • spiff

            In fairness, the Bandit is a cool Hot Rod.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          I don’t overstate. I just state the facts.

          • Old MOron

            You know, my bombastic MOron, I was going to offer a conciliatory reply.
            But then I saw your own response to a lady rider: http://disq.us/p/1llbucq
            WTF?

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Well if she is doing yoga on a bike, the bike has to be standing still. i couldn’t figure out how the bike was staying upright without any visible means of support. I could have been nice but then that would be considered pandering.

      • When he got DQ’d at Phillip Island. Not really “flag-to-flag”, just sayin’.

        • spiff

          Damn Bruce, you always going to be the Bert to my Ernie?

  • Mahatma

    Wonder if rain will spice up the race,or if dry is the way to pray?How cool would a Qual #1 and race win be for VR.Anybody giving Cal Crutchlow half a haggis chance of pulling one over on the big guns?

  • Sayyed Bashir

    It would be fun if Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger signed up with KTM next year. Both were part of the Red Bull MotoGP Academy and have experience riding KTMs. Zarco won four races and the championship in the 2007 Red Bull Rookies Cup.

  • Prakasit

    2 Spaniards and 1 Italian?
    Dovizioso, Pedrosa and Vinales
    int that order.

    • That would involve the Italian national anthem. Can’t see it.

      • elgar

        Nah…2 Italians and 1 Spaniard.
        Petrucci, Dovi, Marquez…not sure of the order though

        • But what about JLo?

          • elgar

            It will most likely be damp and cloudy…and the food will not be to his liking (UK, don’t hate!)…etc. etc., I don’t see him on the podium this weekend. (although, he does seem to be getting better acclimated with the Ducati)

  • spiff

    Starmag, can I get a “Go Rossi!!! End transmission. ” ?

  • Vrooom

    I’m having a hard time mentally with Bautista as a tranche 2 guy, even if his performance justifies it. Can’t argue that Ducati and Yamaha end up on the podium. And Marquez will grow a whisker eventually. Is Petrucci really down and out in tranche 3 for good? He’ll need to improve on last race’s dnf.

    • I’ve always thought Bautista was, like, a four. But there is no denying he is getting much more from the GP16 than I expected. Scoreboard.

      • Old MOron

        When he was in the 125 GP class, he was a real knife-fight-in-a-phone-booth type of rider. I liked him then.

    • elgar

      My prediction is that Petrucci will podium…

      • Old MOron

        I would like to see Petrux on the podium. Unlikely as it may be, I’d really like to see him take points off Marquez.

  • elgar

    My crazy prediction for podium: Marquez, Petrucci, Dovizioso. Not sure who will be on what step though…I’m looking forward to a very clean and tight battle for 1st position with no ‘shenanigans’!!

  • Old MOron

    Hey, WTF?! How come this article is not on the MOronic home page any more? I even searched the latest articles, http://www.motorcycle.com/latest-articles.html and I couldn’t find it. I had to go through disqus to get here. This is BS!

    Anyway, how about Cal Crutchlow flying the Union Jack on Day 1? So far it looks like a lot of guys have the race pace. Even Lorenzo looks okay.

    • He finished second last year, obviously gets geeked up about riding at home. Still having trouble seeing him on the podium on Sunday, but off to a good start, fer sure. And Petrux is certainly having first day issues.

      • Old MOron

        So is Marquez. Okay, his times are good, but he’s crashed both of his bikes. Props to Cal for riding well at home. You may recall that Toseland caved under the pressure when he got his chance.

    • spiff

      MO needs to figure some logistical stuff out. From a layout and technical aspect that is.

    • wg

      Exactly, why not at the home page any longer? This always is one of the greatest columns, so why do we have to search for it in weird places?

      I only found it by accident,. I do hope the race results will eb easier to locate.

      Kind regards, Wim

  • Old MOron

    Wow, despite the original forecast, we’ve had good weather, and race day promises more of the same. The starting grid is set, and it looks good. Should be a great race. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

  • Old MOron

    Shucks, just watched an interview with Valentino. He acknowledges that his race pace needs improvement if he is to challenge for the podium tomorrow. I expect him to be strong for the first ten laps or so, but the Yamahas tend to use up their rear tires, so I expect him to fade after that. I hope I’m wrong.

    • spiff

      I hope you’re wrong too. They mentioned that the Yamaha’s are using new traction control settings this week.

      • Old MOron

        How the heck did Vinnie make that soft tire last?

        • spiff

          Said Rossi.

  • spiff

    Marquez picked up another low side. Flippin amazing that he can ride that close to the edge and bring it back over and over again.

  • spiff

    Another thought. As good as Pol is going on the KTM a tow from 93 was a bit more than he could handle.

    • Old MOron

      Wow, people can get sucked out of their rides out in the canyons, but you don’t expect that to happen at the lofty heights of Moto GP.