Just when we thought we knew what to expect from the 2016 MotoGP season, today happened. The practice sessions leading up to the (first of four) Spanish Grand Prix found the factory Yamaha team consistently at or near the top of the charts. Repsol Honda wonderkid Marc Marquez was competitive while struggling with rear grip. Valentino Rossi waited until the last lap of Q2 to lay down the fastest lap of the weekend, for his first Jerez pole since 2005. Today, The Doctor made a house call on Jorge Lorenzo, “administering a dose of his own medicine” in winning at Jerez for the first time since 2009.

Today’s race was a reversal of form in several ways. How many times have we seen Jorge Lorenzo or Marc Marquez get out front, try to leave the field behind, only to have #46 materialize on their rear tire looking for a way to steal their lunch money? Today Rossi took this approach, withstanding an early challenge from Lorenzo on Lap 2, surrendering the lead for roughly 50 meters, before striking back and leading the rest of the race. My trusty Dial-A-Cliché tool suggests “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” would fit well here. (Look for the quotation marks this tool generates, much like a watermark.)

Valentino Rossi prevailed over his nominal teammate Jorge Lorenzo and Honda’s Marc Marquez.

For the first half of the race, Lorenzo dogged his teammate, seeing red, personal animosity vying with grudging professional respect, looking desperately for a way through which never appeared. Marquez, likewise, tailgated Lorenzo for many of the first 14 laps and looked to be lining his countryman up for what would have been a risky pass. Having learned the hard way last year that “discretion is the better part of valor,” he decided to settle for third place, in front of his home fans, a bitter pill to swallow which left him leading the 2016 championship race “at the end of the day.”

Viewing the 2016 championship from a distance, the dynamics of the Honda/Yamaha rivalry have changed dramatically over the past few years with the reunion of the Bruise Brothers at Yamaha and the gradual fading of Dani Pedrosa on the #2 factory Honda. On a personal level, the loathing existent between Rossi and Lorenzo, and Rossi and Marquez, has resulted in some strange bedfellows. Between 2011 and 2013 it was Lorenzo routinely getting double-teamed by the Hondas. In late 2013 and 2014 it was Marquez’s turn to get doubled by Lorenzo and Rossi. Now, the personal having overshadowed the corporate, it is Rossi expecting resistance from Lorenzo and Marquez. During the podium ceremony, if you just watched Marquez and Lorenzo, you would have sworn Rossi wasn’t even there, the body language of the three screaming contempt, Latin-style.

Standing on top of the Jerez podium: Triumph, indignancy and a polite golf clap.

All sports thrive on rivalries. Team sports are far more predictable than individual sports like MotoGP because teams, despite the pronouncements of commentators, really don’t have personalities. Highly competitive individuals, notably the three occupying the front row of today’s grid, most assuredly do. These rivalries become more intense as they become personal; at this point they appear to be driving the 2016 season, “much to the delight” of the fans.

Elsewhere on the Grid

Readers of a certain age will recognize the blues standard “Born Under a Bad Sign” by William Bell, the best version of which was recorded by Cream back in the 70’s. Factory Ducati pilot Andrea Dovizioso should consider having the main lyric – “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all” – stitched onto his leathers.

Well, at least no one ran into you this time, Andrea.

Dovizioso, who could easily occupy one of the top three spots for the season, finished a strong second in Qatar. But he got flattened by teammate Andrea Iannone in Argentina while running second, and was pancaked by Pedrosa in Austin while contending for yet another podium. Today, having qualified fourth, with the entire Ducati contingent struggling, he was running seventh when his bike emitted a puff of smoke, causing him to pull off onto the shoulder, turn on his flashers, and call AAA, his day over “through no fault of his own.”

Dani Pedrosa managed another low impact 4th today, a complete non-factor after Lap 6 despite a decent start. The Suzuki Ecstar team, on the other hand, made it happen, with Aleix Espargaro taking 5th place, two seconds ahead of soon-to-be-Yamaha hotshot Maverick Vinales. Iannone enjoyed an atrocious start, falling from his qualifying slot in 11th to 14th place by Lap 5. His hard front tire, installed while he sat on the tarmac and untested all weekend, finally warmed up, and he clawed his way back to 7th at the flag.

Suzuki should be feeling pretty good right now. Aleix Espargaro sits sixth overall, just ahead of teammate Maverick Vinales but more notably, both are ahead of all the Ducatis.

Tech 3 Yamaha’s Pol Espargaro, the rider NOT joining the factory KTM project next year, kept his ride vertical again for an 8th place finish, falling from 4th to 5th for the season as Pedrosa stole his spot. Eugene Laverty, overachieving yet again, finished 9th as the #2 Ducati behind Iannone, with Hectic Hector Barbera completing the top ten on another second-hand Duc.

At the bottom of the premier class food chain today were two Marc VDS Hondas, Jack Miller, he of the splintered ankle and redneck facial hair, and Tito Rabat, getting consistently KO’d “punching above his weight.” By far the saddest sack of the day was Scott Redding, who was last across the line, over a minute behind Rossi, the optimism of an outstanding offseason having become but “ashes in his mouth.” Having announced this past week that his ultimate goal was a seat on a factory Ducati, he backed it up with perhaps his worst performance ever in the premier class. Gigi, one assumes, was not overly impressed, much as my wife is when I announce that my ultimate goal is to get jiggy wit’ Heidi Klum. Not sure which aspiration is less likely, though my wife does not suffer such uncertainty.

“Precious” Points

Not counting Danilo Petrucci, who’s been out with an injury since withdrawing ahead of the season opener in Qatar, Cal Crutchlow is the last regular rider to score championship points this season.

While I steal liberally from race announcers Nick Harris and Matthew Birt, both of whom “have forgotten more about MotoGP than I’ve ever known,” I need to register a protest over their oppressive use of the adjective “precious” when discussing championship points. Points are important. Points are, well, the point of competing for a championship. Points are never refused – “No thanks, I’ve got plenty already.” But “precious,” other than its alliterative value, is best reserved for describing babies – kittens, puppies, penguins, etc. Banging on about the precious 13 points Dani Pedrosa earned today, or Cal Crutchlow’s first five of 2016, makes me long for an American announcing team, who would probably refer to them as “points.”

A Look Ahead

The grid returns to the historic Bugatti circuit at Le Mans in two weeks, the standings at the top somewhat tighter than they were yesterday. Tomorrow’s test at Jerez may offer an opportunity for the Aliens to work on the rear grip problems they all complained about – loudly – after today’s race. The three Brits – Smith, Crutchlow and Redding – need to work on doing more racing and less talking. Gigi Dall’Igna needs to give some thought to upgrading the machines on loan to Laverty and Barbera. Finally, with Lorenzo looming on the horizon, the two Andreas of the factory Ducati team “need to fish or cut bait.”

It hasn’t been all bad news for the Brits this season. Sam Lowes sits first in Moto2 by 10 points after his win in Jerez.
2016 MotoGP Jerez Results
Pos. Rider Team Time
1 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha
2 Jorge Lorenzo Movistar Yamaha +2.386
3 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda +7.087
4 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda +10.351
5 Aleix Espargaro Suzuki Ecstar +14.143
6 Maverick Vinales Suzuki Ecstar +16.772
7 Andrea Iannone Ducati +26.277
8 Pol Espargaro Monster Yamaha Tech3 +30.750
9 Eugene Laverty Aspar Ducati +32.325
10 Hector Barbera Avintia Racing +32.624
11 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda +38.497
12 Bradley Smith Monster Yamaha Tech3 +39.669
13 Loris Baz Avintia Ducati +45.227
14 Stefan Bradl Aprilia Gresini +47.886
15 Yonny Hernandez Aspar Ducati +47.988
16 Michele Pirro Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati +49.414
17 Jack Miller Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +49.513
18 Tito Rabat Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +53.334
19 Scott Redding Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati +1:05.555
Not Classified
Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse 18 Laps
Alvaro Bautista Aprilia Gresini 22 Laps
2016 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 4 Rounds
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1 Marc Marquez Honda 82
2 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 65
3 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 58
4 Dani Pedrosa Honda 40
5 Pol Espargaro Yamaha 36
6 Maverick Vinales Suzuki 33
7 Aleix Espargaro Yamaha 32
8 Hector Barbera Ducati 31
9 Eugene Laverty Ducati 28
10 Andrea Iannone Ducati 21
  • Old MOron

    Well, even if the race was boring, Brucey’s analysis is not. “Doctor…house call… taste of own medicine,” brilliant!

    Then there’s the Born Under a Bad Sign soundtrack, Pedrobot’s “low impact 4th place,” honorable mention for Laverty and Barbera, an indictment of Redding and the other Brits, measured derision for the poor Marc VDS Honda teammates.

    Good job, Bruce. What a precious recap!

    • Bruce Allen

      I have a hard time getting up at 5 am on Sunday to watch Moto3, although Binder’s win today was one for the ages, a Marquezesque performance. (Outside of Texas, it’s usually the best race of the weekend.) You got a lol out of me with your “precious” crack. And no, I really don’t have any information pertaining to PEsp other than if I were Herve Poncharal I would keep one of my riders next season. Don’t want to go into 2017 with two guys who don’t know where the key to the restrooms is kept.

      • Old MOron

        I hear you. We have to get up at five for the Moto GP race. Then it’s a nap. Then it’s breakfast. Then it’s Moto 3 and 2 via the spoiler-free section.

        Of course your reasoning re EsP makes perfect sense. Herve is kind of stuck with him.

        • DKing

          How do you get to the spoiler-free section? I woke up about an hour late on Sunday for the GP race and went to the “videos” section to watch it, but I caught a glimpse of a headline “Rossi reigns supreme”; so I pretty much knew who was going to win it at least…

          • Old MOron

            Before I discovered that there is a “No Spoiler” section, I used to hold a sheet of paper across my computer screen to try to avoid seeing headlines. Now I have this page bookmarked.

          • DKing

            Nice! Thanks a lot! I was doing exactly that…holding a red folder over most of the screen, but I still managed to catch a glimpse of that headline…lol

  • JMDonald

    I love it when Rossi wins.

    • spiff

      He does too. Lol He was loving it today.

  • spiff

    Good read as always. The podium prediction was off, and I am glad it was. I guess that is why they have to actually run the race. Lorenzo had some very hash words for Michelin. Both after qualifying and the race. Discuss. :)

    • Bruce Allen

      I must admit to not being very good at this predicting stuff anymore. Several years ago I was on a roll, but not lately. Not sure who saw Rossi’s win coming after the fiasco in Texas, while Vinales was more a case of wishful thinking. With Lorenzo and Rossi on the same tires, I think Jorge’s protests ring somewhat hollow. Turning on my cliche generator one more time, “a poor carpenter blames his tools.” Congratulations on your boy Vale winning.

      • Old MOron

        Ha ha, early in his Moto GP career, Lorenzo was known as Air Jorge because of his big highsides. If he keeps up this carpenter-blaming-his-tools thing, I’m going to call him Crutchrenzo.

        • BDan75

          Nice, but I think “Crutchlorenzo” flows better…

  • http://facebook.com/ East South

    Just think of it as a wet race that will put things into perspective. The other aliens just did not want to risk it.

    The situation was so strange to JLo and MM, they were like “slipping on the straight! how? ,better play it safe”.

    • Bruce Allen

      Ever since they started testing the Michelins, the consensus was that the fronts were outstanding but the rears lacked grip. In order to defray some of the costs, and to provide the best of both words for the riders, I don’t know why Dorna doesn’t contract with both tire manufacturers. I realize “Exclusive tire provider for MotoGP” carries some marketing weight, but surely there would be other benefits and cost savings for both companies.

      • spiff

        What if the Michlen is superior across the board, and it is the unified software that is the culprit?

        • FreelancerMG

          I was thinking something similar in that it isn’t necessarily just poor relative performance of the tires but the poor performance of the ECU software that’s not really able to give them back the same level of functionality of the rider aids they may have been used to having properly tuned.

        • Old MOron

          Good point, Spiff. I remember reading somewhere that the old factory software was running tire degradation models in real time, predicting tire status over the remainder of the race, and constantly re-adjusting power maps – all of this several times per second! But this year it’s more in the riders’ wrists.

          • spiff

            Well, if tire tech is at it’s limit, and the ecu is on lock down, I wonder what the engineers will do to over come it? Is it all up to the wrist?

          • Old MOron

            Here’s where it gets real interesting. I read all this stuff a while ago, so I may not be using the correct language, but apparently:

            Honda agreed to the spec ECU, but they insisted on using proprietary sensors. The explanation was that their sensors don’t measure anything different. They just measure it more accurately. They merely send more precise information to the spec ECU; they don’t change the actual processing or maps within the ECU.

            But it turns out that Honda’s sensors actually have computing power. They might pre-process the readings they take and in that way help the spec ECU to think outside of the spec box.

            I don’t know if Yamaha is doing this, too. From what I remember reading, it was Honda who insisted on their own sensors.

          • spiff

            Interesting, sounds like their version of a powercommander.

          • Bruce Allen

            This may be the tip of the hacking iceberg we discussed earlier in the season. Sending more and better information to the ECU seems to be an effort to unlevel the playing field.

      • BDan75

        I thought that was how it was up until the mid/late ’00s, at which point everybody abandoned Michelin for Bridgestone and they ended up going with a spec tire…

      • Gruf Rude

        Actually, Bruce, the initial consensus was that the rears were wonderfully grippy. The problem is that the grippy rear tires came apart under the strain. Now Michelin has stiffened the rear tire construction and the grip has disappeared in wheelspin. I wonder if Rossi’s lanky, gangly build allows him to weight-shift just enough to hit a set-up that the smaller riders cannot . . .

        • Bruce Allen

          You’re probably right about the fronts and rears. I wonder how THE ENTIRE GRID feels about being stuck with rear spinners because the Duc generates so much power and Redding’s carrying more weight than he should. He should follow Petrux’s example and lose 20 pounds. And what about the idea of different manufacturer’s tires on the front and rear? Pure fantasy?

          • Gruf Rude

            So far, it seems clear that Michelin simply has not developed the tire technology that Bridgestone reached during the last few years. Bridgestone developed ‘rubber’ compounds that were incredibly resistant to tearing; Michelin has not. Michelin needs to step up for the good of the sport; otherwise I’m in favor of dumping Michelin for inability to perform and giving the spec contract back to Bridgestone.

  • methamphetasaur

    Marquez said after the race ‘We are losing alot under acceleration, and then we need to brake too late and we will have to try to manage.’

    Kinda exactly what your boy Crutchlow was saying last time out. Interesting.

  • john phyyt

    Jorge . Yamaha – 1 2. Ducati nowhere. . Don’t burn your bridges. I want you back at Yamaha for 2018.

  • Starmag

    Well number 46 can still dominated a weekend, which is pretty amazing at 37, a well-earned fist pumping moment for Rossi fans. The old GOAT has proven me wrong a couple times now, and I hate being wrong. Unfortunately, when one of the (now three?) aliens get out front, it turns the race into a snoozer. I want to be excited about MotoGP but a lot of times it just leaves me flat. I know Dorna is trying hard to make it more competitive, so I don’t know what the answer is. Flagging to group up the racers ala NASCAR would be lame. Things definitely would have been more interesting this year if Ducati wasn’t down on it’s luck so far. It’s looking like Suzuki may still be a year out from podiums.


    Rossi is very hungry this year and he will be unstoppable , mentally and physically with ex champion Luca Cadaloro on his side.

  • Vrooom

    You know something we don’t showing Aleix Espargo on a Yamaha in the standings Bruce? Could happen. I thought Marquez was gonna pass Lorenzo, but you could see he favored domestic tranquility instead. As it is, you could tell he was in the doghouse and there would be no snuggling till Wednesday or so. Disappointing weekend for Vinales and Ducatis. At least Iannone didn’t crash, but that was still a bad weekend.

    • Bruce Allen

      The MO editors add the standings at the end of the race summaries. I thought these were cut and pasted from the MotoGP website, but you’ve laid that thought to rest. GREAT eye–glad someone’s paying attention to this stuff. And I’m happy to say I don’t have to stoop to the sexual innuendo like you guys do. We have standards around here, y’know. 😎

  • schizuki

    The Moto3 race was as thrilling as the MotoGP race was dull.

    The Moto2 race was entertaining in its own way, a lowside tuck-a-thon that had about a quarter of the field regretting their decision to go with Front OrGreenics.