For the first time since 1949 when MotoGP invented itself, eight different riders have won a premier class race in a single season.  Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa, mired in the worst slump of his career, winless in 2016, busted out today on the shores of the sun-drenched Adriatic with a convincing win over Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.  For series leader Marc Marquez, another exercise in damage limitation worked well enough to keep his margin at 43 points with five rounds to go.

Practice

The WCMS at Misano is one of those “technical” tracks where the bikes don’t peg the throttle in 6th very much.  Top speeds are “low.”  On Friday the Ducatis had trouble breaking the top six.  It’s a great track with something for every taste and budget but does not play well to the Ducati’s strengths.  On Friday, it looked like it might be prime hunting grounds for Maverick Vinales, who gets around those tight areas with ease on his GSX-RR, if it weren’t too hot at race time. (BTW they’re going to love Vinales in Yamahaland.)

2016 Misano MotoGP Vinales

Vinales looked strong throughout the weekend at Misano.

Lorenzo looked strong in FP1.  Rossi took FP1 because he felt like it – home race and all – and Marquez was keeping his powder dry. Pol Espargaro had a great Friday. Iannone took himself out of Round 13 at least with a formidable high-side in FP1 and a resulting cracked vertebra, his place on the factory-issue bike being taken by the very capable Michele Pirro.  There was a Pedrosa sighting during FP2.  By Q2 time it was hot but not insanely, Sepang-style hot. During the Sunday morning warm-up, it was Marquez, Rossi, Pirro and Dovizioso, team Ducati having apparently fixed a few things overnight:

FP1: Rossi PEspargaro Vinales
FP2: PEspargaro Pedrosa Dovizioso
FP3: Marquez Lorenzo Vinales
FP4: No One Cares
Q2: Lorenzo Rossi Vinales Marquez

Marquez, Pirro and Dovizioso made up the second row, with Crashlow qualifying 7th and Pedrosa 8th.

Eight for Eight

My notes make no mention of Pedrosa until Lap 5 when he went through on Maverick Vinales’ Suzuki into 5th place.  The factory Yamahas dominated early, with Lorenzo taking the holeshot into the early lead, only to give it up to Rossi on Lap 2.  Misano, a sea of yellow, is the only circuit on the calendar that offers a home court advantage to a rider – Rossi – which is palpable and can affect the outcome of the race.  For 20 laps today it appeared the homeboy would win.  But Pedrosa, having qualified 8th, his struggle continuing, took our advice today, said “to hell with it,” put his head down, and won by 2.8 seconds over a disappointed Rossi, with Lorenzo ending the day in third, equally disgusted at having been unable to get away early.

Pedrosa, looking like the Alien of old, went through on teammate Marc Marquez in Turn 14 of Lap 14, leaving two Yamahas and half a race between him and the win.  He tracked down Lorenzo in Turn 14 of Lap 17.  Finally, he took down Rossi in Turn 4 of Lap 22, not once showing the Italian any daylight between there and the flag.  The podium photo could have been straight out of 2009 when the same three Aliens dominated the sport.  Back in the dark CRT days, could anyone foresee the day when eight different riders would claim a win in a single season?  In eight consecutive races?  Andrea Dovizioso and Scott Redding need to step up.

Dani Pedrosa accomplished his entire To Do list today:  Win the race.  Beat Marquez.  And keep Lorenzo and Rossi from gaining ground on his teammate.  Check, check and check.

In Defense of Crutchlow Bashers and Lovers

When we divide the season into two halves, we discover the first half winners:

  • Marquez 170
  • Lorenzo 122
  • Rossi 111
  • Pedrosa   96
  • Vinales   83
  • PEspargaro   72
  • Barbera   65
  • Iannone   63
  • Dovizioso   59
  • Crutchlow   40

First five rounds of the second half:

  • Rossi 77
  • Crutchlow 73
  • Marquez 71
  • Vinales57
  • Dovizioso 58
  • Lorenzo 41

Despite his eighth place finish today, which was lowered to ninth over a rules infraction, Crutchlow could win the second half of the season.  He’s done well during the first half of the second half.  Which, in turn, suggests he could win an entire season, simply by winning both halves.  Of both halves.  Those of you who have been bugging me about under-tranching him must acknowledge that he left Assen in 14th place.  We know at least some of it wasn’t his fault – mechanicals.  But now having been on a hot streak, suddenly he’s an Alien?  No.

Today, with five rounds left, Cal Crutchlow sits in 8th place, 52 points outside the top four, and 130 behind Marquez.  It’s in Honda’s interest to give him the best equipment they’ve got, factory team or not.  He has recovered from his disastrous start to the season.  He is legitimately fast and skilled.  He is battling Marquez and was, until today, dusting Pedrosa.  He hasn’t crashed since Assen; some would say he’s overdue.  We don’t call him Crashlow for nothing.  So why are we spending so much time talking about him?

If he wins the second half he’s an Alien.  And I’m a monkey’s uncle.  Dude is 30 going on 31.  At a minimum, he needs to start acting like he’s been here before.  He can afford to be gracious after good performances.  Save funny for the Tuesday interviews.  Now, if both of you Brits reading this would kindly step off my neck…

Elsewhere on Sunday

Brad Binder won the Moto3 race, applying a virtual death grip on the 2016 title.  I think some people are unexcited by this prospect due to a lingering negative hangover around historic South African racial practices, combined with the sheer size of his lead.  Crushing your opponents is frowned upon in all three MotoGP divisions as it takes the edge off the competition.  No question the fast South African is moving on up, but I suspect he has fewer fans in his fan club than, say, Valentino Rossi.

Rossi’s VR46 Racing seems to have identified and developed an entire posse of fast young Italian riders who are punching above their weight in Moto2 and Moto3.  The sport seems to be becoming less Spanish and more Italian.  For American fans, this change can be characterized as trivia.  For Italian fans, it’s another compelling reason to love #46, as he and his team appear to be elevating the profile of motorcycle racing across the country.  Lorenzo Baldassarri’s first grand prix win today in Moto2 supports this idea.

The Big Picture

With five rounds left – Aragon, the Pacific swing and Valencia – Marquez leads the series by 43 over Rossi and 61 over Lorenzo.  Pedrosa seized 4th place back from Vinales today.  Dovizioso leads Iannone by three points, while Crutchlow leads Pol Espargaro by four.  Hector Barbera rounds out the top ten.  Marquez increases his working margin today while struggling with grip and corner acceleration.  It’s hard to see how he can avoid capturing the 2016 title.  On, however, to the dusty plains of Aragon, the rabbit warren at Motegi, the cold, cutting winds of Phillip Island, the brain-melting heat of Sepang and, one hopes, the tension of the final race of the year in November at Valencia.  We hope there is a compelling reason to race at Round 18.  Whether there is or isn’t likely depends mostly upon Marquez.  And his suddenly tough little wingman.

  • Old MOron

    Holy smokes, Dani sure spoiled what would have been a big yellow party. I was very surprised by Lorenzo today. When they interviewed him in parc ferme, lo and behold: his tires hadn’t disintegrated, his helmet was working properly, nobody had said anything mean to him. He simply said he wasn’t fast enough. I guess he’s been taking interview coaching from Crutchlow.

    Speaking of Crutchlow, I knew he was having a great second half of the season, but I hadn’t realized it was THAT good. No wonder he’s giving gracious interviews nowadays.

    We didn’t get the knife fight in a phone booth I was hoping for, but I enjoyed watching the relatively few passes. They were all hard but fair, except Dani’s pass on his teammate. That one was smooth, like buttah.

    • Gruf Rude

      I think Marquez decided to yield the position gracefully to the clearly faster Pedrosa; hoping Dani would carry that pace to the front. Marquez has been racing a very cerebral season.

      • Old MOron

        Good thought, Gruf. Marquez would’ve known about Dani’s practice times, so he could well have let him go, hoping for him to take points off the Bruise Brothers.

        In this interview, he says plainly, “I saw there was more possibilities to crash than the podium, so then I prefer to finish the race.”
        http://www.motogp.com/en/videos/2016/09/11/marquez-dissects-muted-misano/210743

        • OhGee1

          I am not so sure I like this cerebral Marquez… Obviously it is good for him and his championship chances but I recon we need to see the crazy-go-for-it Marquez at least once this season.

          • Gruf Rude

            He showed up at Silverstone and it cost him a podium and points to Rossi – he’s still there, but he learned a hard lesson last year.

          • OhGee1

            I recon he’ll show up at least once more this season. You can only curb your natural instinct for so long. Perhaps at a race with Rossi in front of him and the win a possibility the red mist will return. I am hoping that Marquez has at least one DNF in him. I would just make the championship a little more exciting (not that it needed more excitement)

          • Old MOron

            Yes, I hope bloodthirsty Marquez will show up again, like he did at Silverstone. Makes the racing even better.

          • Bruce Allen

            Perhaps he’ll show it to us at the round where he has first chance to clinch the title. A little recreational paint trading before closing the door.

      • Bruce Allen

        And Pedrosa played his part as a wingman to perfection.

        • Shlomi

          Sorry, this is incorrect, Marquez had nothing to slow down or hold Danny. Don’t make him more smarter than he is. Padrosa passed him like wind riding half a second per lap faster.

          • Bruce Allen

            And no reason to try. MM was unable to deal with the Yamahas–having a ready, willing and anxious Pedrosa to turn loose makes perfect sense. MM wasn’t going to win this race on this day at this track. Much better for him if Pedrosa wins rather than JL or VR.

          • john phyyt

            .. Pedrosa is, as always, a great rider for Honda. It was suggested that Honda was crazy to re-sign him….But look at corporate pride.
            If Rossi has won this race all kudos to him ( not much to Yamaha) but Pedrosa’s win was definately one for Honda. He is really a great company man and the Japanese often reward this far more than the more individualistic economies.

          • Old MOron

            I don’t pretend to know Japanese culture. What you say sounds familiar. But I don’t think it’s particularly accurate in the case of Andrea Dovizioso. Recall that he had to force Honda to give him a factory ride by insisting on the option in his contract. I don’t think that Yamaha treated him much better. Dovi is not as celebrated as Pedrosa, but he certainly fits the company man profile.

          • Bruce Allen

            I think Dovi lacks a killer instinct, that lizard brain thing that takes over so many riders and allows them to win races and championships. And crash a lot. Dovi’s sense of self-preservation is too great to allow him to dive into a lot of small openings. He seems to be another great rider and good guy who never became an Alien. He had a third of the wins of Nicky Hayden. :)

    • Bruce Allen

      JL took exception to VR passing him early, would have preferred that everyone hang back until he had established his 10 second margin. “Mommy, Valentino is being MEAN to me!!!!!!!”

  • Old MOron

    “First five rounds of the second half:”
    Wait a minute, I count six races in your list!
    Quick, blame it on DC.

    Thanks for getting this posted early, Dennis!

  • JMDonald

    Unbelievable season this year. Go see Cal.

  • Gruf Rude

    The tire ‘lottery’ is playing an out-sized role in this year’s championship.

    • Ozzy Mick

      Yeah, like in F1. I was surprised that Dani, supposedly on a soft front, did not suffer degradation and maintained an advantage over #46 and #99 who were supposedly on the medium soft fronts on a very hot track (temperature wise). I guess it adds another element to the guessing game and raises the age old question of: Is it the rider/jockey/driver, or is it his mount?

      • Bruce Allen

        When they were Bridgestones, everyone equated hardness with longevity. With the Michelins, you’re right, it appears more random. But Pedrosa has always been easy on his tires, because he weighs 75 lbs.

  • john phyyt

    Bruce’s inverse tranche system works again. Demoting Pedrosa was just the thing. Why don’t you remove Marquez’s tier one rating and let him win a few, before years end?
    To the Brits > Please don’t press B.A. to give Crutchlow” Alien status” as this could end his magnificient run . Note that even last columns, back down, has stunted his progress,.

    • Barry_Allen

      It might have been Vinales passing him in the standings that fired him up.
      Marquez, Lorenzo, and Rossi are one thing, but some punk kid in fourth place seemed to have ticked him off. Lesson; Don’t get in front of an angry Pedro-bot. Today nobody could.

    • Bruce Allen

      I think you’re on to something. For a guy who can’t even get his articles to show up in a Google email alert (I can’t, it never does, ever), I’m stunned at the negative power of my tranching “system.” Thinking about dropping Redding and Dovizioso before Aragon, going for the nine-for-nine thing.

      • Vrooom

        I’m skeptical it would work for Redding, but Dovi, maybe.

      • john phyyt

        What an excellent idea!! .. Please give it a go . Problem is these voodoo things require sincerity. and it may backfire if you don’t truly believe.

        • Bruce Allen

          Picture Kramer from Seinfeld–” Oh I Truly Believe, Oh Yeah!!!”

  • Starmag

    Who would have thought “The Jockey” would whip it down the stretch for the win today? Short in stature but huge in his ability to take the wind out of the sails of multitudes of #46 fans and the Doctor himself on his home turf.

    Can’t complain that the same guy always wins this season.
    http://motorcycle.com.vsassets.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/20141104_113653.jpg

  • Old MOron

    Hey Bruce, you used to make fun of Bautista’s haircut before Cal became your favorite target. Have you seen Bati’s new neck tattoo?

    • Bruce Allen

      No, but I’m not surprised. I am surprised about how I messed up the points analysis, which I had noticed were incorrect, then went back to fix and made them worse. I’ll post the right numbers in the Aragon preview. Evans edited my article today, and I would blame him if only it were his fault. If AB spent as much time improving his riding as he does “improving” his appearance he would be top eight, no question.

      • Old MOron

        Ace analysis of Bati.

  • Shlomi

    My peak moment of the day was the press conference when Lorenzo and Rossi argue if Rossi’s pass was too aggressive. Not much love there, seems like even if Rossi, will be closing the gap Loenzo will return a favor and will help Marquez win the championship. Normally Bruce is saying that Marquez is on a league on his own, today, with no BS like rain/ for flag to flag Marquez simply didn’t have the pace today. All we need is one mistake from Marquez to keep the championship tension on.

  • spiff

    Imagine if Rossi didn’t lisebthat engine, and didn’t bone head it in the rain. We would have one hell of a championship. Oh well, the racing has been good. I think Pedrobot has won a race every year of his career. Good for him.

  • WhitesDontBelongInAfrica

    “a lingering negative hangover around historic South African racial practices” – wow talk about ill-informed ignorance !!! Not since 1994 Bruce – read the news. If Bradl wins a race are you going to say “lingering negative hangover of the holocaust”. Binder was brilliant yet again.

    • Bruce Allen

      I’m not saying he isn’t the fastest guy in Moto3. I’m certainly not accusing him of racism. The US constitutionally outlawed racial discrimination in the 1960’s and there’s still plenty of racists running loose here. (They even have their own presidential candidate.) I am suggesting South Africa’s reputation suffered as a result of apartheid and, in some quarters, may continue to do so. If Bradl wins a MotoGP race I’m going to say,”Holy crap, I don’t know a damned thing about racing.” And, just for the record, my brand of ignorance is well-informed. Ask anyone.

      • DKing

        What the what? Politics on a motorcycle site…uuugh. I can only assume you are talking about the same presidential candidate who supports America, and bringing our country out of the pit of despair that it currently resides in…only because I’ve seen that same “racist” card thrown by the liberal news media quite often. Also this same presidential candidate supports our 2nd amendment rights to bear arms and stand against dictatorships and totalitarian governments. This really surprises me coming from a motorcycle column writer as most motorcycles enthusiasts tend to gravitate more toward being lovers of freedom. The FBI even has us on a classified “gang list” due to our inherent nature to be more “independent thinkers”…..http://nationalreport.net/fbi-admits-registered-motorcycle-owners-classified-gang-list/. Oh well…vote for the other candidate. We’ll all be microchipped and riding in government mandated self driving cars in 4 years because motorcycles will be deemed to dangerous to our health. This should go along perfectly with our government mandated health insurance as well.

        • Vrooom

          You just brought the first politics to the forum DKing.

          • Bruce Allen

            No, i did, and regret doing so. I allow myself to say things here I wouldn’t say on the site. Always going for the cheap laugh, Will learn one of these days.

          • DKing

            No hard feelings Bruce. I know part of your job is to get a reaction out of people. I didn’t see anyone countering that statement; so I wanted to offer my opinion..

          • Kos

            Well said, Bruce. Plus I’m not really positive that Hillary is a racist. You may be rushing to judgement.

          • Ozzy Mick

            Yeah, we don’t need it here – there’s enough of it in motogp :)

      • Ian Parkes

        “(.. their own presidential candidate.)” What’s your point? So does the Ku Klux Klan.

        • Bruce Allen

          Something for every taste and budget.

    • Ian Parkes

      Lol

  • OhGee1

    Overall this has been one of the best if not the best MotoGP seasons in recent memory. The unpredictably nature of the last 8 races has just been amazing to watch. Who would’ve thought that MM93 would be playing the long game instead of just going hell for leather? Can’t explain JL99’s problems. He needs to sort out his wet weather riding – it has cost him a lot this season. Pedrosa just doesn’t seem to have any luck (except for yesterday) Dovi and Vinales really seem to be the up and coming talent. Can’t wait to see Vinales at Yamaha on a full factory bike. Ianone?? Well the less said about him the better. He is quick and probably can hang with the best but always manages to do an Ianone and throw the bike down the road.

    P.S. As a South African I am super stocked about Brad Binder. He has been nothing short of superb this season… And just a side note, on race days when I take my bike to the local pub to watch the race everyone (whether, black, white or purple is cheering on that boy.

    • schizuki

      Yeah, that South African comment was unnecessary. Past is past. Move on. I don’t think it enters anyone’s mind. I’m a huge Binder fan after that worst-to-first win earlier this year. Damnedest thing I ever saw.

  • Old MOron

    I wish Marc Marquez were more like Bad Brad Binder. Binder has a big lead in the championship. Do you see him playing it safe? No.

  • Vrooom

    Shame crazy Joe crashed out in FP1 and was out for the race, not sure about the season, he always keeps things interesting. You’re starting to sound suspiciously like a Crutchlow fan Bruce. We’re going to chip in and buy you a Cal Crutchlow #1 t-shirt (saw one of these a year or two ago, likely from another racing series). Rossi’s got a chance to pull this out, but he needs a few wins to do so.

    • Ian Parkes

      He does go on about CC a lot doesn’t he? Makes you wonder.

      • Bruce Allen

        You make a good point. (I made things worse by cobbling up the statistics and throwing in a dash of politics.) Stoner used to be complainer/finger pointer-in-chief, but has since been replaced by CC, both of whom are smart enough and articulate enough to get a lot of microphones jammed into their respective gobs. Crutchlow tries to make his cracks seem all in good fun, but a guy once told me that, underneath each apparently harmless jab lies a germ of truth.

        • Ian Parkes

          No, I don’t make a good point Bruce. Just stirring. But, as a wise man once said, underneath each apparently harmless jab lies a germ of truth …as your reply so amply demonstrates, eh?

  • schizuki

    Bruce, you left out the best part of the weekend! Lorenzo Baldasarri winning his first Moto2 race, riding a bike emblazoned with the Stars & Stripes and “Land of the Free, Home of the Brave” in honor of 9/11. The wife and I were jumping out of our seats cheering him on.

    Good karma! The racing gods showered their favors upon him.