With six different winners in the last six races, trying to predict a winner for Round 12 is a fool’s errand. The usual suspects (minus Dani Pedrosa), Andrea Iannone, Jack Miller, Cal Crutchlow – who’s next? During this period, series leader Marc Marquez has built his lead over his nearest pursuers by being aggressive when he can and protective when he can’t. With #93 up 50+ heading to the two-thirds marker, there’s an eerie absence of pressure. Marquez can be cautious from here on out, while the Yamahas, or at least Valentino Rossi, have already conceded defeat. Sunday’s race should be a nice stroll in the Northamptonshire countryside, then.
Except for crazed, ravenous guys like Crutchlow, winner last time out, Iannone, who popped his premier class cherry in Austria, and even The Black Knight, Miller, who insists his latest injury is “only a flesh wound.” Pedrosa needs a win in the worst possible way. Andrea Dovizioso is long overdue for his second. And, with an assist from the weather, guys like Scott Redding might easily see themselves perched on the top step of the podium as #Sevenofseven.
The 2013 British GP was one of the great contests since I started covering MotoGP in 2008. Marquez, with a 26-point lead over Pedrosa after Brno, dislocated his shoulder in the morning WUP (nearly taking Alvaro Bautista’s RC213V in the teeth as he, too, slid off seconds later), then commenced a day-long chase of Jorge Lorenzo before finally succumbing at the flag by a microscopic 8/100ths of a second. Pedrosa, in the mix all day, podiumed in third, a second and a half behind Lorenzo. The Spanish slugfest up front left Rossi and the other factory bikes sucking wind off in the distance. On a day that appeared ripe for the field to close the gap on the leader, Marquez left Great Britain sore, but leading the championship by more than when he arrived. Battle lost. War won. Perhaps the best British Grand Prix in the modern era.
2014’s gorgeous British GP made it three dry races in a row. With a front row of Marquez, Dovi and Lorenzo, the two Spaniards again went off to fight their own private battle, Lorenzo in the early lead. Marquez took a run at him on Lap 14, but couldn’t make it stick. On Lap 18, though, after a little bumping and grinding, the young Catalan wonder went through for good on the way to his 11th win of the season. At the wire, it was Marquez, trailed by Lorenzo (+0.7), with the top five made up of Rossi (+8.5), Pedrosa (+8.7) and Dovizioso (+9.2). The win put Marquez 10 for 11 on the year, brimming with confidence heading to Misano.
2015: Round 12 of the season was shaping up as another Marquez-Lorenzo cage match, the two brightest lights of the sport hammering the grid during the four free practice sessions. They qualified one-two, with Pedrosa and Rossi, making up the top four. The weather waited to intervene until just before the sighting lap, and a dry race suddenly became wet. Rossi’s 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.
The main Spanish contingent at the 2015 race got rolled, as Marquez flipped his Repsol Honda RC213V out of second place in pursuit of Rossi at Turn 1 of Lap 13 while Pedrosa could manage but a weak fifth. Lorenzo, who led early, gave us no reason to doubt that he hates riding in the rain; having fallen as far back as sixth by mid-race, he managed to recover sufficiently to finish fourth, going through on Pedrosa late, well after Marquez had left the building. With all of his damage-control modules flashing red, Lorenzo managed to limit his debit to teammate Rossi today to 12 points; it could have been much worse. Having started the race dead even, Lorenzo left down 12 with six left. No hill for a climber.
|Rider||Current Points||2017 status|
|Scott Reading||54||Satellite Ducati|
|Aleix Espargaro||51||Satellite Ducati|
|Jack Miller||42||Satellite Honda|
|Bradley Smith||42||Factory KTM|
|Stefan Bradl||39||WSBK, tail between legs|
|Alvaro Bautista||35||Satellite Ducati|
|Loris Baz||24||Satellite Ducati|
|Yonny Hernandez||8||Satellite Ducati|
So how does Gene Laverty not get an offer for 2017 and the likes of Bautista, Baz and Hernandez do? The obvious and unfortunate answer to this question is, disappointingly, money. Laverty, the Northern Ireland Brit, cannot make it rain the way some of these other guys can. If MotoGP is, indeed, 70% rider and 30% bike, owners are missing a bet overlooking Laverty on two-year-old hardware. And, in a rather refreshing manner, he is one who avoids talking about his ability at length and instead comes across as humble, scrambling for a non-humiliating ride for 2017 which turns out to be a Ducati in WSBK, perhaps contending for a title. Too old for a second visit to MotoGP in two years even if he has some success at Superbikes. He’ll be 33, and Rossi’s young Italians will be all over the place.
Thus, the inescapable conclusion that owners can do better financially and reputation-wise with a highly sponsored, non-competitive rider than with a leaner operation/pilot that threatens for podia on a regular basis. The riders and their teams raise money and bring team sponsors along; guys like Hernandez must be almost irresistible: ”With warmest regards from my Colombian countrymen, here is more money than you’ve ever seen. There will be some crashes. Please be my team. Thank you.” I had Hernandez pegged for great things this year, based on what he had done during the offseason, but he doesn’t appear to have it any longer, if indeed he ever did. Yet he will still be scoring MotoGP-caliber women, while Laverty will be relegated to Tranche 2 of the Rider Groupie guild.
Weather looks good this weekend. As usual this time of year, the race goes off early Sunday morning Eastern time. We will have results and analysis right here later in the day.