This article originally appeared on Late-Braking MotoGP.
With 58 points in hand and things generally going his way, Repsol Honda wonder Marc Marquez is unlikely to throw a 2019 world championship down the road. Let’s put on our blinders and refocus our attention and interest on the fight for second place. After all, this is MotoGP. Second-best in the world is nothing to sneeze at. If this were March Madness, it would be like playing on Monday night. You might lose by 30 but at least you were there. Put it this way – it’s better than just beating your teammate.
The factory Ducati team of Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci is sitting pretty with 127 and 121 points, respectively, Petrucci telling everyone “I told you so” after years of perdition. Next comes the reckless, but not wreckless, Alex Rins, with expensive DNFs in his last two races, at 101 points. Maverick Viñales had lately been hot at Assen and Sachsenring, but his season was in tatters until then – and he sits with 85. Valentino Rossi has 80 points. People no longer wonder out loud whether Valentino will win another title. They are reduced to arguing whether he will win another race, which is an editorial on How Things Are.
2016: With three wet/dry races in the previous four rounds, MotoGP fans had been getting accustomed to strange results. Aussie Jack Miller came out of nowhere to win at Assen on his satellite Honda. Marquez held serve at The Sachsenring, joined on the podium by Cal Crutchlow and Ducati pilot Dovizioso. At dry Brno, the abrasive #CalCulator, on the LCR Honda, won his first ever premier class race ahead of Yamaha icon Rossi and Marquez, who set another new track record during quals. Karma prevailed – the biggest day in modern British motoracing history had virtually no impact on the 2016 season standings.
The 2017 Czech Motorcycle Grand Prix, after much weather-related pre-race drama, turned out to be a six-lap affair with a 16-lap warm-down. Afterwards, many of the attendees berated themselves for wasting all that money on such a crummy day at the track. Series leader Marquez, with the best weather guy of any crew, pitted at the end of Lap 2 and changed from rain tires to slicks before the thought occurred to many of his competitors. He summarily seized the lead early on Lap 6 and never looked back. This was another example of how his crew had the #2 bike fitted the way the rider wanted without any communication from him. Pretty awesome crew. Again.
Still one of Europe’s elite racing venues, Brno gave 140,000 fans a thoroughly enjoyable MotoGP race last year. Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo put a heavy Ducati doubleteam on series leader Marquez as all three ended up on the podium. Rossi and Crutchlow had their own little late-in-the-day tête-à-tête for fourth place, won by Vale. Marquez, who finds a way to win while losing, extended his season lead over Rossi to 49 points.
After last year, one might expect the factory Ducatis to dominate again this year, and that may happen. But Marquez will surely be in the mix, Viñales is likely to be fast, and Rins will show us how grown up he is by how long he keeps the bike upright. Marquez is the one of these five contenders who would be least unhappy to finish fifth, as the others are desperate for a win. Unfortunately for them, they are not allowed to affix blinders and ignore the remarkable Marquez. None, however, seems willing or able to challenge #93 early in a race, perhaps force him into a mistake that puts him back in mid-pack and reduces the probability of another boorish Repsol Honda win. Madness reigns on the grid – the top guys keep doing the same things, expecting different results, their best simply not good enough. Meanwhile, Marquez has his sights set on a fourth consecutive world championship and could seriously care less about the outcome of a particular race at this point, Catalunya having already passed.
Jonas Folger – earning a full-time gig in Moto2. He should contend quickly. He was good enough in Moto2 years ago to earn a promotion to MotoGP and would probably still be there had it not been for some serious health issues which have since been resolved. Good on ya, Jonas.
Brad Binder – earned a promotion from KTM’s factory Moto2 team to the Tech 3 MotoGP team, to be riding alongside Miguel Oliveira. For Hafizh Syahrin, MotoGP was nice while it lasted. KTMs are the new career-killers, replacing Ducati. Johann Zarco will leave tarnished after next season; Pol Espargaro and Oliveira resemble lifers. Binder does not seem quite ready to me, but Syahrin was going nowhere. Put a South African on the grid, lose a Malaysian. In the words of Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman, “’ts all good, man.”
Lorenzo will miss two more rounds recovering from cracked vertebrae. Off in the distance, if you listen carefully, you can hear a bell tolling. It tolls for Jorge.
2020 is looking more and more like Andrea Iannone’s last year in MotoGP. Dude would rock in WSBK.
Is it just me, or is the silly season pretty much over for next year? Does anyone think Alex Marquez will be some kind of force in MotoGP even a year from now?
Weather in Brno for the weekend looks, in the words of Steve and Matt, “a bit iffy.” Rain in the area with temps in the upper 70s. Don’t know about you, but it sounds like Marquez weather to me. His favorite conditions are, in his words, “whatever.”
There is no reason both Dovizioso and Petrucci shouldn’t be on the podium, with Viñales and Rins in the top five. They’ve had three weeks to do stuff to the bikes. Even Crutchlow should be feeling pretty good now, ready for the chase for second. Rossi needs to find a way into Q2. Period. No longer any need to worry about Lorenzo, injured former-Alien, in 2019. Looks, however, like a great opportunity for Stefan Bradl to pile up some points for the Repsol Honda team, perhaps for the remainder of the season.
Speaking of Aliens, Rossi has become an Alien Emeritus. Boom. Viñales, Dovizioso, Petrucci and Rins would all be considered Aliens in a non-Marquezian world. As denizens of Tranche 2, however, can they still be considered Aliens, or are we down to one Alien and a handful of super-strong, untitled, unfortunate riders?
Hard to say. All we know for sure is that hope springs eternal in the hearts of those in Tranche 2. As for Sunday’s race, I would bet a small trifecta of Petrucci to win, Dovizioso to place, and Marquez to show, similar to last year. Yamahas in fourth and fifth.
We’ll see if any of this happens – results and analysis – right here after the race.