MotoGP Catalunya Preview 2018

Bruce Allen
by Bruce Allen

After Mugello, the 2018 fight is a fight again

Photos by Getty Images; Lead photo by Honda

Virtually lost amidst the frenzied game of musical chairs being played in MotoGP is the fact that, pursuant to his careless crash in Italy ten days ago, Marc Marquez has returned to Earth. Though the title still appears to be his to lose, his margin of error has been trimmed. Another off in the next few rounds will breathe life into his six closest pursuers. Or, he could win the next three rounds without breaking a sweat, forcing us to start thinking about 2019. Dude records way more wins than DNFs.

Riders Chasing Marquez

2Valentino Rossi72
3Maverick Viñales67
4Andrea Dovizioso66
5Johann Zarco64
6Danilo Petrucci63
7Andrea Iannone60

Points-wise, the aforementioned pursuers are tight as ticks. These six fast movers are highly motivated to put some real pressure on Marquez. Rossi wants to show the world he still has it at age 39. Dovi was this close last year and can still taste the title. Zarco has the fastest Yamaha on the track and believes he can pull it off, becoming the first satellite rider to win a premier class title EVER. Petrucci, bubbling over with confidence, wants to impress Gigi Dall’Igna even more than he already has. And Iannone wants to stick his thumb in the eye of the suits at Suzuki who lost confidence in him last year. As for Viñales, he simply wants to stay in the mix long enough for Yamaha to give him a bike he can win on.

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After the disappointment at Mugello, Marc Marquez got to blow some steam with a test ride of the Toro Rosso F1 car.

Recent History at Catalunya

2015, it will be recalled, was The Year of Discontent for Marc Marquez. It was on Lap 3 at Montmelo when, frantically chasing Jorge Lorenzo from second place, he hit the deck, his day (and championship hopes) done and dusted. Lorenzo, having seized the lead on the first lap, was doing his best to get away, and Marquez had to try to force the issue early. Boom. Lorenzo edged Rossi by almost a second, with Dani Pedrosa arriving some 20 seconds later. At the end of the day, Marquez trailed Rossi by 69 points and Lorenzo by 68. Marquez switched to the 2014 chassis after this round, found his mojo, and collected six podia over the second half of his lost season.

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Jorge Lorenzo led the MotoGP championship going into Catalunya in 2016. After getting clipped by Andrea Iannone and crashing out, Lorenzo lost the lead to Marc Marquez who went on to win the title.

The 2016 tilt featured a struggling but gritty Jorge Lorenzo getting “Iannoned” out of fifth place on Lap 17, leaving Rossi and Marquez at the front, where they slugged it out for the rest of the day. Rossi prevailed after the challenge from Marquez subsided once his pit board flashed “LORENZO KO.” Dani Pedrosa again finished a respectable third, followed some distance back by Viñales on the Suzuki. Marquez took the series lead from Lorenzo that day and never looked back, cruising to his third premier class title.

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Andrea Dovizioso was victroious in 2017, overcoming both Repsol Hondas.

2017 – After recording no wins between Donington Park 2009 and Sepang 2016, Ducati #1 Andrea Dovizioso made it two in eight days, delivering scintillating rides at both Mugello and Montmelo. By mid-race, Dovizioso was keeping his powder dry, tucked in behind the two factory Hondas. Marquez and Pedrosa were making polite moves on one another through the middle of the race until Lap 17, when Dovi, having earlier absconded with Marquez’ lunch money, went through on Pedrosa into the lead he would keep for the rest of the day. Marquez later passed Pedrosa to take second place, as Dani appeared to have shot his tires to pieces early in the race.

Silly Season Singalong

“Well we’re movin’ on up
To the east side
To a de-luxe apartment in the sky.
Movin’ on up
To the east side
We finally got a piece of the pie.”
—Theme song, The Jeffersons, being sung (in three-part harmony) by Danilo Petrucci, Pecco Bagnaia, and Joan Mir

Jorge Lorenzo’s defection from the factory Ducati team to Repsol Honda has given voice to Petrucci, who has been itching for a factory ride seemingly forever. Bagnaia and Mir are being promoted from Moto2 to the majors (Pramac Ducati and Suzuki Ecstar, respectively) and are singing backup to Petrux. Lorenzo’s switch must be viewed as a lateral, along with a joyful Hafiz Syahrin, who has been retained by the Tech 3 team in its forthcoming KTM iteration. Syahrin made it into the premier class the hard way, by being the last man standing when Jonas Folger pronounced himself unfit to race this year due to illness.

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Jorge Lorenzo opting to leave Ducati for Honda next season opened up opportunities for others.

A number of riders have little reason to sing at this point of the season. Andrea Iannone has been dropped down a notch or three, moving from Suzuki to Aprilia next year. Dani Pedrosa, after 13 years on a factory Honda, could end up anywhere; the rumors of a satellite Yamaha team sponsored by Petronas next year persist, with Pedrosa one of the two riders thereon. Jack Miller, speaking confidently of a factory ride in 2019 only a month ago, will likely stay put with Pramac. He will, however, probably pick up a little Italian profanity courtesy of Bagnaia.

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Despite showing better results this season, Andrea Iannone knew his days with Suzuki were numbered. He hopes to have better luck next season with Aprilia.

Drunkenly singing the blues, in English, in a dark corner of this article are Scott Redding and Bradley Smith, both of whom appear to be on their way out of the premier class. The jury is still out on Taka Nakagami, Tom Luthi, Karel Abraham, Tito Rabat and Alvaro Bautista, with Nakagami and Rabat most likely to hang around for another year. Then there is Hectic Hector Barbera, whose downhill slide continues. Last year at this time, he was a Tranche 4 rider in the premier class. Last week at this time, he was a Tranche 4 rider in Moto2. Today he is unemployed, courtesy of a DUI in Valencia after Round 6.

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Hector Barbera is now unemployed as the Pons Moto2 team released him following a DUI charge.

Your Weekend Forecast

The weather should not be a factor this weekend, as the extended forecast for greater Barcelona calls for clear skies and warm temps. As for the race, I have narrowed down my pick for the winner to five riders. Marquez does not have great history here, but he is Marquez, a threat to win every time out, not to mention being a little cheesed off at the Italian fans who cheered wildly when he crashed at Mugello. Lorenzo, Rossi and Dovizioso have recorded wins here in the last three years; Lorenzo can be expected to try to prove that last week’s win wasn’t a fluke. Rossi and Dovi are in the midst of a title chase, giving them all the incentive they need.

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Valentino Rossi has been fairly consistent this season, the only rider with five top-five finishes in six rounds. His lone exception came in Argentina when he was taken out by an over-aggressive Marc Marquez.

My dark horse on Sunday is Dani Pedrosa. He is intimately familiar with Montmelo and has podiumed here the last six years. He has been jilted by his girlfriend of 13 years. He is looking for a ride next year and anxious to demonstrate that he has something left in the tank. And he would love to show Honda they’ve made a mistake – which is very possibly true – letting him go in favor of Lorenzo. The weather does not look to be a negative factor. And the fans, who simply want a Spaniard, any Spaniard, on the top step would get behind him if he finds himself in the lead. Stranger things have happened.

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Dani Pedrosa has finished third in Catalunya in four consecutive years. The last time he won at Montemelo was in 2008.

As usual this time of year, Moto3 goes off at zero dark thirty in the Eastern US, with Moto2 and MotoGP following. We will bring you results and analysis once the Father’s Day celebrations have concluded. Happy Father’s Day to all you MOrons.

Bruce Allen
Bruce Allen

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6 of 75 comments
  • Gruf Rude Gruf Rude on Jun 16, 2018

    "He's baaack!" Lorenzo appears to be enjoying rubbing it in Ducati's face.

    Marquez is once again refusing to let the Honda limit him, but he should listen to the little voice in his head that says, "Quiet, quiet."

    • See 1 previous
    • Spiff Spiff on Jun 16, 2018

      The "Repsol Wall" may need to be completed for winter testing. Marquez has assured everyone that Lorenzo will pay for it's construction.

  • Mikstr Mikstr on Jun 16, 2018

    Seems JLo is lucky again, with pole position. How much luck can one man have, what with 3 MotoGP titles and all. Amazing how far you can get without skill

    • See 1 previous
    • Mikstr Mikstr on Jun 17, 2018

      two in a row, in dominating fashion. How much luck can one man have?