2018 will go down in Bologna, Italy as the first year Ducati recorded MotoGP wins at both Mugello and Misano. As expected, the contest quickly devolved into another Marquez vs. Desmosedici doubleteam, #93 spending a solid part of the day cruising in third. When Jorge Lorenzo stunned the 97,000 fans by sliding out of second place on Lap 26, Marc Marquez glommed onto the second step of the podium and added another crushing 8 points to his 2018 lead. When you can win while losing, you are The Man.

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Can you blame Andrea Dovizioso for being blinded by patriotism after winning in Misano for Ducati?

Practice and Qualifying

Practice sessions on Friday favored Hondas and Ducatis, although the inscrutable Maverick Viñales found his way into the top five during both sessions. Andrea Dovizioso was quickest in both sessions; Cal Crutchlow was blazing. Marquez turned in his customary pokey FP1, checking things out, before climbing into the top five in FP2. The rain in the forecast earlier in the week never materialized.

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Valentino Rossi tried to recapture his past glory with a “Back to the Future”-themed helmet specifically designed for Misano. It didn’t work.

Valentino Rossi, expected by a number of readers to win on Sunday, limped home in 15th place in FP1 and 8th in FP2. Lucky for him, conditions early on Saturday led to slower times for most riders, a confounding FP3 showing Johann Zarco (?), Jack Miller (??), Dovi, Marquez and Crutchlow topping the sheet while Rossi was dawdling down in 20th position. Somehow, Rossi weaseled his way straight into Q2, FP2 having saved his bacon. Joining him with free passes into Q2 were the usual suspects along with Alex Rins on the Suzuki in 7th and Miller’s Pramac Ducati 10th.

Q1 was crowded, due to guest appearances by Michele Pirro on a Ducati GP18, Stefan Bradl on a Marc VDS-caliber Honda, and a rider I’ve never heard of (and reportedly, neither had Rossi or Marquez), one Christophe Ponsson, taking the place of the injured Tito Rabat for the Avintia Reale Ducati bunch. The announcers had been jocking Andrea Iannone and Pirro to pass through to Q2, but it was, instead, the Hondas of Dani Pedrosa and Franco Morbidelli making the grade. Again, conditions were dry as a bone.

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Q2 was a Jorge Lorenzo tour de force. He hauled his Ducati GP18 around the track on his first flying lap and set a new track record. His second attack was fruitless, but his third established yet another record, putting the grid 6 out of 9 for the year, breaking track records-wise. Marquez, his competitive juices coming out his ears, got out quick early, but slid off after having put himself in third. By the time he legged it back to the garage and jumped on his second bike, his adrenaline levels peaking, he had time for one more charge. His troubles during the weekend in sector 2 bit him again, and the session ended with him sitting in fifth position, without a care in the world.

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Jorge Lorenzo recorded his third pole position of the season. Unfortunately, things didn’t work on for him on Sunday.

Lorenzo was joined on the front row by Miller – dude defines “unpredictable” – and Viñales, who put his Yamaha on the front row late in the session. Marquez ended up flanked on row 2 by Dovizioso and Crutchlow, who lost his grits during the session. Rossi headed row 3, trailed by Danilo Petrucci and Zarco. Conclusion: There are a lot of fast riders on the first three rows. Thoughts like this are why so many people tell me I have a genuine flair for the obvious.

Sunday Riders

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Jorge Lorenzo got off to a good start, with Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso soon moving up to second.

At the start, Lorenzo took the holeshot as interloper Miller kept his nose in second place, from whence he started. Dovizioso went through Miller later in the lap, followed by Marquez and a panicky Viñales, with Rins and Crutchlow trailing. Lap 2 saw Marquez shove Lorenzo out of his way, after which Jorge returned the favor. By Lap 3, Miller found his way to the kitty litter, and the two factory Ducatis took off on their own for what appeared to be a Beat Your Teammate afternoon. Such was not to be the case.

While all this was happening, the factory Yamahas of Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales were accomplishing absolutely nothing. Rossi started and finished seventh, due, late in the day, to the thoughtfulness of Lorenzo. Viñales started third and worked his way back to fifth as time ran out, Pedrosa eyeballing him for the last six laps. Only poor writers would ever wheel out the hackneyed “once-proud” label for a brand which will clearly bounce back soon. But there it is.

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Jorge Lorenzo was doing well before a costly crash while in second place with two laps remaining. He later said he regretted going with the medium front tire.

Anyway, Dovizioso went through on his teammate on Lap 6 and was never seriously challenged after that. He managed the gap, the tires, his physical energy and his emotions in earning a solid, well-deserved and ultimately meaningless first win at Misano. Lorenzo had second place written all over himself until his unforced error on Lap 26. He and Marquez had taken a few shots at one another over the last 20 laps, but, as future teammates, nothing serious or offensive. Marquez, understanding he didn’t have the pace of the Ducatis, kept his powder dry, stayed within shouting distance of the leaders, and was there to scoop up a few extra points at the end. As planned.

Can’t Let This Pass without Comment

Classic Valentino Rossi mind games or petty stubbornness?

So there was this staged reconciliation on Saturday between Marquez and Rossi, cameras firing away as Marquez offered his hand and which Rossi, apparently neither expecting nor wanting it, declined. I immediately caught a whiff of professional wrestling, with stunts staged and designed to encourage viewership. Rossi’s type of gratuitous snub rarely works, and then only when it is the rider leading by 60 points declining the proffered hand. The rider trailing by 60 points, his ego clearly intact, who then goes out and finishes seventh and who should have finished eighth, only diminishes his own stature by such a tacky display of disrespect.

The Big Picture

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With his second-place finish, Marc Marquez leads Andrea Dovizioso by 67 points and ties Mike Hailwood for seventh on the all-time list with 112 career podiums.

Marquez leads Dovizioso by 67 points and Rossi by 70 with five rounds left. Though they are separated by only three points, Dovizioso is in the ascendency while Rossi is descending. I’m calling it here that both Lorenzo and Rossi are officially out of it for 2018 and Dovi is on life support. Marquez now has what I think of as a rolling magic number relative to Dovi: Add 34 points to his margin between now and the flag at Buriram. Failing that, add nine points to his margin between now and the finish of Motegi. Or, failing that, lose no more than 15 points to Dovizioso between now and a white flag at Phillip Island. For those of you who play lotteries involving both positive and negative numbers, the Pick Three today is 34/9/-15.

Tranche Action at the Top

Tranches After Red Bull Ring

Tranche 1: Marquez
Tranche 2: Rossi, Dovizioso, Lorenzo, Petrucci, Crutchlow
Tranche 3: Bautista, Pedrosa, Zarco, Rins, Iannone, P. Espargaro, Viñales, Rabat
Tranche 4: Morbidelli, Syahrin, A. Espargaro, Miller, Smith
Tranche 5: Redding, Nakagami, Abraham, Luthi and Simeon

Tranches After Misano

Tranche 1: Marquez, Dovizioso
Tranche 2: Rossi, Lorenzo, Petrucci, Crutchlow, Rins
Tranche 3: Bautista, Pedrosa, Zarco, Iannone, Viñales, (Rabat), Miller
Tranche 4: Morbidelli, Syahrin, A. Espargaro, P. Espargaro, Smith, Nakagami
Tranche 5: Redding, Abraham, Luthi and Simeon

The Intermediate Classes

In Moto3 today, Lorenzo Dalla Porta recorded his first ever grand prix win with an exhausting photo finish over Jorge Martin, allowing Martin to take the season lead over Marco Bezzecchi, who high-sided out of the lead late in the day. “Perfect” Pecco Bagnaia cruised to an easy win in Moto2, causing Pramac Ducati to drool in anticipation of 2019 and triggering Jack Miller to see red over all the fuss. Should be an interesting match-up; don’t be surprised if there is a wall in the Pramac garage before the end of next year.

Oh, and for those few of you who didn’t think Romano Fenati is psychotic, check him out grabbing the brake lever of Stefano Manzi prior to getting black-flagged today. His penalty is to spend the entire weekend in Aragon swathed head to toe in bubble wrap.

Romano Fenati was black flagged for grabbing Stefano Manzi’s brake lever and will be banned from the next two rounds. This isn’t Fenati’s first brush with controversy. In 2015, Fenati was penalized after kicking Niklas Ajo and switching off Ajo’s engine as he was about to set out for warm up. Later, in 2016, he was dropped by VR46 Moto3 team amid rumors of fights and arguments with the teammates and managers, despite being third in the championship at the time.

Five rounds left in 2018. Two weeks to Aragon, the Land of Sand and Massive Boulders. Two weeks as the Marquez countdown continues. Two weeks for Andrea Dovizioso’s team to figure out a way to slip a half cup of sugar into Marquez’ gas tank prior to the final sighting lap in Spain.

If Marquez’ brolly girl at Aragon is Italian, someone will need to keep an eye on her.

2018 MotoGP San Marino Results
Pos. Rider Team Time
1 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse 42:05.426
2 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda +2.822
3 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda Castrol +7.269
4 Álex Rins Suzuki Ecstar +14.687
5 Maverick Viñales Movistar Yamaha +16.016
6 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda +17.408
7 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha +19.086
8 Andrea Iannone Suzuki Ecstar +21.804
9 Alvaro Bautista Angel Nieto Ducati +23.919
10 Johann Zarco Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +27.559
11 Danilo Petrucci Alma Pramac Ducati +30.698
12 Franco Morbidelli Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +32.941
13 Takaaki Nakagami LCR Honda Idemitsu +33.461
14 Aleix Espargaro Aprilia Gresini +35.686
15 Michele Pirro Ducati Corse +35.812
16 Bradley Smith Red Bull KTM +46.500
17 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati Corse +46.614
18 Jack Miller Alma Pramac Ducati +50.593
19 Hafizh Syahrin Monster Yamaha Tech3 +55.168
20 Karel Abraham Angel Nieto Ducati +1:02.255
21 Scott Redding Aprilia Gresini +1:09.475
22 Thomas Luthi Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +1:12.608
23 Christophe Ponsson Reale Avintia Ducati 18 Laps
Not Classified
DNF Stefan Bradl HRC Honda 10 Laps
DNF Bradley Smith Red Bull KTM 10 Laps
DNF Xavier Simeon Reale Avintia Ducati 25 Laps
2018 MotoGP Top 10 Standings After Misano
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda 221
2 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse 154
3 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha 151
4 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati Corse 130
5 Maverick Viñales Movistar Yamaha 124
6 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda Castrol 119
7 Johann Zarco Monster Yamaha Tech 3 110
8 Danilo Petrucci Alma Pramac Ducati 110
9 Andrea Iannone Suzuki Ecstar 92
10 Álex Rins Suzuki Ecstar 79