16-year old Sergio Garcia won his first Grand Prix race in Moto3, becoming the 12th rider in 19 rounds to stand on the top step. Brad Binder won again in Moto2, showing the world he’s ready for MotoGP. And Marc Marquez won yet again, clinching the triple crown – rider, team and manufacturer championships – for his brothers on the Repsol Honda team. Now, it’s 2020. If you believe what you hear, the team may feature an additional brother starting this week.

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Your 2019 Grand Prix World Champions.

Jorge Lorenzo’s sudden retirement has tossed a spanner into the “who will be working where in 2020?” mechanism, which had appeared to have been sorted. Too many rumors to try to process, so I’ll ignore them and put some stuff on the blog until the picture becomes clear. My only thought of any consequence is that I bet HRC wishes they could get Brad Binder rather than Alex Marquez, if they decide not to go with Johann Zarco. Plenty of food for thought.

Practice and Qualifying

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There was a strange incident in FP3 as Francesco Bagnaia’s brakes seemed to lock up as he was exiting pit lane. Bagnaia broke his left wrist in the crash and missed the race.

As has become customary in the premier class, Yamahas owned Friday. FP1 was cold, and FP2 cool. Times were slow. Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Viñales topped the sheet with Franco Morbidelli sitting in P5 and your boy Valentino Rossi, having crashed twice, loafing in P14. He would get somewhat more serious on Saturday.

FP3 saw ten riders in the 1:30’s, as track temps began to rise. Joan Mir joined mostly usual suspects passing straight into Q2, including Rossi. Alex Rins and Pol Espargaro graduated from Q1 into Q2. After a somewhat uneventful Q2 it was Quartararo, Marquez and Jack Miller on Row 1 and Viñales, Morbidelli and Andrea Dovizioso making up Row 2. Lorenzo’s all-time track record from 2016 remained sentimentally in place. Rossi made a hash of Q2 and would start Sunday from P12.

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Fabio Quartararo finishes his rookie MotoGP campaign with another pole.

It was an all-KTM front row in Moto3 for Sunday, with Lorenzo Dalla Porta swinging from P7. In Moto2, it was Jorge Navarro on pole, up-and-coming Jorge Martin in the middle, and MV Augusta pilot Stefano Manzi third, titleist Alex Marquez putzing around in P15.

The Races

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Sergio Garcia earned his first career Grand Prix, taking the red-flagged race by just 0.005 seconds ahead of Andrea Migno.

Moto3 was a demolition derby that started with Aron Canet’s KTM depositing oil on Turns 5 and 6 and ended, later than scheduled, with Dennis Foggia in the hospital and 11 other riders hitting the deck, some for the duration. No word as this goes to press on Foggia’s condition, other than he was conscious on the track. Two 16-year olds, Garcia and Xavier Artigas, ended the day on the podium along with veteran Andrea Migno. The world awaits word on the condition of Foggia on a bad day for KTM.

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Brad Binder won the Moto2 race to secure second overall in the championship ahead of Tom Luthi.

The Moto2 race was proof that KTM promoted the right rider, as Binder ended his Moto2 career with three straight wins, coming within three points of taking the 2019 title himself. Dude can ride a motorcycle. The Great South African Hope was joined on the podium by good ol’ Tom Luthi and Navarro, with Manzi coming this close to giving MV its first podium appearance since, ahem, 1961.

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There was a scary incident on Lap 14 after Johann Zarco crashed. Walking in the gravel with his back to the track, he was wiped out by Iker Lecuona’s sliding RC16. Fortunately, Zarco escaped any serious injury.

The MotoGP race was mostly dull – I know, right? – with Marquez seizing both the win and the team championship/triple crown. He was pursued to the line, after Lap 8, by Quartararo and Miller. Zarco crashed out and, moments later, did another of his famed backflips, this time due to his having been submarined by a riderless KTM RC16 formerly occupied by Iker Lecuona. Somehow, both of Zarco’s legs weren’t broken, and he was seen afterwards sitting in the garage chatting with his crew, apparently no worse for wear. Fabio deservedly won the top independent rider and Rookie of the Year awards and has been promised a factory spec Yamaha M1 starting during Tuesday’s Valencia test.

Jorge Lorenzo

This year, as in many others, we (me and the voices in my head) cut a few corners to come up with a quote or saying that endeavors to capture the essence of an entire season of grand prix motorcycle racing, a fool’s errand if ever there were. Was. This year, however, the premier class season seemed like a replay, like we can now take Marc Marquez’ brilliance for granted. Six titles in seven campaigns. Ho hum.

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One final lap for Jorge Lorenzo to wrap up his Grand Prix racing career.

For me, the story was the fall of Jorge Lorenzo. King of the World in 2015, done and dusted in 2019. The memorable, for some, line from the song “Bright Eyes” by Mike Batt goes like this:

“How can the light that burned so brightly
suddenly burn so pale?”

My 2008 image is that of a 4th of July sparkler, so abrupt and dazzling at its ignition that it hurts the eyes before quickly going orange to gray to black. Lorenzo came up from the 250cc class and had the batteries to stick out his jaw at Valentino Fricking Rossi, one of the brightest stars in the firmament of MotoGP history, at the peak of his formidable powers. The competitive friction between the two forced the building of a temporary wall in the garage at each race venue. Lorenzo, lightning quick at 21 years old, spent two seasons sailing over handlebars as Rossi’s unwilling protégé before seizing his first premier class title in 2010. Casey Stoner beat him in 2011, but he won again in 2012. Marquez arrived like a fireball in 2013, but Lorenzo took advantage of a bad RC213V to win again, at age 28, in 2015.

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Jorge Lorenzo won his first MotoGP title in 2010. He’s pictured here with that year’s Moto2 champion Toni Elias and Marc Marquez who won the 125cc class for his first world title.

He retires, scarred, battered and humbled, today. And that was that. Three premier class championships in six years. Today, 32 years old and crashing out on the back side of the apex of his career.

Lorenzo’s story illustrates how pride, of all the capital sins, is the root for the other six. It was Lorenzo’s pride that angered him about Yamaha’s apparent favoring of Rossi in bike development matters. It was Lorenzo’s pride that angered him about the whole Rossi merchandising and money machine, such that it drove him to switch teams and defect to Ducati for the 2017 season, to team up with Dovizioso. It was Lorenzo’s pride, in wanting to teach Rossi and Yamaha a lesson, that led to his professional demise today.

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It took a while to get his footing at Ducati, but Jorge Lorenzo appeared to turn things around, winning three races and scoring four podiums in a six-race span midway through the 2018 season. His momentum was cut short by a cancelled British Grand Prix and a crash at Misano.

It was so important to Jorge Lorenzo that he be #1 that he would give a three-year clinic on how to fold a generally stellar career. Alien-grade career. His leap to Ducati in 2017 was a grievous error. The subsequent switch to Honda this year was irretrievable.

Had he not come up against perhaps the greatest rider of all time in 2013 he would likely have won a few more titles. My late mother used to insist that timing is the essence of success; it was Lorenzo’s bad luck to come up against Marc Marquez the same way it was Rossi’s bad luck to come up against Lorenzo. It is worse for Lorenzo because he was younger when it occurred.

Like him or not, we should be grateful for the memories he gave us as an Alien in MotoGP. He showed some class in knowing when it was time to walk away. No hard feelings, Jorge. As the Irish say:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Exodus of the Aliens

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Marc Marquez stands alone with no equal.

By this time next year, three of the original Aliens – Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and probably Valentino Rossi – will have left the building. Under the reign of Honda ruler Marc Marquez the battle for #2 in the world will feature some new faces. Who will be the new Aliens?

The reality of The Marquez Era dictates that we adjust the format of the tranche “system” of rider rankings, as follows:

After Sepang:

Tranche 1: Marc Marquez
Tranche 2: Andrea Dovizioso, Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Vinales, Jack Miller, Valentino Rossi, Franco Morbidelli
Tranche 3: Cal Crutchlow, Pol Espargaro, Alex Rins, Joan Mir, Danilo Petrucci, Johann Zarco
Tranche 4: Aleix Espargaro, Pecco Bagnaia, Miguel Oliveira, Mike Kallio
Tranche 5: Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Iannone, Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat

After Valencia:

Alien: Marc Marquez
Sub-Aliens: Dovizioso, Vinales, Quartararo, Miller
Tranche 2: Rossi, Petrucci, Rins, Morbidelli, Pol Espargaro
Tranche 3: Crutchlow, Mir, Oliveira, Zarco
Tranche 4: Aleix Espargaro, Bagnaia, Kallio, Iannone
Tranche 5: Lorenzo, Abraham, Rabat, Syahrin, (Nakagami)

Until Next Year

MO and I have agreed to try this all over again next year. I’m pretty sure the reason they keep me around is all the quality comments we’re able to kick off on DISQUS by being highly opinionated, reasonably articulate, and semi-informed. Moreover, the discussions are generally smart and respectful, rising above the usual BS found in online forums. Thus, it is you, the reader, that I thank for the success of this side hustle that puts me well into four figures annually of which I give the IRS roughly half.

Good thing I’m not doing this for the money. My deal with Evans is that Dennis is not allowed to edit the race previews, no matter how libelous they may be. So what this gig does not provide in remuneration it provides in private laughs. And it’s true for all the real writers at MO who are being asked to do more for less each year, the squeeze of the domestic motorcycle market being felt in many places. My only gripe is that they don’t take me to Italy with them for EICMA and a little comic relief. I could fetch their espressos for them.

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See you next season!

I will try to interject some thoughts during the off-season at Late Braking MotoGP. I say this every year and rarely come through. With the late season drama at Repsol Honda there may be some news for a few more weeks. Otherwise, it continues to be a gas being the MotoGP Correspondent at Motorcycle.com. Maybe next year they’ll make me the MotoGP Editor. And send me a hat or something.

Again this year, thanks to our loyal readers and erstwhile commenters. You are the bomb.