With Yamaha having dominated the proceedings in France for the past few years, many fans, especially those with French accents, expected Johann Zarco to waltz into racing history today, starting from pole with those dreamy eyes. Alas, his unforced error on Lap 9 landed him in the gravel. Andrea Dovizioso’s “own goal” on Lap 6, crashing out of the lead, left the day to Marc Marquez. #93 enjoyed a walk in the park on his way to a 36-point lead in the 2018 championship race.
Today’s Red Bull Grand Prix de España served as a vivid reminder that in the premier class of MotoGP there is Marc Marquez, and then there are a bunch of other riders. We are clearly living in the heart of The Marquez Era in MotoGP, which appears likely to extend into the future as far as the eye can see. With the best rider in our generation astride the best bike on the grid, in mid-career, an air of inevitability has settled over the 2018 championship.
Today at the 30th running of the French Grand Prix at Le Mans, youth triumphed over experience. Yamaha Top Gun Maverick Viñales withstood a classic last lap challenge brought by teammate and legend Valentino Rossi to capture Yamaha’s 500th grand prix win. The youngster ended his day on the top step of the podium, the grizzled veteran his prostrate in the gravel. Ten years ago, Rossi would have won this race. In 2017, the tide may be beginning to turn.
Fresh off his convincing win in Jerez, Repsol Honda mighty mite Dani Pedrosa has been reinstated in The Alien Club, looking relaxed, comfortable and fast on his RC213V. For the first time in five years, his name is coming up in conversations about who might take the 2017 title. Given his age, his panoply of surgical scars and generally lousy karma, I make him a longshot for the championship. But other than a few Americans with pathologically long memories, there are a number of fans who wouldn’t mind seeing Dani Pedrosa win a premier class title.
Movistar Yamaha’s new kid on the block, Maverick Viñales, did to the field of the 2017 Grand Prix of Qatar what he’s done ever since he first placed his bum on the saddle of the YZR-M1 last November. He ended the day at the top of the timesheets, having outdueled factory Ducati #1 Andrea Dovizioso over the last eight laps of the race. In the process, he took the lead in the 2017 championship and initiated what is likely to become known as The Viñales Years.
Sunday’s Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix was about what one would expect from a great track after the championship had been decided. Anointed champion Marc Marquez, on the factory Honda, having given a clinic on Saturday to take pole, obliterated the field early, apparently on his way to an easy win. Until Lap 10, when he apparently lost focus, pushing harder than necessary, folded the front in Turn 4 and handed the win to the ascendant Cal Crutchlow.
Based upon the test results after Round 9, it appears MotoGP Chief Cheddar Carmelo Ezpeleta has finally located a circuit at which the Ducati teams can compete for a win, their first since 2010. The two-day test, at which the Repsol Honda and Tech 3 teams were AWOL, found seven of the top eight times on Tuesday clutched by Ducati pilots. Wednesday, it was the top four and six of the top ten, with the factory Yamahas and Suzukis claiming fifth through eighth.
For those of you whose loyalties lie elsewhere, let’s be clear: Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo deserved to win the Gran Premio d’Italia TIM today. After a poor qualifying session on Saturday, he slingshotted his way into the lead in Turn 1 of Lap 1, withstood heated challenges from teammate Valentino Rossi and rival Marc Marquez, and crossed the finish line a blink of an eye in front of Marquez. But heading into the second third of the 2016 season, storm clouds are building on his horizon.
The record books will show that Yamaha defector Jorge Lorenzo won today’s French Grand Prix by 10 seconds over teammate and rival Valentino Rossi. The mainstream racing media will be busy slavering over young Maverick Vinales, who put a Suzuki on the podium for the first time since Loris Capirossi did so at Brno in 2008. The real story of today’s race, however, was the eight riders, including at least three contenders, who crashed out as if the race had been run in the wet, marking the first time the Rain Gods have ruined a race on a clear sunny day.
Just when we thought we knew what to expect from the 2016 MotoGP season, today happened. The practice sessions leading up to the (first of four) Spanish Grand Prix found the factory Yamaha team consistently at or near the top of the charts. Repsol Honda wonderkid Marc Marquez was competitive while struggling with rear grip. Valentino Rossi waited until the last lap of Q2 to lay down the fastest lap of the weekend, for his first Jerez pole since 2005. Today, The Doctor made a house call on Jorge Lorenzo, “administering a dose of his own medicine” in winning at Jerez for the first time since 2009.
Today’s Pramac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix had something for every taste and budget. Repsol Honda defending double world champion Marc Marquez, in his season of discontent, laid down an historic last lap to seize the victory from Yamaha mullah Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo, trailing teammate Valentino Rossi by 18 points coming in, was blessed today by a statement performance from factory Ducati #1 Andrea Iannone who slipped past Rossi one more time on the final lap and onto the podium, trimming Rossi’s lead over Lorenzo to 11 points heading to Sepang.