The 2015 bwin Grand Prix České republiky gave the amped-up crowd of 138,000 a somewhat disappointing high-speed parade, with six of the top 8 starters crossing the line in the same position they started. One of these was polesitter Jorge Lorenzo, who drove his Yamaha YZR-M1 to the fastest lap ever recorded on two wheels in qualifying on Saturday. Leading unassailed from wire to wire, Lorenzo pulled into a tie with teammate Valentino Rossi for the 2015 world championship and, holding the tiebreaker, punched Rossi out of the lead for the first time this year.
What is likely to be the final Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix today produced two memorable shootouts. Up front, defending Honda world champion Marc Marquez dogged Yamaha stud Jorge Lorenzo for 24 laps before stealing his lunch money at Turn 1 of Lap 25 and holding the Mallorcan off for the final three laps. The undercard featured Yamaha icon Valentino Rossi and Repsol #2 Dani Pedrosa in an equally riveting daylong battle for third place. Rossi prevailed after half a dozen lead changes over the last 10 laps, keeping his string of 2015 podia intact and his lead over teammate Lorenzo at nine points.
The Repsol Honda duo of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa were so fast this weekend they seemed to exit the space-time continuum, re-entering in 2014 amidst a rewind of last year’s German Grand Prix. Marquez, loving himself the 2014 chassis he hauled out after Barcelona, comfortably led every practice session. As in 2014, he and Pedrosa qualified 1-2 and finished 1-2, relegating the factory Yamaha team of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo to also-ran status. Rossi, however, extended his championship lead over Lorenzo to 13 points, and left for summer vacation in a fist-pumping celebration of a near-perfect first half season.
Heading into the 66th annual Dutch Grand Prix at Assen, Movistar Yamaha poohbah Valentino Rossi held the championship lead, teammate Jorge Lorenzo had the momentum, and defending Repsol Honda world champion Marc Marquez was mired in an existential crisis. Rossi shed his Alan Iverson-like disdain for practice, was quick all weekend, and qualified on pole. Lorenzo, whose recent history at Assen has been horrific, never looked completely comfortable. And Marquez, desperate for a return to his winning form over the past two seasons, arrived on a hybrid 2014/2015 model RC213V, looking for answers. At the end of the day, all three stood on the podium, but only Rossi was happy about it.
As qualifying for the 2015 Grand Prix Monster Energy de Catalunya closed on Saturday, one got the sense that The Usual Suspects might not make it to Sunday’s podium. The ascendant Suzuki Ecstar team had crashed the party, seizing the first two spots in Row 1 (for the first time since 1993), while Aliens occupied spots #3, 4, 6 and 7. The upstart Ducati duo of Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone were mired in 5th and 12th places, respectively. On Sunday, eight riders failed to finish, but when the smoke cleared, the Alien Class of 2012 – Yamaha mandarins Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, and Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa – climbed the steps, the cheers of 97,000 Spanish fans ringing in their ears.
For the third round in succession, Movistar Yamaha stud Jorge Lorenzo jumped out to an early lead, switched on the autopilot on his YZR-M1, cranked up Kings of Leon on his MP3 player, and never broke a sweat in winning the Gran Premio d’Italia TIM. What was suspected after Le Mans has now been confirmed at Mugello – Jorge Lorenzo is the man to beat for the 2015 MotoGP championship. The only way things could get any worse for Honda’s double defending world champion Marc Marquez would be if Lorenzo were to steal his girlfriend.
MotoGP brings its act from the bucolic French countryside to the hills of Tuscany as Round 6 of the 2015 season arrives. Within the top tranche of the premier class food chain, the standings are scrambled, while the rest of the top ten reside pretty much where we expected heading into the year. Team Yamaha has been hot of late, and this trend could continue in Italy unless Repsol Honda double defending world champion Marc Marquez gets himself together. Right now would be a good time to do so.
The second Grand Prix de la República Argentina of the modern era started out as a parade and ended with everyone – riders, fans, announcers – gasping for air, going mad over the events on Lap 24. Defending world champion and Honda poster boy Marc Marquez would have, could have and should have won this race. But two errors on his part, combined with one of Valentino Rossi’s finest hours, spelled disaster for the young Catalan, who now sits squarely behind the eight ball heading to Jerez.
One year ago, heading into Round 3 in Argentina, I was pretty sure of two things: 1. Marc Marquez was going to win a second MotoGP world championship in 2014, and 2. Valentino Rossi’s alien days were behind him. Going 1-for-2 is great in baseball, not so much in the world of motorcycle prognostication. As it turns out, Rossi may offer the biggest obstacle to Marquez’ quest for a third consecutive title. And Andrea Dovizioso’s application for membership in the alien club has now been approved, at the apparent expense of Repsol #2 Dani Pedrosa.
Suzuki announced its return to MotoGP racing with the new GSX-RR prototype and riders Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales. The Japanese manufacturer last participated in the world championship in 2011 but stated it would eventually return, starting with a wildcard entry at the 2014 season finale at Valencia before joining the series full time in the 2015 season.
The 800th MotoGP premier class race in history started today in conditions resembling the first, held in 1949 as the Isle of Man TT – cloudy, damp and cool. When the weather here is dry, the place looks like something straight out of Mad Max; the only things missing are the sidecars and tanker trucks. When it rains, anything can happen, as today’s results demonstrated.
In a déjà vu of Assen two weeks ago, chaos reigned at the start of the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring. Hard rain was quickly giving way to clearing skies, and crews were rolling the dice on tire choices. After the sighting lap, 14 bikes started from pit lane after changing from wets to slicks, including all four of the factory Honda and Yamaha machines. At the end of the day, though, it was Marc Marquez leading a Honda 1-2, joined on the podium by Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
The conditions confronting the riders and teams at the 2014 Iveco Daily TT Assen couldn’t have been worse. It had rained off and on all weekend, and race day featured everything from bright sunshine to hail (hail!) prior to the Moto2 tilt. The MotoGP teams were confounded by tire choices as the flag-to-flag contest unfurled. But when the rain and smoke cleared, Repsol Honda sophomore Marc Marquez had made it 8-for-8 in 2014.
Mugello, one of the friendliest of the Yamaha-friendly circuits on the tour, hosts Round Six of the 2014 MotoGP world championship. In Italy, the Scarperia shrine sits just a notch below Assisi and The Sistine Chapel on the holiness scale. Since 2002, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, the Bruise Brothers of the Movistar Yamaha team, have won 10 of the 12 races held here. If, as expected, they get pierced again on Sunday by Repsol Honda phenom Marc Marquez, the party is truly over.
On a picture-perfect Sunday afternoon in southern Spain, Marc Marquez took care of business, becoming the first polesitter to win in Jerez since Nicky Hayden in 2006. He is the first rider to win the first four races of the season since Valentino Rossi in 2002. He checked off Jerez on his list of Tracks Where I’ve Won Races, the last venue on the 2014 tour to make the list. He is undefeated since clinching the world championship at Valencia in 2013. In short, at age 21, he is the bomb-diggity of the MotoGP world.