If you’re into motorcycle racing – and why else would you be here reading this drivel? – today’s Italian Grand Prix was a work of art. 28-year old Danilo Petrucci, who six years ago was flogging something called an Ioda, fought off Honda wonderkid Marc Marquez and factory Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso for his maiden MotoGP win. The 83,000 frenzied fans saw 23 laps of knife fighting at close quarters in what must be the feel good moment of the 2019 MotoGP season.
We’ve seen some of this before. In the MotoGP tilt, Marc Marquez took the hole shot, held off an early challenge from Ducati hothead Jack Miller, and won the French Grand Prix going away, never seriously challenged. This, after little brother Alex, whose last win came in Japan in 2017, survived the demolition derby that was Moto2 and brought joy to Catalans everywhere. After the race, dad Julià, jubilant, sought out a quiet corner of the garage and gave birth to a litter of kittens.
It’s been a stellar year for new motorcycles; our frequent flier miles are piling up like crazy as we span the globe to bring you the thrill of victory (Indian now) and the agony of defeat, from the 2019 bumper crop of everything from Nikens to Svartpilens. There’s more to it than new bikes, though. So, let’s take a look at what’s got us excited as we approach the mid-point of 2019.
The MotoGP world, turned on its ear by qualifying on Saturday, was put back in its proper order today in Jerez by the incandescent Marc Marquez, who led wire-to-wire. The Petronas Yamaha SRT team, which spent Saturday night in the penthouse, ended Sunday in the outhouse. Rising Suzuki star Alex Rins took second, and Maverick Viñales found the podium for the first time since Buriram 2018. Four riders were separated by nine points heading to Jerez; four riders remain separated by nine points heading to Le Mans. Life is good.
The 2019 Argentine Grand Prix produced another dominant display by Repsol Honda prodigy Marc Marquez. A benevolent dictator, Marquez allows the other MotoGP riders to follow him around these tracks, not bothering to charge for lessons. Today’s easy win at Rio Hondo was the Catalan’s third in Argentina, putting him on top of the championship standings and bringing a sense of foreshadowing to the rest of the grid.
One of the biggest news stories in MotoGP for 2019 is Jorge Lorenzo leaving Ducati after two years and joining the factory Repsol Honda team, replacing the now-retired Dani Pedrosa. The move comes as a bit of a shock for a few reasons, but it also pairs the three-time MotoGP World Champion with five-time – and reigning – champ, Marc Marquez.
With the championship already decided, what was there left for fans to root for in the MotoGP finale at Valencia? How about Pol Espargaro earning his first ever premier class podium? How about him doing it on a KTM machine, giving the Austrian factory their first MotoGP podium as well? How about Álex Rins giving Suzuki four podia in a row for the first time since 1994 and establishing his dominance over your boy Johann Zarco?
MotoGP’s traditional Valenciana finalé, in years like this, resembles a boxing match in which the undercards are vaguely entertaining, and the main event is moved from late Saturday night to Tuesday afternoon and closed to the public. Sure, it would still be great to have a ticket. Even with all three championships decided, you could still get solidly buzzed, maybe work on your tan, and stoke a few adrenaline rushes of your own for your €100. Get your picture taken with a bunch of bored fashion models, too.
For the first 16 laps of today’s Malaysian Grand Prix, Valentino Rossi and his Yamaha YZR-M1 took us back in time to the days when he was reeling off world championships like the Chicago Bulls. We were brought hurtling back to Earth at Turn 1 of Lap 17, when The Doctor lost the rear and slid off, handing the win to the trailing stronzo Marc Marquez. Álex Rins and Johann Zarco joined #93 for the joyous podium celebration, but it felt like the end of an era.
With the title decided, the factory Yamaha “team” of Valentino Rossi & Maverick Viñales, joined by Ducati ace Andrea Dovizioso – the next top three riders in the remnant of the 2018 season left after Marc Marquez secured the championship in Japan – have determined to slug it out until the bitter end in Valencia in the chase for second best in 2018. The young upstart facing the current powerhouse facing the still-competitive old man in the figurative fight to caddy for Marquez as he golfs his way around his world during the winter. Only a mother could love this part of the season.
Five laps into today’s Australian Grand Prix, four of the top riders in the world had become spectators. The residue of this carnage produced a bizarre top ten, headed by Maverick Viñales on the factory Yamaha, cracking a non-win streak for the brand extending back to Assen 2017. Alvaro Bautista finished fourth on Jorge Lorenzo’s Ducati GP18. Even Bradley Smith made a KTM top ten appearance. All in all, a mell of a hess.
Now that the 2018 MotoGP crown has been laid upon the unblemished head of Repsol Honda demigod Marc Marquez for the fifth time in six years, Motorcycle.com is opening up its MotoGP mailbag. We have selected several of your letters, and hope you keep them coming, with three rounds left. [It was either this or a bunch of dopey stuff about Phillip Island. —Ed.]
The 2018 MotoGP World Championship chase came to a screeching, grinding halt today in a Japanese gravel trap on Lap 23 of the Motul Grand Prix of Japan. It fell to earth in the person of Italian Andrea Dovizioso who, chasing Marc Marquez for the lead, lost the front in Turn 10. Everyone know there was going to be no stopping Marquez this year. Still, the moment the title is decided, weeks too early, is just a big ol’ bummer. But there it is.