Honda Repsol rider Dani Pedrosa announced his retirement early thursday morning ahead of the ninth round of the 2018 MotoGP season at the Sachsenring. The announcement comes on the heels of a flurry of news in the MotoGP paddock with Jorge Lorenzo joining Marc Marquez next year at HRC and the proposed Yamaha Petronas team. Not to mention Pedrosa’s own scheduled press conference at the last round in Assen where the HRC rider was unable to make his announcement for whatever reason, as he had planned.
If your name is not Marc Marquez, Round Nine of the 2018 MotoGP championship at the legendary Sachsenring in eastern Germany could not arrive at a worse moment. Bad enough that he put his hands on the throat of the 2018 title last time out in Assen, inserting 41 points between himself and Valentino Rossi, but to do so on the way to Germany, where he hasn’t lost since, like, grade school, is a little much, if you ask me.
The Existing World Order in MotoGP remained intact on Sunday in Barcelona. A resurrected Jorge Lorenzo won his second race in a row, from pole no less. He has shuffled the tranches more than he has the standings, as the riders look ahead to The Cathedral at Assen.
Virtually lost amidst the frenzied game of musical chairs being played in MotoGP is the fact that, pursuant to his careless crash in Italy ten days ago, Marc Marquez has returned to Earth. Though the title still appears to be his to lose, his margin of error has been trimmed. Another off in the next few rounds will breathe life into his six closest pursuers. Or, he could win the next three rounds without breaking a sweat, forcing us to start thinking about 2019. Dude records way more wins than DNFs.
It’s only natural for world-class motorcycle racers to also be interested in car racing – specifically, Formula 1. Valentino Rossi might be the most famous of the MotoGP world champions to try four wheels. He routinely participates (and wins) rally races after the MotoGP season is over, and he came pretty darn close to driving for Ferrari’s F1 team after a series of tests. To date, however, only the late, great John Surtees is the only person to ever win the 500cc world championship (1956, 1958, 1959, 1960) and the Formula 1 title (1964).
After news broke yesterday that Dani Pedrosa was leaving Honda, we knew it would be just the first in a series of MotoGP contract news to come. Pedrosa has had his seat with the Repsol Honda team for 13 years, and his departure created an opening the team immediately filled by signing three-time MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo.
Nature abhors a vacuum. On a day when Marc Marquez uncharacteristically slid out of the mix, Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi stepped up to fill it. With an Italian icon and two Ducatis on the podium, it was another great day to be Italian. (Even if they don’t exactly have a government at present.) The 2018 standings have tightened up to some extent. Enough, at least, to hold our attention for a few more rounds.
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.
The 30th running of the Grand Prix de France at Le Mans – Round 5, for those of you keeping score at home – arrives at a critical time for the factory Yamaha team. Both Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales have been struggling with the YZR-M1 this year, searching in vain for feeling in the front and grip in the rear. Le Mans has been très Yamaha-friendly of late, M1s having gone three-for-three since 2015. Sunday would be a really good time for a replay.
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.
With but eight points separating the top five riders, MotoGP storms into Jerez on fire, happy to be back in Europe, the contenders looking for a little separation as Round Four is upon us. Jerez is one of those beloved tracks – along with places like Mugello, Assen and Valencia – where riders aspire to join the great ones. With almost a dozen legitimate podium threats starting the race, of which only four have ever won here (in the premier class), the odds of a fifth rider from this grid finishing Sunday standing on the top step of the podium has never been better. Paging Cal Crutchlow.
The 2018 edition of the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas will not be remembered as one of the best tilts of all time. Truthfully, it might not make the Top 100. But for defending world champion Marc Marquez, today’s walk in the park restored some order in the championship and washed away the ashes of Argentina. The series, picking up speed, now heads for Europe with the top five riders separated by eight points. Tight as tree bark.
Now that we’ve had 10 days to assess the Argentinian misadventure, a consensus seems to have formed around the BS being widely peddled by a petulant Valentino Rossi that Repsol Honda head case Marc Marquez should be put in front of an Italian firing squad and summarily executed. Marquez, it is true, may need to reconsider his approach to racing. This weekend could offer the opportunity he needs for a solitary retreat off by himself for a while, to ruminate on the sport and his place in it, and take the checkered flag when he’s done.
Today’s Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina had something for every taste and budget, even after the laughable theft of the pole on Saturday. Wait-a-minute weather? Check. Chaotic, delayed start? Check. Seat-of-the-pants rulemaking? Check. Quadruple MotoGP world champion having a mental Mardi Gras? Check. Riveting finish that shakes up the world standings? Check. Satellite teams kicking posteriors? Check.
Right now would be a pretty good time to forget most everything you thought you learned two weeks ago in the Arabian Peninsula. This week the sadists at Dorna take us from the desert to the jungle. From them sizzling wide open man-made Qatari spaces to a grueling, tighter Argentinian layout hacked out of triple canopy, deep in the humid heart of nowhere. Marquez and the factory Yamahas like this place.