On an idyllic Sunday afternoon in the British countryside, Ducati veteran Andrea Dovizioso, in the midst of a dream season, won the British Grand Prix, pimping the factory Yamaha team at the flag. Disaster struck the Repsol Honda team on Lap 14 when Marc Marquez, fast and fighting for the lead, saw his engine, and series lead, go up in smoke. The championship heads to Misano in two weeks tighter than tree bark.
MotoGP Madness descends upon the British Midlands this weekend as Round 12, the two-thirds mark of the 2017 season, arrives. Repsol Honda prodigy Marc Marquez maintains his lead in the series at 16 points, but only 35 points separate the top five riders. A single mishap for #93 and it’s anybody’s season. But Marquez was down by 37 points after Mugello, and has gained 53 points on the field in the last five rounds. His pursuers need to evacuate or get off the pot if they want to Let Valencia Decide.
Honda Racing took a turn slapping the competition around at Brno. This week, in a country synonymous with mountains, beer halls, and alarming political geneses, Ducati Corse gets its chance. The Track with Only Nine Turns hosts Round 11 of the 2017 MotoGP championship on Sunday. Andrea Dovizioso, Danilo Petrucci and Jorge Lorenzo need to make hay while the sun shines, because Honda man-child Marc Marquez is pulling away from the field.
The 2017 Czech Motorcycle Grand Prix, after much pre-race sturm und drang, turned out to be a fascinating six-lap race with a 16-lap warm down. Series leader Marc Marquez, with the best meteorologists of any crew, pitted at the end of Lap 2 and changed from soft rain tires to slicks before the thought occurred to many of his competitors. He summarily seized the lead on Lap 6 and never looked back.
The Sachsenring (or Knockwurstring as it is sometimes referred to, by me) has been Marc Marquez’ personal playground for the past seven seasons. Make that eight, as the young Catalan survived some early challenges, patiently worked his way to the front, went through on Tech 3 Yamaha homeboy Jonas Folger midway through the race, and won going away.
So the MotoGP season leader at the turn, with over a month off to prepare for the demanding back nine of the calendar, will be decided at The (cramped, irritating) Sachsenring. Home of short straights and slow turns, not much fun compared to Assen’s short straights and fast turns. If the eastern German circuit is no one’s favorite today, it could become someone’s by Sunday night. Someone like, oh, I don’t know… maybe Marc Marquez???
With more passing than you’d see at an April 20 party, the 2017 Motul Assen TT was one of the more riveting races in recent memory. Tech 3 Yamaha rookie sensation Johann Zarco led the first 11 laps from pole. Meanwhile, Valentino Rossi and Ducati brute Danilo Petrucci were in the heart of the lead group along with Marc Marquez on the Repsol Honda. But Rossi – fast, patient and strategic – managed to beat Petrucci to the flag by .06 seconds. They don’t call him The Doctor for nothing.
Even with the race going off on Sunday again for the second time, sixty-some years of racing on Saturday at the Cathedral have produced a number of curious finishes. Nicky Hayden had his first and only non-U.S. win here in 2006. Ben Spies won here in 2011 in what many of us mistakenly thought was the beginning of a great career. And Jack Miller’s win last year defines “unlikely.”
After recording no wins between Donington Park 2009 and Sepang 2016, Du cati #1 rider Andrea Dovizioso has now taken two wins in eight days, recording superlative rides at both Mugello and now Montmelo. A few days before Mugello he pronounced the GP17 unwinnable in its current configuration. Gratifying to see his analytic skills are no better than mine.
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.
Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa, looking like the 2012 version of himself, won today’s Spanish Grand Prix, leading wire to wire for his first win since Misano last year. Teammate and defending champion Marc Marquez gave chase for most of the race, but never seemed to have quite enough to mount a serious challenge to Pedrosa on one of those days…
The reversal of fortune in Austin, Repsol Honda’s Maximum Marc Marquez winning while young savant Maverick Viñales kissed the tarmac for the first time in Yamaha blue, has produced an early three-man race for the top of the 2017 heap. Valentino Rossi, teammate Viñales and Marquez now stand separated by 18 points with a lot of season left. Six races in the next eight weeks means the offshore shakedown cruises are over. There’s a title to be won. In Europe.
The run-up to the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas set the stage for a much-anticipated cage match between Yamaha phenom Maverick Viñales and Honda triple world champion Marc Marquez. All day long, the British announcing crew was breathlessly prancing about the broadcast booth, pondering the sheer wonder of it all, going absolutely hyperbolic. Showing no sense of the moment, Viñales crashed out of fourth place on Lap 2, letting the air out of the balloon and ceding, at least for the moment, the lead in the world championship to teammate Valentino Rossi, with Marquez suddenly back in the game.
As the checkered flag fell in Argentina, the shape of the 2017 season changed. Suddenly, Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales and partner Valentino Rossi, the Boys in Blue, sit on top of the world looking down. Those looking up, WAY up, include defending champion Marc Marquez of Honda and the factory Ducati team, currently residing on the other side of the proverbial tracks. Marquez has never lost, deep in the heart of Texas, which makes Sunday’s contest what my wife (eyebrows raised) refers to as “critical?”