Saturday Summary at Assen: Of Tire Gambles, The Wisdom of Thinking for Yourself, And Lorenzo’s Fear

06/29/2014 @ 1:56 pm, by Jensen Beeler32 COMMENTS

Saturday Summary at Assen: Of Tire Gambles, The Wisdom of Thinking for Yourself, And Lorenzos Fear Saturday Dutch TT 2014 MotoGP Tony Goldsmith 22 635x422

A veritable galaxy of stars may have lined up on the grid for the 84th Dutch TT at Assen, but the real stars of the show were the elements. After the rain wreaked havoc on qualifying, shaking up the grid, it was back on Saturday for two of the three races.

Riders and teams were forced to rethink their strategy, make decisions quickly, and gamble on tires and the weather. It made for intriguing races, rather than sheer thrills like the MotoGP race at Barcelona.

Changing conditions offered the brave and the smart opportunities, and mercilessly punished anyone who got it wrong. You felt for the 45 minutes of the races that anything could happen.

The Moto3 riders had it easiest of all, conditions cool but relatively consistent. The track did not allow for mistakes, however: Jack Miller’s strategy of trying to pull a gap early backfired badly, the Australian crashing out of the lead. Miller’s saving grace was that Romano Fenati, his main rival in the title chase, made even bigger mistakes than he did, crashing out twice, and failing to score points.

The day belonged to the Hondas, with Alex Marquez controlling the race from the front, despite challenges from teammate Alex Rins and a quickly closing Miguel Oliveira. With two Hondas and a Mahindra on the podium, this was the first time since Le Mans 2012 that a KTM was not on the podium, and the first ever Moto3 race where a KTM engine did not power any of the podium bikes.

Conditions were much trickier for the Moto2 riders, rain falling heavily before the race, but then quickly starting to dry. It was clear that if the rain held off, a dry line would soon appear, and a few riders gambled on fitting a slick rear. The rain did not hold off, however, falling heavily again in the early laps.

That put riders like Dominique Aegerter, who had reckoned on using a slick rear, a long way behind the leaders, his tire only coming good in the second half of the race. The rain allowed Simone Corsi and Sam Lowes to get away at the front, pulling a big lead in a short period.

The pair looked set to dispute victory between the two of them, but Lowes pushed a little too hard, losing the front and going down. Corsi could have just cruised to victory, but that proved too much to ask, the NGM Forward rider crashing out of a commanding lead at the halfway mark.

In the end, the day belonged to Ant West, the Australian once again shining in the wet. It was West’s second Grand Prix victory, his first coming 11 years ago to the day at Assen on a 250. That, too, was in the rain, as have been nearly all of West’s best results.

Seeing West succeed in Assen is a salutary warning of how an exceptionally talented rider can go wrong. West jumped from series to series, from class to class, often ending up in third rate teams. On the right bike he was outstanding, as he showed briefly in World Supersport on the Yamaha. All too often, however, he has ended up on the wrong bike, and in the wrong company.

The Moto2 race turned out to be a warning for the riders in the MotoGP race. A revised start procedure saw the riders allowed two sighting laps, to test the conditions. Heavy rain had fallen after the end of the Moto2 race, and the track was once again soaking, though drying quickly.

Valentino Rossi initially gambled on slicks, but as he sat on the grid, another shower came. On the warm up lap, Rossi felt the track was too wet to risk slicks, and so came in and changed to his wet weather bike. That meant starting from pit lane, after the rest of the pack had passed.

Starting from pit lane cost him at least nine seconds. Coming in to pit lane to swap bikes cost him a further 21 seconds. Could he have won if he had gambled and stayed out on slicks? Looking at the times of Broc Parkes, who was forced into that gamble after crashing his wet bike on the sighting lap, probably not.

Parkes lost 25 seconds on the first lap alone, and by lap 6 was 45 seconds behind, though already much quicker than the men still on rain tires. Some of the difference can be put down to lesser machinery and the fact that Broc Parkes, talented as he is, is no Valentino Rossi. Even then, though, that would have left Rossi with a lot of time still to make up.

For Rossi, the decision was clear. The first decision to try slicks had been smart, but the two minutes of rain as the riders sat on the grid had been fatal. “Those ****ing two minutes!” he called them, had made the track far too dangerous in some corners, with standing water making it impossible to get grip from slicks, or get them up to temperature.

“This situation is always about how much you want to risk,” Rossi said. This was a risk too far for him. It was a real shame, he told the press, as his pace in both the dry and the wet had been strong. He had had the potential to finally put a halt to Marc Marquez’s winning streak.

Starting from pit lane made that impossible for Rossi. And not just Rossi; the combination of the right sighting lap strategy, deciding to switch bikes at the right time, and quite frankly, Marquez’s sheer talent meant that the Spaniard went on to take his eighth victory in a row, a feat last achieved by Mick Doohan in 1997, though the last rider to win the first eight races of the season was Giacomo Agostini back in 1971.

Marquez took the lead on the first lap with a brave move round the outside of Andrea Dovizioso at Stekkenwal, holding off a counter attack. He came into the pits at the end of lap 6, which proved to be just about the perfect time two swap to a bike on slicks.

Marquez made one mistake, pushing a little too hard into De Bult on his first lap out of the pits on slicks, and allowing Dovizioso back past him. As the track dried, Dovizioso’s ability to push diminished, and Marquez closed in on the Ducati quickly.

The Italian tried to stay with Marquez, but he could not. Marquez went on to take number eight out of eight, celebrating the win in style: laying flat on the tank and simulating swimming across the finish line.

What was the key to Marquez’s victory, and keeping his perfect record? This time, it was presence of mind. Race Direction had issued a special start procedure for the Assen race, because of the treacherous conditions.

The riders had more time to do two sighting laps, and switch bikes if they wanted to. It is no coincidence that the two riders who decided against it and headed straight to the grid finished in first and second place.

“For me, to do another sighting lap means one more lap on the tire,” Marquez said. “You enter pit lane, cool down the tires, then go out again.” Having to refuel the bike meant more work and more disruption for the team, and was not worth it, he said. “It didn’t have any advantage for me.”

The fact that his team could remain calm around him helped him stay calm and focused, able to concentrate on the race and not rush through a procedure which was of questionable benefit.

It takes a certain strength of character to reject the consensus of the grid and follow your own path. Marquez followed his teams suggestion, going against the rest of MotoGP riders, bar Dovizioso. They decided there was no benefit to be had from the extra lap, and so did not use it.

The rest of the teams seemed to believe that because they could do an extra lap, they must do one, and the riders dutifully tripped in and out of the paddock. All too often, riders simply copy what everyone else does, rather than relying on their instincts, and the instincts of the crew. It is a fear of getting things wrong, rather than a preparedness to gamble.

Illustrative of this was Pol Espargaro, who decided to switch to slicks because Valentino Rossi had done so. He changed his mind just in time, starting the warm up lap on his wet bike from pit lane, but that meant he had to start the race from the back of the grid.

It made Espargaro’s first ever wet race extremely complicated and highly stressful, adding pressure just when what he really needed was to remain calm. In a situation like that, riders have more to lose from looking at others rather than making their own plans. Afterwards, he said one of the main lessons he had learned was simple: ‘You have to take your own decisions.’

Monster Tech 3 teammate Bradley Smith also suffered for not following his own instincts. He didn’t go in at the end of lap 6, as the fastest riders did. Instead, he sat and followed Jorge Lorenzo, who waited for another lap to come in.

Ordinarily, you would expect following the lead of a double MotoGP champion to be a wise choice, but with Lorenzo having a nightmare race, riding in fear of another crash like the one last year, the Spaniard was also making poor choices. Better to do what you think is right, rather than trust the judgment of someone whose mind you cannot read.

Perhaps the most intriguing battle of the race was the one for third, between Dani Pedrosa on the second Repsol Honda, and Aleix Espargaro on the NGM Forward bike. After bagging his first ever pole position at Assen, the elder of the Espargaro brothers looked like he might follow it up with a podium, dispensing with the rather embarrassing practice of having the first Open class bike in Parc Ferme and being there on merit.

Espargaro fought bravely, but as the track started to dry out, the superior power of the Honda won out over the detuned Forward Yamaha engine, and Pedrosa gained the upper hand. The Repsol Honda man took the final podium spot, and Aleix took a highly creditable fourth place, and finished first Yamaha, six seconds ahead of Valentino Rossi.

Rossi had recovered extremely well after being forced to start from pit lane, battling his way through the field to end the race in 5th. Though disappointed, he was still buoyant, his confidence boosted once again by the knowledge he had the pace in both wet and dry to challenge Marquez.

The difficulty for Rossi is that he now goes to two tracks – Sachsenring and Indianapolis – that have tended to favor the Honda. He will have to wait until Brno in mid-August for another track where the Yamaha can shine.

The same goes for Jorge Lorenzo, but for Lorenzo, the impact will be greater. The double world champion has spent the last couple of races slowly building his confidence again after a disastrous start to the season. He had come to Assen hoping for a strong result, perhaps even a win. It is a track he knows well and loves, a track where he has won, and a track that favors the Yamaha.

A calamitous qualifying session saw Lorenzo starting from ninth on the grid. But the race was much, much worse for Lorenzo, crossing the line in thirteenth. Lorenzo finished behind Scott Redding on the production Honda, behind Broc Parkes on the PBM Aprilia – the last of the true CRT bikes – and as last of the factory option Yamahas.

He was over a minute behind the winner Marc Marquez. For a man who ended last year as runner up to the championship, and had hopes for the title in 2014, that is an unmitigated catastrophe.

Speaking to the press after the race, Lorenzo was brutally honest about his own lack of performance. “Today has been 100 per cent my fault, I want to say sorry to the team because I wasn’t able to be brave, to be fast with tough conditions like the other riders.”

The problem, he explained, was that the conditions brought back memories of the massive crash at Assen in 2013, which saw him highside at Hoge Heide in the pouring rain and break a collarbone.

It was not the crash itself which he remembered, but the pain and the stress which came after. The broken collarbone, the flight to Barcelona, the surgery, the flight back, the incredible pain in which he raced to an almost impossible result, all that came flooding back in the difficult conditions. “Last year I made something impossible but today it was the opposite,” Lorenzo said.

It meant he was riding with fear, stiff and tentative on the bike. He was being excessively cautious everywhere, afraid he might crash at any moment. Only when the rain held off and the track started to dry did he find some confidence and begin to pick up speed.

His lap times dropped from well over a second slower than his teammate Valentino Rossi, to two or three tenths off Rossi’s pace. Even then, the word Lorenzo used to describe his pace was ‘acceptable’.

Can Lorenzo conquer his fear? After the race, he said he could. It was the combination of the conditions and the circuit which had spooked him, something which would not be the case at other circuits. The trouble is that the next race is at the Sachsenring, where he also crashed in 2013.

The situation is similar to 2008, when Lorenzo followed up his astonishing start to his rookie season with a couple of massive crashes. At Montmelo, he knocked himself unconscious, waking up in hospital with a concussion. It took him several races to recover, only really finding his form again at the end of the season.

It was all too familiar to Valentino Rossi, the Italian told us. After the big crash in which he broke his leg at Mugello in 2010, he had been a little tentative the first few times he returned to the track, especially when it was cool. The memories of the pain of that cold tire highside lingered on.

Marc Marquez’s win at Assen leaves him with a perfect 200 points from eight races. His advantage is now 72 points, meaning he could take three races off and still be leading the championship unless either Valentino Rossi or Dani Pedrosa win the next three in a row.

This, especially, is where Marquez has gained on his rivals. It is not just that he has won every single race, but also that those he has beaten have got caught up fighting among themselves. Marquez extends his lead every time he races, because a different rider finishes behind him every race.

After Barcelona, Rossi trailed Marquez by 58 points, but a fifth place saw him lose another 14 points to the reigning world champion. Marquez invents a new way to win at each new circuit, while his rivals find new ways to fall short. If they keep on like this, Marquez could wrap up the title at Aragon.

Though the championship may seem boring when you look at the race results, the races themselves have been great to watch. The outcome is always the same, but you cannot be sure until the end.

Even at Assen, where Marquez had a clear lead, the conditions made for an eventful race. There is a sense of inevitability over the championship, but luckily, you never get that feeling watching the races. Here’s hoping the Sachsenring delivers more of the same.

Photo: © 2014 Tony Goldsmith / TGF Photos – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

Comment:

  1. Shawn says:

    I don’t care what the naysayers say (and I’m sure they’ll say something), I thought the race was very interesting to watch. Between the complete uncertainty of the weather, watching Rossi slip and slide around the track on slicks, watching Dovi put on arguably his best performance of the year, watching Broc Parkes have quite possibly the best race of his career, watching Lorenzo fall apart at the seams… there was drama a plenty this year. Marquez and Dovizioso had some genuinely good racing when the track conditions were sub-par. Don’t let the race times fool you – there was plenty of good racing to watch if you had the presence of mind to understand the stories that were unfolding. I’m glad I got to see it!

  2. Bill says:

    I enjoyed the race, the craziness of it and how Marquez and his team made the right calls unlike Philip Island last year.

  3. Justaguy says:

    The very first thing I tell people who are just getting into motorcycle riding is:
    Learn to ride in the rain.

    Nothing will increase your confidence like knowing you can ride in the wet. Even if you just do it in parking lots to ‘know’ you can do it.
    I know most racers don’t ride on the street and are on bikes with insane horsepower, but it is noticeable that the guys who grew up in wet places like the UK and USA appear more comfortable in the wet. I also know that many will say rain ruins the ‘pureness’ of the competition but racing is supposed to be about adaptability and if it wasn’t every track would be the same or they would do like NASCAR and not race in the rain (even the go straight, then turn left crowd in NASCAR know that all ‘circles’ are not the same which is why some do better at ‘this’ track than ‘that’ one).

    On another topic, I watch the whole weekend, not just the races and I picked up on the Dorna announcers mentioning Lorenzo’s contract negotiations. They made it seem like Yamaha don’t want to pay him what he wants and I wonder if that, combined with other factors like Marquez and Rossi (whom they said has flat out said he ‘prefers’ to stay on a Yammie) is getting to him. He doesn’t seem to be as stone faced as in previous years (I think the term alien is used by people who think that term is cool) and instead is always grouchy looking.

    Another line I picked up from the coverage was Marquez saying his younger brother is, in his view, even better than he. Hmmmmmm, THAT could make for some interesting racing in a couple of seasons.

  4. I agree, Shawn. I thought the racing across all three classes was excellent and there was drama in bucket-loads to be found. I thought Brock Parkes did exceptionally well, spending most of the race inside the top 10 and just getting pushed back to 11th in the closing laps. PBR must be absolutely chuffed to bits over his result, and his teammate must be scratching his head over how he can begin to beat him.

    Ant West winning was utterly sublime. The guy is a true old-school campaigner and I’ve enjoyed following his career over all these many years. (His grid interviews can often be hilarious, too. He and Ian Wheeler used to take the piss out of each other regularly, which was always good for a giggle.)

    Alex Marquez is hitting is stride. I really had to respect Rins waving his teammate past. Marquez just had more pace and, on that day, Rins knew it. Miller must have been thanking the gods when Fenati finished outside the points. And finally, Enea Bastianini – The Beast – is a rookie to keep a close eye on. He’s learning quickly and already has landed a podium. The youngsters from Italy are representing this season!

  5. Justaguy says:

    Trane, I wish Cal was on a decent bike so we could hear from him once in a while. He used to break Ian’s balls pretty good too. I don’t know if Dylan Grey has the same relationship with Cal. I’m also surprised at how much I thought I would miss Gavin’s commentating but Gregory Haines is good.

  6. What a difference a season makes, eh, Justaguy? Cal on the Tech3 had him bantering with the press regularly and giving many reasons to smile. The Ducati is proving to be – as many suggested it would be – a serious blow to his morale (and possibly his career). Crutchlow is very well liked in the paddock, but you’d never know it from his demeanor this season.

    I agree about Gregory Haines. Moreover, he’s proven to be very approachable. We’ve exchanged a few tweets and his enthusiasm for the sport is readily apparent. In WSBK, Steve Martin has proven to be just as approachable. I find that really refreshing and appealing. It’s good for the sport.

  7. P.S. – Apologies to Paul Bird. I know it’s PBM, so why I wrote PBR is without a good excuse.

  8. dc4go says:

    @ Justaguy and Trane… Cal’s teammate finished second and has been on the podium earlier this season. Cal’s just not that good of a rider, funny guy though….

  9. I’m disinclined to agree with that evaluation of Crutchlow’s skills. Rossi managed only three podiums in two seasons on the Ducati and he’s no slouch. As has been pointed out on A&R on several occasions, Crutchlow’s woes with Ducati seem to have an awful lot to do with Spies Syndrome coming home to roost in Crutchlow’s side of the garage this season. Cal’s year has been a poster child for Murphy’s Law. The guy just can’t seem to get any momentum.

    Not that I’m making excuses for Cal, mind you. He chose to leave Tech3 to pursue his dream of being a factory rider and, this year at least, it ain’t happening for him. Frankly, I expect him to invoke his escape clause and head for greener pastures. Where it might be greener, however, is yet to be seen. I highly doubt that the Suzuki will be a competitive package for the first 2-3 seasons, given their long history of not spending enough money to launch a really strong campaign. (That was true even during the KS34 era. KS won despite the Suzuki, not because of it, IMO.)

  10. Justaguy says:

    I don’t know about that…… using your logic Lorenzo isn’t a good rider.

    That does make me want to ask people with a better grasp on the rules a question though: is Ducati close to having some of those restrictions put in place? I know winning was a big part of that but I thought that achieving a certain number of podiums was part of it too.

  11. If Ducati accumulates two 2nd places or three 3rd places, their fuel allotment will be cut from 24-to-22 litres. For Ducati, this isn’t really an issue, as they do not generally use more than 22 litres. If they were to manage three wins, they’d lose the use of the Open-spec soft tire and be put on equal footing with the Factory Options.

  12. zig says:

    Are you kidding me? Gregory Haines is blowing it! He is constantly making mistakes in his commentary, which arguably can be entertaining to listen to, but most of the time it’s just annoying. I’m sure he has a whole team of people and monitors giving him info throughout the race and I still feel like I have a better grasp of what’s happening, as it’s happening, than he does. Also, his delivery is very strange at times. Maybe I’m being nit picky, but the way he annunciates and separates his words all the time is weird and distracting. I’m hoping he gets better as the season goes on I like him more, but I really miss Gavin. He had a much more natural presence and his chemistry with Nick Harris was great.

  13. Just for a note on the GP commentary team: when the race is underway at the Sachsenring in two weeks’ time, I want you to put your TV on mute, and try to say out lout what’s occurring in front of you.

    It’s not as easy as you think.

  14. Roger87 says:

    To Trane Francks and Justaguy Ducati will have limitations only if they accomplish those results in dry races, yesterday race was declared wet so it doesn’t count.

  15. Yes, absolutely correct. I should have stated that. Thanks for filling in the blanks. :)

  16. zig says:

    No doubt it’s a tough job and I give those guys a lot of credit for doing it. I definitely wouldn’t be able to keep it up for hours like they do. It’s still entertaining to me that I am some how able to identify and correct all his mistakes faster than he does. If I had $1 for each time I did that, I could pay for my motogp.com subscription by the end of the season.

  17. smiler says:

    Very true Mr Beeler. It is a really difficult. Those who do it best usually come from Radio and then move to TV.

    It is a trully ludicrass situation that if one of the 5 categories of bikes on the gird starts to win, it is then penalised because the biggest and most dominent manufacturer is able to dictate to Dorna how the series is run.

    However many I think have slagged off Ducati. Audi have an enviable racing history. At Catalunya this year, Dovi cut his qualifying time and took it to 0.3 secs from the front, 1.2 secs in 2013. He finished 16 secs behind the winner, 32 secs in 2013. Audi made it clear they would not have competitive bike before 2015. They said they would put the correct processes, personnel and team / riders in place then deliver a new bike. In the interim get what they could out of the current, one. Thus far they have done exactly that.
    There is no chance of Ducati being on top without the money and R&D / engineering capacity Audi can bring to bear.
    I hope, for the first time they produce a consistently winning bike. Having three good manufactuers and potentially another in Suzuki can only make for better racing and a proper counterpoint to Honda & Repsol dictating to Dorna how the series is run. Even better if KTM, Aprilia or even Kawasaki got their act together. Though Hinda are an amazing company, together with Repsol, they have much to much influence.

    Cannot see Crutchlow moving. He has had a difficult season but is hard as nails but rode intelligently in quali and had a decent though not amazing race.

    Suzuki are 2.5 secs off the pace half way through this season and some have said the inline four as a MotoGP engine has reached its limitations. As much as anything it depends who Sponsor Suzuki as to who rides for them.

  18. Jaime Cruz says:

    I respectfully disagree with the races being “interesting to watch.” They might be in the beginning because the ONE thing Marquez can’t do (yet) is launch the bike at startup. However, once the kid hits the front (and he WILL hit the front), you can just turn off the TV and go about your regular routine. Nothing new to see.

    Everyone talks about how GREAT Casey Stoner was… remember, he raced against essentially the same grid but he did LOSE every now and then.

  19. Damn says:

    The biggest thing right now is Honda. it isn’t that MM is better than rossi or Jorge.
    Yamaha was to far from Honda to make a real fist.
    All the rules didn’t make it any better. You dont just win 8 races if the bike are almost equel.
    This year is by far the most boring in years!
    its normal that the factory normaly has the best recourses but this time its HUGE.
    Honda was pushing and pushing every year for new rules. its good for enginering but not for the sport.
    this year is already over. im looking forward to 2015. hope yam duc and suz do some this year for next year.

  20. Xan says:

    @Damn: So, Marquez has now beat Lorenzo and Rossi at the Yamaha favored tracks, and in “the great equalizer” rain. It’s totally not skill though…. You’re right. I mean, obviously the Honda just magically causes random pedestrians to win. Not that Rossi has beaten Pedrosa on the same bike like 5 times this season. I really do wonder when folks will swallow it and just say that Marquez is the best rider out there this season. You don’t win 8 races straight by being average on the best bike.

  21. Chad D. says:

    Harsh conditions, and great racing all around! Cheers to Dovi, who I feel is one of the most under-rated riders in GP, and cheers to Ant West on a win. You just know he’s still sipping out of that giant champagne bottle still.

  22. Justaguy says:

    Trane and Roger, yes, thank you!
    I forgot that wet races had a different standing as far as the Ducati issue goes.

    Jenson, I’m 100% in agreement with you as I have wondered how announcers in say football (American style)….. especially collage football….. can remember the names/numbers of players like they do. Same with racing and you often hear the announcers mistake teammates because the bikes are nearly identical and it’s the leathers/helmets that differ. I also assume they have a swath of monitors in front of them, a producer talking in their ear, are writing notes/talking points down and they are using the same world video feed as we see which sometimes cuts away to another rider just as some good stuff is happening (note how they always cut to the guy winning/crossing the line no matter how awesome the battle is just behind him is). I am not knocking Gavin, although he did come off as a Dorna stooge sometimes but that was usually during the weekend and I’m sure the vast majority of fans don’t watch the entire weekend so they never would hear those tidbits. I assumed Nick’s old ass would retire before Gavin left but I think I saw Gavin there in Parc Ferme after a race Saturday. I also caught Nick allllllmost calling Greg ‘Gavin’ at the start of a race. He had to pause for a second because (I assume) his brain had said “I’m Nick Harris, sitting alongside me Gavin Emmit and down in pit lane…….” so long that it want’s to default to that and as silly as it sounds they both start with G’s. Plus Nick is an old fart and is fond of beer so…….

    The racing at the latter part of the races isn’t the best every race but I do think there have been enough battles in GP alone to justify my dropping the cash for the subscription (the cheap one, I don’t want split screen as I don’t call the race in my living room). Moto 2 has been a surprising boring series for the most part this year (this weekend being different) and Moto 3 has proven to provide some of the best pure racing I’ve ever seen.

  23. james h says:

    i’ve noticed this is the same article i’ve read on motomatters, yet here it states it is written by mr. beeler. was that a mistake or are there differences between the two that haven’t noticed? thank you.

  24. dc4go says:

    Cal’s just not @ alien status or even as good as Dovi in my personal opinion. Dovi has beat him on the M1 and on the Ducati. Best thing for Cal would be to get another ride that suits his high corner speed style maybe the factory Suzuki ride….

  25. Jw says:

    I watched the Jorge interview where he was asked about renewing his contract with Yamaha. He said something like they were not in agreement economically. I gather he wants (deserves) more money. Really?

    I will be surprised if he can keep his job with Yamaha and even more surprised if Honda hires him. If he is after more Money the only wagon to get on now is, well, you know who…

    What say ye?

  26. Alclab says:

    I have to say I found your review of the race weekend very entretaining. Personally, and like yourself have been really enjoying this season. It’s true that having another rider fight for the championship and the uncertainty helps with the overall emotions, however, the masterclass that Marquez shows every weekend, how close the races have been, the battles (Qatar and Mugello anyone?), the fact that it always seems like someone is about to beat MM93 and yet in the end he manages to win has been a joy to watch.

    Anyone can be a Marquez/MotoGP hater cause he always wins, but the kid has really earned it and broght fourth a new era in motorcycle Gand Prix racing.

    As for the comentators that some of you were talking about, I think Haines is doing a good job, clearly he’s getting better every tome, but I think what he lacks is just the passion for the sport that showed every time with Gavin Emmet, the shouting, the description, the chemistry with the riders… It is still very much missed.

  27. BBQdog says:

    Time to give Aleix Espagaro a factory Yamaha ….

  28. Frank says:

    @ BBQdog – a lot of people were calling for this last year as well- or at least a satellite Yamaha ride. Aleix does indeed look very fast and I am hoping that we can see his potential on a better bike soon. But the factory has to consider results. And Aleix has been around in GP since 2004. In 4 classes, he has yet to win a single race. He has podiumed once in his career in Moto2. I would have to say that this is why a factory seat would seem like a long shot at this point. He is clearly in the prime of his career and deserving of a fast machine, but right now I think you have to take a spooked Lorenzo over an unproven rider in AEspargaro. I think that Yamaha is honestly not looking at Aleix for the future. I think Pol is being groomed for that seat.

    But then again – I could be totally wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time and won’t be the last.

    And echoing some earlier sentiments regarding Crutchlow – it was fun to get behind him last year when he was battling for the podium in the middle of the season last year on the Tech3 bike, but those results also coincided with struggles/injuries for Lorenzo and Pedrosa. People were calling for him to have the Yam factory seat. He was inconsistent later in the season and crashes a lot. It does seem that he found Spies rotten luck this season but he has also never bested Dovi on the same equipment in two different boxes. I remember a lot of people last year talking about the fallout of signing a vocal personality like Cal on to ride the Duc. And yeah… nothing but honest, brutal frustration. The downside is- there is no more fun and humor from Cal, it is all relentless negativity.

  29. @dc4go: “Cal’s just not @ alien status or even as good as Dovi in my personal opinion.”

    On this we’re in complete agreement. I do think that Dovi has likely peaked and that Crutchlow possibly has some growth left in him, but that remains to be seen.

  30. Westward says:

    Can’t wait to see how Michelin tyres affects the series.

    Best Motogp commentating trio: Julian Ryder, Toby Moody, and Neil Spalding

    Best grid reporter: Azi Farni

  31. zig says:

    It’s me again…back to beat a dead horse!

    I wish there were more special guest commentators, like ex and current racers. For as monotone as he is, I thought Ben Spies was great. He was able to give insight that can only come from a guy who has been out there riding those bikes with those guys. dGuy Martin would be amazing because every time he opens his mouth it’s entertaining. And a contest for fans to get in on the commentating would be awesome. People could send in demo tapes and the best tapes get to go to the race and call the action for a few laps.

  32. Flying plum says:

    @justaguy – you prob did see Gavin Emmett, he’s doing the broadcast for BTSport, in the UK :-)