Friday MotoGP Summary at Austin: Marquez’s New Style, Viñales’ Bright Future, & Smith’s Personal Revolution
After the drama of Argentina, the first day of practice at the Circuit of the Americas was pleasingly normal. The track was not perfect, but it was the normal kind of not perfect, Friday-green-track-not-perfect.
A week ago, a filthy unused track left everyone struggling for grip and worried faces. On Friday, there were a few concerns over tire wear, especially on the right-hand side, but they were minor compared to Argentina. It was just another Friday in Texas.
And just like any other Friday in Texas, Marc Márquez was slaying the field. The Repsol Honda rider was fastest both in the morning and in the afternoon, and though Jorge Lorenzo kept Márquez honest in FP1, FP2 saw him go seven tenths of a second quicker than anyone else.
His gap over the rest made the gaps look massive, just six riders within a second. Take Márquez out of the equation, and a second separates places two and fourteen. The field is actually quite close, as long as you disregard the man out in front.
It was a particularly tetchy press conference at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin on Thursday.
That may have come from the travel – team staff trickled in throughout the day, as the final stage of their epic journey from Termas de Rio Hondo to Austin came to an end – but more likely it was the questions about the future of Jorge Lorenzo, in particular, which generated a sense of real irritation.
Little was said directly by Lorenzo, by Rossi, or by Márquez, but it was clear that the mutual antipathy between the Italian and the Spaniards is reaching new heights. There is a storm coming, and it will break some time this year. When it does, things are going to get very ugly indeed.
First, though, about that journey. Reconstructing the tales of those who arrived in good time after an uneventful voyage, and those who were only just traipsing in towards the end of Thursday afternoon, it was clear that the weather had been the deciding factor.
Those who had left on Sunday night and Monday morning had made it to Austin without incident. In the afternoon, though, the clouds rolled down the mountains and into Tucuman, where charters were flying in and out of the regional airport.
Flights were canceled, and teams were sent off, first towards Cordoba, then back to Tucuman, then off to Buenos Aires, then finally to Cordoba once again.
From there, they flew to Buenos Aires, then dispersed over half the globe. Sometimes almost literally – one Dorna staff member flew all the way back to Barcelona, then back across the Atlantic to Houston. The MotoGP paddock is much richer in air miles after Argentina, but much poorer in sleep.
Argentina left us with an awful lot to talk about. So much, that most of the discussion focused on just a few points: the problems with Michelin tires; the chaotic process by which Race Direction arrived at a race with compulsory pit stops, and the effect it had on the outcome of the race; and the various ways in which riders found to crash out of the race, and how it affected the championship.
That overshadowed several aspects which will affect the championship down the line. Time to take a look back at what we missed. It was a surprise podium, not least to those who actually ended up in second and third spot.
Valentino Rossi had resigned himself to another fourth place until Andrea Iannone made what Race Direction colorfully described as an “overly optimistic pass” on his teammate Andrea Dovizioso, and robbed Ducati of an outstanding double podium.
He was not surprised when it happened – Rossi criticized Iannone’s earlier pass as being too aggressive, saying it lost him two places – but he had not expected to be on the podium. Ducati’s strong showing at Termas de Rio Hondo bodes well for Austin, but more of that later.
The news is a big deal in the world of Ducatisti, as Pro Italia’s online store is one of the largest online retailers for Ducati parts in the United States.
Therefore, its movement from one top Ducati dealership (Pro Italia in Glendale, CA) to another (AMS Ducati in Dallas, TX) is tectonic shift in the retail power found in Ducati’s online landscape.
Things have been pretty heavy here lately at Asphalt & Rubber, especially with the “Sepang Clash” nonsense continuing to collapse the sport in like a dying star. The Tokyo Motor Show had a lot of hard news too, with a bevy of models and concepts making an appearance.
So much has been going on, we nearly forgot the number one reason we ride motorcycles: they’re fun! Never fear, we have our eyes on the prize here at A&R HQ, so here’s a little something to brighten your day.
If you ever need a lawyer in Fort Worth, Texas area, we know a guy…Bryan Wilson, the Texas Law Hawk. Click past the jump for so much internet win.
What happens when you combine a ritzy golf course, an amazing collection of motorcycles, and an eclectic crowd? You get the Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California at the Quail Lodge and Golf Club.
Not your typical venue for a motorcycle gathering, the Quail brings together vintage, classic, and racing motorcycles in a setting that can only be described as “chic”.
This is definitely not your standard motorcycle show. The event pays tribute, not only to the significant motorcycles from our past, but also to the heroic racers who risked their lives on some of these machines.
What makes the Quail different from other motorcycle shows is the venue. The tickets aren’t cheap at $75, but admission includes a gourmet catered lunch, an opportunity to see a very diverse collection of motorcycles, and a chance to mix and mingle with a group of very proud and dedicated motorcycle owners.
Marc Marquez has already lost one of his engines from his allocation of five for the season. The engine in the bike Marquez was forced to park against pit wall during qualifying at Austin can no longer be used, Marquez admitted to us.
The engine problem occurred during Marquez’s qualifying run at the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin. As Marquez was about to start a hot lap, he saw a warning light come on on the dashboard of his Honda RC213V.
The world champion had been told by his HRC engineers that if he saw that light, he was to stop as quickly as possible, which he duly did. The problem forced him to sprint back to his pit box, leap on his spare bike, and race out of the pits for a last-gasp dash for pole.
It resulted in a spectacular lap, which gave him pole position, from which he went on to take a convincing win.
Data – the reams of information logged by a vast array of sensors on a racing motorcycle – is a contentious issue in MotoGP. Riders differ in their approach to it.
Mika Kallio, for example, has a reputation for being a demon for data, wading through his own data after every session. Other riders pay less attention, preferring to let their data engineers, sort the data out from them, and examine their data together.
Sam Lowes is one of the latter. In the long conversation which we had with him at Austin – see yesterday’s installment on the 2015 Speed Up here – Lowes discussed the role of data, and his use of it, at length.