What makes for great racing? Many things, but great last corners really help. A great last corner, or sequence of corners, allows riders to attack the bike ahead of them, and take one final shot at victory.
Even better is when the option to attack offered by the final corner comes with some risk attached: getting ahead is one thing, but staying ahead to the line is quite another.
MotoGP moves from one track with a last corner which guarantees spectacle to another. The final GT chicane at Assen produced fireworks with the clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez, and the last two corners at the Sachsenring offer similar opportunities.
At Assen, the hard-braking right corner is followed by a quick flick left, giving the defending rider the chance to counterattack if he is passed.
At the Sachsenring, the long drop down the steep, steep hill provides the ideal platform to launch an attack from, diving up the inside on the brakes on the way into the penultimate left hander.
That line comes at a price, though, as it forces the attacker to run wide on the exit. That opens allowing the defending rider to strike back up the inside on the approach to the final turn, the last left uphill towards the line.
Even entering that corner ahead is no guarantee of the win: like Turn 12, Turn 13 offers two lines, inside and outside, both of which can be used to pass.
Marco Melandri has had his last race for Aprilia in MotoGP. The two parties have at last reached agreement to go their separate ways. As such, Aprilia test rider Michael Laverty will replace Melandri for the rest of the 2015 season.
Melandri had always been a reluctant participant in Aprilia’s MotoGP project at best. The Italian was halfway through a lucrative two-year deal with Aprilia in World Superbikes in 2014, when Aprilia announced the switch to MotoGP for the 2015 season.
Melandri’s priority was always to remain in World Superbikes and fight for the championship, and it was clear that Aprilia’s first season in MotoGP – a year earlier than anticipated – was going to be a transitional one.
At the time, Aprilia’s plan was to leave World Superbikes, only later lining up the Red Devils Roma team to run their factory operation. By then, it was too late for Melandri to make the change.
Frustration and resignation. Those were the two most prominent emotions at the post-race MotoGP test at Barcelona.
Two sides of the same coin, in reality, as the weather robbed teams in desperate need of track time of any chance of doing the hard work which will make them all a bit more competitive.
After an hour and a half of a dry track, a massive thunderstorm washed over the circuit, drenching the track and leaving it wet for the rest of the day.
Barcelona was the place the champions emerged. In Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP, riders laid a solid claim to the titles in their respective classes.
Danny Kent rode with heart and head, and won the Moto3 race with a plan, extending his lead in the championship to 51 points.
Johann Zarco pulled back a big gap and made the right move when it mattered most, extending his lead to 31 points.
And Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi demolished all-comers to make it a Yamaha one-two, and push their lead out to 44 and 43 points respectively, the Movistar Yamaha men separated by a single point between them.
A lot can happen in the eleven races which remain, but the chances of the three titles not bearing the names of three of those four men are getting slimmer by the race.
The fat lady is still a long way from starting to sing, but you get a sneaking suspicion that you just heard her taxi pull up at the artists’ entrance.
1993. That was the last time there were two Suzukis in the first two positions on the grid. Then, it was Kevin Schwantz and Alex Barros who qualified first and second at Jerez. Now, twenty-two years and six weeks later, it is Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales.
Then, Suzuki were at the height of their competitiveness, before beginning their slow decline, which went on until they withdrew at the end of the 2011 season. Now, Suzuki is back after a three-year absence, with a brand new prototype at the start of its development.
Taking pole and second in just their seventh race is quite an achievement for Suzuki, and vindication of their choice to build an inline-four, something they know all too well, rather than messing around with a V4, as they had done throughout the MotoGP era.
It is also a vindication for the team of people Suzuki chose to lead their return to MotoGP. Davide Brivio has proven to be a shrewd team manager, to nobody’s surprise.
Tom O’Kane, Aleix Espargaro’s crew chief, has been instrumental in providing direction to the development of the bike. Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales have lived up to their expectations, combining experience, attitude and a hunger for success.
What did we learn from Friday practice at Barcelona? We learned that things are not quite what they seem. Does the fact that the Repsol Honda riders are second and third overall mean that HRC’s travails are behind it? Certainly not.
Do the two Suzukis in the top five – and Aleix Espargaro setting the fastest overall time – mean Suzuki have found the horsepower to match the Honda and Ducati? Absolutely not.
Will the Yamaha’s lowly positions on the grid put them out of contention on Sunday? Leaving aside the fact that it’s just the first day of practice, with another full day on Saturday, definitely, absolutely, certainly not.
Are all these assumptions completely baseless? That’s where it gets interesting. In fact, there is a kernel of truth underlying them all.