Episode 217 of the Paddock Pass Podcast is out, and this show covers the MotoGP action from the German GP at Sachsenring.
On Friday, at the meeting of the Safety Commission, where MotoGP riders meet with representatives of Dorna and the FIM to speak freely and without penalty about matters pertaining to every aspect of safety (the clue is in the name) at MotoGP events, the riders invited Rivacold Snipers Team Moto3 rider Andrea Migno to attend, to discuss ways to improve safety in the smallest capacity class of Grand Prix racing.
The invitation had been issued in response to the terrifying scenes at the Barcelona Moto3 race, where riders were sitting up and backing off in the middle of the track in the final laps of the race. It was a miracle that nobody was seriously injured.
Stern lectures were given, and serious thought given to how to improve the state of affairs, and how to avoid such extremely dangerous situations in the future. The riders and officials gathered there did their level best to find ways to improve the safety of the sport.
Fast forward 11 days, and in the final minutes of MotoGP Q2, those self same riders are sitting up on the racing line, hanging around for a tow, cutting the throttle while others try to follow them, gesticulating wildly at one another as they cross the racing line while riders on fast laps approach at high speed.
It was as if the people who were focusing their mental energy on finding ways to prevent riders from creating dangerous situations on track had lost their collective minds, and decided to illustrate the problem by doing all of the things they had been condemning less than 24 hours earlier.
Day one of the German Grand Prix is in the bag, and is Marc Márquez still the outright favorite for the win on Sunday?
If you went by FP1 on Friday, you would say yes: the Repsol Honda rider took three flying laps to set the fastest time of the session, before turning his attention to working on race pace.
He used one set of medium tires front and rear for the entire session, ending with a 1’22.334 on a tire with 24 laps on it. That lap would have been good enough for thirteenth place in FP1, just a hundredth of a second slower than Miguel Oliveira’s best lap.
Oliveira made it clear that he considered Márquez to be the favorite at the end of the day as well. “For me since the beginning Marc is the clear favorite for the win on Sunday,” the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider told us.
“We have been trying to understand what he is doing different to the others on this track because he is so successful.”
By the end of the afternoon, Marc Márquez didn’t look quite so invincible. The Repsol Honda rider finished the day twelfth fastest, six tenths off the fastest rider Miguel Oliveira.
The KTM man had achieved his first objective. “I believe together with him will come another couple of riders that are able to challenge for the win. I am working to be one of them,” Oliveira said on Friday afternoon.
Earlier this week, I wrote an article setting out why I think that Marc Márquez is the favorite to win at the Sachsenring. What the riders told the media on Thursday at the Sachsenring merely cemented the Repsol Honda rider’s status as front runner.
Despite his entirely mediocre results since his return to racing, Márquez was identified as at least a potential podium candidate by just about anyone you asked.
Should this be a surprise? Not when you consider that, as veteran US journalist Dennis Noyes pointed out to me, Marc Márquez has quite the record at anticlockwise circuits, tracks with more left handers than rights.
How good? He wins nearly 7 out of every 10 races he starts at a track which mainly turns left.
Since the beginning of the season, the media has been buzzing with HRC’s tales of woe. After seven rounds, the factory sits fifth in the manufacturers championship, 91 points behind Yamaha and Ducati (who are tied for first place), and just 10 points ahead of Aprilia.
To put that into perspective, all four Honda riders – Marc Márquez, Pol Espargaro, Alex Márquez, and Takaaki Nakagami – have contributed to Honda’s total of 52 points, while Aprilia’s stopgap second rider, promoted tester Lorenzo Savadori, has added just a single, solitary point to Aprilia’s total, Aleix Espargaro having scored the other 44.
The situation for the Repsol Honda team is, if anything, even worse.
So far, the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the 2020 MotoGP season has been to delay everything. But today, we had the first cancelations.
The races at the Sachsenring in Germany, Assen in the Netherlands, and the Kymiring in Finland have all been canceled for 2020.
The 2020 world championship motorcycle racing calendars continue to slide due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday evening, it became apparent that there will be no racing in either MotoGP or WorldSBK before the end of June.
After last Wednesday’s announcement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that large-scale events would be banned in Germany through August 31st, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte extended the ban on large-scale events in The Netherlands to September 1st.
These two announcements have a direct bearing on the WorldSBK and MotoGP calendars.
It has been a pretty brutal weekend for the MotoGP riders at the Sachsenring. With less than a week to recover after a punishing race in Assen, everyone is stiff, sore, and tired. But those who crashed in Assen or had a physical problem have it doubly tough, having to deal with the tight and tortuous layout of the Sachsenring circuit.
Such conditions inevitably create tales of motorcycling heroism. Taka Nakagami is one such, the LCR Honda rider still badly beaten up after his crash at Assen, where he was taken out by Valentino Rossi. Nakagami has a badly damaged left ankle, but is trying to ride anyway.
Having an injury on his left ankle is one of the worst possible injuries at the Sachsenring, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because is mostly left corners, meaning that the left ankle is bearing much of the load for a large part of the lap, riders leaning much of their weight on their inside leg through the corner. And secondly, because there is so much gear shifting to do, riders going up and down through the box through the tight and twisty circuit.
In FP4, Nakagami had to spend a lot of time in the garage having his ankle retaped, as he hadn’t been able to move his ankle sufficiently to actually shift gear. But once that was done, he put on a heroic display to post a blistering lap in Q1 and make it through to Q2 behind Valentino Rossi, displacing a despairing Andrea Dovizioso along the way.
How tough was the laps which Nakagami put in? He hobbled out to his bike on crutches to go out, and then had to be helped off the bike and onto crutches after he had come back in again.