Misano 2010 Shoya Tomizawa
Sepang 2011 Marco Simoncelli
Catalunya 2016 Luis Salom
Montmelo has now had its name added to the list of circuits which have claimed the life of a rider during the current decade in MotoGP. The finger-pointing and recriminations commenced immediately in an effort to pin blame for the Friday death of Luis Salom on something or someone. My own sense is that the state of the Spanish economy over the past decade has led to “austerity measures” on the part of track owners unable, or unwilling, to invest in improvements – in this case, a gravel trap – that could save lives.
Which is the story of EU capitalism in a nutshell – a system in which myopic short term policies lead to lasting iniquity. On a macro scale, the deconstruction of the Greek economy taking place before our very eyes, enforced by the EU with Germany, of all countries, cracking the whip, will inevitably lead to lasting hardship for the vast majority of her citizens. On a micro scale, deferred investments in safety measures at a Spanish racing venue directly result in another bright young life being snuffed out.
Marquez loses battle, winning the war
The modified layout of the Circuit Catalunya brought about by Friday’s tragedy arguably converted Montmelo from being highly Yamaha friendly to Honda friendly, with both Repsol Hondas qualifying on the front row, Dani Pedrosa for the first time this season. Marc Marquez owned Q2, laying down a 1:43.9 on his first series and a 1:43.5 on his second, half a second clear of Jorge Lorenzo in the two slot. Valentino Rossi saved himself for Sunday by leaping from ninth place to fifth on his last lap. The surprise of the afternoon was Hectic Hector Barbera placing his Avintia Ducati at the top of the second row, missing out on a front row start by 15/1000ths of a second. With the notable exception of Rossi, Spaniards hogged the front two rows.
Rossi was the fastest rider in the morning warm-up, delivering a preview of the day’s events. The race itself started normally enough, with Lorenzo winning the holeshot, the lead group forming up behind him consisting of Marquez, Andrea Iannone on the Ducati, Pedrosa and Suzuki hotshot Maverick Vinales, with Rossi getting lost in the sauce on his way to eighth position. By Lap 2, Rossi had sliced his way back to fourth, the four Aliens at the front trailed by a slavering Vinales who immediately began putting ragged moves on everyone he found in his way.
Rossi went through on Pedrosa on Lap 3 as I was noting “Lorenzo getting away?” In what appeared to be a budding replay of last year, Marquez was overriding the RC213V on Laps 4 and 5, trying to keep the Mallorcan from disappearing, while Rossi, now flying, morphed the front two into a front three. On Lap 6, Rossi passed Marquez easily and immediately set his sights on Lorenzo, who by that point was definitely NOT getting away.
On Lap 7, as first Rossi, then Marquez, went through on Lorenzo, it became apparent that Lorenzo was unable to maintain his speed in the turns, his edge grip apparently shot to hell. Pedrosa went through him on Lap 9. Vinales, having eaten his Wheaties that morning, started attacking Lorenzo relentlessly on Lap 10, almost as if he intended to usurp Lorenzo’s ride next season, as is the case. Vinales stole Lorenzo’s lunch money today on Lap 12 after half a dozen failed attempts. And while Rossi held the lead at this point, there was nothing comfortable about it, as Marquez refused to wilt despite losing ground coming out of all the slow turns.
Iannone Becomes a Verb
Nothing much changed at the front, then, until Lap 17, at which point Lorenzo was struggling to hold on to 5th place with Iannone threatening. Somewhere in the middle of the circuit, possibly Turn 7, a routine left hander, Lorenzo was in the apex of the turn when Iannone, heading straight for him, running hot as an acetylene torch, slammed on his brakes, his rear tire leaving the ground, but not in time to avoid T-boning the triple world champion.
With his day now completely ruined and his lead in the 2016 championship but a memory, Lorenzo gained something new in common with next year’s Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso: He had been Iannone’d by a rider likely to be giving Suzuki major second thoughts heading into a new two-year contract with a painfully low racing IQ. While Iannone’s takedown of teammate Dovizioso at Le Mans was the result of poor judgment, today’s wreck appeared to involve no judgment at all. Race Direction, which really knows how to hurt a guy, is likely to punish the jugheaded Italian with a point or two on his license, the equivalent of being ticketed for littering after drunkenly causing a four car pileup on an expressway. Two points on your racing license is a hangnail; getting knocked out of a race while leading the championship is something closer to a disaster.
Another Montmelo Classic at the End
Marquez was in hot pursuit of Rossi, riding on the limit, when his pit board flashed the “Lorenzo KO” sign at him on Lap 19. His immediate reaction was to not react. He stayed on Rossi’s rear tire, backing into turns, losing ground on the exits, testing Rossi’s resolve once and again until Lap 23, when he went through and made it stick, leaving pretty much everyone watching the race gasping for air. But Rossi, somehow still at the top of his game in 2016, took the lead back the next time around. When Marquez suffered yet another “moment” in Turn 7 of Lap 24, he finally appeared to capisce his pit board’s message and let Rossi get away, knowing he had taken the lead in the 2016 campaign. With a world class competitive spirit, Marquez has now gained the perspective he lacked early in his premier class career and understands that 20 points in the hand is better than 25 points a second and a half in front of you.
The Big Picture Refocused
The disruption in the 2016 standings brought about by Rossi’s blown engine in Mugello has now been largely corrected, thanks to Rossi’s rock-hard performance and Iannone’s rock-hard cranium. Montmelo has bestowed her not inconsiderable charms on young Marquez, who retakes the championship lead for the first time since Jerez, with Lorenzo now 10 points behind him and Rossi another 12 behind Lorenzo. Pedrosa, who podiumed today for, like, the thousandth time in his career, continues to maintain a faint grip on his ragged Alien club card, with 43 points standing between him and Marquez. The series now takes a bit of a breather before heading to The Low Countries at the end of June for the first Dutch TT Assen in history not to be run on a Saturday.
I don’t want to talk about the controversy which blew up Saturday night about who attended the Safety Commission meeting on Friday evening and who didn’t, about who might have shot off their mouths criticizing the decisions pertaining to the modification of the track layout without bothering to attend. Factory Yamaha riders are apparently above all that scut work.
I do, for the benefit of readers who believe I am constantly on Cal Crutchlow’s case, wish to say something positive about the Coventry Crasher. Recall Mugello, after which I praised Cal for doubling – DOUBLING – his point total for the season with his scintillating 11th place performance in Italy. Those of you who found that achievement brilliant will be astounded to learn that HE DID IT AGAIN TODAY! With 10 points entering today’s race, and a credible sixth place finish, his point total for the year now sits at 20! Never mind that three of the four riders who retired or crashed out of today’s race would have likely finished in front of him, resulting in a 9th place haul of seven points.
As the old saying goes, if you want to finish sixth, you must first finish.
|2016 MotoGP Catalunya Results|
|1||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||–|
|2||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||+2.652|
|3||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+6.313|
|4||Maverick Vinales||Suzuki Ecstar||+24.388|
|5||Pol Espargaro||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+29.546|
|6||Cal Crutchlow||LCR Honda||+36.244|
|7||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Corse||+41.464|
|8||Alvaro Bautista||Aprilia Gresini||+42.975|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati||+45.337|
|10||Jack Miller||Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda||+49.514|
|11||Hector Barbera||Avintia Racing||+46.669|
|12||Stefan Bradl||Aprilia Gresini||+55.133|
|13||Eugene Laverty||Aspar Ducati||+57.974|
|14||Tito Rabat||Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda||+1:00.141|
|15||Michele Pirro||Avintia Ducati||+1:00.429|
|16||Scott Redding||Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati||+1:16.269|
|17||Yonny Hernandez||Aspar Ducati||1 Lap|
|–||Aleix Espargaro||Suzuki Ecstar||7 Laps|
|–||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||9 Laps|
|–||Andrea Iannone||Ducati||9 Laps|
|–||Bradley Smith||Monster Yamaha Tech3||19 Laps|
|2016 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 7 Rounds|