The Grand Prix of Aragon starts a gold rush of champions
Marc Marquez started his round 14 programme in Friday free practice looking smoother than usual on his feisty Honda than he had for some time, and by qualifying had established himself as a dominant force at his home round. But the race didn't quite go according to plan when the front tyre cried enough on lap 3 and almost put the 23 year old on the ground! He hung on in 5th place, regaining his composure to work his way back to the front before taking the checkered flag at the end of lap 23. Marquez now has a 52 point lead over Valentino Rossi with 4 rounds left, (a maximum of 100 points available).
Britain's Sam Lowes grabbed Pole Position easily and underlined his dominance on the 3.155 mile Motorland Aragon track with a quality race win in Moto2. It will take a small miracle for him to end his time in Moto2 as world champion, but in bike racing anything can happen! And in Moto3 we have our first 2016 World Champion as Brad Binder became the third South African to win a GP world title, (Kork Ballington in 1978 & 1979 and Jon Ekerold in 1980). He moves up to Moto2 with his current team on the all new KTM Moto2 project in 2016. Who would bet against a glittering career for South Africa's latest superstar?
The Grand Prix of San Marino and Riviera of Rimini - Round 13 of 18
This is an emotive arena for motorcycle Grand Prix, you head down a road called Dajira Kato (killed here in 2003) to Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli (killed at Sepang in 2011 but from Cattolica a short distance away), a race track in a region revered as the home province of the incomparable Valentino Rossi. From the planes bringing the fans to Italy and from sun up on race day the hordes of yellow clad Rossi fans stream over every horizon and down every lane, many walking from the great mans town of Tavulia some 10 kilometres away to witness what they hope will be another Vale victory. But they were to be incredibly disappointed. The 74 mile race looked like it was going according to the VR46 script, but that was without reckoning for Honda's Dani Pedrosa. As Rossi forced his way past team mate Jorge Lorenzo the place went positively potty, and with championship leader Marc Marquez fading it looked like Rossi was a certain winner. Then Dani Pedrosa wound up his Honda after starting from row 3 and cut his way through to force the fabled Italian out of the way and snatch glory from the two Yamaha men. Incredible! And historic! Eight different winners from 8 successive races proves what a fantastic season of MotoGP we are witnessing. Next up is Aragon in Spain as Marc Marquez's lead over Rossi is down to 43 points. See you in 2 weeks.
Four days of fun in the Northamptonshire countryside!
Silverstone is still the venue for the British Motorcycle Grand Prix despite the Circuit of Wales (yet to be built) being the rights holders in Britain, it's a slightly weird business arrangement that many believe will end in tears for South Wales' aspirations of a brand new track of it's own. But that is where the weirdness stopped as together CofW and the BRDC (British Racing Drivers Club) continue to create a great atmosphere befitting our showcase bike event of the year.
On Thursday there's Day of Champions in aid of Two Wheels for Life, the official MotoGP charity. Held in glorious sunshine the event was once again a massive success raising over £220k for their world renowned programs in Africa. All the main track competitors, media and officials were on hand to guarantee a perfect way to start the MotoGP long weekend.
On Friday the weather took a turn for the worse and was cold and windy for the opening day of Free Practice track action. Not what the MotoGP teams had wanted as they worked through technical programs to understand electrical and tyre packages that the new rules in 2016 had brought to Silverstone for the first time. The marshals and spectators that filled the campsites also deserved something better than the weather dished up for the big weekend so far. The weather steadily followed the forecast and deteriorated for Saturday's all important qualifying sessions. But despite horrible conditions the fans were treated to some great performances again by British riders. Moto3 winner last time out, John McPhee, was fighting to overcome handling problems with his Peugeot, Cal Crutchlow splashed his way to a magnificent Pole Position in MotoGP and in the last qualifyer of Saturday, Sam Lowes blitzed the field to put his Moto2 machine on Pole Position too. So, as Rick Astley belted out a few well worn 80s hits on the stage, every Union flag waving fan went to bed wondering what Sunday's weather and racing would bring.
Sunday morning was brighter but cold, warm-up was held as usual from 9am but racing had been scheduled for later in the day than usual with Moto3 at 12:30pm and the start of the main event at 3:30pm. Plenty of time for everyone to find a vantage point, not that easy if you don't like grandstands, (seemingly a way of life at F1 tracks)!
The Moto3 race was another cracker but, unfortunately for home fans, not featuring another great performance from the Mahindra powered Peugeot of Scotland's John McPhee. And in Moto2 the heavy expectations of local fans were wiped out when defending champ Johann Zarco lunged at Sam Lowes and took him out of the race. Zarco, who stayed on, was quickly issued a 30 second penalty that negated the points he scored. A good decision but we were robbed of the possibility of a home win from Lowes.
So could Crutchlow convert his Pole Position, set in the soaking wet conditions of Saturday, in a bone dry race on Sunday. A good start came to nowt as Loris Baz and Pol Espargaro collided spectacularly entering Maggots bend at well over 150mph. Out came the red flag for recovery, and teams prepped for the 19 lap restart. Dedicated observers of Suzuki's progress in 2016 may not have been surprised that Maverick Vinales was quick on the GSX RR, but making two perfect starts and grabbing an advantage on lap one of the restart, pulling away from the best bikes and pilots in the world, was a refreshing revelation for the majority. While the likes of Marquez and Rossi swapped paint and Crutchlow lined himself up for a very satisfying eventual second place, young Maverick cleared off in the distance for a historically memorable first dry track race win for Suzuki since 2001. Crutchlow declared satisfaction at making the podium, and Honda were surely happy to see their independantly entered machine running so well again amid all the criticism the marque has had this year. Cal had rescued the weekend for the hordes of home fans that had endured a hot, cold, wet, windy and magnificent British Grand Prix. Misano is just one week down the road. Bring it on
Britons invade Czech Republic Motorcylcle Grand Prix podiums
I am struggling to find the words to describe the pleasure and pride of being at a GP that British riders have excelled at across all 3 classes! From Sunday morning warm-up it was clear that the soaking wet conditions were suiting Britain's finest. The rain lashed down for the Moto3 and Moto2 races but John McPhee and Sam Lowes were up to the task. McPhee presurised race leader Brad Binder, the South African eventually falling and leaving the way clear for 'wee McPhee' to dominate the rest of the Moto3 race. It seemed harder work for Sam Lowes in Moto2 as he worked back to the front of the field with a well controlled third place. Two down, one to go.
The best was yet to come as the rain stopped and the MotoGP teams had tough tyre choices to make before their men lined up for the 74 mile sprint. Michlin were slow to let commentators know what the final tyre compound choices were, all we knew was that all riders had obviously started on 'wet' tyres. But as the race began to unfold and our speculation of who was running what was confirmed by Dorna on our TV monitors, (Michelin couldn't keep the promotors in the dark could they), it began to emerge that Cal Crutchlow had pulled a master stroke! He was only one of two riders to opt for the harder compound front tyre, this matched the harder rears run by him and a handful of others that would be in the hunt for a podium place. Early on, no one could know who had made the right call. Even the great Valentino Rossi thought he'd cocked it up by running a hard rear tyre as he struggled for grip! But with the Brno track reacting unusually slowly to the drying conditions, and the laps passing to a point where the expected pit-lane bike-swap that is a unique MotoGP 'flag to flag' race experience diminished to an impossible option, Cal Crutchlow proved he was the master tactician as he blasted to his first ever MotoGP win and the first for a British rider in the premier class in 35 years, since Barry Sheene at Anderstorp in Sweden in 1981, sending British fans into a frenzy at the track, at home and in the commentary box!
What a day we have had, round 11 is at Silverstone in 2 weeks time and if you've not bought a ticket you better get going now! Don't forget we start with Day of Champions on the Thursday preceding the British Grand Prix, your company would be very welcome as we all get involved in the official charity of MotoGP! See you there.
Perfect 'Pole' men put Austria back on the Motorcycle GP map
The Red Bull Ring may recently be better known as a Formula One track but the first MotoGP race weekend, (the first Austrian Motorcycle Grand Prix in 19 years), saw 215,000 fans eclipse it's 4 wheeled equivalent in popularity. And none were disappointed with the spectacle! The pre race demonstration by KTM's all new MotoGP bike, the RC16, was only drowned out by the deafening air show above this beautiful venue. What a way to start race day!
After qualifying on Saturday, it was clear that the gap between Ducati and the rest was not as great as early season testing had indicated. Yamaha's Valentino Rossi caused a shock by splitting the Dukes of Pole Position man, Andrea Iannone, and Andrea Dovizioso on the front row. Honda men, Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, were struggling with the feisty RC213V, with Marc hurting himself in the battle to master the beast. And there was the spectre of fuel consumption on a track that needed plenty, would someone have to turn the wick down come Sunday? How would all this translate over the 28 lap 75 mile race distance? Dovi chose the slightly harder rear tyre option for his 250th Grand Prix, (the same tyre as most on the grid), while Iannone kept the faith with the softer option. Who would be right, with the track temperature now the highest of the week? In the post race conference, even Jorge Lorenzo expected Iannone's soft tyre to go 'off', it didn't and he won his first MotoGP from team mate Dovizioso, Ducati's first win since Casey Stoner at Phillip Island in 2010! Lorenzo rediscovered his form after 3 GPs off and Rossi rode to a disappointing but solid fourth place. Marc Marquez succesfully managed Honda's damage limitation, despite his Saturday shoulder dislocation, losing only 5 points to Jorge. He still leads the 2016 series by 43 points.
Joan Mir came from Spain's Junior World Championship as a Moto3 rookie this year and grabbed his first Pole Position, no one had won a Moto3 race from Pole since Misano last year, (almost 12 months ago), but the 18 year old stunned the competition by doing just that.
Moto2 saw defending world champion and runaway series leader Johann Zarco fight from a poor start off Pole Position to scythe through from 5th place to extend his dominance in the class. His customary back-flip, this time in full Lederhosen as well as sweat sodden race kit, including helmet, went down well with the locals.
Roll on Brno, just one week to wait folks!
Rain reigns in Sachsenring
If you ever wonder why somewhere is as lush and green as Sachsenring in eastern Germany, it is because it rains... a lot! And from the first warm-up session on race day it was clear that this was going to be a difficult day for some. Wet warm-up at least meant that previously untried MotoGP Michelins could get a run out and would be, therefore, allowable for use in the race if needs be. But that seemed the only silver lining in the cloud over the short and not universally popular [among the riders] short track.
It's on days like these though, that all my sympathy goes to the fans and marshals at trackside. Looking forward to round 9, many had camped on the hillsides of this historic bikesport region for days, but were wet through come Sunday morning. Only they have the right to say if it was all worth it.
In Moto3 young Khairul Idham Pawi proved his prowess again in wet conditions, this time without the anxiety level his team seemed to reach while performing his wet weather tricks back in Argentina. Two wet races, two incredible wins for the 17 year old Malaysian!
In Moto2 it was a battle between gentlemen for the win, Jonas Folger slid under leader Johann Zarco at the last corner only for Zarco to keep his cool and find the line [and the drive that goes with it] to pip the German at the flag 50 metres later. More misery for the locals. These two will be MotoGP team mates at Tech 3 Yamaha next year.
MotoGP was about strategy as the rain moved away and a feint drying line began to appear. The 30 lap race was started on wet tyres but it was all about what the teams and their riders had pre arranged for the inevitable bike swap, and with very little knowledge of how the new Michelins would react in these conditions it was plain guesswork. Back at Misano last year, in similar conditions, Honda had not been perfect in their strategy, even with the vast databank gleaned over years of using Bridgestones, but Yamaha proved that they were worse! This year in Sachsenring, and with Jorge Lorenzo having another bad day in the rain, it was up to Valentino Rossi to cover off any Marc Marquez and Honda initiative. He didn't. When Marquez came in ludicrously early to change straight to slicks, Vale just kept circulating past a pleading Yamaha pit board. He could not have known that Marquez was now SEVEN seconds a lap quicker than he and the bunch around him were acheiving, and by the time he realised it was too late.
Cal Crutchlow stormed through on his second bike shod with slicks to a fine second place, while fellow Briton Scott Redding had opted for intermediates at his changeover, it almost worked for Scotty but he slipped to fourth in the closing stage of the race as Andrea Dovizioso recovered on slick tyres to take the final podium place.
Round 10 is in Austria, at the revamped Zeltweg, Osterriechring, A1 Ring, now Red Bull Ring and despite most teams having tested there it is sure to be a real challenge. Particularly if the weather intervenes again... it's very green there too!
The prayers of 3 new Grand Prix winners are answered at The Cathedral
With the weather forecast for the Drenthe region of northern Holland predicted to be as unpredictable as usual, round 8 of the motorcycle Grand Prix at Assen was expected to throw up yet more surprises in it's illustrious history. The Dutch TT at Assen, known as The Cathedral of motorcycle road racing, is the longest running and most revered Grand Prix of the year, it is also the biggest sporting event in Holland. The venue has so often given fans something special but this year was out of this world.
In Moto 3, on the unfavoured Mahindra factory machine, after an incredible last 4 corners and with a well judged charge to the finish line, Pecco Bagnaia took his and Mahindra's first ever GP win from Andrea Migno and Fabio Di Gianantonio. But, after Race Direction revued the shananigans at turn 15, they switched Di Gianantonio and Migno before they climbed the stairs to the podium.
Moto 2 was a slightly more subdued affair with Takaaki Nakagami showing his class, completing his dream outcome with his first ever GP win by nearly 2.5 seconds from world champion and series leader Johann Zarco.
But it's in MotoGP where real Grand Prix fairytales are made. Assen has traditionally been a place where anything can seemingly happen, usually because the weather intervenes to upset normality. This year, the 250th MotoGP was started for the first time on a Sunday at Assen and, in his 150th MotoGP, Andrea Doviziso had put his Ducati on Pole Position. The rain, of course, fell just before the end of the Moto 2 race and meant that the MotoGP race would start in very damp conditions. Then things really took a turn for the worse as the rain hammered down again and brought out the red flag for safety reasons. So, as it had been flagged off before 2/3rds of the race had been completed we were due for a 12 lap sprint for honours from grid positions determined by rider positions at the end of lap 14 of the red flagged race. The 105,000 fans plus everyone on the paddock side of the fence wondered if the weather would eventually let the race be completed or, if not, if half points would have to be be awarded to the finishers of part one as per the rules? But, in true Assen style, the rain stopped, the track was wet but clear and the teams lined up for what was to be a historic completion to the 2016 Dutch TT. With the likes of Valentino Rossi crashing out, Jack 'Jackass' Miller outclassed Marc Marquez to win his first ever MotoGP and Britain's Scott Redding rode exceptionally to third place for his second MotoGP career podium. To underline the enormity of the achievement and the difficulty of track conditions this year; every MotoGP rider crashed at least once over the 3 day event. Ouch! We're off to join Jackass for beer and then take a long long lay down. What a weekend in Holland!! See you in Germany in two weeks.
The race to be MotoGP champion hots up at round seven!
On a weekend that broke the hearts of everyone in the paddock and the wider 'racing family', (see left), Valentino Rossi gave his fans something to cheer with a race win, but more importantly, as far as our sport is concerned, Rossi and runner-up Marc Marquez shook hands in Parc Ferme in front of a world-wide audience! The feud that started last year in Phillip Island and burst into flames in Sepang appears to be finally over. For now? But on a day dedicated to the memory of Luis Salom it seemed a fitting finale to an emotional Grand Prix. RIP Luis.
Unfortunately there will still be a major issue to deal with after Ducati's Andrea Iannone once again made a stupid mistake, this time taking out the world champion and 2016 championship leader Jorge Lorenzo at turn 10. It was another classic cock-up by the talented Italian but one that will inevitably cost him dearly by the time we reach Assen, Race Direction will rule on the exact penalty to be metered out but for some it may not be hard enough. But one thing is known as we leave a packed and scorching Circuit de Catalunya, Iannone's actions have helped bring Rossi back into play for that elusive tenth world title!!
UPDATE: Andrea Iannone #29 will be forced to start from the back of the grid at Assen for MotoGP round 8 on 26th Ju
Mugello magic ramps the drama to feverpitch for the Italian Grand Prix!
Every year we look forward to arriving in Florence for the short drive up through the Tuscan hills to Mugello. It is a magic place where the atmosphere on race day is unequalled anywhere in the world. But day one was hampered by overnight rain, cold weather and a damp track for the first free practice sessions on Friday. By Saturday the sun had come out, the hills filled with thousands of fans and... Valentino Rossi found incredible pace to set Pole Position for Yamaha.
Race day, sun up, and so were we as the hordes decended on the tiny access roads to this fantastic arena. A record crowd had crammed every vantage point around the famed 3.2 mile Ferrari owned tarmac. Over 100,000 people officially but I bet there were more! Anticipation was as tasty as the smouldering bonfires of the night before!
Moto3 showcased a new Italian star. A 17 year old rookie, yet to score his first series point, had everyone on their feet. Now we are all practicing how to pronounce, Fabio Di Giannantonio! But it was Brad Binder who just can't stop winning, Di Giannantonio was second with Francesco Bagnaia Mahindra's hero once again in third.
With Sam Lowes on Pole Position for Moto2 the Brits were looking forward to a great race, and that is how it started until Xavi Vierge's machine speared into an air-fence bringing out a red flag so that the safety crew could replace it. Race Direction implemented the Fast Restart procedure, that proved to be anything but! Some big names never made it onto the sighting lap in time and were dragged off the reformed grid to start from pit lane. Cue a massive row! Eventually, after further delays a ten lap race got underway. Johann Zarco's preferred soft option Dunlop suited a shorter race and he took the win from Lorenzo Baldassarri and a tyred out Sam Lowes! Lowes had loved the harder option tyre, didn't want to switch to a soft, but only had a worn version of his favourite rubber.
Then it was the turn of the MotoGP stars. With 10s of thosands of fans singing the Italian National Anthem as the bikes waited on the grid it was lump in your throat stuff. It was also the kind of atmosphere that you either rose to or failed in front of! The great Rossi got the start he had practiced for so diligently on day one and it was his team mate, Lorenzo, who followed him down to San Donato on lap one. But like Lorenzo's machine in warm-up Rossi's M1 Yamaha eventually blew up in a smoke screen of disappointment. Utter devastation for the Tifosi and a blow to Rossi's bid for that elusive tenth world title. But that was not the end of a fantastic battle for honours as Marc Marquez fought tooth and nail in a final lap dust-up with race leader Lorenzo. Marquez scrabbled his awkward Honda onto the final half mile stretch to the flag only to be pipped by Lorenzo's Yamaha after an immaculate last turn offered extra momentum to pass the Honda virtually on the finish line! And while all that was going on at the front, Andrea Iannone broke the MotoGP top speed record to blast his way through to third place. The new record is now 220.52mph! Lorenzo has now extended his lead to ten points over Marquez as we head to Catalunya for round seven of the 18 round MotoGP year.
Join us if you can for the next unmissable round. Cheers!
All the best