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MotoGP Misano: A Marquez Masterpiece




The San Marino Grand Prix at Misano turned out to be another Marc Marquez masterpiece; he didn’t start from pole, he didn’t lead the majority of the race, but in his own words it was “one of the best races of my career”.

Will it go down as a must-see race of 2017? Maybe not, it was a wet race with 3 changes at the front and with most action coming from the gravel as the riders negotiated a circuit with a surface like an ice-rink. But when the 2017 MotoGP World Champion is crowned in Valencia will you remember it? Absolutely.

It was Jorge Lorenzo that led into turn 1 and he soon opened up a gap, this was the Jorge we’re used to seeing and he was flying at the front. Unfortunately, that lead only lasted for 7 laps before he was literally flying after a nasty highside left him sliding into the gravel at turn 6. While Lorenzo has been looking more and more comfortable on the Ducati in recent weeks, it was the Desmo’s still unfamiliar electronics that proved to be the problem.

When you’ve been with the same bike for a while you know where everything is, there’s no conscious thought process of “where is that button?”. A non-racing thing that’s similar would be when you turn your oven off without actually being aware that you have, it’s just there in your brain. But when it doesn’t come naturally to you yet, mistakes can be made. Jorge just lost concentration for a split second while changing engine mapping, while doing so he used the rear brake slightly differently to how he normally would and then he was off.

It was a shame for Lorenzo, he’d been riding brilliantly out front with a lead of over 3 seconds. But while the result is disappointing for the Spaniard, he won’t be too upset because he felt that he had a real chance to win the race and that’s exactly where he wants to be.

Lorenzo’s loss was Petrucci’s profit, he’d passed both Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Marquez to take second, which then suddenly became first. Petrucci looked incredible out front, he wasn’t pushing 100% (although he kept trying) because he “wanted to stay up” but he was controlling his pace and riding well. Danilo had come to Misano still recovering from a bit of flu but was quickest on Friday when the track lacked grip after drying from the rain. 2 laps to go and Petrucci wanted to give it a final push with Marquez right on his rear wheel. But on the last lap at turn 1, Marc put in the perfect pass to take the lead and with it, Danilo’s hopes of a win at home.

While Petrucci was obviously disappointed to miss out on another win, after also coming close in Assen where he was beaten by Valentino Rossi, as always he was humble and realistic saying of Marquez “he was stronger.. I have no regret”. After just over 20 laps of leading, Danilo had put everything he had into the race and a second place is another really good result from the Italian, giving him his third podium of 2017.

But there’s only one lap when leading matters and that’s the last one. Marc Marquez had been in second from the start, before Petrucci passed him on lap 6, after Lorenzo’s crash he found himself back in second and rode a sensible race just managing the pace. He did, however, completely confuse everyone early on when he decided to wave his foot at his team as he went down the start/finish straight, the universal sign of “I’m coming in”. But it was still very wet, he wasn’t having any visible issues, so what was he doing? Even Petrucci who was behind him at the time said that he hoped Marquez was going to pit, knowing it wasn’t dry enough to do so.

As it turned out, it was just another example of how well the Repsol Honda team work on their strategy. Instead of meaning that he was coming in, they’d decided that he would let them know if he thought there was any chance that the track might dry enough for slicks before the end. It didn’t, but if it had, then his second bike was ready to go.

Marc Marquez often looks like he’s riding over the limit, he puts the bike in places it traditionally shouldn’t go and I’m not sure his wheels are ever inline, but in reality, he knows where the limit is because he’s already found it in practice. “I crash because I’m pushing.. I’m there because I believe.. it’s my style.. it’s given me 5 championships.” The morning warmup had been wet and after pushing hard he hit the floor, it was unsurprising but important, now he knew where the limit was and he said after the race that he’d been glad that he had crashed so that he didn’t when it really mattered.

With the championship so tight you’d forgive him for thinking of the points and not wanting to risk another gravel bath, but that was just “one moment” according to him before he decided that 5 extra points were worth it, because at the end of the season 5 points can be a lot. So he pushed and with two laps to go he was right with Petrucci, 1 lap later he passed him at the first corner, there was no response to the overtake (although Petrucci tried) and after putting in the fastest lap of the race on the very last lap, Marc Marquez crossed the line just over a second clear.

If you want to see just how important this race was, watch how Marquez celebrated in Parc Ferme with his team. This wasn’t a race where he disappeared after the first lap or one where it was filled with overtakes and battles, it was a thinking race despite the risks he took at the end. Second was the perfect position for 20 laps, he wasn’t under pressure from behind, he didn’t need to push to stay with Petrucci out front, it was manageable and he controlled it perfectly. One of the best races of his career? He thinks so, and I’m inclined to agree.

Another “thinking race” came from Andrea Dovizioso who finished third after a largely uneventful 28 laps. He was third after the first corner, and apart from a couple of laps where between Petrucci passing him and Lorenzo crashing out, third was where he stayed. Dovi didn’t have the perfect feeling with the bike in the tricky conditions so decided to play it slightly safer and think of the points. A podium at home in Italy is always nice and the weekend overall was a good one, they confirmed their competitiveness at another track that has been tricky for Ducati in the past and their pace was strong.

Dovizioso and Marquez are now equal on points in the championship, with both having 199. The last time the lead was equal after 13 races? I have no idea so I’ll tell you before Aragon, but it wasn’t anytime recently. They’re also tied on wins, meaning the count-back goes to second places where Marquez has 3 to Dovi’s 1. For the last 5 races, we’re no wiser than we were at Qatar, so press your reset button because with Maverick Vinales just 16 points behind it’s going to be a crazy couple of months.

Speaking of Vinales, it was a good weekend for the sole Yamaha rider in Misano. He found a good rhythm on Friday with the 2018 prototype chassis helping in corner entry thanks to its slightly stiffer makeup that loads the rear differently (also good for tyre wear), before taking pole position in qualifying. He didn’t have the best start, dropping 3 positions early on, but after dropping back to 7th he recovered to 4th by the last lap despite struggling with rear grip, particularly on the left side of the tyre. It was definitely an improvement on the wet race in Sachsenring and he was happy saying “it’s the best we could do.. we asked 100% of the bike”. In the dry, the feeling was getting better and his confidence is returning so he should have a strong end to the season.

Further back, Michele Pirro again showed that he’s worth his weight in gold to Ducati with a strong 5th place, his main problem was a lack of pace at the start of the race, but the extra data will undoubtedly come in handy, especially as Lorenzo crashed early on. The next Ducati was Scott Redding in 7th, who had a difficult weekend after struggling with front feel and confidence but had a great comeback from 19th on the grid and showed good pace and avoided making mistakes.

The other satellite Ducati’s had a slightly more problematic race with Alvaro Bautista (12th) struggling with grip, saying it was like riding on ice and that “when I came into a corner I didn’t know if I’d get out of it”, while Karel Abraham (17th) crashed on the first lap before rejoining, explaining the crash as “it felt like somebody kicked me from behind..I lost the bike immediately”. Loris Baz didn’t have the same rear feel that he’d found in warmup but had good front confidence and despite crashing twice he finished 16th. While team-mate Hector Barbera crashed out on lap 12 after pushing a little bit too hard.

Repsol Honda might have won the race with Marc Marquez, but the other side of the garage had a much harder time in Misano. Dani Pedrosa finished 14th, after qualifying 7th, due to a difficult race where he simply couldn’t get the tyres up to the temperature needed to work. Dani is a smooth rider and a light one, so he simply doesn’t have the force needed to heat the rubber up to its working temperature. He’d been struggling to find a good feeling all weekend, but the wet weather was just the final problem. When he did get some warmth into the tyres towards the end of the race he managed to drop his laptimes by 4 seconds, putting him at around the same pace as those in 7th or 8th. Aragon is next and Dani can get feisty there, so hopefully, it’ll be a good race for the Spaniard.

Jack Miller came home as top satellite Honda in 6th, he thought it could’ve potentially been better but he swapped his mapping a little too late to save the rear tyre and lost drive grip. His Marc VDS team-mate Tito Rabat ended his race in the gravel on lap 21 after the rear slid out on him, while Cal Crutchlow recovered from a crash on lap 7 to finish 13th despite his “handlebar touching the tank and no footrest”. I’m not entirely sure why he was allowed to restart if that was the case, but he had a decent weekend despite the inconvenience of having his finger in a splint after severing the tendon.

The KTM duo of Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith both had a great race, finishing in 11th and 10th respectively. It wasn’t the easiest weekend for the Austrian team, Pol struggled with feeling throughout and lacked grip in the race, while Bradley had to negotiate the tricky spray at the start. But both stayed on and rode well, another sign of the progress the team is making.

While the race was good for KTM, it was the opposite for Aprilia who had a double DNF. Aleix Espargaro had an issue with his front tyre before crashing out, leaving him disappointed but ready to come back in Aragon, while Sam Lowes crashed after losing some front confidence as the track dried slightly.

For Suzuki, it was slightly more mixed with Alex Rins having a fantastic race to finish 8th, a great job by the rookie who worked his way up through the group from 20th, while Andrea Iannone retired on lap 18 after having armpump issues caused by his rainsuit apparently being too tight and restricting blood flow. Andrea had struggled all weekend, unable to find the right feeling and saying on Saturday “I don’t know what’s happening” despite there being some improvements with the modified chassis he was running.

The Tech 3 Yamaha team didn’t have the best race either, with Jonas Folger struggling with turning and rear grip at the end, after making a setup mistake, but while he wasn’t happy with the weekend overall he did his best in the race and 9th isn’t a terrible result. For team-mate Johann Zarco, it turned out to be slightly harder work than he’d bargained for as he ran out of fuel at turn 11 on the last lap and had to push his bike to the line (not an easy thing to do!). The Frenchman took the chequered flag in 15th position for 1 point, but deserves a trophy for sheer determination.

Raceday at Misano was all about staying on. In Moto3 there were only 15 finishers, which improved slightly for Moto2 who had 16 and then got one better for MotoGP with 17. With Sunday seeing 80 crashes across the 3 classes and Misano having 140 across the weekend (the highest of any race since 2011, previously Misano 2014 with 109) a special “thank you” has to go to the marshals who did a fantastic job despite it seeming like a never-ending list of who had crashed.

And then as a final note, the people who don’t get a round of applause. If you cheer when a rider crashes you are not welcome in this sport. If you boo when a rider is on the podium then you are not a fan of MotoGP because you clearly don’t understand. If your reason for not liking Marc Marquez or Jorge Lorenzo has anything to do with 2015 then lock yourself in a cupboard until you find some common sense. It’s not the first time, it probably won’t be the last but enough is enough. Two days after losing Luis Salom last year, Valentino and Marc shook hands. That was your cue to move on, get over it, put it behind you because there are more important things in life. So the next time a rider crashes, just use your energy to hope that they’re ok. When they’re on the podium, just be polite and applaud because you couldn’t do it. And at a circuit named after Marco Simoncelli and where Shoya Tomizawa lost his life, show some damn respect.

In two weeks it’s Aragon, but until then be like Marc Marquez and fight back with a kiss.

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One Year On: Remembering Nicky Hayden




The news that Nicky Hayden passed away was devastating to the whole of the motorsport family.

This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.

Nicky was a champion to his core; from the way he raced to his fierce devotion to his family and the way he made time for everyone. He fought for every single position on every lap of every race and never once gave up. He was firm, leaving no room for doubt on track, but he was always fair and he was one of the hardest workers you’ll ever know, even in a world that includes nothing but riders who push themselves to the limit constantly.

In every way, Nicky was a shining star; images of his tear-stained face when he won his championship in 2006 will forever be ingrained in the collective MotoGP memory, his joy was so tangible that you could have wrapped yourself up in it. And that was Nicky, always inclusive. Whether it was a quick-witted remark in that wonderful Kentucky drawl that we’ll miss so much, his easy manner that made him a friend of everyone who knew him or the way he never turned someone away when they wanted a photo or an autograph. Nicky came from a racing family and he became an integral part of an even larger one.

Losing anyone is always heartbreaking but the loss of a rider when they were out training, doing something as everyday as cycling, makes Nicky’s death at just 35 years old even harder to comprehend.

Nicky holds a place in the MotoGP Hall of Fame, his status as a Legend firmly cemented long before he left for World Superbikes. But he holds something even more valuable; a spot in the collective heart of the entire motorcycle racing family.

His accent will forever raise a smile, at least for me, and his own superstar grin will now bring with it an indescribable sadness. But remember Nicky as he would’ve wanted; that fierce big-hearted champion who pushed himself and everyone around him to be their very best and as that young man who brought so much joy and who left us far too soon.

My thoughts are, of course, with all of the Hayden family, Nicky’s fiancee Jackie, his friends and his teams both past and present.

Now, I’m going to wipe away the tears and watch Valencia 2006 again. I hope you join me to remember Nicky Hayden; a champion, a gentleman and a star that can never truly be extinguished.

This article first appeared on Motofire on May 22nd 2017. We’ve republished it here today to commemorate the anniversary of Nicky Hayden’s passing.

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MotoGP Le Mans: Marquez destroys the competition, but is he destroying the sport?




Saturday at the French Grand Prix saw the excitement of the home fans ramped up to fever pitch; Johann Zarco had hit the first milestone of a perfect home Grand Prix by qualifying on pole.

As a French rider with a French team, wearing French leathers and helmet and riding on French tyres, pole position at the French Grand Prix seemed to be written in the stars. It was race number 5 and so is he.

La Marseillaise echoed around the Le Mans Bugatti Grand Prix race circuit as the riders sat on the grid, but would we be hearing it again at the end of 27 laps and would we see the return of the flipping Frenchman to the top step?

The short answer is no.

In sunny Le Mans, where we lay our scene (that’s the only Shakespeare reference I promise), the excitement level of the record number of fans packed into the grandstands was as high as the track temperature (44 degrees).

When the lights went out, things had immediately not gone to plan for Zarco as he essentially went backwards as those around him got better launches off the line. Jorge Lorenzo tore off like a demon from 6th and led into the long sweep of turns 1 and 2. Zarco then made an incredible move on the brakes into turn 3 as he moved up the inside of multiple riders and sat up Marc Marquez before slotting into 2nd, while the World Champion was left unsettled by the move and dropped back a couple of places.

It was a crash-heavy weekend in France, with 109 over the 3 days and 28 on race day across the classes, something largely attributed to the high level of grip from the surface; great when it’s there but when it goes it disappears suddenly. The first in MotoGP came just 6 corners in when Andrea Iannone slid out of the race as the rear of his Suzuki came around on him.

“A win without risk, is a triumph without glory”

Over the line to start the second lap and Lorenzo led from Zarco and Dovizioso, with Petrucci, Marquez and Rossi not far behind. The other Yamaha of Vinales was back in 11th, while both Alex Rins and Pol Espargaro had made good progress on lap 1 and had each moved up 7 places to 8th and 11th respectively.

Back at the front and Zarco was chasing down Lorenzo and his hopes of home glory, but was visibly getting out of shape, unsurprising considering that he often struggles with a full fuel tank. The next two crashes of the race came in quick succession with Alvaro Bautista falling at turn 6 and Tito Rabat crashing out at turn 8.

Lap 3 and Zarco ran wide at La Chapelle (turn 6) which gave Dovizioso an opportunity he wasn’t going to ignore as the Italian moved through into second behind his team-mate. Dovi then spent a lap chasing down Lorenzo, before getting close enough to make his move on lap 5.

Dovi took the inside line at turn 3 and took the lead, but it was one that was destined to end almost as soon as it began. Coming into turn 6, Dovi was just a little wide and had a slight bobble. It may have been minor but it was enough to disrupt the contact between tyre and asphalt, and before he knew what was happening Dovizioso was sitting in the gravel at La Chapelle looking completely baffled.

Lorenzo found himself in the lead once more ahead of Zarco and Marquez, while behind them the second group of Petrucci, Rossi and Miller were closing the gap to the front.

On lap 7 at the ‘S’ Bleus, Marquez made his move on Zarco, with an inch-perfect pass up the inside in the change of direction. He wasn’t able to keep 2nd for long though as at turn 3 on the next lap, Zarco again passed the Championship leader up the inside, although slightly less aggressively this time.

5 corners later at Garage Vert, Zarco hit the floor and in turn blew Marquez’s championship hunt wide open. Zarco had come into turn 8 just a little hot and wide and simply lost the front.

There would be no French winner at Le Mans in 2018 and the fans who have taken Zarco to their heart were understandably devastated. But there’s a French proverb that says “A vaincre sans peril, on triomphe sans gloire”, which basically means that a win without risk, is a triumph without glory. Zarco had to go for the glory on Sunday. This wasn’t about the championship, it was all about winning at home. Unfortunately, the risk didn’t pay off.

As Zarco arrived back at his box with his damaged Yamaha M1, Dovizioso was sitting in the Ducati garage with his head in his hands. Both had the chance of fighting for a win at Le Mans, both had pushed too soon and paid the price.

Back on track, Marquez took the lead from Lorenzo on lap 10 at La Chapelle, with a hard, but ultimately fair, move up the inside. Lorenzo then dropped back to 3rd one lap later as Petrucci passed him at the Musee corner at turn 7. Scott Redding crashed out moments later at the same corner, marking another difficult weekend for the British rider.

Lap 13 and this time it was Valentino Rossi passing Lorenzo with a perfect move up the inside of Garage Vert that left no room for retaliation. It continued to get worse for Jorge as on the next lap he was also passed by Jack Miller, dropping the factory Ducati rider back to 5th.

Out front, Marquez lost the front at turn 3 but was able to save it on his elbow. Something he attributed to his crash at the same corner in FP3 saying that it had meant he’d entered that corner “always careful” and that he’d kept his body stiff and used his elbow “like a stick”.

Behind him, Petrucci had also seen the incident, saying “I saw Marc lose the front and I say oh, maybe he’s in trouble. He was so in trouble that the lap later he did his best lap! He is incredible”.

And Petrux was right. The lap after that mistake at turn 3, Marc put in the fastest lap of the race and increased his gap back to Petrucci by almost half a second.

Further back, there was a battle of the rookies as Morbidelli and Syahrin fought it out for 12th place, while Cal Crutchlow was putting in the ride of a warrior as he passed Pol Espargaro for 10th on lap 19.

From this point, everything stayed pretty calm, or as calm as it gets in MotoGP when riders are racing around at over 300km/h on used tyres. Marquez continued showing terrifying consistency out front, Vinales made it up to 7th after passing Aleix Espargaro and Rins, and Dani Pedrosa took 5th from Lorenzo with a lovely pass at turn 8.

Jack Miller found a bit of late pace and tried to close in on Rossi, but was unable to make any meaningful progress on the Italian, while Crutchlow was able to make it pass Aleix and Rins for 8th in the late stages.

On the last lap, Marc Marquez looked back over his shoulder as he came out of turn 10 and unsurprisingly found no-one there as he now had a 2.3 second lead over Petrucci, while Rossi was a further 3 seconds behind.

As the current World Champion and championship leader wheelied over the line to take his first 3 in-a-row since 2014, he cemented his lead in the standings and gave the RC213V a well deserved “good job” rub.

On his 95th MotoGP start, Marc Marque took his 64th Grand Prix victory and equalled Casey Stoner on premier class wins with 38. It was also his 106th Grand Prix podium, his 67th in MotoGP and he now leads the championship by 36 points.

In recent years the Honda has struggled at Le Mans, and this time last year Marc was so unhappy that he told his team that he wasn’t enjoying racing. This year the work that Honda has done, particularly on acceleration, paid dividends and the thing that should scare the other riders on the MotoGP grid is when Marc says he’s in a “very sweet period with my bike”.

He was the only rider to run the hard rear tyre, with everyone else choosing the soft compound, and after running it in morning warmup he knew it would take a few laps before it was ready to push, so he stayed patient. He didn’t panic, he didn’t try to make moves his tyre wasn’t ready for and when he did hit the front, he left everyone else behind.

Following Marquez to the chequered flag in second was Danilo Petrucci who had a good weekend in Le Mans and took his 6th podium in MotoGP. Qualifying on the front row was crucial as the Italian tends to struggle with his starts but he kept a strong, consistent pace and now heads to his home race in Mugello on good form.

Jorge Lorenzo is still finding the Ducati too tiring to ride

Completing the podium in third was Valentino Rossi, which for the home fans seemed to make up, at least slightly, for the fact that Zarco crashed out. After qualifying 9th, Rossi had set his sights on the top 5 and wasn’t overly optimistic as the Yamaha team continue to struggle technically. But they made some changes to setup that gave Valentino a little more grip and improved acceleration. Paired with a decent start, he was able to maintain a good pace throughout the race and it’s an important podium at a difficult time. And just because the numbers never stop being impressive, it was Rossi’s 229th Grand Prix podium and his 193rd in the premier class, on his 370th Grand Prix start.

Around a second behind Rossi came Jack Miller, who had a strong race and was able to stay close to the front group consistently. He was a little disappointed not to be able to get closer to Rossi but 4th is an excellent result for the Australian and with Petrucci on the podium, it was a great weekend for the Pramac team.

5th went to Dani Pedrosa, who finished 7.4 seconds behind his victorious team-mate. It had been a difficult weekend for the Spaniard, especially as he continued to struggle physically after his huge crash at Jerez that left him with a lot of pain and swelling in his hip. While his pace wasn’t the quickest, he stayed consistent and was able to improve his setup over the 3 days.

After a demon start, it was the Desmo that ultimately held Jorge Lorenzo back as he crossed the line in 6th. Jorge is still finding the Ducati too tiring to ride and expressed the need for more support from the fuel tank, especially in the braking zone. He’s able to go fast at the start of the race, despite that being when the bike is at it’s heaviest, but as the physicality of riding the GP18 drains his energy he’s unable to keep the pace and drops back. If you have any doubts just how difficult gripping onto a MotoGP bike for 45 minutes at over 300km/h can be, squeeze a beachball as hard as you can between your thighs for an hour and you’ll still be nowhere near understanding.

23 seconds behind Marquez and 13 behind Lorenzo was Maverick Vinales in a lonely 7th place. He was more than understating when he said it was “not the race I hoped for” and other than the technical struggles he said that it had just taken too long for him to pass riders in the earlier stages of the race and then just couldn’t close the gap once he’d made into 7th despite pushing at the limit. From a dominant 2017 race when no-one could touch the factory duo (until VR fell off) to finishing 23 seconds behind the winner, the higher temperatures at Le Mans this weekend stopped Vinales’ hopes of taking advantage of a track that normally suits the Yamaha.

8th went to Cal Crutchlow, who only left the hospital on Sunday morning after his horrendous highside in qualifying. After a night at the Centre Hospitalier du Mans where he was kept under observation and put through multiple tests during the night, with some concern over internal injuries, as well as a contusion to his pelvis and hip area, he was passed fit by the circuit medical team (although whether you should be able to ride after spending the night in the hospital is possibly debatable) and started from his qualifying position of 13th. The British rider had remained cautious at the start of the race in an attempt to avoid further crashes and after a brave ride thanked his team for giving him a great bike that he, unfortunately, couldn’t take full advantage of.

Aleix Espargaro achieved his initial target of seeing the chequered flag as the Aprilia rider crossed the line in 9th. Aleix had lost time and positions at the first chicane and had to push hard to recover but was held back by a large amount of front chatter. Despite that, he was able to keep a decent pace and really just finishing was the important thing. For his Aprilia team-mate Scott Redding it was another weekend to forget as he crashed out after struggling with his front tyre. Had Redding seen the flag he would’ve been given a 1.9-second penalty for taking a shortcut, but despite feeling “ok” with the bike during the race, he still hasn’t found the setup and feel he’s looking for from the RS-GP.

Alex Rins rounded out the top 10 after a tricky weekend that saw the Suzuki rider trying to find the right balance during the race. 10th is a decent result, especially following his 3 DNFs so far this year and we’ll soon be back at tracks he’s ridden on the MotoGP bike so should hopefully see some improvements, because he has the pace. Continuing the trend of only one Suzuki seeing the flag was Iannone as he followed his back-to-back podiums in Austin and Jerez with a DNF. Andrea was unsure why he crashed, just saying that he lost the rear but it’s possible he just pushed too hard too soon, a shame considering the good pace he’d shown.

11th went to the first of the KTMs and Pol Espargaro. It had been a decent start for Pol who made up a lot of positions early on but he lost touch with the group and couldn’t make further progress. Despite finishing 32 seconds behind Marquez, Pol was upbeat that they’d finished “almost 20 seconds faster than we were last year”. Bradley Smith had brought the second Austrian machine home in 14th and was happy with his race despite losing quite a bit of time fighting for position at the start.

Hafizh Syahrin won the battle of the rookies for 12th despite having a bad start and getting stuck in the group. He found a good pace, regained some of his confidence after some big crashes and again learnt a lot. It was a good race from the Tech 3 rider.. and that’s more than can be said for his team-mate.

Johann Zarco takes home 0 points from his home race after having a bad start but recovering in the chicane, before entering turn 8 a little fast on lap 8 and losing the front. The French rider had felt good on the bike but with a still reasonably full fuel tank and the medium front tyre he just pushed too much too soon. Despite his anguish at throwing away at least a podium, he was able to look at the positives that he’ll be able to “take home very nice memories with the pole position” and he got a lot of love from the French fans and those moments are ones he won’t forget any time soon.

Franco Morbidelli crossed the line in 13th after an ok race that saw him eventually have to slow down because of the rear tyre, while his Marc VDS team-mate Tom Luthi finished in 16th after losing time at the start and not having the best front feel before improving slightly towards the end.

The final point went to Takaaki Nakagami in 15th who despite being injured after a crash earlier in the weekend felt ok and had a better feel with his bike than he’d experienced back in Jerez. After 15 laps Taka struggled with the front tyre but it was an important point for the rookie.

Number 17 Karel Abraham finished in 17th (I like a bit of symmetry) after a hard weekend and simply said: “I’m doing my best and it seems, for now, it’s not enough”. While the second Angel Nieto bike of Alvaro Bautista ended it’s race early on in the gravel after Bautista lost both the front and rear at the same time. Alvaro said that he’d felt comfortable on the bike and thought he could’ve fought for the top 10 if he hadn’t crashed out.

Unless Marquez has a disaster couple of races and someone else has an overnight revelation, they should be afraid, very afraid

The final finisher in 18th was Xavier Simeon who struggled in the race and had a lot of pain in his right arm during the 27 laps. Despite that, he was happy to have found a good setup in the warmup which he hopes will prove useful in the next races. Team-mate Tito Rabat crashed out after using a different line into the corner to defend his position, which caused him to lose the front and summed it up simply by saying “I screwed up”. Aside from the result, there were some promising moments from Tito during the weekend.

Then there’s Dovizioso, who was as disappointed with himself as he was confused about the crash when it happened. Andrea simply went wide, got a little unstable and lost the front, an easy mistake to make but one that Dovi branded “unacceptable”, particularly considering his title aspirations. Dovi showed some of the best pace over the weekend and was expected to be Marquez’s closest rival on Sunday but after a DNF in Le Mans and his DNF in Jerez, things aren’t looking so pretty despite his obvious pace and ability.

The championship is still a pretty tight fight, but only if you ignore Marc Marquez. He is 36 points clear of Maverick Vinales in second, who has that position less because of performance and more because he hasn’t crashed out of a race so far this year (to finish first, first you must finish). One point back is Zarco, with Rossi a further 2 behind and in turn 2 ahead of Petrucci. From 2nd to 9th the riders are split by just 13 points, with Pedrosa in 10th 17 points behind Dovizioso who’s in joint 9th place with Crutchlow and 49 points behind Marc.

If the rest of the field weren’t already feeling that Marquez was uncatchable; after 3 wins in-a-row and after showing almost unmatchable pace and with a huge championship lead, they probably do now. Unless Marquez has a disaster couple of races and someone else has an overnight revelation, they should be afraid, very afraid. Destroying the sport? Don’t be ridiculous. Destroying the competition? Absolutely.

And just because the message still isn’t getting through the incredibly thick skulls of some spectators (not fans) I’ll say it again.. your booing and jeers are as unwelcome as they are ineffective. You’re not bothering him, you’re just pissing the rest of us off. He’s not slowing down and regardless of which rider you support he’s beating them. If you can’t be nice, be quiet. After all, even Valentino applauded him on the podium.

But as marvellous as Marquez was, he’s not my rider of the weekend. That goes indisputably to Jakub Kornfeil. In the Moto3 race as the riders came around to start the last lap, Enea Bastianini crashed and Kornfeil found himself faced with the belly-pan of a Leopard Honda. Now normally in this situation, if you can’t avoid it you hit it and pray for the best. But not this time. Kornfeil did hit the Honda, but rather than it catapulting him from his bike so that he could join Enea in the gravel, it acted as a ramp and he got some big, big air. That was the spectacular part for viewing, but the skill came next. As he landed in the gravel he bottomed out the suspension (which isn’t necessarily designed to take a Moto3 bike landing after going that high in the air) but rather than getting bogged down he took the racer route: if in doubt, gas and he was miraculously able to rejoin, albeit while seeming a bit awed at what had just happened. I’m not sure if we need to give him a showjumping rosette or a motocross trophy but he deserves something because I am still watching it and shaking my head.

There’s now 2 weeks until the next race, which is at one of my favourite places on Earth; the beautiful Mugello. But the work hasn’t stopped as both Moto2 and Moto3 have a 1-day test at Le Mans, while MotoGP head to Barcelona on Tuesday to try out the new surface before the race there next month.

And a final note to end on. The 22nd May, marks the 1 year anniversary since Nicky Hayden sadly passed away following a cycling accident. The Kentucky Kid is still universally missed so keep him and the wonderful Hayden family in your thoughts tomorrow.

Let’s get it.

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