The Townsville 400 (Races 17 and 18)
Townsville. it’s a place.
Saturday (Race 17)
Dave Reynolds has been building nicely with multiple podiums at Winton and Hidden Valley, and he kept that momentum going by claiming Pole Position from Chas Mostert and Scott McLaughlin, while Fabian Coulthard was a notable straggler, starting from 13th.
The first half of the race was highlighted by some exciting action up front- Reynolds barely held off McLaughling and Mostert at the start, while slightly behind them, Shane Van Gisbergen and Jamie Whincup made contact, with Gizzy suffering a bent rim.
Scotty would eventually pass the Erebus and the Tickford to take the lead heading into the stops.
Red Bull pitted Whincup early to gain an undercut, which would pay huge dividends as he jumped McLaughlin and Reynolds to take the lead of the race.
After Whincup pitted first again during round two, Reynolds had his chances of a podium rooted during a botched stop on Lap 44, when the Erebus crew couldn’t attach the wheel nut on the left rear, which unfortunately wasn’t covered by fuel, leaving him idle for an eternity, and dropping him down to 13th (He would finish in 6th).
Erebus boss Barry Ryan looked like he was ready to issue a death threat to the crew on live TV, but instead made a veiled threat to replace them if they didn’t improve, something certain to raise morale at happy little Erebus.
Ultimately, McLaughlin on younger tyres would mow down Whincup, in one of the first genuine Ford vs Holden battles of the season, streaking clear for his 13th win of the season, his ‘suxth’ in a row, and his first win on the streets of Townsville, ahead of a much improved Whincup in 2nd, and Mostert in 3rd, after an epic pass on Will Davison that nearly saw Chaz smack the concrete wall and send Will firing left in the process.
One thing you’re going to hear throughout this summary- 120L fuel drop.
McLaughlin looked set to claim pole after setting a fastest time in Qualifying, but he couldn’t nail his Shootout lap, which led to Cam Waters claiming Pole Position by a mere 0.0159 from McLaughlin, with Reynolds looking for redemption in 3rd.
The start of the race was affected by a Townsville 400 first- Rain.
It only took a decade, but we got there.
If that wasn’t chaotic enough, in the run down to Turn 2, the race was blown wide open, when Reynolds made a “desperado” move up the inside of McLaughlin, but ultimately went in too fast with less room than he’d expected (Mark Skaife declared that Reynolds ‘Nostradamus’ed’ himself), and broke his left front steering arm and punctured McLaughlin’s rear right tyre, destroying Scotty’s chances of winning 7 in a row, and handing a massive free kick to Coulthard in the Championship, in what was also Fabian’s 400th career race!
The incident itself was declared a racing incident by the stewards, although it would be debated multiple times by both drivers (And Dave’s partner Tahan) after the race.
Mostert started superbly, claiming 10 spots in two laps, and the Mustangs were 1-2-3 until Lap 19, when Waters & Coulthard both stopped, a pit battle won by DJR-Penske, effectively giving Coulthard the lead.
Rain on a semi-street circuit typically means more carnage than Curtly Ambrose at the WACA, and it came in spades, starting on Lap 20, when Whincup slipped on the kerb at Turn 6, resulting in him spinning heavily into the wall and smashing the front and rear of the Red Bull, leading to a drop in oil pressure and causing a Safety Car when he stopped on the circuit- His first DNF in Townsville.
Which happened to coincide with the rain starting to teem, and also resulted in McLaughing dropping a lap when DJR put 100L in his car without changing to wets (Lord knows why) to hit his fuel dump, putting him back at the rear of the field yet again.
On Lap 30, Red Bull pulled Gizzy in for wet tyres and to hit his 120L fuel dump, and what a superb move that turned out to be, as the rain became even worse than before (Which Mark Larkham managed to predict), he went up to 3rd, but Erebus were even better, taking a punt on Anton de Pasquale going on to wets shortly before the rain pelted down, sending him rocketing up into the lead by 36 seconds at half-race distance, although he still had to come back in and fill up 24L for his fuel drop.
The bulk of the race was a battle of survival in the bordering on torrential rain- Drivers were hitting each other at will, namely Nick Percat hitting Waters at Turn 3 (Penalised 15 seconds), McLaughlin trying to claw back what he could, de Pasquale spinning and losing a huge chunk of his lead, and Mostert battling The Giz for what would effectively turn into the lead of the race, although Chaz was due for a splash and dash to hit his fuel dump.
With 5 laps to go, Gary Jacobson’s car caught fire (Possibly by plucking an oil line), and he was forced to park the car on the track, causing a safety car, which set off another insane situation.
Brad Jones Racing were engulfed in flames when the coupling feeding fuel into the car was punctured, spilling fuel out of the hose and sparking a fireball that engulfed their pit bay and the rear of Nick Percat’s car, obviously forcing him to retire from the race as the other pit crews turned firefighters and helped extinguish the blaze- Amazingly, Percat only stopped once he saw the red light at the end of the lane.
Thanks to some quick firefighting from Red Bull and DJR Penske, nobody was injured, and I suppose we can now join James Taylor in declaring that we’ve seen fire and rain.
It ended the race, giving The Giz his second win of the year, and the second for the Commodore, from Coulthard and Waters, with de Pasquale a decent 4th and Mostert 5th, while McLaughlin fought back to finish 11th, his Championship lead dropping to ‘only’ 292 points.
After the race, Giz made the funny observation, that in finishing behind the Safety Car, he’d once again crossed the line behind a Mustang.
So as a result of Scotty’s 13th win of the year, Ford are now one win away from claiming the Manufacturers title…
We haven’t even reached the Enduros.
MotoGP: The German GP at the Sachsenring
Off to the university city of Dresden and the Sachsenring, the last race before the month long Summer break, and of all the circuits Marc Marquez has taken a dump on his rivals at (Namely Austin) his yearly domination of the Sachsenring is incredible, having a winning streak stretching back to 2010, when he was in 125cc class.
And just to rub it in yet again, Marc managed to hit a record 66 degree angle cornering for Turn 3 during Friday practice… Jesus.
With Jorge Lorenzo in hospital back in Switzerland recovering from two fractured vertebrae, German test rider Stefan Bradl replaced him on the factory Honda for his home Grand Prix.
If having a right arm pump surgery wasn’t painful enough, Fabio Quartararo managed to have a tank slapper so big down at ‘The Waterfall’ during FP3, that he partially dislocated his left shoulder.
And keeping up the injuries, Cal Crutchlow fell off a bicycle on Thursday, managing to break the top of his right tibia and also snap his ACL.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Unsurprisingly, Marquez racked up his 10th consecutive Sachsenring pole, beating out a battered Quartararo and Maverick Vinales, and on the second row, it was a good qualifying performance from Jack to start from 5th, the best of the Ducatis!
Speaking of which, Qualifying was something of a disaster for the Bologna Bullets- Dani Petrucci had a bad fall at 200 km/h at Turn 9 and managed 12th, and Dovi didn’t even make Q2 to start from 13th, the second weekend in a row he’s started from outside the Top 10.
Going for La Decima at the Sachsenring, Marquez bogged it down slightly, but he managed to retake the lead with a last minute breaking move into Turn 1, Vinales jumped into 2nd, and Miller made a fantastic start to go to 3rd for a few corners, before Alex Rins took him at the final turn of Lap 1.
It was the start of a battle that went on for a few laps, and ultimately went the way of the Spaniard.
Unfortunately, Fabio Quartararo’s race was finished after just over a lap- Following a poor start, he carried too much lean angle at Turn 3 trying to pass Petrucci, and fell off, the first time he’s fallen in a race during his brief MotoGP career.
Whether or not he could’ve lasted until the end with his injuries, we’ll never know.
The impressive Crutchlow passed Miller for 4th, in a move that went slightly better than his passing attempt in Barcelona, which had the effect of leaving the three leading Ducatis together in 5th, 6th and 7th, after a doped up Petrucci and Dovi both once again had to recover points.
Rins fired his Suzuki up the inside of Vinales with 27 laps to go, and based on his pace, stood the only possible chance of stopping Marquez.
Which was between ‘zero’ to ‘no’ chance, with the way Marquez performed over the next 7 laps.
In 4th, Miller was starting to form a train behind him, still being chased by Dovi and Petrucci, plus Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi.
Crutchlow’s performance was a big shock, considering he was 17th in FP4, and hadn’t been in the Top 6 of a race since Qatar.
Jack’s Soft tyres were in slight trouble by half-race distance, and Petrucci caught him for 4th, and then Dovi caught him on the run down to Turn 1 of Lap 16, and he was eventually passed by the other Suzuki of Joan Mir to drop to 7th, with Morbidelli and Rossi breathing on him.
With 12 Laps to go, Rins was comfortably in 2nd and then, for the second week in a row…. he inexplicably crashed, losing the front going down Turn 11, destroying any chance he had of winning the World Championship in the span of seven days, by pissing away 45 points.
Mir started to fade with 6 laps to go, and Miller took him for 6th, while the epic battle between Vinales and Crutchlow continued, as Miller passed Mir with 4 laps to go, as Mir made a mistake at Turn 16, hitting the gas too early with a fading rear tyre, and losing time.
Petrucci tried passing Dovi for 4th with 3 laps to go, which allowed Miller into 5th (Briefly), although he was re-passed by Dovi, as Petrucci’s move ultimately succeeded, and he beat his Ducati teammate.
Crutchlow’s challenge for 2nd ended with 2 laps to go, when he had a slight moment under braking, and decided to settle for 3rd with his comfortable margin to the Ducatis.
The King of the ‘Ring cruised over the line in 3rd gear with his arms folded in triumph, just to further twist the knife into his rivals, with Vinales comfortably crossing over in 2nd, and Crutchlow, with one good leg, pulling off the ride of the day to finish in 3rd, equaling his best result this season, coming way back at the season opener in Qatar.
And to cap off going a decade unbeaten in Germany, Marquez received a pair of “10” balloons from the marshals to celebrate with, most likely stolen from a child’s 10th birthday party nearby.
Good to see Jack back in the Top 6- He did benefit from the Rins crash, but at the halfway mark, I genuinely thought he was going to get belted out of the Top 10.
Shame he just couldn’t put in a better fight against his bigger brothers.. Anyway, hopefully we can see the Jackass back on the podium during the second half of the season!
Moto2: 13th for Remy
Coming off a bittersweet weekend at Assen where he qualified on Pole before falling on Sunday, Remy Gardner was probably back to the mean at the Sachsenring, qualifying in 9th, and during the race, he just never had any pace compared to the frontrunners.
At one point, Gardner had been dropped to 16th and look set to miss the points, but the falls up front and a pair of passes earned him whatever he could scavenge, utlimately finishing in 13th behind his teammate Tesuta Nagashima.
Out in front, Alex Marquez got over the disappointment of losing a certain win in Assen, by joining his brother and once again performing a Marquez double-act, winning comfortably to regain the Moto2 Championship lead from Thomas Luthi, who was penalised for taking out Marquez’ teammate Xavi Vierge at Turn 1.
Although, the performance of the day was undoubtedly the Bradley ‘The Bok’ Binder, who pulled off a barnstorming charge through the field to finish 2nd after starting all the way down in 17th.