Here’s an amazing fact from Sunday- Honda-powered machines won a MotoGP/500cc race & a Formula 1 Grand Prix on the same day, for the first time since June 14, 1992.
That day, Gerhard Berger won the F1 Canadian Grand Prix in a McLaren-Honda, and Mick Doohan won the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim for the factory Rothmans Honda, the race before his career almost ended at Assen.
Adding to the amazing coincidence, a Frenchman finished 2nd in both races today, and November 17 was also the anniversary of the birth of Honda’s founder Soichiro Honda!
MotoGP: Valencian Community Motorcycle Grand Prix
Circuit Ricardo Tormo
Journey Of The Jackass, Chapter 19: The Last Laugh In Lorenzo Land
The end of another year and decade of Grand prix motorcycle racing, and the twists didn’t stop just yet, because on Thursday, Jorge Lorenzo held an exceptional press conference, and gave us a surprise that wasn’t really a surprise- He’s retiring after this weekend.
It was a sad end to a legendary career- A 125cc title, a 250cc title, 3 MotoGP titles, the 5th most wins in the Premier Class (47), and of course, he’s the only rider not named Marc Marquez to win a MotoGP crown since 2013.
Just think, in this era of MotoGP racing, Jorge went up up against deadset legends like Marquez, Casey Stoner, Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa at the peak of their powers- And he can say he beat them all.
I’ll be honest, Jorge was never my cup of tea, mainly because he more often than not gave Casey a ball-tearing, but damn, the man’s commitment was amazing, even in the face of some pretty horrific injuries.
Sadly, all those crashes and falls he’d suffered over the past 18 months, coupled with the failed moved to Honda, just finally caught up to his body.
In honour of the occasion, Jorge brought back the Chupa Chups helmet, as a tribute to the brand that had sponsored him ever since he debuted in the old 125cc days back in 2002, when he was still using No.48!
Aside from that, the whispers are getting traded like roofies at a nightclub about who takes the seat on the factory Honda, and at this stage, it’s looking like none other than the only other person who could possibly ride a bike designed for a Marquez.
During FP3, Jack’s teammate Pecco Bagnaia suffered an utterly bizzare accident on the exit of pitlane, going straight over the handlebars of his bike after trying to pull off a stoppie.
He suffered a fractured wrist, and was ruled out for the remainder of the weekend.
I think Jack may need to teach his younger teammate how to perfect the stoppie over the winter months.
There weren’t too many surprises during Practice, as every major rider with the exception of Alex Rins set fast enough times to go straight into Q2, as it took until the final 6 minutes for the times to start tumbling down, the Autumn weather started gradually increasing.
Funnily enough, a Suzuki did go straight into Q2- but it was Joan Mir, although Rins did advance from Q1 fairly easily.
Marquez actually fell twice during the practice sessions (He was unhurt though), doing his normal routine of pushing the Honda to find lean angles that violate the laws of nature, just trying to beat Fabio Quartararo’s consistent pace.
If you ask me, that’s a testament to Quartararo’s ability to push Marquez to his absolute limit… Just imagine what he could do on a factory Yamaha.
Jack Miller also looked set for a good weekend, consistently pacing in the Top 5 throughout the 4 practice sessions, and outpacing Dovi to be the best Ducati.
Quartararo had been fastest throughout practice, and he backed it up again with yet another pole position to cap off his wild success of a rookie season, being the only rider to put in a sub-90 second lap, with Marquez right alongside him in 2nd, barely a tenth away, and The Jackass returned to the front row in 3rd!
6 poles for Fabio, the second-most by a rookie in the Premier Class, only bettered by Marquez in 2013.
Outside of that, it was pretty much the same old suspects, although Pol Espargaro did a fine job to qualify the KTM on the 4th row, alongside Valentino Rossi, who did show some promise in Free Practice, but was only a lowly 12th, just 4 spots ahead of his old Yamaha sparring partner in Lorenzo, and it was an absolute long shot, but hopefully we could get one last great fight.
Race (27 Laps)
Quite fittingly for #99, 99,000 fans lined the Circuit Ricardo Tormo for the traditional season finale, and there was one fight still to be decided in 2019- Ducati vs Repsol Honda for the Teams Championship, and other milestone was Marquez trying to become the first MotoGP rider to reach 400 points in a season, which, being on 395 points, he only had to finish inside the Top 10 to achieve.
It was a big ask, but he could just about do it.
As for tyre choices, all of the top riders went for the medium front and a hard rear to survive the arduous 27 laps, except Petrucci and the Suzukis, who went for a medium front/soft rear combo.
When the lights went out, Jack made a customary super start with the Ducati launch control and went straight to the front, Rins launched into 3rd from 8th, Marquez fell back to 5th, but Quartararo regained the lead at Turn 2, and Dovi did briefly jump into 3rd, but Marquez took them both into Turn 1 on Lap 2.
Marquez didn’t muck around, making light work of Miller at Turn 14 on the same lap, and as he’s done quite a few times of late, set off after the Frenchman.
The other Yamahas were all hovering around the Top 10, as Vinales was passed by Franco Morbidelli for 6th, and Rossi had moved up to 9th, but, as has been the case for several races in 2019, they went cold for several laps, allowing the leaders to put a gap on them, and effectively put them out of the running.
Rins was all over the back of Miller, who was running in hot to several corners, but the Ducati had the Suzuki covered for speed, and Dovi seized the moment and passed the Rins into Turn 1 on Lap 4, and after that, I don’t think those 3 ever changed positions for the rest of the race.
In clear air, Marquez was eating into Fabio’s lead as if he were Jaws eyeing up a dumb blonde still swimming off Amity Island, and at that moment, Ducati and Repsol Honda were level on 450 points, but Honda were ahead on the race wins tiebreaker.
That said, you just had the feeling that Marquez was going to gobble Quartararo up sooner rather than later, and he made the move on Lap 7 at Turn 11 after a few tight moments, and after squeezing Fabio, that straightline speed difference helped the Honda put a gap on the Yamaha.
In the meantime, Miller was managing his tyres pretty well, holding Dovi at bay, as the Top 5 riders were all within a mistake of each other, but still putting a gap back to the other Yamahas.
Cal Crutchlow’s race ended when he low-sided into Turn 1 on Lap 10, but on Lap 13, there was a crazy moment when Petrucci went down at Turn 6 (The remnants of the oil from Moto3?), then seconds later, Zarco went down in a separate incident, and then Iker Lecuona on the Tech3 KTM somehow fell as well, and in a horrible moment, the riderless bike took out the legs of an oblivious Zarco, which caused Johann into an ugly backflip, and he was taken off on a stretcher, but was eventually cleared of serious injury.
With Petrucci out of the race, it pretty much sealed the fate of the Teams’ Championship for Repsol Honda, unless Marquez suddenly fell.
Miller’s pace started to suffer a little bit, leaving him vulnerable to Dovi and Rins, two of the best riders at managing their tyres, especially Rins, who was doing some kind of a magic trick managing that soft rear for 27 laps.
In the meantime, Marquez had broken Quartararo, with the gap now past a second, as the Petronas team suffered a major disappointment when Morbidelli fell from 6th at Turn 4, as the conditions were having an impact on bikes and riders.
All these incidents meant a couple of nice results were on offer- both the Aprillias of Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone were in the Top 10, with Aleix fighting his brother Pol on the KTM for a Top 10 spot, and Lorenzo was up to 14th!
As the laps dwindled down, Jack had dealt with the immediate threat of Dovi and Rins, and with 5 to go, he was half a chance of taking Fabio for 2nd, but at 8 tenths the difference, it was half a chance at best.
And that was really that- Marquez bagged win No.12 to end his unabated demolition of 2019, passing the historic 400 point barrier in the process, delivering Honda the Triple Crown, Quartararo ended his rookie season with another 2nd placing to finish the year 5th overall, Jack had his most consistent ride of the season to finish with his fifth 3rd placing of 2019, beating Dovi to be the leading Ducati, and further down, Iannone was gone from 9th on the last lap, meaning Jorge came home to a thunderous applause in 13th, and amidst the wild celebrations, he planted the Lorenzo Land flag one last time!
I’ll still never forget him jumping into the lake at Jerez…. Damn that was funny.
All in all, it was a pretty typical Valencia MotoGP race, with the field ending up being pretty strung out with not much going on, with overtaking being pretty scarce outside of the first half of the race.
In a fitting ending to his record-breaking season, Marquez broke one last record, winning the title by 151 points to Dovi, beating Valentino Rossi’s previous record of 147 points over Marco Melandri from 2005.
He also finished on a record 420 points, which is quite a fitting number, because he blazed everyone this season.
It was also his 95th podium in the Premier Class, equalling Mick Doohan’s career total, and based on his 18 podiums this year, he’ll pass Dani Pedrosa for 3rd overall by the end of next year.
Losing the Teams’ Championship would have to sting for Ducati, especially with Honda being the most vulnerable they’ve been in years with the Lornezo situation, but combined with Petrucci dropping off after being re-signed and Marquez ascending into demigod status, they still haven’t won any titles since that magical Casey Stoner-led 2007 season.
Putting on my Aussie glasses, that was a superb result for Jack to end a year in which he made a huge leap forward in terms of consistency, results and errors, finishing with the best-ever season for a satellite Ducati bike, and with quite a few tin foil hat theories about him displacing Petrucci on a factory Ducati in 2020 being floated around (Nothing more than rumours though), this was a massive tick of approval for the hope that he could get a factory ride into the future.
And after another podium, he ended the year with one last massive stoppie.
Moto2: The Remy Rollercoaster
With the championship done, Alex Marquez wasn’t his usual self, qualifying in a lowly 15th right alongside Remy, as it appeared that his mind may very well have been on taking the big step to MotoGP in just a few more days.
Jorge Navarro qualified on pole for the 4th time in 2019, with Brad Binder in 2nd, in what will be his and KTM’s last appearance in Moto2, as the Austrians focus their efforts on MotoGP, with Binder riding the factory bike.
It was the first time since Qatar in 2012 that a Kalex wasn’t on the front row.
Race (Shortened to 16 laps)
Because of the monster crash in Moto3, the race was shortened from 25 laps to 16, which did bring about the promise of some aggressive racing.
At the start, the other KTM of Jorge Martin took the lead from Tom Luthi and Navarro, who would be passed by Binder for 3rd,
Martin went wide to start Lap 2, dropping him down to 4th, and promoting Luthi into the lead from Binder and Navarro, as the new Top 3 began pulling away from the pack.
Further back, Marquez had charged up to 8th place, and Remy’s lack of pace continued, languishing in 16th.
The fight for 4th was becoming briefly interesting, as Stefano Manzi made a textbook move down the hill on Martin, and that fight carried on for a few more corners, before the Kalex bikes of Vierge and Marquez also mugged the KTM.
Having cleared Martin, Manzi was starting to catch up to Navarro, firing in lap records as he settled into a rhythm.
The SAG riders of Nagashima and Gardner weren’t even on the first page, and neither was Lorenzo Baldassarri, stuck in 19th, which kind of sums up the 2nd half of his season after winning 3 of the first 4 races.
Binder made a successful block pass on Lap 10 to claim the lead, but the South African made a mess of Turn 6 (The strong wind played a part) and Luthi reclaimed the lead.
On Lap 12, Marquez went down from 5th at Turn 11, but did rejoin the race, albeit in 31st.
As the laps dwindled down, Binder was weighing up a pass on Luthi, and an attempt at Turn 2 with 2 laps to go failed, but he got the job done at Turn 8, which brought the Top 4 to within half a second of each other,
Manzi passed Navarro at Turn 6, but Navarro got him back a corner later, but the glory went to Binder, who ended KTM’s time in Moto2 with a bang, bringing up a hat-trick of wins, beating home Luthi, Navarro and Manzi, as 4 different manufacturers finished in the Top 4, with MV narrowly missing out on a maiden podium.
On the last lap, Remy somehow smuggled himself into 14th and 2 points, after I thought he’d finished 16th, but the race pretty much summed up his year- Absolute frustration, and that was despite breaking through for his maiden podium and maiden pole position.
It was like he’d get himself into a really good position, and then somehow and some way, find a way to bloody well fall off.
It’s also worth noting that after Brno, Binder was 77 points down on Marquez in the championship.
History will show the man from the Rainbow Nation finished in 2nd, just 3 points behind, and it doesn’t even feel like it, given the title was decided a fortnight earlier.
More Moto3 Mayhem
This year’s Moto3 season has been nothing short of batshit crazy, filled with some insanely close racing all season long, but the last edition of 2019 had to be seen to be believed.
First, the race was delayed 10 minutes due to Aron Canett spilling oil on the track during the sighting lap, which caused him and Ayumu Sasaki to fall and start from the rear, and then on the opening lap, Jaime Masia high-sided out of 2nd place at Turn 4.
But, worst of all, there was an awful accident at Turn 11 on Lap 2, when Carlos Tatay low-sided, taking out Makar Yunchenko and Jeremy Alcoba, and then the riderless bike veered back onto the track, leaving Nicollo Antonelli and Dennis Foggia with nowhere to go, with the ugly impact knocking Foggia unconscious.
Because the race hadn’t gone 3 laps, everyone still up and breathing after the multiple incidents was able to get on the spare bike and re-enter a shortened 15 lap race from their original grid spots, including Canet, who could now start 4th, but the big loser was Marcos Ramirez, who was leading by 1.5 seconds before the red flag.
There was another multi-rider crash 4 laps into the restart, involving World Champion Lorenzo Dalla Porta, who lost the rear of his bike and high-sided in his first error for the year, taking out the extremely unfortunate John McPhee, Alonso Lopez and Tony Arbolino.
Dalla Porta resumed 3 laps down, mainly so he could enjoy the post-race celebrations as the Moto3 World Champion.
The other major story of the race was Xavier Artigas, the 16 year old wildcard on debut, who led the race with 5 laps to go, but he had a wobble and went wide at Turn 1 with 2 laps to go, giving the lead to Andrea Migno on his 100th Grand Prix, and another 16-year-old Spanish rookie in Sergio Garcia, who engaged in some ripping wheel to wheel racing.
Ultimately, Garcia made a pass at the last corner and won the race by a flared nostril to Migno- Officialy 0.005 seconds- with Artigas in 3rd after passing Tatsuki Suzuki, also at Turn 14, capping off a superb result for the local fans in the lightweight class.
It was a pretty stunning win, as Garcia finished in the points 6 out of 17 times, with only 2 of them being a Top 10 finish.
His last 2 races, he finished 2nd, and then won.
So, that’s it for the 2019 edition of MotoGP, and I’d like to thank Dorna Sports for not handing me my arse (yet), and to my number one bike-enjoying fan Mr Merv Roberts, who requested I fire in these MotoGP reports for his personal enjoyment.
I duly did it Merv.