Today’s life lesson: How not to celebrate with your teammate on a motorcycle:
Valentino Rossi’s younger brother, ladies and gentlemen.
Red Bull Andalucian Grand Prix
Circuit: Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto
Journey Of The Jackass, Chapter 3, 2020: New Race, Same Place
MotoGP returned to Jerez for the only Andalucian Grand Prix in history, the sequel to last Sunday’s earth-shattering start to the 2020 season, and with the speculation flying around, Marc Marquez had surgery on his humerus on Tuesday, with Honda having no clue if he was going to race at Jerez, Alex Rins was dealing with the pain of a dislocated shoulder, and Cal Crutchlow had a pin inserted into his left scaphoid bone after his crash in the warm-up.
Despite none of them being nowhere near fit enough to ride, unbelievably, they were ALL PASSED FIT TO RIDE.
As if we wanted another reminder that these tough bastards aren’t quite human.
On another note, we got a plausible reason as to why our Jack Miller didn’t quite finish on the podium last week – Jack’s right hand went numb because of the position of the front brake protector on the Ducati, which was exasperated by his riding style through right hand corners.
Speaking of Jack, there was some eye-opening behind the scenes footage that Dorna captured last week – He speaks about what happened to his hand, his view of the Marquez crash, and if you wanted to see how tough the conditions were on a boy from Townsville…. He was giving himself a mighty long hosing down!
If last week was brutal on the riders, this weekend was even tougher – 36 degrees Celsius on Friday, 36 on Saturday, and 37 on Sunday, with track temperatures passing 60 degrees.
And just like Perth, the locals will tell you “It’s a dry heat.”
Marc Marquez didn’t ride on Friday, saving himself for FP3 and FP4 and Qualifying to test out his arm strength, and he did get within 1.3 seconds of Fabio Quartararo’s fastest combined practice time, but he was only 19th fastest and would have to go into Q1, as would Rins (Who didn’t set a time in FP3), Crutchlow, and joining the injury gang was Andrea Dovizioso and Franco Morbidelli.
Meantime, some of the names that went straight into Q2 were the Yamahas of Quartararo, Maverick Vinales, Valentino Rossi, the Ducatis of our Jack, Pecco Bagnaia and Danilo Petrucci, with the surprises being Brad Binder on the KTM (Joining him again was Pol Espagaro), and Takaaki Nakagami was the fastest Honda, topping 2 of the 4 practice sessions.
In Q1, Marquez performed an out lap, then went straight back into the pits and into the truck, and it was blatantly obvious that he was still in pain (The swelling and bruising was still evident on his right arm), and not prepared to push like he normally can.
Unsurprisingly, after the session was done, Repsol Honda made the announcement – MARC WOULD NOT RIDE SUNDAY.
Marc gave himself every chance with that trademark determination, but his body just said “**** no” – The official reason the Spaniard gave was that he’d “Lost power” in his right arm., and it was too dangerous to ride.
Meantime, it would be Miguel Oliveira on the Tech 3 KTM + Morbidelli who went into Q2, as Cruchlow missed out by a tenth, Dovi could only finish one hundredth behind to start 14th, missing Q2 for the first time since Germany last season, Rins didn’t make it, and summing up the horror run for the Marquez family, Alex crashed badly on his last flying lap, and would start from last.
Just like last week, the fight for pole in Q2 was between the Yamahas – Vinales was fastest on the opening runs with a 1.37.102, but El Diablo would respond with a 1.37.007, the closest anyone came to achieving a 1.36 in the heat.
As the final runs began, Pol Espagaro crashed out with 2 minutes to go, leaving him to start from no worse than 12th, and Vinales was 0.12 up through the opening two sectors of his last lap, but he went slightly off the track limits at Turn 7, deleting a time that would have put him on pole by a tenth, consigning him to start from 2nd.
So in a recurring situation, it was Quartararo on pole again, Vinales 2nd, Jack’s teammate Pecco Bagnaia was a career-best 3rd, Rossi popped back up from nowhere to start 4th, Oliveira was a career-best 5th and the fastest KTM, and the Jackass was able to smuggle himself onto the 3rd row/7th on his last lap.
Oddly enough, the fastest Yamaha, Ducati and Honda riders all came from satellite teams.
Oliveira starting 5th was apparently the best-ever start for a Portuguese rider on MotoGP, which seems weird to think, considering Toni Elias was a race-winner.
Race (25 Laps)
The day had arrived where Honda’s hopes of upholding their honour rested on the shoulders of a Japanese man riding an out-dated bike.
Takka would prove he was up to the task.
As the race began, Quartararo got a clean start, Vinales, Rossi and Miller all got ahead of Baganaia, and just behind the leaders, Oliveira had a horrible high-side at Turn 1 after being clipped from behind by Binder, who (accidentally) hit the Portuguese rider with his bike like a bowling ball for good measure.
As they finished the opening lap, Vinales made a move for the lead at the final turn, but couldn’t get it done, which allowed Rossi to pass his teammate for 2nd place, and that would prove to be the beginning of a frustrating afternoon for Vinales, as the wizardry of The Doctor would wreck his hopes of victory.
Pecco made a move on Jack at the same turn a lap later, and the Aussie gave him room, but the Italian went way too deep and almost fell off the bike, but quick thinking kept him upright and in 5th place after a brief stoush with Nakagami.
In a performance that reminded many of us of Jorge Lorenzo, Quartararo had absolutely bolted and checked out from the lead, and it was probably the age gap, because Vale simply couldn’t match the Frenchman, while Vinales couldn’t passthe old master, and the squabble between the factory Yamahas was leaving the door open for Miller and Bagnaia to peck away at their ankles.
Miller made a move on Vinales at Turn 6 on Lap 9, but he became the latest rider to simply carry too much speed and run wide, dropping the Aussie to 5th behind Bagnaia, who showed him how to properly get a pass a done when he made Vinales pay for going wide at the same spot, and the young Italian was up to 3rd, and Miller joined in the fun when he got a run on Top Gun down to Turn 1 for 4th place to start Lap 11, and Franco Morbidelli, who was low-flying, piled on the misery by passing Maverick at Turn 2.
Buuuuuuuut, in a sudden end, Jack lost the front end at Turn 9 on Lap 11 and crashed out, possibly a victim of the searing heat causing havoc with tyre grip, and the factory Ducati of Petrucci went down at Turn 2, as the race was now becoming a serious battle of survival.
The next victim was Binder, who fell on Lap 13 in nasty highside at the final turn, leaving Pol Espagaro as the only KTM left, after the Austrians started the race with a huge amount of realistic hope.
It was so nasty that Binder copped a hit to the gonads from the bike for good measure.
With a torturous 10 laps remaining, Quartararo led by 4.6 seconds to Bagnaia, who passed Rossi at Turn 6, and just when it looked like we’d get 4 Yamahas in the Top 5, on Lap 17, Morbidelli’s engine went kaput from 4th place, denying him yet another chance at a maiden MotoGP podium, and it was another engine drama for Yamaha, who had to send engines back to Japan after Rossi’s engine cut out last weekend.
Crutchlow also came in to the pits from 14th, with some concern about how his wrist was holding up in the extremely trying conditions, but with a guarantee of points if he stayed upright, the Brit would see out the race.
As Bagnaia drew clear in 2nd, Rossi was now struggling to hang to his tyres, and Vinales had rediscovered his pace, but it was back to square one for the Spaniard…
Getting a good look at an old Italian man’s arse.
In another display of cruelty, Bagnaia started billowing smoke from the back of his bike, and with the serious chance that he could start spewing fluid onto the track or onto his rear tyre, Pecco had to pull off the circuit with only 6 laps to go, a shattering end to a promising day that saw him out duel both factory Yamahas.
So with the 8th retirement of the race, Nakagami was up to 4th and closing within range of the Yamahas, Joan Mir on the Suzuki was in 5th, and Dovi was now the leading Ducati in a lonely 6th, with his bad qualifying finishing off any chance he had of making his usual charge for the podium.
As the laps ticked down, Vinales finally passed Rossi with 2 laps remaining, and the moment Top Gun cleared The Doctor, he kicked the tyres and lit the fires and showed the kind of pace that should’ve seen him challenge for a win, while Rossi’s podium was saved by the fact that there was only a lap to go.
Making it look so effortless, Quartararo won for the second time in a week, becoming the most successful French premier class rider (With all of 2 wins) Vinales was 2nd again, a 41-year-old Rossi had his first podium since America last year, securing Yamaha’s first podium cleanout since Australia 2014, Nakagami definitely upheld Honda’s honour with a career-best 4th, and Mir turned around Suzuki’s fortunes in 5th, a week after neither bike had made it past Lap 2.
Some other results of note – Alex Marquez stayed upright and finished 8th, Johann Zarco was barely sighted in 9th, and Rins, busted shoulder and all, finished a darn good 10th.
Really, anyone who finished this race should’ve been given a trophy….. just for surviving.
199 career podiums for The Doctor, now the first rider to record a podium in 4 different decades!
Unsurprisingly, Yamaha took full advantage of the Marquez situation and cleaned up again, on a track that was perfect for their machine, and with Fabio already claiming maximum points and Vinales a comfortable 40 ahead of Marc & friends, they’re already in a damn good situation Championship-wise in a short season.
But, the ball game is about to change, given the next 3 races are at Brno and the Red Bull Ring (x2), which are both noted power circuits, and with yet another engine drama for Yamaha, there’s a good chance they could get their pants pulled down by the Dukes.
Moto2: The Remy Rollercoaster
Have to say it was a very quiet weekend for Remy Gardner – He qualified 14th and never really cracked the Top 10 during the race, ultimately finishing in 14th after overcoming Edgar Pons in the final laps, which was his third points finish from as many races in 2020, but his first outside the Top 10.
The story of the race was the Italian domination, with Enea Bastianini winning by 2 seconds to Sky Racing Team VR46 teammates Luca Marini and the polesitter Marco Bezzecchi.
Aside from the Kalex domination, it was the first all-Italian podium in the intermediate class since Imola in 1998.
On that occasion, Marini’s half-brother Valentino Rossi won the 250cc race for Aprillia, Loris Caparossi was 2nd, and Stefano Perugini was 3rd.
Obviously Marini and Bezzecchio were delighted with the result, as they went for the big high five on the cooldown lap….
Only to both fall.
Well, the Italians do love a unique celebration.
Next Up: The Czech Republic Grand Prix at Brno in a fortnight.