This could very well have been the first weekend with a Formula 1 race and a MotoGP race in the same country on the same day… wouldn’t have happened if Bernie Ecclestone was still in charge.
Circuit: Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli
Journey of the Jackass 2020, Chapter 8: The Ass of the Adriatic
It had been a long 3 weeks since that last corner in Spielberg, and with everyone getting a decent rest after a frantic start to 2020, the two-wheeled circus was off to the Adriatic coast for another double-header, as a resurfaced Misano played host to what will be the only rounds in Italy this season, but the positive to it was that fans were able to attend in limited numbers.
In what has become a completely unpredictable season, Fabio Quartararo (Who hadn’t finished in the Top 6 since Andalucia) still led the Championship by 3 points to Andrea Dovizioso 70-67, with Jack Miller 14 points behind after jumping up to 3rd with his Austrian podiums, as the Top 9 riders were within 27 points of each other.
Miller’s teammate Francesco ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia was finally able to make his comeback to riding after missing the last 3 rounds due to his leg break in Brno, and of course, the race at Misano is also the time for Valentino Rossi to bring out his latest unique one-off helmet design for his home event, and it’s good to see Vale embrace his old man status…
By flying around with a Viagra tablet on his head, because he needed all the energy possible!
Yep, it was going to be a ‘HARD’ weekend.
After competing in FP1 and FP2 only a couple of days after a very graphic arm pump surgery on his right arm, Cal Cruchlow was declared unfit to ride due to secondary side effects (Like his arm swelling to the size of a leg), and had to withdraw from the event, another cherry on top of Honda’s crap cake.
The riders going straight through to Q2 from Combined Practice included Jack Miller, a one-legged Pecco, Dovi, and the fleet of Yamahas, while KTM had a bit of a comedown from their recent glories, with all 4 bikes starting in Q1, although Pol Espagaro and Miguel Oliveira did progress to Q2, while Brad Binder had to start 16th, meanwhile, Takaaki Nakagami was once again the best Honda….. in 14th.
They’re nothing short of irrelevant without Marc Marquez.
Rossi had been fastest in FP3, and The Doctor set the early benchmark in Q2 with a 1.31.877, which stood for all of 30 seconds when Fabio Quartararo came along with a 1.31.791, as the fresh asphalt was giving the riders enough grip to come perilously close to Jorge Lorenzo’s 2018 Qualifying record of a 1.31.629.
That time stood for another 5 minutes until Maverick Vinales made the most of a clear track to take spot by only 4-thousandths with 1.31.787, and on the final runs, Franco Morbidelli rocketed up to what could’ve been his first MotoGP pole position with a 1.31.723, but it was fleeting once again, because Top Gun kicked the tyres and lit the fires and thumped the old lap record with a 1.31.411, heading a Yamaha 1-2-3-4 from Franco Morbidelli, Fabio Quartararo and Valentino Rossi.
Miller got himself up to 5th on his last flying lap, only 2-thousandths ahead of an impressive Bagnaia as the best Ducati, and the best non-Yamaha, which gave him a really good chance of nailing the hole shot and throwing a spanner in the works for the Top 4.
No KTM bikes started in the Top 10 for the first time all season, as Pol Espagaro had a crash at Turn 15 before getting on his other bike, and last start winner Oliveira was 12th.
Apparently it was Yamaha’s first 1-2-3-4 in the premier class since the one-off Expo ’92 Grand Prix at Jerez in 1988, when Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Magee and Christian Sarron all started on the front row – They finished in the exact same order.
Race (27 Laps)
The common trend for tyre choice was a Hard front-Soft rear, while riders like Jack Miller and Alex Rins went for a Medium-Soft combination, Rossi went Medium-Medium, and Morbidelli went for a Hard-Medium.
It was amazing to think that despite dominating recent Saturdays in Misano, Yamaha hadn’t won at the track since Rossi in 2014.
That would change….. thanks to the rider nobody expected.
At the start, Quartararo and Vinales got swallowed thanks to poor launches, Morbidelli pinged the lids and led from Rossi, and Miller used the launch control to eventually make his way up to 3rd place with a fine move on Vinales at Turn 10, and that poor start from Quartararo seemed to really screw his rhythm, because he wasn’t able to control the race…. Same story for Maverick.
Morbidelli and Rossi squared off in a fight for the lead, as the protege battled the master – Rossi made a deep lunge at Turn 8, but Franco held firm, and just behind them Miller seemed to be travelling okay, managing his pace pretty well in the middle of a Yamaha sandwich.
Further down, Bradley Smith fell at Turn 14 on Lap 3, and Iker Lecuona on the Tech 3 KTM was given a Long Lap Penalty for stalling on the grid and not starting from the pit lane as required.
After a slow start left him in 8th, Pecco Bagnaia was the fastest rider on the circuit (He was only 0.028 off the race lap record) just behind the Suzukis, while Quartararo finally picked off Vinales for 4th on Lap 7, but just as he’d got that pass done, El Diablo fell at Turn 4 on Lap 8, but he restarted the bike and resumed, falling to dead last and almost certainly out of points contention, throwing another major twist to this crazy World Championship!
Fabio’s first genuine unforced error in a race all season, and at that stage, Dovi in 8th was going to take the championship lead by 3 points!
Rins barged past Vinales on Lap 9, as Bagnaia had ranged up to the back of Mir, and got the job done thanks to Mir running wide at Turn 1, and on that same lap, he charged past Maverick up the inside at the fast on Lap 10.
What the hell is going with Vinales on Sundays….. He was in the Top 3 of every session he appeared in on Friday and Saturday, but ONCE AGAIN, he just went completely cold at the beginning of the race, and had no chance of clawing back the deficit.
At half-race distance, Morbidelli had pushed the lead up to 8-tenths, Miller was given a track limits warning before being passed by Rins and Bagnaia on Lap 14, and it was as if the old issue of tyre management & selection had come back to cripple Jack, because Mir was 1.4 seconds faster than the Ducati.
On his website, Jack mentions “Maybe in hindsight I was using too much angle. I tried to manage as best I could, but by the end I was really having to control the speed in the changes of direction.”
“I used the medium front and the soft rear, and maybe I need to trust my instincts with what tyres are working for me in the future and listen to myself more when we choose what I race with. So, we live and learn.”
References on tyre choice are exactly what you need Pecco for.
Meantime, Morbidelli was off and gone, having blown the lead out to 1.7 seconds by Lap 16 after setting a personal best 1.32.748, as The Doctor now had to deal with Rins and Bagnaia, who were trading seriously quick times.
Mir finally used his grip advantage to pass Miller at Turn 1 on Lap 18, and having made up no ground, Quartararo appeared to be giving up the ghost when he pitted on Lap 19, but he went back out on a new bike, and promptly went down for the second and final time at Turn 6, giving everyone a brief fright that the fallen Petronas Yamaha was Franco.
Back up the front, Bagnaia made a cracking move on Rins at Curvone on Lap 20, lifting him up into position for his first MotoGP podium, which had been cruelly taken from him at jerez:
And in a vintage double act, Pecco made another brilliant move at the same spot the next lap, this time on Rossi for 2nd!
When Vale created that VR46 Academy, I don’t think he quite envisioned his own proteges mugging him at Misano.
Having finally come to life, Vinales passed Miller for 6th on Lap 22, and I honestly thought Dovi was going to fly straight past within the next 2 laps, but the Queenslander kicked on and held the Championship leader out for a little bit longer, before the inevtable happened on Lap 26.
With 4 laps to go, Morbidelli was on to join the maiden winners list with a comfortable 3 second lead, and there was now a 4-way battle for 2nd – Bagnaia was physically tiring in his first race in 6 weeks, the old Italian gentleman behind him popped one of his Viagra tablets, Rins was still in business, and Joan Mir was really warming up.
As they began the final lap, Morbidelli was losing pace but still had 2 seconds in his pocket, Pecco was still in 2nd, but Rins made a mistake and was passed by Mir on the pit straight for 4th, and the young Spaniard wasn’t done breaking hearts, because he backed himself and dumped Rossi off the podium with a superb move up the inside at Turn 10!
2 podiums in 3 races for Mir, who is really hitting his straps in the premier class.
But the day belonged to Franco Morbidelli, who became the 4th maiden MotoGP winner of 2020, Baganaia scored his first MotoGP podium despite walking around with a crutch, Mir got Suzuki back on the podium, and Rossi fell agonisingly short of the dream 200th premier class podium, at home, alongside 2 of his VR46 Academy riders.
Dovi took the championship lead with 7th, while Miller finished 9th on the road, but was sent back up to 8th after Nakagami was demoted a place for exceeding track limits on the last lap, leaving Jack 6 points off Quartararo, as the Top 9 riders are now all within a race win of each other – 23 points!
5 inline-four bikes in the Top 6 – They already had a natural cornering speed advantage against the V4 bikes, and the bumps, plus the extra grip from the new asphalt, just made it even bigger.
FRANCO SAY RELAX
Moto2: The Remy Rollercoaster
This week’s Moto2 race was the 900th intermediate class race in Grand Prix history, and it also marked a somber anniversary.
It was 10 years since the inaugural Moto2 race winner Shoya Tomizawa was killed when he fell at high speed exiting the Curvone, suffering fatal injuries when he was hit and killed by 2 bikes in an unavoidable accident.
It definitely wasn’t forgotten, especially by his compatriot Takka Nakagami:
The other big story from Moto2 this week was a shocker – KTM rider Jorge Martin, contending for the title sitting in 3rd overall, tested positive for COVID-19 and had to sit out the weekend, becoming the first Grand Prix rider to test positive, giving a huge free kick to Luca Marini and Enea Bastiannini when they least expected it.
Sam Lowes did qualify fastest, but had to start from pit lane because of a penalty , which would’ve meant Remy Gardner, fresh off another podium, would’ve started from pole for the second time this season, although as per the rules Lowes gets credited and goes in the record books as having claimed pole position.
Unfortunately, I wrote WOULD’VE for one big reason.
Remy didn’t even get to see the grid after suffering one of the biggest high sides seen in Moto2 of late at Turn 12 in the warm-up, a session in which he had set the 2nd fastest time and was looking like he could do something good in the race.
Gardner was declared unfit to ride, having suffered a broken thumb and three fractures in his left foot, which will see him fly to Barcelona for surgery, with his status for Misano II next week looking nothing short of improbable.
So that all meant Luca Marini inherited pole after qualifying 3rd, and with a massive free kick in Martin’s absence, Vale’s younger brother led for most of the 25 laps and won the race to build a 17 point lead, in what was a top-notch battle with teammate Bezzecchi, with Enea Bastianini really turning into The Beast in the latter stages and giving the VR46 riders a huge scare, finishing just one-tenth behind Bezzecchi in 3rd.
Thankfully, this time they remembered to attempt a high-five while both bikes were stationary, given what happened at Jerez.
I previously mentioned Sam Lowes had to start from the pit lane – Well, he produced what was probably the ride of the race and charged up to 8th, having made up some 20 places in 25 laps.
Yeah, anyway, another crap turn of events for Gardner.