Motorsport

Motorsport Monday: Emilia Romagna MotoGP

A Jack Miller championship charge comes to a big stop

All GIFs belong to Dorna Sports


Circuit: Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli


Journey of the Jackass, 2020, Chapter 7: Tears Through Tear-offs

Part 2 of the visit to Misano was the inaugural running of the Emilia Romagna and Rimini’s Coast GP (Emilia Romagna being the region of Italy), and technically speaking it was the third visit to Misano in a week, because the teams tested at the track on Tuesday (Franco Morbidelli was absent due to an illness), with Yamaha debuting a new big-arse exhaust on the YZR-M1, an attempt to peg back their straight line deficit.

It was well detailed that Valentino Rossi was sporting a Viagra helmet last weekend – Well, the old Doctor maintained the blue pill for his 250th Yamaha appearance, with an updated back panel to show TWO tablets had now been consumed from the blister pack.

“I need the extra energy, because the second time is always harder than the first!”

While we were focusing on Vale’s head, Andrea Dovizioso had a laugh and changed the arse nickname on his leathers to reflect his status for 2021.

He’s not Undaunted Dovi…. he’s UNEMPLOYED DOVI.

“Kiss my arse, Ducati!”

Qualifying


Honda were already down to 3 riders this weekend with Cal Crutchlow sidelined due to an arm injury, and on Saturday the HRC were reduced to 2, when Stefan Bradl, the injury replacement for Marc Marquez, had to withdraw due to arm pump in FP1.

It was a wonder they didn’t lose Takaaki Nakagami as well, considering Taka crashed twice at Turn 15 on Saturday and destroyed at least one 2019 Honda.

Our Jackass had a torrid time through Friday and Saturday, falling in FP3 and once again struggling for pace on the relaid Misano circuit, finishing 11th in the Combined Practice times to mark his first Q1 appearance since Brno, as some riders were finding upwards of 7-tenths of a second on last weekend’s time attack.

Case in point – the best combined practice time last week was Rossi’s 1.31.861.

That time would’ve been good for 12th fastest this weekend, as Pecco Bagnaia on the other Pramac Ducati set a new overall lap record with a 1.31.127.

Championship leader Dovi would join the 3rd placed Miller in Q1, as did big hitters like Alex Rins and Johann Zarco, and going through to Q2 were all four Yamahas, Takka Nakagami, Bagnaia and Danilo Petrucci for Ducati, Joan Mir as the only Suzuki, plus Pol Espagaro and Brad Binder on the factory KTMs.

Yep, even the out of form Petrux outpaced Dovi….

Thankfully for some, fears were averted when Miller and Dovi both advanced from Q1 with late laps, while a ‘funny’ incident saw Zarco fall when he was on to advance from the session, only to remount, start another lap on a damaged bike and improve his time, although it was only good enough to start 14th.

When the big hitters emerged for Q2, Pecco backed up his serious practice times by setting the early pace from Fabio Quartararo and Brad Binder, as Vinales once again went for the ‘2 stop’ technique, where he would pit twice and swap bikes to save time on changing tyres, something Marc Marquez did/does to great effect in time attacks.

It worked for Top Gun, producing a 1.31.268 on his third flying lap to topple Pecco by 0.045s with 5 minutes remaining, just before Nakagami fell at Turn 15.

Taka may be sponsored by Red Bull, but it was his bike that was given wings.

As the final runs got underway with Jack stuck in 12th with a deleted lap time, it looked like Pecco had responded to Vinales by firing in the first ever 1m30s time at Misano (A 1.30.973), but his time was deleted after exceeding track limits exiting Turn 16, denying himself a maiden pole position, and Pramac’s first since Jack got one in the wet of Argentina 2018.

So Pecco dropped to 5th thanks to a late flying lap by Pol Espagaro, and Vinales thundered over the line when the chequered flag dropped and claimed his 3rd consecutive pole at Misano, lowering the lap record again with a 1.31.077, and it turned out that a Pramac Ducati would start on the front row, because Miller used his positioning behind Rossi to rocket up from 12th to 2nd with a 31.153!

Bradl’s time was from FP1

From Q1 to the front row for Jack, having found some 4 tenths to produce his best lap of the weekend, mostly thanks to that run behind Vale, and it turned out that mistake by Pecco cost Pramac 2 bikes on the front row.

With only half a second covering the Top 11, Quartararo produced his personal best to get another front row start, the factory KTMs showed massive improvement from last weekend to start on the second row (Binder had his best start in MotoGP), Vale and Franco Moribdelli had their work cut out from 7th and 8th, Petrucci did outquaify Dovi, and Suzuki’s one-lap pace hamstrung Joan Mir, who was already giving away a headstart from 11th, and we won’t even mention Alex Rins.

It was the best 91 seconds of Jack’s weekend – Now we all waited for the inevitable fadeaway because of the Soft rear tyre.


Race (27 Laps)


In a frantic build-up, Miller high-sided on cold tyres at Turn 1 in the cool Warm-Up conditions, leaving him bruised, while a passing shower brought about the Red Flag in the Moto2 race due to unsafe riding conditions, although conditions cleared up by the start for the main event, and when it came to tyres, most riders went for the Hard Michelin front, with a mix between the Soft and Medium rear, while Vinales and Mir went for the Medium/Medium, which would favour them over the Soft tyre as the track temperature kept rising.

At the start, Miller nailed the holeshot off the line and led into Turn 1, but Vinales reclaimed the lead by Turn 4, Pecco rounded Quartararo into 3rd, and last week’s winner Morbidelli fell back to last after being caught in a fall for Aleix Espagaro at Turn 8, which put the Aprillia out of the race.

The Italian crowd were ecstatic when Pecco passed Miller, only to be immediately shattered when Rossi’s race all but ended at Turn 4 on Lap 2, but the old Doctor remounted and resumed in last place.

The drama continued with Binder, who had made a fast start to jump into the podium places with a move on Miller, but the South African destroyed his chances after falling at Turn 14, but he was able to mount up and resume behind Rossi in last.

Not for long though, because the South African made it to Lap 2 and promptly fell again at Turn 1, the same spot his brother Darryn crashed at in the Moto3 race.

So it was Vinales in the lead from a charging Bagnaia, Pol Espagaro was up to 3rd from Quartararo, Miller was getting gapped in 5th, heading up a charging pack led by Joan Mir, who again had some serious race pace, but I hark back to Saturday hamstringing him from the get-go.

Another noteworthy performance was Alex Marquez, who had been fastest in the Warm-Up, and backed that up by moving from 17th to 8th!

Pecco made a cool move for the lead at Turn 4 on Lap 6 after Vinales went wide, but the Italian went wide out of Turn 6 and left himself vulnerable, but that Ducati grunt kept him ahead, and at this stage, we could have been seeing the fifth maiden MotoGP winner from 7 races!

As Pecco built his gap, it looked like Miller had begun encountering more tyre problems, routinely tumbling down the order to 7th behind Iker Lecuona.

Miller totally fell off the page on Lap 8, and retired with what he called a loss of power, ending what was a brutally tough weekend for Jackass, and causing him to lose vital, valuable championship points in this condensed season.

Although, it turned out there was a reason for Jack’s Ducati losing power…

The bike had caught one of Quartararo’s visor tear offs on Lap 2, which became lodged in the airbox and starved/suffocated the big V4 engine of air!

From motogp.com

Between his seat failing because the paint didn’t stick at Qatar 2019, to his bike self-combusting because of a visor tear-off, Jack really does find the shittiest ways to retire.

At half race distance, Bagnaia still led by 1.4 seconds to Vinales, Espagaro was 3 seconds back, keeping Quartararo behind, although the good news for Fabio’s championship challenge was Dovi was absolutely nowhere in 9th, getting a right old walloping from the Tech3 KTM teammates of Oliveira and Lecuona, and a vastly improved Alex Marquez.

Well, I shouldn’t be surprised – Dovi is used to being beaten up by a Marquez brother on a Repsol Honda.

Rossi gave up the ghost from 16th on Lap 17, most likely to save a bit of engine life for future races, but oddly enough, if another rider crashed, he would’ve moved up to 15th and scored a point.

As the race passed Lap 20, the Soft tyre was starting to hit the limit and the Medium tyre was coming into its own, evidenced by Vinales cutting into the Bagnaia lead, and Quartararo was starting to blowtorch Espagaro’s rear.

And that’s when the latest wild moment occurred.

Out of nowhere, BAGNAIA FELL FROM THE LEAD AT TURN 6 ON LAP 21, a cruel end to what was looking like a glorious afternoon!

He’s only got a broken leg

Pramac Ducati’s latest, greatest chance for a race win, and off it goes.

Pecco’s post-race theory was that he hit something, possibly a visor tear-off (Like Jack), or dirt on the racing line, because nothing on the data showed an issue that could cause the front to suddenly wash away.

So with 5 laps to go, that put Vinales into a near unbeatable 4 second lead and a long-awaited win from pole position, which would pump him up to 2nd in the Championship.

With another podium spot now up for grabs, Mir was absolutely charging up to Quartararo, who still couldn’t find a way past the KTM with no rear edge grip left, so much so that the French rider was given a warning for exceeding track limits at Turn 11 and out of Turn 16, which would prove crucial in the final laps.

Just when it couldn’t get any more frustrating for, Quartararo would fall victim to another edition of late-race Joan Mir overtaking to start Lap 25, and at that moment, you could also see a shiver go up Pol’s spine knowing 2nd place was about to swap hands.

There aren’t enough Os in the word SMOOTH.

Showing young Fabio how to actually overtake another bike the moment you watch them, Mir got a fantastic exit out of Turn 16 and claimed 2nd place from the Red Bull KTM, and Quartararo joined in at Turn 3, seemingly denying the Spaniard what would’ve been a fantastic podium.

At the same time Mir passed Espagaro, Lecuona crashed out from 6th at Turn 16, and after previously being warned for exceeding track limits, Quartararo was handed a Long Lap penalty ON THE LAST LAP!

Just before Mir made that pass for 2nd

It was worth noting Mir did the same thing out of Turn 16 just before he overtook Fabio, with the obvious difference being the Spaniard had warnings up his sleeve.

Fabio didn’t serve the penalty as he hadn’t received the message from Race Control on his dashboard, which would mean he would receive a 3-second time penalty, dropping him off the podium, which he didn’t realise until the cooldown lap.

While that resolved itself, it had been a long time coming, but Top Gun was BACK WITH A BANG, winning his first race since Malaysia last year (The last time he’d won from pole) and the sixth different rider to win in 2020, Mir was superb again in 2nd from a mile back, and Fabio’s penalty cost him 3rd to Espagaro, and not only that, the Championship lead with Dovi finishing 8th.

For now, a few of us Fourth Estate toffs had to shush and stop calling Maverick a Saturday Specialist.

In other results, Oliveira climbed from 15th to 5th, Nakagami ended a crash-tacular weekend to finish 6th as the best Honda again, Alex Marquez produced his best MotoGP ride for 7th, and from falling to last, Morbidelli recovered to 9th, as only 13 riders made it home.

Vinales and Mir also became the first riders to record 3 podiums in 2020, and just showing how bonkers this title race is without Marquez destroying everyone, Dovi somehow still leads on 84 (The fewest points for a championship leader after 7 races in the current points system), Quarataro and Vinales are ONLY A POINT BEHIND, and Mir is 4th, only 4 points behind!

Based on recent form and on pure racecraft…. I’d seriously have to say Joan Mir is my pick for World Champion, and were it not for that Red Flag at Styria, he’d be leading the championship!


Post Race


Here’s a bittersweet post race moment that isn’t Fabio cracking the shits at his penalty.

Taka visits the memorial to his late rival and compatriots Shoya Tomizawa every time he races at Misano, and after leading the way for Honda again, he paid his respects with the bike by side.

On a more one-eyed note…

Bloody visor tear-offs.


Moto2: The Out Of Comission Remy Rollercoaster

After a massive highside resulted in fractures last weekend, Remy Gardner had surgery and sat out Misano II, as he focuses on trying to make the grid for Barcelona, but while there was that downside, there was one massive positive piece of news for the son of the 1987 World Champion, which he seems to seldom get these days.

Gardner has signed on to the KTM Ajo team for 2021 to replace Jorge Martin, who seems set to move to MotoGP on a Ducati.

Of course, Jack Miller rode for the team in Moto3 in 2014, finishing 2nd and going straight to MotoGP on the back of that run.

Importantly for a rider like Remy, who’s ridden for a SAG team mostly devoid of funding this season, he’s getting the full backing of Red Bull, the KTM GP Academy and Aki Ajo’s setup, plus an up-to-spec Kalex bike.

If Remy is to believed, KTM offered him a MotoGP ride after Johann Zarco left the team last season, quite possibly because of his physical build being suited to the bigger machinery.

On that note, to quote Big Kev:


Next Up: Barcelona/Catalunya this weekend

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