Motorsport

Two Wheel Tuesday: German MotoGP

THERE IS ONLY ONE LORD OF THE RING, ONLY ONE WHO CAN BEND IT TO HIS WILL, AND HE DOES NOT SHARE POWER.

All GIFs/Images/Videos belong to Dorna Sports


Circuit: The Sachsenring

Graphic by the Honda Racing Corporation

Right in the heart of Saxony in what used to be East Germany, the Sachsenring was originally a 8.618km track on public roads around the town of Chemnitz, before it was redeveloped into a smaller 3.645km track in 1996 crossing over with the original track on the main straight + the Turn 11 ‘Waterfall’ corner, now known as Ralf Waldmann Corner, and was eventually added to the World Championship in 1998 in place of the Nurburgring, although for most of the year the circuit is used as a driver training centre and a road transport safety station.

The Sachsenring is also the shortest track on the current Grand Prix calendar, has the lowest top speed and second-lowest average speed of any circuit, and has a lazy 10 left-handers out of 13, but recent history shows that doesn’t make it any less boring than anywhere else.


Journey of the Jackass 2021, Chapter 8: The Lord Of The Ring and the Return of the King

Two weeks after Fabio Quartararo rode around bare-chested at Barcelona and almost overshadowed Miguel Oliveira’s masterclass, plus another two-day test a few days after that, the paddock returned to the Sachsenring after a year’s hiatus, and the main stories since the visit to Spain:

Jason Dupasquier’s No.50 was formally retired from the Moto3 class during Friday’s opening practice session

Gresini Racing officially confirmed their switch from Aprilia to Ducati for 2022, which will make it 8 Bologna Bullets on the grid for the first time since 2018, with Enea Bastianini (Who rode for Gresini in Moto3) switching over from Esponsorama Racing, and Fabio Di Giannantonio moving up from Gresini’s Moto2 set-up.

However, the main story was all about the ‘King of the Ring’ Marc Marquez, who had won on his last 10 visits to the Sachsenring in all three classes, including the last 7 MotoGP visits to the track, and in all, Repsol Honda’s MotoGP winning streak in Germany also goes back to 2010, given Dani Pedrosa won there in 2010-12, before Marquez began his dominant run.

It should be noted that Marc isn’t totally undefeated at the Sachsenring – He only finished 16th in his 125cc rookie year back in 2009, but the streak started the next year when he won his first championship, and he absolutely is unbeaten in Germany in the MotoGP class since 2013, but the streak was in serious danger this year, as Marc arrived having crashed out of three consecutive races for the first time in his MotoGP career, with himself and Honda now winless for 581 days, and not having scored a podium since Aragon last season.

But, there were a few potential saving graces – Honda debuted a new front aero assembly, while Marc’s current struggles with his arm & shoulder are exacerbated by right hand corners, and thankfully, the Sachsenring only has three of them, and The Ant himself declared he would be riding free of physical limitations.

Marc would also ride with a fully sick retro helmet from Shoei, a callback to the simple designs of the 1970s and ’80s when the likes of Gardner, Lawson and Rainey all wore Shoei helmets:

This edition of the German GP also marked 10 years since our titular ‘Jackass’ Jack Miller made his Grand Prix debut at the age of 16 in the old 125cc class (Athough the actual 10th anniversary isn’t until July 17) at the Sachsenring, having earned the spot thanks to his title-winning performance in the German IDM 125cc category, although Jack only lasted 3 laps on an old Aprilia, and the race was better remembered for the dead heat between Hector Faubel and Johann Zarco.

Still, it was the start of a journey… of the Jackass!


Qualifying

On Saturday, Johann Zarco on the Pramac Ducati ended Fabio Quartararo’s pole streak at 5 in a row by a mere 0.011s, while also ending Marc Marquez’ Sachsenring pole streak at 10 in a row in the process, although Zarco did crash at the end of Q2 just to make sure of it.

An even better performance than the French riders was that Aleix Espargaro punched above his weight again and gave Aprilia their first front row start in the MotoGP era, and their first Premier Class front row start since Jeremy McWilliams started on pole at the 2000 Australian 500cc Grand Prix – It was also Aleix’s first front row since he started 2nd for the 2015 Dutch TT on a Suzuki.

In another historic fact, the last MotoGP pole position for a French rider in Germany was Olivier Jacque on a two-stroke Yamaha back in 2002, historic in that it was the last pole position for a 500cc two strike bike before they were retired at the end of that season.

Jack Miller started 4th, and could very well have landed on the front row had he not made a mistake in Sector 4 on the last lap of the session, Marc Marquez may have had his German pole streak ended but he was right there in 5th place, Catalunya winner Miguel Oliveira started 6th as the best KTM, rookie Jorge Martin in 7th started inside the Top 10 for the first time since his injury back in April, the Hondas of Pol Espargaro and Takaaki Nakagami completed the third row, Pecco Bagnaia was a fairly flat 10th, Alex Rins 11th, and Alex Marquez was the slowest of the Q2 runners.

Completing the grid, Brad Binder started 13th after missing Q2 by 0.036s, Luca Marini was 14th, out-qualifying his older half-brother Valentino Rossi, defending champion Joan Mir started from 16th, his worst grid slot of the season, Franco Morbidelli’s struggles continue as he started from 17th, Enea Bastianini qualified 15th, but was docked 3 places for impeding Danilo Petrucci in Q1, leaving Petrux down in 19th alongside Tech3 teammate Iker Lecuona, and the most shocking performance of all on Saturday was that of Maverick Vinales, who had finished on the podium in the last two visits to Germany, but couldn’t even get close to the Top 10 in combined practice, and started from 21st on the factory Yamaha, the worst qualifying performance of his MotoGP career, with Lorenzo Savadori bringing up the rear.

Seriously, what the hell is going on with Top Gun…. he looked more like Goose this weekend.


Race (30 Laps)


Before the start of the testing 30 lap journey, there were spots of rain on the grid, despite there being barely a 10% chance of rain, but it stayed a dry race at the start, and pretty much every rider went for the Hard front Medium rear Michelin tyre combination, except Taka Nakagami on a Medium front Soft rear and Jorge Martin with a Medium front, with the character of the Sachsenring making it such a grip intensive race.

At lights out, Aleix Espargaro took the lead up the inside into Turn 1, Marquez shot into 2nd after following the Aprilia through, Zarco rounded Quartararo into 3rd, with Miller 5th and Oliveira 6th.

Ending Lap 1, Marquez attacked in the final corner and took the lead, with Oliveira passing Quartararo to go up to 5th, and the fast starter of the pack was Binder, who was up from 13th to 7th, Danilo Petrucci climbed 7 places, while Vinales was still stuck down in 21st thanks to an error, and Franco Morbidelli was 22nd, and with Rossi 17th, the only Yamaha in the points was Fabio!

Aleix reclaimed the lead down the Waterfall on Lap 2, but Marquez made a carbon copy move at Turn 13 to hold the lead, Miller passed Quartararo for 4th at Turn 1, with the two factory KTM bikes right behind thanks to a flyer from Binder, and Oliveira moved up into the Top 5 with a move on Quartararo to end Lap 4.

Further down the field, Joan Mir was into 12th from 16th on the grid and temporarily the fastest rider on circuit before Oliveira set another fastest lap, and the first fallers of the race were Danilo Petrucci and Alex Marquez at Turn 1 to start Lap 5, although the replay only showed the aftermath, with Alex’s Honda underneath the Tech3 KTM.

As it turned out, Marquez simply lost the front after using too much lean angle, although Petrucci was more annoyed at his own teammate Iker Lecuona than the younger Marquez:

“Lecuona for me did really some stupid moves in the few laps, because everyone was waiting, we were all in a row.”

“Turn 1 we were, let’s say, in a row, I braked hard, he (Iker) braked harder and Marquez was behind him, he (Alex) braked with this reference, and Iker was going wide… Marquez crashed and I found Marquez’s bike under my wheels.”

Just touching on those comments, in the early laps, pretty much all of the riders were at least a second slower than lap record pace, an indication they were trying to save grip in the early laps, with the Top 5 riders not really making a move on each other, plus there was the threat of light rain, as the next rider to go down was the sister Aprilia of Savadori, falling from 18th at Turn 10 on Lap 6.

Miller broke the procession when he made a bold move under brakes on Zarco to start Lap 8, taking 3rd place from the polesitter, by now Mir was into the Top 10, Bagnaia was down in 15th and a second off Valentino Rossi in 14th, as a few spits of rain began to fall in pit lane, and that brought out the white flag from Race Direction on Lap 9, allowing riders to change bikes if they desired, although nobody needed to take the gamble.

With the changing conditions, the flag to flag master Marquez came to life and put a second on a tentative Aleix Espargaro on Lap 9 alone, with the Aprilia now having to deal with the faster factory Ducati, and the Aussie made the textbook pass for 2nd on the Aprilia into Turn 1 to start Lap 10, and not wasting a moment, Oliveira went into 3rd a corner later, making the pass over the slippery kerbs to boot!

It was as if that white flag set off a hand grenade and all the riders started racing!

Quartararo passed Zarco for 5th to end Lap 10, a crucial move in the context of the championship, while Oliveira now had a full head of momentum, passing Miller for 2nd down the Waterfall into Turn 12 on Lap 11, a move that had been coming for a while, but all the while, Marquez was building up his lead to 1.8 seconds, and the rain threat had now passed, which turned the race into an Iberian shootout between the factory Honda and the factory KTM.

Marquez and Oliveira were the first riders to set sub 82-second laps on Lap 13 – Marc fired in a 1.21.825, but Miguel the Madman shot back with a 1.21.772, Marquez responded with an identical lap time on Lap 14 (I’m not kidding, he set a 1.21.772), but Oliveira said touché and set a 1.21.701, which would remain the fastest lap of the race.

With the rest of the field doing their best just to keep their left front tyre faces from falling off the face of the universe, it was simply captivating watching Marquez and Oliveira go at it, with Miguel providing the most sustained challenge any rider had given to Marc in Germany since Jonas Folger back in 2017.

Further down, Bagnaia had recovered to 11th and was setting lap times that would’ve put him on the podium in a more favourable universe, and meanwhile, Maverick Vinales was STILL mired down in 19th, just behind Morbidelli, and amazingly, Top Gun was all set to finish a Grand Prix outside of the points for the first time since the Moto3 race in Germany back in 2012.

Miller was holding on to 3rd, but he just didn’t have the pace to match the leaders without destroying his tyres, which were already in real trouble, Quartararo went through on Aleix Espargaro down the Waterfall to end Lap 17, moving up to 4th place, while Binder tired a move on Zarco to start Lap 18, but went in too hot and had to wait another lap to make the pass for 6th place stick.

While Oliveira was shaving tenths off Marquez in the lead, Quartararo simply had too much speed for Miller to hold out, and the championship leader moved up to 3rd on Lap 19, and while Fabio wasn’t much of a chance of winning the race, he had both his nearest title contenders behind him and dropping points.

Entering the final 10 laps, Bagnaia was now into 10th place and was the fastest rider on circuit, becoming the only rider outside of Marquez and Oliveira to set a 1m21s lap (On Lap 19, he did it again on Lap 22), moving past Martin for 9th on Lap 22, giving him a clean shot to catch up to Mir in 8th place, who the last rider in the podium train, and at the rate Pecco was riding, he had a realistic chance of saving a Top 5 finish.

Oliveira shaved the lead down to 1.1 seconds on Lap 22, and he is training to be a dentist, so I can imagine what the Honda pit wall experienced was as painful as the removal of your wisdom teeth, with a side of sheer heart attack.

The other factory KTM of Binder also had something left to give, and he had a crack at Aleix’s 5th place into Turn 1 to begin Lap 23, and in a carbon copy of the Zarco move, he went in too deep and simply waited until the end of the lap to take 5th place, and he now had a good chance at taking 4th from Miller.

If you want to know another amazing stat from the race, between Laps 12 and 14, Binder set the exact same lap time to a thousandth of a second on all 3 laps – 1.22.268.

Marquez consistently put 2-tenths onto the lead through Sector 1, but Oliveira was just as good through Sectors 3 and 4m and at the end of Lap 25, the gap was under a second for the first time since Lap 8!

Marc’s rear tyre was visibly starting to squirm, but riding this utter psychopath of an RC213V loose appeared to be the best way to ride the bike, and Marc began responding to the sustained pressure of the KTM, and the King Of The Ring stuck on his crown and extended the gap back to 1.2 seconds on Lap 27, then he got it back out beyond 1.5 seconds through Sector 1 on Lap 28, and after that, it was pretty much game over!

Further down, Bagnaia passed Mir for 8th on Lap 25, he then passed Zarco for 7th on Lap 26, while Binder passed Miller for 4th at the end of Lap 27, securing both the factory KTMs in the Top 4.

As Marc and Honda’s 11th consecutive win at The ‘Ring dtew ever closer, Bagnaia just kept on charging, passing Aleix for 6th on Lap 29, leaving his teammate Miller a sitting duck on tyres that didn’t even have a left hand face remaining, and it may not surprise you, but the Italian did end up as the lead Ducati, passing Jack on the final lap at Turn 9, the first time in the race that Jack had been outside of the Top 5, and unfortunately, it was just the wrong time.

But stuff the Bologna Bullets for a moment, because they’re not the story of this race.

It’s been a long 18 months, some would call them hellish, but Marc Marquez confirmed once again that he is THE KING OF THE RING, ENDING A 581 DAY WINLESS DROUGHT FOR HIMSELF AND HONDA!

Number 93 hasn’t got much left after his reign as champion was abruptly ended in a world of pain last July, but extending his and Honda’s Sachsenring streak to 11, after everything that’s happened, is arguably the greatest comeback win in Premier Class racing since Mick Doohan came back from nearly losing his leg in 1992 to win the 1993 San Marino Grand Prix, right before he began his run of 5 consecutive 500cc titles.

Mighty Mick won that race with one leg, and to quote Jack Miller, Marc won this race with one arm!

Winning for the 8th consecutive year at the Sachsenring also put Marc within 1 win of Giacomo Agostini’s all-time record of 9 consecutive wins at a circuit at Imatra in Finland between 1965 to 1973 on his MV Agusta – It should also be noted that Ago also 8 straight years at Spa for good measure!

Completing the remainder of the Top 10, Miguel Oliveira rode a near flawless race to take 2nd place, the third consecutive race he’s finished in the Top 2, showing how good Miguel on that revised KTM is going, Quartararo extended his title lead with 3rd place, also being the only Yamaha in the Top 10, Binder in 4th had his best result since the win at Brno last season, the factory Ducatis of Bagnaia and Miller finished 5th and 6th at a track that’s never been kind to the Dukes, Aleix Espargaro couldn’t make the most of the front row start and slipped down to 7th, Zarco went from pole to 8th, Joan Mir finished 9th on a weekend where Suzuki were pretty most ghosts, and Pol Espargaro was 10th on the other Repsol Honda.

So as we head to Assen, it’s still Quartararo in control of the title fight with Zarco 2nd and Miller 3rd, only just ahead of Bagnaia, with Oliveira’s 9 points in the opening 5 races the only thing stopping him being a realistic contender at this stage, with Marc’s win rocketing him up from 18th to 10th.

But for the time being, THE KING OF THE RING IS STILL ON HIS THRONE.


Moto2: The Remy Rollercoaster

It was a milestone weekend for the intermediate class, as Germany marked the 200th Moto2 race since the rebranding of the old 250cc championship in 2010, and FP2 on Friday might have been one of the funniest sessions we’ll see for a while, becuase first up, there was a Red Flag because of a TWISTER that had formed near the Ralf Waldmann Corner/Turn 11:

Then it was red-flagged again after a message to pit to an undisclosed rider became very creative, flying 400 metres in the air before it fell on the pit straight and was destroyed by oncoming bikes:

Why is that so mesmerising to look at.


Qualifying


Needing a response to Gardner’s back to back victories and his lap record pace in Combined Practice, Red Bull KTM Ajo teammate Raul Fernandez made the best possible start and took his third pole position of the season on Saturday, bettering Jorge Navarro’s all-time lap record (1.23.426) from 2019 with a 1.23.397 to start from P1, a convincing 0.344s ahead of MotoGP bound Fabio Di Giannantonio, with Gardner completing the front row in 3rd.

Marco Bezzecchi had to come through Q1 after being 19th in practice, but he recovered to start 4th, Xavi Vierge was 5th, Jorge Navarro completed the 2nd Row, Sam Lowes was 7th after falling at Turn 1, rookie Ai Ogura 8th, Bo Bendsnyder came through Q1 to start 9th, while Aron Canet was 10th, Nicolo Bulega 11th, Joe Roberts 12th, while the only German on the grid Marchel Schrotter could only manage 17th, but he would fair much better on Sunday.


Race ( 28 Laps)

Fernandez led off the line from pole with Gardner following him through into 2nd as the KTM Ajo Kalex bikes streaked away again, Di Giannantonio lost out badly and fell to 5th behind Vierge and Bezzecchi, and Simone Corsi’s race didn’t even make it past Turn 3 before he fell off the MV Agusta due to contact, and the Italian bike began a wild acrobatical show before finally coming to rest, but somehow no fluid spilled on the track, and the mess was cleaned up before the riders started Lap 2.

Unlike the last two races where patience until the final laps has been the key, Gardner was so much more aggressive early in the race, passing Fernandez to take the lead into Turn 12 on Lap 2 after getting a great run down the Waterfall, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process, and the teammates were already 1.5 seconds clear of Vierge in 3rd, and even Stevie Wonder could see that barring a catastrophe, it was going to be the second win of the day for Aki Ajo’s team after Pedro Acosta won the Moto3 race.

On the topic of Moto3, Australian Joel Kelso made his Grand Prix debut as a replacement rider and finished a respectable 17th on Sunday, after an incident with ‘Divebomb’ Darryn Binder in Q1, which led to Binder being disqualified in Q2 – Good stuff Joel, hope you get a few more chances!

Back on topic, and in the early laps the big mover was Aron Canet, up from 10th to 5th, the Brit Jake Dixon made up 5 places to 10th, Lowes lost 7 places to fall down to 14th behind teammate Augusto Fernandez, and Nicolo Bulega lost 7 places to fall to 18th.

During the opening 3 laps, Gardner set a lightning pace (A new race lap record 1.23.767 on Lap 3) that nobody except Fernandez could even sniff, and to Raul’s credit, he was only a tenth off the Australia and a full second faster than Vierge in 3rd, but it appeared the intense pressure applied by Gardner up front just got the better of the rookie, and in a major midseason twist in the Moto2 title fight…..

FERNANDEZ WAS OUT ON LAP 5, AFTER LOSING THE FRONT AT TURN 3!

“25 Out”

It was the rookie’s first mistake all season, the first DNF of his Moto2 tenure, and Gardner could now afford to just manage the race Jorge Lorenzo style, having built up a massive 5 second lead over the now 2nd place Aron Canet, who had passed Vierge and Bezzecchi that same lap!

As the fight for the podium places took centre stage, on Lap 8 Lorenzo Baldassarri ended MV Agusta’s terrible afternoon, and Jake Dixon and Augusto Fernandez collided at Turn 12, sending Augusto out of the race and Dixon into last after both riders had held Top 10 positions, with Dixon punished after the race with a Long Lap Penalty to be served as this weekend’s Dutch TT.

During a fairly uneventful middle section of the race as Gardner rode on rails, the next big chargers were Moto3 Champion Albert Arenas, up from 18th to 11th, and Cameron Beaubier, who was up from 25th to 14th, and if Cameron could ever actually put in a decent Saturday performance, he’d be looking at Top 5 finishes, because his performances in the AMA Superbike Championship (Where he’s a 5-time Champion) will tell you he’s a damn good racer.

Former Moto3 World Champion Lorenzo Dalla Porta’s terrible run continued when he had a mechanical retirement just short of half race distance, while Fabio Di Giannantonio had settled down after his slowly, passing Vierge to take 4th place with a cool move down the Waterfall into Turn 12 on Lap 11, and Diggia closed up to Bezzecchi on Lap 17, and briefly took 3rd with a ballsy pass at Turn 10 into 11:

But ‘Bezz’ got him straight back at Turn 12 to retain his podium spot, with that fight dragging Vierge back into podium contention, a rider making good moves directly behind was Ai Ogura into 6th place.

DiGi tried another move at Turn 12 on the next lap, but he went wide and allowed Vierge back into it.

So with 10 laps to go, the only rider who could stop Remy from winning was Remy himself, and the only rider who could stop Aron Canet from a guaranteed podium was Aron Canet, given he was 2.5 seconds ahead of the 3rd place scrap, but the big question for the Spaniard was how much tyre had he used building that gap.

Ogura passed Vierge for 5th place at Turn 12 on Lap 24, leaving the Japanese rookie in position to equal his career-best result, Schrotter and Lowes had worked their way up to 7th and 8th places after their slow beginnings, but most importantly, Bezzecchi had cut the gap down to 1.4 seconds with only 4 laps to go, and with 2 laps to go, it was down to just 0.98s

Starting the last lap, Vierge’s consistent race ended when he fell from 6th at Turn 1, and barely a minute later, Joe Roberts fell from 11th at the same corner, and Ogura lost 5th at Turn 8!

As the news of Ogura’s fall hit the screen, Remy Gardner greeted the chequered flag to make it a winning hat-trick in Moto2, thanks to a blistering start, and with nobody to touch him following the fall of Fernandez!

It was nothing short of a clinic for Remy, as he won by a comfortable 6 seconds to the inked-up Canet, who matched his 2nd place from Portugal ahead of Mr Consistency Marco Bezzecchi, who took his fourth podium in the last five races, Lowes took 5th place from Schrotter at the penultimate corner, but 17th to 6th was still a great recovery for Marcel at home, Jorge Navarro was 7th, Albert Arenas made up 10 places to finish 8th, his first Top 10 finish in Moto2, Marcos Ramirez was 9th, teammate Beaubier made it into the Top 10 thanks to those late falls, and shout outs to Alonso Lopez, who finished 12th as a replacement for Hector Garzo, and Barry Baltus, who took his first career points in 14th.

A huge result for Remy, becoming the first Australian to win a hat-trick of intermediate class races in World Championship history, and the first Aussie to win 3 races in a row since Casey Stoner in 2011, and with the DNF of Fernandez, he now leads the World Championship by 36 points (164 to 128) to his teammate, with Bezzecchi now only 11 points behind Raul, but if this weekend of Moto2 racing has taught us anything, it’s that things can change very quickly.

Remy’s win also completed a Super Sunday for the sons of Australia’s two-wheeled royalty, because Mick Doohan’s son Jack Doohan won his maiden Formula 3 race at Paul Ricard, and World Superbike legend (And MotoGP race winner) Troy Bayliss’ son Oli won his maiden race in the Australian Superbike Championship round at Hidden Valley.


The fifth time this year we’ve heard the Australian national anthem…. I’m almost bored of it!


Up next: The return of the legendary DUTCH TT AT ASSEN NEXT WEEK!

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