Wheelie Wednesday: British MotoGP

The first time two brothers have sat 1-2 in a MotoGP race… that we know of

Images/GIFs belong to the FIM & Dorna Sports.

Monster Energy British Grand Prix

Circuit: Silverstone

5.9km long, and a former RAF base

I have to think that MotoGP is one of the few major sports that visits Silverstone and still has the start/finish line at Woodcote through to Copse, because Formula One uses the new pit complex that runs adjacent to what is now the Hamilton Straight between Club and Abbey.

Another fact for the home of British motorsport is that one lap of Silverstone (5.9km in length) is also one of the longest laps, in terms of time, of the entire championship – The pole time from 2019 by Marc Marquez was a 1.58.168, and the fastest lap was a 1.59.936, which is comparable to Sepang in Malaysia, and it’s only just topped by the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, which is around the 2m04s per lap range.

Also, since Silverstone was returned to the MotoGP calendar in 2010 in place of Donnington, Jorge Lorenzo has been the only rider to win at least twice at the circuit, winning 3 times (2010, 2012-13) – In fact, there’s been 6 different winners in the last editions of the race, which has grown to 7 out of 7 with the events of Sunday.

Journey of the Jackass 2021, Chapter 12: The Monster sponsored Bike wins the Monster sponsored race

After being put on the backburner in 2020, the British Motorcycle Grand Prix was back at the home of British motorsport, with Yamaha’s Bold and the Beautiful storyline involving Maverick Vinales finally reaching a climax after he was suspended for the Austrian Grand Prix, with ‘Top Gun’ being cut loose from the team with immediate effect, and the result of that was Yamaha’s test rider Cal Crutchlow would fill in on the second Factory Yamaha for the weekend, giving Cal the chance to get a proper farewell to MotoGP in front of his home fans after he retired last year.

Having being freed from Yamaha, Vinales ended one of the worst kept secrets going around by signing with Aprilia for 2022, although he is allowed to race for the team this year, if they bother to enter him in place of Lorenzo Savadori.

At the Yamaha satellite operation that is Petronas Yamaha SRT, the team’s Moto2 rider Jake Dixon would make his MotoGP debut on the satellite Yamaha, on his home track, alongside Valentino Rossi in Vale’s farewell to Britain, as Franco Morbidelli sat out another race recovering from knee surgery, and with Vinales gone, Franco was the logical choice to take over full time on the factory bike from this point on, and the final piece of this Yamaha puzzle is that Andrea Dovizioso will apprently end his sabbatical and ride the satellite Yamaha at Misano in preparation for a 2022 ride, which would be the first time Dovi has been on a Yamaha since his Tech3 year of 2012!

There was some crazy stat that with all these Yamaha changes, Valentino Rossi has had as many teammates this year (4) as he did between 2005 and 2020.

This year he’s had Morbidelli, Garrett Gerloff, Crutchlow and now Jake Dixon, and in the 15 years prior, he’d had Colin Edwards (2005-07), Jorge Lorenzo (2008-10, 13-16), Nicky Hayden (2011-12) and Vinales (17-20).

Of course, that wasn’t only the big piece of news involving the Sepang Racing operation this weekend, because after losing backing from Petronas a few weeks ago, the team announced they’ll be departing ALL THREE CATEGORIES after this season, with some kind of phoenix team being assembled by team boss Razlan Razali and team director Johan Stigefelt, with some kind of announcement due at Misano in just under 3 weeks.

A shame to see them go, because they’ve been one of the more successful satellite teams in the MotoGP era, comparable to the old Pons Honda team in the early 2000s with Alex Barros and Max Biaggi, and Gresini Honda when Sete Gibernau and Marco Merlandri rode for them between 2003-06.

Practice & Qualifying

Note: Lorenzo Savadori withdrew after FP2 due to pain from the broken ankle he sustained in Austria, reducing the field to 21 bikes.

Jack Miller topped combined practice from Fabio Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro, with the Top 3 split by under 1-tenth of a second, with Jorge Martin only 0.108s back in 4th, Pecco Bagnaia 5th, Pol Espargaro 6th, Valentino Rossi went straight into Q2 in 7th, Joan Mir 8th, Austrian GP winner Brad Binder was 9th, and Marc Marquez got the last automatic Q2 spot, despite an enormous front end loss & barrel roll through Maggotts in FP1, which left grit in eyes and had him crying during FP2:

At the end of Q1, Johann Zarco and Alex Rins both progressed to the final session on the back of last-ditch laps, knocking out Enea Bastianini, who fell just shy of the finish while leading the timesheets.

While that was a fairly mundane session, the end of Q2 was downright weird, because with 20 seconds to go, Pol Espargaro, who hadn’t even been close to a front row start since joining Repsol Honda, put himself on provisional pole with a 1.58.889, displacing Quartararo’s 1.58.990, which had been the fastest time of the weekend up to the weekend….

Only for Jorge Martin to come from nowhere and utterly annihilate the entire field with a new lap record 1:58.008s, having been 1.5 seconds faster than anyone in Sector 2, an achievement that was seemingly an absolute mystery to everyone, including Dorna and the FIM race officials, with riders having no idea if the lap was real and if it should be used as a point of reference, because they were all at least 9 tenths slower.

The mystery was resolved when an onboard replay showed that Martin had completely cut through the Vale/Club complex, and his lap was finally struck off the board, and Pol Espargaro was rightfully awarded Repsol Honda’s first pole position since Valencia 2019, and the factory team’s first pole that wasn’t claimed by Marc Marquez since Dani Pedrosa at Malaysia in 2017!

So once the mess was cleared, Pol was on Pole by 0.022s ahead of Bagnaia, Quartararo’s streak of front row starts keeps on going, Martin’s second-fastest time was quick enough for 4th ahead of Marc Marquez, Aleix Espargaro grabbed 6th just ahead of Miller, who couldn’t back up his FP3 performance for whatever reason, Valentino Rossi put in a good Saturday to start from 8th, Johann Zarco completed the third row, 2019 race winner Alex Rins started 10th just ahead of teammate Joan Mir, and Binder was fortunate he got straight into Q2, because his time would’ve put him 16th if he’d been stuck in Q1.

Miguel Oliveira getting out-qualified by a semi-retired Cal Crutchlow….. Out of all the riders who haven’t shown up since the Summer break, Oliveira is numero uno.

Race (20 Laps)

It was a typical British day at the end of a British Summer; 16 degrees Celsius, cloudy and a chilling wind, which would seemingly leave most riders to go for the front & rear Medium tyre just to make up the grip deficit + make the finish, but some riders bit the bullet and went for some form of a Soft tyre.

Pole-sitting Pol bit the bullet on the Soft rear, Nakagami took the ultimate punt from 15th and went Soft/Soft, with all four Honda riders having a Soft tyre fitted, and all up 9 riders had changed to some form of a Soft tyre, with the championship trifecta of Quartararo, Bagnaia and Mir all going for a Soft front, while Aleix Espargaro, Jack Miller and Alex Rins resisted the temptation and stuck to the Medium/Medium, as did all of the KTM riders.

At the start, Pol Espargaro led from Bagnaia and Aleix Espargaro, with the opening lap marked by contact between Marc Marquez and Jorge Martin at Vale corner, putting both riders out of the race, as Marquez paid the price for an ambitious pass gone wrong:

That incident also occurred not even a day after this Tweet appeared:

This new alliance…. was it Mutually Assured Destruction?

Another noteworthy moment from the opening lap came from Aleix Espargaro passed Pecco for 2nd at Brooklands corner, putting the Espargaro brothers in a 1-2 position for what may be the first time ever in a MotoGP race, and Matt Birt mentioned that the last time two brothers have stood on the podium together were the Aoki siblings (Nobuatsu and Takuma) at the 1997 Imola Grand Prix, when they were 2nd and 3rd behind Mick Doohan.

As Aleix made a lunge at Pol at Stowe on Lap 3, Quartararo started his move towards victory with a pass on Bagnaia for 3rd at Village, then he took Aleix for 2nd at The Loop on Lap 4, and on Lap 5, Quartararo took the lead for good when he sliced past Pol at the sweeping Farm corner, and by the end of the lap, the French rider was 6 tenths clear of the Honda, and there wasn’t anybody on this earth who could catch him.

Aleix would ultimately prevail in the Espargaro brothers feud when he passed Pol for 2nd on Lap 6, while Jack Miller had moved up to 5th ahead of both the Suzukis, but a mistake at Stowe allowed both the blue bikes through, then Bagnaia did the same thing as Jack on the very next lap to allow Mir into 4th, but that didn’t last long for the World Champion, because Rins would take his younger compatriot on Lap 7, and it seemed like the Spaniard was rediscovering his love affair with the British track.

It continued on Lap 8 when Rins passed Pol Espargaro for 3rd at the Loop, and at half race distance, Quartararo led by 3 seconds to Aleix Espargaro, while Miller had now passed Bagnaia for 6th to be the leading Ducati, with Pecco’s soft tyre decision looking shakier by the lap, and one of the rides of the race was Alex Marquez, up from 17th to 8th after passing Valentino Rossi.

In the back half of the race, another rider starting to struggle on the Soft tyre was Mir, who couldn’t do anymore to reel in the 1.3 seconds up the road to the Espargaro brothers, while directly behind him, Miller had bided his time long enough and passed Mir for 4th at Stowe on Lap 12, a few seconds after Rins had made it through on Aleix, who had gone wide.

Now in clean air in pursuit of the 4th placed Pol, Miller had become the fastest rider on the track, and that was an impressive feat considering Quartararo was firing in 2m00s lap times for fun between Laps 2 through Lap 12, but the Jackass was indeed positively flying, reeling in Pol Espargao at half a second per lap, which was putting the Aussie right in podium contention.

There seems to be a theme in Jack’s best dry races – If he can bide his time in the early laps and save a bit of tyre life, then he comes alive in the second half of races and puts himself in Top 5/Podium contention… Unfortunately it doesn’t happen often enough.

Meantime, Bagnaia’s title hopes were dying a slow painful death, because he was reeled in by Alex Marquez and passed for 7th place at Maggotts on Lap 13, leaving Pecco a serious chance of missing the Top 10, a fate that had already befallen Rossi, who had dropped down to 13th after being 6th earlier in the race.

It turned out Jack didn’t even need to put a move on Pol, because the Spaniard ran wide at Stowe on Lap 15, allowing Miller through into 4th place, putting paid to Pol’s chances of a podium, and now 2nd through 4th were all within a second of each other, but they were no hope of catching ‘El Diablo’, whose lead was out to a race-high 3.8 seconds with 5 laps to go, before he started to preserve his Soft front tyre.

Another rider who absolutely thrived in the second half of the race was Binder, who had come from outside the Top 10 to pass Bagnaia at Maggots to take 8th on Lap 16, and after starting on the front row, the Italian was an absolute certainty to miss the Top 10 with his lap times falling into the 2m03s as Nakagami and Lecuona closed on to his back wheel, not to mention Zarco and Petrucci as well.

With a handful of laps to go, Rins had built a slight gap on Aleix that was big enough to just about assure the Suzuki of 2nd place, while Miller was still only 2 tenths off the Aprilia, with the Italian manufacturer’s first podium of the MotoGP era so tantalisingly close, while further down, Binder’s mega charge continued as he took both Mir and Alex Marquez to move into 6th place, which meant all 6 manufacturers filled the Top 6 positions, while Mir’s tumble continued when he was passed by Marquez and Lecuona to fall to 9th.

So as the final lap began and Quartararo had a superb win locked up and Rins was set to finish in 2nd barring a disaster, Miller got close to enough to attack Aleix coming out of Farm and into Village, and the Aussie went for it up the inside and took 3rd place!

But Aleix wasn’t giving up a drought-breaking podium without a fight, and he lined up the Aprilia on the outside of the Ducati at the Loop to pull off a textbook cutback up the inside at Aintree and retake 3rd place, and from there Miller wouldn’t have a chance to attempt another pass!

But for the 5th time this season, there was no stopping Fabulous Fabio Quartararo out in front, as the French took his fifth win of the year by 2.6 seconds to Alex Rins, the first time any Yamaha rider has won 5 races in a season since Jorge Lorenzo in 2015!

As Fabio celebrated, everyone stood up and applauded the fact that after years of blood sweat and tears, Aprilia had their first podium of the MotoGP era in the hands of Aleix Espargaro!

Before the weekend started, Aleix was apparently translated as saying that Maverick Vinales’ move to Aprilia would prove that was a Top 3 rider on the MotoGP grid, which Aleix claimed was mistranslated and taken out of context, and that he was a Top 3 rider RIGHT NOW…

Well, he’s right for now!

For the record, it was Aprilia’s first podium in the Premier Class since Jeremy McWilliams finished 3rd in the 2000 500cc British Grand Prix at Donnington, which you may remember was also Valentino Rossi’s maiden premier class win.

Completing the finishers, Jack Miller missed the podium by only 2-tenths of a second in 4th, Pol Espargaro still took his best result for Honda in 5th, Brad Binder finished 6th for KTM, making this race the first in MotoGP to have all 6 manufacturers in the Top 6, Iker Lecuona on the Tech3 KTM was a superb 7th to back up his 6th from Austria, Alex Marquez went from 17th to finish 8th, and in a bunched finish, Joan Mir only just finished in 9th ahead of Danilo Petrucci and Johann Zarco, with the result elevating Mir into 2nd in the championship.

In 12th came Bastianini, Nakagami’s Soft front & rear gamble just didn’t work in 13th, Bagnaia’s horrific afternoon saw him fall down to 14th, the final points position went to Luca Marini, while Miguel Oliveira finished 16th, having never placed higher than 14th in any session this weekend, Cal Crutchlow finished 17th on the other factory Yamaha, Rossi plummeted off the cliff in the closing laps to 18th, while Jake Dixon at least finished on his MotoGP debut, albeit in 19th.

If the Championship wasn’t done before, it probably is now!

Moto2: The Remy Rollercoaster


The Red Bull in the land of Monster

More seriously, I did watch the race live due to all the rain at Spa killing off the Formula One race, and can I say what a fantastic display of riding that was from all four riders in the Top 4, as they finished the race covered by only 2.2 seconds.

Straight off the top, Remy Gardner came through to win after avoiding a few near wipeouts earlier in the race, starting from when he had to check himself up in the corners, which dropped him down to 5th, then when Marco Bezzecchi sat himself up at The Loop, which almost led to Gardner wiping both of them out:

Then after getting himself into the Top 2 and the lead, Gardner had to absorb the relentless pressure from Bezz, who must’ve put at least half a dozen passes on the Aussie into Stowe after getting a slipstream Moto3 style, but every time Bezz took the lead, Gardner would maul him through Sector 3 and get it back at Farm corner, denying Bezz any chance to settle into a leading rhythm, and to cap it, Gardner was pretty much error free throughout the entire exchange, and it won him the race

A fantastic way for Gardner to shoot back to form after two disappointing outings in Austria had seen his championship lead whittled down to 19 points by teammate Raul Fernandez, who unfortunately fell 4 laps from the end, which means Gardner’s lead is now back out to 44 points, and of course, Remy replicated what his dad achieved on a 500cc Honda back in 1986, and that’s win at Silverstone.

Funnily enough, Wayne Gardner’s ’86 win was the last time the British GP was held at Silverstone before it moved to Donnington Park, where it stayed until 2009.

Next up, polesitter Marco Bezzecchi could’ve been forgiven for dropping off in the second half of the race with the disadvantage of riding with a Soft tyre in the closing laps after losing the lead early on, but no matter how many times it might look like Gardner was going to bolt away and break the back of the Italian, he just kept on finding.

Case in point, after Gardner set the fastest lap with 4 laps to go, Bezzecchi responded on the penultimate lap and set a new fastest lap, which unfortunately for Bezz stood for all of 2 seconds, because Jorge Navarro directly behind him bettered it by 0.014s (2.04.326 vs 2.04.312).

Bezzecchi was only 0.481s off Gardner at the finish… More remarkably, the race lead never got beyond half a second at any point in the race.

That’s something you see in Moto3, not Moto2!

Then there was Jorge Navarro on the Boscoscuro, who hadn’t finished in the Top 6 of a race since the second Aragon race last year (He was 5th), in the midst of a terrible run for the Spaniard, but he turned back the clock to his extremely consistent 2019 Moto2 campaign, and despite dropping back to 5th behind Fabio Di Giannantonio at the halfway stage, Navarro came back and caught up to Lowes on Lap 15 get himself back onto the podium for the first time since Valencia in 2019, and to cap it off he got the aforementioned fastest lap on Lap 17.

Just to show you how thoroughly Kalex dominates this current era of Moto2, only two Boscoscuro (The former Speed Up chassis) riders have scored podiums this year – Aron Canet has three 2nd placings, and now Navarro has a 3rd placing.

And lastly, just off the podium was hometown hero Sam Lowes, with the sheer weight of the 67,000 strong home crowd on his side, managing to take the lead from Bezzecchi on the opening lap before Bezz got him back and broke away, and after sitting in the podium places for the opening 14 laps and being there to pounce if Gardner and Bezzecchi wiped each other out, Lowes ultimately just didn’t have the pace to contain Navarro in the closing laps, but he never lost sight of the Spaniard and finished just 0.354s off the podium, having not made a mistake all race.

Great racing all round.

Next race: Aragon on the 12th!

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