Motorsport Monday: San Marino MotoGP

Rough Translation – “Fabio, I’ll trade my husband for your gloves”

Sounds like a great deal….

For the husband.

All GIFs/Images belong to Dorna Sports

Circuit: Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli

Graphic by the Honda Racing Corporation

Journey of the Jackass 2021, Chapter 14: Pulsating Perfecto Pecco Performance

A week after Marc Marquez and Francesco Bagnaia swapped the lead 7 times in the closing laps at Aragon, before Pecco broke through for his maiden MotoGP win and becoming the first Italian to win this season, it was on to Misano for the first of 2 races on the Rimini Coast this season, although unlike last season it won’t be a double header, with the second race (The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix) coming on the 24th of October, timed as such to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Marco Simoncelli’s fatal accident at Sepang, which will fall on the 23rd of October during Saturday qualifying.

The first major bit of news for the week was that Michelin will remain as the MotoGP tyre supplier until 2026, while there’s been several major rider changes across the grid since Aragon, where Maverick Vinales returned on an Aprilia, and this week it’s all about Yamaha.

Franco Morbidelli made his long-awaited return to the grid after a knee operation prior to Assen back in June, making his debut on the factory Monster Energy Yamaha following Maverick’s implosion, with Franco signed up until 2023, and Andrea Dovizioso made his MotoGP return with the SRT Petronas Yamaha team for the remainder of the season (And in 2022) alongside Valentino Rossi, which will be Dovi’s first time on the M1 bike since his Tech3 year in 2012, which up until now was his only year on a Yamaha.

The other bit of good news for Yamaha is that Sepang Racing’s future is secure after they depart the sport at the end of the year, with the team being rebanded as RNF MotoGP Racing for 2022, taking over their predecessor’s position as the Yamaha satellite team.

On the wildcard front, Honda’s test rider Stefan Bradl made his second wildcard appearance of the season, riding the HRC-themed RC213V, and Ducati’s test rider Michele Pirro also made a wildcard appearance for the weekend on a factory Ducati, while Dani Pedrosa was due to make a second wildcard appearance for KTM, but the team instead focused on testing new parts for the bike, and Lorenzo Savadori’s wildcard appearance for Aprilia never took place due to his ankle injury from the Red Bull Ring fireball last month.

Finally, Valentino Rossi has a tradition of wearing a special helmet for what is his home Grand Prix, and last year Vale had the Viagra tablet design, and this year he underwent natural evolution with a pink bow, given that little blue pill has turned The Doctor into an expected parent at the end of the year:

From /r/motogp

Ah, you funny old bugger.

Practice & Qualifying

After a wet Friday pretty much turned Saturday’s FP3 into an early version of Q1, it would be Bagnaia, who once again led the field into Q2 on home soil, ahead of Fabio Quartararo, teammate Jack Miller, Joan Mir, Maverick Vinales and Aleix Espargaro put both Aprilias into Q2, Alex Rins, Johann Zarco (Who was racing with arm pump issues), Pol Espargaro, and Jorge Martin got the 10th and final direct entry, as wildcard Michele Pirro missed out by 0.005s!

It was a 1.32.427 for Martin versus Pirro’s 1.32.432… how cruel.

Ultimately it would be Enea Bastianini and Marc Marquez (Thanks to a tow from Bradl) who joined the others in Q2, but for the second weekend running, the factory Ducatis of Bagnaia and Miller would start 1-2 on the grid, and Fabio Quartararo would line up alongside them, despite crashing on his final lap.

The Pramac Ducatis of Martin and Zarco made it 4 Dukes in the Top 5, Pol Espargaro and Marc Marquez were next for Repsol Honda, with Marquez also falling while tailing Bagnaia, Aleix Espargaro and Alex Rins completed the third row, and Maverick Vinales, Joan Mir (In his 100th Grand Prix) and Enea Bastianini completed the first 4 rows, as Mir’s session was ruined by a wrong call to box, while the World Champion also made a few comments about Marc Marquez’ repetitive tactic of grabbing a fast wheel in Qualifying:

Maybe you should try it for once Joan… you might actually get close to starting on the front row for once in your career.

Completing he rest of the grid, Taka Nakagami, Michele Pirro and Luca Marini lined up on the 5th Row, Franco Morbidelli, who took his maiden MotoGP win at Misano last year, Brad Binder (The fastest KTM), and Stefan Bradl were on the 6th Row, Alex Marquez, Iker Lecuona (Who had a massive highside in FP2) and Miguel Oliveira were on Row 7, and bringing up the caboose was the Italian trio of Danilo Petrucci, Valentino Rossi, who crashed out of Q1, and Andrea Dovizioso, who evidently needs a bit of time to adjust to the M1 after testing for Aprilia most of this year.

It was the third time the Jackass has started 2nd at Misano in the last year, although Ducati had only won twice at the circuit since it returned to the Championship in 2007 (Casey Stoner in ’07 & Dovi in 2018), a fact that can be attributed to the Bologna Bullets’ characteristic lack of cornering speed at a track full of fast corners, where Yamaha have won 8 times in 15 years, but 2021 was looking like the Corse’s best chance yet to make it a third win on the Rimini Coast, as Pecco eyed off his first two MotoGP wins in the space of 7 days!

Race (27 Laps)

With the threat of rain still very real as the grey clouds hung in the air, the race would start in dry conditions without the presence of a white flag, and it was split tyre strategies among the Top 3 – With the Michelin Hard front tyre the popular choice, Ducati made the big gamble of putting the Soft rear on Bagnaia and Miller, which the Corse predicted would start to go sour on Lap 20 to leave the pair with 7 laps of hell, while Yamaha gave Quartararo the Medium rear in the hope of making a late charge.

At the start, Bagnaia absolutely pinged the lids and opened up a considerable lead in the space of a few corners, a launch that was so good it appeared he’d jumped the start, although the stewards never took any action for whatever reason, and the race leader was in the clear by well over a second when the opening lap was done:

A jump start carries a double Long Lap Penalty

So as Pecco took the lead, Quartararo made a move on Miller into Turn 1, but Jack got him back at Turn 3 to keep the Ducatis in a 1-2 position, while Marquez and Martin both made fast starts, with Martin standing up Pol Espargaro at Turn 8, followed by taking 4th from Marc on Lap 2 before making it a Ducati 1-2-3 with a pass on Quartararo into Turn 1 to begin Lap 3, but Fabio got him back at Turn 4 to retake 3rd place, and it looked like the start of a great fight between the Championship leader and the top-ranked rookie, as the two exchanged places again at Turns 8 & 10 on that same lap:

But unfortunately, the duel didn’t even last a lap, because Martin went down at Turn 14 after asking too much of the front end, ending his Top 10 hopes even as he remounted:

Martin would later get a Long Lap penalty for cutting Turn 1

That was a crucial moment, because it left Quartararo free to put pressure on the factory Dukes with pretty much the entire race remaining, with Bagnaia’s lead to Jack Miller out to 1.5 seconds, with Miller 1.1 seconds ahead of Quartararo.

Further back in the pack, Vinales appeared to get the worst of the starts, falling from 10th to 17th, Zarco was out of the Top 10 in 11th, and he would get a Long Lap Penalty for cutting Turn 1, but conversely, Enea Bastianini was finally unleashing ‘The Beast’ in his rookie MotoGP season, jumping up from 12th to 6th, before he overtook Aleix Espargaro for 5th at Curvone on Lap 5, followed by a textbook pass on Marquez at Turn 8 on Lap 6 to take 4th place!

Just to remind you, Bastianini is riding a 2019 Ducati, a bike that was notorious for turning like the Queen Mary…. Seriously, Enea is pretty much having to ride it like he’s at the helm of a one person dinghy sailing into the wind:

Back at the front, Miller had got the gap down to 1.1 seconds, but the next crucial moment in the race game on Lap 8, when the Aussie went too wide at Turn 13, with Quartararo going with him, which doubled Bagnaia’s lead, with another byproduct being that Miller lost all his rhythm and just went backwards from thereon in.

Quartararo spent the next few laps closing in on Miller, and after a couple of laps inhaling the fumes coming from the exhaust of the Aussie’s Ducati, Fabio made the pass for 2nd at Turn 6 on Lap 14, by which point Bagnaia’s lead was 2.8 seconds, but El Diablo would start to make his charge and begin to tempt the good Christian soul.

At that same time, Rins passed Marc Marquez for 5th place, Iker Lecuona joined Jorge Martin in the DNF file, Dovi got a Long Lap Penalty for exceeding track limits, but the charge of Bastianini hadn’t even peaked yet, because from 4th place, he fired in a hat-trick of fastest laps between laps 16-18!

At one stage Bastianini had been 3.5 seconds off 3rd place, but after Lap 18, the gap to Miller was down to half a second after taking a full second out of the factory Ducati, who was further hamstrung by a track limits warning, as directly behind Enea, Alex Rins fell from 5th place, heralding the return of ‘Alex Bins’.

Miller seemed to accept reality that Bastianini was going to attack him and take 3rd place, and the Rimini native swooped through at Turn 13 on Lap 19 to move onto the rostrum, continuing what was the most impressive ride of the day, which was no mean feat considering Bagnaia was on course to win from pole for the second weekend running:

As Lap 20 came and went, Ducati’s predicition about the Soft tyre hitting the brick wall after 20 laps on was proving to be correct, because Quartararo on the Medium rear had started to eat into Bagnaia’s lead, which was down from 2.3 seconds on Lap 17 to 1.4 seconds on Lap 22, then Quartararo ate up another 4 tenths on Lap 23, and with 4 laps to go, the margin was down to only 0.6 of a second, and for the second weekend running, it was a heart stopping finish involving Pecco Bagnaia!

He’d withstood the best of Marc Marquez, now it was time for the best of Fabio Quartararo

With 2 laps to go it was down to 3 tenths, and as they crossed the line for the last lap, it was down to just 0.174s, as a significant portion of Italian men suddenly found renewed faith in the Lord and began praying for Pecco to hold on!

As everyone watched on, Quartararo couldn’t attack at Turn 4 as he fought the squirming Yamaha, he wasn’t close enough at Turn 8, then Bagnaia got a perfect corner exit out of Turn 10, and ensured Quartararo wouldn’t be able to get close enough to attack under brakes at Turn 14, and that was it….

After two consecutive weekends of immense pressure, Pecco Bagnaia had done the double, and he’d done it on home soil for Ducati!

Great rides by both Bagnaia and Quartararo, and to the other hero of the day Enea Bastianini, who took his maiden MotoGP podium!

The Beast of the Adriatic roars with delight

The fifth Ducati rider (Out of 6) to get a podium this season…. Luca Marini must be feeling like the red-headed bastard stepchild of the family.

The other bit of last lap action came just behind, in the fight for 4th, 5th and 6th, which had been sitting comfortably on a mini screen on the timing board until it disappeared in the final sector.

Marquez had caught up to the flailing Miller, who was doing very well to hold Marc at bay, but Joan Mir had caught and passed the Honda to take 5th to have the final shot at 4th place, and Mir, who isn’t afraid of going for an overly aggressive move and telling people off for doing the same thing, went in way too hot and took himself and Miller wide at Turn 14, allowing Marquez through into 4th, as if it were a two-wheeled version of Two Cats and a Monkey:

And just to cap off this annoying chapter for The Jackass, Mir was penalised for touching the green paint at the last corner, incurring an automatic 1 spot penalty, so thus, Marquez finished 4th, Miller 5th and Mir 6th.

Hey Joan, if only you’d given Marc a tow, you could’ve stayed in track limits!

Completing the Top 15, Pol finished 7th to win the Espargaro Derby ahead of Aleix in 8th, Brad Binder, who was barely sighted all day, completed his recovery from 17th to 9th in another big salvage operation for KTM, Nakagami finished in the Top 10, Michele Pirro was 11th, Zarco completed Pramac Racing’s miserable day with 12th, and he’ll be under the knife for arm pump surgery this week, Vinales’ bad start consigned him to 13th, the other wildcard Stefan Bradl was 14th on the HRC Honda, and Alex Marquez on the LCR Honda completed the Top 15.

And despite finishing down in 17th, Valentino Rossi took the time to say hello for the penultimate time to the sea of Vale Yellow that filled the grandstands:


Remember when Miguel Oliveira had that magical run of 2nd, 1st, 2nd and 5th back in May and June?

Well, he’s now scored a grand total of 2 points since the Summer break.

Moto2: The Remy Rollercoaster

After the events of Aragon, the only real piece of Moto2 news is that Marco Bezzecchi will reunite with Luca Marini in the VR46 MotoGP team in 2022, which makes it 4 riders from this current Moto2 class that will make the step up to the Premier Class in 2022 – Remy Gardner & Raul Fernandez at Tech3, Fabio Di Giannantonio at Gresini, and now Bezz.

Going by his performance on Sunday at Aragon, you wouldn’t even know Raul Fernandez fractured his right hand in a training drill, because on the back of a massive win over teammate and title rival Remy Gardner, he took pole position by well over 3 tenths from Sam Lowes, with Lowes’ teammate Augusto Fernandez half a second slower in 3rd, while Gardner had to make do with 4th on the grid alongside the Boscoscuros of Aron Canet and Jorge Navarro, with Xavi Vierge, Bezzecchi and Di Giannantonio on the 3rd Row, and it was really only the riders on the first two rows who had any chance of victory, although you just knew Gardner and Raul Fernandez would be featuring in the Top 3.

Race (25 Laps)

With the dark clouds bringing the threat of rain, at the start, Raul Fernandez led comfortably from Lowes, Gardner was in a fight for 3rd with Canet, Vierge and Bezzecchi, but the Aussie would get shuffled down to 6th after Bezzecchi made a huge dive bomb up the inside at Turn 4 and basically forced everyone else to get out of the way, while Augusto Fernandez falling from 3rd to 7th, putting paid to his podium chances, and Jorge Navarro was dumped from 6th down to 17th after an incident that put Simone Corsi out of the race on Lap 2, and Navarro would get a long lap penalty as a consequence.

However, it would be Lowes who led after the opening lap after a pass through Turn 8, with Canet settling into 3rd place, while Vierge made a pass on Bezzecchi on Lap 2 to take 4th, and Gardner passed the Italian at Turn 9 on Lap 3.

On Lap 4, Canet closed up to Fernandez through Sector 3, where the Boscoscuro was as it’s strongest, and with the momentum, Canet made the pass for 2nd place stick at Turn 14, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process, although it looked like Raul was just happy to use Canet to get a tow up to Sam Lowes.

Eventually, Gardner got a great run on Vierge out of Turns 1 & 2 to start Lap 6 and passed the Spaniard for 4th place at Turn 4, while Canet had started to put pressure on Lowes, who did manage it for a few laps, before he ran wide on the approach to Turn 14 and lost the lead to Canet, plus 2nd place to Fernandez!

It was also worth noting that up until this moment, Raul Fernandez hadn’t been able to do any more than 6 consecutive laps of the circuit due to his hand injury, which would’ve been excruciating to deal with given the load that goes through the body in the fast right handers of 11-12-13…

So while Gardner put a gap back to Vierge and Bezzecchi and closed up to the Top 3 in the ensuing laps, Xavi and Bezz engaged in their own scrap for the last Top 5 place, which went the way of Bezz thanks to a crisp pass at Turn 14 on Lap 12, and the Italian would hold the position for the remainder of the race.

Eventually the change for the lead came at the start of Lap 15, as Fernandez made an easy move on Canet into Turn 1, and it should be said Canet left plenty of room, and from there Fernandez started to really apply the sledgehammer to the knees of Canet, Lowes and Gardner:

At that moment the gap between Gardner and Fernandez in the championship would’ve been whittled down to just 27 points (264 vs 237) with 4 rounds remaining, but Gardner clawed a few more points back with a textbook switchback pass on Lowes at Turn 2 on Lap 17, a move the Aussie had to make, and he did it pretty well to put himself in the Top 3 for the first time all race:

It took Fernandez a few laps to really break the back of Canet, but the decisive break came on Laps 18 and 19, when Raul became the first rider to get below the 1m37s lap times, and it should be noted that Canet and Gardner (Plus Sam Lowes) also set their personal bests on Lap 19, which were both within one-tenth of Fernandez’ fastest lap, which was a 1.36.938 on Lap 19.

So in the closing laps, Augusto Fernandez got by Vierge to take 6th place, Lorenzo Dalla Porta fell from 12th on Lap 20 and lost a shot at an elusive Top 10 finish (It was his 7th retirement in the last 9 races), as Raul appeared to have done enough, increasing his lead out to 7-tenths with 3 laps to go, although he did have to deal with a track limits warning and the threat of a long lap penalty until the chequered flag.

With the race win seemingly going the way of Fernandez for the second time in 7 days, Gardner completed another successful display of damage limitation by making yet another superb switchback at Turns 1/2 on Lap 24 to pass Canet for 2nd place, putting Red Bull KTM Ajo in position for yet another 1-2, but the Aussie had to find a full second in under 2 laps to pull off a Hail Mary victory!

And wouldn’t you know it, Gardner made it 0.237s in Sector 3, another tenth in Sector 4 to get the gap down to 0.65s to begin the final lap, after Sector 1, it was down to just 0.4s, and after Sector 2 it was down to just 0.31s and game on!

That was until the final tour through Turns 11 through 13, when Gardner, riding so fiercely as if he were tackling a wave, had an almighty wobble and slide through the Curvone and did well enough just to stay on the bike, and he also had no time to regather his composure and stop Canet from lining up for a pass to take 2nd!

It reminds me of the final lap in Losail when he was chasing Sam Lowes and nearly lost it at the last corner…. Very well done just to stay upright.

So for the second time in a week, Raul Fernandez got the job done with as many functioning hands as Luke Skywalker to take the 6th win of his amazing rookie season in Moto2, with Gardner once again in 2nd ensuring Raul clawed back only 5 points, and Red Bull KTM Ajo have already wrapped up the Team’s Championship for this year…. Now they’re just rubbing it in everyone’s face!

Canet finished on the podium for the fourth time this year, and his beloved bowtie would make an appearance in Parc Ferme, Lowes was 4th only a second behind, Bezzecchi 5th, Augusto Fernandez 6th, Ai Ogura went from 12th to 7th, Vierge slipped down to 8th, Fabio Di Giannantonio 9th, and Celestino Vietti got himself into the Top 10 for the first time since Austria.

With 4 races to, Gardner sits on 271 points, only 34 ahead of Fernandez, who is officially the Moto2 Rookie of the Year with an unassailable lead over Ai Ogura, so simple logic would suggest that Gardner must finish no worse than 2nd (20 points) in the remaining races to win the championship…. Not inconceivable given the way this season has played out, but anything can happen on two wheels.

Another facet from this race is that Remy has broken a tie with the late Gregg Hansford for the most Intermediate Class podiums by an Australian – Hansford recorded 15 Top 3 finishes during his 2 years in the 250cc class, and Gardner now has 16!

Who knows if we will get a GP of the Americas in two weeks, but at this stage there’s been nothing involving the word NO, so it appears we will have 4 rounds remaining in 2021, with Austin coming up on October 3!

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