Round Nine – Sachsenring – German GP with Boris
Sachsenring’s his bell
“Oh look!” Marquez might have said as he lined up on pole, “The old emotional guy has put qualifying tyres on for the race. That’ll be funny.”
The old guy is, of course, Jorge Lorenzo (as distinct from the Really Old Guy, who is Rossi), and yes, he did wheel his Ducati out onto third place on the grid sporting soft Michelins.
Pretty much everybody else who mattered opted for a hard/medium, or a hard/soft, or in Rossi’s case a medium/medium set-up.
But not Jorge.
Lorenzo is conducting his seemingly resurgent 2018 campaign his way. The ergonomics on his Ducati remain a work in progress, with yet another arm-resting configuration appearing on the tank. And as always, Lorenzo chooses the stickiest tyres he thinks he can get away with. It’s worked twice so far; his tyre choice has dovetailed with his riding style and the track, and he has come away with two solid victories.
Not so much at Sachsenring – a short, stunted German affair with lots of left-handers. Marquez has won there every year for as far back as anyone cares to remember, and on everything he’s ever thrown a leg over.
Lorenzo’s choice of tyres might well have been a dice-throw to see if that run of victories could be curtailed.
Glancing at the starting grid, one could almost understand this. Less than a second separated the top 15 players. If Lorenzo could get away and gap the field, and nurse his rubber, and if Marquez was not as sharp on the day, and if…if…if…
How often have people started a MotoGP conversation with that word?
When the red lights went out, Lorenzo was once again the first rider into Turn One. Should he ever decide to retire from MotoGP I’m convinced he could make a name for himself running Top Fuelers down the quarter in Louisiana. The Mallorcan starts races like a round leaving a gun.
Behind him, Petrucci, Marquez and Rossi set themselves for the chase and the race quickly settled into a somewhat staid affair.
The change of tempo from the previous round’s feral savagery could not have been more different. Assen was a knife-fight in an alley. Sachsenring was a chess match.
Because Sachsenring is shorter than most MotoGP tracks, the race is 30 laps. And Marquez stated before the start that it would be a race of three 10-lap segments, with the real business beginning at Lap 20.
And that is pretty much what came to pass.
Lorenzo led for 11 laps.
Then Marquez, who had already passed Petrucci, came for him.
Everyone watching could see it was going to happen. As Lorenzo’s tyres steadily went off, he began running wider and wider lines – especially into Turn One.
While his Ducati could still out-do the competition down Sachsenring’s not-too-long straight, it’s not much good if you can’t turn the bastard into the corner.
Rossi had also passed Petrucci and he also then duffed up Lorenzo, who made a half-hearted attempt at fighting back, but then decided he’d rather finish the race and sailed steadily backwards to ultimately finish in sixth. This was a solid two seconds ahead of his team-mate, Dovzioso, who’s last season’s show of dash and daring seems to have deserted him this season.
As the race entered its final third, some interesting things began to happen.
One of them was not Crutchlow ploughing through gravel. That was somewhat of a given, especially after Cal declared himself to be a contender not all that long ago – and is now trying harder than ever to make that a fact rather than a deranged fantasy.
The interesting thing was Rossi looked to be catching Marquez, while behind him a bloke called Bautista was the fastest man on the track and carving up the likes of Dovizioso, Lorenzo, Vinales, and Petrucci, like so many Christmas hams.
But then all that intensity for the last step of the podium sort of petered out.
Marquez looked at his pit-board. Saw Rossi was closing, turned the wick up and just rode away. As he does.
Rossi, who had been flubbing about midfield and worse most of the weekend, wisely decided that second was not so bad a thing, and cruised home.
Behind him, a hard-charging Vinales claimed third and put Bautista (5th) and Petrucci (4th) into their respective places, and even looked like he was going to catch Rossi for a brief moment.
And so they are now on summer holidays for two weeks and will reconvene in Brno.
Some will dance in Ibiza nightclubs with supermodels.
Others will go dirt-bike riding and break important bones.
And a few of them, like Dani Pedrosa, will just kick-back and maybe enjoy the short break.
Before the race, Dani announced his retirement at the end of the season. An ineffable sadness gripped me. The sports biggest heart, who has raced and beaten the greatest riders of all time, is hanging up his guns after 18 seasons and three world championships.
It could not have been easy being Dani Pedrosa – seemingly damned as the perennial bridesmaid and cursed with freakishly skilled team-mates. But the Little Samurai is leaving the sport with a dignity and an integrity that cannot be approached.
I wish him every happiness, even as I am genuinely saddened by his decision.
Sachsenring MotoGP Race Results 2018
- MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA 25 Repsol Honda Team Honda 41’05.019
- ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA 20 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 2.196
- VINALES Maverick 25 SPA 16 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Yamaha 2.776
- PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA 13 Alma Pramac Racing Ducati 3.376
- BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA 11 Angel Nieto Team Ducati 5.183
- LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA 10 Ducati Team Ducati 5.780
- DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA 9 Ducati Team Ducati 7.941
- PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA 8 Repsol Honda Team Honda 12.711
- ZARCO Johann 5 FRA 7 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 14.428
- SMITH Bradley 38 GBR 6 Red Bull KTM Factory Racing KTM 21.474
- SYAHRIN Hafizh 55 MAL 5 Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Yamaha 25.809
- IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA 4 Team Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki 25.963
- RABAT Tito 53 SPA 3 Reale Avintia Racing Ducati 29.040
- MILLER Jack 43 AUS 2 Alma Pramac Racing Ducati 29.325
- REDDING Scott 45 GBR 1 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia 34.123
- BRADL Stefan 6 GER 0 Aprilia Racing Team Gresini Aprilia 38.207
- LUTHI Tom 12 SWI 0 EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda 49.369
- ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE 0 Angel Nieto Team Ducati 1’01.022
- SIMEON Xavier 10 BEL 0 Reale Avintia Racing Ducati 1’16.692
MotoGP Championship Points Standings
- Marc MARQUEZ Honda SPA 165
- Valentino ROSSI Yamaha ITA 119
- Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha SPA 109
- Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati ITA 88
- Johann ZARCO Yamaha FRA 88
- Jorge LORENZO Ducati SPA 85
- Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati ITA 8
- Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda GBR 79
- Andrea IANNONE Suzuki ITA 75
- Jack MILLER Ducati AUS 57
- Alex RINS Suzuki SPA 53
- Dani PEDROSA Honda SPA 49
- Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati SPA 44
- Pol ESPARGARO KTM SPA 32
- Tito RABAT Ducati SPA 30
- Hafizh SYAHRIN Yamaha MAL 22
- Franco MORBIDELLI Honda ITA 19
- Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia SPA 16
- Bradley SMITH KTM GBR 13
- Scott REDDING Aprilia GBR 12
- Takaaki NAKAGAMI Honda JPN 10
- Mika KALLIO KTM FIN 6
- Karel ABRAHAM Ducati CZE 4