Double Butter-Hammering

With Boris Mihailovic

The Factory Ducati garage must be one of the world’s weirdest places at the moment.

#CatalanGP
#CatalanGP

Here’s Dovizioso, the new Great Italian Hope after miraculously reinventing himself as a competitive rider in 2017, is once again crashing his brains out in 2018 – Catalunya, Le Mans, and Jerez, have all conspired to force-feed Dovi face-fulls of gravel and shame.

Image by AJRN
Andrea Dovizioso – Image by AJRN

He’s now back in eighth place just behind his team-mate, Lorenzo. They have the same amount of points, but Jorge has won more races.

And that is also a big part of the weirdness that doubtlessly permeates the Ducati team.

Luigi Dall’Igna
Luigi Dall’Igna

We’re seven races into a 19-race season. And Lorenzo, who was had been flubbing helplessly around pretty much every race-track since he signed up with Ducati last year, is now strutting around like he is once again King Of The World.

He has won two races on the trot. And not just won them. He has dominated, leading both virtually from start to finish and reeling off those metronomic OCD laps like he is back riding his old Yamaha.

Jorge Lorenzo - Image by AJRN
Jorge Lorenzo – Image by AJRN

What’s changed? Well, according to the noises coming out of Ducati, it was all down to reconfiguring the petrol tank and giving the Mallorcan somewhere to rest his mighty arms during a race.

Yeah, right.

Of course, it may well have been just that. Sometimes the most banal things make the most difference.

Jorge Lorenzo - Image by AJRN
Jorge Lorenzo – Image by AJRN

The Ducati team has spared no effort to make its 20-million-Euro purchase happy. Lorenzo’s seat has been reconfigured dozens of times. His bikes’ ECUs have been mapped, re-mapped, un-mapped and de-mapped, then discarded and replaced with different ECUs. Winglets have been tweaked, pared down, lessened, increased, removed and replaced. Tyres have been tested, and every permutation of rake and trail, from 21-inch-over-chopper to unicycle have been tried. Nothing worked, and then suddenly everything worked.

So I’m thinking it’s maybe more than just a comfier tank for his arms.

Jorge Lorenzo - Image by AJRN
Jorge Lorenzo – Image by AJRN

Lorenzo approached Honda (probably quite early in the season) and Honda snapped him up for 2019 and 2020, making the announcement immediately after the Mugello round – a race which Lorenzo won so very convincingly.

He then just as convincingly backed it up at Catalunya.

And like I said, he was not just winning, but winning in a way that left his opponents in disbelief. Even Marquez, who still leads the championship and will be Lorenzo’s new team-mate (is anyone else wondering how soon that’s all going to go to shit?), cannot keep up with him.

This looks like the makings of a caption comp...... - Image by AJRN
This looks like the makings of a caption comp…… – Image by AJRN

So you can only imagine how weird the vibe in the Ducati garage is at the moment.

Here’s the racer y’all paid megadollars for and he’s been demonstrably crap. His team-mate, who was only ever considered a competent journeyman racer who is getting paid an eighth of what Lorenzo was signed for, suddenly starts dicing with and beating the freak Marquez. And then, just when both Ducati and Lorenzo have decided to go their separate ways, Lorenzo starts winning races.

I would pay good money to sit in on the management meetings of the last few weeks.

#CatalanGP - Image by AJRN
#CatalanGP – Image by AJRN

So yes, Lorenzo won at Catalunya. Iannone, who has never stopped fancying himself as a player, did poke his Suzuki up the front during the first lap, but was rapidly swallowed up by Marquez, who was in turn swallowed up by Lorenzo – who then proceeded to reel off 1.40s every lap bar the last one. That was a 1.41 because he was waving and showboating to the crowd. It was an astonishing display on his part.

#CatalanGP - Image by AJRN
#CatalanGP – Image by AJRN

Oddly enough, the post-race plastic hammer-wielding and Lorenzo Land flag-planting, seemed very suddenly out of place for me.

#CatalanGP - Image by AJRN
#CatalanGP – Image by AJRN

I felt like punching him in the head a little bit, especially when he started bonking his team with the hammer in Parc Ferme after the race.

Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo

As one of my friends commented after the race: “He is a strange little man, who when properly moved, rides like a god, but remains strange.”

Behind Lorenzo, it was processional. Most of the racing was for fourth, fifth, and sixth, and featured Crutchlow, of course. Iannone, who had a crack on Lap One, faded quickly back to race with Cal and with Zarco, who is still obviously suffering an ocean of shame after Waterlooing out in his home race and now seems unable to get his Napoleon on once again.

Vinales is also not nearly as wonderful as he believed himself to be some time ago. His starts are solidly the other side of terrible, and while he manages to qualify well, he cannot get his Yamaha off the line with anything resembling meaning. But he does seem to come a bit good towards the end of the race.

Dani Pedrosa
Dani Pedrosa

Dani Pedrosa, who looks like he might be racing a satellite Yamaha next year if the rumours are true, acquitted himself as he usually does in what is obviously the twilight of his career. He terrified Crutchlow, kept Vinales at bay, and finished in fifth.

Up the front, Marquez rode a mature and measured race. Lorenzo is no threat to the championship at this stage, so Marquez was perhaps not as motivated as might have been to push a little harder to try and catch him.

And they are going to be team-mates next year.

#CatalanGP - Image by AJRN
#CatalanGP – Image by AJRN

Marquez had already added another major notch to his Freakshow Belt during FP4. Coming hot and hard into the third-gear Turn 14, his front-end slid out…and kept sliding out as he somehow held the whole impending leant-over catastrophe on his right knee, before levering it up and carrying on. I have never seen anything like it in more than 30 years of watching MotoGP and I cannot believe even now that I saw it last weekend. He is some next-level special.

But will he win the championship? Maybe. But maybe not. The old yellow war-horse is second on the table and not all that far away at the moment. Rossi scored another podium at Catalunya, his third in a row, and lies a mere 27 points shy of the lead. That is not a lot with so many races to go.

As a fan, I want him to win his tenth – probably more than even he does. And while nothing is impossible in MotoGP, such an outcome is unlikely. Maybe. Shut up.

#CatalanGP - Image by AJRN
#CatalanGP – Image by AJRN

Of course, the rest of the paddock is bunched up behind The Doctor with serious intent. Vinales is on 77, Zarco on 73, Petrucci on 71, Crutchlow on 69 (once again and seemingly forever in sixth place somewhere), and right behind him are Lorenzo, Dovizioso and Iannone who all have 66 points.

There really is nothing in it at all.

Catalunya did its bit to help create this wonderful points-table bunching. Twenty-six riders started the race. Only 14 finished. Even Morbidelli, who fell off, remounted and came last, scored points.

The only thing of note here is that Scott Redding and Karel Abraham did not fall off. But the attrition rate was pretty high.

#CatalanGP - Image by AJRN
#CatalanGP – Image by AJRN

Cheese and tulips await the circus at the Cathedral of Speed in Assen next. And Assen is another one of those tracks where astonishing and unexpected things happen.

But then, that seems to be precisely how this season is unfolding anyway.

MotoGP 2018 – Round Seven – Catalunya – Results
  1. Jorge LORENZO Ducati Team 40’13.566
  2. Marc MARQUEZ Repsol Honda Team +4.479
  3. Valentino ROSSI Movistar Yamaha MotoGP +6.098
  4. Cal CRUTCHLOW LCR Honda CASTROL +9.805
  5. Dani PEDROSA Repsol Honda Team +10.640
  6. Maverick VIÑALES Movistar Yamaha MotoGP +10.798
  7. Johann ZARCO Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +13.432
  8. Danilo PETRUCCI Alma Pramac Racing Ducati +15.055
  9. Alvaro BAUTISTA Angel Nieto Team Ducati +22.057
  10. Andrea IANNONE Team SUZUKI ECSTAR+24.141
  11. Pol ESPARGARO Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +36.560
  12. Scott REDDING Aprilia Racing Team Gresini +38.229
  13. Karel ABRAHAM Angel Nieto Team Ducati +1’21.526
  14. Franco MORBIDELLI EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda 3 Laps
MotoGP 2018 - Round Seven - Catalunya - Results Jorge LORENZO Ducati Team 40'13.566 Marc MARQUEZ Repsol Honda Team +4.479 Valentino ROSSI Movistar Yamaha MotoGP +6.098
MotoGP 2018 – Round Seven – Catalunya – Results
Jorge LORENZO Ducati Team 40’13.566
Marc MARQUEZ Repsol Honda Team +4.479
Valentino ROSSI Movistar Yamaha MotoGP +6.098


The MotoGP Championship

Marquez extended his Championship lead to 27-points, but Rossi remains his closest challenger – and the ‘Doctor’ has often been the master of the TT Circuit Assen.

Despite a lack-lustre start to the season Maverick Vinales has still been racking up points and lies third in the standings ahead of Zarco and leading Ducati contender Danilo Petrucci.

MotoGP World Championship Points

  1. Marc MARQUEZ Honda SPA 115
  2. Valentino ROSSI Yamaha ITA 88
  3. Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha SPA 77
  4. Johann ZARCO Yamaha FRA 73
  5. Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati ITA 71
  6. Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda GBR 69
  7. Jorge LORENZO Ducati SPA 66
  8. Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati ITA 66
  9. Andrea IANNONE Suzuki ITA 66
  10. Jack MILLER Ducati AUS 49
  11. Dani PEDROSA Honda SPA 40
  12. Alex RINS Suzuki SPA 33
  13. Pol ESPARGARO KTM SPA 28
  14. Tito RABAT Ducati SPA 27
  15. Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati SPA 26
  16. Franco MORBIDELLI Honda ITA 19
  17. Hafizh SYAHRIN Yamaha MAL 17
  18. Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia SPA 13
  19. Takaaki NAKAGAMI Honda JPN 10
  20. Scott REDDING Aprilia GBR 9
  21. Bradley SMITH KTM GBR 7
  22. Mika KALLIO KTM FIN 6
  23. Karel ABRAHAM Ducati CZE 4
#CatalanGP - Image by AJRN
#CatalanGP – Image by AJRN

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Boris Mihailovic
Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.