It’s waterboarding time

Le Mans MotoGP 2019 with Boris

The way the current championship is shaping up, I would be very unsurprised if some of the teams didn’t start waterboarding their crew chiefs.

“More speed! More handling! More everything! Stop choking! Start fixing stuff! Can’t you see what’s happening?”

Everyone can indeed see what’s happening. Again.

MotoGP Rnd LeMans Fri Rossi
Valentino Rossi

Even Rossi acknowledged in a pre-race interview that if it hadn’t been for Marquez’s recent oopsie DNF, they would all be much further behind in the points than they are now.

And then I can guarantee you he called Yamaha HQ and had a few choice words about top speed. The Yamahas are still the slowest straight-line factory bikes out there, so it really doesn’t matter whether Vinales ever gets his mojo back or not, Rossi is not happy.

Meanwhile, the one-man Honda show rolls on.

MotoGP Rnd LeMans Marquez Miller Dovi Rossi
Marquez leads Miller, Dovizioso and Rosis

Marquez’s Honda does not seem to be struggling anymore against the Factory Ducatis in terms of top speed. Or that may just be Marquez – who handed Honda its 300th Grand Prix win on the weekend.

As usual, Le Mans (celebrating its 50th anniversary as a Grand Prix track) proved to be a bit of a wrecking yard – except for Marquez, who once again saved the unsavable low-side in Practice. Interestingly Lorenzo did not save the very same low-side on the very same corner a few minutes earlier.

MotoGP Rnd LeMans Joan Mir
Joan Mir

Mir and Abraham were so freaked by the new surface, they both fell off on the warm-up lap in almost perfect synchronicity, and for no real apparent reason, since neither rider was near the other.

The new surface is dark, so it’s hard for the riders to see how wet the track is. And half the Practice sessions were wet. The only highlight there was Rossi risking it all in Q1 on slicks to get a place in Q2.

The track was drying in Q1 and it worked. The track got wetter in Q2 and it didn’t work when he tried it again. Still, starting in fifth was better than starting in 15th.

MotoGP Rnd LeMans Petrucci Miller
Danilo Petrucci

Ahead of the Doctor, Marquez sat on pole, followed by three Ducatis – Petrucci, Miller and Dovizioso. Danilo must have seen Jack trying his factory leathers on for size the day before and tried a bit harder.

But in terms of trying, no-one tried harder than Jack Miller. In doing so, he became the first racer to actually have a crack at Marquez since Qatar.

And boy, did he have a crack. He actually led the race for a bit in the early stages, dicing with Marquez like he meant it.

MotoGP Rnd LeMans Marquez Miller
Marquez and Miller

Behind the two of them, Rossi, Petrucci (who had also had a small crack at Marquez then backed off in terror) and Morbidelli, were deciding who was going to be third.

Then Dovi started to come along, and not far behind him, came a raging Pol Espargaro, wringing the Austrian neck of his KTM harder than anyone thought possible.

Vinales was back in 13th because Vinales, and the new wunderkind, Fabulous Quartararo, was behind him in 14th.

MotoGP Rnd LeMans Vinales Rins
Alex Rins & Maverick Vinales

Miller’s tussle with Marquez for first was allowing Dovi and Rossi to close the gap the leading two had managed to eke out, and for a brief, shining lap or so, it looked like there might actually be a serious race here.

Then Dovi passed Rossi because he knew what was going to happen next. I guess he wanted to be closer to the front when it happened.

Up the back, Bagnaia rammed Vinales, presumably because Maverick looked at his sister, and 100,000 crazed Frenchman cheered and howled like beasts.

MotoGP Rnd LeMans Bagnaia Vinales
Francesco Bagnaia and Maverick Vinales

With 17 laps still to go, Marquez must have understood the howling to be for him, and just turned it up. Rossi’s heart could be heard breaking from my couch. He allowed Petrucci past him into fourth.

Halfway through the race, Marquez was 1.3 seconds clear of Miller and Dovizioso. The world champion was consistently two-tenths of a second faster through the last sector than anyone else and his lead just kept building.

Miller, who had clearly ridden his tyres unto frying, ran wide at La Musée, and let Dovizioso past. But that did not matter to Marquez, who was now 2.2 seconds clear with nine laps to go.

MotoGP Rnd LeMans Quartararo Lorenzo
Fabio Quartararo & Jorge Lorenzo

It was now Fabulous’s time to shine. And he started beating the hell out of Lorenzo for 10th place.

Asparagus P was still gladdening the hearts of every Austrian, and when he brought it home in sixth, only five-odd seconds behind Marquez, the wisdom of using a tubular steel frame could not be denied. KTM is coming, pilgrims.

MotoGP KTM Pol Espargaro Rossi
Pol Espargaro chasing Rossi

But it was not coming that Sunday in France.

Only Marquez was coming.

Behind him, the two Factory Ducatis followed by Miller’s pretend factory Ducati watched Marquez coming… or going, as the case may be.

MotoGP Rnd LeMans Miller Rossi
Jack Miller & Valentino Rossi

Obviously, Miller had to be relegated to fourth, behind Dovi in second and Petrucci in third, or there would have been even more trying-on of Factory leathers by the Aussie. This is not lost on Danilo, whose contract is up this year.

Rossi came a lonely fifth, and retired to make his phone calls to Yamaha. Behind him came Asparagus P, Morbidelli, and Fabulous Quartararo, who fed Crutchlow his man-parts. But at least Cal got to beat Rins, who clearly felt this was a by round for him.

MotoGP Rnd LeMans Morbidelli Crutchlow Lorenzo
Franco Morbidelli, Cal Crutchlow, Jorge Lorenzo

Still, he did beat Lorenzo, who once again managed to ride backwards from eighth on the grid to eleventh in the race.

And I’m sure the rumours of him being read the riot act by Honda are just rumours. I’m sure Honda will be as tolerant as Ducati of Lorenzo’s special ergonomic needs. Positive.

What to do about Marquez?

MotoGP Rnd LeMans Start Marquez Miller Dovi Lorenzo
Marc Marquez

Who knows…

The championship ladder is still pretty tight. But the bloke leading has one DNF on his card.

That is ominous. Mugello is next.

MotoGP Result Le Mans 2019

Pos.RiderBikeTime/Gap
1M MarquezHonda41’53.647
2A DoviziosoDucati1.984
3D PetrucciDucati2.142
4J MillerDucati2.94
5V RossiYamaha3.053
6P EspargaroKTM5.935
7F MorbidelliYamaha7.187
8F QuartararoYamaha8.439
9C CrutchlowHonda9.853
10A RinsSuzuki13.709
11J LorenzoHonda15.003
12A EspargaroAprilia29.512
13J ZarcoKTM33.061
14H SyahrinKTM35.481
15M OliveiraKTM36.044
16J MirSuzuki1 Lap
Not Classified
DNFT NakagamiHonda9 Laps
DNFA IannoneAprilia19 Laps
DNFM ViñalesYamaha21 Laps
DNFF BagnaiaDucati21 Laps
DNFT  RabatDucati25 Laps

 

MotoGP World Championship Standings

Pos.RiderBikePoints
1Marc MarquezHonda95
2Andrea DoviziosoDucati87
3Alex RinsSuzuki75
4Valentino RossiYamaha72
5Danilo PetrucciDucati57
6Jack MillerDucati42
7Cal CrutchlowHonda34
8Franco MorbidelliYamaha34
9Pol EspargaroKTM31
10Maverick ViñalesYamaha30
11Takaaki NakagamiHonda29
12Fabio QuartararoYamaha25
13Aleix EspargaroAprilia22
14Jorge LorenzoHonda16
15Johann ZarcoKTM10
16Francesco BagnaiaDucati9
17Joan MirSuzuki8
18Miguel OliveiraKTM8
19Stefan BradlHonda6
20Andrea IannoneAprilia6
21Hafizh SyahrinKTM2
22Tito RabatDucati2
23Karel AbrahamDucati0
24Bradley SmithAprilia0
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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.