2020 MotoGP Round Nine – Catalunya
My street in Singleton last night breathed a sigh of relief. It had been spared from witnessing me do an undie-clad victory parade at midnight.
And it has Michelin to thank for this mercy.
Well, that’s who I’m blaming for Rossi’s ignominious departure from the field of battle.
Michelin, because it’s new at making tyres, or because of the Plague, or because they’re racing in Autumn instead of high summer, insisted the field only use soft rear tyres for Sunday’s race.
So it did. And Rossi was denied his 200th podium in his 350th race. And quite possibly a victory, but he would have had to be more special than Fabulous (unlikely), and fend off the arse-hauling Suzukis of Mir and Rins (also kind of unlikely), so I’ll just lick my now old wounds, and get on with my life…sob…
The weekend began showing so much promise, and not a little humour.
It was cold, the track was slippery, Dovi had “Undaunted” sewn back onto his bum, Fabulous was still breaking young girl’s hearts by refusing to zip up his leathers every time he was not on the bike, and Cal Crutchlow had tripped over his own feet leaving the trackside Covid-testing facility and tore what was left of the ligaments in one of his ankles. Miller added to the hilarity by pinning Quartararo’s tear-off, the one which cost him a result in the last round, to his pit-garage’s back-board.
Marquez even made an appearance at the track sporting a fat scar on his withered-looking right-arm and not making any promises about when he’d be back. No doubt to relief from some of the paddock who must have thought the reigning world champion and his gear-bag at the track meant laughing time was over. It is still unclear when Marquez will return, but I’m think he might have a spin at Portmao.
Rossi had finally signed the Petronas contract, and will be racing next year without his long-time mechanics, Alex Briggs and Brent Stephens. The hold-up on Rossi’s signature with Petronas was his desire to have his whole team come over, but Petronas had other plans. A compromise was reached for a one-year deal, but Rossi had to shed Alex and Brent. And as Lin Jarvis explained, the complex one-year deal with Rossi was due to two reasons. One is that Yamaha has yet to extend its contract with Dorna past 2021, and secondly, Rossi was still constantly measuring his competitiveness before committing to longer deals. The way things are panning out in MotoGP, one-year contracts will become more and more common through the paddock.
The Yamahas were untouchable in Practice and Qualifying and the front row was Morbidelli, Fabulous, and Rossi. Behind them sat the fastest Ducati, which was Jack’s, another Yamaha (Maverick’s), and the second-fastest Ducati, Zarco’s.
The factory Ducati of Petrucci was languishing in ninth, and the championship-leading Ducati of Dovi’s was back in 17th, a mere 500th-of-a-second ahead of Alex Marquez. Tito and his Ducati were last, but everyone is kinda used to that, so no-one even noticed.
It certainly looked like it was going to be a Yamaha kind of day, and the Pom announcers’ hammered their favourite new phrase (lock-out) over and over just so we all understood what was going on.
I was seeing Rossi in third on the grid and my hopes were blooming like a spring weed. A miracle could well occur here. After all, was this not the same track where in 2008 Rossi performed a miracle on the last corner and passed Lorenzo where no-one had ever been passed before?
I was confident.
The start only served to ratchet that up.
Morbidelli came off the line like burning greyhound, followed closely by Miller and Fabulous. It’s quite a long run from the line to Turn One, and Jack’s Ducati was once again winning drag races.
Zarco had also fitted a starting device to his Ducati, but muffed the start, had Petrucci swerve into him, which made the Frenchman slam into Dovi, ending the race for them both, and changing the championship table in less than a second.
At the front, Rossi made very short work of Miller to grab fourth, and then passed Fabulous a few corners later to grab what looked to be a solid second. I was already pulling my sloppy joe off in preparation for my victory lap.
Morbidelli turned it on, but The Doctor would not be shaken. He pursued with intent. Miller pursued him in turn, and almost T-boned him in his eagerness, before opting to run wide, and allowing Fabulous past. Vinales resumed his normal form by riding rapidly back to 15th place.
Rossi and Fabulous exchanged fastest laps and I was out of my T-shirt and ready to run cheering though the night when The Doctor claimed his inevitable victory.
But Mir was coming. He started in eighth and was now in fifth, and there were still 22 laps to go.
The top five were evenly spread out, drifting a touch forward, easing a touch back, and if I was a nail-chewing bloke, that would have been the time to start.
Mir was now lapping three-tenths of second faster than Rossi, and Fabulous and Morbidelli were not getting away. Fabulous, catching a glimpse of his pit-board, turned the wick up, passed Rossi coming into Turn One and set off after Morbidelli, just as Rins decided he too would uphold the honour of Hamamatsu and took sixth place from Pol Espargaro.
Mir was starting to gap Miller and Fabulous was gaining on Morbidelli, and there were still 17 long, chilly laps to go. I put my T-shirt back on and looked at how appetising my fingernails might be. Just as I considered munching on the thumb, Fabulous put paid to Morbidelli and flew into the lead. Vinales was back racing a busted Cal Crutchlow for 15th, and Miller was now a second behind Rossi in third. My T-shirt came off again, and I was considering a pair of runners since I don’t do bare-foot jogging.
Pol Espergaro crashed out, which gave me a brief spark of satisfaction as it always does when he hits the rocks, and mitigated my disappointment at Oliveira’s later exit. Binder was now the dominant KTM rider, but he was back in 11th, and would eventually be passed by Cal and his broken ligaments.
With 11 laps to go, everyone’s tyre started to fall of that cliff tyres fall off of when their time comes to do so. It was always going to happen and everyone knew it.
Morbidelli was the first to feel the squirm, and Rossi passed him. My thumbs were hooked under the elastic of my undies and it was looking like game on.
Mir was eating Miller, bite by bite, as Jack tried heroically to get grip from his fading rubber. Fabulous was almost one second clear of Rossi, who had put two seconds on Morbidelli.
And then The Doctor crashed on Turn Two. My clothes went back on and I slumped into the couch. I cursed Michelin which wasn’t fair, but being a Rossi fan isn’t about fairness. It’s about dedication.
And it was starting to look like Mir had all the dedication he would need to jam his Suzuki onto that podium for the fourth consecutive time. Miller ran wide in Turn 10 and Mir went past him.
Vinales finally managed to get past Crutchlow, but there was no hope of him seeing a podium in Barcelona. Bagnaia, Petrucci, and Nakagami were having their own little race for sixth. Bagnaia won that, then had a bit of lash at Jack, which Jack won and came home in fifth.
But the cliff with the falling tyres was a big one and the rubber was still falling off it.
Well, most of the tyres. Fabulous and Morbidelli were now lapping in the 1.42s and Mir was lapping in the 1.40s. Three laps from the end, that paid off. Mir slipstreamed Morbidelli down the main straight and passed him in Turn One.
Fabulous held on for the win, but as Mir observed in his happy post-race interview, all that was needed for that to change was one more lap.
Rins had also pushed his Suzuki past the fading Morbidelli and came home in third, giving Suzuki its first double podium in eight years.
And now they can all have a nice week off before wheeling out the bikes for the next autumnal race at Le Mans in France – which also happens to be somewhat of a hotspot for the Plague.
If anything, the season just keeps getting more and more interesting with each passing race. But Suzuki might well have more to celebrate this year than just its 100th birthday.
MotoGP Race Results
|DNF||Miguel OLIVEIRA||KTM||6 Laps|
|DNF||Valentino ROSSI||Yamaha||9 Laps|
|DNF||Pol ESPARGARO||KTM||12 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|DNF||Johann ZARCO||Ducati||0 Lap|
|DNF||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||Ducati||0 Lap|
MotoGP World Championship Standings
2020 MotoGP Calendar
|10||11 October||Le Mans|
|11||18 October||MotorLand Aragón|
|12||25 October||MotorLand Aragón|
|13||08 November||Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo|
|14||15 November||Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo|
|15||22 November||Autodromo Internacional do Algarve|