2021 FIM MotoGP World Championship
Round 14 – Misano
I felt wonderfully nostalgic knowing Dovi was back on a race bike at Misano. Much like Rossi, Andrea has been a fixture in my MotoGP obsession for a long time.
But I only saw him very briefly in the Practice sessions. He came a solid, unwavering last in the race – 42 seconds behind the winner. I actually won a bottle of Jack Daniels as a result. My mate Todd wanted to place a wager on the Retiree Championship and bet me a bottle of Tennessee’s finest Dovi would beat Rossi. Silly bastard. Like that was ever gonna happen…
Morbidelli was also back in shining new Yamaha Factory colours, but his rebuilt knee is still giving him some grief, so he shepherded the boss and the boss’s brother around most of the weekend. I’m thinking he’ll do better when they come back to Misano in a few weeks.
Another bloke conspicuously suffering was Marc Marquez. His travails were observed this weekend by none other a luminary than Shinya Wakabayashi, HRC’s all-powerful president. His inscrutable presence, more than anything, explains Marc’s hard-fought fourth place in the race. I was surprised.
The way Marquez had been rubbing that shoulder all weekend, and crashing twice in Practice, I felt he might not even race. But no-one’s ever accused Marquez of being a soft surrender-monkey.
Michele Pirro and Stefan Bradl were also on hand this weekend – solid test-rider journeymen who can usually be counted on not to damage the machinery too much.
Free Practice One surprised me greatly. Vinales topped the time-sheets. Was this to be the resurgence of the Top Gun? Was this when Yamaha stared at the ground in shame?
Free Practice 2 was wet, which saw Zarco at the sharp-end, despite the fact he’s about to head off for arm-pump surgery. It also saw Iker Lecuona catapulted into space in one of the biggest high-sides we’ve seen for a while.
Bagnaia began to stamp his authority during Free Practice Three. Rain was predicted for the race, and when Qualifying One came around Marquez made it through to Q2. But ahead of him and also into Q2 was Enea Bastianini. The Beast was clearly inspired by being at his home track, and seemingly not all that handicapped by his ancient Ducati.
Baganaia set a new lap record during Q2. Marquez crashed again, chasing him. Fabulous also found the gravel, as did Aleix Espargaro – but when they all lined up on Sunday, it looked to be a replay of the previous week’s performance – and the promised rain had not yet materialised.
Pecco was on pole, with Miller and Fabulous completing the front row. Behind them sat Martin, Zarco, and Pol. Rins, in ninth, had out-qualified Mir, who’d spent his weekend loudly and publicly bitching about Marquez wanting to be towed around the track.
Just like in Aragon, Pecco blasted off from the start – and to me it looked like he’d jumped the start – and was never caught.
Miller and Fabulous were instantly on his back wheel, but Bags was one second clear by the end of the first lap. Jorge Martin beat Marquez up and secured fourth place, and then Aleix passed Marquez as well, relegating him to sixth.
Martin then engaged with Fabulous for third place, and it was starting to look like a Ducati fizz-fest, with Fabulous valiantly defending his podium from the Pramac-mounted Martin.
It proved to be a worthy defence. Martin ate the rocks in Turn 14, and as Pecco stretched his lead to 1.4-seconds, Enea Bastianini was starting to make a move.
The rookie had started in 12th but had just passed Pol to grab sixth, hotly pursued by Rins.
The Beast continued his charge, and carved up Aleix Espargaro next for fifth and was now in pursuit of Marc Marquez.
It took him another lap to relegate Marquez to fifth. And apart from Fabulous, everything at the pointy end was made in Bologna.
Mir was struggling, but managed to get past Pol for eighth as Pecco kept Miller 1.2 seconds behind him at the front. The Beast remained a long 3.4 seconds behind Fabulous, who was not giving up on his podium climb.
It was all over for Zarco. He copped a Long Lap Penalty for cutting Turn One and Two. A remounted Martin cut the same corners and was also handed a Long Lap Penalty. Miller then handicapped himself by running wide, which caused Fabulous to run wide as well, and suddenly Pecco was 2.6 seconds in front.
Luca Marini joined the Long Lap Penalty party for cutting good old T1 and T2, and Martin got another Long Lap slap for screwing up his first Long Lap slap. He was back in the pits not long after, all sulky.
Fabulous was looking very determined in his efforts to catch Miller, who could do nothing about Bagnaia except maybe admire his rear-end from afar.
Fourteen laps from the end, old Dovi was also served a Long Lap Penalty and my bottle of Jack Daniels was assured. And this is when Fabulous grabbed second place from Jack. It was the flip-flop through Turns Four and Five which saw him sail past Jack, clean and hard.
Rins managed to squeeze past Marquez for fifth, and could see the Beast just ahead, while a very sore Iker Lecuona travelled into the gravel on Turn Four.
The Beast was now the fastest man on the track, and had managed to bring his gap to Jack Miller to less than two seconds. It didn’t matter to Rins. He crashed and you could almost hear Suzuki tearing his 2022 contract into shreds.
It was now all about Pecco’s Soft rear tyre and Fabulous’s Medium rear tyre. The Beast remained the fastest animal on the track and easily took third place from Jack, whose tyres were looking pretty shot with nine laps to go.
A war of nerves began. Fabulous was expending every effort to bring Pecco to heel. He had to find 1.3-seconds in seven laps, and Bastianini had to find 2.7 to turn his third place into second. Interestingly, the Beast was faster than both Pecco and Fabulous at this stage of the race.
Tenth by tenth, Fabulous closed on Bagnaia. The Beast felt his three-second gap to Fabulous was a bridge too far with so few laps left, but two laps from the end, Fabulous had closed onto Bagnaia’s rear wheel.
I was really hoping the Frenchman would test Pecco like Marc had tested him the week before, but it was not to be.
Discretion and a world championship lead were the better part of valour. Fabulous settled for second, and the Beast took third for his maiden podium.
Interestingly, Marquez beat up both Mir and Miller for a hard-fought fourth – so hard that Mir was penalised a place for exceeding track limits during the battle, which gifted Jack fifth place.
Dovi finished last, behind a seemingly hapless Oliveira, whose fall from grace seems absolute at the moment.
Following a brief test at Misano, the circus heads off to the Plague-rich lands of Austin and the Circuit Of The Americas, to see if God will bless Texas this time around.
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.
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