I read a headline the other day that asked if Rossi’s title challenge was over. I chose to ignore it at the time as I felt I needed to see what happened at this weekend’s German round at the Sachsenring before I could make a judgement. I felt that if Rossi could pull off a win, or at least finish a few places ahead of Marquez and Lorenzo, that the challenge would be back on. Lorenzo has been highly uncharacteristic of late and if he continues to struggle, The Doctor, Rossi, could find himself ahead of him and gaining on Marquez soon enough. As we always say, as has always been true, if anyone can do it, it would be The Doctor himself.
The week started off with the news that Johann Zarco would be joining the MotoGP ranks with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 for the 2017 season, completing the Tech 3 line up alongside is current Moto2 rival, Jonas Folger. The MotoGP grid is really hotting up for next season, the talent on the grid is on an all new level and it’s not complete just yet.
Back to the racing though, and qualifying was interesting in itself, throwing up some surprises high up on the grid. Hector Barbera second on the grid ahead of Rossi in third, Danilo Petrucci making it on to the second row along with Pol Espargaro, and this in dry conditions. Lorenzo found himself well down the grid having taken part in Qualifying 1 for the first time in his career. Things not going Lorenzo’s way of late and many question marks are starting to surround the defending champion as to what is going wrong. Is it that he just can’t compete in the wet conditions? Has the move to Ducati gone to his head? Is his team just not in the right frame of mind due to the Ducati move, and the fact that they won’t be with Lorenzo after this season? The answer to that question I’m sure can’t be answered by anyone but Lorenzo himself at the moment, possibly not even he has the answers. He looks completely out of sorts.
Sunday, and the first pictures on T.V told a story of yet another mad day of MotoGP racing that lay ahead. The rain was coming down on the Sachsenring, and plenty of it. It was going to be interesting and a few surprises were to be expected.
Moto3 kicked things off and produced, as it always does no matter the conditions, some highly entertaining racing. Brad Binder, the championship leader rode a steady race, riding more with the championship in mind than taking glory on the day. He stayed out of trouble and played it safe, bringing the AJO KTM home in eighth place just behind his closest championship rival Jorge Navarro, Navarro gaining just one point in the championship. Binder still holds a solid forty-seven point lead in the overall standings. Romano Fenati likely the biggest loser of the day finishing in a disappointing eighteenth place and losing plenty ground on Navarro and Binder in the championship.
The headline of the race belonged to the ‘rain master’, Pawi, as he pulled off his second victory, in wet conditions, of the season and yet again by a country mile.
Moto2 was a bit of a mess, the riders were all over the track. No less than five riders fell twice in the same race. The biggest faller though was Alex Rins. Looking good in with the lead group Rins lost it in the wet and handed the championship advantage to Johann Zarco who rode a faultless race to first. Sam Lowes, the other title contender, also going down along with Nakagami who managed to salvage an eleventh place finish.
The event of the day though had to be the madness that unfolded in the MotoGP race. It is always chaos when the rain comes down and this race was no exception. The race started as a wet race but soon the track started to show a dry line as the MotoGP machines heated up the tar. This led to a couple teams throwing the dice and bringing their riders in early for a bike change with intermediate or slick tyres fitted. Marquez was one of these riders, timing his bike swop to perfection eventually blitzing his way through the field while the lead group stayed out on their wet set ups. Rossi and the others in the lead group coming in far too late, leaving Marquez with an easy victory. That’s seven wins in a row across all classes for Marquez, the kind of the Sachsenring. A stroke a tactical genius. This is not the first time Rossi has made a tactical error this season and come in for a bike swop too late. The result could have been far better for him had he come in earlier. Is Rossi possibly pulling too much rank in the team? That could be a question that needs to be answered. Rossi finishing a disappointing eighth behind Jack Miller, who for the second race weekend in a row, showed he can cut it with the big boys. Carl Crutchlow snatched a brilliant second place with a fantastic ride on the LCR Honda. He was really good to watch. Andrea Dovizioso finishing in third, just ahead of Scott Redding, who he past on the final corner. A great ride though from Redding.
Marc Marquez, apart from all the craziness of last year and the incident with Rossi, is really starting to resemble Rossi himself. I happen to remember a Valentino Rossi that won championships by riding the heck out of his bike without much consideration for anything, and then suddenly, when he began to crash one too many times, changed in to a more composed rider that was nothing but consistent. Marquez is clearly on the same path, bulldozing his way to his first titles but being brought back down to earth after a tough 2015 season with far too many crashes. This season he has been super consistent, Rossi like, and without you really noticing, with all the hype around Rossi and Lorenzo, has pulled a significant lead in the championship and looking almost unbeatable yet again. So is Rossi’s title callenge over? If Marquez continues to ride like this, it may well be.
This is my word after the German MotoGP.