2014 Barcelona MotoGP Sunday Round Up: MotoGP's New Golden Age, Ducati's Bad Luck, And Honda Ending KTM's Moto3 Streak

Whenever I have the pleasure of running across MotoGP's official statistician and number cruncher Dr Martin Raines, he likes to point out to me exactly why we are living through a golden age of racing. His arguments are backed with a battery of indisputable facts and figures, which boil down to a single fact: the races have never been closer. Not in terms of gap between the podium finishers, not in terms of gap between first and last, nor between all points finishers. This is an era of truly great racing.

As if to underline his point, the Barcelona Grand Prix served up a veritable smorgasbord of fantastic races: a strong win and thrilling podium battle in Moto3, a surprisingly hard-fought Moto2 race, and to top it off, perhaps the most exciting MotoGP race we have had since 2006, with four riders slugging it out and swapping places right to the final lap. The winner of the MotoGP race may have been predictable – any bet against Marc Marquez looks more and more foolish each week – but in Barcelona, Marquez' victory looked in doubt all the way to the final couple of corners. At half a second, his margin of victory is overstated. If things had run a little bit differently, Marquez winning streak – now up to seven in a row – could have ended along with his string of poles.

It was a scintillating race indeed. Four men swapped the lead frequently. Dani Pedrosa got the holeshot, changes to weight distribution having given him back his lightning start. Jorge Lorenzo took off after him, taking the lead with an outrageous 'porfuera' pass around the outside of Turn 1, lining him up for Turn 2. Lorenzo then tried to pull a gap, but that simply wasn't happening, Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi took over the lead after three laps, getting past his teammate after a brutal exchange of passes in the first part of the lap. Marc Marquez followed, exploiting Lorenzo's moment of weakness to follow Rossi through, before latching onto the Italian's tail. There he found his teammate Dani Pedrosa stalking him, jabbing and probing, seeking a way past. The two exchanged blows for six laps, before Marquez finally escaped from Pedrosa's clutches and started snapping at Rossi's heels. Marquez took over at the front with six laps to go, holding off attacks from both Rossi and Pedrosa, swapping the lead with Pedrosa, before the final do-or-die lap, where he countered Pedrosa's final attack and held on for the win. Any opportunity to pass was seized, all four men just as aggressive in their passing as each other.

Though it was Marc Marquez who came out on top in the end, making it seven wins from races this season, it was by no means a foregone conclusion. As so often this year, when he rolled the dice, they came out in his favor. He attacked Valentino Rossi, and just as Rossi was about to counterattack, Pedrosa slid under Rossi to thwart the Italian's plan. Pedrosa sniped away at Marquez throughout the last couple of laps, but some tough defensive riding and holding a tight line saw Pedrosa run into the back of Marquez, clip his back wheel and nearly take them both out. Instead, Pedrosa ran wide, Marquez lost the rear but managed to save it, and Rossi was not close enough to exploit the situation.

The race made even more exciting by an incident on lap 19. Marquez had just passed Rossi into Turn 1, a move which also allowed Pedrosa to follow. But Marquez found he had passed the Italian just as the marshals were busy clearing away the bike of Mike Di Meglio, while yellow flags were being waved. Marquez spotted the flags out of the corner of his eye, realized he would be penalized if he continued, so put his hand up and slowed to allow Rossi back. Pedrosa followed suit, and once Rossi was back in the lead, hostilities resumed. The move caused a great deal of confusion for all except Marquez and Pedrosa, as nobody else – including Rossi – had seen the yellow flags. As the race had started with a massive black cloud hanging over the circuit, it was feared that the hands were because rain had started to fall. The incident even confused the teams in pit lane, who immediately started warming up the spare bikes.

The result left Marquez jubilant with his seventh win in a row, Pedrosa happy despite only coming third, and Rossi masking his disappointment at finishing second. Marquez said this was the hardest battle of the season, and perhaps the most rewarding. Pedrosa was delighted that his arm was now strong enough to fight all the way to the end, as well as with the changes made to the bike. The Spaniard had suffered in the early races with a change in strategy forced upon him by the team, which had shifted focus from the start of the races to make the bike better in the second half of the race. That shift had left him floundering in the first half, but a modification at Barcelona saw Pedrosa get his usual great start, and allowed him to maintain his pace in the early laps. His goal, Pedrosa told the press conference, was first to get a good start, and when that succeeded, it gave him confidence to push in the early laps. So much confidence, in fact, that this was the most aggressive we have seen Dani Pedrosa in a very long time, perhaps even since his races in 250s. It was an inspired sight, and gave the lie to the old complaint that Pedrosa is unwilling to fight for a place. Not only will he fight, but he's prepared to do whatever it takes to attempt the win. That realization, perhaps above all, is why Pedrosa was so happy.

For Rossi, the outcome had the opposite effect. He may have secured a second place for the fourth time this year, and matched his podium haul for the entire 2013 season in just seven races, but the smile he displayed in the press conference resembled a grimace with gritted teeth far more than a smile of real joy. Rossi has been competitive all year, and this time, he said, he could taste victory. It is a sweet, sweet taste, but becomes very bitter if snatched away before you actually cross the line in first. Rossi knows he is close to grabbing his 81st premier class win, and his ambition is leaving him ever more frustrated when it doesn't succeed.

That win is coming, however. The Barcelona weekend had all the hallmarks of Rossi's best years. The Italian was fast during practice, but missed just a little bit of speed. The team improved the bike all weekend, and on Sunday morning, found the missing piece of the puzzle. That allowed him to fight for the win, but in the end he came up short. Rossi's explanation was that the Honda does not stress the rear tire as much as the Yamaha does, giving them an advantage as the race progresses. The set up improvement Rossi's crew chief Silvano Galbusera found allowed him to keep lapping in the 1'42.8s, but he was slowly losing grip, and with it, was losing braking.

What Barcelona does demonstrate is that Rossi is still as competitive as he ever was. I, like many commentators, had written Rossi off because of his age, but he has proved me wrong. He still has the hunger and the ability to win races, and surely those wins will come. His problem is he faces two men in Pedrosa and Lorenzo at least at the same level as him, and Marc Marquez, who seems capable of superhuman feats. The final chapter is yet to be written in Valentino Rossi's racing history, but it will be very hard fought indeed.

After a superb race in Mugello, Jorge Lorenzo could not quite stay with the leaders at Barcelona. Many factors were to blame, above all a lack of grip and the bumps on the track. That made it hard for Lorenzo to ride as smoothly as he likes and conserve energy, needing more effort to calm the bike over the many bumps there were at Barcelona. His biggest problem was losing time in acceleration, the price the Yamaha pays for the improvement in braking. Both Lorenzo and Rossi can brake later, harder and deeper, but at the cost of more movement in the rear under acceleration. The rear end pumps and moves when they get on the gas, and so far, the solution has been to cut power to try to keep the bike stable. The downside of cutting power is so obvious I won't even point it out, but Lorenzo reckoned it was costing him three to four tenths a lap. The problem wasn't so bad with the grip the new tire offered, but as his tire dropped in performance, so did his ability to stay with the Hondas. It was a common problem, Pol Espargaro suffering exactly the same trouble.

The scintillating battle at the front meant a couple of strong performances went relatively unremarked. Stefan Bradl took a solid fifth place, after battling with the leaders for the first quarter of the race. Behind him, Aleix Espargaro proved his mettle by ending in sixth, best Open bike once again. The sight of the elder Espargaro in parc ferme still feels unnecessary, especially when Aleix is beating almost everyone but the four aliens on the factory machines, with only Bradl ahead of him.

For the other factory, the news was good and bad as ever. The good news for Ducati was that Andrea Dovizioso once again cut his gap to the leaders in half. Last year, the Italian finished 32 seconds behind the winner Jorge Lorenzo. This year, he was just 16 seconds slower than the winner, with Andrea Iannone a couple of seconds slower.

The bad news came from the other factory Ducati garage. Cal Crutchlow's bike was struck down by gremlins once again, this time the electronics playing up and then dying. In the early laps, his bike was producing the wrong amount of power in the wrong corners, Crutchlow said. In some of the tighter corners, he had full power, in others not enough. He switched engine maps thinking it was just a question of set up, but that killed the power altogether. His problems lasted nine laps. Before the bike died completely on lap 10, lots of warning lights flashing and the engine going completely. Neither Crutchlow nor his team had any idea what caused the problem, leaving both parties baffled and frustrated. The gremlins which plagued Ben Spies during his second year in the factory Yamaha team appear to have found a new home. Crutchlow will be less than pleased.

If the MotoGP race was a scorcher, the Moto2 race was settled by a much more comfortable margin. Tito Rabat won once again, increasing his lead in the championship, but this win did not come as easy as earlier victories. Maverick Viñales gave Rabat a run for his money in the first half of the race, Rabat only able to shake him off after the halfway mark. Mika Kallio looked like losing out badly to his teammate, but a string of crashes by the riders who had passed him meant Kallio salvaged fourth, limited the damage to Rabat.

In Moto3, a streak came to an end. Alex Marquez impressive victory on the Estrella Galicia Honda stopped the run of 32 KTM-powered wins in a row. Marquez won using strategy and intelligence, the Spaniard managing to make a break in the early laps and defend it all the way home. Marquez was helped by the epic battle behind, with Efren Vazquez playing a key role in slowing up the chasing pack. Vazquez seems determined to stay at the front of the group he is riding in, whether it makes any sense or not. His constant battling for the right to chase Marquez meant that the Estrella Galicia rider managed to get away.

The most impressive ride of the day went to Enea Bastianini. The young Italian is in his first season in Moto3, moving up from the Red Bull Rookies. Bastianini looked set for his first podium at Mugello, but he was taken out by Jack Miller on the final lap. At Barcelona, he finally got the reward he deserved. To come in and outperform the highly regarded Karel Hanika is impressive. To grab a podium in just his seventh Grand Prix is absolutely outstanding. With Bastianini, Pecco Bagnaia and Romano Fenati, the future is looking up for Italian racing.

Fenati did not fare as well as his younger compatriots. The Italian rode a brilliant race, getting an outstanding start from 16th on the grid, and battling for the podium for most of the race. He lost out on the crucial last lap, dropping from third down to fifth, with Jack Miller making moves when it counted to retain his lead in the championship. The rumors concerning his future appear to be getting to Miller, the arguments over whether he is committed to Marc VDS by contract or not continuing. Miller struggled all race, but when it came down to it, the Red Bull KTM rider realized he had to get down to business. Fourth place is not where he wants to finish, but he got himself ahead of title rival Romano Fenati, so he got the job done when he had to. The problem for Miller is that he needs to attack early, not late. No doubt once his manager – Aki Ajo, also his team manager – has sorted out his future, Miller will once again be able to concentrate on winning, rather than worrying about whether he'll be in Moto2 or perhaps even MotoGP in 2015.

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How wild of a rumour is it? Would it even be wise?

There was something special in the air in 2006. And I knew it right there and then without rose tinted glasses. Mugello, Assen, Istanbul, Sachsenring... I don't think MotoGP has reached that level again, but it certainly has given us its best racing ever since Qatar 2007.

I dunno but I can't help feeling that Rossi is riding more or less at his peak, as good or maybe even better than he has ever ridden before. Of course that's discounting his miserable qualifying performance.

Today's test should be crucial - absolutely whatever Yamaha has to improve braking, corner entry, and tyre life, it should be there for testing today.

Make no mistake, fast is fast. But while Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Vale use such beautiful lines, Marquez seems to be reinventing fast though it is not as 'pretty'. I am blown away at the number of mistakes he made in the race and his ability to recover so damned fast. I am also amazed at his ability to pass under what appears to be any circumstance, with ease, and, thankfully, under more control than his M2 years and even his maiden MGP season. I do agree withe comment regarding Vale riding better than before. He has been forced to meet the challenge and catch the sport that had seemed to move on. It is inspirational to watch and there is a message in there for all of us. Sorry to get too deep there!

Anyone who writes the man off for another championship is absolutely foolish. With Michelin coming back as the sole supplier and Colin Edwards tagged to be a development rider, the front, rear, middle, and sides of those tires are going to favor his riding style. I just hope he can get it in before the younger Marquez hits the big stage.

P.S. I've been lucky enough to meet almost everyone on the grid, and no one is friendlier than Mark. However, Rossi is the biggest freak of nature with the powers of Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Michael Schumacher. The dude ain't done. Please Casey, sign the fucking papers...

Couldn't agree more...

The old dog still has it.... He makes those who wrote him off like a big silly...
Assen is a big chance for him... the main straight is not long enough so yamaha should not drop too far..
Also.. what about marquez status as alien's alien... now he become an ordinary alien?..amazing how the last 2 races changed his status.....
marc is bloody damn good.. but he is not invicible...
Somehow i think marc feels the pressure now... yesterday people starting talking whether marc can win all poles & races this year..then he began to make a mistake by fell in QP...

It was truly an awesome race. I thought Rossi had it in the bag ...and in exactly that moment MM93 AND DP26 came through! I watched it again later and you can see ecactly that VR46 had to close the throttle for a tenth of a second while Dani passed and that shows really that the racing is close when even a VR46 can´t make up for 0.1 of a second anymore in a couple of laps left.What a race!
The best scene in my eyes was when the old dog Rossi lured MM93 into hitting him from the back by braking harder than needed.One of the oldest tricks in the inventory, but masterfully displayed.
If it would have not been MM93 on a superiour Honda, it would have handed the win to Vale.

But still I´m grateful for this race, because it will be a huge motivation for Vale at Assen.
Too bad the Yamaha is so underpowered and the tire´s obviously don´t suit it too on most tracks.

Anyways: I´m truly glad it is Vale who brings the fight to MM93.
I did´nt thought I would see that.

Thrilling ride from Rossi, but it never really crossed my mind MM93 didn't have something extra when required. He seemed to close up pretty fast whenever he lost ground.
If the Honda is superior, the Yamaha underpowered and MM93 supposedly in a class by himself at the moment, why do think the race and result were so close? Did Vale warp it up to super-galactico level? Or was MM93 just playing a waiting game?

I see your point, but don't think mm was holding back, think he knows he has to gap the others every time and this time he was being harried and blocked all race long. Just look at how wild some of his corner entries were. Personally I think he's likely to lose by crashing, probably taking someone out in the process. I'm not saying he's dangerous as such, just that his speed comes from going that fraction closer to the edge than the others, and sooner or later he'll go a fraction too far.

I can't remember watching a MotoGP race where the 4 top riders were seperated by 4.5 secs. This really was brilliant, these guys are excellent and undoubtedly the best in the world this year.

We have the best 4 riders on the best 4 bikes (okay MM93 is undoubtedly the best of the best at this point in time), all wanted to win so much. They all know MM has to be shown not be be invincible.

Although VR did the usual comic stuff in parc ferme, I too could see the dissappoinment at the press conference. That's a good thing, it shows he really belives he should take wins and that 2nd isn't good enough.

This has to be the most spirited perforance from DP too, I've always rated him and think he gets unfairly 'dissed'. And don't rule out JL, he wants to win as much as the others, this was not quite his day.

I really hope all 4 (okay the 'three') can ride to this level more this year, MotoGP will be the winner.

And can they eek a bit more out of the M1? For the sake of the racing I hope so.

Yes, he is plagued with bad luck...

...but he started P13 with a best lap of 1'42.578 in Q1, 0.4s slower than Iannone. And that gap grows to 0.9 sec if we take the Q1 time from Iannone.

Hernandez had a Q2 lap 1 second faster than the best Q1 lap from Carl.

He has a character and a racing style that I like, but he will need to have a very strong mental capacity to deliver results under the situation he is finding himself on or he will be in WSBK by 2016...

Marquez get all the plaudits for his speed, riding style, balls and actual desire to fight with other riders. What goes unmentioned is his racecraft. He was not the fastest rider today, and his recognition that he must stay in front of Pedrosa saw him make some stunning but clean moves early on.

But his last lap was absolutely brilliant and worthy of analysis on its own merit. His line through T1 allowing him to retake surprisingly around the outside of T3, his undercut at T4, his late tight line at T5 (as opposed to early defensive line), his varied line to T10 (hugely different than the previous laps), and of course his varied line that saw Pedrosa hit him. He gave a completely different look on every corner without taking the traditional defensive entry on any one of them. Pedrosa complemented him twice on his "smart" last lap in post race interviews, and it is really hard to get riders to make genuine complements of each other after a knife fight like that. (Rossi certainly didn't this time...)

All of this is combined with knowing WHERE he can make mistakes and knowledge of the rules and knowing exactly what to do in varied circumstances. He ran off at T1, cut brilliantly through the runoff and eased off just enough to let Pedrosa through...and immediately retook him. Passing under yellows and knowing immediately what to do. All very decisive and aware, where we have seen countless riders in those same situations be clumsy, indecisive and outright wrong, which brings the stewards into play (eg Rosberg deserved a penalty in Montreal for his cut of the chicane vs Hamilton). Marquez was spot on in each occasion and there was nothing more to talk about other than to clear the confusion of those who had it wrong.

Long winded way of saying superior racecraft won this race.

Absolutely brilliant race with all the top riders on top of their game! Hail the return of Pedrosa (finally!), a more ballsy and feisty Pedrosa. His pass on Rossi at T1 was brilliant and he brought the fight to Marquez!

Rossi was fantastic! Bike just lacking. How he can be half a meter behind Marquez at the S/F line twice and not be able to even get a nose ahead before or during the braking zone says it all....fantastic nonetheless.

<3 MotoGP

"His arguments are backed with a battery of indisputable facts and figures, which boil down to a single fact: the races have never been closer. Not in terms of gap between the podium finishers, not in terms of gap between first and last, nor between all points finishers. This is an era of truly great racing."

Lots of "nots", so what's the stat.?

The races have not ever been closer between podium finishers, nor between first to last, nor between points finishers. That's the stats.

David, you wrote:

"His biggest problem was losing time in acceleration, the price the Yamaha pays for the improvement in braking. Both Lorenzo and Rossi can brake later, harder and deeper, but at the cost of more movement in the rear under acceleration. The rear end pumps and moves when they get on the gas, and so far, the solution has been to cut power to try to keep the bike stable. The downside of cutting power is so obvious I won't even point it out, but Lorenzo reckoned it was costing him three to four tenths a lap."

I have to wrote that this confuses me a lot. If Yamaha's were underpowered how come Honda's weren't able to pass them on the straight. That should be done with ease?! Instead, we had a full brawl fight everywhere besides straight, which is great.

Can we please accept the fact that Casey is not coming back and move on. He went out on top and it would be foolish to come back and struggle to podium , let him enjoy his retirement !

:-) you're right of course, it's extremely unlikely he'd even think of coming back, but if people want to wistfully write 'if only's', what's the harm in that?

I thought there were several, which is what made it so exciting to watch; each of the four had their own moment of truth

But IMO, this was the moment that ended Pedrosa's chance to win the race. He looked so strong that probrably he only needed one or two more turns to pass MM93 and win it.

Marc appeared to have brake very hard to close the door on Dani.

BTW, I was at the edge of the chair. :)

Absolutely agree. And I think it was pedrosa who put paid to Valentino's chances, he (Rossi) lost two or three bike lengths through that move, and was left just that little bit too far back to bridge the gap again. If he'd been able to stay right on their tails I'd probably have tipped him to win, as he's so good in those situations.

While any of the 3 chasers have shown they have the talent to beat Marquez this year, I still think it's most likely to be Rossi. He is systematically getting closer and closer, race by race, and is the most consistently progressive of the three. If anyone remembers, I mentioned him giving Marquez a long hard stare in the press conference after Qatar, as though he was trying to work out what he needed to do to beat him; even at the time I thought that might be a bit unrealistic of him but now think he's worked it out 80% or 90%, just needs to figure out those last bits of the puzzle. One thing's for sure, he's fully redeemed his reputation.

Pedrosa - wow. What a pleasure to see him show his true potential. Let's hope it's not just a one-off.

Marquez - just amazing.

Lorenzo - you have to feel for him, he's having a shocker of a season. Let's hope that he too can turn it around, and that Mugello wasn't a false dawn.

I think we are indeed very privileged to see this level of riders pushing each other. To have four riders of this caliber, all different ages, different styles, acknowledged most talented riders in the world... upping the game each race. Pretty special for sure.

Not every race will be a barn burner, but I think we will be looking back on this era in a decades time, and remember all this with longing. To have one of the greatest at the end of his career on track with, probably, the next great legend going one-on-one is not something that happens very often in any sport.

And I for one, absolutely love that they are beating the sh*t out of each other on the track, but smiling about it afterwards. Of course there is disappointment for anyone not on the top step, and it won't always be rainbows and bunny rabbits on the podium. But seeing the guys loving what they are doing is priceless.

The media (Motomatters excluded in this) should take note... there doesn't always have to be a 'bad guy' and a 'good guy' to make the action entertaining.

Why is Martin Raines exclusively referred to as "Dr."? Is he the only guy in the paddock with a PhD? The official colour commentators never fail to call him "Dr. Martin Raines" and I've always been curious as to why. I've heard them refer to the paddock medical doctor without the applicable prefix, but never Dr. Raines.

Great to see so many commentators admitting they were wrong. Many of us watched and read that, over the years, and were baffled by those foolish comments. Kicking a man when he was down, and that.

Don't ever doubt someone with one hundred wins. There are only a couple of riders in history who have done so. Marquez, barring injury, will be the next.

Even after the first race at Qatar this year, those commentators were doubting stating "he did the same last year then poor results after." Well it's been 7 races now and he's been competitive so let's put all that out to pasture where it belongs. Forgive the finger pointing but they wrote that bs for years, kindly putting a boot in his back. Sucks to be wrong when this is your job ;)

No, and neither had Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha's #1 rider who is getting stuffed by his team mate. Actually, nobody but 1 man has won a race this year. And what is hilarious is all that business in 2010, with many folks here pointing the finger at Valentino, stating Jorge is killing him, and such. Shoe is on the other foot now.

Yamaha needs to find something or it's going to be a long season.

What is the reason that people are looking to move Jack Miller over to GP before Moto 2? Is this purely contract stuff or do people feel that he is so much better than previous riders?

I have realised that some of my comments have been deleted. I can understand why one was but not why the other was also deleted. But that is okay, this is your domain and you have a right to delete what you consider appropriate David. No problems :-). My apologies for making comments which were apparently inappropriate.

I sometimes delete comments not because of their content, but because I know exactly what kind of response it will elicit. Thanks for understanding, and please trust me, it's better this way. It's not fair, but it's the only way to keep the excellent level of comments.

I understand very well what you are saying David. In fact, I regretted putting one of the posts and I remember having added in the post itself that it maybe like flaming, though that was not the intention. Unfortunately for me wisdom comes in retrospect. I understand that certain kinds of posts should be avoided so that the good content you put in your posts is not lost in the background of arguments over contentious posts. That is why I apologised in the post which I put after deletion. Thanks again, you have been extremely polite and from now on I shall also think properly before posting rather than doing it impulsively.

I think that Marquez and Pedrosa missed the yellow flag at the same corner that Biaggi missed it at in 1998. It's harder than many non-racers think to see flags at certain corners. Perhaps the track (or MotoGP officials) might take a look at that flagging station and see if the flags actually can be seen while battling with someone.

Short of actually being there to watch it in person, I couldn't think of a better way to watch this race: A dozen or so riders crowded into the back of a charter bus on our way home from an awesome track day at an awesome track. Watching the Dorna feed (love the no spoilers site, btw) on a laptop sitting on top of a cooler full of cold beer.

With the laptop being lifted every couple of minutes to distribute beers, a loud and well-lubricated crowd cheering wildly at every overtake and misstep, and MotoGP trivia disputes arising and cheerfully being resolved to great crowing by the victor, what an awesome way to end a day at the track.

I don't even care who won, this was definitely a "life is good" moment.

So, yesterday we were riding and chatting with the buddies, and this race or the rivalry in MotoGP in general dominated couple conversations. Well, the friend argued that MM kicking two yellow balls as a celebration to his victory; he actually referred Rossi (yellow) as gay (ball) and kick his ass off (kick). I argued that it was because of the World Cup obviously. But he insisted that he even caught the clues in VR-MM tensing relationship afterwards.

I watched the celebrations in MotoGP again. And MM really kicked yellow balls. Neither my friend or myself have nothing to do with anyone's sexual preferences. The thing we discussed was about MM and VR rivalry. We were explicitly hoping for VR to challenge MM and win another Championship.

I have searched the interwebs and haven't come up with anyone ever talked about this event. Just wondered is it really how my friend described it, a mental game or is it how I first thought that is all about World Cup? Anyone care to shed some light on this?