2014 Assen Post-Race Round Up - Of Tire Gambles, The Wisdom Of Thinking For Yourself, And Lorenzo's Fear

A veritable galaxy of stars may have lined up on the grid for the 84th Dutch TT at Assen, but the real stars of the show were the elements. After the rain wreaked havoc on qualifying, shaking up the grid, it was back on Saturday for two of the three races. Riders and teams were forced to rethink their strategy, make decisions quickly, and gamble on tires and the weather. It made for intriguing races, rather than sheer thrills like the MotoGP race at Barcelona. Changing conditions offered the brave and the smart opportunities, and mercilessly punished anyone who got it wrong. You felt for the 45 minutes of the races that anything could happen.

The Moto3 riders had it easiest of all, conditions cool but relatively consistent. The track did not allow for mistakes, however: Jack Miller's strategy of trying to pull a gap early backfired badly, the Australian crashing out of the lead. Miller's saving grace was that Romano Fenati, his main rival in the title chase, made even bigger mistakes than he did, crashing out twice, and failing to score points. The day belonged to the Hondas, with Alex Marquez controlling the race from the front, despite challenges from teammate Alex Rins and a quickly closing Miguel Oliveira. With two Hondas and a Mahindra on the podium, this was the first time since Le Mans 2012 that a KTM was not on the podium, and the first ever Moto3 race where a KTM engine did not power any of the podium bikes.

Conditions were much trickier for the Moto2 riders, rain falling heavily before the race, but then quickly starting to dry. It was clear that if the rain held off, a dry line would soon appear, and a few riders gambled on fitting a slick rear. The rain did not hold off, however, falling heavily again in the early laps. That put riders like Dominique Aegerter, who had reckoned on using a slick rear, a long way behind the leaders, his tire only coming good in the second half of the race. The rain allowed Simone Corsi and Sam Lowes to get away at the front, pulling a big lead in a short period. The pair looked set to dispute victory between the two of them, but Lowes pushed a little too hard, losing the front and going down. Corsi could have just cruised to victory, but that proved too much to ask, the NGM Forward rider crashing out of a commanding lead at the halfway mark.

In the end, the day belonged to Ant West, the Australian once again shining in the wet. It was West's second Grand Prix victory, his first coming 11 years ago to the day at Assen on a 250. That, too, was in the rain, as have been nearly all of West's best results. Seeing West succeed in Assen is a salutary warning of how an exceptionally talented rider can go wrong. West jumped from series to series, from class to class, often ending up in third rate teams. On the right bike he was outstanding, as he showed briefly in World Supersport on the Yamaha. All too often, however, he has ended up on the wrong bike, and in the wrong company.

The Moto2 race turned out to be a warning for the riders in the MotoGP race. A revised start procedure saw the riders allowed two sighting laps, to test the conditions. Heavy rain had fallen after the end of the Moto2 race, and the track was once again soaking, though drying quickly. Valentino Rossi initially gambled on slicks, but as he sat on the grid, another shower came. On the warm up lap, Rossi felt the track was too wet to risk slicks, and so came in and changed to his wet weather bike. That meant starting from pit lane, after the rest of the pack had passed.

Starting from pit lane cost him at least nine seconds. Coming in to pit lane to swap bikes cost him a further 21 seconds. Could he have won if he had gambled and stayed out on slicks? Looking at the times of Broc Parkes, who was forced into that gamble after crashing his wet bike on the sighting lap, probably not. Parkes lost 25 seconds on the first lap alone, and by lap 6 was 45 seconds behind, though already much quicker than the men still on rain tires. Some of the difference can be put down to lesser machinery and the fact that Broc Parkes, talented as he is, is no Valentino Rossi. Even then, though, that would have left Rossi with a lot of time still to make up.

For Rossi, the decision was clear. The first decision to try slicks had been smart, but the two minutes of rain as the riders sat on the grid had been fatal. 'Those ****ing two minutes!' he called them, had made the track far too dangerous in some corners, with standing water making it impossible to get grip from slicks, or get them up to temperature. 'This situation is always about how much you want to risk,' Rossi said. This was a risk too far for him. It was a real shame, he told the press, as his pace in both the dry and the wet had been strong. He had had the potential to finally put a halt to Marc Marquez' winning streak.

Starting from pit lane made that impossible for Rossi. And not just Rossi; the combination of the right sighting lap strategy, deciding to switch bikes at the right time, and quite frankly, Marquez' sheer talent meant that the Spaniard went on to take his eighth victory in a row, a feat last achieved by Mick Doohan in 1997, though the last rider to win the first eight races of the season was Giacomo Agostini back in 1971. Marquez took the lead on the first lap with a brave move round the outside of Andrea Dovizioso at Stekkenwal, holding off a counter attack. He came into the pits at the end of lap 6, which proved to be just about the perfect time two swap to a bike on slicks.

Marquez made one mistake, pushing a little too hard into De Bult on his first lap out of the pits on slicks, and allowing Dovizioso back past him. As the track dried, Dovizioso's ability to push diminished, and Marquez closed in on the Ducati quickly. The Italian tried to stay with Marquez, but he could not. Marquez went on to take number eight out of eight, celebrating the win in style: laying flat on the tank and simulating swimming across the finish line.

What was the key to Marquez' victory, and keeping his perfect record? This time, it was presence of mind. Race Direction had issued a special start procedure for the Assen race, because of the treacherous conditions. The riders had more time to do two sighting laps, and switch bikes if they wanted to. It is no coincidence that the two riders who decided against it and headed straight to the grid finished in first and second place. 'For me, to do another sighting lap means one more lap on the tire,' Marquez said. 'You enter pit lane, cool down the tires, then go out again.' Having to refuel the bike meant more work and more disruption for the team, and was not worth it, he said. 'It didn't have any advantage for me.' The fact that his team could remain calm around him helped him stay calm and focused, able to concentrate on the race and not rush through a procedure which was of questionable benefit.

It takes a certain strength of character to reject the consensus of the grid and follow your own path. Marquez followed his teams suggestion, going against the rest of MotoGP riders, bar Dovizioso. They decided there was no benefit to be had from the extra lap, and so did not use it. The rest of the teams seemed to believe that because they could do an extra lap, they must do one, and the riders dutifully tripped in and out of the paddock. All too often, riders simply copy what everyone else does, rather than relying on their instincts, and the instincts of the crew. It is a fear of getting things wrong, rather than a preparedness to gamble.

Illustrative of this was Pol Espargaro, who decided to switch to slicks because Valentino Rossi had done so. He changed his mind just in time, starting the warm up lap on his wet bike from pit lane, but that meant he had to start the race from the back of the grid. It made Espargaro's first ever wet race extremely complicated and highly stressful, adding pressure just when what he really needed was to remain calm. In a situation like that, riders have more to lose from looking at others rather than making their own plans. Afterwards, he said one of the main lessons he had learned was simple: 'You have to take your own decisions.'

Monster Tech 3 teammate Bradley Smith also suffered for not following his own instincts. He didn't go in at the end of lap 6, as the fastest riders did. Instead, he sat and followed Jorge Lorenzo, who waited for another lap to come in. Ordinarily, you would expect following the lead of a double MotoGP champion to be a wise choice, but with Lorenzo having a nightmare race, riding in fear of another crash like the one last year, the Spaniard was also making poor choices. Better to do what you think is right, rather than trust the judgment of someone whose mind you cannot read.

Perhaps the most intriguing battle of the race was the one for third, between Dani Pedrosa on the second Repsol Honda, and Aleix Espargaro on the NGM Forward bike. After bagging his first ever pole position at Assen, the elder of the Espargaro brothers looked like he might follow it up with a podium, dispensing with the rather embarrassing practice of having the first Open class bike in Parc Ferme and being there on merit. Espargaro fought bravely, but as the track started to dry out, the superior power of the Honda won out over the detuned Forward Yamaha engine, and Pedrosa gained the upper hand. The Repsol Honda man took the final podium spot, and Aleix took a highly creditable fourth place, and finished first Yamaha, six seconds ahead of Valentino Rossi.

Rossi had recovered extremely well after being forced to start from pit lane, battling his way through the field to end the race in 5th. Though disappointed, he was still buoyant, his confidence boosted once again by the knowledge he had the pace in both wet and dry to challenge Marquez. The difficulty for Rossi is that he now goes to two tracks – Sachsenring and Indianapolis – that have tended to favor the Honda. He will have to wait until Brno in mid-August for another track where the Yamaha can shine.

The same goes for Jorge Lorenzo, but for Lorenzo, the impact will be greater. The double world champion has spent the last couple of races slowly building his confidence again after a disastrous start to the season. He had come to Assen hoping for a strong result, perhaps even a win. It is a track he knows well and loves, a track where he has won, and a track that favors the Yamaha. A calamitous qualifying session saw Lorenzo starting from ninth on the grid. But the race was much, much worse for Lorenzo, crossing the line in thirteenth. Lorenzo finished behind Scott Redding on the production Honda, behind Broc Parkes on the PBM Aprilia – the last of the true CRT bikes – and as last of the factory option Yamahas. He was over a minute behind the winner Marc Marquez. For a man who ended last year as runner up to the championship, and had hopes for the title in 2014, that is an unmitigated catastrophe.

Speaking to the press after the race, Lorenzo was brutally honest about his own lack of performance. 'Today has been 100 per cent my fault, I want to say sorry to the team because I wasn’t able to be brave, to be fast with tough conditions like the other riders.' The problem, he explained, was that the conditions brought back memories of the massive crash at Assen in 2013, which saw him highside at Hoge Heide in the pouring rain and break a collarbone. It was not the crash itself which he remembered, but the pain and the stress which came after. The broken collarbone, the flight to Barcelona, the surgery, the flight back, the incredible pain in which he raced to an almost impossible result, all that came flooding back in the difficult conditions. 'Last year I made something impossible but today it was the opposite,' Lorenzo said.

It meant he was riding with fear, stiff and tentative on the bike. He was being excessively cautious everywhere, afraid he might crash at any moment. Only when the rain held off and the track started to dry did he find some confidence and begin to pick up speed. His lap times dropped from well over a second slower than his teammate Valentino Rossi, to two or three tenths off Rossi's pace. Even then, the word Lorenzo used to describe his pace was 'acceptable'.

Can Lorenzo conquer his fear? After the race, he said he could. It was the combination of the conditions and the circuit which had spooked him, something which would not be the case at other circuits. The trouble is that the next race is at the Sachsenring, where he also crashed in 2013.

The situation is similar to 2008, when Lorenzo followed up his astonishing start to his rookie season with a couple of massive crashes. At Montmelo, he knocked himself unconscious, waking up in hospital with a concussion. It took him several races to recover, only really finding his form again at the end of the season. It was all too familiar to Valentino Rossi, the Italian told us. After the big crash in which he broke his leg at Mugello in 2010, he had been a little tentative the first few times he returned to the track, especially when it was cool. The memories of the pain of that cold tire highside lingered on.

Marc Marquez' win at Assen leaves him with a perfect 200 points from eight races. His advantage is now 72 points, meaning he could take three races off and still be leading the championship unless either Valentino Rossi or Dani Pedrosa win the next three in a row. This, especially, is where Marquez has gained on his rivals. It is not just that he has won every single race, but also that those he has beaten have got caught up fighting among themselves. Marquez extends his lead every time he races, because a different rider finishes behind him every race. After Barcelona, Rossi trailed Marquez by 58 points, but a fifth place saw him lose another 14 points to the reigning world champion. Marquez invents a new way to win at each new circuit, while his rivals find new ways to fall short. If they keep on like this, Marquez could wrap up the title at Aragon.

Though the championship may seem boring when you look at the race results, the races themselves have been great to watch. The outcome is always the same, but you cannot be sure until the end. Even at Assen, where Marquez had a clear lead, the conditions made for an eventful race. There is a sense of inevitability over the championship, but luckily, you never get that feeling watching the races. Here's hoping the Sachsenring delivers more of the same.

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Though his honesty is worth acceptable its hard to believe both what's happenin with jorge and how he is racing. Is he's scared so much then why is he racing ??.
Finishing behind NON factory bikes. Even a top ten was acceptable. Seriously this year it's almost impossible for him to win any of the races. Its high time he improves his race results or else he wont be able to defeat marquez neither this year nor coming years.

Speaking of marc, salute to his instincts with just two years of motoGP experience.(not even two) Still it can be said that if the yamahas were racing on 2013 tires even with fuel limits, the scenario would have been quite a lot different...............atleast jorge and valentino would have won 4 races this year (qatar, mugello, catalunya, argentina)

There is no way anybody could win with MM in Argentina. I don't believe there was a tire or fuel issue there. New track for everybody at factory teams and Marquez had the biggest guts. Qatar, Mugello, Montmelo - that could be possible. Argentina, nope.

"Still it can be said that if the yamahas were racing on 2013 tires even with fuel limits, the scenario would have been quite a lot different."

And if the Hondas were on those tyres? If, maybe, could be, wish it was so... racing doesn't work like that. All teams are on the same rules (for the category they have chosen to compete in).

Yes, I appreciate that there's stuff behind the scenes that we aren't privy to, but overall things are run to a reasonable level of clarity and fairness, and it's up to the teams to make the most of the regulations that govern them.

I like the Hondas - I own one - but I'm not a serious Honda fan. If anything I like the M1 the most, but that's simply because it's such a beautiful motorcycle - the Honda is brutal, the Ducati is a truck (sorry Ducati).

I think a large part of his problem at the moment is that no matter how hard Jorge races, the season is wasted. He can risk banging himself up, risk missing races, riding hurt, etc. - for what?

The potential to (realistically) finish 5th in the championship, assuming he lucks out and finishes consistently on the podium from here on out?

The sooner the 2014 season ends the better, as far as Jorge is concerned in my opinion. At the moment he has nothing to fight for.

Valentino and Dani at least are fighting over second place, and if Marc has a big off and misses some races, could potentially still take the championship. But Jorge is just way too far behind, and even if Marc bins it in a big way, both Vale and Dani are there to pick up the pieces and way ahead of him.

I don't think riders get to take time off from winning, if they want to keep winning in the future. They'd lose the edge and the motivation, not to mention the skills would quickly become dull. And what if they took that same attitude into the next season, when they're unmiraculously not on the top step after the first race? I can't think of any of the top riders who don't put in 110% every race towards the end of the season, even if they already have next year's ride secured (oh, I suppose there's Bautista whose tempo finds a strange upsurge once the silly season is well underway and he needs to find lunch for the next year).

Jorge is definitely in a slump, but he's a lion of a racer. Pride will keep him fighting, economics will keep him busting his *** to maintain a strong footing for contract negotiations (or is he already locked in for 2015 from a previous 2-year contract?), and skill *should* keep him up there near the pointy end.

Another great article, David.

It took me a few years to warm up to become a fan of JL (although I'm a died-in-the-wool VR supporter) but today cements it for me. JL's brutal honesty in the face of a such a disaster is a display of great courage.

I don't think he's "done" by any stretch either; he got where he is through great mental strength and I believe he will overcome this and return to his front running form soon.

Really entertaining season this has shaped up to be, despite the MM hegemony

A tricky race from a spectator viewpoint. You could see Rossi was sliding more than the other riders on the warmup lap, but the anouncer didn't say he was on slicks at that time. We also didn't get that he started from pitlane on wets, so the guys from Tavullia fanclub were biting their nails the first laps. After that is was fun to see him catch other riders, clearly he was fast an determined but the frontrunners were too far away at that point already. Lot's of great people at the Stekkenwal, despite the rain waving their yellow flags every lap.

Rossi's first lap was a 2:04, Marques's was a 1:55. 9 sec difference.

However, all other riders were slower than Marques. Those starting around where Rossi should have been were mostly doing around 2:00s.

It may be unrealistic to expect that he could have run at Marques's (clear track) pace in the middle of the pack on lap 1. So, in all likelihood it cost Rossi around 4-5 secs.

Perhaps David is being a bit kind to to old master...

the figure i came up with. Even if he had started from 12th, lets give him benefit of the doubt and say he overtakes 4 riders on the first lap putting him 8th, that position was almost 4 seconds down. If you look closely, he was 3 seconds a lap slower than the leaders even with a clear track. There was a 4 second gap between Hayden and him which gave him a clear track to operate and he lost 6 seconds to the leaders over the next 2 laps and also lost time to Hayden. Its a false narrative for him or anyone else to say that the start from pit lane cost him a chance at the win or the podium. In reality, his pit lane start may have cost him 1 position on the day.If you look at where he merged coming out of pit lane, it was basically like starting last because he took off as soon Marquez came into view coming out of turn 1 and was entering the track as the last riders were coming through

In my opinion the word scared coming from a motorcycle racer means that the rider can no longer control the motorcycle at speed because he is affected by emotion.

I hope Lorenzo recovers too. However, motorcycle racing is in your head. It requires supreme confidence. Tennis players might fear a slump, motorcycle racers can fear other things like serious injury or death. I have spent time with quite a lot of motorcycle racers and I cannot reconcile the use of the word scared coming from a successful rider. If my rider had used the words "I'm scared" then he would never have ridden the bike again. Maybe that sounds harsh, but scared riders crash.

To blow off Lorenzo's predicament as a slump or respect him for his honesty just doesn't fit in the world of motorcycle racing. At least not the world as I knew it.

Where youngsters share their feeling and emotions with the world. These kids put stuff on social media that would have been family secrets when i was a kid. I got on my kids all the time for the personal stuff they "shared" with the world. He will be fine.

Well that is completely plausible, and I hope that you are right. We need Lorenzo at his best right now.

That these guys are going 200 mph in the rain...yes, they do it for a living and many get paid handsomely, but for Lorenzo to say what he said, especially after his first season (I have his China moon launch saved in my phone) and Assen and Sachsenring last year, I have no problem with him saying it. (When it rains at a track day, how many of us actually go out on track?) He is falling out of the championship this year, he doesn't have the feeling on the bike he wants and he encounters today's conditions. Why take a big risk? He is a more mature rider now and he is an extremely calculating rider (only Marquez seems to equal his riding IQ with the goal to win but with the brass balls of a 21 year old), much more so than his first two years with Rossi. No problem, he will be back, but he is struggling at the moment. These performances don't exactly give him a stronger negotiating position against Yamaha since he is asking for more money than they want to give him!.

My second point is about all this talk of the superiority of the Honda. I am simply not buying it. Sure, it has its strengths in certain aspects of performance (braking, acceleration) that gives an advantage at tracks like COTA and Indy, but it is not a dominant bike. In quali this year, a Yamaha has been in front of a factory Honda at every track except COTA. And at nearly every race, a Yamaha has been in front of a factory Honda. Dani Pedrosa ain't no slouch, so my contention is that that bike is not as dominant as everyone thinks. There just happens to be a freak of nature on board...I am talking the level of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Jonah Lomu, real freaks of nature... It is simply hard to believe someone can be this good (he cheated in Moto2 and now he is on a dominant MotoGP bike)...nope!

He is just a freak of nature!

Before I forget, i just want to call those NASCAR boys a bunch of wusses because they won't race in the rain! ...because of safety LOL!!!

pretty much... if he was 10-15 points down from Marc in the championship things would be a lot different.

At the moment, he has nothing to gain from taking big risks, other than potentially a lot of pain or debilitating injury.

this sounds lame, but "why bother". It's so not worth it for him at the moment.

There was very little if anything to gain for Lorenzo by pushing in bad conditions. At best he gets a 3rd or 4th and still loses points in a championship that has long left port. I think there are a lot of things playing on Lorenzo's mind at the moment. Marquez, Rossi, losing hard fought status earned over the course of years in a drop of the hat and Yamaha using it as a low ball negotiating tactic. What he needs to do first is let Yamaha know that leaving to Ducati for 15 million a year IS an option. Then just relax and ride like he did at Mugello. Even though he still came up short, that was some of the most inspired riding he has ever done.

I'm with you on that second point. I suspect that even if Marquez was on the Yamaha he'd be up where he is. The gaps from first to second this year are consistently small, if you want to see dominance take a look at the gaps in '97.

Agree.. fear kill rider career.. remember back at the end of 1995 season when kevin#34 start to 'shiver' riding RGV on the limit - after countless crash and beating during that season.. he retired that year.. Toseland and Spies also come to mind.. but we also see other rider conquer their fear & turn fatal crash into success like Mick Doohan.. JL#99 has amazing mental strength, I think the Assen drama only a small hiccup and he will recover stronger.

Before the indy race last year there was a fluff piece w/Lorenzo riding around in a hot rod. The driver asked him if he dreams about bikes. Lorenzo said, when I dream about bikes its a nightmare. The mental toll is huge, just ask Stoner.

Nascar will not race in the rain on banked ovals with concrete walls as the catch all. neither would any motorcycle series. They will race in the rain if it happens at one of their scheduled road circuit races with runoffs and sand traps. Happened a couple of weeks ago at Road America

That was Nationwide, the second tier series. The top flight NASCAR boys do NOT run in the rain, even at road courses. it's hard not to call out the NASCAR boys for being wusses in their big ole cages, especially if people here refuse to give Jorge a little space. Jorge had good reason to take it easy given his situation and he WILL be back on form.

Nationwide is NASCAR, and im not one calling out Lorenzo for his remarks .Cheers

You waltzed around my point. Nobody cares about Nationwide except a small cross-section of Americans. Sprint Cup NASCAR is the top tier stock car class in the world and they won't race in the rain...they won't even race if it is *damp* on road courses. Why? If Nationwide (also NASCAR as you point out) can do it with basic tire technology and de-fogging fans that the entire developed world has, and freaking MotoGP and every other level of motorcycle racing do it, why can't they?

Honest question, I'd love for someone to explain it....

Because NASCAR runs on banked curves, the tyres are subject to something called 'slip angle' - it affects all tyres of course, but it's a big deal on a banked curve. Basically the slip angle is the difference between where the tyre is pointing, and where it is going.

Add water, and the tyre no longer is capable of loading up in the banked curve. The cars could go slower, of course, but they don't handle the banked curves very well at lower speeds, and the chance of a catastrophe in the banked curves is deemed an unacceptable risk.

The other issue is that water gets under the track surface in the banking, and then seeps out through cracks, so even if the rain has gone away the track can still be unusable.

While I'd be happy to see NASCAR stockers race in the rain, there are multiple reasons why they don't. The reasons have nothing to do with the drivers being wussies, although most do have very little wet-track racing experience. The cars are fundamentally unsuited to roadracing, being heavy, high torque output, but small tires, and chassis/suspension that just doesn't work well in a finesse situation. Solid rear axles, for example. Bludgeon, not scalpel. On a dry roadracing track, you get a spectacular and entertaining divertissment (just two roadraces per year out of 36 total races). Add water and you are likely to just look downright incompetent, as well as significantly more dangerous. The Nationwide cars have several hundred horsepower less, and they are sliding all over the place, witness Road America last week. With Sprint Cup motors, circa 850 hp, the danger levels would be considerably higher. And the rules prohibit building cars with modern roadracing chassis and suspension technology, for the sake of economic sanity with just two races on the schedule. Also, both races are in mid-summer. It is rare to get rain in Sonoma in June. If Watkins Glen in July gets rain, it is most likely a brief shower.

I'd love to see seven or eight road courses on the NASCAR schedule, but it won't happen. Here is an example why I like 'em... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cduullDHcw

Shorter clip... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ovxUqeb-fQ

That's some good racing there... Ambrose on a road course is brilliant to watch.

Good explanation, and great vid! NASCAR on road courses is great entertainment compared to going around in circles.

.... David, though the race left me cold considering the weekend had such potential for fireworks after the obvious build up post-Catalunya. Oh well, perhaps next year Assen will give us a dry, flag-to-flag MotoGP race.

The MM93 love is strong here, but I wonder if perhaps it's a bit too much credit. The decision not to do the extra sighting lap could have been a disaster if it had caused him to gauge incorrectly the changing conditions of of any of the corners, luckily it didn't work out that way. Saying his victory is due to presence of mind suggests the other riders failed to think things through which seems unlikely. He made his gambles, they made theirs, his worked out, theirs didn't. That's racing. He has the confidence to ignore a suggestion from race direction because his phenomenal talent, stupendous machinery, and unassailable lead give him a supreme level of confidence, not because at 21 he has become a wizard of racecraft to the point of making veterans look clumsy. Honestly, he's fantastic, but let's all take it easy here. He didn't just outthink the entire field, it's far more complex than that. Last thing I'll say is that confidence in racing is an interesting thing in that it's possible to have either not enough, or too much. Both scenarios cause mistakes. He's going to make some, and the question is, will anyone be able to capitalize on it to get a win?

... no.

Marc made his choice to stay on wets based on the facts that:

the top runners were on wets.
he'd been fast all weekend
he deemed it to be too wet for slicks to be "safe"
he had a 50-60+ point lead in the championship.

In that situation, you don't gamble. He didn't need two laps to make the decision. He took the safe option of staying on wets, fully aware that maybe the weather would have dried out and people on slicks would have an advantage.

Sure, he could have risked it, but why? If he finished in third or even tenth here, he'd still be leading the championship comfortably. But if he'd started with slicks, and it went pear shaped? Potential injury, threatening his ability to complete the season.

Marc has an extremely wise championship head on his young shoulders. he may look like a kid. he may look like he's over the limit.... but I'd suggest he's a lot more controlled and focused than first glance may indicate.

You get glimpses of it sometimes when he's in the pits and hasn't realized the camera is on him. Smiley happy Marc is replaced with super serious, super focused Marc.

... but Marquez doesn't need to win... Rossi had to take the gamble on the tyres, & he wasn't forced to start from pit lane as David says, he made the wrong choice & chose to swap back to full wets... Marquez has the luxury of it not mattering too much if he does make the wrong choice. Thing is, it all seems to be going his way!

Your point on too much confidence being as dangerous as not enough is terrific. And, I thought we were going to see a mess when when MM decided to take someone on the outside...off the dry line... with slicks. Still not sure how that lean angle worked. But I guess it has something to do with why I am writing from my bed and he is doing it.

Whether the decisions about coming in after one of the 2 sighting laps were MM's or his crew mustn't matter IMHO. They are as one. I believe he has his old crew from Moto2 days unlike last year where they were mainly Stoners crew. Perhaps this can account for some of the improved performance and fewer errors.

You have to take your hat to him - a young, highly talented rider living in the social media age. He posts on Facebook, great image, confident and knows all about photo opportunities whether swimming over the line or climbing onto the camera tower. It's the brand you know.

He also learns quickly. Won't get caught out at Phillip Island again. Who saw that flag out of the corner of his eye in Spain? Last year he wa despised at Aragon. This year so far he has kept his nose out of trouble.

Does he have any real opposition? JL is having a mare of a year and too far behind. Dani is always the bridesmaid and will probably never win a championship. And VR just wants to win the odd race and be be top yam. Though I am probably being unfair to Rossi.

The thing is Marquez is still making the errors, he just seems to be able to always dodge the bullet and continue on. it's an amazing talent that he seems to have an I have no idea how he manages it.
Just look at the MM's first lap on slicks when he almost spat himself off and ran off the track, if that had been pedrosa I'd bet you'd be looking at a broken collar bone and 0 points. but Marquez is lucky enough to save it and also have a paved run off section on that corner, so he ends up with 25 points.
This almost seems to happen every race. Before the advent of paved run off areas this year marquez would be looking at at least 2 DNF's or at least low points score this season, probably more.

You sort of said it in your comment... paved run-off areas. Did Giacomo have that luxury? No... it's a bit easier these days to take the first 8 races out, when you can make an error and just correct the trajectory of the maverick motorcycle to bring it back onto the racing line.

In Ago's day, going off meant going off.

Not trying to take anything away from MM's achievement, his bike goes a whole lot faster than Ago could ever have conceived of going... but it's all relative. Taking the first 8 races back then was just as stupendous an achievement as it is today, but back then there was no Clinica Mobile, no air fences, no airbag leathers... I'm out, argue at length but be civil, this is MotoMatters : )

I'm not sure all the mod-cons make much if any difference. I think you just get different riders for different types of racing, so there are guys who are stupendously good at the IOM TT where to get it wrong may well be fatal, but these same guys rarely do so well on short track, and vice versa. Either way, I don't think I'd be any less petrified going into a 60 degree lean at motorway speeds just because I knew there were air fences etc. For one thing I bet that gravel smarts something terrible if you hit it at 80 or 90 mph.

Would he try the same moves if the runoffs were not there. I say no he wouldnt and would just choose another safer place to make passes, which by the way, he might just be the best overtaker i have ever seen

... did he save it because the paved run off just happened to be there, or did he make a calculated risk to push (slightly too hard), KNOWING the paved area was there and there was room to recover? And thus knowing just where the limit was for next time around?

I'll take option 2 thanks.

He's not stupid. Things like that happen almost every race because he is pushing. HARD. This is why he is running away with it, because he knows when he can push (safe corners with run off, to the point of crashing in practice) and when he can't (race day, when he's in a position good for his championship).

The fact that he's 8 races from 8 and broke most of the records in his rookie season isn't just dumb luck. Luck has little to do with it. It's calculated risk, and the skills to pull the bike back when it is slightly further over the limit than most.

You call it making errors. I reckon he's finding limits that others are too scared to explore.

Just look at how his lines changed on the final lap at Catalunya. That's not a guy making mistakes from pushing too hard. That's a guy who is racing inch perfect and totally in control.

I don't for a minute think he's content to get the odd win. As it is he's looking for another 2 years on the Yamaha, and no way is he looking to spend that as best of the rest. We may never know unless he one day tells all, but I'll bet he's already thinking that he can beat Marquez and once he's done it once it'll be easier to repeat, after which that 10th title is within grasp.

Rossi has 3 more wins than i do in the last 4 1/2 years, getting an odd win every now and then would be an improvement. Of course thats true for everyone right now. If you look at the landscape, this could be one of those 5 year reigns with domination we have not witnessed, and will only end through injury or boredom. Marquez says his baby brother is faster than him at the same stage in their careers, maybe he can hand of the crown to him in 5-6 years.

I phrased mine badly - even as a big fan I'm not saying Rossi could actually pull that off, just that I bet that's what's in his head. You only have to look at how ticked off he is with second place now, it's becoming as irritating to him as fourth last year. And I wouldn't be entirely surprised if he did pull it off - let's face it, almost everyone, including many fans like me, thought he was a spent force at the end of last season and look where we are now. If Yamaha start treating him as their No.1 again and shaping the bike around his needs, as seems to be the case, maybe he's going to find that extra one or two tenths for next year.

As for Marquez junior, the way he's going we could see him in MotoGP, on a honda, within 2 or 3 years. Now there's a thought!

After 8 wins on the trot you gotta say no. Sachsenring is Usually Pedrosa's best track so if he can't win there it's hard to see where he'll stand on the top step this season, I think he's feeling the effects of being the clear number 2 in the team for the first time. The tyres have messed up Jorge's strengths and Rossi is just that little bit too slow to challenge Marc. We need to get a crowd fund going for Stoner or petition him or something.

Dani beat Casey plenty of times. I reckon Marc would be a good 0.4-0.5 sec per lap faster than Casey if he came back.

He quit. He's gone. move on :D

There's an interesting comparison to Donington 2009 where factory Ducati selected wets to everyone else's slicks. Stoner was castigated by many. It's interesting to see what has been said about Rossi getting it so wrong (in just the same circumstances).

I always remember Alan Jones (Williams F1 World Champ) saying that you should select wet tyres if it is wet and dry if the track is dry. Simple.

Rossi didn't get lapped in this race, whereas Stoner in Donington...well, you know. ;)

he explains that Donnington 09 was just before he took time off to recover from his lactose intolerance problem. He knew he wouldn't last race distance on slicks and so had nothing to lose by rolling the dice and praying for rain. The rest as they say is history.

I remember hoping for Hayden (and Stoner, as I'm also a fan of his) that it could have been the genius stroke for a cheeky win. Alas, the gamble did not pay off. Shab ducati!

As an Aussie, I have the utmost respect for Alan Jones. But I am a GP fan, not an F1 fan... you can extrapolate from there : )

I recall the Ducati fiasco at Donington - it was such an odd choice no-one (apart from the team!) thought it was justified and the results spoke for themselves. Rossi's call was much more finely judged. His other call on changing bikes was about as good as it gets.

The problem with the Alan Jones approach is that you are going to get caught out on a drying track, and that is what Rossi was trying to pre-empt. As it turned out the track was drying slower than expected (by him) and he was caught by the 'extra' shower. He then followed Jones' advice and started on wets!

Regarding the time he lost (or gained) by starting from pit lane: I suspect that his net loss to Marquez was greater than 9 seconds, as he also 'lost' places by opting to start at the very back, after the pack had passed. The real answer will be in the sum of the lap time differences across the race (plus an adjustment for time difference on the bike change if you want to be more accurate). He finished 26 secs. down against a clearly/probably faster MM, but his 'true' pace with a front row start would have had them a lot closer at the finish.
Either way, he would have lost a load more time if he had taken up his grid slot with slicks on - an extra pit stop or loads of lost time waiting for the track to come to him. Rossi has shown that being 10 places down on MM doesn't necessarily mean very much and he clearly dealt with the first dozen overtakes pretty quickly. It's highly debatable what the qualifying mess and the start mess contributed, but my guess is more than 9 seconds but less than 26 for the start mess.
Lady luck is definitely playing a hand this season, I think, and the winds of fortune are blowing HRC's and MM's way. This will change, but Yamaha and the rest also have to up their game as MM/HRC are making some of their 'luck' by sheer hard work and sweating every opportunity (on and off track). The only place it hasn't worked so far is PI last year.

... Rossi was 9 seconds behind the race leader at the end of lap 1, but starting from 12th, had he made the right tyre choice, he might reasonably be expected to have got to say 6th or 7th which would have had him 3 or 4 seconds off the holeshot winner's leading lap time... so by starting from the pits he actually only lost around 5 or 6 seconds on his 12th placed grid slot... which is pretty bloody impressive... if he'd had a good 1st lap.

....that likely won't end well....

1) Why yes, dear, those jeans do make your ass look alarmingly huge!

B) I was slow 'cause I was scairt!

The first may earn you an opportunity to seek a new spouse or girlfriend. The second might get Broc Parkes or Ant West an invite to finish the season on your former bike while your teams looks for someone interested in racing motorcycles to sign for 2015 and beyond.

Or not. But how tough will it be for factory and sponsers and crew to believe in him from here on? How does the crew become inspired to prepare his bikes when he might just choose to tank another race because he's too busy emoting?

I fear you may be proved right on this one. I'm with the earlier poster who said that you just can't say stuff like that without worrying people, and while many of us will have the humanity to empathise with Jorge, it's a dog eat dog world out there and there are plenty who won't.

I understand both your points (99bunny and Lilyvani).
I think it can become confusing, to see a rider having such a strange but honest reaction, both to the employer (Yamaha in this case) and the sponsors.
Perhaps even more confusing in this case, JL being a rider that is extremely(!) well paid and expected to always perform at the top (factory rider, usual title contender, etc, etc) and apparently "cracking".

The Motorsports/GrandPrix world is very, very machist (we can all agree).
And while the interwebz and social-media have opened some doors into a somewhat more knowledged (and "personal") side of the riders, it's oftenly used as exploit for nothing more than image and marketing/publicity purposes, when not for some egocentrism by the individual.

So, with that said, even if uncommon, I think JL being straight honest and taking total guilt was humble, gutsy, and surprisingly positive.

His performance this year has been strangely irregular -and really bad at Assen.
His hopes for the title are long gone, he doesn't like the tyres, the M1 does not perform as good as the factory RCVs (it's no secret), and the rookie that he fought so bravely against last year is now easily cleaning the floor with every closest opponent. We're watching again that "best bike + best rider" scenario that we had with Rossi during the last decade.

We've also watched JL quite stressed at times - if not a little severe to others around. For instances, in some sad footage, which IMO was used just to create a sad contrast to favor M.Marquez image (the new "Goose with the Golden Eggs" for Dorna).

Perhaps we're watching JL at a cracking point, mentally.
Or perhaps the "tough-guy mask" has finally come off and we're watching the real JL now, showing a more insecure, problematic, and humble facet, as every human has the right to be too.

Whatever the case, I think it's foolish to write him off.
Every top rider has ups and downs, some even hit rock bottom and yet still manage to become invincible (ex.: Doohan).
I've been watching GPs since 1987 and, honestly, I don't think riders come any tougher than JL unelse they eat concrete for lunch (racing with injuries, fast as others even with slightly inferior machinery, etc).
I was never a big JL fan myself but, have to aknowledge, he's also a 2x GP250cc champion and 2x MotoGP champion, always at front, always in a factory bike since he got into GPs, so he knows the drill.
Give JL time, conditions and a title to fight for, and he'll be again at the top in coming seasons/races.

If, maybe, could be .........i too know that racing doesn't work like that.

Everyone knows that 2014 tyres has hardly caused any problems for honda, they are almost on the same pace as last year whereas the yamahas can go or to be more precise jorge can go 3 or maybe 4 tenths quicker than his current lap times.........if u compare his race pace from last year. So 2013 tyres will not improve marc's pace but surely jorge's pace.

But we are in 2014 not 2013.So MR lorenzo though i appreciate his honesty must solve his tyre and psychological problems or else finish his season in his worst championshp position i.e 5th.

Marquez has the mental toughness of a 30 year old. That mad dash for the cash in Q2 was breathtaking. He said "I've had enough of this shite, time to move" and boy did he. Extremely impressive. Nobody rattles him and the scary thought is that he is just getting stronger. Sooner or later I think that riding style of using all the curbs is gonna snatch him out. So far he's outwitted and out rode everyone.

Rossi and his team need to get their ish together. Screwing up in Q2 then again on tire selection, time to dig in, and get the qualifying sorted. 1.5 seasons is long enough to get used to the new format. When the phenom and AE are nailing it, you've got no excuse.

Lorenzo is lost unless everything is perfect. Wretched season.

I hope one of these guys can take it to Marc in the coming races. It's time. Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Rossi. One of you please stand up.

Lorenzos MotoGP career as a serious WC contender is more or less done if nothing signifikant happens to MM. JL is an above-average spiritual person espacially when compared to MM or VR who in my point of view (I´m claming this a highly spiritual and conscious human being) are driven by fun, skills, natural desire to win and so called talent.

Lorenzos (sub)conscious assumption war surly that he is and could be the best motorcycle rider in the world, better than anybody, better than VR. We all were witnesses of his first three races and first seasons ...

Last year clearly showed that MM was equally good or even better, losing the champiopnship by a vew points to a rookie fundamentally hurt JL´s ego. Otherwise such races or post-race comments (as honest they seem to or might be) wouldn´t be possible or even thinkable to Jorge himself (mind-games) ...

JL is not on MM´s level ... There are only two riders who could compete against MM93: A young/hungry, pre-fatherhood Casey Stoner (who im my point of view is/was way more spiritual/introverted-emotional/honest and intuitive than JL or anybody else in the MotoGP) on a HONDA and a younger VR (20-30).

I miss Casey (CS27 vs MM93 >>> Doohan vs Crivillé ...)

I think its a little harsh to be asking Rossi to stand up, as he is the only one who has regularly put the fight to Marquez and Honda in 2014, and at 35 years of age with this age of Honda/Bridgestone restriction its is still quite a feat and a testament to his extreme talent-especially seeing as the other side of the yamaha garage has fallen apart. No intermeadiates?? Still? Really Bridgestone?? I would say Bridgestone actually ruined the race-not to the tune of Phillip Island 2013-but in the ballpark.

The qualifying format is dumb, sideline commentators can say all they want about how similar it is to the old days-but its simply not. I saw nothing bad about the old format, if you are a fan you know that the last 20 minutes were always great-we didn't need a big break in between and a splitting of the field in half. The old towing antics were great to watch-unless your Casey Stoner....

Rossi's main drama is qualifying, and the strength of the Honda-paticularly in fuel consumption towards the end of the race. He and his team are building for something, I'm just not too sure the team and rider can do much about it under the weight of the regs and the lack of options, and the added power of the rule writers Honda and Marquez.

... I don't see why Casey would be able to challenge Marc if Jorge, Dani and Rossi can't.
You have to think, Jorge and Rossi won as many titles in MotoGP as Casey did during the time they all raced together - he wasn't an all conquering, domineering force. Dani, pre-Simoncelli incident in 2011 was ahead of Casey and was also ahead of Casey in 2012 before he crashed out at Indy whilst they were team mates at Honda.

This is in no way a slant against Stoner, but I can't see how people can come to the conclusion he would fare any better than the guys still there. The dots just don't connect for me on that assumption.

Marc is the new level, the original 'aliens' have been vanquished. Realistically we HAVE to look to the new generation for anyone coming to pose a threat. I'm not saying nobody else can win a race (although that may not be too far off the mark judging by 2014), but he's clearly got speed in reserve over the other guys and his racecraft for a 21 year old is just mind-boggling.

... of his current main competitors have challenged Marc... we've seen some good battles on track & some close racing. Not saying he would have beaten Marc but it would have been nice to see Stoner try... whatever, he's gone... & he may only have won as many championships as Rossi & Jorge but he did most of his race winning & spent most of his MotoGP career on a Ducati.

Great race. I was pulling for it to keep raining, to see if Dovi could do anything. Rossi decision really deflated my hopes for him. He has been getting closer and closer to Marquez with each race. Then this bad luck happens and drops him way back. Now tied in points for second with Pedrosa.

Lorenzo being honest is giving me more respect for him. But he has got to snap out of it. His mental state is a true gauge to me of just how mentally strong Marquez is. Lorenzo could not rattle him, but got rattled by the rookie now in his sophomore season in Motogp. Lorenzo IMHO was one of the most strong racers I had seen when it came to Rossi. But here comes Marc smiling and winning, and it is almost like watching some children's story when the sun came up and burned away the evil. Marc smiling, burning away Lorenzo.

If someone told me earlier this year that Rossi would be the one pushing the envelope and Lorenzo would be literally saying he is scared, I would have laughed my ass off. This is why it goes to show that you never know what can happen in a season in Motogp!

On a side note, Moto2 was pretty good too. Loved seeing Anthony West win. Lowes, (one of my favorites in the class), has got to stop crashing, still pulling for him though. Vinales is looking more and more dangerous to me. He seems to be getting a hang of things. Maybe in a couple of years he can challenge Marquez.

Finally got to watch the Moto2 race which I recorded on BT Sport from Saturday. Strategically avoided MotoMatters and other (not so reputable ; ) sites during the week so I didn't spoil the result...
Literally yelled when Westy got over the line in first place!!! After seeing him on telly in Sepang 2012 and witnessing the race live at Philip Island the following round where he outrun Marquez to the line, (which his performance enhancing drink from April that same year no doubt helped achieve)`only to have those results scrapped, it really is good to see the guy back on the top podium place! Congratulations mate! A real testament to someone who has kept his chin up and persevered over the years; 11 years between 1st positions is a long, long time!