2015 Indianapolis Race Round Up, Part 1: Marquez Vs Lorenzo, Rossi Vs Pedrosa, And Why Ducati Is Going Backwards

Whether this is the last time MotoGP visits Indianapolis or not – the lack of an announcement on Sunday night suggests that this was the last time – the 2015 edition will certainly go down in history as memorable. Race day saw the biggest crowd since 2009 head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, though in a facility this vast, anything less than a quarter of a million fans is going to look empty, and all 67,000 were treated to some genuine racing spectacle. An upside down Moto3 race, where those bold enough to gamble on slicks were duly rewarded; an old-fashioned Moto2 dogfight, where a group of evenly matched riders brawled from start to finish; and a pair of exceptionally tense duels in MotoGP, with championship positions raising the stakes even further.

The race of the day? Hard to say. All three had their own appeal. Rain and a drying track made Moto3 a weird contest, with massive gaps between the leaders, and yet still strangely exciting, because of the potential effects on the championship. Moto2 harked back to the halcyon days of Márquez, Iannone, and Espargaro, and reminded us of why we used to love the class. And MotoGP was more about tension than straight up excitement, brains kept busy calculating the ramifications for the championship as the front four swapped positions.

That Marc Márquez ended up winning the MotoGP race should come as no surprise. The Repsol Honda rider extended his winning streak, both at the track and in the USA. He has now won his last five races at Indy, making it three in MotoGP and two in Moto2, and he remains unbeaten on US soil in the premier class. Take his two Moto2 victories at Indy into account, and he has not been defeated in the US since 2010, when he was racing a 125.

Victory in 2015 did not come easy, however. Márquez, along with just about every other observer, had expected walk away with a comfortable victory. His pace during practice and qualifying had been relentless, and beyond the reach of anyone else. But on Sunday, Márquez found himself facing a formidable foe in the shape of Jorge Lorenzo, who got in front Márquez and tried to break his resistance, fending off his approaches almost all the way to the end. Only in the final laps could Márquez finally push into the lead and seize control of the race at last. Lorenzo took a lot more to vanquish than the Repsol Honda man had hoped.

"Honestly, I expected another race, because during practice I was able to ride high 1'32s, but it looked like Jorge was more 1'33s low. In the race he improved a lot," Márquez said during the press conference. He had intended to try to get in front early, and make a break, but Lorenzo's pace was too punishing to allow him to get past. He was forced to bide his time and wait for the end to launch his attack. It worked, and Márquez pulled out a slim lead to secure victory.

Márquez surprise at Jorge Lorenzo's pace was matched almost by Lorenzo's own. Lorenzo knew that Márquez was faster, and his only chance was to try to make a break early and press home his advantage. If he let Márquez get ahead, then he would not be able to follow. He had to prevent that from happening. "I knew Marc could do 1'32.5, but I was in front," Lorenzo said. But staying in front of Márquez was not easy. It took all the energy he had to push at a pace which left Márquez unable to pass. When Márquez made his final push, Lorenzo had nothing left in the tank with which to resist. "I was tired because with not the same pace as Márquez, I try to have the same pace as him or even better, that's why I used my energy during all the race, even if I am very fit. I put everything on the track, all the laps, all the corners, and Marc behind probably save a little bit more energy," he said.

Lorenzo's task was made even more difficult by having to perform mental arithmetic as he fought. He had one eye on his pit board for the man behind him, and the other on the position of Rossi. At the beginning of the race, when Lorenzo led and Rossi was fourth, the Spaniard had the prospect of gaining 12 points back in the championship, and cutting his deficit back to a single point. As Rossi moved forward and caught Dani Pedrosa, his gains were cut to 9 points, as long as he could stay in front of Márquez. Once Márquez got past, his advantage was just 4 points, though he was far enough ahead of Rossi and Pedrosa not to have to worry about being caught and passed by Rossi. Dani Pedrosa did all he could to try to get back past the Italian, but Rossi eventually prevailed.

Lorenzo was remarkably sanguine about the points he took back from Rossi. It could have been worse, he finished ahead of Rossi and that was his primary goal. "Nine points behind is better than seventeen," he said. With eight races to go, the championship is still wide open, and Lorenzo believes his time will come. "For sure in the future we will arrive at tracks where we can be more competitive." With Brno and Silverstone up next, the pendulum could be swinging back in Lorenzo's direction.

The battle behind the lead between Rossi and Pedrosa confirmed two important things about the championship. The first is that you can never count Valentino Rossi out, no matter how poorly he does in practice and qualifying. Rossi was seriously worried on Friday, well off the pace and lacking feel from the front under braking. He and his team made a big step forward on Saturday, then found another improvement during the morning warm up. That gave him the pace to chase, though qualifying down in eighth virtually ruled him out of contention for victory.

Though he had given up four points to Lorenzo, he was still content with how things had gone. "Sincerely, my bike in the race was good," he said. "I was able to do a lot of laps in the 1'32.8s, which was impossible in practice." He had come to Indianapolis knowing that it was a track he does not particularly like, and where the Hondas hold the advantage. "We know that here in Indianapolis we had to suffer," he said. He had hoped that it would not be quite as bad as it was on the first day of practice, but at least they had turned it around on Saturday. They had done so with some major set up changes. "We started from too far behind to find the right set up," he told the Italian media. "But I am happy, because did more than just make small changes, like we did at Mugello, but we had the courage to turn the bike upside down."

Rossi's pace had come as a real surprise to Dani Pedrosa. "Valentino was way faster than in practice, like 0.6, 0.7 faster," he said. "To improve that much is quite impressive. Sometimes you can do it at the beginning of the race, but he stayed quite strong all the race." Pedrosa had hung with Márquez and Lorenzo in the early part of the race, but had soon been dropped. When Rossi caught him, he could hold the Italian off for quite a while. Rossi had used up most of his tire catching the Repsol Honda rider, but was still capable of getting past. Pedrosa believed that he had the better of Rossi, and was faster than him in the last few laps, but he made a couple of mistakes that handed the lead back to Rossi. By the final lap, he was back with Rossi, but beating Rossi to the line proved to be impossible. "You know Rossi is always strong in the last lap," Pedrosa said.

Pedrosa is clearly getting better and better, and becoming more of a factor. The surgery on his arm is a success, and though it is still not completely normal – after such radical surgery, you wonder whether it ever will be – it is no longer a distraction, and Pedrosa can ride without worrying about arm pump. This time, Rossi made sure he did not have Pedrosa between himself and Lorenzo, but that may not be so easy at other races, for neither of the two Movistar Yamaha riders. Pedrosa is going to end up taking points from one or even both the championship contenders. At the end of 2015, there will be one race we will point out and say, if the runner up had not finished behind Pedrosa there, he would be champion.

Could the four points Rossi lost to Lorenzo turn out to be crucial? With eight races to go, it is far too early to say. But Rossi's season-long podium streak continues, the Italian veteran maintaining the kind of consistency that you need to win a championship. Rossi may have won three races, the same number as Marc Márquez, yet he leads the Spaniard by 56 points. That is the difference between standing on the box week after week, and pushing for victory when the bike is simply not capable.

The problem for Rossi is that Jorge Lorenzo is now starting to show the same kind of consistency. After two races with tires he did not like, he came to Indianapolis knowing that those same tires would be in the allocation, but he got on with the job in hand and made the best of what he had got. His approach and attitude have changed since Jerez, he and is crew following a different schedule. Longer runs and fewer exits, less fiddling with the bike and more trying to extract the maximum out of the rider. Ultimately, it is the rider which still makes the difference in motorcycle racing. Long may it remain so. And may it be the deciding factor in the championship.

What Indianapolis also demonstrated is that the top four are clearly a step ahead of the rest. Fifth place man Andrea Iannone finished twenty one seconds behind the winner, much to the dismay of the Ducati rider. "It was a really difficult race," Iannone lamented. "I start really good, but after two or three laps, I understand that I don't have a good pace to follow the best riders. I push every race at 100%, and more than 100%, but it is really difficult." However hard he pushes, the gap to the leader keeps growing. The last three or four races, Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso, the other man on a factory Ducati, had been incapable of doing anything about the leaders. All they could do was sit and watch them disappear into the distance.

What has happened to the Ducatis? Why has the gap grown so large, after the Desmosedici GP15 had such a strong start to the season. Andrea Dovizioso had a lucid explanation. "I believe at the beginning that the competitor wasn't really at 100% like us, to use the potential of the bike," he said. "I don't believe that they improve the bikes by 20 seconds. It's impossible. So I believe is a mix of many things."

The huge improvements MotoGP's Fab Four had shown are inherent to motorcycle racing, Dovizioso said. "On the bike, this can happen, because the riders can make a difference. It is not like in the car, for the drivers is easy to put the car on the limit. On a bike? No, it is not like this, it will never be like this. This is the positive things of our sport."

It isn't just that the Fab Four have gotten better, it is also that despite the massive step forward the Ducati has made in 2015, it is still far from perfect. It does not have a single massive weak point as it did in the past, but is still badly in need of refining. "We don't have a big limit, we have a small limit in a few areas, and the mix of that is the gap we have," Dovizioso said.

Dovizioso's own race was over in the second corner, where he was run wide by Cal Crutchlow. Not that he blamed Crutchlow, as the LCR Honda man had been forced to sit up when Bradley Smith had cut across his path. The problem for Dovizioso was that he had been caught up behind the two Englishmen because of his poor qualifying. "Very unlucky situation, because I didn't make anything wrong, but is a consequence of the other riders, and is a consequence of starting on the fourth row," he said.

The Ducatis may have the soft rear tire to help with qualifying, but at Indianapolis, it was more of a hindrance than a help. Having the soft rear left them to race the medium, where Hondas and Yamahas could all use the hard rear tire. The lack of the hard rear had nearly cost Iannone his fifth place, when the hard charging Bradley Smith had caught him at the end of the race. "In the last seven laps, the situation is really difficult for me, especially on the left side of the bike, the grip is really less, and long corners have a lot of slides, and for me it is impossible to control this," Iannone said. In the end, the difference to Smith would be just a couple of tenths.

Bradley Smith was once again the best satellite rider, putting in yet another solid ride to finish in sixth. Smith should have signed a contract with Tech 3 for another year by now, but it seems that he is pushing to extract guarantees from Yamaha over the level of support he will have in 2016. His primary goal has always been to beat his teammate, which he is doing convincingly this year. Smith may fear that the contract Pol Espargaro has just signed with Yamaha will provide him with better material than Smith will have at his disposal. Smith believes he deserves better than that. His results so far this year back that up.

Though MotoGP provided plenty to talk about, both Moto2 and Moto3 were more than worthy of attention. We will cover those in part two of our Indianapolis round up.

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Hard to say that it was a great race, but I did enjoy the main event. Even though I wish there were more bikes in contention for the win, the way it is for sure helps Rossi in his quest for the championship which I unabashedly am rooting for him to win.
I'm still shocked though at how far behind Ducati and Suzuki are at this point, and really, the same for Tech 3, though I do feel that Smith deserved the contract ahead of Pol, though do realize that since Pol is contracted by Yamaha directly, that would most likely never be the case.
Moto 2 was awesome, Zarco being super aggressive. I felt like he was making a statement about the fact that Rins was getting so much more press this weekend and was making some super hard moves in the face of the fact that he has a championship to preserve. This makes me like him even more. I will admit though that I thought Morbidelli was going to take him out on multiple occasions!
And for Moto 3, good job to the guys who took the risk! The positions were well deserved...

I didn't think Zarco's was riding a very smart race at all, I thought he was riding like a guy trying to win the championship this round rather than looking at the big picture and just staying out of trouble.

Realistically he has no threat in the Championship unless he fails to finish a few races. The only way that is going to happen is if he rides like he did in this race and comes off second best putting the bike into gaps that barely exist. I just didn't think it was very smart.

At the risk of voicing an unpopular opinion, I think it was due, in large part, to track layout. I've always thought that Indy has an undesirable, almost silly, loop-de-loo layout. Those chicanes kind of throw riders on top of each other. When it was just Vale and Dani going back and forth, it was pretty good. But put five Moto 2 bikes into the same space, and it's potential disaster.

2014 Indy had a 4 bike wide fight for the lead with a DUC, Honda, and 2 Yamaha's with them being almost 4 abreast in a couple corners.

memories surely are short these days.

2014 Indy had a 4 bike wide fight for the lead with a DUC, Honda, and 2 Yamaha's with them being almost 4 abreast in a couple corners.

memories surely are short these days.

Pol's post-race interview was pretty engaging. He said he was 1 second slower than last year's race, and going backwards was unacceptable for him. Thinking that was the end of it, I was surprised to hear him open up and expand further: To find grip this year, they need to make the bike more soft and he "hates it now." He said his style of aggressive riding doesn't work with the soft bike and if his natural style doesn't work he has no confidence and can't push.

This openness and explanation was A. refreshing, and B. super informative. It makes sense, coming from Moto2 with no electronics and ~140hp the bikes are more stiff and "quicker" reacting. Aggressive riding puts higher forces which the stiffer bike needs to flex.

Honda chased this type of development direction driven by Marquez - their Moto2 protege - albeit it seems like they might have overdone it just a touch at the beginning of the year.

If you're Yamaha you have a difficult decision to make. On one hand, Vale and Jorge (who might like the "softer" M1) won't be around forever. And even if you give them 110% support and win championships over the next few years, once they move on/retire then will your bike be "miserable" in the hands of a Moto2 graduate? If you develop riders for a certain formula early in their careers and it doesn't translate to MotoGP, where are you going to pul your talent from?

I bet part of that Yamaha contract for Pol included some heavy development work to test directions for "Moto2 style riding" for Yamaha to evaluate. That was supposed to have happened these last few years but with Jorge and Vale in a title fight, it seems to understandably be on the backburner. It may be why Pol is left languishing a bit. Apparently his contract stipulated more involvement from Yamaha, at a decent pay cut... Knowing that there is no future without results, so what good is the paycheck if you're out of the job in another season? His contract is a 2-way-street, both parties wanting more and obviously willing to sacrifice things to get there in the end.

If Smith is left out to dry a bit, it may purely be that his good results this year are with a bike style that Yamaha might not be providing Tech3 for next year. His results are great but how ironic and unfortunate would it be if that detracts from his prospects for 2016...

Interesting, indeed.

as well and knows how to ride Moto2 style, Vale is an ex 990 rider and knows how to hang the back out, and the Honda's dont even hang it out that much any more. Its only Jorge who doesn't have the hangout style 'history'. Any rider coming through now will have been on Moto3 so knows about smooth riding. Pol needs to adapt and change his style, and try not to be so aggressive as going sideways now with the fuel allowance doesn't get you to the end of the race. If he wants an aggressive bike he should aim to get Dani's seat through getting results. Too often Pol is on his backside, he has done 215 KM less distance this year (nearly 2 race distances) than Bradley who has finished every race. Next year's Tech3 bike will be basically what Vale and Jorge have this year, evolution not revolution. So if things carry on as they are, Pol will be looking for a ride next year.

...showed this year that talent, as we all know, is not enough for a good results. Maybe he doesn't liked Yamaha characteristics either but he took what was in his hands and made it work in his favour. Maybe Smith isn't an alien material type of rider but hard work does miraculous often.

...showed this year that talent, as we all know, is not enough for a good results. Maybe he doesn't liked Yamaha characteristics either but he took what was in his hands and made it work in his favour. Maybe Smith isn't an alien material type of rider but hard work does miraculous often.

Just a clarification the Soft vs Hard that Pol is alluding too is not in relation to the stiffness of the chassis but the driver input to the bike. In Moto2 the drivers inputs could be hard and abrupt sliding out the rear due to the way the driver inputs power. Where as the Honda my be driven like that, the Yamaha requires a smooth soft style to be driven quickly.

Smith struggled with that all of last year. It appears that this year he has relaxed and gotten an handle on riding the Yamaha quickly.

As for changing development style Honda has always chased HP and Yamaha (pre Rossi) has chased drivability (smoothness). I do not think that is something either factory can change easily since it appears built into the DNA of how they pursue Engineering results.

I guess my interpretation of his soft/hard may be off, but I don't think the overall intention is different (as a racer myself, I'm not naive enough to think bikes are simply "soft or hard" and that there is a sum of all parts with nearly infinite combinations).

I still think that Yamaha need to consider developing a bike that have handle the "hard". Not that they need to abandon their direction of rideability, but possibly just expand it's usability range for that type of riding.

Or perhaps it's a lost cause, and that type of riding is only rewarded on Honda-like architecture and big power? In which case Yamaha will be limited in their rider choice to those who are softer in their input.

I think my overarching theory is that most successful riders in the (to borrow David's phrase) halcyon days of Moto2 have been "hard" riders. Marquez, Pol, Iannone. Vinales has already talked about having to relearn a ton to ride a GP bike since Moto2 hasn't translated super well - with no electronics, etc.

But the riding style required in Moto3 contrasts night and day from the riding style required in Moto2. Where Moto3 requires a smooth/soft wheels in line style Moto2 requires a hard/wheels out of line style. Yet as demonstrated with Rins this year and Mavrick last year the cream of the crop learn to adapt quickly when required/under the correct environment.

I think Marquez skewed our perceptions due to winning so quickly and his unique riding style. None of the other fast Moto2 graduates (Bradly, Innone, Mavrick) ride like that, and when they try to they are SLOW and struggle. Case in point Redding a Moto2 wheels out of line top guy who lost the championship by a few points is struggling on a Honda primarily because he is trying to ride the bike hard like a Moto2 bike and quoting here:

"The biggest surprise on the timesheets was Scott Redding. The Marc VDS rider has struggled ever since getting the Honda RC213V bike he had longed for all last year, finding the bike much harder to go fast on than he had ever thought. Redding, like so many riders who come up from Moto2, are finding that racing a factory MotoGP bike is almost diametrically opposite to the approach needed in Moto2. In Moto2, the harder you push, the faster you go, whereas in MotoGP, the smoother you are, the more precise you are, the more conscious you are with your movements, the faster you go. Try to push, and you go slow. Try to relax, and you find yourself flying.

Trying to go fast clearly didn't work, Redding told us. "To be fast you have to be slow," he said. "The most bizarre thing you could have is the more you think, right, now I’ll make it, the slower you go. Now I’m making these fast laps you’re not like, ‘****! I’m on the brakes!’ You’re like, ‘Ah, I’m on the brakes, now gently release it. Gently on the gas, pick it up.’ You can’t think, get on the gas quick or you’ll lose everything. That’s the situation, to be fast and smooth."That was not easy when you are not confident, but when you have some confidence, it comes almost naturally. "The thing is to know that if you relax you’re going to go fast but also to be smoother and slower. Like when you come out of a corner instead of going on the throttle when you want you have to say, ‘Ok, wait.’ And you’re fighting to stop your hand from going. You have to have the confidence to know that’s going to make the difference. But still sometimes you’re like I can go now, but you don’t make the lap time. And that’s the hardest part."

This is the paradox at the heart of MotoGP. From the outside, especially on the Hondas, it looks like Marc Márquez, Dani Pedrosa, and Cal Crutchlow are trying to subdue a raging bull. In reality, they are coaxing it into playing along, rather than bullying it into submission, no matter how things look from the outside. Watch the bike underneath Marc Márquez and it looks like a beast which is tough to tame. But look at Márquez and what he is doing with his body, and you see he is moving fluidly, almost floating over the bike, caressing its controls and being gentle with it. It is not trying to break a wild stallion, it is Zen and the art of motorcycle racing."

Link: https://motomatters.com/analysis/2015/07/10/2015_sachsenring_motogp_frid...

Absolutely, and that was a great article. While Moto3 is wheels-in-line and Moto2 is loose, and thus they are "Night and Day", the progression is linear. More speed - more hard. Then in GP you need to suddenly turn the last 10 years on it's head. More speed - more soft. I guess that's what causes so many issues for most riders.

Both speed and braking performance becoming exponentially faster. Everything about going that fast makes you want to push hard. Your adrenaline, your brain processing the feedback from the bike at a million mph, the physics of counteracting forces acting on your body. Everything tells you the give strong inputs, but you need to do the opposite.

It's insane and insanely impressive. But this is what makes GP so different, not simply going "back to Moto3 style" riding. Not saying that was your point, just expanding on why I think Moto3-to-Moto2 is a natural progressive even if the riding style is clearly different.

what happend to the i always have to be infront mm for sitting 25 laps behind jl without putting up a fight.
Glad vr and dp had a good fight.

Funny, Lorenzo is the only rider I know who is always pushing to be first from the start, whether it is practice or qualifying session or race, he always tend to be first. He always has blistering race starts.

Marquez is a totally different kind of rider, he can often be seen during the practice or qualifying sessions always in the mix with other riders and and it seems that he looks where he can overtake them, on top of that he rarely starts the race good. Marc looks to me like a shark - calculated, always on the move and ready for attack. He has some special talents indeed.

Haha glad you took a pic. I returned from making coffee to find the missus laughing about it but missed it myself.

I just checked the stats for last year for comparison, Honda 12 seconds faster and Ducati 11 seconds faster than last year. So they have developed as much comparatively year on year, its just that Honda and Yamaha were and still are that much faster. Effectively Ducati need to make two seasons worth of improvements to the bike to get to where they will need to be this time next year - all other things being equal. That is a huge jump to have to make. It will be a long grind for the team to make this jump especially after the false dawn at the start of the season, maybe they've had to turn the power down a little after the fuel allowance was cut?
Interestingly its been the same top 4 for the past 3 years and an equally big gap to the best of the rest.

A repeat offender at lurking on this site that has taken the plunge to comment.
What I saw from the race was a battle of wills indicative of the mind set of each of the top four, especially this year.DP, needing a reaffirmation of his physical capacity to run at the sharp end post surgery. Sachsenring and Indy has definitely proved that. But the next step of beating MM is another massive mental hurdle. IMHO, I don't think he can, no disrespect to him. VR'S tenacity to claim 3rd really, for me encapsulates his determination to capture a last? title in a career in which he has bested 3 generations of riders. JL, similarly focused, but on proving that MM can be beat in a gladiatorial contest, much like he had with CS27. Mano a mano in a very Hispanic sense. And lastly MM, with the unabashed confidence of youth trying to measure himself against a crop of riders many have written of as been the greatest quartet ever to grace the highest level of roadracing.
So yeah, I found it enthralling.

Dovizioso says that the other bikes did not improve that much ("impossible") and he says that it is due to the fact that their top four were not at 100% in the beginning of the season.

I was hoping for a more plausible answer. With all due respect, I struggle to believe that the top four were all not trying, or somehow incapacitated to the tune of 20 seconds.

David, do you have any insights? I remember reading with some amazement a few months back when you proclaimed the Ducati the best bike on the grid, and explained why Honda would struggle to catch up (mainly engine freeze if I recall correctly). What has changed?

It's an interesting point as I've been wondering as well. I think David is referring to at the start of the season that riders may not have solidified back into their racing shoes. I mean this ever so slightly. Not as if any of the top level racers fall off the wagon over the winter but i'm sure that getting all that expectation, excitement and stress of starting the season back into pandoras box takes a race or two.

I enjoyed the racing of the top 4, but I found the incessant calculating and re-calculating of the championship positions to be premature and a bit annoying with 8.5 races to go. While I admit to having calculated the positions myself before the race even started, based on JL99 finishing 1st or 2nd and VR46 4th, I believe that something unusual will happen to both those men before the year is over. I believe that JL will be tussling with Marquez and Pedrosa for many of the remaining races, pushing extremely hard, and as a result he is due to have an incident either of his own making or by one of the Honda men. Rossi exposes himself to something crazy at the start of every race by qualifying on the 3rd row and I see no reason for the future races to be any different, with the exception of Misano, Malaysia and PI where Rossi has historically been exceptional. When he does qualify well, he will be dealing with the same risks as JL riding around with Marquez.

In my view, “all” Rossi needs to do to win the championship is to finish every race on the podium. Interestingly, I could only find one season in “recent” history where a rider has arrived on the podium in every race. That was Rossi in 2003. He landed on the podium in every race except one in 2002 and 2005. He landed on the podium in every race except two in 2008, while Lorenzo did the same in 2010 and 2012, and of course Marquez did it in 2013. The fact that Rossi has 14 podiums in a row, 18 out of the last 19, and 22 out of the last 25 races, is one of the best runs of his career (barring 2002-2003 with 31 out of 32 podiums and 2001-2003 with 44 out of 48 podiums), but to do it all 18 races of this season looks to be extremely unlikely. It is just as unlikely as Marquez winning all the remaining races and just as unlikely as JL99 is to have no problems with Marquez.

All of this rambling is to say that in my opinion it would take a brave man to go all-in on one of these riders, but also that there is so much racing remaining that constant updates on championship points is about as meaningful as Tony Elias crossing the line last at Indy.

Anyway, my rating of select riders at Indy….

Marquez: 5 out of 5, he was fast and smart for the whole weekend, and once again proved that he is a brilliant racer and strategist.

Lorenzo: 5 out of 5, his pace in the race was incredible and made the race unexpectedly entertaining

Rossi: 4 out of 5, his pace in the race was remarkable and I am SHOCKED he beat Pedrosa. The two days before the race were disappointing.

Pedrosa: 2 out of 5. I honestly thought it would be a Honda 1-2 given the pace he showed in practice, and to ultimately be beaten by a slower Rossi (by Pedrosa’s own acknowledgement) without any real problems is severe underperformance.

Iannone: 4.5 out of 5. “Maniac Joe” to me is now “Steady Eddie”. He is comprehensively outperforming Dovi, who had only previously been beaten by Stoner and Pedrosa, and staying clean. He is one of the few riders in the Marquez generation to sliced and diced and beat him up a few times (along with Espargaro), and he is really showing what he can do. Let’s get that Ducati going.

Smith: 4.5 out of 5. He has amazed me this year by being extremely fast, not crashing, and comprehensively outperforming the more talented Pol. Another great performance, and his “por fuera” strategy on almost every start is working well, this time in T2 (to the dismay of Cal).

Pol: 2 out of 5. Get it sorted.

Crutchlow: 3 out of 5. I don’t like the “excuse” of not getting enough heat into the brakes at the start. The other Hondas seem to go through the same warm-up lap routine to get heat and have no problems, but somehow it doesn’t work out. Not sure he will be the best Brit or the best satellite this year.

Maverick: 4.5 out of 5. Destroyed Aleix this weekend. Shouldn’t happen as a rookie.

It's just my opinion, written at the time without knowing any of the numbers, just watching their riding styles. I think Pol can do more with the bike and his style is more natural and flowing, and I knew a little bit of their history.

But now that you asked, interestingly, it's backed up by the fact that the two riders started 125s the same year, and during that time, the quantifiable stats indicate...

Pol 125s: 21 podiums and 5 victories
Smith 125s: 20 podiums and 3 victories

Pol Moto2: 23 podiums, 10 victories, 1 world championship
Smith Moto2: 3 podiums, 0 victories

Pol GP: zero
Smith GP: 1 podium, gifted to him at PI by 6 crashers in front of him, including Pol. Smith stayed on the bike so he deserved it!

Of course, consistent out-performance every year doesn't mean Pol is more talented. He could have been on better bikes and/or better teams. Last year, in his rookie season he narrowly beat Smith, but the tables have completely turned this year. Smith has been absolutely fantastic this year. None of this anything negative about him...somebody here got all wound up last year when I said Marquez was more talented than Smith after the dirt track racing. Smith is a very likable guy and I love his performance this year, I am just calling it like I see it, in my opinion (as if my opinion matters). :)

One thing I can say with high confidence is that Poncharal looks like a genius now. I questioned Smith's position on the team every year, especially the first year (I know some others did too), but I am eating my words now! I love it because he has worked his tail off under huge pressure to get where he is today.

I would be interested to hear...do you or others think Smith is more talented than Pol?

Both are very good at what they do and yes, equipment does make a difference.

Pol generally has had better kit / support over the years than Smith, remember Smith started out in 125's on a Honda which was behind the Aprillia's of the day on the development front but on the flip side he did have Alberto Puig nurturing him in the early days.

Pol fought tooth & nail with Redding for the M2 world championship - he was on an top spec Kalex. Smith's Moto 2 years were spent making a Mistral 610 look way better than it actually was........

Smith's first season on an M1 was on a bitsa mashup bike with a very old chassis, Pol walked straight into a factory contract with the bike to match.

I suppose my point is was they have both risen to be top class racers but the route to the top for Smith was harder, he was more of a victim of circumstance rather than being less talented.

Two riders can be equally talented but a combination of management, hype, funding, passport and results rather than just results can determine a carer trajectory and how fast takes off.

Very good points. I can definitely see your side. But like I said from the beginning, it was subjective and mostly based on watching them ride and selected results I can recall. But if smith continues to beat him like this, then I may just join your camp. More than anything, however, I think smith has learned how to work smart with his team, harness all the resources around him, and use his skills efficiently and within the limits of the bike. Matter's explanation above is a really good read.

...that Rossi appeared to be a safe bet in the early part of the season when Lorenzo had all kinds of problems and also recent in Argentina and Aragon but now power swings back to Jorge's favor again. The truth is Marc will probably win more races than either of the two title contenders by the end of the season and only Honda is to blame that he won't win this years WDC title. I guess that this season will be remembered as the one not won by Marc in "his" era but with races won so dominantly by him also...

I'm not so sure about this statement. First up Honda built the bike according to Marquez' feedback. He got the bike he wanted.

I think Marquez himself knows that if he had ridden the bike to it's limits rather than trying to win every race at all costs he would be now be in the box seat to win another championship. I can't help feeling that most of the responsibility for his current points deficit rests squarely on his own shoulders. The bike mightn't have been ideal but it was good enough to win the championship if he'd ridden smarter.

he was the top scorer of the second half of last season 146 to Vale's 138, MM 109 and Dani 82. If we add the last 8 races to this years totals Vale will win by a point. Marquez had 2 DNF's and a 1 point in the second half and Dani the same but with a 2 pointer. Vale and Jorge had 1 DNF each. The year before it was the same order but Jorge got 159, Vale 138, MM 112 and Dani 85. So if the past is a guide to the future MM wont be champ. Its going to be very interesting. For me Vale just has the edge.

We see a lot of interesting ways of analysing data here, from David and from the readership... this is yet another approach that I've not previously seen, but which makes good sense. Thanks for sharing :)

where Rossi improves and shrink the points difference from year to year. If he stay on that trend he should end up with more points than Jorge this year.
2013 - -21p
2014 - -8p
2015 ~ +5p

Pure speculation of course but with Rossi's form and the numbers you produced this strengthen my belief that this is Rossi's title to loose. He must fail where Jorge succeed to loose this.

Ducati may be going backwards but Iannone keeps going forward anyway. Such an impressive season he is having. No more Crazy Joe, but Steady Joe. I don't think he could be doing any better than he is now. Great to see, I always had high hopes for him after seeing him in Moto2.

Arrived home from Indy and man oh man :) I LOVE ME SOME MOTORBIKE RACING!! Random musings:

-Moto3 race was....wacky. Once the field "settled" I saw Fenati pass, looked up and saw he was running P5 and a few seconds later here comes Loi in P1! Like I said wacky. Happy for Livio after his sacking midseason last year. Go on Sniper!

-The customer Hondas sound so different than the RCVs especially coming into corners after a straight. Manual vs seamless downshifting I reckon

I went to Indy as well and had a great time. Saw some really good battles on the track and was lucky enough to meet several riders in the paddock. They were all gracious enough to pose with my kids for photos. I will certainly hate to see this race disappear from the calendar in the future. Anyway, I'd like to weigh in on the Smith v Pol debate. I think the Japanese factories are pretty good at assessing talent. I think that they believe (as I do) that Pol is the more talented rider and that is why he has a factory contract, etc. He has produced more race victories, podiums, a championship and most recently claimed pole position and set a lap record at the Suzuka 8 hours race . Interestingly, I think the fact that he is a Spaniard must help him too as to the way he is regarded by the factories. Being from Spain is not unlike being an American in the '80s and early '90s seemed to be. I have to admit though that I am more of a Smith fan even though I think Pol is slightly quicker. Smith is showing great maturity this year and is out performing several riders that were supposed to achieve more than him. He certainly deserves to continue in MotoGP!

...that being a Spaniard doesn't help Pol at all, if anything DORNA would probably prefer people from other places in order to increase the fanbase in all areas, rather than such a saturated pool as Spain.

My honest opinion is that neither Pol or Smith are good enough. Yamaha need to find someone else, neither are that young, neither will ever compete with the 'top 4' on any given machinery.

Yamaha simply have to find themselves a 'Marquez', because he's younger than most of the potentials in Moto2, let alone Pol and Bradley. They will never regularly beat Marquez and while Rossi is 36, Jorge is also no longer a kid, as it stands Honda with Marquez in the seat could dominate for years to come... there's nobody in line to compete. It's a scary thought... but a good job I quite like Marquez!

I think the argument about Pol Vs Bradley is pointless, because ultimately it doesn't matter... neither of them will make the cut to lead the factory Yamaha team (and I'm sorry for saying that about Bradley, as I'm always rooting for him!).

Lorenzo is 28 - he's going to be around for at least another four years barring injury.

Yamaha need to be speaking to the emerging talent in the lower classes now. Alex Rins is the obvious name in the frame just now, but has the drawback of being a Spaniard - I suspect DORNA would like a more diverse talent base than just Spaniards. He is the stand-out talent in the lower classes, Luis Salom never having really adapted to Moto2, neither did Nico Terol. It's perhaps too early to be talking about Morbidelli. I think DORNA will be having having a push to get Zarco into the top class at the end of the year, but at whose expense?

Redding and Marc VDS have been a waste of a factory Honda this year - too much for them to learn the class and the bike together. Will the team stick with Redding next year? Will Honda stick with Marc VDS - probably given their links with Monlau Competition. However, Redding could be out of a ride at the end of the season, he's showing no signs of getting a handle on the bike and looks a poor prospect as a long term development rider.

I've digressed slightly. Iannone might have his head turned if Ducati don't get faster again, as he is one that probably still believes he can beat Marquez. But at the moment the ball's in Yamaha's court - why don't they supply Tech3 with the latest kit - then we'll really see where Pol and Bradley are! Otherwise there's no compelling reason for Yamaha to lose either of them.