2018 Jerez MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Of Crashes, Blame, And Championships

Racing produces drama. When you put 24 riders on an equal number of 270hp MotoGP machines, you can never be certain of the outcome. The tired and obvious story lines you had written in your head before the race have a tendency to go up in smoke once the flag drops. Racing produces a new reality, often surprising, rarely predictable.

But that doesn't stop us from drawing up a picture after practice of how the race is going to play out. At a tight track like Jerez, passing is difficult, and so the rider who can get the holeshot can try to open a gap and run away at the front. After qualifying, it was clear that the three factory-backed Hondas were strongest, the Repsols of Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa, together with the LCR Honda of Cal Crutchlow were all a cut above the rest. It would be an all-RC213V podium, with the other manufacturers left to fight over the scraps. The Ducatis would do battle with the Suzukis, and the Yamahas would find some pace at last, and get in among it at the front.

It didn't pan out that way, of course. Yes, a Honda dominated proceedings. Yes, a couple of Ducatis battled with a couple of Suzukis at different points during the race. And yes, the Yamahas found some pace, with Wilco Zeelenberg telling me shortly before the race that during warm up on Sunday morning they had found a little bit of the grip they had been missing. But the race resolutely failed to stick to the script we all had in our heads before the start.

Rocket man

The first sign that this race wasn't going to go the way we thought was when Jorge Lorenzo got a rocket start, firing off the line from fourth on the grid straight into the lead. Dani Pedrosa and Johann Zarco followed, while polesitter Cal Crutchlow's start was the opposite of Lorenzo's, dropping to fourth place. Behind them, Marc Márquez started setting up for a run which would take him all the way to the front.

Lorenzo led in the early laps, only briefly ceding the lead to Dani Pedrosa but snatching it straight back from him. Lorenzo was strong on the brakes, and has mastered the Ducati's strongest point, its acceleration out of corners, which made him almost impossible to pass for Pedrosa. And not just for Pedrosa: Lorenzo's stout defense of his position using all the tools at his disposal would eventually end in disaster, and throw a spanner in the works of the championship.

Lorenzo's defense was not enough to keep Marc Márquez behind him, however. Once Márquez had disposed of Cal Crutchlow and Johann Zarco in the early laps, Márquez set his sights on Lorenzo, and in a pass that was clean as a whistle came through on the Ducati rider in the final corner, the turn which bears Lorenzo's name. Once through, he dialed up the pace, but not enough to be able to shake the group which had formed in his wake.

That group had consisted of Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Andrea Dovizioso, and Cal Crutchlow, but the LCR Honda rider had been pushing too hard to stay with the group, and slid out at Turn 1. He would blame the crash on a lack of rear grip (stemming, according to him, from a lack of a carbon swingarm) which had forced him to push too hard and overheat the front tire. Now, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, and Dovizioso gave chase to Márquez as the Repsol Honda rider tried to make good his escape.

Desmo dynamics

It was quickly becoming apparent that it was Andrea Dovizioso who was strongest, taking third from Dani Pedrosa into the final corner on lap 9. But Dovizioso found himself stuck behind his teammate, and unable to make a pass. Meanwhile, Márquez was just starting to edge away from the following trio, his pace a tenth or two better than that of Lorenzo's.

Dovizioso was desperate to find a way past, but the fact that he even found himself in that position was a remarkable turnaround. He had started the weekend a long way down the order, losing too much time to the three Hondas which had dominated practice and with no sign of improvement in sight. Deep analysis of the data persuaded Dovizioso to switch to the aerodynamic fairing, which he had initially written off as a non starter at Jerez. It transformed his fortunes, and put him in position for what looked like a certain podium.

"Normally when I’m saying that I can fight for the podium, I’m not saying bull****," Dovizioso told the media colorfully. "Yesterday in the afternoon I explained that and we did a big step from the morning to then, the afternoon. It showed anything can happen but we needed to have a really good speed. In the end it was even better than that, also because a lot of fast riders were really on the limit and they made a mistake. Lap-by-lap, during the race, you can learn some lines, some points and I was really consistent, really fast."

The problem was that he had started further down the grid, and now found himself caught behind his teammate. He probed and prodded, but he could not find his way through. "I lost too much behind Jorge," Dovizioso said. "He was fast but he was too slow in the middle of the corner, and was struggling too much with the front. I think he also didn’t want to let me pass. He stopped too much in the middle of the corner. That’s why we lost the time with Marc because he was struggling and he slowed down to close the door. That’s why I took ten laps to try to overtake him, because I didn’t want to make a mistake."

The pace was fast, the fastest lap nearly a whole second faster than in 2017, and the riders were leaving little room for error. "Everybody was on the limit with the front, which was confirmed by a lot of crashes," Dovizioso said. Apart from Cal Crutchlow, Alex Rins had gone down – his third crash in four races – as well as Karel Abraham and Tom Luthi. Riders were pushing the front to keep up. "I was on the limit with the front and the front locked in the middle of the corner," Dovizioso said. "I lost the front three times. I didn’t want to make a mistake here because already Marc was gone and I would have taken a risk to do what? I have to just overtake Jorge because I was a little bit faster that time. I knew immediately if I was able to make one lap in front of him I would have been able to make a gap. He was really on the limit but I couldn’t create a situation because he was stopping in the middle of the corner and he accelerated in a perfect way so I couldn’t get enough to try and overtake him."

Collision course

On lap 18, Dovizioso went for what looked like his best opportunity. In an attempt which he had been working toward since crossing the finish line and closing on Lorenzo since Turn 1, the Italian launched out of Turn 5 and chased his Ducati teammate down the back straight. He finally got a chance to try to outbrake him into Dry Sack, but as is always the case at Turn 6, getting past is hard and you can quickly find yourself having to brake deeper to make the corner and running wide. Lorenzo cut back underneath Dovizioso having squared the corner off as sharply as he could and got ready to fire back out of the corner and set himself up for the next left hander at Turn 7.

That's where it all went wrong. Lorenzo's line put him on a collision course with Dani Pedrosa, who had hugged the inside line at Turn 6. Neither rider saw the other, the two touched, and both men went down. Or rather, Lorenzo went down, wiping out Andrea Dovizioso in the process, while Pedrosa went up, flung from his bike as the rear tire gripped briefly then spat him off. It was his second highside in two races, the first coming at Argentina when he was pushed wide by Johann Zarco and touched a damp spot and the throttle at the same time. This time, he came off relatively lightly, with only heavy bruising to his hip, but the wrist he broke in Argentina escaped further aggravation.

The crash had enormous consequences. First of all, it handed an easy victory to Marc Márquez, allowing him to run away in the championship. Secondly, it gave podiums to Johann Zarco and Andrea Iannone, though the Suzuki rider was forced to work for it to hold off Pramac Ducati's Danilo Petrucci. It spared Yamaha's blushes, giving Valentino Rossi a flattering fifth place, rather than what would have been a disappointing eighth. (Rossi, though, was not so kind to his employer, making exactly this point and demanding changes).

Most of all, though, it deprived Andrea Dovizioso of serious points in the championship, and made his life a lot more difficult than it needed to be. The Italian had come to Jerez leading Márquez by just a single point. Had he finished behind Lorenzo, he would have left Spain trailing Márquez by 8 points. Had he successfully got past Lorenzo, that deficit would have been cut to 4 points. But now, he finds himself down in fifth in the championship, and 24 points behind Marc Márquez. His saving grace was that he was fast at a track where Ducati have struggled to be quick in the past. But that is small comfort for such a big loss of points.

The blame game

So who was to blame for the crash? Race Direction took a long hard look at the sequence of events which led to the crash, and ruled it a racing incident. That was pretty much the conclusion of every rider we spoke to about it, as well as the riders themselves. But this was another instance of reality defying the script. Crashes involving three riders are rare in MotoGP, outside of the first lap, but if it had happened and involved, say, Marc Márquez or Danilo Petrucci, nobody would have been surprised.

But these were the three cleanest riders on the grid who were involved in the pile up. Not my words, but the words of Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, all using the phrase independently of each other. Race Director Mike Webb used exactly the same phrase when we spoke to him. Dovizioso's pass on Pedrosa had been picture perfect. His pass on Lorenzo had been ambitious, perhaps, but it was a long way from being dangerous. Lorenzo made the absolutely standard defensive move after being passed at Dry Sack, cutting back inside and heading for a late apex. Pedrosa saw a hole, and took a fairly standard inside line. It is hard to apportion blame to something which looked like an unfortunate confluence of events.

Racing incident or not, the riders involved were far from happy. Pedrosa's first reaction when he returned to the garage was to scream with rage. Dovizioso was angry and frustrated, as was Lorenzo. All three did their best to try not to apportion blame, though there was some oblique criticism. The consensus among the three was that Dovizioso had the least part of it – after all, it was Lorenzo and Pedrosa who came together, taking Dovizioso out as a result. But both Pedrosa and Lorenzo felt the blame lay more with the other than with themselves.

Lorenzo's view

"The images are clear, but to be honest I don't want to speak too much about that or to say it's his fault or it's your fault, because we are the three cleanest riders in the championship," Lorenzo said. "It was a very unlucky movement for all three, and we finished on the ground. And we are never in these type of actions."

Lorenzo had not seen Pedrosa come up on the inside, the Ducati rider said. "Obviously not. Everything happened so fast, I was obviously coming into the narrow place as always, when you run a bit wide you are coming to get the best acceleration and suddenly Dani was there, and then the crash everything happened like domino pieces."

He hadn't even know that Pedrosa was behind him, he explained. "Especially today, I said to Juanito, who does my pit board, to only tell me the rider behind. But even like that, if they put G3 on the board, which means there are three riders behind you, even like that you don't know where the third rider is, whether he is very far or close. So the third rider is the only one who has vision of the situation, because we don't have eyes in the back of our head. I would like that, to be a rider with four eyes, but it's not possible. So it's the one behind who has to be responsible. But anyway, it's Dani. And Dani, myself and Dovi, are never in those actions, so I don't want to say it's your fault, your fault. It has no meaning."

Pedrosa's perspective

Dani Pedrosa saw it a little differently, of course. "There in that point, they made a mistake," he said. "They both went wide and – no, I was not faster, otherwise I couldn't keep my line. I did my normal line but they went slower because they were outside."

It was Lorenzo's decision to cut back inside which had caused the crash, at least according to Pedrosa. "The thing is that Jorge cut down from Dovi after the pass and he wanted to recover his position and maybe he didn't expect me there for some reason." This all happened before Pedrosa lost sight of the situation when he climbed onto the inside of his bike to hang off for Turn 6. "What I can say is in that moment there is one point that I'm watching them going wide, but then I started turning and I'm completely on the right side of my bike and I can't see anything 'here'. Even if I want, you don’t see because you are leaning on the other side."

Body talk

Pedrosa felt that because Lorenzo was on the right side of his bike, and had vision to his right, where Pedrosa was coming from, then the Ducati man should have seen him. "Lorenzo was leaning on the inside," Pedrosa said. "He can, more-or-less, see me and also I think when you go out and you lose the line you must check to recover the line. But finally we touch, and we crash, and there's nothing we can do now. It's not that we wanted to finish like this because I think the three of us were doing a very good race and we all deserved to finish in the strong positions today."

Body position – especially the modern body position which has evolved in the past ten years or so, with the body far off the bike, inside elbow dropped, and the head low and as far forward as possible – has perhaps made these types of crashes even more difficult to avoid, as it robs riders of vision completely on one side of the bike. It was a topic which had come up in other discussions inside Race Direction, Mike Webb told us, though mostly with regard to sight lines for flag posts. "It hasn’t played a big part in our thinking, but in some incidents we’ve talked about whether a rider has seen a yellow flag or something like that. The modern body position has come up in that discussion as to, where he is there hanging off the bike, he probably can’t see the flag out there," Webb explained.

A third view

Andrea Dovizioso sided with his teammate with regards to the problem of vision, however. It was the responsibility of the rider behind to ensure they can make a clean pass, Dovizioso said "If you enter faster than normal and someone is in front of you, because we were in front of Dani, so we decide the line. Right? We decide the line because the rider in front always decides the line. For sure, Jorge didn’t check like me. So, like I said before, Jorge didn’t stay. But Dani is behind and he is able to manage the situation and he cut inside faster than every other lap. And it created a crash so for sure he did a mistake. The percentage you want to put to on Jorge and Dani, you can put whatever you want. But it’s from there."

Neutral observers had very much the same assessment. "For me, when this happened, it's a little bit not a mistake of one person between Lorenzo and Pedrosa," Valentino Rossi told Slovenia TV. "Because Lorenzo come back quick, but Lorenzo cannot see Pedrosa inside. So I think that Pedrosa thought he had enough room, but he didn't have it, and they touched. So it's 50/50."

That was pretty much the conclusion that Race Direction came to. "You could possibly apportion some blame on Lorenzo, and possibly some on Pedrosa," Mike Webb explained. "Lorenzo was ahead, but he’s coming in on a strange line. Pedrosa has seen a gap and gone for it, and then there’s not a gap. And he was behind. So where do you apportion the blame? Given all the circumstances, where they ended up on the track and what unfolded, I don’t think any of the riders made ridiculous maneuvers that had zero chance of coming off. There were riders that ended up on the same piece of tarmac by the circumstances they were put in. Dani saw a gap and had a go and it was no longer there."

Precedents and parallels

The whole situation was reminiscent of the collision between Marc Márquez and Pol Espargaro in the Moto2 race at Barcelona back in 2012. There, Márquez had run wide at the old La Caixa turn, then cut back and knocked Espargaro off while they were battling for the title. "A very similar incident years ago in Barcelona with Marquez and Espargaro, with a rider running wide and then coming back on track," Mike Webb said. "I wasn’t Race Director at the time, but I remember it was penalized, and I remember also that the penalty was overturned by the FIM saying, that’s not a fair penalty. The rider was ahead."

Webb emphasized that the Barcelona incident had not been used as a template for this incident, despite the parallels. "Again, I’ll say every incident is different and we have to consider them all on their own. But taking the whole set of circumstances, track positions and what was going on at the time, the reason it’s just a race incident is because two riders ended up contacting, causing a major incident, but not with any intent to do something wrong. It was a set of circumstances."

Explain yourselves

This incident had only served to fuel Dani Pedrosa's growing frustration at Race Direction. "Well of course I had a big, big crash again and I was lying down and then I see they decide 'race incident' and of course we can see it's a race incident. But I went there to speak to Race Direction because I want to understand them," Pedrosa said. "It was a race incident for me in Argentina - it wasn't for Marc with Vale, but Zarco and me, yes. I highside because I pull up the bike. After Zarco's mistake coming into the turn I tried to give space, I finally end up in the hospital and this time- okay Lorenzo maybe don't see me, don't look or didn't expect me there or whatever – but he didn't pick up the bike and 'boom!' we ended up crashing. And I highside again. And again 'race incident'."

"So I go there to understand what is the point and how they judge things because from my point of view, it wasn't just that easy. So I ask them, 'how do you judge this?' because I don’t understand. And then we start asking, 'okay so I was on the inside, I was on the correct line on the track yes? They were on the outside and coming back from a mistake so they were re-joining the correct line on the track, yes? 'So, when you are in the right line who has the preference, the guy who is inside or the guy who is outside?' The guy who is inside. Okay, so then whose fault? 'Well we already took our decision'."

"So finally they said if you don't agree with our decision, which I don't, make an appeal. But this meant I would say that I want Jorge to be penalized, because I don't agree with the decision. But what I want them to understand is that I don't want a penalty for Jorge, I want them to understand correctly what is happening on the track because they don’t."

Respect or responsibility?

His anger was further fueled by the impression that Race Direction wasn't taking his perspective seriously, Pedrosa said. "Firstly and most importantly it's because sometimes they don’t face the things. I came there, I could barely walk, and I went there walking and Mr Mike Webb didn't even want to join the meeting and he was next door. So I deserve a little bit more respect than this."

What Pedrosa omitted to say was that he went to see Mike Webb in the middle of the Red Bull Rookies race. As Race Director, Webb was busy ensuring that that race was running safely, and so had other, more pressing matters to deal with at that point in time. Pedrosa was met by the two FIM Stewards who form the FIM Stewards Panel, together with Mike Webb, and whose responsibilities cover the adjudication of incidents and awarding penalties.

Webb explained what had happened. "We were running a race," the Race Director said. "The next race, the Rookies Cup, was still on, but I’m still responsible. The FIM MotoGP stewards are in charge of sanctions and penalties. I’m one member of the three-member panel. So they came and I said to our stewards, could you please go and speak to them and call me if there’s going to be a formal hearing or whatever. But the stewards informed me it was an informal meeting. So I left them to it. So no, I didn’t refuse to go and see him. I was busy doing other things."

Culture clash

The problems between riders and Race Direction seem to be mainly one of culture. Riders are used to a more informal way of dealing with incidents, as it was in the past. But over the past few years, and especially since Sepang 2015, rules, regulations, and the handling of incidents has been increasingly formalized, and dealt with in a more legalistic way. As the sport grows, the stakes for all involved grow, and so the bodies which run the sport have to organize themselves differently to deal with the situation. And with harsher penalties being imposed, as demanded by the riders, the processes to deal with them have to be clearer and more transparent.

To an extent, incidents in Moto2 and Moto3 gave a foretaste of the new environment. Aron Canet and Luca Marini were both involved in incidents in their respective classes, and both were punished much more harshly than in the past. Canet will have to start the race at Le Mans from the back of the grid, while Marini was given a six-place grid penalty. In the past, such incidents might have been handled with a warning. But no more.

Surprise podium

With three main contenders removed from the equation, the race produced a varied grid. Johann Zarco took another podium, and with it second place in the championship, 12 points behind new leader Marc Márquez. Andrea Iannone took the final spot on the podium, his second in a row and Suzuki's third in three races. They now have 3 concession points, meaning they are halfway towards losing the special status they were granted after a difficult season in 2017. That is not something they will regret, however, as it means they are now back in a position to compete.

The loss of the two factory Ducatis and Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda, who would have made it a Ducati and Repsol top four, hides some embarrassment for Yamaha. Sure, Johann Zarco finished second, but he was seven seconds slower than Márquez, once you deduct the two seconds the Repsol Honda rider lost to his silly celebratory dance as he crossed the line. The embarrassment for the factory Movistar Yamaha team is even greater: Valentino Rossi would have been eighth without the pile up ahead of him, 12 seconds behind Márquez, while Maverick Viñales would have finished tenth. Instead, they were fifth and seventh, which doesn't look quite as bad.

Upping the ante

Valentino Rossi did not Yamaha to gloss over this situation, making a very pointed attack on his manufacturer. "At the end to arrive in the fifth position after my speed in the winter, it's positive. I'm happy," he said. "But this is not good news, to be happy after a race like this. But our technical situation now is like this. It's also true that it depends on the track, because at some tracks we suffer more, in some tracks we suffer less. But for me, it's very clear what we have to do on the bike, and it's true that we need time, but Yamaha have to do an effort to try to shorten the time. Because if not, we need another season. So I hope that Yamaha give to us the maximum support to be competitive, because like this, sincerely, today, for me, my race was good, I have good pace, but without the incident in front, I arrive eighth."

The main problem was electronics, rather than the physical structure of the bike, Rossi said. "For me personally, it's a little bit mechanical parts, but it's mainly electronics. 25/75. Tomorrow will have some other mechanical parts, but we are working on the 25, when it's like you work on the tip of the iceberg, but after, under water, you have a lot more. It's a shame, because for me, from what I understand, for the rest our bike is good this year. But we need that. And I hope that Yamaha will give 100% to fix the problem as soon as possible."

Yamaha in Japan have been rumored to be resistant to looking to Magneti Marelli for help, or hiring Italian engineers to assist them, preferring to try to understand the spec electronics on their own. But now, they are mulling hiring external help, but that process is not moving fast enough for Rossi. "From what I understand, this is work that needs time. This is the bad news. But the good news is that anyway, you have to work on the black box. The problem is that you need to start, because from when you start, you need time. But if you don't start, the races, months, championships pass, and you still have the same problem."

Soft power

Rossi's statement was a surprise, because it was a lot more blatant than usual. Rossi is usually extremely diplomatic, good at couching criticism in gentle terms. But this was reminiscent of his time at Ducati, when on two occasions, he made very public complaints about a lack of support and a lack of progress with development. Rossi is keenly aware that he can use his public presence to bring pressure to bear on the factory he rides from, but he uses it very sparingly indeed. If he has decided to go on the attack, it means that his frustration at the situation must be enormous.

Maverick Viñales doesn't have the luxury of a high public profile, but he does feel exactly the same frustration. "It is ten months that I’m saying the same," Viñales said. "I have no grip, no grip. If I arrive to a track that is a little bit hot or not perfect I have no grip. It is impossible. I was behind Alvaro and Morbidelli – who rode a great race – but even then this is not our place. Our place is to be fighting for the podium and in some places for the win. Argh, it’s frustrating. In one weekend I have to ride with three different styles on the bike and nothing works. As the team said I ride like Lorenzo style, more aggressive; I try everything but finally I have the same problem because the bike is not accelerating. It means one thing is not working."

Which 'one thing' might that be? "It looks like electronics is the main problem. For sure we have some issues," Viñales said. "I have very negative feelings from this weekend. I came from Austin feeling very motivated and feeling very well after making good steps. But here we came to reality and where the bike is. And that's far from the top. I think today we rode 110% of the bike and we finished seventh. If the riders didn't crash then we were tenth! It is difficult right now. We need something special. I felt really bad."

The problem the Yamahas face is that from here, they leave for Le Mans, which is a track they excel at, especially since it was resurfaced last year. If they have a good race in two weeks time – and Maverick Viñales won there in 2017, and Yamaha would have had a double podium if Valentino Rossi hadn't gone all in for the win – then the temptation for Yamaha engineers will be to put this result down to the conditions, a simple one off. And that is precisely why Rossi chose to wield his incredible PR power at precisely this moment.

Tear up the script

MotoGP leaves Jerez with the championship turned on its head. Coming into the Spanish round, Andrea Dovizioso was better placed than he had ever been to go into the run of tracks which favor the Ducati. Now, though, he sits in fifth, 24 points behind Marc Márquez, and with Johann Zarco, Maverick Viñales, and Andrea Iannone ahead of him.

Marc Márquez, on the other hand, has a comfortable lead, and is coming off back-to-back wins. He is riding better than ever, the bike is better than it has been in years, and he looks set to make a run at the title almost unopposed. Or at least, that is the script we are currently drawing up for the championship after Jerez. But if the Jerez round of MotoGP taught us one thing, it is that reality is ever poised to intervene, and point the narrative into an entirely different direction. We may be four races into the 2018 MotoGP season, but there are still fifteen left to go. If you think of how much has already happened in just four races, imagine the madness that could await us in the next fifteen.

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... is the Zarco factor.  OK, he has 2018 engine and aero, and the 2016 frame, which is apparently basically what the 2018 frame is anyhow.  BUT... tech3 is a tiny team, their resources on tuning the electronics are a fraction of what is available to the factory team, and yet they are slaying the blue bikes regularly now, with Zarco not complaining one little bit about electronics.  Surely the factory team has access to Zarco's electronics settings?  I guess if there's anything worth having in there they'd have it by now, so the answer lies elsewhere.  Zarco has been a real revelation, exceeding all expectations, I hope it continues in orange.

One thing that was amazing and which has been largely overlooked due to the drama behind, but how was Marquez' save when traversing Luthi's gravel!!?!!  Holy smokes, that was a piece of riding.  I'm not sure how many on that grid could have saved that one, few if any is my opinion.  Love him or hate him, the kid can ride like nothing else.

I was gutted for Dovi, public comments sum it up well for me, he easily had the pace but Lorenzo had the tactics to keep him behind, and the collision was hard to pin on anyone although I would lean somewhat more toward Lorenzo as he was returning from being off line.

Not a bad race all in all, I fully expect LeMans to be completely different and would not at all be surprised to see a repaeat of last year with the factory Yams well in the mix and Zarco too.

I was also happy to see Jack settle for 6th behind Rossi, in former times he might have had a go and come adrift.  That was a solid result only fractionally behind his team mate on the the 2018 bike, and I presume the collarbone / shoulder issues are not fully resolved.  I would love to see him generally outperform Danilo over the course of the year and score the hopefully vacant factory seat.

Of the 3 riders- Zarco, Rossi, Vinales- Zarco has the best throttle control, which makes him less reliant on electronics. You have to remember, Zarco is still fresh from Moto2 which as I understand had no traction control; Vinales has been riding with it for years and Rossi possibly for over a decade. So they are probably more reliant on it than he is.

What was the difference between Zarco and the first official Yam? Roughly 3.5 seconds. I would round it at 2.0 because Zarco could gain a few tenths when being close the the leaders and did not do many overtakes (if you check their respective pace you will see that and the end of lap one they already had a 2 seconds difference) whereas behind there were a few more overtakes....  and once Zarco went wide an lost touch with the group he never made it back.... so no... it's not just special talent in throttle control... those Yamaha have a problem. Rather, many problems... did you forget Lorenzo in 2016 already complaining about the spinning in high temperature? 

Without the massive strike in front Zarco was not going to make it to the podium and without the big mistake Cal made he would have been to a rightful P6... (and not sure he could have been in front of Rins if the Spanish had not binned it)

Bottom line : in certain conditions all Yamaha are fairing very poorly regardless of throttle control. 


Hard to say. Don't forget that Zarco is RPM-limited compared to the factory bikes. So regardless, the factory guys should be in front of him. Rossi and Vinales need to post better results while they advocate for improving the bike's weaknesses.

Zarco has beat the factory boys for 5 out of the last 6 races, in spite of having the same electronics problems dating back to 2016. He was the tire master in Moto2... much of that comes from a steady throttle hand.

As I remember and read his report with interest. When Rossi won, Lorenzo was 2nd and the track grip was poor, Rossi apparently switched the traction control off, and relied on throttle control. I'm sure its not as simple as you think, the most experienced rider in the field by far can't control a throttle, or Vinales who just over a year ago was being called the new genius can't control a throttle. That doesn't mean of course that Zarco isn't an excellent rider, and possibly the best, its just that simple conclusions are not necessarily the correct ones.

Unacceptable riding/behaviour should be excused because we are scared of the consequences? 

Nup, call it when you see it and life is so much simpler....especially if you sre RD.

As far as Race Direction’s behaviour is concerned. This race was an important test for the developing new disciplinary regime. An opportunity to gain trust and support, especially amongst senior riders. No way should Mike Webb have delegated talking to Dani. That was never going to work after he’s been knocked off twice in two races. Too busy to see him at that moment? Explain why and set a time when he will be free. Encourage informal feedback and discussion, don’t avoid it. Go out of your way to keep safe riders onside. Goodness know how RD will cope if they have to do something difficult. 

You can't expect Webb to leave his post in the middle of a race. That would be dereliction of duty. We don't know how that was explained to Pedrosa, but surely he should have understood that with a race running, Webb was going to be unavailable.

it is far too early in the season to be employing team orders...or is it? Does anybody think Lorenzo has a shot at the championship? This reminded me of Malaysia last year, and to a lesser extent Valencia.  Why the hell is he doing everything he can to fight Dovi? There is one championship contender in that team, and Dovi was showing a lot more pace than Lorenzo and a hell of a lot more pace than anyone expected for this track...meaning his championship opportunity is a reality...less so now.

Ducati, it is time to make Lorenzo the Rubens Barichello of MotoGP and tell him to get out of the way (as subtly as you can) of your real contender in situations like this! i am of course taking an extreme view of this, but it should be food for thought at Ducati. Of course Lorenzo is a world champion fighting for a ride somewhere, so how do you get him to move over? Dovi doesn’t like team orders, but Lorenzo is not doing anything good for the team by fighting a faster Dovi. Malaysia last year was ridiculous, and this comes a close second. 

For the record, as a fan, I don’t want to see any team orders and want to see them fight. I am taking the perspective of Ducati and Dovi. It would make an inevitable outcome much less risky (and much less entertaining).

Bring on Le Mans!

I'm a bit perplexed by Dovi putting blame on Pedrosa for entering the corner faster than normal when he admitted that Lorenzo was slow mid corner - and with running wide it's not a stretch to think he'd have been even slower than normal. Would have thought he'd understand why Dani arrived with so much more speed than Jorge simply at normal pace.

Also, despite the trying track conditions and what would look like a race of attrition looking at the results sheet, the only riders to succumb to said conditions are those with reputations for all too regularly finding themselves watching from the sidelines mid race (Luthi aside).I don't know why I bring this up, just as an observation I guess.

Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable race. It is just a shame that the fight to the line we got for the podium didn't come from the original front runners which would have made the title chase so much more interesting.

... detailing Yamaha's reluctance to accept Magnetti Marelli's help. Truly ridiculous behavior, particularly when your rivals (Ducati & Honda) are happy to use it as an advantage against you! We've all seen arrogance on this level from other factories in the past, and it always comes back to bite them in the end. After which they do the inevitable to solve the problem, rather than resist change with puffed-up egos.

The most serious consequence of this type of counter-productive behavior, is you can lose very talented riders...

I totally agree it was a racing incident and no penalties should be accessed under current rules, but it is human nature to analyze, so that is what we do. From my standpoint, Dani was the least at fault. He made no other hard move that we can see. Yes, maybe he turned in a little quicker or gased it a little harder when he saw a gap, but that is what you are supposed to do when you are racing and an oppertunity presents itself. Dovi tried a pass and overshot, Lorenzo countered but was way off line, but the mistake is made when you are way off line and slower to the inside of the corner and assume it is still yours with no regard to what is coming. It is like merging onto interstate without looking and saying it is the main traffics responsibility to look out for you. Try telling that to the police officer givng you a ticket. I don't think any penaltities should be accessed, but I agree with Dani that riders returning to line need to check the line first and if they don't and suffer an impact, then perhaps going forward this is something that should be penalized.



He earned that by putting together a decent qualifying performance and dragging it to the front row. 

...on this one, Cloverleaf. Not about Mike Webb's supposed unavailability, rather about the fact that though this is a racing incident,  I see more responsability on JL than Dani. The action here is pretty simple IMO : a group of 3, the two in the front run really wide when overtaking one another and the third guy just stays his course and keeps a perfectly tight line. It's up to the two riders who went way outside the line to pay attention when reentering the line. What was pedrosa supposed to do? Brake, slow down and make a courtsy and ask them please to resume their line ? Lorenzo knew it was a group of 3... he should have had the intelligence of admitting that he made a mistake. Yes, it is a racing incident, a very unfortunate one, particularly for Dovi... In fact Andrea, without pointing fingers at JL, when asked in italian about the incident and what he thought JL should have done, he half smiled, and said to the reporter "let me ask you: if I go off the line, do i look who's coming through before resuming the line ?  I do. My understanding is that everybody does.... but apparently not" 

So the point of Pedrosa is more than fair : he is not asking for a penalty on JL, but to clarify RD position on these situations : if you go wide do you have the responsability of making sure that your mistake will not cause someone else's crash? It's a really fair question. Nothing to do with a rough block pass or the rather bad habit of some to just barge into the rider in front and push him out. 

As usual, RD chose to dodge the question...

Vinales finally got the team to turn down the traction control in Austin and was back to being fast again. Then he gets to Jerez and it doesn't work there. That points to a lack of mechanical grip from the chassis. Better TC settings can't make up for that. Clearly Yamaha need to get over their reluctance to engage Magnetti Marelli in making the electronics work better. But they don't even seem to give Vinales the ECU settings he wants. They seem to think they know better.

I have to wonder if Furasawa would have managed this better.

I suspect Dani is just frustrated, he’s possibly the most punted off rider in GP

Zarco lifts him wide, Dani gives him space. Dani crashes. He could of tried to retake the line, hit Zarco and they both go down.

But he didn’t. 

This week it’s Lorenzo that gets pushed wide. He retakes the line, knocks off Dani.

Dani mus feel he’s damned!

I think he just wants clarification as to what RD’s expectation is in those scenarios.

Or put another way... with Zarco, Dani rode in a manner that resulted in no crash for Zarco. Dani goes down. Lorenzo, when faced with not an entirely dissimilar situation didn’t take the same course of action. Dani goes down.

Dani’s use of the word respect is key to me. He’s asking RD for respect, but I think  it’s also about the respect he feels he gives the other riders, and doesn’t get in return. Respect won’t come from his competitors so his frustration boils over at RD


I wonder if Lorenzo has just completely ruined whatever desire Ducati had to retain him..... holding up their more competitive rider then knocking him down

Re Zarco... I think he’s under a lot less pressure to win races than the factory team... maybe that helps the mindset. It’s nearly a year since any Yamaha won a race. That’s nuts. In the past year satalite teams have won more races and had more poles than the factory Yamaha squad. Something aint right there.

First, the accident, or how Jorge made the 4-26 split. I agree with others that Dani does make a good point about riders blowing a corner and then re-joining the racing line, often violently and with little thought to those behind (or now beside) them. My own feeling, which is of no particular importance, is that when a rider makes a mistake and leaves the racing line (which, of course, varies somewhat depending on the rider, bike, race circumstances, and so forth), it should be incumbent on a rider who made the error to use the appropriate level of caution when re-entering the normal line. Too often these days, a rider makes a mistake and then simply slams the bike back across the track to attempt to mitigate the damage, with little understanding or concern for the fact that someone else may have had the unmitigated gall to see another rider's distress as an opportunity to overtake. And the slammers seemingly think that this is permissible by stating; "well, I was still in front". Being in front can and should continue to give the leading rider full navigation rights to the race track...if they are able to hold the racing line. Blow up the corner on the brakes? Take your medicine and carry-on. Not an easy call, as what we might call "the racing line" is not a laser track on the pavement, but rather a wide area and subject to changes from lap-to-lap. But a rider should treat a blown corner only slightly different from running off the track. You cannot rejoin the track surface in a hazardous manner and simply expect the riders coming up on you to respect that you are in front. Again, this is an issue that could be addressed culturally, as opposed to writing another four pages of rules, by simply having race direction let the riders know that if they make a mistake on the track, how they rejoin the racing line will be considered when investigating any resulting incident(s). The other issues raised about the limited sight lines is also an important one: there is no happy future for a room full of blind men who think they free have license to swing two-wheeled mallets about.

"Cui Bono?" (To whom is it a benefit?). When should you let a team mate by? Another tough question. Certainly it should never devolve to mere deference, where your team mate is expected to genuflect, kiss your ring, and whisper "a thousand pardons" as they usher you past. But this is a hard game played by hard men, and to beat as formidable a combination as currently exist with Marquez+Honda, a Team like Ducati does not have the luxury of pretending they have no preference when it comes to the finishing order of their riders. Ducati can compete with Honda, but probably not if Dovi concedes four points here and five points there because when his team mate is told there is no "I" in "TEAM", he responds "yes, but there is an "M" and an "E"". Ducati, like all the factories, is racing two championships; the Manufacturers Championship and the Riders Championship. From the standpoint of the manufacturer’s trophy, it matters not a whit which rider is on the second step of the podium, Lorenzo-Dovi scores just as many manufacture’s points as Dovi-Lorenzo so there is no apparant benefit to Ducati in revising the finishing order...except one: there is a huge benefit in not having the order read DNF-DNF.

In the rider's championship, it is a different kettle of fish. Dovi was leading the championship going in to Jerez, while Lorenzo had aspirational hopes of being able to overcome Hafizh Syahrin in the death match they are engaged in for seventeenth in the rider's championship, and perhaps even delusions on setting his sights on Alvaro Bautista for fifteenth by Valencia. Difficult? Sure, but if Jorge stayed focused and whittled a little bit out of Alvaro's lead each week...todo es posible, si?. In other words, Ducati has every benefit to be gained by having Jorge stop defending the racing line from Dovi like he was guarding the Lorenzo Family Jewels from some villain's snatching claws, and instead just let Andrea attempt to make a clean pass. Nobody was asking Lorenzo to park it and roll out a welcome mat, just leave the door ajar a crack and its on Dovi to sort out the rest. And why is this justified? Because Lorenzo was holding up a faster team mate on a very difficult track. If Dovi was not appreciably quicker, so be it. But he was (just like he was in the early-middle part of Valencia last year, until Jorge at the Bridge forced Dovi to burn up what was left of his tires waiting for a safe opportunity to, I don't know, maybe pass him and try to win the bloody championship!). And spare me the wailing outcries of "let them race, no team orders!". Ducati is not out there spending Lord only knows how much treasure for some Platonic ideal of fairness. Racing isn't fair, never was or will be. And Teams that toss championship points down a rat hole believing otherwise are like shipwrecked sailors who brush off life preservers and rescuers because; "it is more sporting to just swim for it". Of course, I could be wrong, and maybe Jorge was just trying to "tow" Dovi up to Marquez. Again.

And finally, this week's episode of The Factory Yamaha Track Polishing Squad. While electronics are indeed a major concern for Yamaha, I suspect that there is more to it than that. There was a recent interview with Cal regarding the native DNA of Michelin's current tires which was very interesting (OK, it was more credible before Cal decided he would take on Rins in the 2018 Mr. Gravel Nap contest...but still). If Yamaha expects changes to the Magneti Marelli package to suddenly imbue the Michelins with massive amounts of forward traction...while leaned over...and with Yamaha's traditionally more balanced front/rear weight distribution...they may be on a fool's errand. Even more so than last year, the Michelin rear seems to works best when loaded and semi-upright. This appears to be Honda's way (and I suspect Ducati's as-well). In fact, Honda seems to have cobbled together quite an effective "old school" race bike, which is to say somewhat more weight on the back. Won't that make it push in the turns? Sure, but just apply rear brake on the way in and throttle on the way out and it will pivot like a Bolshoi Ballerina. The same native weight balance of the Honda also makes it an absolute demon on the brakes, and certainly does no harm to acceleration. (This is the philosophy Porsche has used since Noah let the animals off the Ark). In the case of Honda and Ducati, this native weight balance does require more rear brake to get the front-end loaded on corner entry, but that can also be a good thing, and in ways not commonly understood (and we are discussing the rear brake being used on turn-in. Obviously it is of little use when the rear tire is hovering in the air). Using the rear brake does two things on corner entry; it slows the bike down, and it loads the front tire via weight transfer. Well, doesn't using the front brake do exactly the same thing? The same? Yes. Exactly the same...not even close. While application of the front brake does load the front tire, it is doing so at the expense of the front contact patch's available traction. Any contact patch's traction circle is defined by the limits of grip in multiple directions. Use it all up braking? Fine, but don't try and steer, because the traction bucket is now empty. Full lean with your elbow down? OK, but since the full amount of traction is now being spent on cornering, any application of the brakes and your account will be overdrawn, and you can go join Rins and Cal for a refreshing gravel nap. But use the rear brake at corner entry and you have increased the total available traction at the front (by increasing the load on the contact patch) without subtracting any additional traction from the front tire in doing so, so you can stop and turn bettter than if you apllied all the braking forces to just the front. Think of it as transferring funds from one account to the other (and yes, you have reduced your total available traction at the rear, but on corner entry that is not the end of the horse to be worrying about).

But to draw traction from the rear tire account and move it to the front, you have to start with a surplus at the back. Always. Combine the rear brake effect with that slightly rearward weight distribution and maybe we can start to divine why Marquez is so un-Godly quick, and why he loses the front so much in practice (mostly saving it...sometimes not), because they are both part and parcel of the same thing. While strictly conjecture on our parts, it does appear that what Marc is doing in practice is finding out how much traction he can draw from his rear tire account to spend on his front. Too much and the rear starts to snake about, too little and the front tries to wash out. But in almost all cases, by using his two traction accounts more efficiently (by employing the rear brake as the transfer mechanism) he has a far greater ability to adjust the track performance to be close to optimum. And by doing so deliberately...he knows what is coming (and that perhaps also explains his amazing ability to elbow his way back onto two wheels when the rest of the grid is thinking "That gravel looks pretty comfy. Think I will treat myself to a lie-down"). Front tire loading/unloading is not a random and surprising event for Marc, because he is deliberetly and methodically controlling all the parameters, even if it looks to most of us that he might be tweaking the Devil's beard far too often for his own good health. But I think Dovi is doing this as well (albeit with a lot less Devil-tweaking) and I am sure Stoner was doing it long before either. Of course employing the rear brake is not the only way to rob Peter to pay Paul, as closing the throttle or changing body position on the bike are long-standing remedies also (though the throttle closing only impacts rear to front weight transfer by slowing the rear tire, assuming there is not a freewheeling device installed, as the "backwards" rotating crankshaft itself only effectively weights the front end with the throttles open, and the cylinder pressures sufficiently high to let the pistons push on the front cylinder walls (on the power stroke due to rod angularity, which is the actual cause of what is commonly called the crankshaft effect)). But what the rear thumb-brake option appears to give those riders (who fully exploit it) is a separate and very precise additional control, independent of freewheeling devices or crankshaft rotation direction. What Yamaha appears to be frustrated by is an attempt to add traction to both front and rear accounts at the same time using the bike's physical DNA+Magneti-Marelli controls, and I have real doubts about whether that is even feasible. Michelin sets the amount of total traction available, and the best option would seem to be in devising the optimum way to spend that total, not just wishing you had more. The Magneti-Marelli package cannot, without additional rider input, itself transfer weight between the front and rear tires to optimize the effect for both fast and slow corners. 

The other advantages of rear brake application are a little more esoteric, but they both help explain why it makes a bike turn better. "Trail", as we all know, is simply a lever arm acting at right-angles from the pivot axis of the front fork to the center of the tire's contact patch. Or rather that is the common understanding. But dynamically the end of that pivot arm is the center of pressure of the front tire's contact patch, not the geometric center (they are the same only when the bike is static). Think of this center of pressure definition as the dynamic trail. And it moves around all over the place in response to tire loading. But what we need to understand first is what happens when you use the front brake. In that case the center of pressure moves rearward (relative to the geometric center) and the dynamic trail increases. This is compensated for by fork dive, which moves the geometric (and dynamic centers) forward relative to the steering axis, and you can develop, within limits, a pretty reasonable dynamic trail curve under braking/turning. (As an aside, this is why all those famous examples from the late 1970's and early 1980's, where triple clamps mounted the forks at an increased rake angle relative to the steering axis were such complete failures. They promised "constant trail" under braking, but that only applied to the geometric trail, which is not our concern. What they actually did was increase the dynamic trail under braking, and they all steered like pigs. Most of the early link type front suspensions suffered a similar defect). So now we have our steering head angle and fork dive parameters set, what do we do if braking results in too much rearward movement of the front center of pressure and the bike won't steer? We can change the geometry to reduce trail everywhere, but then the beast might decide to shake its' head on the fast bits like a hooked marlin. Or we can use the rear brake. Again, the rear brake will load the front tire, but will not cause additional front center of pressure movement rearward (of course, it does have this effect on the rear tire's center of pressure location). So with the same braking force while turning (less front brake + some rear brake vs. all front brake) we have less dynamic trail and maybe this beast now steers better while retaining some resonable level of stabillity on the very fast bits. The final effect of using the rear brake while turning also has to do with the fact that every bike with a wider rear tire (than is on the front) will assume an understeering orientation while cornering. While both contact patches move inside, the rear moves more than the front, and the bike actually points a bit "away" from the turn. This can be somewhat mitigated by having the dynamic center at the front slightly forward, and the dynamic center at the rear slightly back. However, in all cases this is a very minor effect.

"Don't race in fast corners". Wait...what??? This one had me scratching my head. Ever since race bikes switched from belt drives to chains, the best racers have always known that races were won or lost in fast corners, and you should not take risks in the slow ones as there was little to be gained there. But looking at the sector times this weekend has me thinking the world has turned upside down. The difference between the quickest and semi-quickest in Sector 2 (Dry Sack and two connecting straights) was pretty much fuck-all. Yes, some bikes were better in Sector 2, but not enough so to even minimally compensate for not being quick in the other sectors (all a combination of slow and medium to medium-fast bends). It appears that all the gains these days are to be made in the lower gear corners, and this seems to be the strength of the Hondas and Ducatis. Nobody is bad anymore in the fast corners, so all the low hanging fruit has already been harvested, and in any event fast corners do not seem to be the future of the sport (regrettably). But the time difference between riders in the slower segments was enlightening, to say the least. And looking at the calendar, the number of circuits with an average lap speed in excess of 160 Kph can be counted on one hand with some fingers to spare. So if the native DNA of the Yamaha, due to the current weight balance and a half-hearted adoption of the thumb brake (yes, they use them, but not like Honda and Ducati) is optimized for Assen and Phillip Island...it is going to be a very long year, and no amount of Magneti-Marelli pixie-dust is going to cure it. I will be interested in any news of today's test. Cheers.

PS - As previously mentioned, Casey Stoner was years ahead of everyone else in understanding all of this, including his use of the thumb brake on the way out of a turn. Clever lad, that one. And for all of the stuff above, these are really very small differences in motorcycle DNA we are speaking about, not huge chasms, and with semi-stable technology, design parameters historically converge over time, not diverge. But that is the nature of high-performance these days, where gains or regressions are measured after small incremental changes to a system of interrelating parameters, eventually converging to  a (nearly) common set of solutions along the entire grid. The days of getting back in the game by dropping a tooth or two on the rear sprocket Sunday are long gone.

Nope, Honda and Ducati has their own problem of unloading the front when putting weight on the rear. And Yamaha needs not necessary  to be at the same level on rear traction control, just to be at the level of Suzuki would be good enough for Vale and Vinales. It is amazing that even Suzuki is ahead of them...

I happily subscribe because David is the best source of info on MotoGP period, but fantastic in depth comments like this ( and from a few other notable regulars) make this far and away the best site. I'm a big fan of MotoGP and consider myself reasonably knowledgable, but holy crap what a great description well beyond my prior understanding. Thanks to all for making this site what it is, but for those of you reading for free, pony up and help us all keep it alive!

This comment by Jinx was a pleasure to read because I was learning so much.  I have never fully understood trail-braking... but I do now (I had to read some bits a few times but I got there eventually).  As DefTechDP said, it's comments like these complimenting David's reports that make this such a good site for information and entertainment.  If you are enjoying this stuff for free you might want to think of how it gets paid for and what you can do to help.

It's comments like this (along with David's commentary of course!) that got me hooked on motomatters all those years ago, thanks for taking the time to share with us!

What an entertaing and informative read!

Is this useful because the brake works as a friction damper, smoothing out the power pulses*, therfore increasing traction?  Otherwise, reduced throttle application should have the same exact effect.

As an aside, the rear brake out of the corner should have much less effect on the upcoming MotoE World Cup bikes, since the torque peaks and valleys will be much closer to the average torque value.

*As a rough estimate, a MotoGP engine might make 90 lb-ft at 14,000 rpm; however, this is an average for 360° of crank rotation.  Actual peak torque is much higher, with the engine having a waveform for torque with peaks when a piston in the combustion stroke is a bit beyond TDC, and valleys in between.

Your post is very informative, and thoroughly enjoyable in that regard.

But it might be possible that factory Yamaha's solution does lie with the electronics in some way or the other. You never know.

Everything you explained about how the rear brake affects traction at the front and the way the bike corners, that's all great. But I would get the shock of my life if the likes of Rossi and Vinales do not get this or have forgotten this somehow. Especially when one of the titles that Rossi has in his kitty is from riding the 500cc two-stroke monster. Long time back, yes, but I'm sure he hasn't forgotten that style entirely.

At the same time, he might be needing more sortedness of the electronics than he has ever needed before.

What a bloody marvellous and interesting comment. The whole Motomatters enterprise keeps getting better.

To respond would take me several hours that I don't have, but I will say two things: Firstly that resuming the racing line does carry the obligation described here, and secondly I agree that Yamaha seem to be chasing a problem with multiple variables and have not yet got a baseline on any of them. Indeed the only consistent thing about Yamaha is going to be on KTM next year. And that ain't good.

Is to pull down and squat the rear of the bike.  In the same way under power the rear rises due to swing arm angle pushing up on the rear of frame, rear braking would pull down on the rear of frame due to same swing arm angle.  This would enable to keep the rear end sqauted and overall CG lower than front braking alone. It also suits the Michelin’s tire imbalance which is rearward bias.  Dovi was amoung the first of riders to figure this out and say as much when switched to michilen.  The Yamaha’s are made for balance, front to rear, maximum out of constant speed corner, but now they have imbalanced tires to work with.  They tired from the start of Michelin’s to shift weight rearward with a fuel tank in rear tail but I suspect were not going to be happy as fuel load and balance changed over course of race distance as 17kg of fuel is consumed.

I see they had Simon Crafar back this weekend. I'm sure he's a nice guy and an experienced rider but I really don't think this is the job for him. He has the odd ability to ask very detailed questions at slow speed and it all just gets lost in the translation somewhere. Bring back Charlie Cox please :)

Being an ex-rider and a good bloke is lovely, but Crafar is no journalist when this is what the role calls for. “What is X Rider like to work with?” as a question is ok, I suppose, but he repeated it so many times on Sunday, at inappropriate mid-race points, that I wanted to scream. He’s made a plea to be allowed to learn the job and improve, but this is not what I pay a hefty MotoGP subscription fee for. 

Exactly... that's certainly a question worthy of asking during practice sessions, but not mid-race like you said. Simon seems at his best when he can go off behind the scenes and dig up some information, without the pressure of being live. Being an ex-rider, he has some good connections and is able to come back with some interesting factoids. But during live interviews it's just... awful. It's at the point now where I just skip all the pre-race activities and go straight to the start of the race to avoid gems like this from the Moto3 race:

"Guys, I'm down here on the grid with Fabio Di Ga, Di, Di, Di Gian, Di, Di x20, uh, wow, Di Di Di x20, haha sorry guys"

It was so bad the guys from Dorna actually went back and re-edited this part from the originally posted video to only a few seconds of embarrassment. Poor Fabio. It would be somewhat understandable if he was talking to a wildcard he had never seen before, not one of the top riders in Moto3. When your job is commentating, is it that hard to learn to pronounce the names of the riders and team managers? 

Neil Morrison is doing an incredible job for Moto2 and Moto3, hopefully he is being groomed for a spot in the MotoGP booth...


He's getting better every race. More comfortable and asking better questions. Give him a chance. We're only four races into his first season, after all.

... no matter how much I'd like to. I'm a fan. I have a replica of one of his helmets in my collection as well as a replica of his British GP winning YZR500 in my model cabinet. I always rooted for him when he was on track and I've been rooting for him since it was announced he was getting this job. However at this point I just don't see it being in his repetoire of skills I'm afraid.  

I too always liked Mr. Cox and Mr. Morrison is doing excellent in the booth as mentioned and I'd be very happy with either as a replacement. Now everytime Simon gets on the mic... unfortunately all I see in my mind is Neil Pye wandering from garage to garage... 

Thanks David for the detailed description of the “incident”, and the three riders’ and Webb’s comments. Obviously they all have emotions and opinions, but glad to see there isn’t a lot of anger and showmanship between them. And, especially, glad that Dani escaped mostly uninjured. 

My feeling is JL caused the crash. However, AD not blame free, he started the mayhem and could have waited. As far as desperate moves back into the line after running off? Biaggi was the worst. 

And the one paying the bitter price.... 20 points down when being the serious WC contender. He did nothing wrong.... he had been on JL tail for several laps and it was very clear that JL was doing everything in his power to close the door.  Why they both went wide? Because Dovi tried to outbreak a JL who in turn was trying to even more outbreak Dovi... it was really an "over my dead body" action from JL.  Dovi did nothing wrong. He went wide and was going to resume racing line and was taken out.  There is no way someone can put the blame on him. Was his action rushed? Was he pissed off because MM was long gone? Yes to the second question. But he had to try, and his action was endangering no one. And he should be pissed off! The way I see it JL was not holding is position.  He was stopping Dovi from passing. Very sad. What was the phrase?  His ego outweighs his talent ? ....

You’re entitled to your opinion, fact is if Dovi doesn’t attemp pass, there is no crash, and maybe he leaves only down 8 points. Racing is full of results where a faster guy finishes behind a slower guy. No one gets a result because they deserve it. I think the desperation was Dovi’s.

I did not want to leave the impression that the rear brake usage is the end-all solution for Yamaha. Where the Magneti-Marelli software can influence the Yamaha in a similar positive way is in the Engine Braking Control (EBC) part of the package, which is not as sophisticated as the previous in-house Yamaha version (Note: For a great explanation of EBC, far beyond what I am capable of discussing, go see Mat Oxley's brilliant description from last year). I generally use the term "free-wheeling" to describe any system which modulates engine braking, but Mr. Oxley provides, as-always, a much more accurate understanding of the subject.

Even with the EBC, I still see the rear brake as an essential component of weight transfer control, and one that has the substantial benefit of being employed completely at the rider's discretion, as opposed to relying solely on the correct order of one's and zero's to determine whether you are Happy Jack or Mr. Gravel.

But I am always a bit unsure if a Leopard can really change his spots. Vale started out (as has been previously mentioned) in the two stroke era of minimal engine braking and very little use of the rear brake (it is surprisingly easy to stop a two-stroke's crankshaft rotation completely if your habit is to stomp on the rear brake like it was a venomous snake). So Rossi became a wizard at riding the front end, braking all the way onto the corner. In this he was significantly aided, during his most productive years, by having a front tire with a rock-hard construction (meaning the carcass properties, as separate from the rubber compound). He has struggled with the relative construction softness of the Michelins since their adoption a few years ago, though he certainly made a good show of things in 2016 (we can possibly attribute that to his long experience in general, and to having some knowledge of Michelin MotoGP tires from the pre-Bridgestone era, giving him a bit of a head start on his competitors. But that advantage is now just a memory). Vale has certainly made changes to his riding style in the past, but it is impossible to know, from the outside, whether the principle issue is the native DNA of the current Michelins being at odds with with the Native DNA of the M1 (or Rossi), or if the problem is the Magneti-Marelli EBC transition from corner-entry to mid-corner to corner-exit (I do seem to remember Honda struggled mightily with the EBC transition (to the corner-exit acceleration mode) for the first few seasons...until they got better last summer. A lot better. So much so that they had few worries about turning the BHP dial to "11" this winter. I can't help but wonder if they solved the riddle through clever tuning of the EBC controls, or just turned the EBC sensitivity way down and let the rider use the rear brake to fill in the gaps).

In any event Vale can still ride a lamb-chop past a hungry wolf, so if I hailed from Iwata I would give him whatever he wants, and quickly. But I would also take a very cool-headed and hard-eyed look at the data and see if a little more weight on the back and a thumb brake might also help. Get all that sorted and then maybe you can take a look at the 320mm front rotors Honda uses (the rest of the field (generally) run the 340mm versions).

From the "Old man yells at cloud" diaries: A very long time ago, before all these electronic brains were available, we would control engine braking on the old AMA Kawasaki Superbikes by, after starting the engine and warming it up, turning the idle up to @3,500 RPM on the grid. It helped quite a bit with excessive engine braking.

Mr. Simon Crafar does indeed have a, well, unique cadence to his speaking style, and at first that was putting me off a bit. But as I listened carefully, I quickly forgot all about that and just enjoyed the content of what he was discussing, and I now very much look forward to his contributions. One more thing that I was very impressed with about Simon; everyone talks to him. He is highly respected up and down pit lane and has access to people who would have previously shunned other journalists. I will take that any day over the vocal delivery of a theater-trained thespian that no one will bother speaking with. So I am becoming a big fan of Simon Crafar's contribution to the MotoGP feeds. Besides, diction-wise, he will always be streets ahead of Scott Russell, who always sounded like he was completely comfortable eating squirrels for dinner...and several times a week at that. Cheers.

Your commments are long and detailed and take multiple attempts to comprehend, but they're fascinating. Perhaps a few more paragraph breaks, so the posts arent such dauntingly huge blocks of text. But if it's dauntingly huge blocks of text or nothing, I'll gladly take the former....

When I first experienced Simon Crafar's pit-lane reporting during the winter tests, he reminded me of the character James Garner played in Grand Prix: the ex-racer-turned-pit-lane-reporter who obviously felt the job was beneath him and jumped at the first opportunity to rip off his monkey suit and get back into a racecar. Not saying Crafar felt it was beneath him, but it seemed that he felt really, really uncomfortable interfering with the teams while they were attending to the task of racing.

Then when he wasn't at the last two flyaway rounds, I thought he'd been canned in favor of Amy. Wasn't sure how I felt about that. Then he was back in Jerez, and, remarkably, doing a much, much better job.

He's come a very long ways in a very short time. Keep going, Mr. Crafar, you're doing quite nicely.

I agree with your comments on Simon, Jinx. I feel he is getting better every round, his main area for improvement being that he seems to struggle to get his thoughts out of his mouth quick enough.  Did he stutter as a youth?  It comes across that way slightly.

The value of his technical content and access to riders etc is becoming clearer every round. Whilst everyone loved Dylan’s work, he didn’t always have a good grasp on the technical content.  If you watch some of the tech videos, he gets some key points wrong on things, but never gets picked up on. And whilst Amy is lovely and vibrant, her deep down knowledge does appear lacking, which is to be expected from someone who doesn’t have a background in the sport and she talks very fast which is hard for riders and pit crew to hear clearly in pit lane. Whilst Simon talks slowly, he is very clear and has never had to repeat himself.

In the feed on the weekend, Simon raised the topic of the way Lorenzo loosely holds on to the left handlebar during right handers.  I’ve noticed Lorenzo doing this for years (at least I’ve noticed it after he list the tip of his finger at PI) and always wondered why he did it.  Bravo Simon for digging into that little nugget.

So whilst I stuggled with him in the first couple of rounds, his value is shinning through and he is definetly improving.

Simon had a wreck that may have affected his speech, no matter. I love his calm positive demeanor, and as Jinx states, he has credibility in the inner sanctum of the pits. He lets the riders speak, and spares us techno-gobble-de-gook, unlike other journalists. If I had English as a second or fifth language, the last thing I’d want after coming in off the track is to have to hear Amy’s/Dylan’s opinion on my slide/whatever. 

I agree with everyone above about Simon's technical knowledge etc, but he needs to be better prepared.  He's started trying to ask more insightful questions - which is an improvement over the first couple of races, however he needs to be better prepared in other ways.  He needs to sit down with a list of every rider, team manager, rider coach, and mechanic and *learn how to pronounce their names*.  Interviewing a rider, or a paddock veteran, and not being able to pronounce their name is getting beyond a joke.  I'm not a commentator and I don't struggle to pronounce Fabio Di Giannantonio (even if I might run some of the sylables together).

He's also so eager to interview everyone that he forgets to check if it's a good time or not - like starting an interview in the final lap of one of the races this weekend.

I think he might have been better being teamed up with a more experienced journalist while he learned the ropes, because he seems to be struggling in the deep end.

Good article as usual. Great comments. Thanks Jinx. Yeah, I knew some of that rear brake stuff. But I couldn't put it into words that well.

Turn up the idle! Had not thought about the fast idle trick for ages, less engine braking, handy on a bike with two large pistons & plenty of compression. I initially used the higher idle speed to be faster in the first gear corners. then realised it made us a bit faster in all the corners where the throttle is fully closed. It would use too much fuel for Gp racing. Maybe they could set the idle differently for various parts of the circuit?

Simon Crafar, I respect his acheivements as a racer. As a commenrtator I haven't decided yet. Noo Zullandish is his first language is it not? My first language is Strine (Australian). U.K. U.S.A. Oz & New Zealand 4 nations seperated by a common language