The first twelve days of the restarted 2020 MotoGP season have been absolutely brutal. The paddock assembled in the searing heat of the Andalusian summer, and with the pressure of a highly compressed season, 13 races to be jammed into an 18 week period. At the test on the Wednesday before the first race, Danilo Petrucci got caught out by the wind and blown into the gravel at Turn 11, banging up his neck in the process. On the Saturday, Alex Rins jumped off his bike to avoid Jack Miller, dislocating his right shoulder and cracking his humerus.
Last Sunday morning, Cal Crutchlow took a tumble and fractured his scaphoid, and then in the race, Marc Márquez managed to highside himself into the gravel between Turns 3 and 4, his bike following him in and hitting his right arm, breaking his humerus. On Tuesday, the Dexeus clinic in Barcelona saw a steady stream of patients as the wounded came in to be patched up. So successful was Marc Márquez' operation that the Repsol Honda rider was doing press ups that evening, and by Wednesday, had persuaded his team to let him have another crack at Jerez at the weekend.
Márquez' return was impressive for its display of willpower, of just how far an iron will and burning ambition will get you, but ultimately brief. On Saturday afternoon, something shifted in his arm, and the reigning champion withdrew. It was for the best, but, he said, at least he had given it his best shot. He would be able to sleep at night knowing he had tried.
That kicked off a fierce debate over the efficacy of the fitness test, and whether the circuit doctors and Dorna medical staff had been justified in passing Márquez fit to ride. Social Media companies granted everyone degrees in orthopedic surgery, everyone using their new-found expertise in sports-related trauma to opine on the rights and wrongs of the case.
Oddly, everyone seemed to be concerned with Marc Márquez. Nobody mentioned Cal Crutchlow, who had had his left scaphoid pinned, a classic and difficult motorcycle racing injury. Nor did they discuss the merits of Alex Rins' case, ignoring the ligament and tendon damage in the Suzuki rider's right shoulder which made it impossible for him to lift his right arm above shoulder height for more than five seconds at a time. That makes riding a racing motorcycle difficult and painful, but he too had been passed fit. That fact passed the mob by.
Sunday's Gran Premio de Andalucia saw no new MotoGP riders join the list of riders scheduling treatment at the Dexeus clinic. But the sweltering heat – hotter than the already scorching race the previous week – turned the second race on consecutive weekends at Jerez into another bloodbath.
A week ago, 15 of the 20 riders who lined up on the grid crossed the finish. This Sunday, 21 riders started, only 13 finished. A week ago, there was one retirement with a mechanical, Valentino Rossi pulling out at the start of lap 19. This Sunday, Pecco Bagnaia's Ducati GP20 started losing power and leaving a trail of oily smoke behind it, and Franco Morbidelli's Yamaha M1 stopped making power and left him stranded, just like Valentino Rossi's had done a week earlier.
The heat and the pressure took their toll, as riders made mistakes from pushing too hard. Riders of whom so much had been expected made a horrible mess of the race: Brad Binder took out Miguel Oliveira, the two hot KTM riders immediately out of contention. Jack Miller pushed so hard to stay at the front of the race he lost the front, Aleix Espargaro and Danilo Petrucci following his lead a little further down the field. Iker Lecuona made it three crashes in three MotoGP races.
There was glory too. Fabio Quartararo winning for the second week in a row. Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi making it the first all-Yamaha podium since 2014. Rossi's revival of fortunes, after more than a year in the wilderness. Bagnaia and Morbidelli showing impressive pace, both robbed of a shot at the podium by mechanical gremlins. Takaaki Nakagami making outstanding progress to finish fourth. And Alex Rins and Cal Crutchlow finishing the race and scoring points despite their injuries.
In these notes:
- Quartararo's second win in a row
- Yamaha podium – will it last?
- Rossi's revival – where did it come from?
- Yamaha's engine situation: slight worry, or full-on panic?
- KTM's hopes of a great weekend wrecked
- Ducati – fast Pramac, but Dovizioso ends as the first Desmosedici home
- What it means for the championship, heading for Brno and Austria
Though not as dramatic as last week, we have still be left with plenty to ponder:
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