"That's why we line up on Sunday. You never know what's going to happen," the late Nicky Hayden once said, in response to a particularly stupid question on my part. Jerez proved him right once again, events conspiring to confound what seemed to be an obvious conclusion from the very beginning.
What happened? At 2pm on Sunday, the MotoGP grid lined up with Fabio Quartararo on pole, starting as favorite after laying down an intimidating pace in practice. Alongside him were Franco Morbidelli on a two-year old Yamaha, and the Ducati of Jack Miller, while the second Ducati of Pecco Bagnaia started behind him.
It was obvious to the experienced Jerez hands that Fabio Quartararo would walk away with the race, the Frenchman having way too much pace for anyone else to stay with him over 25 laps. The Ducatis may have lined up third and fourth on the grid, but they would surely face; Jerez is not a Ducati track after all. The last Ducati victory at the circuit was way, way back in 2006, when Loris Capirossi kicked off the season with a win aboard the Desmosedici GP6.
That didn't happen, of course. That's why everyone lines up on Sunday, after all. Instead, we had a new MotoGP winner, records broken, preconceptions shattered. We saw the specter of arm pump raise its ugly head, the start of a dream being shattered, and perhaps the first sign of a legend in decline.
In these subscriber notes:
- Jack Miller, answering critics, and performing under pressure
- A new championship leader in a championship where consistency is still everything
- The state of the championship
- Franco Morbidelli's future
- A deep dive into arm pump, and why some get it, others don't
But first, a quick detour to Moto3, where Pedro Acosta racked up his third win in four races. He now has 95 points out of a possible 100 in the championship, and sits 51 points clear of Niccolò Antonelli, comfortably ensconced at the top of the title table. That is remarkable enough, but the fact that Acosta is just 16, and this is his rookie season in Grand Prix racing is simply astounding.
If his championship lead wasn't impressive enough, the way he won the Moto3 race on Sunday had the mark of greatness. On Thursday, he sat in the pre-event press conference and had the greats of MotoGP sing his praises. That would normally be enough to go to a 16-year-old's head, and make him buckle under the pressure to perform. But Acosta clearly isn't just a normal 16-year-old.
Instead, Acosta bided his time in the leading group throughout the Moto3 race, waiting for the end of the back straight on the final lap to pounce, putting in a pass that looked impossible a couple of hundred meters previously. He put just enough daylight between himself and the chasing pack to be almost impossible to catch, and then when chaos unfolded in the final corner – as it invariably does in Moto3 – he was safely in front of it.
A wise head on young shoulders
What impressed about the ride was above all his racecraft and the maturity and calmness with which he approached it. He won because he put himself in the right place at the right time, only fought the battles that mattered, and saved his energy for a final assault. Along the way, he was sliding a Moto3 bike in ways which have rarely been seen. Acosta controlled the race as skillfully as he controlled his bike. History is being made in Moto3 right now.
Acosta wasn't the only impressive winner at Jerez on Sunday. In Moto2, Fabio Di Giannantonio rode the race of his life to take his first win in the intermediate class, leading from pretty much lights to flag. In MotoGP, Jack Miller took his first dry win in the premier class, taking his victory tally to two after his wet win at a rain-soaked Assen in 2016. And unlike 2016, and so many of Miller's other wins in Moto3, he won it by riding an inch-perfect race for lap after lap, his concentration never flagging.
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