Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 77: Assen, The Sachsenring, And Assessing The First Half Of 2018

After the WorldSBK extravaganza podcast with Steve English and Jensen Beeler, the Paddock Pass Podcast turns its attention back to MotoGP. After the epic race at Assen, and then another intriguing round at the Sachsenring in Germany, Neil Morrison and David Emmett get together to discuss where MotoGP stands as the 2018 season reaches its halfway point.

We start off with a discussion of where the Assen race ranks in the list of all time great MotoGP/500cc races, which turns into a debate over what criteria to use in judging whether a race is great or not. Is it all about how close the finish is? Does it have to be decided on the last lap? Does the significance of a race in the championship matter?

After a quick rundown of the Assen and Sachsenring races, we go on to talk about where all of the MotoGP manufacturers stand so far this season. We discuss how good the Honda really is, whether the Ducati is actually the best bike on the grid, and how much of a handicap Yamaha's electronics deficit really is. We talk about how much progress KTM and Aprilia have made, and how good the Suzuki really is. Finally, we round it off with our traditional choosing of winners and losers.

Enjoy the show!


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thank you for the podcast: I thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly the part about which criteria come into play when assessing a great race. I tend to agree with the both of you : if the battle for victory  is taken to the last corner of the last lap it's even more exciting but of course it's also important what is at stake ( importance for the championship,asserting leadership, ...) with this in mind I would definitely add Barcelona 2009. It was such an exciting race, there was so much at stake there, besides the fabulous battle we had the chance to witness.  (Personally, I would also add  Barcelona 2015, not that the race was great, but what was really thrilling was that, all of a sudden, all Lorenzo's certainties about being the fastest were gone... thus changing the psychological battle. But of course, this race would not even rank in the top 20). 

interesting the take on winners and losers, which raises many questions. First Ducati : yes Lorenzo is the winner and Dovi is definitely on the losing side. I'm sorry I am going to repeat myself, but I still cannot believe that after all these years Ducati management has learnt nothing. Absolutely nothing! Their behavior lost them Lorenzo and destabilized Dovizioso. But I must add that, maybe, 2017 season was as far as Dovi could go and nowhere further. He is really, really good, but maybe lacks that little extra that defines the difference between great racers and big champions: he is a great racer, can he become a champion? This leads me to the other "loser" (your words, not mine), Zarco. Just to add a few infos to what you said : Zarco does have - or rather, had - a very close, special relationship with his manager Fellon (I'm so tempted to use a Latin expression "nomen omen" but I will refrain). For many, many years, Zarco lived in Fellon's house, sleeping on a couch, in the living room that, at night, would turn into his bedroom. It's easy to guess, how he easily became a father figure and mentor, building a relationship of total trust. A one way relationship : he would make the decisions like a parent with his underage child. Now, Fellon has a son of his own who just turned 14  (guess his name and activity? Lorenzo, motorcycle racer with the Ajo Academy) and he is trying to bank in on all the investments he made on Zarco and secure the future of his son. How many times have we seen a manager make decisions based solely on the rider's interests ? I am not saying that he manipulated Zarco, but during all these years he made all the decisions and some of them - namely the talks with Honda and the strange behavior with Yamaha - were, to say the least, debatable. Contrary to many posters here, I never thought that Zarco was "alien" material, it took him too many years to come through, and many very conveniently forgot that he entered the motogp class on one of the finest tuned bikes on the grid, a bike that did quite well in 2016. Moreover we never got the see how he fared compared to his teammate Folger, much younger, less experienced and with a heavy health condition ( plus the horrible incident, which did not break his bones, but probably some of his confidence...) So my question is : how good is Zarco really ? and this is were I think Fellon played a big negative role : Fellon did everything in his power to convince Zarco that he was better than the two official Yam guys, and therefore he deserved an official bike. Of course, every racer has to believe he can beat everyone and win, that's why they line up on Sunday, but you also need to understand your strengths and your limits... I'm sure that the deal with KTM meant more money - for both of them - but maybe it would have been more interesting to stick with Yamaha, one more year. Accept a satellite, that might turn out to be a great bike, because finally the electronics will be truly the same for everyone. Moreover, it was very strange how Fellon and Zarco were talking about the right to have an official Yamaha, when at the same time  we heard zillions of times that Zarco does not want to know about bike specifics... how can he play the role that Cal plays for Honda if he doesn't even know, nor care, which chassis he's using ?  It's very confusing to say the least.  As for Honda, well, it seems that the KTM deal was signed and sealed a long time ago .... Leaving Zarco with no other option. And now Zarco is seeing Morbidelli on the Yamaha next year, a Suzuki improving by the day (Fellon stated that Brivio contacted him but he wanted nothing to do with them - without asking Zarco), Lorenzo on the Honda, Petrucci on a well sorted Ducati, and he will be on KTM... not by his real, well pondered choice.... Bottom line : I might be wrong and we might discover a major champion on KTM next year... personally, I doubt it.

Great Podcast. 

Happy holidays to you all



It was a nice pass but the race itself can't stand up to Catalunya 2007.


The last 3 laps of Catalunya 09 was a complete masterpiece - It was a constant back and forth of 2 Yamahas that looked as coordinated as paired figure skaters performing to Bethoveen.  The last corner pass was just the icing on the cake.