THE MOTOGP WORLD RE-ALIGNS ITSELF IN SPAIN
My favorite world almost popped back onto its normal axis this round. The racing was on Sunday night. Grid girls were back.
Bagnaia was at the pointy end…and then the organisers hauled out an orchestra to play the Spanish national anthem.
Italy is clearly drowning in a sea of love for Bagnaia. You’d think he’d won the world championship, instead of a race. True, that was in Spain, and the Italians love nothing more than sticking it to the Spanish in their homeland, but Gigi was hugging Pecco with more intensity than was actually decent.
Still, Pecco Bagnaia did ride a super race. As did Fabulous, who chased him with a relentless fury for every lap, and wisely chose to take the points for second rather than risk an unseemly off.
Pecco was not going to be caught. But if anyone was going to catch him, it was going to be Fabulous, whose record at Jerez is unquestionable. But Pecco had to crack this one. His team-mate, Jack Miller, had been outshining him a little thus far. Now they were all back on familiar ground, and Pecco had to bestir himself. And I reckon they gave him the best grid-girl as motivation.
Jerez is certainly familiar ground to all the riders. They have raced here forever, it seems. They test here constantly. Many of them rode here as youngsters. The teams have more data about the track, the bikes, and the riders, than the CIA has on Russian oligarchs.
To top it all off, it was warm and sunny, and the Spaniards had even wheeled out a complete symphony orchestra, formal clobber and all, to belt out their national anthem. It was magnificent, if utterly surreal to see a concert conductor waving his baton at the musicians in pit lane.
The lead-up to the race was also rather normal. Pol Espargaro was once again crash-testing his leathers, while Puig looked for a still deeper hole to hide in lest his disastrous management of HRC be finally placed under a Honda microscope.
Moral Champion of Moto2, Raul Fernandez was ruled unfit to play, so Savadori replaced him on the KTM, while HRC wheeled out Stefan Bradl and a shiny new Factory Honda for him to test and crash. Bradl says the new Honda is great. Marquez hates it. I think I know who I believe.
Even Jorge Lorenzo was on hand. He was being inducted as a Legend into the MotoGP Hall of Fame, and I saw him chatting happily with Dani Pedrosa, who is sadly unlikely to ever have that honor bestowed upon him, though I feel he certainly deserves it.
The preliminaries were made more interesting when Fabulous had his balls smashed into his throat after he fell off. People think the bike’s wheel pushed his leg into his fruits, but if you watch the replay closely, you’ll see Fabulous nutted himself when he leapt back on the bike. It’s like he’s new at this. He was certainly sore. He didn’t even make it back to his own pit, choosing instead to hobble into the Gas Gas garage and roll around on the ground. Every bloke there understood and sympathised.
Maverick was sporting a nice new helmet. It was a Top Gun tribute, which excited Tom Cruise enough to send Maverick a message. “Good luck on the track, from one Top Gun to another”, it said, rather delusionally. And it made no difference at all. I can’t help wondering when Maverick will start rev-bombing his Aprilia and lurking around the KTM garages.
Aleix was once again discomfited enough to wave his arms at Marc Marquez, then complained Race Direction doesn’t do anything about Marquez doing whatever he wants out on the track. In this case, Aleix was upset that Marc was using him for a tow. Marc felt Aleix should take it as a compliment – which is what he said publicly when the hysterics started. Personally, I’ not even sure Marc knowsm precisely who Aleix is or why he’s thinks he’s so important.
Marc also crashed twice in about 30 seconds during FP2, which is another record he can now claim. He low-sided on Turn Six, picked it up, then low-sided again on Turn Nine. But he did get dinked back to the pits by Dani Pedrosa, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy.
Lin Jarvis was also quite confident Fabulous would soon re-sign with Yamaha for another two years, even though Fabulous is confirming nothing, other than his seeming displeasure at the lack of speed his bike has. Jarvis has promised to make Fabulous happy. And he probably should, as quickly as possible, because there’s not much happiness for Yamaha coming out of Morbidelli, Dovizioso, or Binder Junior at the moment.
But through all this, Pecco Bagnaia quietly re-stamped his mark on the championship. He was blisteringly fast in Practice and Qualifying, and grabbed his first pole of the season. Fabulous sat beside him, and Aleix finished up the first row.
Behind them, Miller, Marquez, and Zarco were the second wave, while Nakagami, Bezzechi, and Mir crowded behind them. Last week’s Suzuki wunderkind, Rins, was having a crap weekend. He started in 14th and finished the race in 19th, just ahead of Remy Gardner.
When the red light went out, Bagnaia hared off, hotly pursued by Fabulous. They very quickly edged slightly ahead of Jack Miller, Marc Marquez, and Aleix Espargaro – and those five were what Jerez was all about this year.
Fabulous chased Bagnaia the whole race. Sometimes closing to within three-tenths of a second, sometimes letting Pecco surge ahead by almost a second. Fabulous was trying to keep his front tire cool, and sitting hard on Pecco’s rear hoop was not the way to do that. But he just didn’t have the sheer speed he’d have needed to pass Pecco and keep it that way.
Didn’t much matter to anyone else. Neither of them were going to be caught. They won the race by almost 11-seconds.
Behind them Miller worked hard, but I watched Marc behind him and I knew Jack was not going to make that podium. Aleix was also not being shaken and sat stoically behind both Miller and Marquez, occupying fifth place like he wanted people to think he was happy with it.
Seven laps in, and it was looking like Miller was holding up the two riders chasing him. Rins just rode off the track somewhere behind them, lost 14 seconds, then rejoined. Zarco just crashed, as did Bradl, on his shiny HRC test bike.
As Pecco’s and Fabulous’s lead increased lap after lap, Miller continued to somehow keep Marc and Aleix at bay, while Mir had worked his way to a spot in the sixth almost two seconds behind them.
But Marc’s pass on Jack was inevitable. It came five laps from the end, but Marc ran a little wide, then crashed and uncrashed himself by hauling his bike up with his knee, and scaring Jack. This allowed Aleix to pass them both and grab third place.
And that was pretty much it all the way to the end of the race. Aleix’s podium ends Aprilia’s concessions from next year, but that’s what everyone wants. Maybe with the exception of his team-mate, Maverick, who brought his Aprilia home in 14th place.
Once again, Jack missed a podium. And maybe it was a crucial one for him in terms of his future at the Factory Ducati team. But it’s just as possible Pecco will balls it all up in the next few races, and Jack will once again be the subject of intense, masculine crowd-love by the Ducati team.
Either way, both of them will have to stay close to Fabulous, who is very much looking forward to his home race in France in two weeks. Can’t say as I blame him. The kid’s running pretty hot at the moment.
MotoGP 2022 – Round Six – Jerez – Results
|18||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO||DUCATI||+35,361|
|DNF||Stefan BRADL||HONDA||15 laps|
|DNF||Johann ZARCO||DUCATI||16 laps|
|DNF||Darryn Binder||YAMAHA||20 laps|
MotoGP Championship Standings