From the Blog

What a cracker!

photo courtesy of motogp.com

Sometimes, especially when the races are in weird time zones, like Argentina, for example, my desire for a good night’s sleep overpowers my desire to stay up and watch the races. Thankfully, now that we are in the European phase of the championship, the races are held at fairly reasonable hours so I get to see them. Sunday’s Assen TT, for example, had the MotoGo race starting at 2200 and finishing about 2245, more than doable, especially when the races were as exciting as they were on the weekend.

I do enjoy the ability to watch all the sessions and the races ad-free, courtesy of the MotoGp subscription (an extravagance, I must admit, but needs must) the only real downside of them being the quality or lack thereof of some of the commentary. OK they are working for an English-speaking audience but they should take into account that it is not a specific BRITISH one. The boys’ constant chatter about British riders, 100% of them are totally failing to deliver the goods, does irk me a lot of the time.

That said, there was nothing to irk me about the quality of racing last weekend. The Moto3 race was a thriller, with comingman, Martin giving them all a riding lesson yet again. The Moto2 race a little less so with the issue never in doubt; it’s no surprise that Bagnia will be graduating to MotoGp next year. Lots of cut and thrust down in the pack did keep it interesting but my lack of interest in Moto2 is well known so it’s no surprise that I often skip their Practice and Qualifying sessions and just watch their race on the Sunday night (my long-suffering wife learned a long time ago that she was a bike racing widow).

All of this was more than compensated for by the enthralling MotoGp race which threatened to push the commentators’ superlatives index right off the scale and send the whole team home with a severe case of laryngitis. Did you know, for example, that the Assen circuit is “famous, legendary and iconic”? Did you know that only a British commentator could use all three of these adjectives in the same sentence! Did you know that it “often rains in Assen”? Well, yes, I do actually, but thank you for reminding me at least 20 times over the course of the weekend. Did you know that Aleix Espargaro is the proud father of new-born twins? Well, yes, actually, I knew that, too, you mentioned that about 40 times at Catalunya! That wasn’t the end of the humour, the funniest bit was reserved for the end of the race but I’ll get back to that later.

But to the race; well, for once the boys’ over-use of superlatives was more than justified. I certainly have no intention of giving a pass-by-pass race report, we’d be here for days, but, suffice it to say that it was probably the most exciting Premier Class race I have ever seen and I’ve seen a few. The leading group stayed as a group for all but the last 4 laps and the constant changing of the lead and positions within the group kept the commentary team so busy that they only had the briefest of moments to mention that Patrucci had crashed. I noted it briefly but was so engrossed in the race that I had to look it up afterwards to remind myself who had DNF’d. At one point, Rossi outbraked himself and ran off the track only to rejoin and tack onto the group again. Lorenzo had a “whoopsie” in the last chicane that caused him to check up suddenly only to have Rossi pile into the back of the Ducati at barely reduced speed. How they both survived that AND stayed in the leading group remains a mystery. They didn’t show the front of the Yamaha but it was certainly damaged as bits were falling off it as he went down the straight, but they did show the rear of the Ducati and the signs of a heavy impact on the tail section were clear.

At mid-race Vinales also outbraked himself and Marquez, following in his wheel tracks did a “monkey see, monkey do” and ran off the track with him. They also rejoined the race at race speed and remained in the pack. Rins, who was having a blinder, put in a brutal (but fair) pass on Marquez who looked for sure to be done as they touched on corner exit. Both of Marquez’s feet came off the footpegs and the bike wobbled alarmingly. It was at that instant that MM’s cat-like reflexes and experience at nearly crashing the bike cut in. He settled the bike, got back on the gas and continued almost as if nothing had happened. Astonishing.

Finally with 4 laps remaining, MM pulled the pin and started to eke out the smallest of margins. His practice of running long runs on worn tyres on the Friday and the Saturday paid huge dividends as he actually DROPPED his lap times back into the 34’s leaving the rest of the pack, also on worn tyres, unable to go with him as the red bike disappeared into the distance.  He crossed the line 2.3 seconds in front of Rins who had ridden the race of his life and Vinales who survived a late charge from Rossi to be on the final step of the podium. Did I mention funny things? The funniest thing was right at the end. Throughout the race the commentators had been rhapsodising about Rossi’s brilliance when passing in the final chicane. Well, the commentator’s curse struck, big time. Within sight of the flag Rossi tried a final banzai pass in the chicane, trying to secure 3rd at the expense of Vinales and Dovizioso. Unfortunately he made a complete cock-up of it and went from a momentary 3rd to a disappointing (for him) 5th. I laughed.

Marquez leaves Assen with a 41 point lead in the championship and heads to the Sachsenring (one of his all-time favourite tracks) in a fortnight. The new parts that the Yamaha riders have been desperately awaiting now may not be available till after Brno so Vinales and Rossi will have to wring the recalcitrant M1’s neck for a little longer. In the mean time, the rounds tick away and, barring a sensational collapse on the part of Marquez, the rest may just be condemned to continually watching the back of the Repsol Honda dwindling in the distance.

The Assen race set a new grand prix record for the closest finish by the leading group in the history of the championship. I’m not surprised. It was a cracker of a race and demonstrated yet again why we marvel at the other-worldy skills of our GP heroes.