SACHSENRING CIRCUIT, Germany – Motocross starts are far from the norm in Moto GP, but that’s pretty much what we had in the German GP July 13.
A brief downpour created a soaking track and had all but three riders line up on the grid on wets – but the track was rapidly drying. After the final sighting lap prior to the start, 14 of the 23 riders dived into the pits to swap to their dry set-up bikes, creating a Christmas shopping-like jam at pit exit as they all waited to start.
On the grid, only Stefan Bradl of the front-runners started on slicks, which looked like a genius move as he tore off, nearly alone, for the first several laps. However, his team had swapped tires rather than bikes, so he was still on mostly wet settings and the unfortunate German fell quickly into the clutches of the Repsol Honda duo of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, who scythed quickly through the field and were never headed.
The two factory Hondas finished in that order, Marquez taking his ninth win out of nine races to complete an unbelievable perfect record in the first half of the season.
Poor Bradl ended up falling back to 16th at the finish, out of the points, a sad end to his home GP. He said, “At the first moment it seemed that we had an advantage but on the grid we had some issues in changing the front fork to dry [settings] as the time was not enough. So I started the race with rain setting and slick tyres and it was a real gamble
“When I saw the others starting from the pit, I could have done the same as my bike was ready and I am sorry for this mistake. I was three seconds slower each lap because my setting was not correct.”
The Repsol Hondas were followed by the factory Movistar Yamahas, Jorge Lorenzo back on form albeit with a lonely third place 10 seconds behind Pedrosa, while his team-mate Valentino Rossi was a further 10 seconds back.
Lorenzo was obviously relieved to be back in contention after a series of horrid races. “I’m satisfied because finally we got another podium … If we can gain one or two tenths on the competition we can try to win.”
His team-mate Rossi added, “I didn’t have enough pace to fight for the podium. I knew that it would be very difficult to beat our rivals here … I’m quite happy about the first half of the season. I already got five podiums and four second places. I’m sad that I was not able to win, but I am quite fast and competitive. We have to continue like this and try to beat Marquez.”
Andrea Iannone did a solid job to take an encouraging fifth position on his Pramac Ducati, by far the most impressive performance by a Ducati rider. The Espargaro brothers were just behind him, Aleix grabbing sixth on his NGM Yamaha FTR a half-second ahead of his brother on the Monster Tech 3 satellite Yamaha.
Cal Crutchlow, after a horrible series of crashes and mechanical failures in his first year with Ducati, was delighted to finally finish a race, although unhappy that he wasn’t able to maintain his short-lived position ahead of team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, the two finishing eighth and 10th, separated by Alvaro Bautista.
The tough Englishman said, “It was mayhem at the start, and in the pit lane I nearly got knocked off by Rossi but it was nobody’s fault, just one of those incidents, and in fact the start of the race was really exciting! … I was really disappointed in the last laps when I got passed by Pol Espargarò, Andrea and Bautista: I felt we had a good chance to finish in the seventh position but I couldn’t fight any more than I did and we were at the limit with the package today in these conditions.”
One had to think that Bautista’s late-race surge on the Go&Fun satellite Honda was motivated at least partly by thoughts of 2015 – the Spaniard’s performances this year haven’t been scintillating, to say the least, and he’s out of contract at the end of the season.
To cap off a very challenging weekend Bradley Smith on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team suffered his fifth crash in total on lap three; he was able to rejoin the race and finish in 19th position but the team is obviously getting tired of his crashes and he may well be looking for another ride in 2015.
With 23 riders qualifying within a second of each other – yes, you read that right – the Moto 2 race promised the most action of the weekend. In the event, Swiss rider Dominique Aegerter capitalized on his first-ever Moto 2 pole position to clear off behind fast-starting Mika Kallio, the two gradually pulling away from the rest of the field.
Aegerter closely shadowed the Finn for the entire contest, getting past briefly four laps from the end, then making a second and final pass only two corners from the flag. It was Aegerter’s first Moto 2 victory as well as his first pole, and consolidates his fourth in the championship.
Kallio was very disappointed after the race, saying, “It’s always frustrating to finish a close second, but it was doubly disappointing today because we went into the race knowing that it was ours to lose … he was glued to my back wheel for almost the whole race … On the final lap he got a really good drive out of T11 and there was nothing I could do to stop him coming under me at the bottom of the hill. I tried again in the last corner, but there was no way through.”
Kallio meanwhile closed up on his Marc VDS team-mate and series leader Tito Rabat, who had a rough day in the saddle, finally managing fourth after a bruising battle for the final podium spot among himself, Simone Corsi, Franco Morbidelli, and in the latter stages Maverick Vinales. At one point all of them were in third, and up to the last lap any of them could have taken the spot.
It was a good day for Switzerland, with Randy Krummenacher getting his best result of the season in seventh, while Thomas Luthi collected a ninth, making three Swiss nationals in the top 10.
As usual, the Moto 3 race was the most exciting of the day, although it was led start to finish by Aussie teenager Jack Miller. He eventually finished barely ahead of 18-year-old South African Brad Binder – Binder’s first-ever Moto 3 podium – and French veteran Alexis Masbou, pleased to take his second podium in a 10-year GP career.
Binder, when asked how he felt about getting his first podium, grinned and said, “I feel it’s about two years too late!”
Miller extended his championship lead, aided by two of the main contenders, Alex Rins and Romano Renati, crashing out, while three-time winner on the season Alex Marquez could only manage fourth after a heated battle with Binder, Masbou, and Danny Kent, the Brit having his best race in a while. The other top rider in the standings, Efren Vasquez, caught up to the second group by the end of the race after a hard charge from 17th qualifying position, but ran out of time and finished a good sixth.
The series now goes into its summer break, everyone going on holiday and relaxing before reconvening in Indianapolis in August.
Next event Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis, Indiana, August 10
Moto GP standings after nine of 18 races
1. Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 225 points
2. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 148
3. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Movistar Yamaha, 141
4. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 99
5. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Movistar Yamaha, 97
6. Aleix Espargaro, Spain, NGM Forward Racing, 77
7. Pol Espargaro, Spain, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 67
8. Andrea Iannone, Italy, Pramac Racing Ducati, 62
9. Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 56
10. Alvaro Bautista, Spain, Go&Fun Honda Gresini, 50
Moto 2 standings after nine of 18 races
1. Esteve Rabat, Spain, Marc VDS Racing Kalex,170 points
2. Mika Kallio, Finland, Marc VDS Racing Kalex, 151
3. Maverick Vinales, Spain, Paginas Amarillas HP40 Kalex, 120
4. Dominque Aegerter, Switzerland, Technomag carXpert Suter, 96
5. Simone Corsi, Italy, NGM Forward Racing Kalex, 85
Moto 3 standings after nine of 18 races
1. Jack Miller, Australia, Red Bull KTM Ajo,142 points
2. Alex Marquez, Spain, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda, 123
3. Efram Vazquez, Spain, SaxoPrint-RTG Honda, 112
4. Romano Fenati, Italy, Sky Racing Team VR46 KTM, 110
5. Alex Rins, Spain, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda, 107