ROUND 7: SPAIN (CATALUNYA)
Years goes by and look alike for Ducati. Too bad for Dovi, this time he’s not the hero he once was for them though.
1. Dovi’s turn of fortune
At that time last season, Dovizioso looked like he was the personification of Moses for millions of tifosi obviously very disappointed by Ducati’s new golden boy form. If the italian’s success came as a surprise last year, it is expected now and the least we can say is Ducati’s Moses has been sinking lately, taking DNF more than podiums.
On the question whether his current form as to do with his team-mate resurrection, Andrea insists it’s not, but more about his desperate wish to win the title which he has always in mind: « it’s not about Jorge. It’s about i want to win the race because i have a good speed and we have to gain points on Marquez ».
Taking the blame on himself, recognizing he made a mistake was one thing, but for Dovizioso the blame also lies on Michelin: « they say it’s the same tires because it’s the same rubber but the casings are different so the grip is also different ».
Being 8th in the standings, 49 points behind Marquez leaves not much choices regarding what to do to come back to form for the italian: « When you have a strong team-mate it’s positive and negative. The positive is that you have an example to study. I didn’t have that until now ». It’s an obvious 360° turn coming from Andrea, the very same who said to anybody who would listen that « jorge’s way and method don’t work at Ducati » just a couple of weeks ago. Now studying the data is one thing, having the skills to replicate them is another and on that task Dovizioso will find he has a mountain to climb to reach Lorenzo’s life long achievement of metronomic skills.
2. “Fall 7 times, Stand up 8″
Strong from his Mugello win and whole new HRC deal, Lorenzo made it clear on friday that he came to Montmelo to dominate the field. And so he did. Fastest on friday and did not even bother to chase a lap time in FP3 knowing to well the work done in FP2 was already enough for Q2. The spaniard later took the pole position when even Marquez’ firm opposition couldn’t stop him from taking Saturday’s win making it 14 years since Lorenzo last started the CatalanGP outside the front row.
For Jorge’s opponents the strategy was unique and very clear. Like Marquez later said after QP « we have to stop him » meaning « before it’s too late ». Too late for the race and too late for the title chase.
Lorenzo is of a very singular kind in the paddock. Confidence is key for him and if his self confidence can make him look cocky at times but it ends up being his main quality. Knowing fully well what he can do helps him working to found confidence again and once he has it he is on a roll, something his rivals are always afraid of.
He found himself in the deeper waves of his career, many times in the past, trying to survive at every races. He struggles with pain and fear during his rookie season following a couple of crashes so big even his own father wanted him to stop. He couldn’t win a title promised to him in a season where he became the bravest guy you could found following his ride at Assen, 36 hours after surgery, in 2013. He looked like the fading shadow of the rider he once was in 2014 making a fool of himself jumping the start at the US round. Each of these events was followed by a « comeback » and more often resulted in a title or top 3 place than not.
Jorge Lorenzo’s career is made of ups and downs. Even though the downs are sometimes extremely deep, the one sure thing is that they’re always followed by a high higher than the last one. His time at Ducati will end up being just another example of Lorenzo’s determination to always get up and get the best out of himself, his riding and work or, like he wrote on his Catalan GP’s new graffiti helmet: keizen (constent improvement).
The spaniard is 7th in the standings, 49 points behind Marquez. If someone can catch such a gap it can only be the one guy who once decided to slow the pace of a whole race so that more riders could come in between him and his title rival, a certain 93.
3. The smart one
Marc Marquez learns his lessons: when you crash out of a race giving 25-20 points away to your opponents, next time you think before acting.
Marquez knowing very early on that the race win would be difficult against a metronome Lorenzo, the spaniard decided not to push too much: « i tried to follow (JL) and was pushing because it’s my mentality and i wanted to create a gap on the others ».
Seeing Dovizioso’s fate though stopped him: « one moment i lost the front. In the same lap Dovi crashed. I saw all the yellow flags, so many crashes » he then decided to settle for the 20 points offered taking the 2nd place.
You never really change a lion nature though, you can take the upper hand on them but don’t be careful once and they’ll devour that same hand: « i pushed in the last laps to see if Jorge was dropping the tires », but Jorge wasn’t. At all.
The young one then focus on Plan B: if you can’t take the win, take 2nd. He managed the race until the checkered flag safely into the second position, Rossi in 3rd being to far to threaten him. By knowing it was better to give away 5 points to Lorenzo, who is still too far in the standings, than giving 20 points to Rossi, now 2nd behind him for the title chase Marc Marquez was a very happy runner up to the Catalan GP.
That, Ladies and Gents, is how you win a title.
4. Maverick’s misfortune opens Vale’s title chase
Same old story at Yamaha on sunday night: one was able to get the best out of a sinking package while the other is drowning with the M1.
Frustrated is becoming Vinales’ middle name as it was clear on Sunday that the new approach Team 25 tested at Montmelo didn’t produced the results they hoped for. The young spaniard keeps saying the same thing over and over again after each and every race debrief this season: “I can’t do more with this bike”, “I don’t know what to do”.
Maverick’s unsolvable problems tends to overshadow his true potential: “the first 10 laps of the race can go to the trash”. Looking back on his races since Losail, the harsh statement seems as true as it could be though.
We first thought the number 25 needed to qualify better on Saturday so that he wouldn’t be glued in the traffic on Sunday but judging by Mugello’s result it’s not so much the QP which seems to be the problem but the opening of the race.
With the fuel tank full, Vinales goes wide, slides a lot and can’t get the bike working as he wants it to and looses tones of places that he then have to take back once he finally founds a good rythme with an emptier tank.
On the other side of the Yamaha box, Rossi struggles too. His 2nd place in the standings are not much of a relieve for the italian knowing Yamaha still have to work harder and harder on the engine and chassis of their bike to make it coming back on the winning road.
He noted “1 year without a win isn’t a good news for Yamaha and for me”. Assen coming next will mark Yamaha’s one year anniversary since they last won a race, a statistic which would have seemed impossible to be true a few years back.
What seems like an unevitable conclusion though is that the loss of Jorge Lorenzo to Ducati started the downing of the Yamaha ship. The fact tech 3′s Johann Zarco still uses Lorenzo’s data on his bike to make it work is another proof of what Lin Jarvis’ team is missing. Number 99 going to the HRC next season, it’s another famous spaniard with a riding style as beautiful and impressive in it’s own way that could save them.
5. Dani’s future
With what ends up being a good weekend overall, Dani Pedrosa’s future remains uncertain.
Ears were listening carefully on thursday, scared he would announced a retirement but hope is still alive and well as the spaniard is working on “a few options”.
Lin Jarvis later fuelled the rumors of a satelite yamaha/petronas team that could very well get Dani Pedrosa as it’s lead: “Dani’s situation is something new that has come up in the last couple of weeks. If Dani is available and keen to ride a satellite Yamaha, it would be a really positive thing and a pleasure for Yamaha.“We’ve had discussions in previous years as well, and it’s always been a curiosity in my mind. So if Dani would finally be one of the riders, I think myself and Yamaha would be happy to see that (…) The situation is not confirmed yet, but talks are progressing well and I’m optimistic we’ll find a good solution. Hopefully there will be some positive news within the next couple of weeks about 2019 and beyond.”
6. Honorable Mentions
Cal Crutchlow takes home 4th place but his lovely daughter Willow had her first taste of the podium and that was ADORABLE.
Johann Zarco seems to be fadding away since Le Mans.
Alvaro Bautista ends up 9th in the Catalan GP, something he can be proud of!
Syarhin’s crash on Sunday doesn’t take away all the shine he had during the rest of the weekend.