I know, I know, we shouldn’t be taking the good Lord’s name in vain. But for crying out loud, what in the name of the Great Racing God was that?
I am talking about that weird little jumpstart a la Jorge Lorenzo (alright, perhaps little is a bit of an understatement, more like nearly a lap, as a commentator put it).
Maybe I am getting a bit ahead of myself.
So there we were, coming off the incredibly exciting, pulsating, heart-burning race at Qatar. It was a sign of things to come, we said. Or not…
The circus landed at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin to the announcement that the Texas Tornado would retire at the end of the 2014 season. It was unwelcome news. Colin Edwards has been such an integral part of the MotoGP world.
Qualifying was more or less as we predicted, with world champion Marc Marquez setting pace and breaking his own lap record at 2’02.886s. Dani Pedrosa and Stefan Bradl completed the front row making it an all-Honda starter.
The second row featured our favourite man of the moment Aleix Espargaro aboard the NGM Forward Racing team. Yamaha Factory duo Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi made up 5th and 6th. Yes, you have my permission to read that last sentence again…and again… and again.
Smartass asides aside, the world figured things would start looking up on Race Day. Well, apparently, Jorge Lorenzo wasn’t really looking up. In a truly bizarre move (that led to many, many, many replays through the race), Lorenzo made a weird jumpstart, hesitated a tad, and then continued on, even as the rest of the pack waited for the red lights to go off. It was enough to get the two-time world champion a ride-through penalty that cost him a lot more than a victory.
It almost seemed like everyone was waiting for Yamaha’s post-race press release, even as theories about the ‘mistake’ made rounds. “I wasn’t thinking,” Lorenzo was quoted as saying, “and was distracted, and I made a big mistake at the start. I just tried to push at the maximum afterwards to get the best result but the race was almost over for me. I want to say sorry to the team as I destroyed my race, but at least I didn’t crash because it was a difficult situation with the tension and it was easy to make a mistake and get injured. The good thing is that I finished the race and got my first points in the championship but clearly it wasn’t our weekend.” No Jorge, it most definitely wasn’t your weekend.
Neither was it Valentino Rossi’s weekend. In fact, it is fair to say that this was Yamaha’s weekend from hell. Vale made a less-than auspicious start, dropping down from his bad 6th place to the badder 9th. But it is Vale, we said. You can’t rule out Vale, no matter where he is on the grid. The nine-time world champion began to work his way up, leaving the competition in pieces, even as his team mate completed the ride-through and ended up at the back of the pack. Vale passed Andrea Dovizioso, Stefan Bradl, Cal Crutchlow, making a smooth transition to 4th place. His friend Andrea Iannone had found himself at a surprising 3rd. This was going to be easy, we, the Vale fans, crowed.
Not yet, said the cynics. Not yet. Suddenly, Vale started losing pace, and before we knew it, he dropped positions. The culprit was a sudden loss of grip to the right side of his front tyre. “We destroyed the front tyre completely on the right side,” Rossi said in a team press release. “I had the same problem during the weekend, but less than this…Unfortunately, after seven or eight laps, the front was gone and I had to go three seconds slower.”
The Yamahas’ loss however, turned out to be Ducati’s gain – or more specifically Andrea Dovizioso’s podium. The Italian ran a masterful race passing Stefan Bradl to take 3rd place. Luigi Dall’Igna, the Ducati Corse general manager seemed the happiest, if not a bit surprised. He later said in a team press release, “It was a good result for the team, somehow unexpected after yesterday’s qualifying. Andrea did a really great race, riding hard and in a very clever way, to finally take Ducati back on to the podium.”
But Dovizioso’s team Cal Crutchlow was having more than just a bad day at office. During the race, he suddenly felt a strong vibration in the rear of his bike. He entered the pits to change the rear tyre before rejoining the race. But two laps later, he suffered a terrible high-side on Turn 2, injuring his right hand in the process.
The Yamahas and Cal weren’t the only ones facing a spot of bad luck. Or as team manager of Team Go&Fun Honda Gresini, Fausto Gresini, put it rather succinctly, “It’s been a Sunday to forget.” This after rider Alvaro Bautista lost his front and crashed at Turn 6, followed by teammate Scott Redding in the final stages of the race.
The one person who wasn’t complaining, and probably loves the circuit at Austin, completely and totally, was Marc Marquez. And who can grudge him all the selfies in the world. Marquez ran a picture perfect race, despite that scary little wobble toward the end of the race. He also, for good measure, broke his own lap record, and finished the race 4.124s ahead of his teammate. That’s done and dusted then.
Next up, the spanking new circuit in Argentina. Did I hear someone say level playing field? As if…
Wheelie of the Race