Month: July 2018

MotoGP – Marquez still the king of the ring after another German win

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Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez has re-written another piece of MotoGP history by storming from a ninth pole in a row at the Sachsenring to take his ninth win in a row across all classes. Championship rival Valentino Rossi took second on the factory Yamaha and maintains his second place in the standings, with the Yamaha team-mate Maveric Viñales taking third.

As the lights went out it was Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo who got the holeshot, moving from third into the lead as Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci slotted into second – with Marquez shuffled back into third. Rossi made a good start from sixth to move into fourth ahead of teammate Viñales, with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso the key man to lose out from fifth.

Once at the front, Lorenzo set about putting the hammer down, making it the sixth race in succession the Mallorcan has led. It didn’t take too long for Marquez to make his way through the pack and catch his compatriot, however, and a game of cat and mouse began at the front as Marquez reeled in Lorenzo.

Meanwhile Rossi attacked Petrucci for third and moved through, with LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow crashing out at Turn 12.

Lorenzo was holding firm at the front, but Marquez then chose his moment and struck to take over the lead, with Lorenzo struggling to turn the Ducati in and dropping back into Lorenzo’s clutches.

Rossi pounced quickly, and once past, the rider from Tavullia put the hammer down in a bid to claw back some time to Marquez, but it wasn’t to be. The number 93 pulled the pin with perfect timing, with enough grip left to see him make a gap and keep it until crossing the line for stunning ninth win in a row at the Sachsenring – and all from pole.

Rossi was then safe in second for another podium finish, but teammate Viñales left it late to complete the rostrum. First Petrucci was the man pushing to pass a Lorenzo struggling with grip, before Viñales arrived on the scene and attacked the Mallorcan and then the Italian to take third and a second successive podium.

Petrucci claimed a well-fought fourth, just ahead of Alvaro Bautista on the Angel Nieto Ducati; Bautista was the fastest man on track for a good number of laps and kept that incredible form to the end, the final man able to muscle past Lorenzo by the flag.

Lorenzo took sixth ahead of a tough day for teammate Andrea Dovizioso, with Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa putting in a solid ride to eighth. Tech 3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco improved from his worst qualifying of the season so far to take ninth despite the difficult weekend, with an incredible ride from KTM’s Bradley Smith putting the Brit in tenth to take KTM’s first top ten of the season.

Tech 3 Yamaha’s Hafizh Syahrin was top rookie in eleventh and takes over at the top of the Rookie of the Year standings, ahead of Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone, who was caught up in an early incident that saw KTM’s Pol Espargaro make contact with Suzuki’s Alex Rins and both riders go down.

Tito Rabat finished thirteenth, ahead of Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller in fourteenth and Aprilia’s Scott Redding in fifteenth.

 

 

 

 

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MotoGP – Pedrosa to retire at the end of the season

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After weeks of speculation, Honda factory rider Dani Pedrosa has announced that he will end his active racing career at the end of this season, bringing the curtain down on an illustrious career which has seen him win 31 MotoGP races, making him the eighth most successful rider of all time in the premier class.

Pedrosa, just 32, broke the news in a special press conference held ahead of the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring. He said: “Next year, I will not compete in the championship, this means I will finish my career this season in MotoGP. This is a decision I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and it’s a very hard decision because this is the sport I love. But despite having good opportunities to keep racing, I feel like I don’t live racing with such an intensity as before and I now have different priorities in my life.

“I would like to express how fortunate I feel to have had this opportunity. It’s been an amazing life to be racing for such an important team and in front of all the fans. So I can say I achieved way more than I expected and I’m very proud of everything I’ve done in the sport. I fulfilled my dream of becoming a racer and this is something I didn’t expect as a kid watching on TV.”

The Spaniard came close to announcing his retirement at Barcelona four weeks ago, but the approach from the Petronas Yamaha Team due to race in MotoGP next year had forced him to consider his choice carefully. He said: “In Barcelona I had the feeling and a more or less clear idea of what would be my decision, but an opportunity showed up, and you never have to close the door to opportunities in that way,” Pedrosa said. “Finally, I considered the options, and with a bit more time, it’s always better to take these decisions with more time and with your people and with your family, and think about it a little bit longer. But finally, the feeling is the feeling.”

“You have to live the races to the limit and I had to give everything that I had. Looking at the project and being realistic this is the direction I have to take. I gave everything I had on the track as well as off it and it’s simply this; I’m a rider that gave my best. Like I said it was something already coming for a long time and the opportunity I had was a great chance and nothing to say about. It’s just my feeling, my way of approaching life and racing and being honest with myself… This was the decision.”

Pedrosa is one of the best racers to have never won the championship, injuries taking their toll on his ability to make a sustained title charge. The Spaniard was never a prolific crasher, but when he did, he nearly always ended up injured, often seriously.

Pedrosa has had 21 injuries during his time at the top, the most serious of which occurred at Motegi in 2010, in yet another crash caused by a mechanical error when a sticking throttle caused him to be thrown into the gravel at Turn 9, badly breaking his left collarbone in the incident. The surgery to plate that collarbone was as successful as it should have been, the plate and screws putting pressure on his subclavian artery, which supplies blood to the arms.

In race conditions the plate was reducing blood flow to the arm leading to Pedrosa feeling he was losing strength in that arm, and unable to grip the handlebars successfully. The Spaniard struggled with that feeling for nearly six months, his doctors unable to pinpoint exactly what the problem was. It left him both physically and mentally drained, Pedrosa giving serious consideration to retiring unless a solution could be found. Once the issue with the plate was identified, he was able to have surgery to solve the problem, and get back to full fitness again.

But the crash had also left him wary of surgery. When he was taken out by Marco Simoncelli at Le Mans the following year, Pedrosa deliberated for a long time before agreeing to surgery to plate the collarbone. It remained an issue for the Spaniard throughout his career, and in the end, pushed him towards retirement.

It is hard to say whether Pedrosa’s diminutive size and weight played a factor in the severity of the injuries he has accumulated over the years, but it was always a question for debate.

Pedrosa’s old team boss Livio Suppo is convinced that Pedrosa’s physical stature held him back, and that if he was just 10cm taller, he would have won the MotoGP crown at least four times. He said: “MotoGP is all about traction. Dani has the talent and riding skill, but if he was just 10cm taller, that would give him all the traction and grip he’d need to dominate the class. Of that I’m absolutely clear.”

This theory is backed up by LCR rider Cal Crutchlow, who is convinced that Pedrosa would have won multiple title had he switched to Yamaha, a bike which is much less physically demanding to ride.

Of course, Pedrosa also has the misfortune to have raced in the golden age of MotoGP, and his team-mates Casey Stoner and Marc Márquez are arguably the two most naturally talented riders to race in the championship with Stoner taking one title with Honda, and Márquez winning four of the five championships he has competed in.

So, Pedrosa has decided to bow out at the top, but his place in GP history is secure; he will be formally inducted as MotoGP Legend at the final race of the 2018 season in Valencia.

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta said. “I think it’s a small contribution from the championship, for what he has been doing throughout his career. It has been a big pleasure, as Dorna CEO and a friend of Dani, to share with him all these years and I hope he will continue with us, doing other things.

“The decision he has made, and he didn’t say nothing, it’s a very honest and loyal decision. He had – in the last discussions – everything to continue. But being honest with himself, he has decided to retire. Not all people would do the same. I want to tell him again, thank-you and thank-you for the example you have given to us.”

So, the greatest rider never to win a premier class title has decided to hang up his leathers. Here’s to hoping he adds more wins to his impressive haul before the chequered flag drops at the final round in Valencia…

Road racing – William Dunlop dies after crash during practice at Skerries 100

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William Dunlop has died after a crash during practice for the Skerries 100 in County Dublin.

The 32-year-old rider from Ballymoney, County Antrim, was a member of the Dunlop dynasty of racing greats and a repeat winner of the North West 200 and Ulster Grand Prix.

Dunlop enjoyed a distinguished career on Ireland’s national road racing scene, accumulating some 108 wins, including four victories at the North West 200 and seven at the Ulster Grand Prix since beginning his career in 2000.

A statement released by the the Skerries 100 organisers, said they “deeply regret” to announce he “passed away following injuries received in a tragic accident”.

“The Loughshinny Motorcycle Supporters Club extends their heartfelt sympathy to William Dunlop’s family and friends,” the statement added. “Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this very sad time.”

Following lengthy discussions with the family, their sponsors and few riders, the club has taken the decision to continue the Skerries 100 races, with he entire prize fund going William’s family.

It will be a non-champiuonship meeting which the club hopes everyone will consider a fitting tribute to William and his previous race performance and results at the Skerries 100.

Tragedy has struck the Dunlop family before; his father Robert died as a result of an accident at the North West 200 in 2008 and his uncle Joey was killed racing in Estonia in 2000.

 

MotoGP– sensational showdown at the Cathedral of Speed sees Marquez take top honours

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Assen was the venue for a sensational battle royale as eight riders duked it out for the win in one of the most incredible MotoGp races of all time at Assen.

Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez emerged from the melee to take the win on premier racing’s 70th visit to the track, but the headlines were stolen by the close racing as Marquez battled with Yamaha duo Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales, Ducati factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo, Suzuki’s Alex Rins and LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow.

It was Marquez who took the holeshot from pole, with Crutchlow initially on his tail from second on the grid until Lorenzo sliced through from tenth to P2 after another awe-inspiring launch.

The Italian and Catalan GP winner didn’t wait long to strike for the lead either, attacking Marquez with the the two riders locked side-by-side in a war of wills until Lorenzo edged ahead.

Marquez hit back a lap later at Turn 15, before Lorenzo repaid the favour once more. The duel was the first of many; an early taste of what was to come.

Rossi then made his first attack of the race at the final chicane, a first rehearsal, and set off after Lorenzo – with the Spaniard missing a gear soon after and Rossi smashing into the rear of the Ducati, unable to avoid him. Incredibly, both riders stayed on and retaining their track position, with Marquez, Dovizioso, Rins, Crutchlow and Viñales forming a train of riders fighting at the front.

Marquez took Rossi, Viñales took Crutchlow, Dovizioso took Rossi, Dovizioso took Marquez, Marquez struck back, Rins took Rossi and then Dovizioso…but Lorenzo held firm at the front. With eight riders within a second, from Lorenzo down to Johann Zarco on the Tech 3 Yamaha at the back of the train, the touch paper was well and truly lit on an absolute classic.

The war continued before another bout of bigger drama with 15 laps to go as Rins attacked Marquez and the two made contact, with the reigning champion suffering a big moment as he got back on the gas. That dropped him back off the lead, with Lorenzo chased by Rins and Dovizioso.

The Italian fought his teammate for the lead soon after and Lorenzo began to drop back slightly, with Viñales then taking the lead for the first time with just eight laps to go.

Next time around Marquez had sliced back through into the lead, before the next lap saw both almost throw it all away as they both ran wide.

It was then Rossi’s turn to shine with a clinical move at the final chicane, but he couldn’t make it stick and Dovizioso immediately struck back..

A four-way tussle for the front saw no inch given by any of the riders, before Marquez pulled the pin to make his way back into P1…and once past he managed the gap to take a stunning win; his fourth of the season.

The battle behind wasn’t over, however, and Viñales had pushed through to second before a last lap attack from Rins – with the Suzuki rider taking his second ever premier class rostrum. Viñales was forced to settle for third , his first time back on the podium since Texas.

The fight for fourth was equally intense and showed why Rossi had been rehearsing; the ‘Doctor’ left it late but lunged up the inside of Dovizioso into the famous Geert Timmer chicane on the final lap, and he was ahead – but the Ducati pilot took him back on the exit, gaining such good drive that the had almost caught Viñales over the line.

Marquez, Rins, Viñales, Dovizioso and Rossi were followed home by Crutchlow and Lorenzo, with Zarco, Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) and Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller completing the top ten in one of the greatest races contested on two wheels.

Speaking after the race, Marquez said: “It was a crazy race, full of adrenaline—this feeling is one of the reasons we do this sport. I was expecting something like this before the race, but nothing like it actually was. We were a wild bunch, everyone fighting against everyone; I think all of us made contact with somebody else at some point. We had to attack and defend, attack and defend. We had so many ‘big moments’ and risked crashing.
“It was crazy out there and impossible to define the best strategy, so eventually I decided to just fight and see what we could do in the end. In the last three laps, I gave it everything, no matter the tyres, no matter the amount of championship points available.

“I had been trying to reduce the group because when you’re fighting for the title, you just want the fewest riders possible at the front, but it was difficult. Only when I saw I had more than one and a half seconds of advantage before the last lap did I think, Okay, we’ve got it, let’s just finish this lap.

“It was an important win and 25 very important points, but we need to keep going, keep pushing, and keep this same level.”