Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa scored a fantastic one-two result at the Aragon Grand Prix.
The duo, starting from the second row of the grid, Marquez on a hard-hard Michelin tyre combination, Pedrosa on medium-medium, fought their way forward to take the squad’s seventh double podium of the season.
The race got off to a dramatic start, with poleman Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) quickly passed by the fast-starting Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team), as the Ducati man led into the first corner and took the race to the rest of the field.
The Ducati racer led for the next 15 of the 23-lap race, with Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) – who was returning to competitive racing action just 24-days after breaking his right leg in two places – all in close contention.
Lorenzo came under scrutiny from Marquez, before the reigning world champion made his move on lap-16. Once in the lead Marquez pushed all the way to the line and finished almost a second ahead of his nearest rival, a result that increased his championship lead to 16-points.
Pedrosa made his way from sixth on the grid – setting the fastest lap of the race in the process – to follow his team-mate home, and once he had created enough heat in the tyres he was able to produce fast laps and push his way towards the front of the field. Lorenzo made up the trio of riders on the podium as he steered his machine to third. The choice of Michelin compounds was certainly evident on the podium as soft, medium, and hard rear versions were used by the top-three collectively.
Pole-setter Viñales was the next across the line after the top-three, following a spirited fight with his team-mate Rossi. Sixth – and the first independent rider – went to Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), as he equalled his best result of the season so far. Dovizioso came home in seventh to consolidate his second position in the championship, with Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) in eighth. Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) took ninth and strengthened his lead in the Independent and Rookie of the Year title chases. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) rounded out the top-ten.
Marquez’s 60th career win is also his fifth this year and his ninth podium of the season (the seventh out of the last eight races), helping him to pull a small gap of 16 points over Andrea Dovizioso and 28 points over Maverick Viñales, his two closest pursuers in the title chase.
Marquez said: “I’m very very happy with this victory because it was a tough race. Yesterday I wasn’t feeling totally comfortable with the bike, and today I was struggling again except in the warm-up; I don’t really know why. Anyway, racing at one of my favourite tracks, close to my home and in front of my fans, gave me extra motivation. I pushed hard and in some corners I just clicked the off-button in my head, even if I crashed twice yesterday. I saw that Viñales and Dovi were struggling a bit and knew it was the moment to push, so I did.
“There were a few scary moments, once when I was trying to overtake Valentino; he was tighter in that corner than I was expecting, and to avoid a clash I released the brakes, only to realise that Lorenzo was right there. So I went off the track, and at that moment I cooled down a bit, even if I continued to try and close the gap. Once I passed Lorenzo, I had to keep going as I saw that Dani was coming very fast. Anyway, that’s the Marquez style. Of course it’s important to think of the championship, but the situation now requires that we give it everything. So we’ll try to continue with the same motivation and mentality race by race, giving our 100 per cent.”
Andrea Dovizioso scores a fantastic win in the Austrian Grand Prix to move into second place in the championship. Jorge Lorenzo had a good race to finish fourth
Ducati factory rider Andrea Dovizioso produced a spectacular ride to keep his championship ambitions alive at the Red Bull Ring circuit near Spielberg, fending off an attacking Marc Marquez to take the win in a sensational last lap duel.
The Italian rider, who started from the front row of the grid after going second quickest in qualifying, rode a tactical race to always stay in the leading group, carefully managing his tyres before taking the lead on Lap 18.
Dovizioso was then passed by Marquez but was back in the lead again on Lap 22 and he held on to that position until the chequered flag, despite a sensational last-ditch attempt by the Spanish rider in the final corner.
Thanks to the 25 points’ haul for the win, his third of the season, Dovizioso has moved into second place in the overall championship standings, reducing the gap from leader Marquez to just 16 points.
Dovizioso said: “It was a crazy race, but to be honest the whole weekend was incredible, and in particular the final curve of the last lap, but I managed to remain clear headed and was aware that Marquez was going to try and pass me.
“It was a very difficult situation because if Marquez had closed the door coming out of the corner, he would have forced me out and passed me. Instead I was able to resist his attack and I went on to win! I’m very satisfied with the way we managed the entire weekend with my team: understanding the right choice of tyres was really difficult but we did it.
“We had a great race, we’re making up points in the championship, and we’ve got all the right cards to fight for the title.”
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez took a back-to-back victory at Brno in challenging conditions, his third this year and the 58th in his career, extending his championship lead to 14 points over his closest follower.
It was the fifth flag-to-flag race that Marquez has perfectly mastered thanks to a mix of tactics and determination – on this occasion the Spaniard found himself struggling soon after the lights went off, having fitted a soft rear tyre that he wasn’t at ease with on a drying track.
He was the first to roll the dice and pitted on Lap Two, where his team was ready with his second bike fitted with slick tyres. That allowed him to pull a huge gap on his opponents, which he managed until the chequered flag.
Team-mate Pedrosa was also on form and secured a strong second place, bringing his career podium tally to 150 (and his MotoGP podium tally to 109, one more than Jorge Lorenzo) – Pedrosa switched to his second bike on Lap Four and re-entered the race in eighth position. He immediately started riding at a very fast pace, fighting his way forward to second and setting the fastest lap of the race along the way.
Maverick Viñales finished third on the Factory Yamaha, one place ahead of his team-mate Valentino Rossi with Cal Crutchlow rounding out the top five on the LCR Honda.
The all-Spanish rostrum was a fitting way to honour the “Maestro” Angel Nieto, 12+1 World Champion, who passed away on Thursday.
Marquez said: “This was a very special Sunday because everyone was racing for Angel Nieto, but it was also a very challenging race. On the grid, I took the risk to use the soft rear tyre because I thought it would give me extra grip for five laps before pitting to change bikes, but it didn’t go like that.
“I soon started to struggle a lot and lost many positions. When I saw that, I decided to immediately get in and take the risk of the slicks. When I re-joined the race, honestly it was still too damp in some parts and I nearly crashed during the first lap out. When you go out for the flag-to-flag, it’s so difficult to get the feeling with the bike again, but I tried to quickly understand the grip.
“Honestly, today I took some risks but it was one of those days when you just have to do it. After pulling a great gap, I just tried to manage, to ride well, and to finish the race. I’m really very happy with the result. It’s a track I normally struggle at, one I worry about every year, and getting 25 points was very important. The Championship is still very, very tight; we must be able to be fast in every condition.”
Jake Dixon claimed pole position for the RAF Reserves Kawasaki team with an inch perfect Superpole qualifying to win the one lap shootout for the first time at the high-speed Thruxton circuit in Hampshire.
The battle had been intense to make the top nine for the final stage of qualifying but first up was John Hopkins who headed out for Superpole with the Moto Rapido Ducati team for the first time this season. The American set a benchmark time of 1m:15.670s, which was slower than his time in Q2.
Jason O’Halloran was next to be released for his flying lap and the Australian fired the Honda Racing Fireblade ahead by 0.171s to hit the top spot with defending champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne up next.
The Be Wiser Ducati rider went to the top of the times with his Superpole flying lap, but clearly frustrated, Byrne didn’t stay there for long as his rivals rolled out for their attack on a Superpole time.
Tyco BMW’s Christian Iddon was ready to roll next and he moved ahead of Byrne by 0.413s to become the first rider to dip into the 1m:14s lap times in the final stage of qualifying – something that all nine of the Superpole riders achieved in Q2.
Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha’s Josh Brookes was next and the Australian had been the pace setter in the final free practice session this morning. Brookes fired himself ahead of his rivals by 0.524s with Iddon in second and Byrne in third place.
Smiths Racing BMW’s Peter Hickman has been in contention throughout free practice and he didn’t disappoint in qualifying as he moved second and 0.401s adrift of Brookes who maintained the top position.
The sole JG Speedfit Kawasaki headed out on track in the hands of Leon Haslam as Luke Mossey remains sidelined after his free practice three crash, but it was a disaster for the ‘Pocket Rocket’ as he crashed out at the chicane unhurt leaving him ninth on the grid.
Dixon was the penultimate rider to head out for his flying lap and the RAF Reserves Kawasaki rider kept his cool to launch himself ahead of Brookes and Hickman with only Dan Linfoot left to take on Superpole.
Linfoot’s flying lap put him sixth on the timesheets ahead of tomorrow’s two races at Thruxton.
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Thruxton, Datatag Qualifying result:
1. Jake Dixon (RAF Reserves Kawasaki) 1m:14.052s
2. Josh Brookes (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha) +0.204s
3. Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) +0.605s
4. Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW) +0.728s
5. Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +1.141s
6. Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) +1.216s
7. Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +1.387s
8. John Hopkins (Moto Rapido Ducati) +1.618s
9. Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki)
This is the bike many fans have been waiting for, and its debut has certainly generated a lot of headlines. Lagging badly behind in WSBK, the 2017 Fireblade has also had a shocker on the road racing front – a stuck throttle saw John McGuinness lose control of his Fireblade at the NW200, with the veteran crashing out of the Superbike practice session and breaking his leg in the process. And then team-mate Guy Martin suffered a fast crash at the TT after finding a ‘box full of neutrals’ on the racebike, an incident which ultimately led to the Lincolnshire maverick quitting the team. Yet Motorcycle News awarded it best in class in its litre bike review earlier in the year, so it can’t be that bad surely? We spent a week with one to see how bad – or good – it really is.
This is the stock Fireblade, a bike which costs some £4,000 less than the SP.
The bike has the same engine, the same electronics and a similar chassis to its more expensive sibling, but there are some crucial differences – the standard Blade gets a steel tank, Showa Big Piston Forks, Tokico monoblocks and there’s also an optional quickshifter.
The big news is that the Fireblade has finally been dragged into the digital age and now features a ride by wire throttle, ride lean sensitive traction control, power modes, engine brake assist, wheelie control and cornering ABS as standard.
Twist the key and you’re greeted with a trick full-colour TFT liquid crystal dash which looks exactly the same as that used on the exotic and ultra-rare RCV. It’s right up there with the best and automatically adjusts to ambient light. There are three display modes; Street, Circuit and Mechanic. Street mode displays riding modes and the settings for power, traction control, selectable engine braking and suspension. Circuit mode adds a lap timer, number of laps and difference from the best lap, while Mechanic mode displays the digital tacho, gear position, grip angle, coolant temperature and battery voltage. Then there’s the other information such as instantaneous and average fuel economy, trip fuel consumption, average speed and it even shows the amount of fuel still remaining after the reserve light comes on. Like we said, it’s very trick and oozes quality, giving the Blade that proper ‘factory’ feel.
On the move it becomes obvious that the tweaks made to the engine have resulted in the bike lacking useful, potent grunt where you need it most – low down and in the midrange. Yes, it’s quick, without boasting the outright speed of its rivals, but you have to make the engine sing to make any progress. You’ll have to work the throttle much harder to compensate for the lack of midrange, and you’ll either love that or hate it. Either way, it’s a more involving ride than the older Blades and the linear delivery means you can now you can use all of the Blade’s power.
Unfortunately, the Euro 4 compliant exhaust doesn’t help the dynamic riding experience. It sounds muted at low speeds. Yes, it’s still got that Honda roar when feed her gears, but the tone doesn’t tug at your heart strings and urge you to open her up.
It’s not as comfortable as the model it replaces either. I’m 6’2in tall, quite lanky, and the bike feels small. It may share the same ergonomics as its predecessor, but it feels really thin. It feels more like a 600 than a thou’, and the small fairing is pretty ineffective at keeping the elements away from me.
That narrowness works in the bike’s favour once you get to the twisties. It’s so easy to ride, effortless even, and carves its way through corners with impunity. The front gives lots of feedback, and it feels planted. This feeling of control is enhanced by the full Showa suspension set-up, which does a good job of dealing with the worst the county’s roads can throw at us. And if you do need to bring things to a halt, the brakes work – they’re not savage or sharp, but they’re good enough.
And what of the dreaded false neutrals? I’m not going to lie, I experienced a few in our time together. What’s more disconcerting is the iffy throttle response – it’s hard to gauge. Sometimes it’s silky smooth, other times it’s hesitant. There’s no rhyme nor reason either – it is what it is.
Parked up at Cadwell Park I remove my helmet, grab a drink at the café, and come back to the bike and reflect on the last five days with the bike. It’s pretty enough to look at, and as you’d expect there’s plenty of the quality you’d expect of a Honda. The panels fit, the paint looks gorgeous and it really suits the bike’s lines. So it’s a looker, and it very much looks like the finished article.
But on the road, it doesn’t feel so polished. Yes, the ride is good, and yes it turns in nicely, really nicely, but it’s missing any real ‘wow’ factor. The word I keep coming back to is ‘alright’. It feels alright. Nice. Yes, it’s capable, but it lacks the sense of occasion of its rivals. It feels very much like a work in progress, which in turns makes this an expensive bike. A bike which promises much, but ultimately flatters to deceive. And that’s a shame.
These tyres are mind blowingly good, so good in fact that I’m still struggling to get my head around just how exceptional they are.
The tyres you see here – a soft front and an endurance compound – have just come back from three hot days on track at Jerez, and their performance is simply staggering around the circuit’s 2.75 miles of gloriously fast straights, late apex technical twists and turns.
Scrubbing in takes just one lap, and they have so much grip I’m able to push hard straight away around every single one of the 13 corners. I don’t use tyre warmers, but these tyres allow me to stay with – and ride past – those riders who are.
Once they’re up to working temperature they’re superb; they’re stable and offer supreme levels of confidence inspiring grip. And the amount of heat they generate and retain is astounding.
What did become clear as the day progressed is that they’re sensitive to pressures, and will quickly tear if over or under inflated. I thought they were cold tearing initially, but the opposite was true, and once I’d adjusted the pressure they responded straight away and came back to me.
They’re also incredibly durable. I went faster than I’ve ever been and after three blisteringly hot days on track they’re still good, despite having covered some 450 hard miles.