Top Flight Racing returns With a BangArmani
Praise be to, well, anything you like really, because top flight racing is back after four long, boring months of race reruns (or boxsets). Better yet, we don’t have to wait long at all before we get more of the good stuff!
It was certainly an interesting weekend of racing at Losail for the opening round of the MotoGP season, with last lap drama and heartache, new top speed records and a British winner to boot. All in all, a pretty decent and exciting few days of biking action.
While John McPhee was unceremoniously dumped out of a great position in Moto3 by an errant rival, in the less hectic arena of Moto2 Sam Lowes made good on his impressive practice performances with a hard fought but reasonably comfortable victory. Really, this should be Sam’s year, given the other best class alums from 2020 have all moved up with the big boys. There’s always the elephant in the room with Sam though, which is the crashing. Rather a lot it.
His speed has never really been in doubt, and it’s always been ultra-hard to criticise him because he’s such a decent, affable fellow. But the fact remains it’s been crashing (or the odd spot of bad luck) that’s stopped him from clinching a Moto2 crown, a series he’s now raced in for a very long time. Yet his win, the manner of it, was an extremely mature one and we wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a repeat this coming weekend, although perhaps a closer one, as Remy Gardner looks fabulous on that KTM. Also worthy for a shout out was Jake Dixon claiming seventh place despite carrying a rider debilitating injury, plus multiple AMA champion Cameron Beaubier just missing the top ten on his debut.
Meanwhile, diners at the top MotoGP table provided an intense debate for the most part, with the lead swapped about dramatically and no clear winner until the last few laps. Sadly we were to be denied a photo-finish by the brilliance of Maverick Vinales as he put the hammer down and cleared off. He has a point to prove, seeing as his speed is both evident and proven, but he has also appeared to be his own worst enemy for the majority of his MotoGP career. With an as fast (or often faster) team-mate in Fabio Quatararo, who has also coincidentally revealed he can get a bit loose in the noggin too, he needs to stamp his authority in Team Yamaha. Well, he did just that, while other aquamarine Yamahas floundered.
Franco Morbidelli had a technical issue with his holeshot device which hampered him throughout, while new team-mate Valentino Rossi managed to salvage twelfth after dropping as low as sixteenth. It used to be podiums he was salvaging, but his 2020 woes have followed him with a continuing lack of being able to retain or manage grip from the rear Michelin. Okay, first race of the year, next weekend could be different because of who he is. But 2020 was a truly horrible year for him, with five DNFs (including three in a row), a last two results mirroring this weekend’s and a final finishing position of fifteenth. Ouch…
Even his detractors probably wouldn’t begrudge the old warhorse one last glory, but if this poor form continues, do you really want to watch the most popular rider in history fading away so unceremoniously? Even old arch rival Max Biaggi managed to go out on top as a champion, albeit over in World Superbikes (WSB), so another poor year might just be too much for most of us to take! Nobody really wants him to stop racing, or leave MotoGP, but all good things come to an end eventually. No, he can’t be discounted from pulling one more miracle from his VR branded bag, but there is an intriguing possibility that will likely never come to pass, but sure is fun to speculate about.
Say his average results continue over the first few rounds. WSB doesn’t start till May, and there is one young Turkish superstar already there with the desire to push beyond the limit. Rather than propping up the order, imagine a swap twixt Vale and Toprak Razgatioglu. Rossi gets a fresh start and takes it to Jonathan Rea, while also allowing his best chance of going out on top, maybe with that elusive tenth world crown finally in his grasp? Okay, okay, never going to happen!
Other notable points were defending champion Joan Mir leaving things a little too late to be able to overcome the sheer speed of the Ducatis, but otherwise showing well, while Jack Miller yet again suffered a lack of grip from mid-race, an ongoing issue he really needs to learn how to work around if he’s to deliver Ducati a title.
However, despite all, this is just round one and it’s also racing, meaning anything can happen and anybody can turn things upside down from one weekend to the next. Bring it on!
#StaySafe, #StayAlert, #StayPositive and keep washing those hands (yes, it’s still important!).