GP chickens coming home to roost
World renowned GP reporter Michael Scott strokes his beard and thinks hard about what's really going on in MotoGP. This week he looks at what can be learned from the recent roiund at Brno and, more importantly, what the SIlverstone race will tell us...
The circus comes to town but once a year. There are clowns, elephants, performing animals and a bearded lady. And that’s just in the media centre.
The lion-tamers are on the starting grid; and they are a sight to behold. MCN readers will hardly need reminding that Silverstone hosts the British GP in less than a fortnight. Nor that it could be a pivotal race for the most finely balanced championship battle for years.
After the revelations of Brno – a fifth flawless text-book victory by Lorenzo, a spirited but vain pursuit by Marquez and a flawed Rossi race ruined by a bad start – the landscape has been more clearly defined.
It is not too much to suggest that – cetera parabis (a fancy way of saying: if things remain as they are) – whichever of the three wins at the long, fast and rhythmical Northamptonshire airfield circuit will go on to win the title. And that it will probably be Jorge, in the kind of form he is in, and given that in five visits to Silverstone, he has won three times – 2010, 2012 and 2013.
The Yamaha rider didn’t put a foot wrong at Brno, and it was wonderful (if not actually exciting) to watch him reel off one on-the-limit lap after another over three days of practice, qualifying and racing: accurate, unflappable, and very, very fast. He said it had been a difficult race, but it is the gift of certain riders to make it look easy.
This being racing, and the real world, however, cetera tend not to be parabis; and this is what we must hope for. It is far better to be surprised than it is to get what we think we want.
At Silverstone, this applies most especially to the weather. Rain threatened at Brno, but stayed away. Had it fallen, the race would have been very different. And the pendulum might well have swung the other way, given Jorge’s aversion to bad weather, ever since his nasty bone-breaking crash at Assen in 2013.
There were other lessons to be learned at Brno, of direct relevance to British hopes.
The first was that Bradley Smith continues to mature into very like the real thing. Still only 24, Smith is not just the most successful Briton in MotoGP, he’s the most successful satellite-team rider, qualifying well, starting like a rocket, and finishing races well up in the top 10.
The second, if you didn’t know this already, is that Cal Crutchlow is prone to trying too hard. This is an admirable fault, but a fault nonetheless. Can hurt, too.
The third, that Scott Redding is in a slump. He’s still struggling with the factory Honda, and it’s painful to watch, because he’s better than this. Question is this: is he in the middle of his problems, or are they coming to an end?
In all three cases, the home-race effect could exaggerate these tendencies. For better or worse.
And how about that shining example of British superiority Danny Kent?
At earlier races he and his turquoise Leopard Honda have broken all the rules of the closest class in all acing, head and shoulders above the rest. Two of his three runaway wins have been by record margins, leaving the rest scrapping like sparrows for breadcrumbs.
His maturity was severely tested at Indy when he found himself in the thick of a massive brawl. The tyre-change disaster of Indy apart, seventh was by far his worst score of the season, albeit less than 1.2 seconds off first-time race-winner Antonelli; worse still was that another of those pesky Italian teenagers, Bastianini, was second, again eroding Kent’s title lead. It still stands at 45 points, but the shrinking tendency must be a worry – a couple of races ago it was 66.
Silverstone also encourages close Moto3 racing, but at least last year’s front gang was only four-strong rather than Brno’s nine. For Danny, whose maturity thus far has remained unruffled, the home race will also be an important test.