At Silverstone, Yamaha miracle man Valentino Rossi drew first blood in what has become a seven-race season by taking a wet win over teammate and once-again-arch-rival Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo missed the podium for only the second time since Argentina, the victim of a flaw in his rain game that could hurt him down the line. This week, Lorenzo has an opportunity to grab back some of those 12 points and to get seriously in Rossi’s face, directly in front of his homeys. With all due respect.
Rossi’s home track on the Adriatic Riviera is one of Lorenzo’s favorites – in his seven premier class outings here, Lorenzo has never finished worse than second. It was Rossi who interfered with a four-peat for the Mallorcan last year, as the local boy won in Italy for the first time since 2009, at the same home track, in front of the same home fans, with his signature sense for the dramatic moment – his first win since Assen the previous year. But Rossi had the rain going for him at Silverstone two weeks ago. The forecast for Rimini this weekend is what you might expect from this part of the world – warm and breezy.
To summarize, Rossi has “home” card, 12 points and unworldly race-day pace in his column, while Lorenzo has more outright speed, his favorite track, and a mild desperation in his. Rossi is under less pressure this week than Lorenzo, due to the deficit, which really cannot be permitted to grow much larger than it is now. Had Rossi not won here last year, this would be a must-win weekend for Lorenzo. But he needs do what he’s been able to do here every year since 2008 – finish on the first or second step of the podium. No hill for a climber, as they say. But little room for error, either.
To thicken the plot, add a healthy measure of Marc Marquez with nothing to lose, the dueling Andreas, Dani Pedrosa, another guy with nothing on the line and the Tech 3 studs. If someone like Marquez gets away at the front and leaves Rossi and Lorenzo fighting for second place, there’s an eight-point swing at stake, in addition to those intra-garage bragging rights so vitally important to the crews.
Recent History at San Marino
In 2012, a case of premature acceleration, initiated by a stalled Karel Abraham, caused the race to have to be re-started. This devolved into the Ruinous Jammed Tire Warmer that led Dani Pedrosa, who entered the weekend trailing Lorenzo by 13 points, to his annual perdition, as he was forced by cruel fate alone to start from the last spot on the grid. Less than a lap into the race, Pedrosa got involved with Hectic Hector Barbera, crashing out of the race and the 2012 world championship competition in one appalling moment. Lorenzo took the flag and was joined on the podium by then-Ducati icon Rossi and, of all people, Alvaro Bautista, who had his annual podium that day, flogging his Gresini Honda to a 3/1000ths margin over Tech 3 Yamaha’s seething Andrea Dovizioso.
For Round 13 in 2013, then-rookie Marc Marquez breezed into San Marino leading teammate Dani Pedrosa by 30 points and Lorenzo by 39. Lorenzo gave the crowd one of his patented piston-like performances, taking the lead early, putting his head down, and recording 27 smooth, fast laps, with Marquez unable to get any closer than 3 seconds and second place. As the day ended, Marquez had lost the race but won the war, having increased his lead to 34 points with but five rounds left in the season.
The 2014 GP TIM di San Marino e Della Rivera di Rimini will be remembered locally for a number of pleasant things. The fans got to see their idol, Movistar Yamaha bruiser, Valentino Rossi, win for the first time since Assen in 2013 and for the first time in Italia since San Marino in 2009. They experienced the joy of watching the profoundly irritating Marc Marquez lay down his Repsol Honda going perhaps 60 kph. They saw their national motorcycle, Ducati, place two riders in the top five. All in all, it was a good day to be Italian.
A Few Fun Facts about Misano from MotoGP.com
Yamaha, with six victories, has been the most successful manufacturer in MotoGP since the grand prix series returned to Misano in 2007. Both Ducati and Honda have had a single MotoGP win at the Misano circuit during this period, placing Misano squarely in the “Yamaha-friendly tracks” column.
Dani Pedrosa’s victory in 2010 is the last time that the MotoGP race at Misano was won by a rider starting from pole. If this is news to Valentino Rossi, whose qualifying sessions continue to mystify, it’s good news.
Misano is one of just three circuits where Marc Marquez has not had a win in the MotoGP class, along with Motegi and Phillip Island. I’m pretty sure this is not news to Marquez.
Misano is the only current grand prix circuit where Honda has not taken a single win in the MotoGP class in the last four seasons. I’m also pretty sure this is not news to Livio Suppo.
The most successful rider at Misano since racing returned to the circuit in 2007 is Jorge Lorenzo, with four wins: the 250cc GP in 2007 and MotoGP for the years 2011 through 2013.
Other Fights to Watch
Besides the factory Yamaha cage match, there are a few other good battles taking place farther down in the order. An interesting joust for third place has now developed between Marquez and factory Ducati #1 Andrea Iannone, who sits but nine points behind. I expect Iannone would sell his mother for a chance to beat Marquez for the season… Andrea Dovizioso on the #2 factory Ducati and Bradley Smith on the #1 Monster Tech 3 Yamaha are in a great race for fifth place, separated by only 5 points… Finally, the battle for eighth place percolates, with the suddenly hot Pramac Ducati of Danilo Petrucci now two points in front of Pol Espargaro on the second Tech 3 Yamaha. Additionally, the wildly unpredictable Cal Crutchlow, another seven points behind Espargaro, lurks on his LCR Honda.
Your Weekend Forecast
Weatherwise, the weekend looks great, with temps in the upper 70s and virtually no chance of rain. Trackside, it makes little sense to think about much besides Rossi and Lorenzo; everything else is a sideshow. Marquez will undoubtedly be a factor. If Lorenzo gets away at the start, he could easily recoup most of what he gave away to Rossi in England.
The new iterations of the Ducati Desmosedici have much more in common with the Yamaha YZR-M1 than they do the Honda RC213V. Thus, if a track is considered Yamaha-friendly it must now also be considered Ducati-friendly. In which case, the factory Ducati team could easily place a rider on the podium this weekend. Trying to stay clear of the predicting game while putting my two cents worth on the board, I’ll make a single prediction for Sunday: two Italians on the podium.