2014 Sachsenring Saturday MotoGP Round Up - Marquez On Pole, Silly Season Shenanigans, And The Dangers Of Skipping Moto2

After he missed out on pole at Barcelona, and then again at Assen, people were starting to wonder if cracks were starting to appear in Marc Marquez's hegemony in MotoGP. His performance in qualifying may have faltered, but his reign remained intact when it counted, winning the first eight races in a row. On Saturday, Marquez hammered home his supremacy once again, taking pole by three tenths of a second – an eternity at the short and tight German circuit – and breaking Casey Stoner's pole record for the circuit from 2008, a record set on super-sticky qualifying rubber, tires which disappeared with the introduction of the spec tire a year later. Once again, Marquez moved the bar, posting the first ever sub 1'21 lap of the Sachsenring.

It was a goal he suspected was possible when he posted a 1'21.5 on used tires during FP4. Already fast on his first run, everything slotted into place on his second, and the new record was his. "I felt everything was perfect with the second tire, and I could get the record," Marquez said. His seventh pole of the season also sets him up to retain his perfect win record on Sunday. Starting on the front row is crucial at the Sachsenring. The track is tight, and passing places are few and far between. Starting from pole, especially for a relatively poor starter like Marquez, gives him a head start for tomorrow's race.

So who can challenge Marquez on Sunday? The list of candidates is short. There is of course his teammate, Dani Pedrosa always having been fast here at the circuit. Pedrosa post a fast lap on his first qualifying run, and looked set to improve it as he exited the pits for his second attempt. He was perhaps a little too eager, however, and the Repsol Honda man folded the front going into Turn 1 just as he started his second flying lap. "I think I hit a bump under braking," Pedrosa said. His race pace throughout practice was good, but could not match the pace of Marquez.

Jorge Lorenzo believes he has a strong race pace, perhaps the second strongest behind Marquez. "I think we are a little bit slower than Marc, but we have the second race pace," Lorenzo said. His job would have been considerably easier if he had started from the front row, but he had a problem with the second soft tire he used during qualifying. "The second tire we put in was much worse than the first one," Lorenzo said. He tried to improve his lap time, but he gained only hundredths, rather than the two or three tenths he had been hoping for, and which would have put him on the front row.

Lorenzo is looking strong at the Sachsenring, but he is still not happy with the 2014 Bridgestone tires, especially during qualifying. "As soon as I want to open the throttle a bit more, or be a bit more aggressive, the rear starts spinning and I cannot make a good drive in acceleration," Lorenzo told reporters. "When I am smooth, and in my race pace, it's not so bad, but as soon as I want to open a bit more and make a lap time, I have this spinning." This is the reason Lorenzo has not qualified as well this year as he did last year, he believes. And starting from the second row leaves him with more work to do than if he can start from the front row.

Lorenzo wasn't the only rider to suffer with the tires, however. Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi also had a problem with his second tire during qualifying. "Fortunately, I did quite a good lap with the first tire," he said. But the second tire had no grip at all, and he could not improve his time. The good news for Rossi was that he could now use the medium front tire, which is likely to be the tire he will want to use in the race. On Friday, he had been forced to use the hard tire, as the riders only had three of the medium fronts. The layout of the Sachsenring, where the bikes spend a lot of time on the left-hand side means that the right-hand side of the tire cools off quickly. On the harder front tire, the right-hand side of the tire never really gets up to temperature, unless the track temperatures are very high. So far this weekend, with high winds and a mix of clouds, sunshine and even scattered showers, that just hasn't happened.

The weather may have intervened and ruined FP4 for the crowds – rain started falling at the end of Moto3 qualifying, intensifying afterward and leaving the track wet for the start of the MotoGP session – Stefan Bradl soon lifted their spirits. The German has been riding very strongly at his home Grand Prix, and a front row start was just reward for his effort, and the efforts of his team. Bradl was astounded by the support. "People are really emotional and were supporting me very well," he told the press conference. "For me it is a bit strange, MotoGP not so important in Germany, just this area where they love it. Where I live in the south it's not so important."

Bradl really needs to top his weekend off with a strong result in the race. It is no secret that his position at LCR Honda is under threat, with Honda considering withdrawing support. But Lucio Cecchinello is very keen on Bradl, and would like to keep Bradl for next year. "Lucio's first choice is to keep me in the team and my first choice is to stay in the team," Bradl said. "Of course you all know that we got supported by HRC and at the end, they also have to agree. I think they are still waiting for some performance, that's clearly their answer. I can understand that. That's my focus at the moment, just to show a good performance and the rest, I don't know."

Who would replace Bradl? Rumors continue to circulate that Dorna would like Jack Miller to take his place, moving straight up from Moto3 and into MotoGP. Dorna need a fast and attractive Australian to help sell the TV rights to the series in a country which remains an important market for the sport, and the Spanish organization has taken a keen interest in Miller's contract situation with Marc VDS Racing. That is still unresolved, despite a press release from the Belgian team claiming they have a binding contract with the Australian for the next two seasons. Asked about the situation during the front row press conference, Miller skirted around the subject. "[I have] no contract. Not binding, anyway," he said. "You know about as much as I do, I have no idea where I'm going next year." It was all in the hands of his manager, Aki Ajo, who also manages the Red Bull KTM Ajo team Miller rides for in Moto3.

Would going to straight to MotoGP from Moto3 be a good idea? Marc Marquez was sceptical. "I think from my experience, you need to pass to Moto2," Marquez said. A more gradual approach had more merit, he added. "I have the experience, of crashes in Moto2, then arriving in MotoGP, have the crashes in MotoGP. Maybe if you go to MotoGP you can learn, but you need to go step by step." Miller was quick to display the wit which has endeared him to many fans. "I feel I've had enough crashes already," he joked.

He was more cagey about whether he would actually go to MotoGP or not. "Like Marc said, it's a massive step, but I believe it's a motorbike, and if you can learn on this, then why not? But I don't think it's going to happen." It would be an incredibly risky move, throwing Miller right in at the deep end and leaving him to sink or swim. Jack Miller is clearly one of the greatest talents of his generation, and has the prospect of a long, successful and remunerative career in Grand Prix racing. Moving straight into MotoGP risks putting too much pressure on the Australian at a very young age. If he struggles for too long, he could end up being written off early, and losing his slot in the class. There are precious few second chances in MotoGP, so it is better to try to ensure you get it right first time.

There is no doubting Miller's potential. The Australian secured pole position in the Moto3 class with another display of fast and smart riding. He went out early, laid down a fast lap, and benefited when the rain came halfway through qualifying. The weather gave him a clear advantage over his rivals in the title chase. Alex Marquez sits on the front row alongside Miller, but the Estrella Galicia Hondas of Rins and Marquez have not shown much sign of having the pace to challenge at the Sachsenring. Romano Fenati was the biggest loser from the rain, qualifying way down in 25th. In the past, Fenati has fought his way forward from a long way back, but that is particularly difficult at the Sachsenring.

Moto2 was the big winner when it came to the weather. Qualifying for the intermediate class took place on a dry track without any intervention from the heavens. The session turned out another episode of the internecine war of the Marc VDS Racing team, Mika Kallio coming out on top his teammate Tito Rabat this time. Yet neither man snagged the Tissot watch for pole this time, that prize going to Dominique Aegerter. The Swiss rider has shown very steady progress this year, and while still a very long way behind Kallio and Rabat in the championship, is slowly consolidating his 4th spot in the title race. Aegerter and Simone Corsi have been the men to challenge the Marc VDS riders all weekend, and could well have a say in the outcome of the race. That would be a welcome addition to the intermediate class, as the domination of Kallio and Rabat has left the Moto2 class feeling flat and uninteresting. In years' past, Moto2 was the race of the weekend. This year, it feels more like filler between the breakneck thrills of Moto3, and the racing masterclass of MotoGP.

As the Sachsenring is the last race before the summer break, the pressure is on for a number of riders. That pressure, and the treacherous nature of some parts of the track caught a number of riders out. Cal Crutchlow crashed at Turn 11, in almost a carbon copy of his crash at the same place last year. The big difference is that he was 30 km/h slower through Turn 11 than last year, and still managed to crash. "I am willing to push that little bit harder in what is a very fast corner. But this year, when you don't have confidence with the bike and the bike won't let you do what you want to do with it, it is difficult to go through that corner," Crutchlow said. The fault had been his own, as he didn't have enough of the softer tire, which he needed in the cooler conditions at the Sachsenring.

While Crutchlow has the luxury of knowing he has a two-year contract with Ducati – though it is still not certain he will remain there, or will succumb to the siren call of Suzuki – others are not so lucky. Bradley Smith showed signs of the pressure on him, crashing four times so far in Germany. He has been lucky to escape relatively lightly so far, though he managed to puncture his shin with a footpeg. He remained laconic about the whole affair, saying that fortunately, there are not too many nerves in that area, so he was not in too much pain. He also crashed on the hand he damaged last year at Mugello, but because of the nerve damage he already has there, he doesn't feel much pain there either. Smith can't afford another crash on Sunday, yet he must push for a result if he is to ensure his future.

Will Smith retain his Tech 3 ride? It seems increasingly unlikely. Despite the protestations of Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal, it looks possible that Smith and Aleix Espargaro will do a straight swap next year, with Smith going to Forward and Aleix joining brother Pol at Tech 3. Poncharal likes to say that what MotoGP needs are subjects for the fans to talk about, something to stir the spirits. Racing brothers is a rivalry which would certainly generate a lot of publicity for the team.

What of Aleix on Sunday? The Forward rider heads up the second row after qualifying, and has been fast throughout the weekend. His pace has been strong, and he has posted some fast times on the soft tire available to the Open class teams. Whether he will race that tire or not remains to be seen, but Espargaro believes he can get the tire to last. In the end, tire choice will depend on the weather conditions on Sunday. It looks almost certain to be dry all day, but the question mark is over the temperature, and just how much it heats up.

After he missed out on pole at Barcelona, and then again at Assen, people were starting to wonder if cracks were starting to appear in Marc Marquez's hegemony in MotoGP. His performance in qualifying may have faltered, but his reign remained intact when it counted, winning the first eight races in a row. On Saturday, Marquez hammered home his supremacy once again, taking pole by three tenths of a second – an eternity at the short and tight German circuit – and breaking Casey Stoner's pole record for the circuit from 2008, a record set on super-sticky qualifying rubber, tires which disappeared with the introduction of the spec tire a year later. Once again, Marquez moved the bar, posting the first ever sub 1'21 lap of the Sachsenring.It was a goal he suspected was possible when he posted a 1'21.5 on used tires during FP4. Already fast on his first run, everything slotted into place on his second, and the new record was his. "I felt everything was perfect with the second tire, and I could get the record," Marquez said. His seventh pole of the season also sets him up to retain his perfect win record on Sunday. Starting on the front row is crucial at the Sachsenring. The track is tight, and passing places are few and far between. Starting from pole, especially for a relatively poor starter like Marquez, gives him a head start for tomorrow's race.So who can challenge Marquez on Sunday? The list of candidates is short. There is of course his teammate, Dani Pedrosa always having been fast here at the circuit. Pedrosa post a fast lap on his first qualifying run, and looked set to improve it as he exited the pits for his second attempt. He was perhaps a little too eager, however, and the Repsol Honda man folded the front going into Turn 1 just as he started his second flying lap. "I think I hit a bump under braking," Pedrosa said. His race pace throughout practice was good, but could not match the pace of Marquez.

Comments

Skipping Moto2

I completely understand the argument against skipping Moto 2, and agree for the most part. But I can also understand Miller keeping his options open. If he has an offer to ride a satellite machine in the top class can he really afford to turn down that sort of opportunity? Who knows what might happen in Moto2. Miller doesn't have the backing that someone like Marquez or Rossi had. Maybe this is the best opportunity he'll ever get to go to MotoGP on a good bike. And maybe skipping Moto2 stops him learning some bad riding habits as well?

Total votes: 19

Moto2 habits

I agree that Miller should keep his options open and seize a good opportunity should one come his way...

BUT...

I totally disagree with Moto2 breeding bad habits. If anything it's the opposite, the way that Marquez rides is directly from Moto2. And Bradl, Pol, Redding, etc. It's how to ride in the future, riders need to concentrate on front end grip and let the rear slide into the corner, settle, and choose your line to accelerate out. Learning that on a ~130hp 600cc with no electronics is a lot less dangerous than figuring that shit out on a 250hp GP bike with NASA supercomputers.

As it is, Moto3 bikes are not powerful/fast/heavy enough to do any of that and are still riding wheels in-line like classic two-stroke GP bikes. That's why, as annoying as it is, Miller will probably go to Moto2 first and hopefully get up to GP with a solid manufacturer backing.

Total votes: 22

Is it less dangerous in Moto 2?

There have sadly been deaths in both series over the past decade. And as Marquez demonstrated by crashing 15 times in his rookie year, coming through Moto 2 won't stop you stacking in MotoGP.

Pol will be faster when he's more in control of his corner entry and carrying more speed through I reckon, Marquez is a freak but he's calmed down his corner entry antics slightly from last year and is faster and more consistent. I'm not convinced that Moto2 style lurid slides into the corner are necessarily the way of the future.

But If the step was just too big and Miller had to go back to Moto2 and then got his arse kicked there by a bunch of hard nuts who had already been learning that category for the year he wasted failing in MotoGP his career might be set back anyway. Moto2 with a top team seems like the smart move.

Total votes: 15

Fair point...

Fair point, but still - a lower speed, lighter and more simple bike will have way less kinetic energy released in a crash (for the sake of this point, we're assuming the "crash" is a constant variable here). In a MotoGP bike, the energy released in a crash is brutal. Look at Marquez' slight "mistake" by UPshifting mid corner yesterday, or Bradl's WUP crash at Mugello.

I don't think you need to be Jonas-Folger-loose in Moto2, but getting a feel for sliding the rear by loading the front end on corner entry will pay off handsomely in the Premier Class, and learning to do it on a "lesser" bike (and perhaps more importantly, a much more level playing field) is bound to be both safer and more beneficial. Add to my list in the previous post: Andrea "The Maniac Joe" Iannone. On a bike that is able to turn, he'd be right there with Bradl and Pol (or better) just under the Aliens.

Total votes: 7

To me it was over in FP2.

To me it was over in FP2. After a rather nasty high side in FP1, Marquez went out, in the first couple of minutes in FP2 and put in a scorcher. Laid down the law quick so that nobody got any ideas. No weakness. He's got a half second on everybody.

If he pulls off the half season of every win, then it ranks up there with Colin Edwards in the second half of the WSBK 2002 season. A win tomorrow equals the greatest thing I've ever witnessed in motorcycle racing. And it's only half the season.

Total votes: 24

Marc is making them all look pretty stupid

I'm cheering for anyone else to win at this stage. But this is a Honda track and Pedrosa doesn't seem to have it in him to beat Marc barring some sort of mistake.

Total votes: 14

'a record set on super-sticky qualifying rubber'

It implies that Stoner's lap record from 2008 is not significant because of the tires. By that reasoning Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa should also have been faster in 2008 than 2014. When in fact, they were all slower. How on Earth did Stoner ever manage that lap time on the Ducati?

Total votes: 28

Not significant?

I didn't read that into it. It just gives the reader some historical context and gives an idea of the consequences of the rules on performance and the pace of technological improvement required to subvert the rule limitations.

Completely agree that the performance of Stoner on the Ducati was ridiculous talent - a fact that sadly took many followers and commentators too long to appreciate.

Total votes: 23

Context

Agreed, but you have obviously been following for long enough to make that distinction. The newer readers may not see it with so much clarity.

I recently subscribed to MotoGP and with the access to the video archive it is interesting to watch Stoner's performance in hindsight.

Total votes: 18

Good point

The fact that Stoner was so much faster than his peers really puts his lap time into perspective. He was on the stick, after all...

Total votes: 12

jack miller

well, i for one think he should go straight to the top class, it kind of reminds me of when Kevin Garnett went straight from high school to the National basketball association in the United States. "The move was highly controversial; the conventional wisdom at the time was that high-schoolers were neither emotionally nor physically mature enough for the rigors of the NBA game"(8). Seems sort of similar to Jacks situation of entering the top class. I still like the idea of him going to Ducati and working with Gigi Dall'Igna. Jack could just take his time and learn that bike, maybe with 2016 and all the new changes and the new changes that Gigi is bringing to the ducati, ol jack could be ready for 2016 on a new an improved Ducati GP16. Just my two cents, its fun to think about this sort of stuff.

Sincerely me...Anomalovaho

(8)wikipedia

Total votes: 14

rule changes

I don't think it would make much sense for Miller to enter the top class and learn to ride a bike with tires and electronics which won't be there anymore in 2016.
By the time he has the pace, he would have to start from scratch again. From my perspective, the smartest would be to move to Moto2 to take one of the MarcVDS Kalexes (if he gets one?) next season and try to secure the title. Maybe even in his first season? If he is that good.

Problem is, that for 2016 there won't be too many contracts ending in MotoGP to offer Miller an opportunity to move up. Except for Crutchlow's. If he stays at Ducati for now, that is.

Total votes: 10

Jack should wait another year

If he's that good, he'll dominate the field in Moto 2 and probably secure a reliable ride (read Yamaha or honda) for 2016. At the moment I'm not sure a single team under the factory rules wants or can give Jack a bike for 2015 anyway.

As for betting on Ducati to produce a competitive new bike right from the start, it's a kamikaze move.

Total votes: 14

Lorenzo ducking?

"I think we are a little bit slower than Marc, but we have the second race pace,"

WTF? Since when does a 2x champion enter a race with this mentality? Blame the bike, blame the conditions, but don't start the race saying you are slower than the pole-sitter and owning up to the "second race pace".

I like seeing Marquez win if only for the novelty of the next GOAT, but I still want to see a close race.

Total votes: 24

Rossi's qualifying

I'm beginning to doubt my memory, but I'm sure I saw Rossi do one out lap and then one in lap at the start of QP2, basically wasting 5 minutes of a 15 minute session. What was that all about?

Then he did the short run where he got his 6th place. Then I've seen at least one comment that he went out on a used tyre for his 3rd run. Is this story of a bad tyre glossing over the fact that it was actually an old tyre? Was it actually the tyre he used in the short 1st run that he had already felt to be useless and aborted?

I'm finding it increasingly bizarre that the Yamaha factory team keep making quite basic mistakes in qualifying strategy while the Repsol team just work through the process. Contrast Rossi's comedy of errors with Marquez (mostly!) getting clear track and just going faster and faster through the 15 minutes.

Total votes: 15

Miller won't win moto2

Miller won't win moto2 championship in 2015 with riders like Maverick vinahles,Jonas folger and louis salom, if he does enter moto2 next year !

Total votes: 16

I agree. He is going to find

I agree. He is going to find it difficult to win the title this year. I think he is fast and fairly consistent but to think he could go straight to MotoGp and make a positive impact is delusional from what I have seen of him. I really don't get where all the hype is coming from. Is it just because people hope he is as good as Casey one day? MM was impressive enough in his first year in 125 to catch my eye and by his second season I could tell he was a future MotoGp champ and yet up until very recently ( 3 or 4 races ago) people have posted on this site doubting the guys talent and ability when he has already shown all that needs to be shown. He wins as a rookie and makes the field look a bit silly in the process and yet there are doubters. He has done so many other amazing things on a motorcycle it would be an injustice to try to just list a few of the 'best'. Miller wins a few races and leads in a tight championship and suddenly he is a superstar. Its moto3. Most of the contenders from last year moved up. He has 4 wins in 46 starts. Somebody has to win. Having a good season yes. But a star, far from it at this point.

Total votes: 4

jack miller motogp

Pretty sure that if JM was offered DP's seat at honda HRC, he would sign in a heartbeat

Total votes: 0

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