At the Barcelona round of MotoGP – or to give it its full title, the 'Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya' – title sponsors Monster Energy are to unveil a new flavor of their product, called 'The Doctor', marketed around Valentino Rossi. This is not a particularly unusual event at a MotoGP weekend. Almost every race there is a presentation for one product or another, linking in with a team, or a race, or a factory. If anything, the presentation of the Monster Energy drink is even more typical than most, featuring motorcycle racing's marketing dynamite Valentino Rossi promoting an energy drink, the financial backbone of the sport.
It is also a sign of the deep trouble in which motorcycle racing finds itself. Energy drinks are slowly taking over the role which tobacco once played, funding teams, riders and races, and acting as the foundation on which much of the sport is built. Red Bull funds three MotoGP rounds, a Moto3 team and backs a handful of riders in MotoGP and World Superbikes. Monster Energy sponsors two MotoGP rounds, is the title sponsor of the Tech 3 MotoGP squad, a major backer of the factory Yamaha squad and has a squadron of other riders which it supports in both MotoGP and World Superbike paddocks. Then there's the armada of other brands: Gresini's Go & Fun (a peculiar name if ever there was one), Drive M7 backing Aspar, Rockstar backing Spanish riders, Relentless, Burn, and far too many more to mention.
Why is the massive interest in backing motorcycle racing a bad thing? Because energy drinks, like the tobacco sponsors they replace, are facing a relentless onslaught to reduce the sale and marketing of the products. A long-standing ban of the sale of Red Bull – though strangely, only Red Bull – was struck down in France in 2008. Sale of energy drinks to under-18s has been banned in Lithuania. Some states and cities in the US are considering age bans on energy drink consumption. And perhaps more significantly, the American Medical Association has been pushing for a ban on marketing energy drinks to minors, a call which resulted in leaders in the industry being called to testify in front of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee of the US Senate.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races at Mugello:
One circuit, three races, all of them utterly different in nature. The wide, flowing layout with a long straight, fast corners, and multiple combinations of turns present very different challenges to Grand Prix racing's three different classes. For Moto3, escape is impossible, the race coming down to tactics and the ability to pick the right slipstream. In Moto2, it is possible to get away, but it's equally possible to chase an escaped rider down. And in MotoGP, the fast flicks make it possible to both defend attacks and launch your own counter attack. Mugello is a wonderful circuit, and it served up a spectacular portion of racing on Sunday.
We had expected Moto3 to be the race of the day, as it has been every Grand Prix this season. It certainly did not disappoint, but by the time the last few laps of the MotoGP race rolled around, we had forgotten all about Moto3. The Moto3 race was fantastic entertainment, but the MotoGP race at Mugello was one for the ages. The kind of race that fans will bring up over and over again, one to go along with Barcelona 2009, Laguna Seca 2008, even Silverstone 1979.
It took the return of the real Jorge Lorenzo to light a fire under the MotoGP race. Lorenzo had been looking stronger and stronger all weekend, and was coming to a track where he has previously dominated, and with tires which, he had been told, were identical to last year. Lorenzo's punishing cardio workout schedule now back on track and paying dividends. The fitness he lost when three operations during the off season forced him to abandon his normal training schedule cost him dearly.
Jack Miller has been handed two penalty points for his last-lap clash with Alex Marquez, which caused Miller, Marquez and Bastianini to crash. The Red Bull KTM rider made a very late lunge up the inside of the leading group at Scarperia, but clipped the back of Miguel Oliveira's Mahindra, which forced him to stand the bike up and into the path of Alex Marquez. Marquez ran into the back of Miller, and the two riders fell, taking out Enea Bastianini with them.
After the incident, Miller accepted full blame for the crash. 'I went in there a little bit too aggressive, trying to overtake too many people at once,' Miller said. 'There was a bit of room there, and I went for it, but Oliveira closed the door. I touched his rear tire, stood it up and almost had it, then Marquez ran in to me from behind. It was completely my fault.'
Full Recap and Results Below:
2014 Mugello Saturday Round Up: Signs Of Marquez' Weakness, The Importance Of Equipment, And The Rocketship Ducati
Knowing that not everyone is in a position to watch qualifying and races when they are live, we try to operate a no-spoilers policy for at least a few hours after the event. No results in headlines, nor on the MotoMatters Twitter feed. But as the mighty motorcycle racing Twitter personality SofaRacer put it today, ' I know you don't like to Tweet spoilers David. But 'Márquez on pole' and 'Márquez wins' technically, erm, aren't.' To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Marc Marquez took his sixth pole of the season, and his seventh pole in a row on Sunday. Marquez remains invincible, even at what he regards as his worst track of the year.
His advantage is rather modest, though. With just 0.180 seconds over the man in second place – the surprising Andrea Iannone – it is Marquez' smallest advantage of the season, if we discount Qatar, where he was basically riding with a broken leg. You get the sense that Marquez is holding something back, almost being cautious, after being bitten several times by the track last year, including a massive crash in free practice and then sliding out of the race. It makes him almost vulnerable for the first time. His race pace is still fast, but he has others – Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, even the Ducatis of Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso – all on roughly the same pace.
Full Recap and Results Below:
Alex Marquez has taken advantage of the much welcomed Saturday morning sunshine to pick up where he left off on Friday and top the timesheets for Moto3's third Free Practice session at Mugello. Marquez' blistering time was over a second quicker than he could manage yesterday and signified the improvement in grip that the warm morning conditions had allowed. Efren Vazquez wasn't far behind at all, the fellow Spaniard finished a mere one hundredth of a second behind Marquez and over half a second clear of Brad Binder in third.
Jack Miller had to settle for the fourth fastest time and cut a visibly frustrated figure throughout, the Championship leader struggled to deal with scheming slip streamers and his inability to stay calm likely cost him outright speed in the end. Isaac Vinales rounded out the top five ahead of Mahindra's Miguel Oliveira and RTG Honda rider John McPhee while Alex Rins, Niklas Ajo and Jakub Kornfeil completed the top ten.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Mugello:
Alex Marquez has headed the field in second Free Practice for the Moto2 class at Mugello, registering a time of 1:58.713. He ended the session a microscopic one thousandth of a second ahead of a much improved (compared to FP1) Romano Fenati and Championship leader Jack Miller, who posted the third quickest time and was only a further seven hundredths behind. Juanfran Guevara continued his surprisingly strong start to the weekend and finished up in fourth followed by Francesco Bagnaia, Miguel Oliveira, Niklas Ajo and Isaac Vinales.
Mahindra's Brad Binder claimed the ninth fastest time ahead of Efren Vazquez, who was predictably the fastest rider through the speed traps, but has some work to do to piece together an outright lap time. The session was brought to a premature conclusion when, with seven minutes remaining, the persistent gloomy cloud coverage produced a smattering of light rain around the circuit. The unpredictable weather thus far could prove a decisive factor in the days ahead. Added to this; the fact that the top eighteen riders were covered by less than a second means that the Moto3 class will surely be the one to watch come race day.
Estrella Galicia Honda rider Alex Rins has topped the time sheets at the conclusion of the first Moto3 practice session with a time of 1:58.757. The Spaniard managed the cloudy and cool conditions expertly to finish two tenths clear of Championship leader Jack Miller and teammate Alex Marquez. Efren Vazquez made it three Spaniards and three Hondas in the top four, posting the fourth fastest time, some three tenths behind Marquez.
The Mahindra pairing of Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira claimed fifth and sixth positions respectively ahead of the first local rider Niccolo Antonelli. Mapfre Aspar rider Juanfran Guevara ended in eigth place while the home-town duo of Francesco Bagnaia and Romano Fenati made it three Italians in the top ten.
Previews of the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams: