This MotoGP season continues to get more and more ridiculous. In any other vacuum, Enea Bastianini winning a MotoGP race would be absolutely stratospheric. But with how 2022 has played out so far, it’s just: “Hey, that’s cool”. But when Aleix Espargaro wins a Grand Prix last week, it puts everything else wacky into perspective. And I’d argue he wasn’t the most interesting thing about this race. Let’s get into it.
The Beast Is Back
When Enea Bastianini won in Qatar, I think it would have been understandable to have gotten swept up in the shock and emotion of it all. This, this hit different. But in a good way. This was validation that Qatar was no fluke. Enea Bastianini might be a genuine title contender.
Of all the fleet of Ducatis at the front of the field, Enea managed his race perfectly. Followed the lead of Jack Miller who set the pace, upped it to get to the front and then slammed the door in his face when Miller tried to come back. Like Qatar, he broke the all-time lap record here TWICE over the course of the 20 laps. His management of the rear tyre just as Miller’s was fading at the end was what got him over the line and he was essentially flawless in a race that was ran at an incredible pace – 18 seconds faster than last year’s version.
So, leaving COTA, the MotoGP World Championship leader is a 24 year old, second-year rider. Who’s on last year’s Ducati GP21. Riding for an independent team in its infancy, who until this year, hadn’t won since 2006. Dethroning the man who had his 1st win on his 200th start, on an Aprilia. What the fuck is this season, seriously?!
The Real King of COTA
Just when you think Marc Marquez had run out of ways to captivate us as an audience, he goes and does THAT.
Let’s not play down what Marc was facing coming into this race. He’d missed two rounds due to concussion and double vision. He was out of shape having forced to rest after Indonesia (He openly admitted he was physically exhausted with 5 laps to go). He’s still rather unfamiliar with the 2022 Honda in terms of runtime compared to Pol Espargaro. And then his bike is flashing up with error messages at the start, which bogged his engine down off the line to the point he was a clear last through Turn 1.
He finished sixth. SIXTH. I mean, WHAT?!
This is the most competitive field in the history of MotoGP. We’ve had 10 different men on the podium since the season began. I’d argue this is the most competitive field in ALL of mainstream Motorsport. He finished 6.6 seconds off the win, briefly broke his own lap record from 2014, and carved his way through over half the field to do it. This man is simply not human.
There is no more entertaining single man in all of Motorsport. Dorna leaned into it, having Marquez’s onboard on the timing tower for over half the race. They knew we were potentially witnessing something special, and it was. It’s a darn shame that faulty tech on the Honda let down would could have been their first win of the year, but in the grand scheme of things, it could do Marquez a lot of good in the long run to see him running frontline pace again, signature track or not.
And the last man he passed, and beat for 6th? Fabio Quartararo, the reigning World Champion. From the back of the field. Heck of a statement.
Look, there’s no getting around it – Ducati’s factory team got embarrassed again by Bastianini’s brilliance. Right now the GP21 is a better, smoother, easier to ride machine than whatever the factory’s hybrid 2022 setup is. And even Jorge Martin on the full-bodied GP22 has been better this season overall. That’s bad enough for them, but now they could be in a real pickle for talent.
Now I’m saving a few of my thoughts for a silly season piece next week, but look at the situation. Jack Miller hardly disgraced himself with a great 2nd place this weekend… but he was beaten by Enea. A week ago, Miller had one of his worst MotoGP weekends in Argentina when he didn’t pass a single rider on track and limped home in 14th. Bastianini has 2 wins on the season, and Martin only just missed out on Argentina, and has 2 pole positions.
Ducati might struggle to keep them both under the books. I’m glad Simon Patterson for The Race asked the hard question about a possible demotion back to Pramac for “Jackass”, and Jack essentially said he was open to it if it meant he stayed on the grid, given he’s a free agent in November. Now I think the easiest solution to this problem would be just swapping Miller for Martin, and maybe letting Johann Zarco go for Enea Bastianini…
…But if someone else came knocking, could Ducati keep both under their privateer wings? Because Enea and Jorge in my opinion, are factory level riders RIGHT NOW and if Ducati don’t capitalise on that, someone else will.
What a war of attrition Moto2 was eh? Celestino Vietti and Aron Canet, the two best riders this season, both fall in the snake complex and blew massive chances to whack a body blow in their rivals’ title chances. As did Pedro Acosta, who missed a golden chance of a Top 5 finish. And Somkiat Chantra playing skittles with Sam Lowes was brutal. Very lucky he ONLY got a long lap penalty for it. And then Cam Beaubier at home binning it with four corners left in 4th… Brutal.
But a wholesome podium for sure with Tony Arbolino’s first win, Ai Ogura’s smart ride for 2nd, and Jake Dixon finally getting his first GP podium. Dixon’s genuinely one of the most likeable people in bike racing, and if you haven’t seen his recent BT Sport interview with Neil Hodgson where he openly talks about his struggles and mental health, it’s well worth a watch. I think it’s impossible not to root for this man.
Dennis Foggia’s going to have a bright future in GP racing. A difficult weekend for sure, he had to come from as low as 12th, up to 2nd, and had a half-decent chance at a final corner lunge for the win on Jaume Masia. But he turned it down, knowing Sergio Garcia had already crashed earlier on, and there was multiple crashes at Turn 20 in that race. In a sport known for carnage, Foggia played the percentages. A good sign.
And finally, it’s a bit embarrassing for everyone involved within MotoGP that it took this long for Ukraine to get acknowledged on a broadcast beyond the rather generic softball “United for Peace” message. Alex Rins is one of the good ones. Well done to him and the COTA Marshals.