No. 1014
September 18, 2019
 

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The Line


Monday
Sep162019

SEPTEMBER 18, 2019

(Photo by special AE contributor Whit Bazemore)
Spaniard Marc Marquez (No. 93 Repsol Honda Team) snatched victory on the final lap at the San Marino Grand Prix on Sunday to close in on a sixth world title. It was a third MotoGP win in Misano for Marquez, who finished ahead of Fabio Quartararo (No. 20 Petronas Yamaha SRT) after the French rider led for most of the race. Pole sitter Maverick Viñales (No. 12 Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) completed the podium for Yahama. "At the end I just decided to go for it," said Marquez, who had been pipped at the line at the last two races in Silverstone and the Dutch GP. Five-time world champion Marquez won the 77th Grand Prix of his career in all categories to overtake British legend Mike 'the bike' Hailwood. The 26-year-old has won 51 MotoGP races, 16 Moto2 and ten Moto3. Marquez now has a 93-point lead on Andrea Dovizioso (No. 4 Ducati Team) with six races left this season. Dovizioso finished sixth on Sunday in front of his home crowd. Former seven-time world champion Rossi (No. 46 Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) - who last won in Misano in 2014 - finished fourth in his home race. Watch video highlights (Italian commentary) here

 

Misano and much more.

By Whit Bazemore

The 2019 San Marino Grand Prix (Misano) was significant and memorable for many reasons. Okay, so Marc Marquez won again (his 77th!), but the excitement and suspense en route could be felt even through a television screen.  

First, a little perspective. 

Marc Marquez, the best rider of this generation, has a mega-point lead, and thus has “cruised” to multiple second-place finishes in recent races, opting to intelligently minimize risk and race for points instead. Good for him and good for the guys who “beat” him, but maybe not good for us, as we like a little “Talladega Nights” mixed in with our MotoGP. And Marquez battling a strong competitor on the last lap of a MotoGP race for a win, at all costs, is quite simply the best real racing in the world today. He is Senna on a Motorbike. In fact, he is Senna, Schumacher, Lauda, Prost, Rossi and Roberts all in one. And watching him in a last lap battle against any of his competitors is the true definition of “rubbin' is racin'.” 

But as is always the case in motorsport, another bright star soon begins to shine, and we all eagerly await the battles that will ultimately result. A passing of the torch is inevitable. Or so we think.

Marc Marquez is far, far from being unseated as arguably the best motorcycle racer EVER, yet this season has seen the sudden emergence of super-quick rookie, Fabio Quartararo. The Young Frenchman has impressed greatly, and has been by far the best Yamaha rider of the year. (Yes, that correctly implies that he is routinely out-qualifying and out-racing the great Valentino Rossi.) 

No matter the talent, there is no shortcut to the top and thus, despite his immense speed, Quartararo is paying his dues - and he has yet to win a race. But he is often contending, setting fastest laps and qualifying on the pole, all on a one-year-old spec privateer Yamaha (a rookie with a first year, rookie team, the ultra professional Petronas Sepang Racing Team). 

A head-to-head fight against Marquez has been eagerly awaited, but for one reason or another had yet to manifest itself. Until today at Misano.

Quartararo was third on the grid, but quickly slipped by pole man and fellow Yamaha racer Maverick Vinales on lap two. By lap three, Marquez, from P5, had also moved past Vinales and into second on the wheel of Quartararo. This was the moment MotoGP had been waiting for; the new wunderkind under immense pressure from the world’s greatest. How would he fold, because surely he would. But no. Fabio answered many questions. From the outside, he rode perfectly - inch perfect it seemed, and kept Marquez behind. It was this way until the last lap. The two pulled away, and gapped the field, although Vinales, after his somewhat common first half fall back through the field, came back to within a few hundreds, but he never mounted a challenge to the first two.

The last lap was classic - Marquez passed and took the lead; Fabio passed back a few corners later, and looked set for his first win, but Marc had extra motivation and got by again. Three corners from the end, at the tight right-hander, which was realistically the last opportunity for Quartararo, Marquez stayed tight and at the apex slowed slightly more than normal, which forced Quartararo to sit up and lose drive, momentum, and all hope of a first victory. It was textbook perfect racing by Marquez. 

Afterwards, he called Quartararo the “best rider out there.” Heavy praise, but the fact that Fabio led almost all the laps with Marc on his wheel says everything about the kid’s future. Cool head, and immense speed. The future looks exciting, indeed. 

As good as that MotoGP race was, it was the Moto3 race that packed the most raw emotion. 

Back in 2011, a young shining light in MotoGP was cruelly extinguished with the racing death of Marco Simoncelli. Paolo Simoncelli, who was a huge part of his son’s career, chose to stay in the sport and formed the SIC58 Squadra Corse Moto3 team in the memory of Marco. Moto3 is the junior category of the World Championship, but the hungry and fearless teenage racers combined with lightweight and low horsepower bikes makes for very exciting and competitive racing. 

Tatsuki Suzuki is Paolo’s protege, having taken the young Japanese rider into his team and home, like his own son. Suzuki has proven to be extremely quick, leading many races, often by a huge margin, only to crash out and DNF. Moto3 races are like a lottery anyway, very close with the winning move often made in the last corner of the last lap. Suzuki’s pace and race craft has never been questioned, only his ability to exercise enough constraint to see the finish line in the lead.    

In Misano, just a few miles from the Simoncelli hometown and at the track also named in the memory of Marco, Suzuki raced a perfect race from start to finish, and achieved his first victory rewarding Paolo’s faith in the best way possible. For every Italian in attendance, the win was raw and emotional, and one can’t help but wonder if somehow Marco lent a helping hand. The coincidence wasn’t lost on anyone. 

One win in Moto3 doesn’t automatically mean you are a future great, but most agree Suzuki is something special, and if his first win has taught him the rewards of racing at 100% as opposed to 110%, he will no doubt become a future Champion. 

Maybe someday, he will be the new guy challenging Fabio Quartararo for the crown at the very top of the sport, in the same way Quartararo now looks set to challenge Marquez. 

(Photo by special AE contributor Whit Bazemore)

Tatsuki Suzuki took an incredible first win in Moto3 at the track named after his team owner’s son, Marco Simoncelli, and just a few miles from the Simoncelli hometown in Eastern Italy. Paolo has taken Tatsuki as his own son, nurtured him endlessly, and this season, Tatsuki has led many races only to crash out and DNF. It was a highly emotional win.

(Photo by special AE contributor Whit Bazemore)

Paolo Simoncelli and Tatsuki Suzuki.

Editor-In-Chief's Note: We hope you are enjoying the superb photography and insider's perspective of MotoGP racing by special AE contributor Whit Bazemore. MotoGP has become my personal favorite form of motorsport, and to have someone with Whit's talent share his visual art and deep knowledge of MotoGP is truly special for us, and we really appreciate it. By the way, you may recognize Whit's last name; Bazemore began making a living from drag racing when he was sixteen years old, and he is a two-time U.S. Nationals winner and still the fifth-fastest Funny Car driver ever at 333.25 MPH. -PMD 
(Michelin Motorsport)
Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 6 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05/Michelin) led an Acura Team Penske 1-2 sweep in DPi, finishing ahead of teammates Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor (No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05/Michelin) in Sunday’s Monterey SportsCar Championships Powered by McLaren. Taylor took pole for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race, but Cameron got ahead before half distance and only lost the lead during a pit stop sequence. The two cars combined to lead 113 of 121 laps. Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R/Michelin) finished third. “We qualify strong because we get more and more out of the tires. Michelin brought a great tire again though,” Montoya said. “They are so consistent. We managed not only the pace but we had tires at the end, and it paid off.” Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller (No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing GT/Michelin) got into the lead early and controlled the pace for the GT Le Mans class win. Polesitter Jesse Krohn and co-driver John Edwards finished second in the black No. 24 BMW Team RLL M8/Michelin, while a late pass netted Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen third in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R/Michelin. PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports claimed its fifth straight LMP2 victory with Matt McMurry and Dalton Kellett sharing the No. 52 ORECA 07/Michelin. (Thank you to Michelin Motorsport)
(Michelin Motorsport)
(Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr. (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) won Sunday night’s South Point 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “Welcome back,’’ an ecstatic Truex screamed to his team on the radio after taking the checkered flag 4.173-seconds ahead of a fellow playoff competitor, Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford). It was Truex’s fifth victory of the year – best in the field – and an automatic ticket to the next round of the playoffs. “We took a gamble, qualified 24th,’’ said Truex, who led 32 laps. “For a while, it wasn’t looking too smart with the 4 (Harvick) out front. Got the right adjustments in the end. Had a great car all day long. Hell of a way to make a championship run. Get some good bonus points, move on to the next round, see what we can do there.’’ Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Team Penske Ford) finished third. (Thanks to NASCAR Media.)
(Porsche images)
Porsche will showcase a special design on its cars for the ten-hour Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, the final round of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The Porsche works GTLM team from Weissach will join forces with Coca Cola to present two special liveried Porsche 911 RSRs to conclude the 50th anniversary year of the International Motor Sports Association. In the 80s, the Bob Akin Motor Racing team fielded the Porsche 935 in the Coca Cola livery for the first time. Akin's team claimed podium results, including at the 24 Hours of Daytona, and scored first place in the GTP class in 1983. The following year, the team switched to the state-of-the-art Porsche 962. The 1986 season yielded the greatest success for the team, when Akin joined forces with Hans-Joachim Stuck and Jo Gartner to win the 12 Hours of Sebring. Petit Le Mans represents a home race for Coca Cola, with the corporation headquartered in Atlanta. Porsche North America is also based in Atlanta. The construction of the famous Road Atlanta racetrack, which opened in 1970, was financed in part by Coca Cola. Porsche heads to the IMSA season finale as the leader of the manufacturers’, team and drivers’ classifications in GTLM.