Is Petrucci breaking his word to target the title? More from the MotoGP Catalan Grand Prixby Mat Oxley on 19th June 2019
Has Petrucci changed his tune about Ducati winning the title? Quartararo finally crashes a MotoGP bike and Silverstone’s ‘quantum leap forward’
Did Petrucci really pledge support to Dovizioso's title bid? Photo: Motorsport Images
Ducati's team target: has Petrucci changed his tune?
The Ducati camp was a miserable place to be on Sunday evening. Not only had Andrea Dovizioso’s 12-point deficit on championship leader Marc Márquez turned into a 37-point disadvantage, the factory’s top-scoring rider of the last three seasons now stands only five points in front of team-mate Danilo Petrucci.
So in one fell swoop the factory’s title hopes took a huge hit, which means Gigi Dall’Igna will have to re-evaluate his championship strategy. His original plan for 2019 was to have Dovizioso and Petrucci working together for the good of Ducati. In other words, Petrucci riding shotgun.
“We are using a different approach in terms of riders this year,” Dall’Igna told me at April’s COTA GP. “Last year we saw the good points of our riders being in competition, but now we want to understand if we can achieve a better overall result if our riders work together.”
But now the two Italians are so close on points and there no team orders, so you can guess what’s going to happen next. At Catalunya, Mugello winner Petrucci made his plans very clear.
“On the Monday or Tuesday after Mugello my feeling was to try to win again,” he said. “I started thinking that Mugello was just the first race of many good races. For sure we don’t have team orders – if I have the chance to win I will try.”
This statement got many paddock people very excited. Petrucci has changed his tune, they cried. After he won at Mugello he said he would focus on helping Dovizioso to win the title, they cried.
In fact, Petrucci didn’t say that at all. What he did say was this: “Now we think of the team target – to win the title”.
The people who misunderstood Petrucci’s words were like the Greek military leaders who were hoodwinked when they visited their local oracle for advice on upcoming campaigns. “Should I attack Sicily?” the leader might enquire. “A great victory will be won,” the oracle would reply. So the Greeks would go to war. And get badly beaten. The leader would return to the oracle in a rage. “But, my lord,” the oracle would say. “A great victory was won” Just not by the Greeks.
Petrucci and Dovizioso — seen here at Mugello — are still working closely Photo: Motorsport Images
Petrucci’s “team target” to win the title refers as much to him winning the title as it refers to Dovizioso.
At Catalunya once again both riders worked together in practice; Dovizioso showing Petrucci the way when he needed to find some more pace. But will this brotherly love continue now that they both have an equal shot at the crown?
As Dall’Igna added at Cota, “if Andrea and Danilo start racing each other it will be difficult to continue with this approach”.
Ducati’s chances of winning the 2019 might seem small, but there are still 300 points up for grabs and things can go wrong for Márquez in the blink of an eye just as they went wrong for Dovizioso on Sunday. Indeed Márquez came very, very close to losing the front at the Turn Five left-hander, which claimed 12 victims over the weekend. MotoGP is so close now that there are risks in every race.
Shock, horror: Quartararo crashes!
Quarteraro hit the tarmac for the first time in MotoGP Photo: Motorsport Images
Fabio Quartararo may have missed the chance to take away Márquez’s youngest-ever MotoGP winner record, but the 20-year-old Frenchman has managed to do something else very, very special, apart from taking the youngest-ever pole record at Jerez last month.
On Saturday morning he fell off a MotoGP bike for the first time ever, having completed 4200 miles (6800 kilometres) of racing, testing and practicing.
By the time Marc Márquez reached the seventh round of his rookie MotoGP season in 2013 he had crashed seven times during race weekends. In 2016 Johann Zarco had fallen on three occasions. And no doubt both would also have slipped off in preseason testing.
He may not have taken Márquez’s rookie victory record, but right now he seems the youngster most likely to lay claim to the Spaniard’s crown at some point in the future
There are no historic statistics on this kind of thing, but no one in the paddock can remember any fast rookie coming into 500s or MotoGP getting as far as Quartararo without a tumble or three. So it’s 99.999 percent certain that this is a record.
Quartararo’s ability to ride a MotoGP bike incredibly fast without throwing it at the scenery simply highlights his talent, his reactions and his ability to ride the razor’s edge without cutting himself. He may not have taken Márquez’s rookie victory record, but right now he seems the youngster most likely to lay claim to the Spaniard’s crown at some point in the future.
Quartararo slid off at the Turn Two left-hander – the second part of the opening esses section – during FP3. The Barcelona-Catalunya track was slippery all weekend, having lost about a second’s worth of grip since it was resurfaced prior to the 2018 MotoGP round.
“The track is like ice,” said Cal Crutchlow.
Left-handers were a real problem, with 42 crashes at the track’s six lefts, compared to 31 at its eight right-handers. These included six at Turn Two, which might come as a surprise because it’s neither a big brakes nor a big throttle corner.
“Turn Two is always a disaster because even without trying too hard it’s easy to crash there,” explains Suzuki test rider Sylvain Guintoli. “The first thing is that you haven’t turned left for a long while, then there’s the long straight, so the left side of the tyres aren’t at optimum temperature. Also, you’ve got no load on the front tyre because you exit Turn One and go into Turn Two without rolling off. If you rolled off you’d get some transfer to the front, but there’s none and the Michelin front likes to be loaded. So you have to ride through there really gently – if you try and force it the front will go away because it’s got no load.”
Indeed there was so little grip all around the track that many riders had close calls with corner-entry highsides, with the rear end coming around as they flicked into corners. Franco Morbidelli had a frightening corner-entry highside crash at the penultimate right-hander during FP3. Remarkably he was back on track three hours later for FP4 and qualifying.
“I had a big moment like Morbidelli – I was just lucky I landed back on top of the bike,” added Crutchlow. “The track’s not every good, so the tyres aren’t working very well for anybody.”
New Silverstone surface is a "quantum leap forward"
Planing and resurfacing is underway at Silverstone Photo: Motorsport Images
Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle was at the Catalan GP updating MotoGP about the ongoing resurfacing work which he hopes will erase the memory of last year’s abandoned British GP.
Silverstone hired renowned racetrack engineers Dromo immediately after the 2018 event. Dromo has done major work at Termas de Rio Hondo, Monza, Mugello, Imola, Misano, Sepang and the Singapore Formula 1 circuit. The Italian company has a reputation for fastidiousness in design and construction.
“We’ve learned the lessons of last year and we’ve left no stone unturned – what we are doing now is a quantum leap forward,” said Pringle. “Dromo is very specific in its technical requirements. Tarmac [the asphalting contractors] has had to buy two brand-new planer machines of a specific make, model and type, according to Dromo’s request. They cost £500,000 each.”
“Dromo remodelled the track in CAD and are building in camber at various points to get rid of rainwater. They are also putting a slight crown in the middle of the track at the end of Hangar straight [where last year several riders crashed due to aquaplaning]. They have planed as much as 140mm off the old surface and are laying two courses of new asphalt: a 30mm pad-coat [lower coat], then a 40mm wearing course [top coat].
“If anyone questions our commitment to motorcycle racing, I’d point them to the fact that we’ve done two full resurfacing jobs in two years. It’s been a massive undertaking that keeps all the good bits of Silverstone – the fast, flowing character of the layout – with state-of-the-art asphalt that will last many, many years and I hope will secure MotoGP at Silverstone for the long run. We are also building a hotel and spending a load more money on traffic arrangements to solve the issues that some people had when leaving the track last year. We are pulling ourselves back from a difficult financial period.”
Pringle would not reveal the situation between Silverstone and last year’s contractors Aggregate Industries. “We are considering our options,” he said.