Among the things left in the debris trail behind Marc Marquez at Austin a few weeks back was a pall of doubt. The way he rode at Austin made one think that 2018 was shaping up to look a lot more like 2014 (Marquez won ten races in a row that season) than some seem to expect.
There are several rider who have shown that they can beat Marquez: Lorenzo, Maverick, Crutchlow, Rossi, Dovi’ and Pedrosa. Zarco hasn’t won a race yet but there is little doubt that he could do the business if circumstances allowed. That’s the good news.
The bad news is I’m not completely certain that the rest of the MotoGP grid are doing much to justify being in MotoGP. Examples?
Bradley Smith, who came into MotoGP at roughly the same time as Marc Marquez.
Scott Redding, who came into MotoGP talking tough about how he was using the late Nick Hayden as his benchmark to gauge and surpass.
The outcome of those two? Bradley Smith will be lucky to be riding in WSBK in 2019. Scott Redding? Will he even be racing motorcycles in two seasons?
A lot of important people feel that Jack Miller is the second coming of (take your pick) Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner, Casey Stoner etc. The outcome? He can win in a wet race and can be fast but injuries have taken a massive toll on his results. Austin was another disappointment because he hid his mountain bike crash injury all weekend and again his results suffered. He says his torn rotator cuff injury will be no problem for the rest of the season, but then how can anyone really know? What we can do is try to predict future performance on what Miller’s past performance has been. So his health will be good until he confesses it hasn’t been.
I haven’t checked what the current status is, but I think we are still all supposed to be pretending that Jonas Folger is sitting out of MotoGP because of a medical condition. While that has some basis in truth, the undeniable fact is that Jonas Folger came off the Tech 3 bike in a huge crash at Silverstone last season and wasn’t ever really the same afterward. MotoGP in the Marc Marquez era is a tough business and when a rider isn’t ready, or won’t ever be ready, reality can hit hard.
Hafizh Syahrin was all happy-happy-joy-joy at Austin, not at all really concerned with the dangerous side of riding a 240 horsepower motorbike. He said it was all about working on corner exit. Then after his massive crash in warm-up and another crash in the race, he was stumbling around looking a lot like he wasn’t sure what he’d gotten himself into.
Consider Danilo Petrucci, Tito Rabat, Aleix Espargaro, Alvaro Bautista, Xavier Simeon and others. There is some kind of crazy–it borders on delusion– conventional wisdom that suggests these are some of the best riders in the world and that they deserve to be in MotoGP. Look, dinosaurs died to make the fuel they use in their bikes. Is this really the best use of those poor dead dino resources?
Mr. Chaz Davies, Ducati WSBK man, seemingly gets no consideration because the geniuses in MotoGP management really think that a rider like Tito Rabat or Aleix Espargaro are on an upper echelon as compared to Chaz-o. This, frankly, is the kind of thinking that I believe in part led to Casey Stoner retiring from the sport. That persons making decisions on riders truly have no clue.
What does Chaz bring to the table? Clearly he’s fast, smart and very talented. Of those three what should really be considered is the part about Chaz being smart because he is intelligent in a way some riders are not. It was a few seasons ago but Magnetti Marelli brought new software into the production-based championship. Quickly Chaz became an expert on how to use it, I know this because I stood right there when a MM-man asked Chaz more questions about how the system works than Chaz asked them. For a while the last ditch solution in how to figure that stuff out was to “ask Chaz”. I wonder what a Chaz Davies could do with a bike like the Aprilia or the KTM where the engineers and designers are convinced that their MotoGP bikes are juuuust a few clicks away from being at the front but the reality is they have built bikes that finish 50 seconds behind Marquez, or run out of fuel several laps from the end of the race.
For the rest of the season watch the back end of the second pack of riders in MotoGP. And when you see them losing time to the leader or tossing it into the gravel or pulling into the garage as yourself this:
What Could Chaz Davies Do On That Bike?