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All thrills day: MotoGP set for big finale – Times of India

There was red hot action at the Buddh International Circuit on Saturday as MotoGP stars showed their prowess and nature conspired to spice things up, as did a bit of high-speed argy bargy. I wrote in my previous piece about MotoGP being the entertainment branch of physics and what the riders put out Saturday in all three classes showed why.
Moto3 riders buzzing around like angry bees with a cigarette paper’s width between them requires skill and courage and given the temperament of the young ‘uns wanting to make an impression while gunning for glory, they can either be one-lap wonders or keep their wits around them to go in for the kill when it matters – which is the final lap with all corners being battlefields on the road to winning the war.
It’s a sight that awaits you on Sunday when you see the wily Jaume Masia lead the Moto3 pack from pole. These lightweight pocket rockets can pack a massive wallop for this is the most intense form of motorcycle sport and the hairiest as well. These bikes carry the most insane corner speeds among the three classes, a rhapsody in motion.
The intermediate Moto2 class is toughest for those wanting to make the switch from Moto3 as it requires a great deal of fitness to be able to work the upper and lower limbs, besides strong shoulders in effecting weight transfer not just during braking but also leaning into corners.
The likes of Marco Bezzecchi and Pecco Bagnaia have been forthright in saying that the switch from Moto2 to MotoGP is easier because the bikes are pretty much the same in build and form and it is just the aerodynamic appendages that distinguish the premier class motorcycles from the intermediate class machines from a visual standpoint.
A variable thrown in on Saturday along with the hot and humid conditions was rain. This meant qualifying for the Moto2 starting grid was held on a track that was wet, though drying, and this caught out many a rider. The brilliance of finding the right adhesion in variable track conditions was highlighted sharply and this is where the deftness of the throttle hand, literally caressing it to speed was turned into an art, was on display for all to see during the qualifying session.
Moto2 Championship leader Pedro Acosta was on song on his Red Bull KTM Ajo machine, looking set to clinch pole position but an inspired run with a softer setup on the Aspar GasGas motorcycle ridden by Jake Dixon deprived him by the thinnest of margins – three-hundredths of a second!
They say getting a good grid position is half the battle won and normally Jake Dixon has had to fight coming from behind to try and slot into the top three. But here, he has given himself a fighting chance to take on the champion-elect, who wasn’t unhappy with second on the grid. I must admire Jake for what he said about Pedro after beating him in Catalunya – “I beat the next Marc Marquez” – and this will be another incentive for racegoers to see this battle unfold with the young Spanish teenage sensation who will be moving to MotoGP next year.
It brings me back to the weather. There’s a well laid-out policy to try and see that the track dries out quickly for the big boys to decide whether the sprint would be run as a dry or a wet race. If a race is adjudged to be a “wet” one, all riders have to start with full wets and then have the option to come into the pits to switch bikes on the move, which might be shod with slicks. Thankfully, the Moto2 bikes and the BMW safety car had done enough laps to get the racing line dry and clear and while almost an hour was lost, there was also the spectacle of a special 15-minute session for the MotoGP biggies to experience a wet track and then immediately get going on the grid for the 11-lap sprint. Thankfully, the track had almost dried out, which meant that the organisers didn’t classify it as a wet race, allowing the MotoGP gladiators to venture out on full slicks.
One of the wonders of the physics-challenging MotoGP riders and bikes is the lean angles they get to – the best of them through some of the fastest corners can lean over 61 degrees from the vertical. And what a spectacle that was. The speed of bikes rocketing away from the start and piling into the first right hander was a sight to behold – a mix of Grand Prix racing at its best with the argy bargy of a local traffic lights skirmish. The in-form and highly pumped up Spaniard, Jorge Martin, made the jump on his closest rival and reigning World Champion Pecco Bagnaia and no one came close to him from start to finish. Pecco’s physical condition isn’t quite there but his racecraft saw him slot into second with his metronomic reeling of laps to keep an inspired Marc Marquez at bay.
Sunday’s forecast is of a hot and muggy day. Expect a no-holds-barred fight from Bezzecchi, the street fighter while Jorge rides in his fast ‘take no prisoners’ style and the impeccable finesse of the maestro, Bagnaia, is ranged against the relentless Marc Marquez who on Saturday showed the mettle that won him eight world championship titles. These are the battles within the battle to soak in.
Marshals fall ill due to heat
A truly dismal issue that cropped up Friday and Saturday has been the plight of marshals who man the posts around the circuit. Marshals mostly work gratis for the love of the sport and the reasonable expectation is that their daily needs of sustenance are taken care of as anyone would do with ground staff at a cricket match.
The intense heat on Friday saw about 50 marshals fall ill with heat strokes. Three had to be hospitalised and one airlifted. Marshals are the unheralded heroes and backbone of our sport. Thankfully, the national federation, FMSCI, stepped in and averted a situation that could have had an impact on the running of the event. It’s a learning curve for the Indian Grand Prix and for sure it is an aberration in what has otherwise been an excellently well turned out event so far.
(The writer is India’s pioneer automotive journalist, historian and author )

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