In The Paddock

Michael Scott | November 21, 2017

Suggested Mapping, Mapping What?

COLUMN

You have to love Jorge Lorenzo. Or perhaps you don’t. He doesn’t give a hoot either way. Always his own man, with a unique view of his place in the world, Jorge made a marvelous meal of team orders at the final grand prix at Valencia.

In The Paddock, By Michael Scott

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Team orders are controversial enough anyway. Perhaps it was in the interest of decency and sportsmanship, of truth and beauty, that Jorge held himself aloof. More likely, because his opinion of himself over-rides such petty considerations as following direct orders from the people paying truly enormous sums into his (probably off-shore) bank account.

At Valencia, his Ducati team was sending completely transparent coded messages to his dashboard Twitter screen, and even more direct instruction on his pit board.

The code was as used in Malaysia, and will now pass forever into motorcycle folklore: “Mapping suggestion: mapping 8.”

Slow down, it means. Lose one place. Let your teammate pass you, so maybe he can influence the race. He has a chance of that. And maybe winning the World Championship. So give it to him.

But Jorge, well, he had a better idea. So he just ignored them all and carried on regardless.

The comedy continued, lap by lap. Dorna’s TV cameras showed mechanics on the pit wall looking increasingly puzzled; shrugging helplessly at one another. “We’re telling him,” Jorge’s guys told Dovi’s guys.

In the pit box, more senior elements were likewise waving distractedly, eyes wide with disbelief.

And on Jorge went, round and round, and round and round. He didn’t even bother to flip them the bird as he went by. No need.

The situation was like this. Dovi had to win, and for Marquez to finish lower than 11th. Better still, not to finish, since that would simplify matters. Now they were under way, and Zarco was leading Marquez and Repsol Honda teammate Pedrosa. Close behind Jorge, and right up his chuff (“Right in his face,” as Dorna’s departing commentator would repeatedly and irritatingly insist) was Dovizioso. On some sections of the rather silly little pocket-handkerchief circuit, he was just inches behind. But unable to pass, without a bit help.

Now they were still close to the leaders. If Dovi had been able to get up there, there was always the chance he might push Marquez into making a mistake. The Spaniard had, after all, already fallen off twice that weekend, and an astonishing 27 times over the course of the year.

To be honest, it was not much of a chance. Dovi would not only have to force Marquez into an error, but also find a way past Pedrosa, as well as Zarco. At a track where neither he nor his Desmosedici were at their best, and where passing is not that difficult on the slow corners, but actually staying ahead after passing is notoriously hard.

But most people, including Ducati management, thought that after the sterling work he had done all season, Dovi should at least be given that chance.

The “Suggested Mapping” message was sent to Jorge at least twice, a couple of laps apart at around half distance.

Had he been able to respond (unlike in Formula 1, this on-bike tweeting is only one-way communication), the answer might have been “Suggested Action—Piss Off.”

Well, in the end none of this made any difference. Both Ducati riders fell off, and Marquez only stayed on by one of his usual personal miracles.

Now it was just the post-mortems. And here came another round of blissfully amusing back-pedaling. The only person to emerge with any credit was Dovi himself, always the gentleman, and declining to pass any negative comment, no matter how frustrated that gap of a couple of tenths of a second lap after lap must have been. “In the end,” he said, “staying behind him helped me ride in a smoother way, so it was positive he was in front of me.” Oh yeah?

Jorge remained autocratic and autonomous. He knew best, after all.

“I analyzed the situation and I thought that it was better to try and give him a tow to reach the leading group. If we had caught Zarco and Pedrosa I would certainly have let him past,” he said. Oh yeah?

But the most frantic justification came from Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna, whose orders had been so publicly thrown his face. He was dealing with a fait accompli. His orders had simply been ignored. But that was not the case, he said. The riders are the ones who really know what is happening.  The message, he continued, “was a suggestion, not an order.” Oh yeah?

Hope there won’t be any such misunderstanding about the number of zeros at the end of the figure on Lorenzo’s next contract. CN

 

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Michael Scott | MotoGP Editor Scott has been covering MotoGP since long before it was MotoGP. Remember two-strokes? Scott does. He’s also a best-selling author of biographies on the lives of legendary racers such as Wayne Rainey and Barry Sheene.

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