It was the final Enduro Cup event of 2019 and the final endurance race to be held at this historic venue and, as always, the Sandown 500 did not fail to deliver excitement and plenty of controversy.
It’s the mid-season breather in MotoGP. Normal service resumes in two weeks at the Chez Grand Prix.
Top of the table is tight with 26 points separating the top five who are predictably Marquez, Vinales, Dovizioso, Rossi and Pedrosa who not surprisingly, also share all nine wins so far this season.
What gets me this season is the attrition rate in that 18 per cent of all starters have not completed due to crashes or retirements. Crash specialists Alex Espargaro and Sam Lowes are both on Aprillias and must be driving their team boss insane. With Avaro Bautista, these three have not completed 45 per cent of all races this season.
Not much better are Petrucci, Cruchlow, Iannone and Pol Espargaro who have all failed to finish every one in three: although Petrucci’s season is being held together by some reasonable finishes in Italy and the Netherlands, but not much else.
Overall it’s a season of ‘threes’: three clear groups of points leaders and three brands dominate, although if you’re a cynic you’ll say that the only reason Ducati is leading the overall rider’s points is because it has nine bikes this season.
Actually, Yamaha is by far and away the most successful brand for rider results, in fact twice as good as the Ducati on a points per rider basis.
The second grouping of riders are Zarco, Folger, Petrucci, Lorenzo and Crutchlow. I say Folger and Zarco are lucky to be where they are.
Triple MotoGP champion, Lorenzo’s silky smooth riding-style once relied on corner speed rather than braking while at Yamaha and most fascinating he didn’t use the rear brake at Yamaha and has been learning how to get the most from the technique of using a thumb brake at Ducati.
According to Petrucci, the Ducati is quite impossible to ride without the rear brake, and uses two rear brakes, one for the foot and one for the thumb.
KTM and Suzuki are way off the pace and Suzuki must have wondered what life would be if Vinales had stayed on board. KTM have pedigree and have won four of the last five Moto three world championships but in the premier class this year average only 15th place with three riders including long term Mika Sallio as a wild card rider.
KTM has introduced a new style of fairing which has been helpful on the bumpy surfaces and added a lot of stability on the straight but just on acceleration. All other MotoGP manufacturer use winglets of some variety last year, and only Suzuki used a newly approved 2017 fairing in a grand prix weekend before KTM.
KTM riders have reported that KTM has struggled to make its new engine interact with the control electronic software that its rivals have had a year of experience working with. But watch this space; the company has the goods to develop a competitive bike in the next two seasons, but who would commit to ride it?
Regrettably, in my opinion, the season is not going to get any more interesting. Like the so-called ghosts of yester-year (Lorenzo, Stoner, Rossi) so called by their competitors because they only ever saw them at the start of every race, this season belongs to Marquez, Vinales, Dovizioso, Rossi and Pedrosa, and no-one else. For my money, its Marquez or Vinales who show greater consistency in results, and if I had to pick one it would be Marquez.