Let’s be clear. Repsol Honda rookie Marc Marquez is the new king of MotoGP. His decisive win at Indianapolis in Sunday over teammate Dani Pedrosa marked his third consecutive win for the 2013 season. It marked his third consecutive win in Indianapolis, having topped the last two Moto2 tilts here. And, lest we forget, it marked three wins in a row in the U.S., following Austin and Laguna Seca. Sunday’s win made it a veritable hat trick of hat tricks for the precocious Spanish youngster.
Marquez is a man in need of a nickname. In that his triple triple coincided with the announcement that MotoGP will continue at Indianapolis for at least the next year – a hat trick, if you will, of American rounds – I’m going to suggest Captain America. Marc Marquez likes racing in the United States, therefore we will pay homage to him with three American rounds. Easy Rider’s Peter Fonda has been deposed.
You could see this one coming a mile away. Marquez topped the timesheets in all four practice sessions and qualified on the pole, blowing away the previous track record set by Pedrosa last year. His only lapse all weekend was at the start of the race, when he allowed both Pedrosa and defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo’s Yamaha to beat him to the first turn, Lorenzo in front. Things stayed this way until Lap 9, when Marquez went through smoothly on Pedrosa, in deference to his teammate’s injured collarbone. Marquez immediately set his sights on Lorenzo, himself healing from his own twice-broken collarbone.
On Lap 13, Marquez had Lorenzo lined up, and went through easily into the lead, from which he never looked back. Lorenzo and Pedrosa managed to keep it close for the next dozen laps, but neither was going to chase down the rookie. With two laps left and both riders tiring, Pedrosa managed to go through on Lorenzo into second place, which is how it ended.
At narrow circuits like Indianapolis (which would be a much more interesting track if they reversed the flow and ran clockwise, the way it was designed for Formula 1 back in the day) there usually isn’t much overtaking, which was the case today. Sure, there was some jockeying going on in the back half of the grid, but most of us don’t give a rip about who edges whom for 18th place in these things. But, as they say, all’s well that ends well, and this one certainly did.
Fireworks Late in the Day
Yamaha icon Valentino Rossi, who struggled all weekend after having recorded a win and two podium finishes in his last three races, spent most of the day loitering by himself in seventh place, trailing the likes of GO&FUN Honda hazard Alvaro Bautista, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha defector Cal Crutchlow and LCR Honda strongman Stefan Bradl. Suddenly, with perhaps 12 laps left, Rossi regained consciousness and began laying down a series of quick laps. He chased down Bradl on Lap 22, taking over 6th place, and punked Bautista the next time around, moving into 5th.
Next up was Crutchlow, who had announced during summer vacation that he was sick of podiums and was taking his game to the factory Ducati team for two years of well-paid perdition, beginning next year. Rossi and Crutchlow spent the last two laps trading paint and positions, back and forth, teeth bared, until Rossi finally crossed the line 6/100ths of a second in front of the Brit. This is good training for Crutchlow, as he is unlikely to engage in any further champagne spraying during what’s left of the Obama administration. Gut-wrenching losses could become his middle name.
The 60,000+ fans in attendance on Sunday continued roaring during the last lap as factory Ducati teammates Andrea Dovizioso and homeboy Nicky Hayden REALLY got into it heading for the finish. Hayden, calling upon his dirt track heritage, went low on Dovizioso in Turn 16, causing both riders to jump the curb separating the bike track from the frigging IMS main straight.
For one shining moment, the two red Ducatis were airborne, side by side, the teammates snapping and snarling at one another as they tried to regain control. Surprisingly, they both remained upright for a final dash to the flag, won by Hayden by a full 12/100ths of a second. Unfortunately for them, while this drama was unfolding, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha second Bradley Smith calmly passed both of them to take eighth place, “pipping” Hayden by 1/100th. Ta-ta for now, old boy.
The Big Picture
Marquez’ win puts him 21 points in front of Pedrosa and 35 ahead of Lorenzo with eight rounds left; the 2013 title is now officially his to lose. Rossi sits in fourth place, just three points in front of Crutchlow. Bradl, in sixth place, leads Dovizioso by six points, with Bautista, Hayden and Smith completing the top ten. Dani Pedrosa’s pronouncement last week that the 2013 title would be decided in the next three rounds – Indianapolis, Brno and Silverstone – may have been off by two. It very well may be that the 2013 title has already been decided, and we just don’t realize it.
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||188|
|2||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||167|
|3||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha Factory||153|
|4||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha Factory||130|
|5||Cal Crutchlow||Monster Tech3 Yamaha||127|
|6||Stefan Bradl||LCR Honda||93|
|7||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Factory||87|
|8||Alvaro Bautista||Gresini Honda||81|
|9||Nicky Hayden||Ducati Factory||72|
|10||Bradley Smith||Monster Tech3 Yamaha||52|
A Little Rumor and Innuendo
Once Crutchlow decided to join Ducati next season, a number of other chips fell into place, as we now know that Bradl will stay with LCR, and Bautista with the Gresini team for 2014. Still, there’s plenty we don’t know about next year. Nicky Hayden is rumored to be in the running for a “production” Honda as the #2 rider for LCR next year.
NGM Forward Racing, with Colin Edwards and Claudio Corti lugging FTR Kawasaki machines this year, is strongly suggesting they will lease a pair of Yamaha M1s for next season, mentioning parenthetically that they are discussing their plans with Aleix Espargaro, Hayden and Jonathan Rea. Owner Giovanni Cuzari insisted, “I will respect my two riders now – Colin (Edwards) and Claudio (Corti) – but of course I need to follow some requests from Yamaha.” Meaning, in my opinion, that Edwards and Corti are screwed.
On the Other Side of the Tracks
Three riders whose fortunes took a turn for the worse this weekend, if such a thing is possible, were Ben Spies, Karel Abraham and Blake Young. Spies, attempting a return after missing seven (7!) rounds recovering from injury, crashed at Turn 4 in FP3 and dislocated his GOOD shoulder, putting him out of today’s race. Abraham, too, crashed on Friday, suffering torn muscles in his shoulder that kept him out today and make him questionable for next week at his dad’s Czech Grand Prix. And Young, the optimistic wildcard this weekend, ended the WUP with smoke pouring out of his Attack Performance frankenbike. Though he was able to post for the start, he failed to finish a single lap.
On to Brno
The 2013 crash course in pain and glory starts up again a few days from now in eastern Europe, with the Czech Republic hosting the bwin Grand Prix České republiky at Brno, The Circuit That Needs to Buy a Vowel. Mercifully, this is one of the tracks where the Yamahas can be expected to be competitive. Whether Lorenzo or Rossi stands atop the podium on Sunday will be determined, in part, along the way – by Captain America.