MotoGP 2013 Qatar Results
Lorenzo rules in defense of his title; Rossi second
Under the lights of Losail, Jorge Lorenzo led the big bikes of the MotoGP premier class on a merry chase from wire to wire, winning the season opener without breaking a sweat. He was joined on the podium by Yamaha teammate and prodigal son Valentino Rossi, whose return from two years in exile couldn’t have been much more exciting. Standing in third position on the podium was Wonder Kid Marc Marquez, who punked Repsol Honda teammate and preseason favorite Dani Pedrosa for the first of what promises to be many podium celebrations for the young Spaniard.
The new qualifying format , the Q1 preliminaries and the Q2 finale, resulted in an odd starting grid. It included satellite Yamaha Brit Cal Crutchlow in second position, ahead of Pedrosa, whose weekend was basically terrible. Qualifying in fourth on the Ducati - surprise surprise - was Andrea Dovizioso, while the best Marquez could manage was sixth. Rossi starting in seventh place was more disappointing than surprising.
At the start, with 24 bikes on the grid, it looked like a Moto2 race on steroids. Lorenzo held his lead in turn one, stayed clean, put 20 meters between himself and the field, and began laying down sub-1:56 laps one after another in a fashion Nick the Announcer characterized as “metronomic.” I might have chosen “piston-like.”
Behind him, however, it was bedlam.
Midway through the first lap, surging in 4th or 5th position, Rossi traded paint with Dovizioso, stood the bike up, and ended up back in seventh place, with the difficult Stefan Bradl and his factory spec Honda obstructing his efforts. Pedrosa and Crutchlow had settled into second and third, respectively, and the Brit was grinding his teeth to dust trying to put Pedrosa behind him, with no success. (Crutchlow, after a highly encouraging weekend and a front row start, ended up in fifth place, but not without a fight.)
Reviewing my notes, during Lap 2 I wrote “Here comes MM.” Marquez, after a subdued start, started knocking down opponents like tenpins. On Lap 2 he went through on Dovizioso into 4th place. He passed Crutchlow on Lap 4 into 3rd , where he began actively disrespecting Pedrosa, even with an angry Brit glued to his pipes. With Lorenzo by now having disappeared, things stayed mostly like this for the next 13 laps, at which point Marquez insolently moved past Pedrosa into 2nd . A Lorenzo-Marquez-Pedrosa podium, at that point, looked pretty good.
Not so fast. As tomorrow’s headlines will scream, “Rossi is BACK!”
On Lap 8, Rossi weaseled his Yamaha through on Bradl into 5th place. Shortly thereafter, Bradl crashed out, apparently stunned at the difference between Vale 2012 and Vale 2013. Having disposed of the German, and with a podium finish dominating his thoughts, Rossi gave us a 2008 vintage comeback. He drew a bead on Crutchlow’s back and started laying down his own string of 1:56 laps until Lap 18, when he went through on the determined Brit who, trying to keep up, went hot into the next turn and took a brief detour across the lawn and out of contention.
Now running fourth and fast, seeing red (and orange) with two Repsol Hondas in front of him, Rossi gave us five of the most enjoyable laps EVER. The Doctor went through on Pedrosa on Lap 19 and schooled rookie Marquez on Lap 20. Marquez, not inclined to accept such a lesson gracefully, came right back at him. After a few position swaps, Rossi eventually prevailed. Thus, in some seven minutes, we were graced with a riveting tire-to-tire fight between the Future and the Past of Grand Prix racing excellence. Score one for the old guy.
At the end of the day, or perhaps Monday morning local time, we find ourselves gleeful over the return of Butch and Sundance in the Yamaha garage, fascinated with Marquez, and feeling a little bad for Dani Pedrosa. Pedrosa, who had won six of the last eight races in 2012 and had been lighting up the timesheets all winter, never got it rolling in Qatar. The good news is that he is starting the season healthy, with arguably the fastest bike on the grid under him. The bad news is that he was mostly a non-factor all weekend. We will write this off as one bad outing, pending his performance in Texas in two weeks.
Ten Things We Learned at Losail
- Jorge Lorenzo is not going to surrender his title willingly. Someone is going to have to step up and TAKE it from him.
- Valentino Rossi is a legitimate threat to win his eighth premier class title this year.
- Marc Marquez’s future is so bright, he needs Ben Spies’ Ray-Ban contract.
- Andrea Dovizioso is going to have a long two years. The 2013 Ducati is maybe a half step faster than the Power Electronics ART bikes.
- Contrary to his pronouncement last week, Colin Edwards is not going to run at the top of the CRT charts.
- The new qualifying format is a cluster.
- A podium celebration without champagne is like kissing your sister through a screen door in a submarine.
- If I were Herve Poncharal, I’d feel a lot more comfortable with Scott Redding in my #2 seat than Bradley Smith. Redding would have won the Moto2 race today if he hadn’t been carrying 20 more pounds than Espargaro. Just sayin’.
- Having two Czech riders, Karel Abraham and Lukas Pesek, on the grid is about the same as having one.
- Hector Barbera will not qualify 22nd very often this season.
The Big Picture
The Grand Prix of Qatar is so different from any other race on the calendar - sand, lights, night racing, etc. - that it doesn’t make much sense to project forward based upon what took place today. But the Repsol Honda team is already, after one round, being forced to play catch-up to the Bruise Brothers on the factory Yamahas. Jorge Lorenzo would have been even more comfortable sailing in front of the fray had he known that his wingman was back there harassing and eventually disposing of the big bad Honda RC213V’s. On the other hand, for Lorenzo, having Rossi as his “wingman” may be only a temporary convenience. It was only three years ago that the two rivals needed a wall built between them in the garage.
Over on the CRT side of the tracks, teammates Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet are once again the class of the class. If anyone looks capable of giving them a run, it may be Avintia Blusens’ Hector Barbera or, my personal fave, Yonny Hernandez on the PBM ART.
On to Austin
Two weeks hence MotoGP will descend upon Austin, Texas for the inaugural Grand Prix of the Americas, so named because the race organizers could not come up with anything MORE pretentious. It is always fun to watch the riders attack unfamiliar circuits, and COTA may have a leavening effect on the field, removing some of the advantage enjoyed by the veteran riders who know every crack and crevice at places like Mugello, to the benefit of the rookies.
For his part, Marc Marquez doesn’t appear to need any more advantages.