In the modern era of MotoGP, no rider has crafted a season comparable to Marc Marquez in 2014. Among the records he established this season are most wins in a single season, becoming the youngest rider to repeat as world champion, and claiming the most poles in one season. At age 21, the MotoGP world is his oyster. As announcer Nick Harris asked repeatedly during today’s contest, where will it all end?
The bulk of the on-track suspense today was provided by the weather which, having been idyllic all weekend, brought just enough rain during the premier class race to jumble what should have been an orderly procession. As the grid lined up, an azure sky suddenly filled with black rain clouds. Once the sighting lap had been completed, the pit crews commenced a frenzied effort to put the #2 bikes in wet setup, changing out virtually everything but the engines and decals in a few frantic minutes.
It began to rain lightly immediately after the start, which found Pramac Ducati overachiever Andrea Iannone leading the usual Alien suspects – Valentino Rossi, Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo – at the end of Lap 1. The factory Ducati contingent of Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso were right up there too, and the crowd at the front had a number of fans watching through their hands, dreading what could easily have been a multi-bike, season-changing snafu which, somehow, the contestants managed to avoid. On Lap 2, Race Direction showed the white flag, indicating the riders could pit to change bikes at their leisure. By Lap 3, Movistar Yamaha icon Lorenzo had fallen back to 7th position, his psychological issues with wet tracks, born at Assen last year, clearly visible and a harbinger of bad things yet to come later in his day.
Approaching mid-race, a number of predictable things began to occur, as fuel loads dropped and Iannone’s tires began to decompose. On Lap 10, Marquez went through easily on Rossi into second place, waged war with Iannone for most of a lap, and went through on the Italian the next time around into the lead he would hold for the rest of the day. On Lap 13, wildcard Suzuki rider Randy de Puniet fulfilled our prediction and retired from the race, disappointing everyone, myself included, who had hoped for more from Suzuki’s return to MotoGP. By the end of Lap 15, the Aliens owned the top four spots on the grid, with Marquez leading Rossi, Pedrosa challenging from third, and Lorenzo seemingly holding on for dear life in fourth.
The rain arrived again on Lap 18, with the leaders giving up roughly eight seconds per lap trying to stay upright. Lorenzo and Iannone, losing ground fighting over 4th place and with little to lose, pitted and changed bikes, a decision Lorenzo will have all winter to regret. Praying for a drenching rain that never came, the two re-entered the race out of the points. Predictably, their rain tires, with a lifespan measured in minutes running on dry asphalt, quickly dissolved, with Lorenzo retiring on Lap 25 and Iannone finishing a lap down. Once again, the rain had stopped as quickly as it started, and the race was dry for the duration. Marquez, Rossi and Pedrosa, running 1-2-3 since Lap 12, would finish in that order, giving Rossi second place for the year, a remarkable accomplishment for the 35-year-old wonder. Rossi, though still a force to be reckoned with, believes he can challenge for the title in 2015, a vivid example of the power of adrenaline over sound judgment.
Elsewhere on the Grid
The little races-within-the-race provided some excitement for folks who follow such things. Factory Ducati #1 Dovizioso pipped defecting teammate Crutchlow at the flag for 4th place in a battle that raged all day. The Espargaro brothers ran together most of the day, with little brother Pol pushing his satellite Tech 3 Yamaha to a 3/10th margin over Aleix on the Forward Racing Yamaha, cementing 6th place for the season at big brother’s expense. Pol’s teammate, Brit Bradley Smith, had been in contention for sixth place for much of the second half of the season, but a brief off-track excursion late today produced a 14th place finish and confirmed an 8th place result for the season.
A Story of Two Half Seasons
|Rider||Rounds 1-9||Rounds 10-18|
|*Factory Ducati rider; top non-Alien for the year once again.|
A cursory examination of the results attained by the factory Honda and Yamaha teams in Rounds 1-9 versus Rounds 10-18 shows a dramatic turnaround in fortunes. Marquez and Pedrosa combined for 373 points in the first half versus 235 in the second. Rossi and Lorenzo combined for only 228 points in the first but came back with 320 in the second.
Had Marquez not completely dominated the first half of the season, the championship battle leading up to today’s race would have been far more interesting. This, of course, is the old “if a bullfrog had wings” argument easily dismissed by discerning readers.
The 2015 Season is Already Here
Having turned out the lights on the 2014 season today, we look forward to the changes on the 2015 grid that officially start tomorrow. The grid parts company with the PBM team and riders Michael Laverty and Broc Parkes, but is joined by the factory Suzuki team of Aleix Espargaro and Moto2 grad Maverick Vinales onboard (Vinales likely sporting a penalty point or two from his silly takedown of Mike Kallio in the Moto2 race today).
Moto3 tough guy Jack Miller, who won the riveting battle but lost the war to Alex Marquez in Moto3 today, jumps up to join Crutchlow on an expanded LCR Honda team. Eugene Laverty makes the move from World Superbike to MotoGP to join Nicky Hayden on an energized Drive 7 Aspar Honda team. Coming along for the ride is Frenchman Loris Baz, who will team up with Stefan Bradl at the Yamaha-powered NGM Forward Racing group. And great things are expected from Scott Redding next year, as he reunites with his homeys at Marc VDS Racing and its new MotoGP team, playing with a factory option Honda.
In addition to Bradl and Espargaro, Crutchlow will change livery tomorrow, making his first appearance on a factory option LCR Honda. Alvaro Bautista rode his factory Honda for the last time today, having been deservedly demoted to the tenuous factory Gresini Aprilia “Modest Expectations” team, second rider, if any, yet to be named. Iannone gets bumped up from Pramac to the factory Ducati team alongside Dovizioso, the Italians seeking resurrection in 2015 under the mystical hand of Gigi Dall’igna. And Danilo Petrucci gets a boost from Octo IodaRacing to Pramac, with his spot going to a determinedly optimistic Alex de Angelis.
A season which began with Lorenzo crashing out on Lap 1 at Losail ends with three symmetric podium celebrations at Circuit Ricardo Tormo. The new Moto3 world champion, Alex Marquez, stood on the third step of the podium today. The new Moto2 champion, Tito Rabat, stood on the second. And the new MotoGP champion, Marc Marquez, stood on the top. For the first time in MotoGP history, two brothers are champions, joined in triumph by their best friend and training companion. Allegedly, the three conduct the most vigorous in-season and off-season training regime in the sport. It is appropriate, therefore, that we salute all three with a quote from our old friend Aristotle, who observed centuries ago that “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Thank you to all the Old MOrons who have faithfully followed this column this year. We look forward to hooking up with you again next spring for what promises to be another memorable year of grand prix racing.
|2014 MotoGP Valenicia Top Ten Results|
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||–|
|2||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||+3.516|
|3||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+14.040|
|4||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Corse||+16.705|
|5||Cal Crutchlow||Ducati Corse||+16.773|
|6||Pol Espargaro||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+37.884|
|7||Aleix Espargaro||NGM Forward Racing||+38.168|
|8||Stefan Bradl||LCR Honda||+41.803|
|9||Michele Pirro||Ducati Corse||+45.710|
|10||Scott Redding||GO&FUN Honda Gresini||+51.191|
|2014 MotoGP Final Standings|
|7||Aleix Espargaro||Forward Yamaha||126|
|21||Alex de Angelis||Forward Yamaha||14|
|22||Colin Edwards||Forward Yamaha||11|
|25||Mike di Meglio||Avintia||9|