Years from now, when racing historians ask, “Was there an identifiable moment when Marc Marquez made it clear he would become one of the all-time greats in MotoGP?” many people will answer, “Lap six of the 2013 Aragon GP.” Determined to go through on Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa at Turn 12, he grazed the back of Pedrosa’s rear tire, stood his bike up, and watched as Pedrosa lost control in a violent highside. With Pedrosa done for the day, Marquez went on to track down Yamaha #1 Jorge Lorenzo for the sixth win of his rookie year.
With four rounds left in the 2013 season, it appears Marquez can coast to the first of what promises to be a healthy number of premier class world titles. Lorenzo, his nearest rival, now trails him by 39 points while Pedrosa, battered, bruised and broken, stands another 20 points in arrears, the victim of Marquez’s lack of experience and utter fearlessness. No one will suggest that Marquez’s move in Turn 12 was malicious; he came within a whisker of crashing out himself, saved once again only by his cat-like balance and reflexes. If he can be accused of anything, it is a certain ruthlessness hidden behind his apparent baby-faced innocence. But make no mistake about it: Marquez is ambitious and driven, and you had better stand out of his way.
The other riders on the grid have already figured this out. Lorenzo, who led from the first turn, found himself on Lap 14 with Marquez on his pipes. Rather than be attacked by the rookie, Lorenzo, as competitive as they come, let Marquez through, admitting so in the post-race press conference. On a windy day, with braking problems, Lorenzo decided he would be better off slipstreaming the Honda rider, attacking rather than getting attacked. His strategy failed, as Marquez, once through, never looked back on his way to winning by 1.5 seconds.
Last week I talked about the eyes of Pedrosa and Lorenzo, how Pedrosa appeared resigned while Lorenzo seemed determined. The images from today’s race will show Pedrosa wearing what’s known as the thousand mile stare, and a look of resignation – not to be confused with acceptance – now written on Lorenzo’s face. Nothing Lorenzo could have done today or this season (other than paying heed to cold tires at Assen and the Sachsenring) was going to prevent Marquez from winning his first premier class title. It has been a matter of too much bike, too much ability, and too much good fortune to end any other way.
One wonders about the atmosphere going forward in the Repsol Honda garage. On the Marquez side, at age 20, his career path is now leaving contrails on the way to fame, fortune and glory. On the Pedrosa side, there must exist a disturbing sense that part of the reason for his now certain ruin lays at Marquez’s doorstep.
On his 28th birthday, Pedrosa must understand that his future in MotoGP is likely to consist of a few competitive seasons, followed, perhaps, by a few non-competitive seasons, after which he will need to find something to do with the rest of his life. Like Roman candles, the best MotoGP careers burn spectacularly for a short time, inspiring plenty of oohs and aahs, before leaving behind, in most cases, a charred, hollow, quickly-forgotten casing. Winning a championship changes the end of the story and establishes a legacy; failing to do so reduces one to a Wikipedia entry. In the opinion of many, Dani Pedrosa deserves better.
Elsewhere on the Grid
Yamaha #2 and Alien Emeritus Valentino Rossi took advantage of Pedrosa’s misfortune by out-riding GO&FUN Honda pilot Alvaro Bautista on the way to his fifth podium of the year. Rossi, Bautista, LCR Honda German Stefan Bradl and Monster Tech 3 defector Cal Crutchlow formed the second group of the day and jockeyed for third place from Lap 6 on, with Rossi taking advantage of his experience to beat the two Hondas to the flag. The same could be said for most of the grid from Row 5 up; for the non-Aliens, the 2013 Aragon GP pretty much ended up where it started.
Crutchlow’s teammate and fellow Brit Bradley Smith finished in his customary seventh place, while Ducati #1 Andrea Dovizioso topped teammate Nicky Hayden in their weekly tussle for eighth. For the season, Hayden has finished seventh, eighth or ninth a total of 10 times and Dovizioso nine. Dovizioso leads Hayden in the standings 112 to 102. After 14 rounds last year, Dovi had accumulated 179 points. The difference – 67 points, or 5 points per round – is The Ducati Effect. Crutchlow, leaving Tech 3 Yamaha at the end of the year for the Italian manufacturer, currently holds 156 points. Expect him to be under 100 at this time next year, but living in a bigger house.
The Big Picture
The only conceivable factor clouding the picture as the 2013 season winds down is that fact that Marc Marquez suffered the single most injurious crash of his career at the next stop on the tour in Malaysia. That was in 2011, and it was overlooked in the chaos and heartbreak surrounding the death that same weekend of Marco Simoncelli. During one of the practice sessions following a rainstorm, with the track drying, Marquez failed to notice a puddle of water in one of the turns, hydroplaned at speed, going airborne and landing on his head. His vision was impaired through the beginning of the 2012 season. He will undoubtedly be more cautious this year, as he can clinch the title by finishing third for the next four races.
Jorge Lorenzo, of course, will not quit in his pursuit of his budding nemesis. He will be at a disadvantage at Sepang due to the heat and Motegi due to the layout. He will have a puncher’s chance at Phillip Island and Valencia. But unless Marquez crashes out at least once, Lorenzo will have to be satisfied as the runner-up in 2013. And, as we’ve discussed above at length, probably for some years to come.
Otherwise, there is very little at stake in the remaining rounds. Crutchlow is leaving his team at the end of the year and has nothing to prove. Bradl would prefer to finish ahead of Bautista in the satellite Honda scrum, but each is under contract for 2014. Nicky Hayden may be the most highly motivated rider on the grid for the duration, as he would dearly love to stick one in the eye of Ducati management and outpoint teammate Dovizioso before his ejection from the team. If, as rumored, he hooks up with the Aspar Power Electronics team on what would be pretty much a 2014 factory Aprilia, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him beating the Ducati riders next season. That would be something to cheer about.
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||278|
|2||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha Factory||239|
|3||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||219|
|4||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha Factory||185|
|5||Cal Crutchlow||Monster Tech3 Yamaha||156|
|6||Stefan Bradl||LCR Honda||135|
|7||Alvaro Bautista||Gresini Honda||125|
|8||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Factory||112|
|9||Nicky Hayden||Ducati Factory||102|
|10||Bradley Smith||Monster Tech3 Yamaha||71|
|Aleix Espargaro||Power Electronics Aspar||80|