It was a thoroughly hectic weekend for factory Yamaha kingpin Jorge Lorenzo at the 2013 Dutch TT Assen. Broke his collarbone in a routine highside in FP2 on Thursday afternoon, chartered a jet to Barcelona that day, had a couple hours of surgery early Friday morning, grabbed a bite to eat, flew back to Assen, slept a little on the plane, started 12th and finished 5th in the race. Had to be helped off his bike at the end. Ho hum.
Another day at the office for Lorenzo. This is a man chasing a third championship. This is a man with a pair the size of hubcaps. Less than 36 hours after receiving a titanium plate and eight screws to hold it on, Lorenzo, The Bionic Man, in a world of pain, risks life and limb, so to speak, in order to stay within range of series leader and Repsol Honda #1 Dani Pedrosa.
So, instead of facing a barely comprehensible 32 point deficit, Lorenzo heroically manages to stay in second place within 9 points of Pedrosa. That Pedrosa would cooperate by having an uncharacteristically bad outing and finishing 4th was good fortune itself. It’s still a race, albeit an uphill one for Lorenzo, for the title. For today, the race had about the best possible outcome for Lorenzo, who is somewhat miraculously bent, not broken.
Meanwhile, Back at the Race
Largely overlooked in all this were two performances, one serene, the other sublime, almost surreal. The first was Monster Tech 3 Yamaha ruffian Cal Crutchlow, winning the pole as a Brit for the first time in 11 years, the first satellite bike on the pole since yank Ben Spies, on the same bike, did it in Indianapolis in 2010.
Despite a poor start, and despite looking like he could crash out of a podium at any moment, as is his wont, Crutchlow went through on Pedrosa on Lap 21 to finish 3rd, a great result for the suddenly hot Englishman. His late run at Honda rookie Marc Marquez didn’t work out, as the two bikes touched, Marquez held his line, and Crutchlow lost his. End of story for second place. Crutchlow richly earns his third podium of the season and does nothing to diminish his prospects for 2014.
The surreal picture of the day, of course, was that of Valentino Rossi starting 4th, going through on Stefan Bradl into 3rd place on Lap 1. Flying, looking eerily like the Rossi of 2008, he went through easily on Marquez on Lap 5 into 2nd place. From there, it was one more lap until he slipped past Pedrosa on Lap 6 and won, not by a mile, but going virtually unchallenged over the last 20 laps. It was fun watching, in turn, Bradl, Pedrosa, and finally Marquez thinking, “Holy s**t. I’ve got Valentino-frigging-Rossi on my tail, and he’s got pace. God help me.” I wrote Rossi off earlier in the year, before his epiphany with the brakes this past week. Let’s see how he does in Germany and Laguna, the rest of Amen Corner, before giving him his Alien membership card back.
As good a day as it was individually for Lorenzo and Rossi and Crutchlow, it was a great day for Team Yamaha, putting three bikes in the top five and two on the podium, with Lorenzo averting disaster, living to fight again another day for the 2013 title. And, for the record, we are wondering when the last time was that neither Pedrosa nor Lorenzo stood on the podium after a race (ed. Valencia, for the final race of the 2011 season, though Lorenzo missed the race. Brno that same year was the last time they both started and missed the podium.) All I can say is Jorge Lorenzo makes me shake my head – about Ben Spies.
Elsewhere on the Grid
Repsol Honda #2 Marc Marquez finished second today after three consecutive wins at Assen over the past three years in the junior leagues. He also has three wins in a row at Sachsenring, so expect him to be competitive again next time out. Pedrosa has three premier class wins there, too, while Lorenzo has four seconds in a row, some kind of frustration record.
Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda qualified for his first premier class front row, started well, but faded to his usual 6th place finish. Brit Bradley Smith qualified 6th on his Tech 3 Yamaha but slipped to 9th at the flag. In between the two were Alvaro Bautista on the Gresini Honda and Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia CRT. Bautista was celebrating not having taken a factory Yamaha out on Lap 1 and little else.
Andrea Dovizioso finishing 10th and Nicky Hayden 11th on the factory Ducatis were the high point of a lousy weekend for the Bologna branch of Audi Corporation. Dovizioso, presumably, is smarting from having been assessed a penalty point, a whole penalty point, along with Hector Barbera resulting from a close encounter in qualifying in which they were observed trying to pimp-slap one another. The penalty points, new this season from your friends at Race Direction, were for “fighting like girls.”
Dovizioso, who managed to qualify a sterling 15th on his shiny factory Ducati, said he has a clear conscience about the entire incident. If you can willingly abandon a Yamaha ride for a Ducati ride, I guess you can have a clear conscience about lots of things. Former partner and teammate Cal Crutchlow is fighting for podiums on the satellite Yamaha, and Dovi is slapfighting with Spaniards on the way to 10th place finishes. Spaniards who’ve already been beaten up by their girlfriends this season. Just sayin’.
The Big Picture
Dani Pedrosa maintains his lead in the series, now leading Lorenzo by nine points. In third sits Marquez, with 113 points, 14 behind Lorenzo. Farther back, Rossi and Crutchlow are virtually deadlocked for fourth place, with Crutchlow at 87 and Rossi 85. Here is the top ten after seven rounds in 2013:
2013 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After Seven Rounds
|1||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||136|
|2||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha Factory||127|
|3||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||113|
|4||Cal Crutchlow||Monster Tech3 Yamaha||87|
|5||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha Factory||85|
|6||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Factory||65|
|7||Stefan Bradl||LCR Honda||51|
|8||Nicky Hayden||Ducati Factory||50|
|9||Alvaro Bautista||Gresini Honda||47|
|10||Aleix Espargaro||Power Electronics Aspar||44|
Heading to Germany, a very Honda-friendly track, Pedrosa will expect to extend his lead over Lorenzo, while Marquez, too, will be thinking career win #2. Lorenzo, one thinks, would be delighted to finish second at the Sachsenring again this year, in his condition. Perhaps his wingman Rossi can take up some of the slack and keep the Repsol boys at bay while the Mallorcan continues to heal.
As for Dani Pedrosa, despite an ordinary outing today, he leads the championship, perhaps at a later stage in the season than ever before. He’s uninjured – did we mention that Marquez broke a toe and a finger in practice yesterday? – and leading the series, with some friendly circuits coming up. It’s too early for him to begin thinking about getting conservative, about just not crashing. But one gets the sense that, at some point, it will be time. For the first time in his premier class career, he may find himself later this season with a trophy to protect.
Today, in the Netherlands, Team Yamaha had its day in the sun. We’re only halfway to Valencia, but the 2013 Repsol Honda team must be feeling pretty sunny themselves.