MotoGP Circuit of the Americas 2013 Results
Marc Marquez becomes youngest winner in history
Most MotoGP fans are likely to remember where they were during the inaugural Grand Prix of the Americas in 2013, where Repsol Honda rookie phenom Marc Marquez became the youngest rider ever to win a premier class race. Not content with being the youngest pole-sitter in MotoGP history, the charismatic Catalan stalked teammate Dani Pedrosa for 13 laps before going through effortlessly into a tie for the world title with defending champion Jorge Lorenzo. The new kid in town has arrived.
Suddenly, everyone else on the grid looks old, slow and uptight. Each time he’s interviewed, Marquez comes across as a happy, humble, regular kind of guy. Watching him come up through the 125s and Moto2, like a hot knife through butter, you got the clear impression he was going to be successful one day in the premier class.
In only his second race onboard the Honda RC213V, he has now come of age, at a track he is liable to dominate for the next decade. In so doing, he has become my favorite to win the 2013 world championship. Not to mention having eclipsed a record which had stood since 1982, when then Honda rookie Freddie Spencer won the Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
For Honda, a Weekend to Remember
All weekend, the Hondas took to the COTA circuit like ducks to water. Similar to the rather clubby testing back in March, at which only five anointed riders participated, the Hondas eat up tracks like this, where riders spending roughly 25% of their lap times in first gear. (Too bad Casey Stoner isn’t here to slam it for being slow and boring.) People in the know refer to these circuits as “technical”, compared to the flowing layouts found at places like Mugello and Aragon, which are referred to as “fast.”
Marquez and Pedrosa dominated the timesheets all weekend, with Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo laboring to keep up, and his teammate Valentino Rossi having all kinds of problems, ranging from smoke and water damage to the bike (from a fire in the Tech 3 Yamaha garage on Thursday night) to braking issues. The two top non-factory riders, Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda and Cal Crutchlow on the Tech 3 Yamaha, battled to stay in the conversation in practice knowing they would not make it to the podium on Sunday.
With Marquez, Pedrosa and Lorenzo starting on the front row, everyone made it safely through the slightly crazy Turn 1. Pedrosa and Marquez emerged in the lead, but Lorenzo, having tried to go airborne at the start, got bogged down and fell back to around fifth place. He got things squared away quickly, and went through on Bradl into third place at turn 19. Crutchlow, also starting poorly, went through on Bradl on Lap 9 into fourth place.
Rossi, starting in the eight hole, would bring it back as far as sixth, in what must have been a painful flashback to last year. Meanwhile, Pedrosa and Marquez ran away from the field for their own intra-team battle. At turn seven on Lap 13, Marquez went through cleanly on Pedrosa and into the history books.
For Yamaha, a Weekend to Forget
So there was this little fire on Thursday night, which left the bikes of four teams covered in fire suppression foam and thoroughly watered down, to the detriment of everyone’s computers and electronics. (Were it not for the suppression system and quick response from Austin area firefighters, the factory Yamaha team might have lost six bikes worth $12 million; things could have been worse.)
Neither Lorenzo nor Rossi was able to do anything about the Repsol Hondas. Both were probably thinking about Jerez as they crossed the finish line, wishing to put this round behind them.
Cal Crutchlow had another superb weekend, after having told the press he would be happy finishing in the top six. His teammate and fellow Brit Bradley Smith announced that his goal for the weekend was to, ahem, finish the race, which would have been MY goal had they allowed fat old non-riders to compete. Smith drove his Yamaha into a barely-respectable 12th place finish, just behind the Power Electronics CRT bike piloted by Aleix Espargaro, clearly the cream of the current CRT crop.
For Ducati, Just Another Weekend
The race ended with the four Ducati entries occupying 7th (Andrea Dovizioso), 9th (Nicky Hayden), 10th (Andrea Iannone) and 12th (Ben Spies). Not quite as exhilarating as Qatar, when they finished 7-8-9-10. The Bologna factory has exactly one chance to put a rider on the podium this year, which would occur if a hurricane were to strike Mugello on race Sunday and red flag the race after, say, three laps.
Dovizioso or Hayden could conceivably parlay a fast lap in qualifying into a second row start and, if some seriously bad luck or lightning struck an alien or two, slip one of the red bikes into the money before their tires started to go. Otherwise, fuggedaboutit.
All Dressed Up, Nowhere to Go
At the start of practice on Friday, 26 bikes graced the track, including the two wildcards, Attack Performance’s Blake Young and GPTech’s Michael Barnes, but only 24 would actually start the race. Barnes failed to break the 107% threshold necessary to qualify, while Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham sustained a broken right collarbone following a collision with Gresini’s Bryan Staring in Q1. With a titanium plate and seven screws in place, Abraham is questionable for Jerez. Young managed 21st place, which sounds a lot better than “finished last, a lap down.”
By the way, the best quote of the weekend came from Crutchlow, who observed, “If you mess up on Turn 2, you’ve messed up for (the next) nine corners.”
The Big Picture
While the season is still young, it looks as if young Marquez and veteran Lorenzo will be the primary combatants for the 2013 title. Rossi is again relevant, but cannot afford too many outings like today. And Dani Pedrosa must be sick to his stomach facing the possibility that he has missed his last best chance for a championship. He is in danger of becoming that most pitiable of athletes, the guy who dominated his sport but never earned a ring. Think Karl Malone, John Stockton and Charles Barkley of the NBA. Think Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson of the NFL. Or Ted Williams and Carl Yastrzemski of MLB. Plenty of fame and fortune, all of which they might have gladly traded for a championship.
|2013 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After Two Rounds|
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||41|
|2||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha Factory||41|
|3||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||33|
|4||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha Factory||30|
|5||Cal Crutchlow||Monster Tech3 Yamaha||24|
|6||Alvaro Bautista||Gresini Honda||18|
|7||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Factory||18|
|8||Nicky Hayden||Ducati Factory||15|
|9||Andrea Iannone||Pramac Ducati||13|
|10||Stefan Bradl||LCR Honda||11|
Next Up: The Road to Jerez
MotoGP next heads to Europe for the first time this season, for the first of four grands prix in Spain. Given the fact that Honda, Yamaha and even Ducati have all enjoyed recent success in southern Spain, we are reluctant to characterize Jerez as “technical” or “fast.” Let’s split the difference, and just call it “awesome.”
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