MotoGP Misano 2013 Preview

Lorenzo and Pedrosa are running out of time

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Factory Yamaha kingpin Jorge Lorenzo kept his faint 2013 title hopes alive in Britain last time out with a stirring, come-from-behind win over rookie Repsol Honda wunderkind Marc Marquez. That Marquez was competing with a dislocated shoulder on a track perfectly attuned to the YZR-M1’s characteristics makes his 20 point day almost beyond belief. Marquez’s teammate, pre-season favorite Dani Pedrosa, was reduced to spectator status on a day that put the 2013 season in sharp focus.

Round 13, the GP Aperol di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini opens the final third of what has been a shocking premier class season. For Lorenzo and Pedrosa, who had been expected to battle for the title, San Marino will either thrust one of them back into contention or start the countdown to the first of many MotoGP world championships for Marquez, who competes as if he’s from a different planet. The Alien of all Aliens, if you will.

Marc Marquez's winning streak ended at Silverstone but the remarkable rookie has still reached the podium in 11 of 12 rounds this season.

Marc Marquez’s winning streak ended at Silverstone but the remarkable rookie has still reached the podium in 11 of 12 rounds this season.

Silverstone was a race Lorenzo had been expected to win, having won there in 2010 and again last year. He had his game face on all weekend, after third place finishes in Indianapolis and Brno the previous two weeks. He loves the track, and was fast in practice all three days. When Marquez went over the handlebars on Sunday morning, it looked like the racing gods were finally smiling on the Mallorcan, offering him the opportunity for an easy win, a chance to gain back a big chunk of the 44 point deficit his two shoulder surgeries had ceded Marquez. Instead, it took everything he had to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on the penultimate turn of the race. Like a big old yellow dog, Marquez appears more dangerous when hurt.

As for Pedrosa, his racing life has turned into a dirt sandwich, and the only choice remaining is whether he wants it on white or wheat. Appearing more stoic than usual, he seems reconciled the fact that not only is he not going to win the title this year, but he is now unlikely to EVER win a premier class championship. He has now become the Karl Malone of MotoGP, with trophy cases filled to bursting in his spacious den, and not a premier class title to be seen. Fame and fortune are his, but I suspect he would gladly trade it all for a single MotoGP title. After his supersonic finish in 2012, winning six of the last eight, and a successful off-season, 2013 looked to be his year. Having to stand by and watch his 20 year-old teammate bask in the glory of an historic rookie campaign must be a bitter pill to swallow.

For most racers, finishing on the podium is a good day. For Dani Pedrosa, anything short of winning usually means falling further from the championship lead.

For most racers, finishing on the podium is a good day. For Dani Pedrosa, anything short of winning usually means falling further from the championship lead.

And so it goes in 2013. One or two more wins and Marc Marquez will be able to coast to the title. Jorge Lorenzo needs the new “magic Yamaha gearbox” right now; there is no tomorrow. Dani Pedrosa needs a miracle or some serious misfortune to befall his teammate. And while he’s certainly allowed to wish for the former, hoping for the latter is out of bounds, even for a sport in which teammates are usually rivals. At this point, Pedrosa’s only chance is to out-Marquez Marquez, take the fight to him, and let Shuhei Nakamoto worry about the fallout.

Recent History at Misano

2009, The Year of Valentino Rossi’s Last World Championship, saw Rossi win on his Fiat Yamaha, punking hot-blooded teammate Lorenzo on his way to the title, while Pedrosa claimed third and Andrea Dovizioso, also on a factory Honda, took fourth. That year, Alex de Angelis seemed to aim his Gresini Honda at Colin Edwards’ Tech 3 Yamaha on the first lap, unseating Edwards, whose suddenly rider-less bike removed Nicky Hayden from his factory Ducati. Hayden and Edwards had to be restrained by the marshals in the gravel, each eager to administer a lesson on the finer points of motorcycle riding to de Angelis, with their fists.

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Dani Pedrosa won at Misano in 2010, but the event will be most remembered for the death of Shoya Tomizawa.

The 2010 Misano race was a grim affair won eventually by Pedrosa. Lorenzo and Rossi joined him on the podium for a subdued post-race celebration, followed again by Dovizioso. Earlier in the day, Moto2 pilot Shoya Tomizawa died following a gruesome crash involving Scott Redding and de Angelis. That day, we also learned that Cal Crutchlow would be making the jump from World Superbikes to the Tech 3 Yamaha team, replacing Ben Spies, who was tagged to take Rossi’s seat on the factory Yamaha team after Rossi left to join Ducati, in one of the worst career moves ever, by anyone, in any sport, anywhere. Just sayin’.

2011 was Lorenzo’s year, as he easily defeated Pedrosa while Casey Stoner, on his way to the championship, finished an uninspired third. Marco Simoncelli claimed fourth place that day, one of the better outings in his too-short MotoGP career, at the track that now bears his name. For the third consecutive year, Hayden failed to finish, crashing out unassisted early in the race.

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Jorge Lorenzo won the last two MotoGP races at Misano while Italian fans will be rooting for Valentino Rossi to return to his 2009 race-winning form.

Last year, chaos reigned at the start, a long story which resulted in Pedrosa starting from the back of the grid and ended with his getting Barbera’ed on the first lap. With Lorenzo busy running away from the field, the way was suddenly clear for dark horses Rossi and Alvaro Bautista to claim spots on the podium. Pedrosa, who had started the day trailing Lorenzo by a mere 13 points with six rounds to go, ended it trailing by 38, his day and season ruined by a combination of bad luck and Hector Barbera’s persistent lack of spatial awareness.

Lest I forget, it should be noted that Marquez won here in 2010 in the 125 class, and also claimed the top spot on the podium in 2011 and 2012 in Moto2. If you think this weekend’s tilt will be a cage match between the defending world champion and putative 2013 world champion, it shows you’ve been paying attention.

Marc Marquez is no stranger to Misano, winning races the last three years.

Marc Marquez is no stranger to Misano, winning races the last three years in the 125cc and Moto2 classes.

Naturally, most of the fans in attendance will miss the action up front, eyes glued on Rossi, who figures to battle Pedrosa for third, and Andrea Dovizioso, primed for another grudge match with factory Ducati teammate Nicky Hayden over 8th place. Jeesh. Are there any bigger homers anywhere than Italian racing fans?

Your Weekend Forecast

Just kidding. Herve Poncharal, the big cheese at Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, was speculating on Crash.net this week that the MotoGP calendar may be expanding to 20 rounds next season, with Brazil and Argentina joining the mix and no current venues falling off the schedule. This, to me, sounds rather unlikely, as most of the riders seem to have a hard time completing an 18 round schedule without several visits to intensive care units. But God knows Poncharal is closer to the action than I am.

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Nicky Hayden tested a WSBK-spec Ducati 1199 Panigale R this week and reportedly posted impressive times.

OK, OK, the weather forecast for the weekend is sunny and lovely, temps in the 70s and clear skies, etc., etc. Great conditions for everyone but the mudders on the factory Ducati team. If I had to make a prediction, I’d make it Lorenzo, Marquez and Rossi. Fortunately, I don’t.

Fox Sports 1 will carry the race live on Sunday, with coverage, and the race, starting at 8 am Eastern time. We’ll have results right here on Sunday afternoon.

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