On a cloudy day in the hills above the Adriatic Riviera, factory Yamaha #1 Jorge Lorenzo demonstrated why he is a double premier class world champion. In the second of seven consecutive “must win” races, he never trailed the Repsol Honda duo of Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa in a decisive Yamaha vs. Honda beatdown. Now, all he must do to maintain a faint chance for his third world championship is run the table for the rest of the season.
Lorenzo has had a number of days like this in his six premier class seasons. Starting from the middle of the first row, he was able to jump out to the early lead, put the hammer down, establish a working margin over the next three bikes, and lay down 28 throbbing, piston-like laps that left his chasers gasping for air. He clearly has the sense of urgency which should accompany a 34 point deficit to rookie series leader Marc Marquez with five races left in the season. In the post-race press conference, he acknowledged that today’s win has little to do with the 2013 title, other than to boost his confidence and provide a few warm fuzzies. With six wins in his last six races in Italy, he should get a “JL ♥ Italia” bumper sticker for his M1.
The trio of Pedrosa, Marquez and Alien Emeritus Valentino Rossi, respectively, trailed Lorenzo at the start, with Rossi looking perky and capable of impacting the podium one way or another. On Lap 5, Marquez had to stand his bike up to avoid running up Pedrosa’s back wheel, allowing Rossi through into 3rd place and giving the 50,000 Italian fans something to cheer insanely about for roughly 12 minutes. Marquez went back through Rossi on Lap 12, relegating the local hero to fourth place for the fourth consecutive race, leading to the inescapable conclusion that Rossi is now the fourth fastest rider on the grid. The insane cheering continued unabated, regardless.
What transpired next was an instructive intra-team battle between yesterday and tomorrow, as Pedrosa and Marquez threw down, bared their teeth, and went at it. Pedrosa, desperately trying to hold on to second place and some relevance in the 2013 title hunt, kept the rookie at bay until Lap 18, when Marquez aggressively passed him. Pedrosa, who had been staring at the rookie’s back tire all weekend, was not going down without a fight. He finally managed to go back through on his teammate on Lap 22, only to cede the lead some three turns later, and that was that. Gathering another 20 points today, Marquez extended his series lead, now over Lorenzo and Pedrosa, to 34 points, with Lorenzo holding the tiebreaker.
For those of you anxious to criticize me for conceding the 2013 title to Marc Marquez this early in the season, I will argue that a thoroughly broken Dani Pedrosa is out of the equation, and that what fight is left will be between Marquez and Lorenzo. Over Lorenzo’s five premier class seasons at the remaining 5 venues, he has two wins – Motegi in 2009 and Valencia in 2010 – to show for his efforts.
(Marquez, in his final 125 season and two Moto2 years, has 6 wins out of 13 possibles.)
As today’s tilt showed, even when Lorenzo wins, he can’t count on grabbing back a lot of points on the unflappable, smooth-faced rookie. Someone kindly calculate the odds of Lorenzo beating Marquez five rounds in a row at circuits where his victories over the past five seasons have come in at around 10% (with three DNFs) vs. 42% for Marquez. Never mind. Relying on an advanced degree in economics, I’ve computed that number myself, which comes in at “just north of zero.”
To further kick this dead horse, even if Lorenzo does win the next five rounds – a dubious proposition, although the new Yamaha seamless gearbox will help him – Marquez now has a magic number of, at most, 92. The heat of Sepang and the slow, stop-and-go pace of Motegi will work in his favor. With Stoner out of the picture, Phillip Island is now up for grabs, and should favor Lorenzo. I’m a big fan of Jorge Lorenzo, who handles himself professionally at all times, but I fear he is now in the “moral victory” business, as the war appears to have been lost. Just sayin’.
Elsewhere on the Grid
Yamaha Tech 3 Brit Cal Crutchlow and LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl squared off for a day-long battle over 5th place, with Crutchlow getting worked by the young German late on the final lap to cap a nauseating weekend. He managed exactly one fast lap in practice to start in the middle of the second row after having had to go through Q1. Bradl, whose season seems to have peaked at Laguna Seca, managed a small victory today but appears to be underachieving on what should be a very fast ride.
Aspar Power Electronics star Aleix Espargaro took full advantage of the cramped layout of the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli to qualify in 6th place and appeared to be en route to a great day until the lights went out at the start, as he got away way early and had to take a ride-through penalty, ultimately finishing 13th, four seconds behind top CRT finisher Colin Edwards on his NGM Forward Racing nag. Espargaro, who expects to advance up the MotoGP food chain next season, is apparently having difficulties negotiating a move within the caste system that comprises the premier class, judging from comments he made to Crash.net earlier in the week.
I’m trying to think of something positive to say about GO&FUN Gresini Honda pilot Alvaro Bautista, who started eighth and finished seventh, courtesy of Espargaro’s flinch, but just can’t find the words. Mark my words – this guy, assuming he holds on to his contract for 2014, is on his way down the food chain. He may have the best hair on the grid, but the rest of the package is, as my dad used to say, from hunger. The irony built into his sponsorship is hilarious, as he is generally Slow Go and No Fun.
The season-long skirmish over eighth place between factory Ducati teammates Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden continued in full force today, with Dovi coming out on top. Both were within five seconds of losing to factory tester Michele Pirro, again subbing for the so-finished Ben Spies on the Ignite Pramac junior entry, which would have been thoroughly humiliating in front of the suits from the Bologna factory attending today’s race.
Tech 3 Yamaha #2 Bradley Smith, who has benefitted from some of the Dovizioso/Hayden clashes during the season, could only manage 11th place today during a wasted weekend in the idyllic province of Rimini. He might as well have been laying out on the beach, his fish belly-white skin getting burned to a crisp.
Changes Afoot at the Bottom of the Pool
Crash.net reports some interesting news from the Pramac and Paul Byrd Motorsports teams today, as ridiculous as that may sound. Pramac, a little slow on the uptake, is apparently finally convinced that Ben Spies’ season is over, and has reportedly poached Yonny Hernandez from the PBM team to finish the season on its junior Desmosedici. (Yonny, I hope your health insurance premiums are up-to-date.) Michele Pirro, who seems to have a great deal of potential, will be going back to testing for Ducati. All of this is apparently good news too for Michael Laverty, who will be promoted from the team’s ART-powered Frankenbike to its full ART package, with an unfortunate Rider To Be Named Later taking over Laverty’s bucket.
As for this report’s bearing on the 2013 championship, it should be noted that Hernandez has scored seven points this year and Laverty three.
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||253|
|2||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha Factory||219|
|3||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||219|
|4||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha Factory||169|
|5||Cal Crutchlow||Monster Tech3 Yamaha||146|
|6||Stefan Bradl||LCR Honda||124|
|7||Alvaro Bautista||Gresini Honda||112|
|8||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Factory||104|
|9||Nicky Hayden||Ducati Factory||95|
|10||Bradley Smith||Monster Tech3 Yamaha||71|
|Aleix Espargaro||Power Electronics Aspar||71|