Two weeks ago at Assen, we witnessed the re-birth of factory Yamaha legend Valentino Rossi in what was easily the most exciting race of the year thus far. Adding to the drama was the gutty performance of his teammate, defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who defied logic, common sense and the advice of his surgeon on his way to a brilliant 5th place finish that kept him in the hunt for the 2013 title. Sunday’s eni Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland offers a great opportunity for the Repsol Honda duo of Dani Pedrosa & Marc Marquez to strike back.
Dennis Noyes offers a well-written and -researched article on SpeedTV.com suggesting that if Pedrosa is ever going to win a premier class title, this is the year. He’s as healthy as he’s ever been at this point in the season, while his nemesis and rival Lorenzo is greatly wounded. Pedrosa is the king of acceleration out of turns, for whom the layout of the Sachsenring is a gift, the MotoGP equivalent of rush hour in Los Angeles. He has won here the last three years, as has his teammate, rookie Marc Marquez, albeit in the 125 and Moto2 classes. And, as if that weren’t enough, the circuits at the next three venues – Laguna Seca, Indianapolis and Brno – all favor the Repsol Honda RC213V.
By all rights, on August 26th, the day after the Czech Grand Prix, Pedrosa should enjoy a healthy double-digit lead over Lorenzo in the standings. With seven rounds left thereafter, three of which take place on the annual Pacific swing, Pedrosa should be in the driver’s seat. The planets appear perfectly aligned. What could possibly go wrong?
From this vantage point, the only thing to be feared – dreaded, in fact – is injury. And the problem is, it could arise from any number of sources. Back in 2010, during practice at Motegi, Pedrosa’s throttle stuck open, tossing him over the handlebars and into the hospital with a broken collarbone. The revitalized Rossi never backs away from a scrap; if he continues to run up front, the Italian would enjoy trading a little paint with il piccolo spagnolo.
Then there’s GO’N’FUN flake Alvaro Bautista, he of the palpably low racing IQ, who is a constant threat to Aliens running anywhere near him. Finally, Pedrosa’s own teammate, Marquez, is under no team orders to back away from Pedrosa should things get interesting late in the day. Such orders might come later in the year if, in fact, Pedrosa maintains his lead. For now, they race as equals, and Marquez loves contact.
I’ve never been a huge Pedrosa fan, and not because of the fiasco with Nicky Hayden at Estoril in 2006. But, at this point, I feel he’s suffered enough. I would like to see him stay injury-free for the rest of the season, and not fall victim to just plain bad luck. Should he prevail in 2013, shucking the despised “most career premier class wins without a championship” mantle, I will salute him and wish him well. Starting next year, the smart money will be riding on his teammate. Carpe diem, Dani.
Recent History at Sachsenring
Pedrosa has enjoyed four premier class wins in Germany, including the last three. Rossi, too, has four victories here, the most recent coming in 2009. Jorge Lorenzo has finished second here the last four years; given the condition of his left wing, the impertinence of Marquez, and the ascent of Rossi from the ashes, it would be surprising if he were to keep that streak alive.
Recent appearances on the German podium have also been made by Andrea Dovizioso (third last year, fourth in 2011), former double champion Casey Stoner, and an American named Ben Spies, last seen on a MotoGP bike back in Texas, months ago.
A Brief Tale of Two Riders
During a slow news week, let’s compare the recent fortunes of two non-Aliens, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha Brit Cal Crutchlow and LCR Honda pilot Stefan Bradl, who will undoubtedly play his “home race” card sometime this week. Crutchlow is in his third year in MotoGP, having moved over from World Superbike after the 2010 season. Bradl won the inaugural Moto2 title in 2011 despite recording zero (0) wins over the last 11 rounds that year. Each has been the premier class Rookie of the Year. Crutchlow, though, rides a legitimate “satellite” Yamaha, meaning he gets inferior support from the factory, while Bradl’s Honda RC213V is virtually indistinguishable from the factory rides of Pedrosa and Marquez.
Crutchlow is a baller, currently fighting Valentino Rossi for 4th place in the standings, while Bradl, who got off to a terrible start this season, sits 7th, a single point ahead of Ducati icon Nicky Hayden, which is to say totally out of the money. In fact, Bradl may be the #1 underachiever so far this season, while Crutchlow is, without question, the top non-Alien on the grid. Bradl is at home this week on a Honda-friendly track, while Crutchlow must wait until Round 12 at Silverstone to play hometown hero.
To be fair, Bradl is beginning to show signs of life, and his development is comparable to Crutchlow’s at this point last year. But does anyone out there really think the German has a chance of beating Crutchlow on Sunday, despite a faster bike and a friendlier layout? Me neither. Oh, and before I forget, Crutchlow is out of contract next season. That fact, for me, sits atop the list of 2013 MotoGP Weirdness.
Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina
A handful of riders made the trek south of the equator last week to test the new Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, and afterwards everyone said all the right things. Great facility, fast circuit, etc. 600 miles northwest of Buenos Aires, putting it right smack in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
Long and mostly flowing, it appears to be a Yamaha-friendly circuit, a counterweight to the new track in Austin, which is uber-Honda friendly. I would be more excited about having it on the calendar beginning in 2014 were it not for the fact that it will likely replace Indianapolis, preventing me from playing my own home card. Just sayin’.
Finally, the Weather Forecast!
Friday and Saturday look to be clear and warm with temps in the low 70s. The best chance of rain appears to be Sunday, and it should cool down to the mid-60s for race day. Since Bridgestone modified their compounds last year, the risk of early-session crashes due to cold rubber has declined.
The prospect of an all-Honda podium – Pedrosa, Marquez and Bradl – can’t be denied. Watch the action live on SpeedTV beginning at 7:30 Eastern time to see whether Rossi, Lorenzo or Crutchlow can crash the party, as it were. We’ll have results and analysis here on Sunday afternoon.