With 13 points separating defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo and rookie challenger Marc Marquez heading into the 2013 finale in Valencia, the tension leading up to the race couldn’t have been cut with a machete. Unforced falls by leaders in the Moto2 and Moto3 tilts served as a reminder that, as Yogi Berra once observed, “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.” When it was over, however, Yamaha icon Jorge had won the race and handed over his crown to Repsol Honda’s boy wonder Marquez. It feels like the beginning of a new era in grand prix racing.
To take his third title in the last four years, Lorenzo needed a win and a load of bad karma to befall Marquez. Winning, as it turned out, wouldn’t be a problem, as he had the pace all weekend while Marquez was in an uncharacteristic risk-aversion mode. Lorenzo’s strategy early in the race was to take the lead, slow the pace, and see if mayhem might arise behind him. Instead, he found himself in a cage match with Repsol #2 Dani Pedrosa, who had been dispatched by his team with orders to harass and annoy Lorenzo. As a result, the first ten laps of the race were as good as it gets in motorsports.
At the start, the two Japanese factory teams got away at the front, with Lorenzo and Pedrosa playing grab-ass while Marquez lay back slightly, bracing for an expected assault from Yamaha #2 Valentino Rossi, whose job was to attack Marquez and, hopefully, force him into a king-sized mistake. Five separate times during the first seven laps, Lorenzo and Pedrosa exchanged positions twice, as Pedrosa would go through on Lorenzo and Lorenzo would immediately return the favor. Meanwhile, Rossi, pedaling as hard as he could, was unable to mount the slightest challenge to Marquez, abandoning his teammate to the usual Repsol double-team. (In his first year back from two purgatorial seasons with Ducati, The Doctor has officially been demoted to The Physician’s Assistant. One hopes he gets out of the game before becoming The Registered Nurse.)
Lap 10 was decisive. Pedrosa had gotten in front of Lorenzo once again, and the now-desperate Mallorcan dove inside hard enough to prompt an examination from Race Direction, pushing Pedrosa way wide and allowing Marquez to take the lead, with the ever-dangerous Alvaro Bautista, onboard the GO&FUN Gresini Honda, sneaking briefly into third place as Pedrosa re-entered in sixth. Lorenzo and Marquez then traded passes late in the lap and again for the last time on Lap 11. Rossi and Pedrosa went though on Bautista on Lap 12. Pedrosa, with Lorenzo’s tire tracks on both sides of his leathers, passed Rossi for the last time on Lap 14, and was shown a little respect by Marquez on Lap 27, who sat up to allow him back into second place, cementing the final order of finish.
Lorenzo’s Pyrrhic victory displayed once again the heart of a champion, while Marquez’ well-considered third place result evidenced intelligence and coachability. Having won the last three races of the season, two of which were contested at very
Honda-friendly tracks, Lorenzo demonstrated that Yamaha’s new magic gearbox has decidedly leveled the field. Thus, my coronation of Marquez as the inevitable ruler of the next decade appears to be somewhat premature. Certainly, the next few seasons promise some epic duels between the two Spaniards, with Pedrosa and Rossi filling the undercards until they decide to hang up their leathers and call it a career.
2013 Valencian Grand Prix Top Ten Results
|1||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha Factory||46:10.302|
|2||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+3.934|
|3||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||+7.357|
|4||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha Factory||+10.579|
|5||Alvaro Bautista||Gresini Honda||+14.935|
|6||Stefan Bradl||LCR Honda||+24.399|
|7||Bradley Smith||Monster Tech3 Yamaha||+29.043|
|8||Nicky Hayden||Ducati Factory||+39.893|
|9||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Factory||+53.196|
|10||Michele Pirro||Ducati Test Team||+1:02.983|
2014 Starts Tomorrow
Top tier team testing for next season begins tomorrow at Ricardo Tormo, although Yamaha will not take the track until Tuesday. Cal Crutchlow, who crashed out of fifth position today, climbs aboard the Ducati Desmosedici for the first of what promises to be two years of well-paid ineptitude. His former and now new teammate Andrea Dovizioso seemed at some point to lose interest in dragging the big red bike so far behind the leaders, having earned 81 points in the first half of the season and 59 thereafter. Crutchlow’s place on the Monster Tech 3 team will be taken by Pol Espragaro, who graduates from Moto2 with the 2013 trophy in his mitts.
Brit Scott Redding, who finished the Moto2 season in second place, joins Alvaro Bautista on the Gresini team with one of the new production Honda RCV1000Rs beneath him, and will benefit from the extra horsepower that comes with it. Both Nicky Hayden and Hiro Aoyama will go to work tomorrow for the Aspar team, also riding the new Honda lite machine, with current riders Aleix Espargaro defecting to NGM Forward Racing to join Colin Edwards on Yamaha-powered hybrids, and Randy de Puniet slinking off to the Suzuki factory to test their anticipated 2015 entry for a year. The Pramac junior Ducati team will retain Andrea Iannone on factory equipment and Yonny Hernandez on a spec version, with “The Seven Circles of Hell” embroidered on his leathers. We’ll have to wait and see what transpires closer to the bottom of the premier class food chain.
A Thriller at Moto3
The Moto3 race today was an object lesson for those of us who turn up our noses at the youngsters on the little bikes. Three Spanish kids – Luis Salom, Alex Rins and Maverick Vinales – lined up at the start understanding this was a rare “winner take all” occasion. Getting off cleanly from the front row, all three attacked the 24 laps of the Ricardo Tomo circuit, with Vinales and Salom taking turns in the lead, and young Rins sitting in third. Unaccountably, on lap 15 Salom lost the front and slid unmolested into the kitty litter, leaving Vinales and Rins to slug it out for the title. With four laps left, the riders dropped their gloves and started throwing hooks and haymakers, every turn contested, the gap separating them measured in hundredths of seconds.
Almost as if it were scripted, it came down to the final turn on the final lap, with Rins going through, running a tiny bit wide, and leaving the door ajar for Vinales, who eased through and won the sprint to the flag. Vinales graduates to Moto2 next season, while Rins appears destined to remain in Moto3 for another year, where he is expected to contest the championship with teammate Alex Marquez on the way to their expected Moto2 debuts in 2015. With Suzuki and now Aprilia having announced their intentions to re-enter the premier class fray in 2015 and 2016, respectively, and speculation rampant as to whom will pilot the new factory bikes. Vinales, Rins and Marquez the Younger would appear to be logical suspects. By then, one of the three may have replaced Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda and a second received the baton from Valentino Rossi on the factory Yamaha.
A Final Word on the 2013 Season
Aside from Marquez’ brilliance, no discussion of the past year can take place without mention of Lorenzo’s two injurious crashes in the Netherlands and Germany or Pedrosa’s ruinous accident at the Sachsenring. Last year, in anticipation of Marquez joining the premier class, we found an appropriate quote from Rudyard Kipling with which to close our season’s work. This year, we sacrifice literary elegance for down-home wisdom, and turn to the late Don Meredith, the hilarious quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys back in the day. It was Meredith who observed, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, wouldn’t it be a merry Christmas?”
2013 MotoGP World Championship Final Standings
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||334|
|2||Jorge Lorenzo||Yamaha Factory||330|
|3||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||300|
|4||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha Factory||237|
|5||Cal Crutchlow||Monster Tech3 Yamaha||188|
|6||Alvaro Bautista||Gresini Honda||171|
|7||Stefan Bradl||LCR Honda||156|
|8||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Factory||140|
|9||Nicky Hayden||Ducati Factory||126|
|10||Bradley Smith||Monster Tech3 Yamaha||116|