Top 10 MotoGP Storylines of 2013
The 2013 MotoGP season kicks off this weekend at the Grand Prix of Qatar, and like many of you, we can’t wait to see how this season plays out. There are a number of plot twists this year, with Rossi, Marquez, Pedrosa and Lorenzo all grabbing headlines. Here, we’ll highlight the top 10 storylines to watch this year.
10. Rossi’s Return
He’s baaaack. After two dismal years at Ducati, Valentino Rossi has made his return to Yamaha. But at 34, does The Doctor still have what it takes to reclaim his alien status? Early signs say yes, as he’s adapted to the M1 quickly, even topping the timesheets at the recent MotoGP test at Jerez.
Rossi himself is cautiously optimistic about this season, stating he’ll first look for race wins before even thinking of championship. Smart move, considering he’ll have to beat Yamaha teammate Lorenzo and the Hondas of Pedrosa and newcomer Marc Marquez to get there.
9. Can Lorenzo Defend His Title?
Jorge Lorenzo benefitted from metronomic consistency last year, including six wins and 10 second-place finishes, to fetch himself the world championship after holding off a strong run late in the season by Dani Pedrosa. His pace during preseason practice with race simulations has been extremely impressive as well, lapping near record pace, often with his fastest and slowest circuits varying by less than a second over a 20-lap run.
He’ll need to maintain this fast pace, as the Hondas appear to be the stronger motorcycle, at least on paper. Interestingly, the bad blood between Lorenzo and Rossi in years past appears to be over, as no wall will be erected between the two riders’ pit stalls this year, and the two, at least in public, are getting along just fine. Does Lorenzo not see Rossi as a threat?
8. Pressure From Pedrosa
Last year, Dani Pedrosa came away with more victories, seven, than any other rider in the championship, including Lorenzo. However, teething issues early in the season ultimately cost the diminutive Spaniard the title. Pedrosa and HRC have looked strong in preseason testing, consistently posting times at or near the top of the timesheets.
On paper, and judging by comments from other riders, the Repsol Hondas appear to be the early favorites so far. Maybe 2013 will be the year Pedrosa lives up to the hype and takes home the crown.
7. CotA vs. Schwantz
An interesting sidebar to the season, we think, will be the ongoing saga between 1993 world champ Kevin Schwantz and the Circuit of the Americas track in Austin, Texas. Track management claims Schwantz had no part in bringing the track to life or MotoGP to his home state of Texas, going so far as to kick him off the property during a recent test.
Schwantz thinks otherwise, and has the documents to prove it. It’s disappointing the two sides can’t come to an agreement as this only hurts the sport. However the drama unfolds, though, we’ll be paying close attention to see how it pans out.
6. Is Ducati Doomed?
After two years, not even Valentino Rossi could right the Ducati ship, leaving the fabled Italian marque scratching heads and making sweeping changes. Gone is Filippo Preziosi, Rossi and AMG/Mercedes, in is Bernhard Gobmeier, Andrea Dovizioso and Audi. The Pramac satellite team is now factory supported, with Andrea Iannone and Ben Spies its riders.
Along with stalwart Nicky Hayden, Bologna is hoping its four riders, the man who turned around BMW’s World Superbike program, and the financial backing of Audi, can get the bike back in the winner’s circle without Casey Stoner. Early signs aren’t positive, as the team has admitted it hasn’t made any major changes in the offseason.
5. Satellite Surprise
Stefan Bradl, Alvaro Bautista and Cal Crutchlow may not have been on factory bikes last year, but that didn’t stop them from displaying some impressive performances. All three are back with their respective teams and are vying to be the “best of the rest.”
So far Crutchlow has been most impressive, topping the overall timesheets at the most recent preseason test at Jerez — on a bike Cal claims is completely unchanged from last year. If he can continue this pace, earning a few spots on the podium are again within reach.
4. Moto2 And Moto3 May Steal The Show
It could be argued that there were a few rounds last year where the support classes were more exciting to watch than the MotoGP boys. This year, with 33 Moto2 riders and only one less in Moto3, all of whom do not fear of banging bars, the excitement on track promises to be just as, if not more, exciting than ever.
In Moto2 the field is wide open, as 2012 champ Marc Marquez moves up to MotoGP. However, Pol Espargaro has to be considered the favorite this year as he was the only rider who could even remotely keep Marquez in sight last season. Look for a number of threats though, like 2011 125cc champ Nico Terol, who seems to have adapted to a four-stroke racer.
Moto3 action should be equally exciting; with 2012 title winner Sandro Cortese in Moto2, the championship is up for grabs. Riders to watch include Romano Fenati, Zulfahmi Khairuddin and Maverick Vinales, who switches from Honda to KTM machinery this year.
Other than maybe the Power Electronics Aspar ART team of Randy de Puniet and Aleix Espargaro, it’s safe to say the CRT category has been a huge flop. The machines are considerably slower and riders arguably second rate. That the top CRT finisher gets his bike in the winner’s circle with the podium placers is considered by many to be a joke.
However, let’s not forget the aforementioned Aspar team. The duo of de Puniet and Espargaro has distinguished themselves as the class of the field, on many occasions beating the satellite Ducatis. Preseason testing indicates more of the same should be happening this year. And with Bridgestone developing a special soft compound tire specifically for CRTs, which seems to be well received, maybe we’ll be in for a CRT surprise this year.
2. Team America
Team America is well represented in 2013, with Nicky Hayden, Ben Spies and Colin Edwards. But with Hayden and Spies on the struggling Ducati and Edwards adapting to his Kawasaki-powered CRT, it’s hard to expect a big splash from this trio unless something goes wrong at the pointy end of the field.
However, let’s not forget Spies is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and has a point to prove this year after leaving Yamaha. Longtime crew chief Tom Houseworth has followed Spies to Ducati and thinks the former World Superbike champ will turn some heads after the shoulder heals and Ben gets back to full fitness. Meanwhile, Hayden wants to earn his lead rider status at Ducati after Rossi’s departure, and Edwards has his eye on being top CRT.
1. Marc Marquez
Marc Marquez has to be the main storyline this year, despite Rossi’s return to Yamaha. Marquez made the Moto2 field look like amateurs last year as he breezed his way to the title. His flamboyant and hard-charging riding style, combined with his move to the Repsol Honda team to replace now-retired Casey Stoner, is generating plenty of buzz for the 20-year-old Spaniard.
He’s already shown an impressively quick pace during preseason testing, earned the praise of nearly every rider in the paddock and destroyed numerous elbow sliders along the way. The championship will likely be between Lorenzo and Pedrosa, but considering his form so far, we expect Marquez to be the wildcard in 2013.
Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at Motorcycle.com in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.
More by Troy Siahaan