MotoGP Jerez 2013 Results

An edited version of this story will appear on sometime tomorrow.  Until then, enjoy the raw copy here.

Pedrosa wins as Marquez and Lorenzo tangle 

The 2013 Gran Premio bwin de Espana brought a startling reversal of fortune for the top teams and riders in the premier class.  Yamaha owned the practice sessions as factory studs Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, joined by the ascendant Cal Crutchlow, took three of the top four spots again and again.  Honda, though, qualified Dani Pedrosa and rookie Marc Marquez on the front row.  The final podium of Pedrosa, Marquez and Lorenzo delivered a new series leader and a furious double world champion. 

By all rights, defending champion Jorge Lorenzo should have had a more satisfying result today.  He turned 26 on Saturday, and celebrated by having Turn 13 named in his honor.  He had been at or near the top of the timesheets all weekend and qualified on the pole.  While everyone around him spent Saturday crashing into the gravel, Lorenzo ran as if on rails.  In the stifling Spanish heat on Sunday, though, it was Dani Pedrosa who had the pace.  After a poor start, Lorenzo moved back into the early lead on Lap 1 and held it until Lap 6, when Pedrosa passed him on his way to a comfortable win.

By then, Lorenzo was getting dogged by rookie Marquez, who showed no respect going through aggressively on Rossi on Lap 2, with Crutchlow sitting in 5th place hoping for bad karma among the leaders.  As the race approached its midpoint, Marquez was attacking Lorenzo at every opportunity, slipping, sliding and generally causing heart failure among the team and his ever-present dad.  After one of those “moments” on Lap 12, the rookie backed off, appearing content to settle for the third spot on the rostrum.  The race at that point devolved into another of those premier class processions most everyone hates, other than the 111,000 locals in attendance going mental over the prospect of an all-Spanish rostrum.

As the riders crossed the start/finish line for the last time, Marquez re-appeared on Lorenzo’s pipes.  Lorenzo, who had struggled all day with front grip, appeared to be in trouble, but continued blocking Marquez, other than a momentary exchange of positions around Turn 6.  Finally, though, at, of all places, the Jorge Lorenzo corner, its namesake went a shade wide and Marquez, lizard brain firmly in control, dove inside.  As Lorenzo attempted to cut back, the two touched, with Lorenzo being forced wide into third place both for the day and the season.

As race announcers Gavin and Emmett observed, it appeared Marquez, accelerating when he should have been on the brakes, would have run wide had Lorenzo not been there to provide a bounce.  From here, it looked to be one of those incidents where Race Direction might step in and assess some of their shiny new penalty points for 2013.  [At deadline, the silence from the stewards is deafening.]  Lin Jarvis, who directs Yamaha racing, spoke of the contact as being “just a racing incident,” showing immense self-control.  Lorenzo, visibly angry after the race, rebuffed several attempts from Marquez to make nice, but declined to threaten vengeance upon the gifted upstart at LeMans.

Farther Back on the Grid

Valentino Rossi, who ran an uninspired fourth today, sits in fourth place for the year, 15 points behind teammate Lorenzo, and not yet as relevant as we had hoped entering the season.  Cal Crutchlow, with puzzling rumors circulating about him losing his Tech 3 Yamaha ride next season to Pol Espargaro, delivered another gritty performance today for fifth, after crashing twice on Saturday and with everything bone and organ to the left of his sternum throbbing.

A number of other riders acquitted themselves nicely today.  Alvaro Bautista, on the GO&FUN Gresini Honda, battled Crutchlow most of the day, eventually coming in sixth, ten seconds in front of Nicky Hayden, who led the woeful Ducati effort and spanked teammate Andrea Dovizioso by some 16 seconds.  Aleix Espargaro qualified poorly in 13th but finished 9th, once again topping the CRT charts.  Dude deserves a shot at a prototype ride next year, especially if his big brother, who washed out of the premier class once already, gets one at Tech 3.  And Michele Pirro, wildcarding onboard the so-called Ducati GP13 “Lab Bike”, managed 11th place today, which sounds better than it actually is, given the fact that three of the five riders who crashed out early likely would have beaten him.

The Big Picture

In a split second, the 2013 standings shifted, with rookie Marquez now standing alone at the top of the pile, with a large bull’s-eye on his back.  Pedrosa is resurrected into second place, four points down and a single point ahead of Lorenzo, who had entered the weekend tied for the lead.  After three races this season, we’ve had three winners, a major upset, and the beginning of a new inter-team rivalry.  Jorge Lorenzo is saying his Yamaha M-1 is not yet good enough, although he certainly is.  And let’s not forget that Jerez is one of the tight, slow tracks that typically favors the Honda RC213V.  Lorenzo can be forgiven for being in a bad mood after today’s cluster.

Quick Hitters

The rider suddenly under considerable pressure is 2012 Moto2 champion Stefan Bradl, whose quick offseason testing on the LCR Honda raised eyebrows and expectations heading into the season.  With two crashes in three starts and 11 points for the season, Bradl may start looking over his shoulder.  Given, however, the history of Germans in France, we can expect young Stefan to return to form at LeMans, possibly at the head of a Panzer division…Yonny Hernandez took the weekend off, qualifying 21st and crashing out early.  And here I thought he was on his way up the food chain.

Randy de Puniet, who pressed teammate Espargaro all last year for top CRT honors, appears to be coasting this season, after rumors of a romance with Suzuki surfaced several weeks ago.  With but six points to show for 2013, he’ll undoubtedly play the “home race” card in two weeks and turn a fast lap in qualifying before settling back into the bottom ten on Sunday…Colin Edwards made a liar out of me, moving from 17th to 15th position on the last lap to steal his first championship point of the year, and making hash of my prediction he would go 0-for-2013.

There will be a one day testing session here on Monday, and, as has become customary since Casey Stoner left in 2011, Ducati has the most on the line. Having again raised expectations with their new Lab Bike, we are fully prepared for another major disappointment from the Bologna factory, which seems to need an entire division just to keep track of the hundreds of iterations of the once-proud Desmosedici floating around.  These days, Ducati Corse must resemble O’Hare Airport on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Watching the Sun Setting on the Circuito de Jerez

Although attendance today was huge—111,000—it’s down from 2010, when I joined 130,000 fans at the storied Andalusian venue.  As the Spanish equivalent of the Daytona 500, the Grand Premio bwin de Espana continues to draw spectators, some of whom probably had to hock their watches to buy tickets.  The track oozes water when the weather is wet and oil when it’s hot.  Hot and slippery works great for sex, but not so much for two-wheeled racing, as it was today when five riders crashed out on the first four laps.  And the infield, which was a manicured lawn back in the day, is now a sea of dandelions and weeds, a symptom of the decline of the Spanish economy and the Estoril-like future of one of its most loved venues.  Qué pena!



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