MotoGP Mugello 2013 Results

by Bruce Allen

Lorenzo Rules Mugello as Marquez Crashes 

Midway through the first lap of the 2013 Italian Grand Prix, things looked bad for the Yamaha factory racing team.  Homeboy Valentino Rossi had been knocked out of the race.  Defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo had seized the early lead only to suddenly find BOTH Repsol Hondas dogging him, snarling and snapping, anxious to ruin his day and trash the season for Yamaha Racing.  Lorenzo would have none of it; he held his ground early, broke Pedrosa midway through, and saved the day for his team. 

The start of today’s race will be heavily replayed for the next few weeks, as Lorenzo and Pedrosa seemed to swap paint in the first turn, with no harm and no foul.  But in the second turn, Alvaro Bautista, on the FUN&GO Gresini Honda, changing direction, drifted into Rossi, sending both riders into the tires and hay bales at speed, with Rossi’s airbag going off, his day, and possibly his season, ruined.  The fans were incensed, Rossi looked stunned sitting in his garage, and Bautista looked, as they used to say in the Southwest Airlines commercials, like he wanted to get away.

Last year, Bautista did basically the same thing to Lorenzo at Assen, though that incident looked more careless than this one, which seemed to be what I call Limited Spatial Awareness on Bautista’s part, what other people might call a low racing IQ.  (When near him in a crowd, the other riders must feel the terror I feel approaching an intersection opposite a young woman in a 6,000 lb. SUV talking animatedly on a cell phone the size of a Chiclet.)  And while Lorenzo went on to win the 2012 title anyway, today’s incident took the pins out from under any remaining hopes Rossi might have entertained about finishing the season in the top three.  With 30 points and three riders between him and third place, it seems like a lot to ask.

As Regards the Repsol Honda Team

Early in the race, the Repsol Honda duo of Pedrosa and Marquez appeared to have everything exactly the way they wanted it.  Rossi was done for the day.  They were running two-three and appeared prepared, at their leisure, to double-team Lorenzo into submission on their way to a one-two finish at Mugello.  Which, for Honda, would have been epic, even ignoring the symbolic coup de grace of doing it with Rossi concussed in the garage.  Pedrosa would win his third race in a row while Marquez continued his apprenticeship.  Honda would enjoy a stranglehold on the constructor’s trophy, and Pedrosa, coming off a hat trick, would be the clear #1 rider on the team.

Pedrosa, who had stolen the pole on his last lap of qualifying, looked as if 2013 might finally be his year.  The Honda RC213V likes hot weather, a huge advantage later in the season, and Sunday was the warmest day of the weekend.  But Marquez, who had crashed three separate times in practice (and had to make it through Q1 before qualifying 6th in Q2), was lurking, ready to observe Rule #1 in MotoGP, which is to beat your teammate.  At this point, around Lap 16, I started to feel sorry for Repsol team manager Livio Suppo, who had to watch as his excitable rookie attacked his 2013 series leader.

As expected, on Lap 18 Marquez went through on Pedrosa very gently, leaving Pedrosa shaking his head, a vision of the future lingering on his visor, a future bereft of world championships.  We anticipated, before the season started, that Marquez would compete for the title only if he were able to avoid a lot of DNFs, which he has done.  Until today, when on Lap 21, riding alone, his rear tire suddenly materialized to his right—never a good thing—and he went down hard.  In the process, he surrendered 25 points to Lorenzo, 20 to Pedrosa and fell to third place for the year.  One rookie mistake takes him from six points out of the lead to six points ahead of 4th place Cal Crutchlow, the best non-Alien on the grid, who finished third today for his second consecutive rostrum.  [Will someone please explain to me, again, why Crutchlow is losing his seat to Pol Espargaro next year?]

So, during the course of the race, the Repsol Honda team again found itself with an identity crisis—who is the #1 guy?  Marquez has more pure speed, and is the future of not only his team but perhaps MotoGP itself.  But he’s a rookie, and has a reckless streak, too, as evidenced by his crash on Saturday when he calmly stepped off the bike at maybe 150 mph to avoid hitting a concrete wall.  Pedrosa is now the sentimental favorite, but whatever momentum he brought to Mugello, despite the podium, has vanished.  Both Lorenzo and Marquez have proven they can beat him.

To Honda’s chagrin, the team trophy is still up for grabs.  And Team Yamaha lives to fight again in Barcelona two weeks from now, their prospects seemingly dangling by a thread.

Elsewhere on the Grid 

Cal Crutchlow had another great weekend on his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha despite his chilling daily medical report, spending much of the day in fourth place until Marquez left the building.  Finishing in the top three for the season is very doable for Cal.  Stefan Bradl’s torment ceased, at least for awhile, today as he drove his LCR Honda to a hotly-contested fourth place finish, beating out the factory Ducatis of Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden.

There appears to be room for hope in the Ducati garage based on the performance of Michele Pirro on the so-called Lab Bike.  Pirro, a wildcard today despite Ben Spies missing his third consecutive race for Ignite Pramac Racing, qualified a respectable 10th in Q2 and finished the day in 7th place.  Ducati Corse might be kicking themselves for selecting Ben Spies over Pirro, a CRT rider last season reduced to factory testing this year.  He will probably return in the foreseeable future, as he clearly has more game than half the riders out there.  Including Spies.

Aleix Espargaro topped the charts for the CRT contingent, easily outdistancing Hector Barbera and Randy de Puniet once again.  Bradley Smith, whose entire body is being held together with duct tape and baling wire, managed a very respectable 9th place finish today on his Tech 3 Yamaha after several violent crashes over the weekend.  Both he and Crutchlow are physical wrecks, but both have their stiff British upper lips firmly in place, God Save the Queen, etc., etc. 

Saying Goodbye to the Tuscan Hills

From the air, the countryside around Mugello appears much as it must have during Roman days—lush, green, and fertile.  In the way of tradition and the very essence of MotoGP, the annual trip to Mugello is special for the riders and teams, similar to their reverential annual pilgrimage to “The Cathedral” at Assen.  If your career goal is to become a legend in MotoGP, you need to rise to the occasion at places like Assen, and Mugello.

Today, Jorge Lorenzo, a legend in the making, rose to the occasion.


Top Ten after Round 5

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