Rookie Marc Marquez is proving to be a force in the premier-
class, winning his fourth race of 2013 at Indianapolis.
MotoGP riders and teams get little rest after the recent showdown at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, heading directly to the Czech Republic and Brno for the second of three consecutive race weekends.
Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez is commanding headlines with his performances so far this season and justly so. The young Spaniard leads the series, has more race victories than any other rider on the grid to-date, has been the fastest rider in seven of the 10 races run so far and has been on nine podiums. Marquez’s showing at Indianapolis was a true sweep as he finished fastest in every practice, took pole position, came through quickest in the warm-up and then took the checkers over three seconds ahead of his teammate, Dani Pedrosa.
For more than just the fact that both were present at the 2013 Indy GP, parallels are being drawn between Marquez and the last rookie to win a world championship, “King” Kenny Roberts, who took the title in his first premier-class season in 1978. Roberts is credited with introducing the knee-down style and being the first to utilize rear tire slides through corners in the series, both standards among road racers today. Marquez is being lauded for going a step beyond, dragging his elbow on occasion and steering through corners with slides that are slightly more pronounced than other riders on the current grid. There are obvious differences such as race background and prevailing technology between the two riders, but what’s clear is that Marquez has proven himself, through the span of 10 premier-class races, to be an innovative and formidable competitor with a real chance to take this year’s title, much as Roberts did in ’78.
While current defending champion Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha Factory Racing and title hopeful Pedrosa continue to heal from shoulder injuries, both were able to situate themselves in the lead pack at Indy and stretch away from the field during the opening laps. Pedrosa cited significant pain after the event and Lorenzo said he felt more fatigued than usual due to his lack of training of late, both reasons which may have influenced their ability to keep pace with Marquez. What’s bound to be unsettling for the two, though, is that Marquez has been exceedingly quick to learn his machine and, at least at Indy, demonstrated championship-winning confidence in his ability to run a strategic race.
Here’s what Marquez had to say after the contest at Indy in a team press release: “In the race I decided to follow Lorenzo and Pedrosa, trying to save my tires at the start. When I saw that I was feeling good and had less fuel in the tank, I tried to attack. In the end I was able to break away and have some fun sliding the bike around and enjoying how good the ride was!”
His speed only increased as the race wore on and he posted the new fastest lap at the circuit on Lap 18 of 26.
In terms of the upcoming round at Brno, Marquez is well positioned. He won there in Moto 2 in 2012 and took second there in the same class in 2011. Pedrosa, meanwhile, won the Brno GP in 2012 with the Repsol Honda team, the second of six late season victories. If last year is any indication, the RC213V is well suited for most of the remaining tracks on schedule and with Marquez demonstrating a growing mastery of the machine, he may well prove unstoppable. After the 10th race in 2012, for reference, Lorenzo had a 23-point advantage over Pedrosa and only scored one win in the remaining races of the season. He was doggedly consistent in reaching the podium, to be sure, but barring any injury or mechanical meltdown there’s no reason to expect Marquez won’t be able to put forward similar results this year.
Elsewhere on the grid, battles have been no less intense. At Indy, Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow, Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista and Lorenzo’s teammate, Valentino Rossi, provided some spectacular racing in the battle for fourth place. Rossi, starting from ninth, looked lonely and without hope during the initial laps near the back of the top-10. The Doctor clawed his way up the ranks steadily and by the 22nd lap was in a serious tousle with Crutchlow and Bautista. The Tech 3 and Gresini riders were resolute in fourth and fifth position from the initial laps, and engaged their own back-and-forth battle for much of the contest. These three, along with LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl, have each been consistent inside the top-10 all season and each (beside Bautista) has made one or more podiums in 2013.
The 2012 contest at Brno saw Cructchlow take third-place and Bradl finish fifth followed by Bautista in sixth. Expect all three to be in contention for a top-seven finish again this year. Rossi is likely to make the biggest improvement since his team switch, but even on the ill-fated Ducati he took seventh at the Czech circuit.
Ducati’s Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso were swapping
back and forth in the battle for eighth until the final lap, when
an aggressive pass by Hayden pushed both off track and allowed
Bradley Smith to slip by.
Ducati’s Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso made nearly as many headlines as Marquez at Indy for the final corner, last lap pass Hayden put on Dovi. The American rider dove in aggressively and got physical in his move to the inside, taking both riders wide and allowing Crutchlow’s teammate, Bradley Smith, to slip ahead of both to finish eighth. Since the incident both riders have expressed that there’s no ill will for the move, but expect the two to be at it again at Brno since they’ve finished next to one another in the rankings in all but three races so far this year. And one of the three they didn’t finish side-by-side was Catalunya, where Hayden crashed out.
Michele Pirro will be back in Ben Spies’ seat on the Ignite Pramac Racing Ducati following Spies’ crash at Indy which saw him dislocate his left clavicle. The Texan went back to Dallas to undergo testing and expects to make a return to the grid before the season is out.
“I fly back to Dallas on Monday, and on Tuesday I’ll see with my doctor if I need surgery or not and also make sure my wrist is okay,” explained Spies during the race weekend at Indy. “I’ll try to come back as soon as possible, but I also want to come back at 100%. There’s no reason for me to rush back just to fill the grid, but definitely this injury is nothing like the right shoulder; the pain is very bad right now, but the healing process won’t be anything near the other one—I know that for sure. We just need to do the right things, follow the doctors’ orders again, and rehab. This injury won’t even affect me in a few months, but I need to do the right things the right way.”
Brno is a storied circuit, with 500cc races run there beginning in 1965 when Mike Hailwood took his first of three consecutive race wins at the track. Of those that won at Brno over the past five years, four have gone on to take the title. Interestingly, the Czech circuit was off the schedule during Robert’s spectacular rookie season, though it will likely not matter much to Marquez, who appears wholly focused on taking races one at a time and giving the rest on the grid a serious run for their money.