Marc Marquez is in the midst of a breakout rookie GP season, but will his points lead hold as Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa heal from their injuries?
The 2013 MotoGP World Championship returns to action at Indianapolis Motor Speedway following a near month-long summer break. MotoGP rookie Marc Marquez of Repsol Honda tops the season standings 16 points ahead of his teammate, Dani Pedrosa, and comes to the Brickyard with two consecutive wins to his credit. While Marquez has shown himself to be a phenomenal talent, making the podium in all but one round so far this year, his previous two wins came with both Pedrosa and defending champion Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha Factory Racing disadvantaged by shoulder injuries. Now that Pedrosa and Lorenzo have had some time to recuperate, will Marquez be able to hold his position at the head of the pack?
One factor that works in Marquez’s favor is that neither Pedrosa nor Lorenzo feels completely 100% heading into Indy. In a Repsol press release, Pedrosa outlined his current condition: “I’ve had time to relax with some friends and also have lots of physiotherapy on my shoulder to prepare myself for this second part of the season. I’ve had a medical check in the last days and we can see the bone getting stronger. It still needs a few more weeks to recover completely but my feeling is already much better than in Laguna.”
While Pedrosa’s incident in Germany left him with a painful left collarbone fracture, his misfortune pales in light of what Lorenzo has endured over the past rounds. The Mallorcan’s troubles started at Assen when a dramatic high-side left him with a broken collarbone that required surgery, a titanium plate and eight screws to repair. Two days after the incident he mounted his M1 and rode to a fifth-place finish. In the lead up to competition at Sachsenring, Lorenzo suffered another high-side which bent the titanium plate and forced him to undergo a second surgery. He decided to make a return at Laguna Seca, one week after the German GP, to see if he could compete, ending the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix in sixth-place. Though he’s had some time to rehabilitate, he’s measured in his outlook regarding the upcoming round at Indy.
“We are returning to the USA and beginning the second half of the year, which may be the toughest,” said Lorenzo in a team PR. “I’m a bit tired, especially because after two crashes in Assen and Sachsenring I couldn’t recover so much and now we have to manage a long period with three races in a row. I feel better obviously than in Laguna but still need time to recover to 100% and it is not going to be easy because the calendar is so busy and also we have to fight not to lose points. In any case, we go to Indy to give everything despite the circumstances.”
Even at less than 100%, the time off will have been more than Pedrosa and Lorenzo got between Sachsenring and Laguna Seca, and both riders were able to push through the pain and finish inside the top-six in California. Neither wants to see Marquez add any more to his points advantage and even if only at 85 or 90% fitness, both are capable of challenging for the podium, if not the win. Marquez will certainly have his work cut out for him.
Though these are the three riders in clear contention for the 2013 title, Lorenzo’s teammate Valentino Rossi, Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow and LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl have the potential to challenge for podium spots at Indianapolis, especially if Lorenzo and Pedrosa are unable to maintain pace with the lead pack.
Rossi is the only rider on the grid other than Lorenzo, Pedrosa or Marquez to take a race win in 2013, which came at the Assen TT. He followed that up with third-place results at Sachsenring and Laguna Seca. Crutchlow has second-place finishes at Le Mans and Sachsenring and third-place results at Mugello and Assen. Bradl made the first GP podium of his career in second at the previous round at Laguna Seca. In each case, however, something has been amiss with Lorenzo, Pedrosa or Marquez. At Le Mans wet weather and bike issues kept Lorenzo outside the top-five; at Assen Lorenzo was out; at Sachsenring both Lorenzo and Pedrosa were out; at Mugello Marquez crashed out while running in the lead pack and at Laguna both Pedrosa and Lorenzo were operating under duress. The one outlier is Rossi’s second-place finish in the opener at Qatar, which proved to be an anomaly as he was unable to rejoin the top-three until his teammate was out of commission.
Some other statistics to note heading into the Indianapolis Grand Prix: only Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa have won a premier-class race at Indy among the current GP field, with Pedrosa having wins in 2012 and 2010, Lorenzo in 2009 and Rossi in 2008. Marquez dominated at Indy during his two-year Moto 2 career, winning at the Brickyard in 2011 and 2012. Crutchlow has yet to finish inside the top-10 at the track and Bradl’s first outing at Indy as a GP pilot in 2012 ended with a sixth-place result.
Elsewhere on the grid, Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso is less than enthusiastic about the round at Indianapolis, saying in team PR that the “track is a bit strange, with asphalt that changes from corner to corner, and it’s difficult for all of the riders. I’m not sure how it will be with the Ducati, not having ridden it there.”
Dovi’s teammate, Nicky Hayden, is more optimistic. Indy is Hayden’s home race, so there will be plenty of support from fans, and he’s hopeful that the layout of the circuit will suit the Desmosedici better than some of the previous tracks they’ve encountered this year.
“I don’t have to tell anyone how special Indy is to me, as that should be pretty obvious with it being my true home race,” observed Hayden. “The support I had from the Laguna crowd was incredible, and I’m expecting nothing less at Indy. I think the track might be a little better for us than the last couple were. It’s a tricky little circuit with a couple of technical corners. We’ll try to come out of the gate strong on Friday, have a solid weekend, and have some fun.”
Satellite Ducati rider, Ben Spies of Ignite Pramac Racing, will make his long awaited return to the grid at Indianapolis, marking his first time on track since Mugello. His attempt to return at the Italian circuit was short-lived, however, due to persistent pain stemming from earlier injuries. His last completed GP race came in Round 2 at the Circuit of the Americas, where he took a 13th-place result.
Two American wildcard riders will be on track during the weekend as well, Blake Young in the GP class with Attack Performance Racing and James Rispoli in Moto 2 with GPTech. Young was on track early at the previous round at Laguna Seca, but a crash left his APR bike unfit for competition. Rispoli will make his World Championship debut at Indy.