Round 16 of the 2013 MotoGP World Championship at Phillip Island provided some unprecedented drama thanks to a decision by Race Direction to impose a mandatory bike change half-way through the race. The compulsory bike swap, a first in MotoGP history, came after Bridgestone announced it couldn’t guarantee the safety of its rear slick tires beyond 10 laps due to the abrasive surface of the track. The contest was also reduced to 19 laps. Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo transitioned seamlessly to his second bike mid-race and rode on to take his sixth win of the season by a sizable gap over Reposl Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, who finished second. Lorenzo’s teammate, Valentino Rossi, crossed the line in third.
Though nearly all riders were able to satisfy the requirements of the regulation, current championship points leader Marc Marquez made a strategic error that ended with his disqualification. According to the rule, “every rider will be required to enter the pits and change to his second machine with fresh tires at least once during the race. In normal circumstances this means that the rider must change machine only at the end of Lap 9 or Lap 10. No rider is permitted to do more than 10 laps on any slick or wet rear tire.”
The Repsol rookie was in close battle with Lorenzo through the opening laps and the two opted to continue the fight through Lap 9. On the following lap Lorenzo peeled away down pit lane while Marquez continued to round the corner. Marquez completed an additional lap and then came in for his second-bike and quickly rejoined the action, coming back up to speed as Lorenzo and Pedrosa approached. Marquez gassed it and made contact with Lorenzo as the Malloran held his line through the corner though luckily none were injured in what could have been a disastrous moment. Pedrosa moved ahead as well and for a period the three made up the lead pack once again.
In the following laps Pedrosa was penalized for exceeding the maximum speed while entering pit lane, an infraction which forced him to cede one position. Pedrosa allowed Marquez to move past in order to comply and soon after Marquez was given his penalty as well, a black flag disqualification. Pedrosa slipped easily into the runner-up position after his teammate exited the race and held steady there to the checkers. Out front, Lorenzo built a comfortable gap and was unchallenged through the final stages, earning the 50th Grand Prix victory of his career.
“I’m really happy with this win, we’ve also been lucky because Marc made this mistake,” said Lorenzo. “Without that he would have been second or first because he was really fast today. So we’ve been lucky but we were unlucky in the middle of the championship so today is a balance. When I was entering the first corner Marc was exiting the pit at exactly the same time, the situation was almost impossible to avoid. I was braking a little later to open the line and I don’t think he was looking so much entering the corner so it was both our fault. Now we have options, if Marc keeps constant on the podium then it is impossible to win the championship but there are a lot of laps to go so anything could happen.”
Marquez had a strategy to come in after Lap 10, and according to the rookie a misinterpretation of the rule led him to take the additional lap.
“Today was our first experience of a Flag-to-Flag race, and suffice to say it wasn’t a good one,” explained Marquez. “My team and I had set out a strategy and we thought that we could come in after lap 10, but in reality this counts as an extra lap. We hadn’t had that in mind and this was a huge mistake. We had everything well planned and I followed the instructions on my pit board. You learn from these things though, so now we have to move on and focus on the race in Japan.”
Pedrosa added, “Today’s race was very stressful –above all before the start, as the rules were being changed every five minutes. Everything was turned on its head and it was very difficult to adapt first time, without making any mistakes. Marc [Marquez] made mistakes and I did too. Everything was going so fast and it was confusing for both the riders and the mechanics. We had to be clear about which lap to enter the pits, as it wasn’t obvious which was lap 9 and which was lap 10. The two bikes needed to be prepared and the tires as well, the pit lane was much longer than normal… it was all so strange today. The exit line from the pits wasn’t clear, and neither could you see the entry line very well, so it was all a bit improvised.”
Rossi battled throughout with Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow and Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista. The three swapped position a number of times and in the end Rossi edged Crutchlow by one tenth for the final spot on the podium while Bautista ended fifth. Crutchlow’s teammate, Bradley Smith, took sixth followed by Ducati’s Nicky Hayden in seventh and Energy T.I. Pramac Racing’s Andrea Innone in eighth.
In the CRT ranks, Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro clinched the CRT championship for 2013.
“I feel very happy, today we got our reward for a year of excellent results. We have always been close to the factory bikes and with the few points we usually pick up, to win the CRT championship with two races to go means that we have done things very well. This title is a huge prize for the team and for me. Since I’ve joined the Power Electronics Aspar Team I have never stopped growing as a rider. I have had the best parts and bike around in the CRT class, and we have been the complete package.”
Marquez entered the Australian Grand Prix with a 43 point advantage over Lorenzo but leaves just 18 ahead. Pedrosa also gained ground and is now 34 points adrift of Marquez in third.
MotoGP Phillip Island Results 2013:
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda)
3. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
4. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha)
5. Alvaro Bautista (Honda)
6. Bradley Smith (Yamaha)
7. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)
8. Andrea Iannone (Ducati)
9. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)
10. Randy de Puniet (ART)
11. Aleix Espargaro (ART)
12. Colin Edwards (FTR-Kawasaki)
13. Yonny Hernandez (Ducati)
14. Hector Barbera (FTR)
15. Danilo Petrucci (Ioda-Suter)
16. Luca Scassa (ART)
17. Claudio Corti (FTR-Kawasaki)
18. Michael Laverty (ART)
19. Lukas Pesek (Ioda-Suter)
20. Hiroshi Aoyama (FTR)
21. Damian Cudlin (PBM)