MotoGP: 2013 Round 06 - CATALUNYA (SPOILERS)

Posted at 6/12/2013 12:52:31 PM

budoist

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MotoGP: 2013 Round 06 - CATALUNYA (SPOILERS)

Only Human After All

Jorge Lorenzo is, on paper, the best rider on the Moto GP grid today as the only rider to have won championships in both the outgoing 800cc and current 1000cc classes. He is the defending MotoGP world champion, second in the points, and one of the original four to have earned the nickname "alien". His riding style is crisp, almost unnervingly efficient, and in every interview he showcases a calm professionalism. Yet all of these were forgotten as he crossed the line 2 weeks ago in Mugello. After a successful off-season of testing, Lorenzo's return to the front in Qatar was almost anti-climatic. Lorenzo worked his way to the front early in the race and led the pack virtually from flag to flag. Then his season took an unexpected turn to the left. Plagued by a series of mishaps, failures, and downright out performances by the opposition the early championship leader found himself solidly behind last year's runner up and a series rookie. Then came Mugello, a track where Lorenzo had won twice in a row and where serious bragging rights were at stake. The goal was simple: stop the hemhorraging, save the season and claw back some much needed championship points; and Lorenzo delivered. His body language as he claimed the checkered flag for the third consecutive year was nothing short of giddy as he cast aside the professional racer and company spokesman and revelled in the joy of simply winning again. Now only twelve points behind championship leader Pedrosa, Lorenzo has a very bright carrot to chase if he hopes to retain the number one plate.

Marc Marquez, on the other hand, will be doing everything in his power to wrest said plate away. Though only a rookie in the GP class, the reigning Moto2 champion has already shown his mettle to the championship regulars. While rain is often quoted as being "the great equalizer", much can be said about the challenge of mastering a new track on race day. When the circus rolled into the United States to sample the newly opened Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Marquez gave the field a taste of what they could expect for the next few years by utterly dominating the weekend. Marquez and Pedrosa both dispatched with Lorenzo in the first third and moved on to a race of their own until the uppity Marquez pushed past Pedrosa to become the youngest rider to win in the premiere class. Unfortunately for Marc, Italy would see him set new records in a way he would not prefer. Struggling visibly all weekend, the man who held the championship lead in Austin suffered a crash that set the record as fastest ever in GP racing during practice. He recovered well, and come race day set the lap record while chasing down Lorenzo with an eye for victory. Unfortunately for him, the man leading the race holds the record for best rookie start to a season and it is a record that would remain unbeaten. While drawing Lorenzo steadily in Marquez crashed again, and the record setting rookie's weekend ended 26 points behind the lead. While this is still a strong start to the season Marquez will be looking to his home race to put himself back into championship contention.

Firmly out of championship contention, Valentino Rossi finds himself in a position that proverbial position between a rock and a hard place. After 2 years aboard a Ducati that he describes as some of the hardest of his career, Italy's star rider returned to Yamaha in the hopes of reviving a stellar career that saw him rise close to the pinnacle of virtually any MotoGP stat that you could name. After a strong burst of off-season testing, things looked great for the factory Yamaha rider as he surged to a strong podium in Qatar despite falling as far down as 7th during the race. Then he came face to face with some of the harsh realities of today's racing. Whether it has been the changes to the M1 to suit Lorenzo's more structured pace, or the technological gap to Honda, or even the added pressures to his team as technical guru cares for his family, Rossi has struggled to consistently show the form that he expected to exhibit this season. Mugello was to be a grand return for the master, where a win would be nice but at least a podium was the goal. Rossi last graced the podium at his home circuit all the way back in 2009, a race won by the now retired Casey Stoner. He was injured and did not start by that point in the 2010 calendar and for 11 and 12 he was aboard the Ducati. Unfortunately his luck continued to run true and 2013 saw him collide with another rider and, though he escaped injury, he also escaped the race on the very first lap. Catalunya will provide a chance for a little payback as the Italian takes on all of Spain's finest in their element. In 2009 he was able to reverse the standings, beating both Stoner and Lorenzo after suffering defeat in Italy. This weekend will give a taste of just how much has changed in the past few years.

One thing that has changed is Dorna's attitude towards admittance onto the grid. Dorna had previously imposed a 24 entry limit on entries to the premiere class, a most that was auspicously done to enforce quality control and provide stability to the ailing series. With the advent of the cheaper CRT regulations the remaining spots quickly filled up, despite the exodus of Suzuki and Kawasaki from the series. Following the law of unintended (or intended, depending on which flavor of conspiracy theory you subscribe to) consequences Dorna was therefore left with a sticky problem when Suzuki announced that they were bidding for a return to the championship. There is little doubt that an additional manufacturer would only aid in the exposure, prestige and competition of the series, all good things working in Suzuki's favor. Working against them, however, was a full grid of contracted team and no spots available. Despite the saber rattling Dorna wants Suzuki in the series - Aprilia's ART are the only competitive bikes of the CRT experiment, and Suzuki should be at least as good having left the series with what was a competitive and podium capable bike. The initial plan seems to have been for Suzuki to assimilate an existing team, however all of the competitive teams are locked into one manufacturer or the other and the remainders do not have the infrastructure to support a factory effort. The suggestion of Suzuki fielding their own team also hit a brick wall as that would mean buying out an existing team's place, a notion that all parties involved soon found to be - predictably - exorbitantly expensive. The result? Dorna will now have to abandon any efforts of sanctions against the Japanese manufacturer and instead open additional slots to allow them to participate. The new question becomes which riders will grace the blue machine.

Posted at 6/13/2013 1:13:49 PM

RaptorFA

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Looking forward to this round for sure. The weather will not be a factor at all. In fact I'm pretty sure that the guys will experience the hottest track temps of the season, so it will be interesting to see whose bikes like that the most. Tires will also come into play here - who can use them right, who will use them up. Will Honda be able to take the upper hand back after the Yamaha surge at Mugello? I have a feeling the answer is yes, but I want to wait until at least the end of FP2 before I draw any sort of conclusion. And even then, we all know anything can happen in the race.

It's a shame that Ben Spies is going to miss yet another round. I have said it before and I have not softened my stance on this; that shoulder is far worse than anyone even realizes, maybe even Ben himself. It may well end his career. And that would be very unfortunate. The racing Gods can be cruel. It was weird seeing Biaggi on Ben's bike last week. By all accounts I guess he did OK, but I would not rely on any of his feedback to make any difference in fixing the Ducati. Just the fact that he has never been on B-Stones makes the test nothing more than a nice gesture to a retired champion on the part of Ducati. Still, I envy him!

DORNA sort of painted themselves into a corner with this entry limit, no? It would be a shame for Suzuki to get frustrated and walk away from the project now. They have come a long way and have actually produced a very decent piece from what I can tell. What DORNA should have done was to hold 2 grid slots in reserve. That way when a real player came along that wanted to enter (or re-enter) the series they would have had something to offer and not let the holding teams get greedy and gouge. To keep Zook away and retain a CRT (I guess I shall refrain from using that designation now; I prefer privateer moving forward) team that can barely stay under the 107% limit is just dumb. So fine, you want to cap the grid at 24, OK. Tell everyone that there can be 28 entries, but only the fastest 24 get to start the race. That would spice things up, eh?! :woot:

I'm going to follow that situation more closely and see what develops. In the mean time, we are less than 11 hours away from action!

Edited by RaptorFA at 6/13/2013 4:27:51 PM

What, Me Worry?

Posted at 6/14/2013 11:35:21 AM

budoist

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Well I thought I posted a reply last night...

I wonder now whether Dorna was really in a corner or if they were just using that limit arbitrarily to make Suzuki pay some form of concession for re-entry. You would think that there'd have been some reports about Dorna approaching the tracks about increasing grid size otherwise. I suspect that this was yet another rule that Dorna created that could be relaxed, arbitrarily enforced or disbanded as necessary (yes Rookie Rule, I'm looking at you). Now that it no longer serves a political purpose Dorna seems willing to simply throw it aside right when it would truly have an opportunity to be enforced regardless of the alternatives, just like the rookie rule.

Posted at 6/14/2013 1:01:51 PM

RaptorFA

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Yessir, I believe you are correct. And stop futzing with your hair, rookie rule, we are looking squarely at you! :lol: Rules are not much good if you can just turn around and break them. But I get what is going on. No one was very pleased when Suzuki left, and yes, the circumstances were not the best. So I am sure that Mr. Ezpeleta is trying to make sure that Suzuki are completely committed to coming back and staying for a while. And I kinda don't blame him. He doesn't want to get left holding the bag again. It has to be a win-win for both sides, and I'm sure that they will do their best to make that happen.

All back door boogeyng aside, the test on Monday is going to be just as interesting as the race! Suzuki's first run with the big boys, a possible showing of Yam's new seamless gear box, and production lab bikes for both Nicky and Dovi are among the hilites, and there may be other stuff too. Aprilia is talking about building a new engine more to MotoGP level with pneumatic valves and the whole smash, which could be ready as early as next season. There might be a different engine ready for testing on Monday as well from them, but I can't confirm that. Other teams may be debuting other new parts and pieces as well. I know NGM has new body work that Colin is playing with, as well as the ever expanding effort developing the new electronics package. They seem to be making some progressa though, which is really good to see.

I guess Ben Spies may not race until Indy now. I heard that he may try to make Laguna Seca, but Indy is the hard target for his return. Man what a shame. All this development going on at Ducati, and he hasn't had a word of input into it. That just sucks. If he didn't have a 2-year deal in place, I'm pretty sure Piro would be in that seat next year, even though he hasn't really lit it up as yet when he has had the oppurtunities. Might have been a good spot for Scott Redding. Keep an eye on that situation; something may happen yet.

I have not seen FP2 yet, but FP1 was pretty interesting. Turn 10 is turning out to be a bugger! 5 or 6 guys got hung out there already. Jorge and Dani decided to play a little cat and mouse at the end of the session, whichI thought was classic! A great rivalry between those 2 is trying very hard to develop, and it could just happen. And the temps are rising, which tells me that the entire field will most likely be on hard tires fron t and rear come race day. I doubt anyone will risk running the medium; tires drop off too quickly here even in good conditions. Quali should be wild tomorrow!

What, Me Worry?

Posted at 6/14/2013 3:13:56 PM

cggunnersmate

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Apparently Gigi has already denied that Aprilia is working on a pneumatic motor for GP (in Motociclismo magazine), though he may just be blowing smoke. Though Espargaro was provided with a more powerful motor (12hp-ish) during FP at Mugello. Aleix claimed it allowed him to accelerate with the prototypes onto the front straight but still couldn't match top speed.

Rossi topped FP2 but is said to have been on the softer option while everyone else was on the harder tires. Maybe Vale was working on his qualifying setup. He can usually find something extra during the race but his qualifying has really hurt him this season. Lets hope he gets a good start and can at least fight for a podium, though a repeat of 09 would be awesome. But I won't hold my breath.

Posted at 6/17/2013 8:23:06 AM

cggunnersmate

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That was quite the race of attrition. Several riders tucking the front and crashing out so we end up with some suprising top 10 finishers, namely CE having his best finish on the NGM forward bike. Though I was semi impressed with Smith. By far that was Smith's best finish and he wasn't just gifted it due to crashers (though they helped) but he legitly ran down and passed Dovi in the last couple of laps. Dovi's no slouch, even on the Duc. So good ride for Smith.

I have to think Alvaro's days at Gresini may be numbered. He's quick at times, with top 5 potential but he's crashing waaay too much this season. If he can't turn it around and at least finish, I think Fausto may look to another rider (Aleix Espargaro anyone?).

But other than some "oh :poop:" moments for MM, not much happened that race. Disappointed with Rossi, he always went well at Catalunya and thought he'd at least be up there with the three Spaniards after Qatar but he's just not there this year. He kinda bounced back after the injury in 2010, but I think that, Simo's death and the 2yrs on the Duc, he's just lost that something, the love for riding/racing, maybe he's too cautious now, I don't know but I'm not sure he could even beat Cal on a regular basis now.

I think I'll be suprised if he doesn't announce his retirement by the end of this season.

Posted at 6/17/2013 6:36:40 PM

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After all that build-up, Jorge turned things into a non-issue. He got another good start, siezed the lead yet again and simply took off. It was a brilliant call by his engineer to take some pressure off of the front, giving him more consistent feel over the race distance. The 2 Hondas just could not match him lap for lap. So much for Yamaha being susceptible to the heat. Lorenzo is just a machine. Many would say that this kind of racing is boring, and to an extent I agree, but if you focus on Lorenzo and just watch him work it is truly a thing of beauty, He is so damned precise. I didn't see a single mistake from him the entire race. He deserved this win, and in spite of the engine situation he has to feel good about his prospects moving forward.

Dani, too, because he also ran a magnificent race, did what he had to do and came out still leading the points. And his engine situation is just fine, thank you. Marky Marc is just a stud, man! He nearly crashed I don't know how many times but he is determined to stay with those aliens and learn from them. This is going to pay HUGE dividends, and sooner than we think.

Turn 10 turned out to be a bike eater for sure. Many front end tucks on this day. Perhaps the Bstones just didn't have the stuff for the conditions this time. It happens. Really I just think it was more guys trying too hard to keep pace and getting too much brake on in entry. Except for Alvaro Bumptista! He tried a really lame inside move that he had no shot to make and nearly took out Rossi yet again. They should take a look at that situation and have a word with him. No points this time, just s word or two. I know they are trying to develop the Showa suspension and brakes, but you just cannot make dumb moves like that.

And I'm gonna give a shout out to Colin Edwards. A nice day for him and the team. They have really been struggling trying to develop the new electronics and aero pieces, and they finally got a little payoff. I hope this forward momentum continues.

Lots more to cover, mainly about the test today and Suzuki's big public debut, which went swimmingly by the way, but I gotta change locations. Back in a little while! :rider:

What, Me Worry?

Posted at 6/19/2013 8:10:31 AM

cggunnersmate

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Yeah, RDP threw down a pretty decent lap time on the Suzuki, what is its designation by the way? The old V4 was the GSV-R, since this one is an I4 I don't know if they'll stick with GSV.

But anyway, nice lap by Randy (put in over 70, real workhorse, those are Nicky Hayden numbers). Really better than I thought they'd get in their first test alongside most of the rest of the grid. I wonder how consistent he was with the lap times.

Though he still got beat by his teammate on the ART. Nice lap be Espargaro.

Edited by cggunnersmate at 6/19/2013 8:11:36 AM

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