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MotoGP Trendspotting: Grand Prix Of Australia

Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha Factory Racing won the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, Oct. 20, the 16th of 18 events in the 2013 MotoGP World Championship that included the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Aug. 16-18 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But it’s time to take a look beyond the results sheets for trends after this race.

Game On: Rookie sensation Marc Marquez entered the Australian Grand Prix prepared for a coronation lap, leading the World Championship by 43 points and needed to score just eight more points than Jorge Lorenzo to become the first rookie to win the premier-class title since American legend Kenny Roberts in 1978.

Instead, Marquez left the Phillip Island Circuit facing a large fight for the title with just two races remaining.

Marquez was black-flagged from the race for disobeying special tire rules for this event and scored zero points on his Honda. Lorenzo won on his Yamaha to earn a maximum 25 points. Marquez’s lead was sliced to just 18 points.

Honda and Repsol Honda team strategists made a huge mistake that led to Marquez’s disqualification. Excessive tire wear caused by new asphalt forced officials to trim the race distance from the scheduled 27 laps to just 19 laps since Bridgestone couldn’t guarantee the safety of its rear tire past 10 laps.

Riders were ordered to make a mandatory pit stop during the race to change bikes, and no rider could complete more than 10 laps on one set of tires. Marquez inexplicably went the first 11 laps before pitting on his Repsol Honda RC213V and was black-flagged from the race while running second behind Lorenzo.

There is only a five-point difference between first and second, so Lorenzo will need help to win the title even if he sweeps the final two races. Two-time MotoGP World Champion Lorenzo shouldn’t expect any help from Spanish rival Dani Pedrosa, Marquez’s teammate and the other member of the leading trio that has won all but one race so far this season. It’s unlikely Repsol Honda will issue explicit team orders to Pedrosa to stay behind Marquez, but that message will be implied to Pedrosa in a less-than-subtle fashion this week.


Steady As He Goes: Cal Crutchlow received the most attention among non-factory team riders earlier this season, riding to four podium finishes and a pole in the first eight races of the season on his Tech 3 Yamaha.

But Alvaro Bautista has been the most consistent non-factory team rider in the second half on his Gresini Honda.

Bautista often is maligned and overlooked as being the “other Spaniard” when compared to superstars and fellow Spaniards Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa. But he has finished fifth or better in seven of the last nine races, earning him the title of “best of the rest” behind Yamaha and Honda factory riders Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, Marquez and Pedrosa.

Gresini Honda fields a factory-spec machine for Bautista, but it does not have the budget or technical staff of full works outfits. So the results of Bautista and Gresini have been impressive.


Bad Break for Redding: The Moto2 championship race also was blown wide apart Sunday at Phillip Island after championship leader Scott Redding fell from his Marc VDS machine and suffered a broken left wrist in a crash during qualifying and did not race.

Spaniard Pol Esparagaro took the championship lead from Redding by 16 points after winning the race Sunday and scoring the maximum 25 points.

It’s unlikely British rider Redding will try to race at the penultimate event of the season Sunday, Oct. 27 at Motegi, Japan, after doctors repaired Redding’s wrist with a plate and six screws in surgery Saturday night.


TOP FIVE FINISHERS (Australian Grand Prix, Phillip Island, Australia):

1.    Jorge Lorenzo    Yamaha Factory Racing
2.    Dani Pedrosa    Repsol Honda Team
3.    Valentino Rossi    Yamaha Factory Racing
4.    Cal Crutchlow    Monster Yamaha Tech 3
5.    Alvaro Bautista    GO&FUN Honda Gresini

American finishers: Nicky Hayden, Ducati Team, seventh; Colin Edwards, NGM Mobile Forward Racing, 12th.

TOP FIVE POINTS:

1.    Marc Marquez    298
2.    Jorge Lorenzo    280
3.    Dani Pedrosa    264
4.    Valentino Rossi    214
5.    Cal Crutchlow    179

American points: Nicky Hayden, ninth; 111; Colin Edwards, 14th, 36; Ben Spies, 21st; 9.

NEXT RACE:

Grand Prix of Japan, Oct. 27, Twin Ring Motegi, Motegi, Japan.


***


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