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MotoGP Trendspotting: Grand Prix Of Valencia

Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha Factory Racing won the Grand Prix of Valencia on Sunday, Nov. 10, the last 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.

The Boy Wonder Does It: Marc Marquez rode a composed, controlled race to finish third and win the MotoGP World Championship by four points over Lorenzo.

Marquez, 20, made history in almost every conceivable way in 2013. He became the youngest premier-class World Champion in history. He became the first rookie to win the premier class title since American legend Kenny Roberts in 1978. And he earned a rookie-record six victories, including at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Aug. 18 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The world title was Marquez’s third in the last four years, as he claimed championships in 125cc in 2010 and Moto2 last season.

A long reign of Marquez domination could be underway. But fellow Spaniard Lorenzo will have plenty to say about that.

Lorenzo won eight races this season on his Yamaha – two more than Marquez – and also missed the German Grand Prix due to injury, a race won by Marquez. Plus Yamaha appeared to gain a technical edge on 2013 Manufacturers Champion Honda in the second half of the season, as Lorenzo won five of the last seven races.

Rossi Seeing Sunset? Valentino Rossi has won 80 races and seven World Championships during his incredible career in the premier class, which started in 2000. But this season proved that the curtain may be closing quickly on “The Doctor’s” career.

Rossi returned to Yamaha – where he won five world titles and 46 races from 2004-10 – this season after a winless, disastrous two-year spell at Ducati in 2011-12. This move was supposed to provide Rossi with a competitive M1 machine to once again challenge for multiple victories and world titles.

That didn’t happen.

Rossi, 34, earned one victory this season but finished a disappointing and distant fourth in the World Championship, 97 points behind champion Marquez. The bike was powerful, as teammate Lorenzo won a series-high eight races and fell just four points shy of the World Championship.

So skeptical eyes are pointing at Rossi. He responded last week at Valencia with a shock move, firing the only crew chief of his MotoGP career, the legendary Jeremy Burgess. Rossi replaced Australian Burgess with fellow Italian Silvano Galbusera, a veteran World Superbike crew chief who last tuned in the MotoGP World Championship in 1995.

A sense of desperation wafted over this move by Rossi. He will need to close the gap considerably to the top three “aliens” Marquez, Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, or whispers about his retirement next season will increase into a roar. Rossi’s contract with Yamaha expires after next season.

Two Americans in MotoGP in 2014: Two Americans will remain in MotoGP next season. 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden moves from the Ducati factory team to the privateer Aspar team, and Colin Edwards will stay with the Forward Racing team.

A change in machinery and regulations could help Hayden and Edwards climb the grid next season after tough years in 2013. Both riders will compete on “customer” versions of powerful factory bikes from Honda and Yamaha.

Hayden is riding a “customer” Honda that was only three-tenths of a second per lap slower than the World Championship-winning Honda factory bike in testing this year. Hayden’s Ducati GP12 rarely was within one second of the factory Hondas or Yamahas this season.

Next season Edwards will ride a “customer” version of the Yamaha prototype upon which World Championship runner-up Lorenzo won eight races.

Edwards made progress during the second half of this season with his FTR-Kawasaki, but progress was relative because the bike was a production-based Claiming Rules Team machine that never had a chance to compete with factory prototypes or satellite machines.


TOP FIVE FINISHERS (Grand Prix of Valencia, Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo, Cheste, Spain):

1.    Jorge Lorenzo    Yamaha Factory Racing
2.    Dani Pedrosa    Repsol Honda Team
3.    Marc Marquez    Repsol Honda Team
4.    Valentino Rossi    Yamaha Factory Racing
5.    Alvaro Bautista    GO&FUN Honda Gresini
American finishers: Nicky Hayden, Ducati Team, eighth; Colin Edwards, NGM Mobile Forward Racing, 15th.


TOP FIVE POINTS:

1.    Marc Marquez    334
2.    Jorge Lorenzo    330
3.    Dani Pedrosa    300
4.    Valentino Rossi    237
5.    Cal Crutchlow    188

American points: Nicky Hayden, ninth; 126; Colin Edwards, 14th, 41; Ben Spies, 21st; 9.


***


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MotoGP Trendspotting: Grand Prix Of Valencia
 
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