April 22, 2013 | By Paul Kelly
MotoGP Trendspotting: GP Of The Americas
Marc Marquez of the Repsol Honda Team won the Grand Prix of the Americas on Sunday, April 21, the second of 18 events in the 2013 MotoGP World Championship that includes 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.
- What’s Next For Marquez? Marc Marquez made Grand Prix motorcycle racing history Sunday by becoming the youngest premier-class winner. Marquez was 20 years, 63 days old when he earned his first career MotoGP victory. American Freddie Spencer previously held the record, earning his first 500cc victory at age 20 years, 196 days in 1982.
Most MotoGP observers figured Marquez would win at least one race this season, as he showed precocious speed and fearless racecraft en route to 125cc and Moto2 world titles. But the speed at which he achieved the feat – in his second career premier-class start – could force everyone to adjust their expectations for the Spaniard this season.
Marquez is tied with reigning World Champion Jorge Lorenzo for the series lead with 41 points after adding this victory to his third-place finish April 7 in Qatar.
Marquez no longer is The Whiz Kid. He’s a true contender for the World Championship who should cause serious concern for fellow factory riders and title aspirants Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi.
- Pedrosa Looks For Answers: This was supposed to be Dani Pedrosa’s year. Now it’s looking more and more like the biggest threat to his quest for his first MotoGP world title could come from within his garage.
Pedrosa won seven of the last 11 races last season for Repsol Honda, falling just short of Spanish rival Jorge Lorenzo for the world title. That performance, mated with quick times during 2013 preseason testing, caused many to tab Pedrosa as the title favorite entering this season.
But Pedrosa now must be scratching his head, at the very least. He is winless through the first two races of 2013 and has been beaten both times by 20-year-old rookie teammate Marc Marquez, who won at Austin and is tied with Lorenzo for the series points lead.
To be fair, Pedrosa could catch fire like he did in the second half of last season and contend for or win the title. But he also gained the full support of his Repsol Honda Team after Casey Stoner was injured at Indianapolis and missed three races. And most figured Pedrosa would become the automatic team leader after Stoner’s retirement after last season, especially with a rookie as his new teammate.
It was a dream setup for a run to a long-awaited title for Pedrosa. After two races, this season is looking like it could be a far bigger challenge than Pedrosa expected, as Marquez quickly could gain control of the Repsol Honda garage if his winning form continues.
Keep an eye on the relationship between Spanish teammates Pedrosa and Marquez. It was friendly and playful during preseason testing. If Marquez continues to beat Pedrosa, expect The Big Chill to set in between the pair.
- Which Rossi Is Real? Valentino Rossi stirred the souls of his millions of fans worldwide by finishing second to Yamaha Factory Racing teammate Jorge Lorenzo on April 7 in the season opener at Qatar.
It was a fantastic return to form by “The Doctor,” who marked his return from two years of mechanical and emotional hell at Ducati with a scintillating ride, rallying from fifth to edge rookie Marc Marquez for the runner-up spot.
But Rossi was conspicuously quiet this weekend at the Circuit of the Americas. He qualified eighth, 2.359 seconds behind pole winner Marquez. And he finished sixth, 16.615 seconds behind winner Marquez.
Honda dominated a private test last month at Austin, as Marquez led all three days. And Yamaha’s M1 chassis lacked the grip of the Honda RC213V on the twisty, undulating Circuit of the Americas.
But the clock never lies. Rossi finished only 5.990 seconds behind Lorenzo in Qatar. He was 13.234 seconds behind teammate Lorenzo at Austin.
Rossi is far more competitive this season in his return to Yamaha than he was during 2011-12 at Ducati, when he managed just three podium finishes and no victories. But it’s still uncertain if he has the speed to return to supernova status and contend for an eighth premier-class World Championship.
- CRTs Gaining Ground: Few debutantes in MotoGP received more scorn than the Claiming Rules Team concept, which inflated the premier-class grid starting in 2012 with slower, production-based motorcycles. Many purists inside the paddock decried CRT as an attack on the purebred prototype ethos of MotoGP.
A CRT probably never is going to win a MotoGP race. It remains highly unlikely a CRT rider will stand on a MotoGP podium.
But the production-based bikes are gaining ground on their prototype cousins.
Aleix Espargaro was the top CRT rider Sunday, finishing 11th on an ART. He ended up 48.837 seconds behind winner Marc Marquez. In the second race of 2012, Esparagaro also was the top CRT rider, finishing 12th at Jerez. But he was one minute, 12.728 seconds behind race winner Casey Stoner.
There’s no question that CRT teams are becoming more familiar with their machinery, which is closing the performance gap. The availability this season of a softer Bridgestone tire compound specifically for CRT machines and further development of the Magneti Mareli spec electronic control units also are pulling CRT bikes closer to the slowest factory prototypes.
But all this work could prove fruitless next season when Honda starts selling “customer” versions of its RC213V prototype and Yamaha will lease “customer” versions of its M1 engine and possibly chassis to teams. That increase of prototype equipment will cause many CRT machines to disappear.
TOP FIVE FINISHERS (Grand Prix of the Americas, Austin, Texas):
1. Marc Marquez Repsol Honda Team
2. Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda Team
3. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha Factory Racing
4. Cal Crutchlow Monster Yamaha Tech 3
5. Stefan Bradl LCR Honda MotoGP
American finishers: Nicky Hayden, Ducati Team, ninth; Ben Spies, Ignite Pramac Racing, 13th; Colin Edwards, NGM Mobile Forward Racing, not classified.
TOP FIVE POINTS:
1. Marc Marquez 41
2. Jorge Lorenzo 41
3. Dani Pedrosa 33
4. Valentino Rossi 30
5. Cal Crutchlow 24
American points: Nicky Hayden, eighth; 15; Ben Spies, 12th; 9.
Grand Prix of Spain, May 5, Circuito de Jerez, Jerez, Spain
2013 tickets: Tickets are on sale for the 2013 Red Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP event. Visit www.ims.com/tickets, call (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700 or visit the IMS Ticket Office at the IMS Administration Building at the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.
Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are available. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more informatiom.
Information on camping at IMS during the Red Bull Indianapolis GP is available at www.ims.com/tickets. Hotel package information can be found at visitindy.com/redbullhotels.
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