MotoGP: Damage limitation and a New World Order

Pedrosa leads, Marquez waits…

Photo: Repsol Honda

As the hootin’ and a hollerin’ dies down on the first MotoGP at COTA in Texas, PaddockChatter looks back on a weekend of history-making and damage limitation for the main contenders in this years race for the MotoGP crown.

Back in March there was a private test at COTA for Honda and Yamaha, present were Pedrosa, Marquez, Bradl, reigning Champion Lorenzo and seven-time MotoGP champion Rossi. It was the first time that the main protagonists could be measured on a level playing field, none of the riders had seen the track previously and were made to look somewhat ordinary by the class rookie. Could he carry to a race weekend though?

The answer was an unequivocal yes.

It would be very easy to get carried away on a crest of congratulations and history making, but looking at the results its clear there was more to the race than just a Marquez victory.  Dani Pedrosa knows that, to mount a successful title charge, he needs to have a much improved start to the season. The fourth place in Qatar will need to be his last this campaign where Lorenzo also finishes, the consistency of the Mallorcan needs to be matched at every opportunity while trying to keep his young team mate at bay. Second place in Texas was just the response needed to try and erase the disappointing fourth in Qatar. How much the soft rear tyre choice hampered his chance for the win, as well as a physical issue through the first sector will never be known but Pedrosa clearly believes he had the pace to win. 

‘Read more’ for PaddockChatter’s thoughts on the coming rounds…

Jorge Lorenzo knew that to keep his title defence on track he had to limit the inevitable damage that COTA would inflict but thankfully it came early enough in the season to not make too much difference over the eighteen race championship.  Third place, bar anyone not finishing, was the best the reigning champ could hope for and made sure his incredible run of scoring a podium in every race he finishes, stretching back to Indianapolis in 2011, remained intact and the fact that Lorenzo came away from Texas with his 100th podium and as joint leader of the title race, speaks volumes.

Coming in to the race weekend it was clear Valentino Rossi was going to struggle in Texas. A somewhat lacklustre test at the circuit didn’t fill the 7 time MotoGP champion with confidence as Free Practice and Qualifying showed with The Doctor being out-paced by the satellite Tech3 Yamaha M1 of Cal Crutchlow, on his first visit to the track. After his much-lauded return at Qatar, Rossi was left over 2.5s adrift of pole sitter Marquez in 8th place and faired only slightly better in the race after suffering vibration under braking and losing part of a brake disc, hampering any progress the Italian hoped to make over his rivals. The biggest marker of Rossi’s return will come over the next five races at traditional Yamaha tracks like Jerez, Le Mans and Barcelona.

After the difficult start to the weekend, with the Tech3 garage catching fire, triggering the sprinkler system in the early hours of Thursday morning, Crutchlow set about his weekend in his usual determined manner. Learning the track on every circulation the Brit rider climbed the timesheets, culminating in an excellent fourth place ahead of both Rossi and Bradl, who had previous track experience. It’s rare that qualifying mirrors race results, but at COTA it did right through to fifth place so fourth was a realistic target for Crutchlow behind Marquez, Pedrosa and Lorenzo and didn’t disappoint. 

Another stellar performance from Crutchlow…

Photo: Tech3

The final words go to Marc Marquez. The young Spaniard came of age this weekend, not only taking his maiden class pole position but breaking a record that had stood for over thirty years and set by one of the all-time greats of our sport, Fast Freddie Spencer at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, 1982. Marquez is the youngest premier class race winner in history at 20 years and 2 months old, let that sink in for a moment…what were you doing at 20 years old? The undoubted potential of Marquez has been lauded for many years but did he have the mettle to compete at the highest level? Sunday showed that in full technicolour Hi-Motion camera work; not a lucky win or by stretching off in to the distance like a scolded cat in the style of his predecessor, but by the controlled, mature race of a rider beyond his years and THAT was the most impressive aspect, the manner of his victory; watching, waiting, for the moment and taking it with both hands. Simply stunning.

Marquez is not the ‘new Valentino Rossi’, not by a long way, he’s his own rider and with a style all of his own – there’ll be no chickens or blow-up dolls on the back of this little fellas bike on the slow-down lap – his speed on a motorcycle is very reminiscent of Casey Stoner, but his style is something unique. The elbow-scraping is a by-product of how Marquez rides rather than a deliberate effort, his lean angles, the looseness of the bike under braking and the shapes and black lines the Honda RCV213V makes under acceleration is breath-taking to watch from any rider, but from the class rookie is nothing short of mesmerising. As reigning Moto2 champion, the Spaniard is not afraid to fight either which will be interesting at the shorter circuits like Jerez, a supposed ‘typical Yamaha track’…but who won there last year and on what? Stoner and his Honda.

Certain groups of people will fall in to the Stoner trap and dislike Marquez for whatever reason they can find, but it strongly advised you put your prejudices and allegiances aside and understand what is emerging in MotoGP. Race fans must appreciate the level that this young man is operating on, as this weekend certainly won’t be his last for breaking records. Marquez is the future of MotoGP for many years to come, and he’s only going to get better…


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