ALCAÑIZ, Spain – Round 14 and the penultimate European race before returning to Spain at the very end of the season. Motorland is located in the flat, arid northeastern region of Spain making it susceptible to windy conditions, and race day is no exception. Motorland's clearly not standing in the way of the Three Amigos, who've taken the front row, and for the seventh time this season, Marc Marqez, the young rookie, has clinched pole by one-hundredth of a second over the current world champion, Jorge Lorenzo. Indeed, the entire front row qualified within one-tenth of a second. Brothers and sisters, we've a race on our hands.
MotoGP Aragón Qualifying Results 2013
1. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1:47.804
2. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 1:47.814
3. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 1:47.957
4. Valentino Rossi ITA Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 1:47.962
5. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) 1:48.128
6. Alvaro Bautista ESP Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 1:48.302
7. Cal Crutchlow GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 1:48.653
8. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 1:48.854
9. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (GP13) 1:49.219
10. Aleix Espargaro ESP Power Electronics Aspar (ART CRT) 1:49.348
11. Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Team (GP13) 1:49.428
12. Andrea Iannone ITA Energy T.I. Pramac Racing (GP13) 1:50.094
13. Yonny Hernandez COL Ignite Pramac Racing (GP13) 1:50.685
14. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Avintia Blusens (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 1:50.995
15. Danilo Petrucci ITA Came IodaRacing Project (Suter-BMW CRT)* 1:51.030
16. Randy De Puniet FRA Power Electronics Aspar (ART CRT) 1:51.297
17. Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 1:51.327
18. Claudio Corti ITA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 1:51.519
19. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Blusens (FTR-Kawasaki CRT)* 1:51.552
20. Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (ART CRT) 1:51.639
21. Bryan Staring AUS Go&Fun Honda Gresini (FTR-Honda CRT) 1:52.102
22. Luca Scassa ITA Cardion AB Motoracing (ART CRT) 1:52.305
23. Lukas Pesek CZE Came IodaRacing Project (Suter-BMW CRT)* 1:52.989
24. Damian Cudlin AUS Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART CRT)* 1:53.521
The usual characters make up the front row. Then we have Rossi heading up the second—always great to see him up at the top—with his nemesis, Alvaro Bautista, separated by a much-improved Stefan Bradl. English isn't happy; he wasn't settled in qualifying and the team seemed to be struggling to get the right setup. It also doesn't help that he's a big fellow and the windy conditions won't help with aerodynamics. Blast.
Andrea Dovizioso gets a place on his rival and teamate Nicky Hayden, their position split by Andrea Iannone riding a nonfactory Ducati. It's worth noting that Michele Pirro, the Pramac Ducati tester who's been covering for Ben Spies, will be replaced by Yonny Hernandez for the remainder of the season. Pirro's busy schedule has taken its toll on the young Italian, and he'll sit out the rest of 2013 season. Hernandez is the first Columbian to take a proto-MotoGP ride and he does his team, and country, proud by qualifying in 13th leading the CRT contingent. To confuse things further, Laverty takes Hernandez ride and wildcard Australian rider Damian Cudlin cheerfully takes his. You'll be pleased to note that I can keep up.
Dani Pedrosa is a good starter. He takes advantage of this simple fact by running on hard tires that will come into their own in the latter stages of the race but penalize him during the former, especially the first few laps. Indeed, Pedrosa does get a good start. He and Lorenzo briefly pass Marquez on the short scream to turn one (we're very much off and racing, by the way) but it's a short-lived affair. Marquez takes second and Lorenzo pulls out a lead. Rossi holds fourth, Bradl maintains fifth and English has taken sixth after shoving Bautista back to seventh. But he's looking for a way back in.
Twenty-two laps to go: Laverty, Petrucci and Scassa have all managed to leave the track. Only Scassa makes it back on. Bautista has taken English for sixth. It's worth noting that Hernandez holds his 13th place.
Twenty-three left: Lorenzo isn't breaking away and Pedrosa is the fastest guy out there. Indeed, Marquez's second place is threatened. Pedrosa must have a good result today. It's his birthday for one thing and cake tastes better with a trophy. A couple of laps later both Marquez and Pedrosa have caught Lorenzo. The Three Amigos unite again in the Spanish desert, and all hell is about to break loose.
Nineteen to go: Pedrosa takes Marquez and the pair cozy-up with Lorenzo. Marquez is in battle mode. He's jabbing at Pedrosa and they briefly make contact. Marquez runs wide but, unbeknownst to either, the rookie has inadvertently (one hopes) severed a sensor cable disabling Pedrosa's traction control system. A few seconds later Pedrosa highsides out of the Spanish Grand Prix and perhaps, more pertinently, out of the world championship contention. Happy Birthday, not.
Seventeen left: The incident has extended Lorenzo's lead by 2 seconds. Let’s take some time to look at what's happening farther down the grid until Marquez, inevitably, catches the current world champion—because you know it's gonna happen.
Sixteen remaining: There's nothing in it for third. Rossi heads up Bradl, Bautista and English with Smith within striking distance. Bautista, who seems to be on a roll this season—sometime literally—is trying to pass Bradl, but he's too busy to notice English sneak up and take his fifth position.
A couple of laps down and Marquez is now within striking distance of Lorenzo. He assumes the position and prepares himself to charge. As usual, this isn't undertaken lightly. Instead, Marquez prefers to apply pressure just by being present. In the corner of his eye Lorenzo will see him poking and jibing until, with 10 laps to go he passes Lorenzo to the roar of the Spanish crowd. Or put in another way, the Spanish fans heap adoration on the young rider who's just passed their world champion.
With eight laps to the flag Marquez has pulled ahead of Lorenzo but he's not getting away. Indeed, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that Lorenzo let Marquez through to give himself some breathing space.
Rossi, in third place, is under pressure from Bautista, he of the “by any means necessary” school of thinking. With six laps left it's almost a relief when the pass—clean—is executed. But the Spanish wildcard isn't dropping Rossi off. Instead, he's merely slowed proceedings sufficiently to allow Bradl and English to join the warring factions and make third place open to all.
In the closing few laps Marquez, once again, gets his nose ahead of Lorenzo, who seems to have cooled-off, in a relative way, of course. With Marquez reasonably secure for his sixth win of the season—complete with the smashing of more records—all eyes have defaulted to Rossi who is battling with local lad Bautista. Two laps to go and Rossi dramatically takes back his third place, but he's on Bautista's home turf and the pass goes down about as well as a cup of cold sick. Bautista instantly cuts back only to find Rossi, once again, in front. Really, this is too much and it’s not looking like stopping anytime before the flag.
The too-ing and fro-ing between Rossi and Bautista allows Bradl, currently running fifth, to get in. Bautista isn't covering his bases as he lunges at Rossi, allowing Bradl to slip past and take his fourth. But Bautista, having already lost his third place, isn't going to concede, especially in front of the home crowd. He takes his fourth back, only to learn that Rossi has disappeared into the horizon. Magic stuff, true return-to-form racing of yore.
MotoGP Aragón Results 2013:
1. Marc Marquez (Honda)
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha)
3. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)
4. Alvaro Bautista (Honda)
5. Stefan Bradl (Honda)
6. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha)
7. Bradley Smith (Yamaha)
8. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)
9. Nicky Hayden (Ducati)
10. Andrea Ionnone (Ducati)
11. Aleix Espargaro (ART)
12. Yonny Hernandez (Ducati)
13. Randy de Puniet (ART)
14. Hiroshi Aoyama (FTR)
15. Claudio Corti (FTR Kawasaki)
16. Colin Edwards (FTR Kawasaki)
17. Luca Scassa (ART)
18. Bryan Staring (FTR Honda)
19. Lukas Pesek (Ioda-Suter)
Marquez's win hasn't been controversial as such, but it comes with a frown from his teammate, who spends a portion of his birthday being checked out by doctors after a short trip in an ambulance. Pedrosa is far from happy claiming, somewhat diplomatically, that Marquez was “on the limit.”* It's unlikely Marquez will be penalized over the incident but, at the time of writing this, the officials have yet to make a decision regarding culpability. Even if they decided to strip Marquez of his points (they won't) and give the win to Lorenzo (nope) he'd still be heading up the championship anyway.
My ruling would be straightforward. This is racing, stuff happens. Bad luck, Dani.
Riders' World Championship:
1. Marc Marquez ESP Honda (F) * 278 points
2. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Yamaha (F) 239 points (-39)
3. Dani Pedrosa ESP Honda (F) 219 points (-59)
4. Valentino Rossi ITA Yamaha (F) 185 points (-93)
5. Cal Crutchlow GBR Yamaha (S) 156 points (-122)
6. Stefan Bradl GER Honda (S) 135 points (-143)
7. Alvaro Bautista ESP Honda (S) 125 points (-153)
8. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati (F) 112 points (-166)
9. Nicky Hayden USA Ducati (F) 102 points (-176)
10. Bradley Smith GBR Yamaha (S) * 80 points (-198)
11. Aleix Espargaro ESP ART (CRT) 76 points (-202)
12. Michele Pirro ITA Ducati (S) 50 points (-228)
13. Andrea Iannone ITA Ducati (S) * 47 points (-231)
14. Colin Edwards USA FTR-Kawasaki (CRT) 31 points (-247)
15. Hector Barbera ESP FTR-Kawasaki (CRT) 27 points (-251)
16. Randy de Puniet FRA ART (CRT) 23 points (-255)
17. Danilo Petrucci ITA Ioda Suter-BMW (CRT) 23 points (-255)
18. Yonny Hernandez COL ART (CRT)/Ducati (S) 11 points (-267)
19. Ben Spies USA Ducati (S) 9 points (-269)
20. Claudio Corti ITA FTR-Kawasaki (CRT) * 8 points (-270)
21. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN FTR-Kawasaki (CRT) 8 points (-270)
22. Alex de Angelis RSM Ducati (S) 5 points (-273)
23. Karel Abraham CZE ART (CRT) 5 points (-273)
24. Michael Laverty GBR PBM/ART (CRT) * 3 points (-275)
25. Bryan Staring AUS FTR-Honda (CRT) * 2 points (-276)
26. Javier del Amor ESP FTR-Kawasaki (CRT) 1 points (-277)
*Isn't that the point of all this?
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