2013 Qatar MotoGP Sunday Round Up: The Day MotoGP Changed - Or Started To

What was the big story of the MotoGP season opener in Qatar? It's obvious: The Doctor is back. After a failed pass on Andrea Dovizioso, in which he ran wide and hit his brake lever protector on the back of Dani Pedrosa's rear tire - "The protection saved me, because for sure I crash [without it]" he said afterwards - he upped the pace and chased down the group containing Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow, passed them all, and after a thrilling battle with Marquez, went on to take second place in his first race back with Yamaha. If anyone thought that Rossi might have lost it, this was the race in which he proved that he was still capable of being at the front, the only condition being that he has a decent machine underneath him.

That reading of the race, though both attractive and seductive, is not the complete picture. Viewed with a more jaundiced eye, Rossi was comprehensively thrashed by his teammate - "In this weekend, I think it is impossible to beat Lorenzo," he admitted - closed down on a group being held up by a struggling Pedrosa, who had been troubled by a lack of rear grip all weekend, then had enormous difficulty dealing with a MotoGP rookie, racing for the first time in the class. Is that beautiful palace on the horizon real, or was it just a mirage, a trick of the light in the desert?

A little bit of both. First things first: Jorge Lorenzo was impossible to beat this weekend. He did nothing wrong from the moment he took to the track, carrying on in 2013 where he left off in 2012. "It's like he's not human," Rossi said of his teammate. Lorenzo reigned supreme at Qatar, like an Emperor sent to Earth by the gods to rule motorcycle racing. Unfortunately, his overwhelming dominance did not gain his sponsors much TV time, as Dorna's TV production unit concentrated instead - quite rightly - on the thrilling battle behind.

Rossi was also helped by Dani Pedrosa. The Repsol Honda man was hampered by a lack of rear grip, which is crucial to getting the RC213V to turn. Just how badly he was affected is obvious from the timesheets: where Jorge Lorenzo was 4.4 seconds faster over race distance than he was in 2012, Pedrosa was a full 4 seconds slower. Pedrosa's saving grace - and a disadvantage for his rivals - was the fact that the Honda's power makes it very difficult to get past. As Cal Crutchlow has been saying all weekend, the high corner speed sweeping lines the Yamaha uses to go fast are no good if you are behind the Honda. The RC213V needs to square off the corner, and use its grip and power to fire out of the corner and accelerate away. It is, in a very limited form, the same problem which the old Honda 500cc V twins, and the Proton KR triple faced when up against the V4 500cc two-stroke bikes. Sweeping lines may be the fastest way around the track, but that won't necessarily win you the race, if you get stuck behind a more powerful bike which is using a point-and-shoot style, and is robbing you of your corner speed.

While Crutchlow struggled to get by, Rossi had a lot less difficulty. "He was able to make a pass because he's so aggressive," Crutchlow observed, having watched the process from behind. Marc Marquez also struggled to get past his teammate, though Crutchlow put that down to choice, not a lack of ability. "Marquez was better than Pedrosa, and he could have passed him at any point. He was just playing with him, he was sitting up - don't get me wrong, he was still riding hard, but he could have passed him loads of times in the first corner."

Marquez himself put it down to learning how to race, and adapting his style to the MotoGP bike. He had learned he needed to ride differently with a used tire, using less lean angle and more drive. He had learned that a MotoGP race was a lot more physically demanding than a Moto2 race. And he had also learned that it was a lot harder to pass MotoGP riders than it was to pass the Moto2 boys. The truth, once again, probably lies in the middle, Marquez sitting behind Pedrosa and observing, learning. Through the race his style began to change, standing the bike up earlier to get it off the corner faster. It stood him in good stead when he finally made the pass - something he did with due care and attention, not wishing to stoke the flames of a fire which will inevitably engulf the Repsol Honda garage, but which it is too early to really start.

So quickly does Marquez learn that it took Rossi several attempts until he managed to keep the young Spaniard behind him. Marquez is no respecter of authority, or status, or myth and legend, and was just as determined to beat Rossi as he was to beat Claudio Corti, fighting a minute and a half behind him down in sixteenth. In the mind of the true motorcycle racer, other riders have no business being in front of him, whoever those other riders may be. Marc Marquez, above all, is a real racer.

His talent is also beyond doubt. A podium in your first race: Jorge Lorenzo did it, Dani Pedrosa did it, it is what you are supposed to do if you aspire to be world champion. Giving Valentino Rossi trouble, and beating your teammate, is exactly what he should be doing. Rossi joked that he had to try to beat Marquez as often as possible in the first half of the season, before the Spaniard got any experience.

But the biggest story of Sunday, perhaps, is the change in the minds of the riders that happened during and after the race. Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner concentrated all their efforts on producing inch-perfect laps, pursuing perfection to such an extent that a pass was a risky proposition. Valentino Rossi, with his new-found ally Marc Marquez, do not care for such niceties, and are only interested in passing the man in front of them, however they can. Marquez was being ultra cautious around Pedrosa, aware that any mishaps with his teammate could ignite an already difficult situation between the two riders' managers, Emilio Alzamora and Alberto Puig.

Next time, he will be less cautious, and resume his naturally more aggressive approach. This approach is what will shake up MotoGP, as both Marquez and Rossi do whatever they need to get past riders, instead of sitting politely behind them waiting for a mistake, as has been the custom of recent years. Cal Crutchlow has already learned he needs to follow the way of Marquez and Rossi. Asked what he was going to do to avoid being stuck behind a Honda the next time it happened, he was clear: "Take a leaf out of Valentino's book, and start charging them. If that's the only way to do it, then we've got to do it."

If Rossi can qualify better - he admitted that this is something he needs to work on, exploiting the new QP system - then he may be close enough to stick with Lorenzo, and attempt to get in front of him. It will not be long before Marquez has the speed to join them - given how quick he was at Austin, it may even come next race - and then we shall see how Lorenzo deals with a dual attack. As other riders see that an aggressive approach is yielding results, then they, too, will try the same tack.

So sure, The Doctor is back. But more importantly, there's a new youngster in town with the same attitude, and at least as much talent. The combination of Rossi and Marquez is going to have a profound effect on this season of MotoGP, but also the series in years to come. It is the shot in the arm which the series badly needs, restoring the thrills and excitement which had been missing in recent years. Judging by the number of journalists hoarse from shouting at the TV monitors in the media center at Qatar on Sunday night, this could be a very good year indeed.

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We seem to forget that Lorenzo is no slouch when it comes to fighting spirit. He can fight with with the best of them. He may have calmed down in recent years but he was in the same league as Simoncelli and Marquez.

People also seem to forget that in 2008 Qatar, first race of the championship. Facing off against World Champion Casey Stoner, his first race on a MotoGP bike, on tyres that were not as good as the Bridgestones that Rossi had, Jorge goes pole, and finishes second.

He is no slouch indeed. Won a race by round three and never mind destroying himself with a launch into orbit prior to Shanghai, but still fighting his way to fourth.

I don't think people have forgotten. But like DE says in the past few seasons the trend has been for inch perfect riding with less risk taking. I will be interested to see how being roughed up by VR and MM will effect JLs metrenome.

Its not that I think JL can't race its just that in recent years more often than not its been fairly lacking in the racing department. This season is look very promising!

...comment on who is at least as talented as Rossi ( though back in his 125 days, I declared to my lovely wife-who neither cared NOR listened-that Marc was definitely THE next big thing), but suffice it to say that ROSSI IS BACK. 

As excited as I am for at least 5 competitive riders, I am looking forward to the Marquez - Lorenzo battle most of all. I still think Marquez will hurt someone badly before the year is out, but until then I'll look forward to Lorenzo racing in anger against him after MM tries to run him into a wall.

I'm no Rossi fan, but credit where it's due. Except for that rookie like over enthusiasm in lap 1. Marquez was stunning and agree with David re: those two stirring up the season this year.

What was excruciating for us in Australia was the unbelievably fawning and nauseating pommie commentators that couldn't shut up about Rossi. It wasn't only painful but it was unprofessional.

Can't help but lament the lack of Casey this year that would've been the best year in decades with 5 aliens. And agree with the previous posted paragraph about Lorenzo's ability to fight as well as Caseys, it's just that they were so dominant so often that they cleared off and didn't have to fight.

Totally agree with you there... I find the english commentators absolutely awful. Unfortunately... the reason we have them is that too many of 'us' complained about Daz and Rusty. So apparantly we brought this on ourselves ? Shame...

As appalling as Harris and Emmet can be (elementary mistakes, calling passes that clearly are not happening), I'll take them over Greg Rust any day. I can't knock the guy's enthusiasm for motorsport, but my god he is an abysmal commentator...

Oh to have Steve Parish and Roger Burnett calling MotoGP races...

Be careful what you wish for. On the BBC we Harris and Emmett for Moto3 and Moto2, but Parrish and Charlie Cox for MotoGP. Parrish sounds like he's phoning it in, and the very thought of Cox makes my heart sink.

In an ideal world we'd have Whitham and Burnicle commentating on everything, for ever.

This, Whitham and Burnicle. I know many favour the Moody/Ryder team and they are certainly knowledgeable but. Meh nevermind I won't complain i'll just say that from having had them as favourites my strong prefference in now Whitham and Burnicle. Took a lot of warming up to them mind you. Wasn't at all convinced by them to start with.

Parrish and Cox are bloody useless! It actually spoils the race for me having to listen to them taking nonsese the whole way through. If only Eurosport could show the race live, they have by far the best commentators for MotoGP and WSBK.

I don't understand the BBC, hey have invested quite a bit of money into their MotoGP coverage the last few years but they still have a rubbish commentry team....

I quite likeD them , but the sandwich stealing joke wore thin the second time.....into the 300th time now ? To much off topic chattering. They both looked overly smartly dressed this time around...a bit 'false looking'.

What really bugs me about the BBC though, is no podium or formal/seated interviews shown. Totally disrespectful to MotoGP.

Haven't heard complaints about him before, but haven't seen much of him. Surely anything would be better than those 2 pommie gits.
Showing my age here, but my all time fav's are Barry Sheen & Daryl Eastlake - Daryl provided the passion, Barry (RIP) the wisdom & humour.

Or there was a one-off when I heard Doug Mulray commentate on the p.a system at a road race in Wollongong - hilarious.

Big Dazza I didn't care for too much, but Barry was bloody fantastic, pithy, insightful and always ready with a humorous one liner that seemed to sum up a situation perfectly.
I do miss him and never even knew him.

Come to the US and watch the Speed coverage. You'll never complain again. Not only do we get about a 6-8 lap delay, we also get some ass who doen't know jack trying to tell us what we've missed. It drove me to a MotoGP subscription. So for that, I must say, "Thank you Speed. Your enept coverage has allowed me to see the light of the world feed."

It is odd that Dani struggled at Losail all weekend, especially when he was pretty darned good there last year. In qualifying, Marquez was getting on the throttle earlier and that is what led to him tapping the back of Dani's bike. I am sure he was expecting Dani to be going faster at that point than he was, and in the race, it was the same thing, until he finally decided he had paid enough deference to his team-mate

As usual - good balanced reporting.

What was interesting was that it was Rossi who made the rookie mistake not Marquez. He did well to come back from it.

After that effort and the testing, my tip is Marquez will win the next one from Pedrosa, Jorge and Rossi. Rossi will not have to wait till half way through the season. There will be tracks where Marquez will struggle at.

Cal must be wondering why his bike is so far off the pace down the straight compared to Rossi.

The Hondas get off the corners better, no doubt, and have more HP but Cal's comments about them are kind of tough to hear when #46 passed Bradl, Pedrosa, and Marquez in route to second. Time for him to man up and make it happen.

Is there another rider who could start in 7th, get to the front in a lap or so, then run off track, find himself back in 7th then make his way back to the podium? I think Marquez can do it also.

Looking forward to a Rossi win and the subsequent writings of who helped him win.

I think what we saw is the Factory Honda is in fact much faster than the Satellite Yam, while the Factory Yam is much closer in terms of straight line speed. Rossi was actually menacing Marquez on the straights and there don't look to be much in it between those two bikes. And once again the Yamaha was SUPERIOR over full race distance, with far more grip at the end of the race. I'm so tired of people beleiving a marginal acceleration advantage to the Honda automatically makes it a better bike.

Exactly. It might not tell the whole story, but Crutchlow's average top speed was still lower than Lorenzo's despite Crutchlow getting a tow from two Hondas and Lorenzo being in clean air.

a couple of points to consider; Rossi spent a long time looking for a way past Bradl and his Honda Factory engine. Whilst obviously being held up, the Yamaha was faster but it wasn't a two second job for the returning prodigal son to clear the LCR machine.

Cal does not have a Factory spec M1 engine, he clearly had the least power at the front end of the pack.

The guy did well with what he had and admits compared to Rossi he wasn't aggressive enough with the Honda's on the brakes.

Lorenzo was superb, Rossi still has it, Marquez brilliant, Cal great pace but needs to learn to get off the line (still), Pedrosa worried.

I'm stoked watching this awesome race and finally the wait for the race start is over :-)

Thoroughly enjoyed race 1. I was really glad to see Rossi in the podium. Hurray!. Dovi had a great start, but I hope he does great and sort the issues of the bike. Cal was impressive. Marc was amazing. It's going to be a great motogp 2013.

Yeah, for me this was the highlight of the race. The 'old dog' and the 'young pup' pulling their moves on each other. It really made for fantastic racing and great viewing. Holy, I look forward to the rest of the year!


The TV shot of the faces of Rossi's crew when Marquez passed Rossi back was priceless.

Here's my take: The nine-time World Champion and three-time race winner beat the guy with exactly 22 laps of racing a MotoGP bike by 0.3 seconds - and had to work his arse off to do it.

I laughed, not so much at their faces but their feet, tapping away faster than Christian Horner in a Vettel/Webber dust-up.

The best face of the weekend was Hervé Poncharal - every time they showed Cal doing something a bit hairy, they cut to Hervé at the pit wall with a look on his face that was one part hangdog, one part excitement and one part "this is all about to go horribly wrong." Fantastic.

For me the best face of the week-end price goes to Emilio Alzamora, on the penultimate lap of the race... He's going to get gray hair this year, the poor lad !

Alzamora has already had a fair share of pigment loss during Marquez' time in 125 and Moto2.

Why? Oh why you MUST minimize Rossi's great performance??? Wasn't this one of the best races (between Marc and Vale) since 2010? Wasn't this the very thing we all want when get glued by TV every Sunday?
I really can't see a need to say: "Rossi was also helped by Dani Pedrosa." It's the same as: "Lorenzo was helped by absent Stoner, since the speedy Aussie would catch him."
Are you tiered watching Rossi? Have you had enough of him? It's only natural, he's been around for 17 years; but who can put up a show like him?

And Marquez... the very man who will put an end to Lorenzo era!

Just looking at the facts gives you some perspective as to what really happened here. Look at it another way: On equal bikes, Marquez - in his first race - beat his teammate. On equal bikes, Rossi didn't even come close to beating his.

My observation, nothing more.

I believe that we'll see a clearer picture after Austin, where the two factory squads and all the riders are starting basically from scratch.

BTW; anyone know the condition of Cardus?

Not so sure, the established riders have a slight advantage at 17 of the 18 tracks. Whilst I don't expect results to change much it's more likely that the 17 tracks the riders know will prove more decisive..First timers whether new tracks or rules can always throw up anomalies.

On his first race on the Yamaha, Lorenzo took pole and placed second, with his team mate wasnt even close.

That is an observation.

Then his teammate won the season.

Thats reality.

Will see at the end of the year.

I will give you another fact, he is 34 years old and in his 17th world championship year. And given the success that he has had, it makes him a legend.

The result might have been different if rossi had not fallen behind in the opening, but he is human and we make mistakes.

MM beat pedrosa this time but it won't be that easy in austin, yamaha may struggle but its part of the game.And marquez might just hurt himself or someone over the course of the season if the moto2 beast in him wakes up.(hope not)

My Observation.

Many people are forgetting Brno last year. That was a great race.

David does have a point. More often that not, the Hondas would be up there with Lorenzo and a similar pace from Rossi just might leave him circulating in a lonely 4th.

However, Rossi will lift his game. I'm absolutely confident that Burgess will refine their setup further. He will start qualifying better, and we will start seeing those four running away together.

I'm not saying that Lorenzo or Pedrosa can't hold their own in a scrap; but just like how Rossi can put in consistent laps and yet lose a bit to Lorenzo in that department, the others will come a bit short in a dog fight. Marquez is good, but I'm sure he is still learning.

Last but not the least, there are several 'Rossi tracks' coming up.

It's also a revelation of how handicapped Rossi was in 2010 where he was consistently weaker in the later laps. That's in startling contrast to this performance. I was always rather 'suspicious' of his injury-induced limitations in 2010, but right now I feel otherwise.

However, he can't afford to make these mistakes if he hopes to challenge Lorenzo for the championship.

Right before Rossi overshot turn 1, I had noticed he had stayed in Dovi's draft for extended amount of time. I think this propelled (sling-shot) him more than he anticipated and he found himself coming into turn 1 a lot faster (and deeper) than he expected and he obviously missed his braking point.

So I don't know if was over-enthusiasm but more of a mis-judge.

Nevertheless, what a great and exciting race! Marquez impresses but to not many's surprise....we all already know he's gonna fast!

It has been a long time and it's amazing of Ross'i impact. Not many can make 2nd place seem so cool.

When the tires go off and and grip becomes a limited commodity, Rossi is still one of the best.

We can only only expect better as the Rossi camp admits they have more work to do. They still aren't 100% efficient like Lorenzo......yet. What will it look like it when they dial in the set-up even further.

This was the most exciting race in ages. While I respect the skills of fast riders, there in nothing quite as exciting as aggressive passing. The fact is that Rossi prevailed despite the crazy fuel limits which give tiny riders a significant advantage in horsepower. That point was more than driven home by the fact that Rossi ran out of fuel on the cool down lap.
Why could he pass crutchlow? Because he burned a richer mix and risked it all. And where were he Ducatis? Same as always.
Some of us like Rossi because he's got nerve and is exciting to watch--it's why so many were sic fans as well. The last two years taught Rossi he needs good equipment. The next two will make for exciting racing. Too bad stoner ran off to drive scrub league cars in aussieland, I'd have loved to see how he dealt with Marquez.

With Casey there I think Marquez would have been battling for third rather than second. But it's a DAMN shame we may never see it. I hope Casey comes back but he looks like he's having a lot of fun racing v8s. I like Marquez a lot, but people saying he's the next Rossi, or he's going to topple Lorenzo or would beat Stoner are getting way ahead of themselves. Those three guys are already legends of the sport, Marquez hasn't won a race yet.

I think that since 2010, moto journalists have more or less been
forced to short change Rossi.

Rossi can't win forever. No one can. And journalists by nature want
to scoop each other. So there is a contest between them to be the
first one to proclaim "The king is dead!"

And while there is pressure to be the first to say that Rossi is washed
up, there is equal pressure to not be the last Rossi supporter.
Journalists are supposed to be passionate but impartial. So if you're
the last one saying "Rossi still has it," you open yourself up to being
labeled a fan boy.

Moreover, since all the journos have already declared Rossi finished,
everything he does now will be qualified. "He only did it because...
he got help from... he couldn't have done it without..."

So there you have it. Journalists want to be the first to spot Rossi's
decline. They don't want to be the last of Rossi's supporters. And
they don't want to look foolish for having written him off already.
For these reasons, he will not get the sort of praise he used to get.

Before anyone thinks I have anything against moto journos, let me add
that while I find it mildly annoying, I can't really blame them.
What happens if our esteemed David get's labeled a Rossi fan boy?
Well, Lorenzo's not going to be particularly interested in talking to him.
Neither is Dani or Marc. Where does that leave poor David?

I think that David has been on the whole, very insistent that Rossi has NOT lost it, but that the game was moved on by Lorenzo, Stoner & Pedrosa since Rossi was last WC/on a competitive bike.

It's too soon to tell whether or not that is the case and I don't blame David for not going too over the top based on one race.

The one thing that did niggle me in the report was saying that Rossi needs to have decent equipment, I think you'll find they all need decent equipment to be at the front.

Just need more decent equipment? If you use Hayden as the benchmark, Rossi wasn't able to ride the Duc like Stoner did, he even admits that himself. But he certainly looks back to his best now. I don't buy that Rosi has lost anything with age, he's not even that old. I'd bet the house on him at Jerez.

I think Dave titled his Austin report something like "Marquez on the rise, Rossi on the wane." if a headline's job is to encapsulate the ideas in the article and grab the reader's attention, then Dave's take on Rossi is surely indicated in it. the fact that news is 24 hours these days and there is constant pressure to provide copy for hungry readers means that news providers are under pressure and those running services such as this which also provides opinion must be under even more pressure. It's a bit like watching episodes of the Sopranos back to back. The continuity problems stick out a mile and rather marr one's overall enjoyment.

I think people posting here and saying Rossi was royally thrashed by Lorenzo are not being objective. Rossi was well aware he needed to get up the order quick sharp to prevent Lorenzo escaping, hence the overzealous overtaking attempts. What will be more indicative of where they stand in relation to each other is lap by lap pace. We don't know what Lorenzo had in the tank after he consolidated his lead so he may very well be able to thrash Rossi, but I don't think this race shows he can. If, though, Rossi continues to perform poorly in qualifying and Lorenzo continues to be a master of it, then, yes, we can say that Lorenzo has thrashed Rossi even before the race has begun.

The trouble is that there are many people in this world with a tendancy to over react and an inability to think objectively. The mirical of modern technology that the internet is it gives everyone a voice regardless of how irrational they may be.

X is better than Y, black beat white etc etc... life, and therefore MotoGP, is never like this.

DEs Austin headline was pretty spot on given the performance of the 5 riders who were there.

And given the dearth of good races there has been recently I think instead of nitpicking details of write ups fans of the sport should just be happy that this was a really good race and that it looks like it could be a really good season.

I have no interest in being the first journalist to write someone off, or the first to hype someone up, or anything else. I write what I believe I can see. Sometimes I'm wrong, sometimes I'm right, but let there be no doubt, I do not write these stories for effect, but because they are the truth as I perceive it.

If riders stop wanting to talk to me - and some have in the past - then that's a shame, but they usually get over it. I believe that riders will ultimately respect me more if I write what I believe to  be true, rather than writing to an agenda. My only agenda is that motorcycle racing should become more popular. Oh, and that I can scratch out a living writing about the sport. Worst case scenario is that I can always go get a job doing something else.

If people like what I do, then they will support me (and Scott, and Jared, and all the other contributors to MotoMatters.com) by reading the site, promoting the site, and becoming supporting the site by taking out a subscription. I believe I will be more successful if I try to remain faithful to myself. But I could be wrong.

I think David nailed the "Is Rossi Back?" question on the head - not just what the answer seems to be at this point, but why. And his preseason predictions - especially the part about Lorenzo moving the goalposts - were equally spot-on.

By attempting to provide perspective, you have clearly demonstrated that you weigh the same as a duck, and therefore by custom must be burned as a witch.

Did you expect anything different?

Now who said Rossi is finished? Go swallow your spit! Rossi is obviously determine to get podium despite a not very good qualifying. Oh well put back your ben spies on that M1 you will see him fighting with the back boys instead. As for Rossi, with 2 years behind Lorenzo's machine, he could fetch those guys up front from 7th to 2nd! If there was no mistake at the beginning of the race, he would for sure fight with Lorenzo for 1st. But again this is a yamaha's track, we'll see them all with new track at next race.

This must be the first race round up by David in 2 years that doesn't mention Ducati. Feels like nobody cares about them since Rossi left.

This word came to mind as I was watching the race yesterday, and boy was it a good one. Rossi and Marquez are "special", for being the scrappers responsible for those memorable battles, while at the same time running a blazing pace that Pedrosa couldn't follow. Yep, we lost one this year, but we gained two. And it seems this last "alien" comes Rossi-style, willing and able to stick his wheel anywhere for a good result. We knew that but practice is usually a lot harder than theory and he pulled it through. Maybe, contrary to the PED, STO, LOR generation, Marquez is young(er) enough to have matured not thinking of how to BEAT Rossi (answer is by being faster, preferably a lot), but how to BE the next Rossi. And I think he is...

Lorenzo was likely not beatable in this one, even if Rossi had pole, precisely because he was plain faster (I know Rossi pulled some crazy 1'55''s, in the latter part but LOR was managing from lap 9 onwards). I think we may see such races this year, where the first position is decided by the second lap (Pedrosa anyone?), but even in these races there will be awesome battles for the podium, like the one yesterday.

It's been a year exactly that we've been talking about how fast Crutchlow is. I hope that the change that David is talking about will come and he will show more wheels to the front runners in the coming races. The way the weekend progressed, he's right to have expected more, but 5th isn't bad. Maybe deserved to finish ahead of Pedrosa, but as a very, very, very happy Italian says: "This is racing!"

Around Marquez a bit much, but at the same time I have to admit its big news that we appear to finally have another true alien in the ranks. It's been 5 years since a rider of that calibre joined the MotoGP circus. Simoncelli looked like he could have Made the step up to the top echelon, but Marquez looks like he's already there. I was impressed by two things about Marquez's ride. 1 - he hardly made a mistake at all, working out what safety margins he needed in practice, and 2 - he was able to lift his pace and hang with Rossi when he came by, showing he has the ability to adjust his riding when the tyres go off. Hope Stoner comes back soon, so we can have a battle for the lead as well ;)

How does he not deserve all this hype when all these things you said are true? I have been doubting Marquez in the past and despite him toping a couple of FP sessions, didn't expect him to have the race pace. In fact he didn't, he found it in the race, his first race. And I agree with you completely on the things that impressed you... "Special" is what comes to my mind. Indeed, it's been 5 years since the arrival of such a guy. I don't wanna go further with the comparisons though, especially with STO and SIC, I'm just happy that this season seems to be full of talent and (very importantly) scrapping attitude at the front. I'm a Rossi fan, but I will enjoy good racing no matter who wins, and we are in for a treat this year.

It's a real pity for racing that Stoner is gone, but don't worry, I'm sure Lorenzo won't be having it as easy as in Qatar all year long. Lets enjoy what we have ;)

Having watching MM come through 125 and Moto2 I have had no doubts at all. I can't remember seeing any other rider win from the back of the grid as many times as he has. He's had numerous astounding races and he is the real deal.

I don't understand why people put Stoner in the same boat as Lorenzo and Pedrosa in terms of fighting. He has clearly demonstrated time after time a "win it or bin it" attitude. When he was passed and could avoid being gapped, he fought back immediately (look at his multiple Rossi battles, look at the race last year where he slid out behind Pedrosa in second preparing to risk it all for first, hell look at his Laguna passes on Lorenzo). When he passed others he usually gapped them quick enough to put a nail in the coffin. I haven't once seen Stoner settle for a place behind someone rather than push for the pass.

Had he been here this year I think we would have had 3 aggressive riders against the two clinical ones.

Every journo wants a good hook on which to base a narrative but I fear you have painted yourself into a corner with the stated belief re Rossi "that the game has been moved on". The reference to Lorenzo having "thrashed Rossi" I find bizarre.

Rossis race would have been terrible but for his overall pace. His qualifying was woeful but that plus his early laps error masked a Lorenzo-esque pace. For several years Rossi's race pace has exceeded his FP pace and yet in FP he and Lorenzo were only separated by a tenth or two when you considered their 1.56 runs.

In the race VR forgot how much Dovi wants to beat him at the end of the straight- got suckered into a braking duel on the inside line and then after nearly wiping out Ped had to overtake 3-4 people again. Once he was clear of Bradl Rossi proceeded to churn out 1.55 laps and pulled back a 4 sec deficit.

Over the years journos have repeatedly written Rossi off and later had to eat humble pie. I think last night showed that whilst a nice idea- the game has definitely not moved on or if it has, VR has moved with it.

I had to look it up myself, but what David is doing in the first two paragraphs is to express the two extreme interpretations of Rossi's performance. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, in my opinion closer to the 1st paragraph view. Yes, Rossi run a "Lorenzo-esque pace" and his FP was close to Lorenzo, but 2nd is the best he could have hoped for, in his own words. Qatar is Lorenzo's land, Rossi came 5th even in 2008, first race of 2013 campaign on a new bike etc. We probably need to wait for a few more races before we can start comparing these two. I don't think many journos, especially David, are writing Rossi off, but he will have to prove he can win before becoming a title favourite. I think it's his next goal as well, after getting 2nd in the first race.

Rossi won Qatar the last time he was on a decent bike in 2010, would seem more relevant than 2008 his first race ever on bs tyres??? Rossi has won in qatar at least twice......

Rossi has won in Qatar thrice (2005, 2006, 2010). But he admits (not last night after the race, he has always said so) that Qatar is not in his favourite tracks, despite the previous successes. Take home message from all these statistics is that 1) Qatar is a yamaha track (also from satellite bikes' results), save for Stoner, and 2) the winner of the first race is not necessarily the champion, 2008 and 2010 are good examples, both from the Yamaha side.

Good point about Rossi's first race on BS tyres, but that was also Lorenzo's first race ever and he beat him clearly. Also the way the FP and especially QP of this year went, Rossi should be very, very, very happy with 2nd. Oh, wait a minute... he is!

Yesterday I witnessed the return of the king and the birth of the new one. MM is IMHO the next big thing after Rossi. Not that I want to sell JL short. I saw all the bikes slide, wobble, wheelie... but 1, #99. His riding style is so fluent and flawless that it will be hard to beat.
David already wrote what Cal had learned in this first race of 2013. He has to be more aggressive to pass the Honda's!
I only hope we get racing like this in all races in 2013!!

Is the Man

My favourite to win the championship.

He just needs to keep listening to Kenny Rogers singing 'The Gambler' :

"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run."

And looking at video tapes of Eddie Lawson doing the business.

Points make prizes; Winners are grinners - and the rest can please themselves...

The indicator on the MotoGP Videopass Custom Highlights show the huge gaps of ....well, nothing ..... during the MotoGP race.

Plus all this over a race for only the podium places.

I didn't see any challenges to Lorenzo way out in 1st place.

... couldn't disagree more.

The battle for 2nd was intense and gripping throughout. The Rossi mistake and battle with Dovi, Bradl and Bautista was very tight and enthralling.

Then the hunt began... seeing #46 ghosting his way up behind was pure entertainment.

Then the pass on Cal which Cal went wide, then the battle of getting through the Repsol boys and Marquez's fight back against Rossi.

I can't think of a dull moment in that whole race and I think for the first time in a long time, the MotoGP race was THE best of the 3.

I think it's a bit much to say Rossi was thrashed by Lorenzo. Next time if they start on the same row and Jorge wins by 6 seconds I'll agree. While it's great to see The Doctor back to his old form, I'm much more troubled by the other developments of the first race of the new season. Rossi being competitive again after 2 years in the wilderness points out how MOTOGP is in danger of following F1 into the bore-fest category. Granted, F1 has taken steps recently to give more drivers a chance to win but I'm not so sure the tire gimmicks are the answer. Now in MOTOGP, you need a factory Honda or a factory Yamaha to have any reasonable chance of winning, no matter how good you might be....how sporting is that? The organizers have let the manufacturers destroy the sport - now what mostly matters is the machine they (Honda and Yamaha) make....the best rider (arguably of all time) on a Ducati had zero chance unless it rained. Meanwhile, a guy who was fairly competitive on both satellite Honda and Yamaha bikes is reduced to an also ran, along with his teammate and former champion Hayden. H and Y now control the sport entirely - if they wanted to halve the paycheck of Pedrosa, Rossi, Lorenzo or Marquez, what could those guys do about it? They certainly couldn't ride other machines as they would simply be also rans, while the guys who replaced them would be the winners. Those who control MOTOGP must get control away from the short-sighted manufacturers before the sporting elements (as in the RIDERS) become meaningless and they can slap some stuffed suits in the colors of riders on the bikes and simply run them via remote control from the pit lane. Somehow this sport must be brought back to a competition amongst riders, where the best rider has a reasonable chance of winning, even if he doesn't have one of the 4 top bikes.
Finally, if the folks at Borgo Panigale needed a wake up call, they got it last night...what they do from here will make the difference between success and failure.....no more excuses, it's soon or never for them.

"Meanwhile, a guy who was fairly competitive on both satellite Honda and Yamaha bikes is reduced to an also ran, along with his teammate and former champion Hayden."

Assuming you're talking about Dovi, he was riding a FACTORY Honda in 2010-2011. So, fast and talented as he may be, you cannot blame the machinery for his failure to take the title.

Yes, only the best riders on the best bikes can win, but when has that ever not been the case (at least in the dry)?

I think your point only makes mine more accurate - a guy who was pretty competitive on that factory HONDA has been reduced to an also ran simply by the machine he's riding. Same thing happened to Rossi based on his performance last night. To succeed as a SPORT they simply need more than 4 bikes that can win, no matter how entertaining it may be to watch the 4 riders on them racing amongst themselves while the others race for the scraps. One of the attractive elements of motorcycle racing for me is(was) that rider skill and daring used to be able to make up for less-than-great equipment to some extent, but now like F1 the machinery is dominating the equation. I say ditch the electronic controls and put rider skill back to the forefront, even if the manufacturers all quit the sport. They care only about the business end of it anyway and will kill it off before they let rider skill dominate the scene rather than their insanely expensive machinery. How can more guys racing for the win be a bad thing?

Harking back to the "good ole days" probably has more to do with the riders themselves than it did with the bikes.

The riders of yesteryear who could win on inferior machines did so because their level wasn't a high. They drank, they smoked, they partied until the early am before a race. Just look at the physical shape of the guys who raced 15-20 years ago. They could go faster on any given day through talent and power of will, because the guy ahead of them on the better bike may have been less fit or wanted it less or was too hungover from the night before.

The riding style and knowledge behind what made a bike go fast was less understood. Debates over whether sliding is faster, knee on the ground is faster etc. So a new style could make a difference.

These days the riders are highly trained athletes. They understand the best style of riding to go fast. They are pushing to the absolute limits of the capability of the machines, so the machine itself makes more of a difference.

Put the guys of the Schwantz and Rainey era on the bikes of today, I guarantee you'd see satellite Hondas an Yamahas winning from time to time.

So is it the manufacturers fault, or the riders?

It's just the natural progression of sport. This is where the regulations come in to bring the playing field back to level.

Seeing Rossis palpable happiness and gratitude towards Yamaha says it all. There are only 4 bikes worth riding if you want to win

Yahama has finally got their electronics up to the level of the Hondas

Lorenzo is a well honed machine!

Thank goodness Vale is BACK!

The new kid is truly a phenom

The Ducs need serious T L C (I hope it comes soon)

Please give Cal what he wants

MotoGP is finally giving me sweaty palms again!


I just wish Marco was in the mix.

Bring on COTA!

Thanks for a balanced article David. I don't really have 'favourite' riders but after reading some comments yesterday from folks saying things like "Rossi was actually the best racer today" I have to remind myself not to dislike Valentino just because some (but not all) of his fans are a little irrational. His own comments on the race actually seem very gracious and balanced.

There are a number of great, and competitive, characters on the track this year and I'm looking forward to watching the races unfold.

We really need to see more races before we start making pronouncements. Here's what we do know:

Rossi screwed the qualifying, then screwed up again. He then proceeded nail off some of the fastest laps of the race and ate 5 riders to come in second.

When I see MM or Jorge pull that off, I'll be duly impressed. They both did excellent work and are world class, obviously. But I expected Rossi to have a lot more trouble starting his season - he's not used to the bike, it's not set up, and this is a very strong field. Instead, he literally resurrected himself twice in one race to eat a handful of riders who are supposed to now be faster than him.

How many of you see MM or Jorge pulling that off?

That said, while it's inspiring, the crap qualifying is not going to win him the championship. Which brings me back to my original point: we need to see more races before we start making pronouncements. One thing I think is interesting is the idea that Rossi is past his prime. I would argue that it's quite possible we are witnessing him come into the most competitive and experienced position that he has ever been in. If he can start qualifying in front, Jorge and MM are in trouble.

With only one race, we cannot look at his motogp history and see if he is capable of pulling it off, but based upon his final race of the 2012 Moto2 championship. Yes, yes I do see MM pulling that off.

went from 7th at the end of the first lap to second also and passed the same group of riders that Rossi also passed. Marquez also posted the fastest race lap. That Rossi was able to hunt Marquez down and pass him is testament to the strength of his achievement, but if you ask 'How many of you see MM or Jorge pulling that off' - well, Marquez managed a pretty damn good impression of being able to carve his way through the field also in that same race.

'How many of you see MM or Jorge pulling that off'

My guess - all of us who watch MotoGP races without the "46 blinkers" on? : )

As Oscar said, MM did pretty much the same as Rossi, but in his debut premier class race, rather than his 200th or so premier class race.

I would never argue against Rossi being the modern day legend of the sport, but credit where credit is due, please. Don't elevate your heroes by lowering the achievements of their rivals...


elevating their heroes by lowering their rivals' qualities and achievements is something too many people do, and somehow most of those people seem to be rossi fanboys.

i love rossi, make no mistake about it..truly a legend from our times.. but i just cant stand these nauseating rossi love from people that only wait for a chance to upgrade him by degrading others...somewhere i just read some comments from yellow people about how they "hate" bradl now because he held rossi up for so many laps..haha.

and also, didnt jorge also pull a similar stunt a few seasons back in his first season in british gp when he started from the back of the grid and finished 6th while still badly injured and with half-broken bones and what not ? what about silverstone gp 2012 when half way through the first lap itself he went down to 7th or 8th or something and went on to win the race ? yes yes i know not as spectacular as rossi's qatar race perhaps, but far from forgettable and ignorable examples either.

people really do see and remember what they want to see and remember.

Clearly the biggest talking point of the weekend was always going to be how VR did. And I have to say, after the early laps move, I thought it was all over. Not a bit of it. A vintage display from Rossi, and wonderful for him to prove SO many people so wrong in the first round. Now that's outta the way, you've GOT to take your hat off to Jorge, he was untouchable all weekend. But, he had to really try. I'm still confident Dani will pick up from here on in. and as for Mr Marquez. He'll finish on the top step in CoTA. I'm 95% sure of this.

Cal was again, unlucky, had a brilliant weekend from first practice right till the mistake in the race. more of the same please MotoGP.

I dont know that he was unlucky. It looked to me that he didnt want Rossi to pass him on the straight, so he tried to outbrake him - waited too long - and had to run wide.

Cal is a great rider, and is getting better. We should see him run better at shorter tracks where his straight line speed not such a great disadvantage.

Not sure how hard Qatar is on fuel compared to other tracks, but Rossi running out on the cool down lap gives pause for thought. I hope we're not going to see thrilling races cut short by the need to turn down the power/fuel mapping to be able to finish the race.
Great start to the season, even if the race was all about second place. It's good to see some aggression and close encounters up near the sharp end.

I would not say Qatar is a Yamaha track. I think it's more on the rider. Stoner has gone really well there, and Dovizio has been relatively good there as well. If you look at PI, you would think it's more suitable to the M1 with those fast and flowing corners, but Stoner has been invincible there. Sometimes a rider has some sort of affinity for a particular track.

Rossi: Mugello, Sepang, PI
Lorenzo: Portugal, Barcelona
Stoner: Qatar, PI

With the rider being probably more of an influence. Those three guys are /were the most consistent though, with the least weaknesses. Stoner has won at every track in his time in the top class and had the least weak tracks and on his day was unstoppable anywhere. Jorge has really worked on his weaker tracks and is pretty damn strong everywhere though there are one or two tracks still where you might not back him for the win. Rossi is obviously strong everywhere on the Yamaha, the only chinck in the armor Id say is he seems to learn the newer tracks a bit more slowly than the others sometimes. Dani has gotten stronger at all tracks as well but like we saw at Qatar if he doesn't have his setup perfect sometimes he can be vulnerable.

Strong tracks are tough because there's always exceptions to the rule over the years (except for Stoner at Phillip Island) and things like the Honda chatter early last year can always change things but I'd say if I were betting on certain tracks for each rider all things being equal:

Stoner strong tracks: Phllip Island, Laguna, Qatar, Aragon
Weaker track: Mugello

Lorenzo strong tracks: Qatar, Mugello, Misano
weaker track: Sachsenring

Rossi Strong Tracks: Mugello, Misano, Sepang
Weaker tracks: Aragon, Valencia, Silverstone

Pedrosa's strong tracks: Sachsenring,
Weaker tracks: Phillip Island, Qatar,

The other tracks I can't pick a standout at. And it will be very interesting to see what Marquez likes!

But I'm talking about tracks where a rider is clearly better than the others. For instance Rossi is traditionally strong at Catalunya and Jerez too, but then so are all the aliens so I don't think Rossi has any particular advantage there.

Once fascinating thing is that for the most part Rossi and Lorenzo's strong tracks are the same, thoug that maybe partly due to the Yamaha suiting certain tracks. Lorenzo has excelled at some of Rossi's preferred tracks recently like at Mugello, Misano and even Phillip Island if you subtract Stoner from the equation.

It seems like the sun, moon and stars have aligned (finally) to give us a group of Aliens on (reasonably) equal equipment and talent such that each event's outcome will be determined by sheer will and tenacity. Who wants it more?

And this group has some giants when it comes to mental toughness and iron wills.

As a long time MotoGP fan -- this season feels like a reward after enduring years of processional ennui...

Austin can't get here quick enough!

While reading all these posts, plus DE write up, not much has been said about one major issue about the race....the only one making any passing moves was Rossi! How many did he make? 5,6,7 on corner entry! No one else was. I find this rather significant. And before anyone says I'm a Rossi fanboy....I'm a RACE FAN FIRST and my favorite rider is either fishing or bow hunting.

Cal said what he learned is that he needs to be more aggressive. David & others, any comment(s)? Gonna be an interesting year!

MM passed Dani too.
Yes passing is difficult nowadays (Nicky complained also about not being able to overtake Dovizioso).
But there are good news. Rossi is back. Marc is learning fast. Cal said he learned from Rossi that he needs to be more aggressive. And Lorenzo has the benefit of doubt since he didn't need to.
Hopefully things will improve!

When I wrote that it took Rossi "several attempts" to get past Marquez, I meant to imply that Marquez passed him back, before Rossi finally succeeded in staying ahead. What I wanted to convey - and have apparently failed to do - is that the great thing about having Rossi on a competitive bike and Marquez in MotoGP is that they are two fearless riders, who will risk a pass rather than play it safe.

The most significant comment to me this weekend was Crutchlow's. I asked him "how are you going to solve getting past the Hondas?" And he replied: "Take a leaf out of Valentino's book, and start charging them. If that's the only way to do it, then we've got to do it." There is a change in mindset among MotoGP riders. For the past few years, they've been emulating Stoner, Lorenzo and Pedrosa, who focused on riding perfect laps. Now, they will be emulating Rossi and Marquez - the two are natural allies, given their aggression - and trying to pull a pass off and hang the consequences.

sensory overload. Imagine if you took a sip of beer for every time you saw a certain rider's name or number.

I noticed that Rossi's Top Speed was in the 340s compared to Lorenzo 338, and Crutchlow 337. He stuck to the back of Marquez like he himself was on a Honda. No one else has been able to follow those Hondas like that.

Saying all that, I wonder if he was switching to a different fuel mapping for the front straight going into turn 1? I say this because of the way he could follow the Hondas but Crutchlow could not. And looking at Lorenzo's top speed that was 1 km/h faster than Crutchlow it looks like he would not have been able to pass the Hondas either. But Rossi was a few km/h quicker.

And to cap that theory off, he ran out of fuel at the end of the race. Which leads me to believe he would change maps before the straights at the minimum. Anyone else notice this?

Didn't notice if CC's bike did the same thing, but Rossi's bike seemed like it was fairly rich tossing a lot of flame when transitioning to off throttle...Not that that's entirely unusual, but seemed a bit more than usual and might support your theory a bit...

There was a sniper at T1?

Maybe its the gear change light flashing when they kick down a few gears and the revs hit the ceiling?

Looks like bow-hunting in the outback got old pretty fast! :D

Ok Rossi came from 7th to second, at Valencia last year Dani came from pit lane to win! There were several similiar feats over the past couple of years. I think it's just the fact that Rossi has finally been able to fight back that's got people so excited.

Conditions played too much of the story at Valencia.

The race was awesome, not only because of Rossi. Honestly, if that didn't do it for you, try another sport. Most entertaining race for a long time with a real display of talent, determination and courage from numerous riders.

Honestly, when was the last example of this? A glimmer in Brno 2012... Motegi 2010 before that?

I see so many people complaining that we don't see real racing... We finally get it and certain people are now desperate to say it's only because it's Rossi that people are getting hyped up about it. What will it take to please people? Maybe these people are as blinkered as the Yellow Army, but don't realise it...

... when on a bike he likes.

What Rossi did at Qatar is what he has *always* done (we all know the Ducati years are an abberation) - he almost never runs away with a race from lap one, but instead comes from the chasing pack and works his way forward.

And quite regularly he'll make an error, forced or unforced, and have to dig deep and claw his way back into contention. Find me a season where he hasn't made a really dumb error during a race then come back from it to the podium, and I'll buy you a customer RC213V.

That's why everyone loves to watch him race; he's a maverick rather than an inch-perfect machine.

Laguna 2011/2012? Valencia 2011?

First I want to state I loved this race, it was awesome.

I'm bad with my memory of specific races but geez, the Rossi fans are so narrow sighted here. What happened in this race? We saw a 3 way battle for a podium, where one rider got quicker and passed a few others. There was no fight for the win. MM passed as many riders as VR did.

There have been tons of races better than this in the past few years. The over excitement of the VR and MM introduction has people's memory clouded.

Pretend for a second it was Ben Spies on the Yam and Stoner on the Honda in place of VR and MM and tell me again how exciting the race was. You'll probably find you're excited more about the "who" than the "what". This is fine, I'm an unashamed Stoner fan and got more pumped when he won. I'm fast becoming a MM fan and that certainly brought interest for me.

It was a good race, made more interesting for the promise it gives the rest of the season, but lets not pretend that Qatar 2013 was an epic race to go down in history of the sort we haven't seen in years. It wasn't. At all.

Like Jerez 2011? Jorge can pass as well as anybody when he needs to, but you gotta catch him first. I don't think this 'inch perfect' vs 'maverick' theory holds much water personally. Jorge, Stoner etc just went damn fast and Rossi will have to be pretty inch perfect or he'll keep losing to Jorge by 5 seconds just like he did at Qatar.

Ok, he probably doesn't benefit any more than Lor, Ped, or Ros.

But, am I the only one that believes a depleted field of riders and complete lack of competition played a significant role in Marquez’s debut result as a rookie, or at least a bigger role than people appear to believe? And what is with some in the press saying 2013 will be the “Most exciting season….”? In Moto2 he still had EsP, Ian, Bradl, Redding, and Luthi, to deal with. After the jump to MotoGP the field is just as bare as its been since 2008 and the only competitive threats I see for Marquez to consider are Lorenzo, Pedrosa, and Rossi. I mean, all he has to do is stay in front of Spies (former SBK Champ), Hayden (former MotoGP champ), Dovi (former 125 champ on a crappy Ducati), Iannone (one of only three riders to meat Marquez in Moto2 on a still crappy ducati), and Bradl (on the former former of Toni Elias). To me, this is not an accomplishment worth praising.

For the sake of discussion, where does everyone feel Marquez would place with a proper field of competitors? For example, Hayden, Dovizioso, and Stoner all back on factory Hondas where all were VERY competitive on the Repsol, Spies back on the factory Yamaha, Simoncelli back at Gresini and stealing poles, and give Iannone a good bike?

Having beaten Marquez in Moto2 at EQUAL on pace with EQUAL machinery, Bradl and Iannone make the jump to MotoGP and are no longer threats due to non-EQUAL machinery.

I guess my argument here that Marquez is benefitting from a lack of competition says more about MotoGP the past 5 years than it does about Marquez. Every race is a battle between 3 or 4 riders for second place with one rider (Stoner, Lorenzo, or Pedrosa) alone for the lead. If we had nine solid riders (Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Rossi, Stoner, Hayden, Dovi, Simoncelli, Spies, and Marquez) battling each race then THAT would be considered the a truly exciting season.

... is no. This is not a 'depleted field'. This is as strong a field as it has been for the past four years or so. 

Saying that Iannone has "beaten Marquez on equal machinery" is like saying that Dovizioso was better than Stoner, because he too had "beaten him on equal machinery" (e.g. Mugello 2011), or Edwards better than Rossi because he had "beaten him on equal machinery" (e.g. Assen 2006). Over all of the seasons in which Iannone competed against Marquez, Marquez beat Iannone.

I, too, wish MotoGP had nine solid riders. But it never has had that. Simoncelli, Hayden, Dovizioso, Spies are nowhere near the level of Marquez, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Rossi (and Stoner, when he still raced). Put them on equal machinery and they would still be battling for fifth.

David...be honest...this IS a depleted field. We have four vs. Seven riders worth watching.

In 2011, there were SIX riders who had an honest shot at winning a GP race on a given day or AT LEAST fighting for second. I'll name them: Sto, Lor, Dov, Ped, Spi, and Sic (the finishing order in QAT-2011If Ros wasn’t doomed on the Ducati then that would be seven riders.

So with Sto, Sic, and Dov/Spi lost to retirement, death, and personnel changes, respectively, the competitive field in 2013 (and by competitive I mean podium placement through talent than crashes/weather/luck) has dwindled from six riders in 2011 to four riders in 2013. Can you say with a straight face that the 2013 field of 18 riders, in which really only 10 are actually worth mentioning, is more competitive than it was in 2011? Again, this says more about the series than it does about the riders and this is the primary reason I look to WSBK or Moto2 for weekend excitement.

As to my claim that on equal machinery. Yes, it is difficult for me to prove that Bradl, Dov, Ian, and Spi could be competitive this year on equal machinery or that Sto and Sic would give Maq a run for his money in 2011. But, it is also difficult for anyone to disprove. However, the qualifying times of the riders I mentioned suggest that with equal machinery Maq wouldn’t have it so easy. I don’t want to compare fast laps in the race because any number of variables will keep a rider from going his fastest, but in QP everyone is going all out.

QP 2011
Sic 54.988 (factory supported)
Spi 55.095 (factory)
Dov 55.229 (factory)

QP 2013
Maq 55.645 (factory)
Bradl 55.477 (factory supported)

When Dov, Spi, and even Sic were on equal machines they could probably keep pace with Maq and battle for a podium. And I point to the DRAMATIC improvement in QP times from each rider when they went from satellite to factory/factory supported bikes. And if Bradl and Iannone and Esp next year could keep pace with Maq in Moto2 I imagine they could keep pace with him in MotoGP. This was the case with Ped/Lor/Dov from 250cc to MotoGP and we all saw the improvement in form from Sto when he went from LCR to Repsol Honda.

In the end, Maq has a small field of competition and will only have to fend off his team mate or one of the Yamaha riders for a podium because, 1) Cru and Bradl will be perennial 5th place fighters assuming Honda and Yamaha teams are 1-4 finishers, 2) Nobody on the Ducati factory or Pramac squad will be competitive 3) Bau is/was not a podium contender, and 4) the rest are CRT and are there to fill space.

Thanks for the candid discussion. This is why I love your site.

I would argue this is a stronger field. In 2011, only Simoncelli had factory backing on the Honda, now both Bradl and Bautista had it. Bradl so far has made a more impressive debut than Simoncelli did, and so it can be argued that he is probably a stronger opponent than Simoncelli was. Crutchlow is much stronger now than he was in his rookie year, and the Ducati is arguably a better bike now than it was in 2011.

So, if 2011 had Stoner, Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Spies, Simoncelli and Dovizioso, we have Lorenzo, Marquez, Rossi, Pedrosa, Crutchlow, Bradl and Bautista. I would argue that of that group, Bautista is the least likely to see the podium, but there are clearly six riders capable of getting on the podium..

To say the group you mention had a chance of winning in 2011 is to revise history. Only three dry-weather winners in 2011, the three you would expect, and Spies in slightly tricky conditions at Assen after Lorenzo got taken out in the hairpin by Simoncelli. This year, there are four riders who can (and I believe will) win a race on merit, in dry conditions, the two Hondas and the two Yamahas.

I think this is a generous assessment of the field. I have a difficult time seeing Bradl or Bautista in any given race beating one of the three Aliens, Marquez AND Crutchlow, assuming all are running at the end of the race. This is year two for this spec of bike, and the factory squads have really gotten them dialed in.

Barring injury or crashes, I think it's going to be very rare to see a non-Repsol Honda or a non-factory Yamaha on the box. Of course, you could have a season like WSBK had last year where it rained so much that Noah would have been shocked ...

It'll be a lot harder to podium this year than the last two, unless, one of the top 3 get injured as we had for large parts of the last two seasons. However if MM's in the battle for 4th to 8th then in theory it could be an easier season(no Rossi on the duke(6th) and no Dovi 4th on the yam) but it relies on such a huge amount of unknown data(how good is Cal this year(8th last year)is he a direct replacement for Dovi now, or Bradl(8th last year) or Bautista(5th ly) Will duke make progress now that Presiozi is gone and not putting a stop to it??. Certainly Cal will find it harder to be 4th this year as I reckon Marquez is more of a threat than Dovi would have been on the yam last year,and Bautista will find it extremely hard to finish 5th. Spies was 11th on the bike that won the title last year and about as relevant as Marco Melandri on the duke. Year to year time comparisons are meaningless due to the huge amount of variances. In short pure speculation at best though sorta fun but if Marquez wants to be top 3 this year looks a damn site harder than the previous two so far however injuries are key..

Huge, a point of order if you will - 'podium' is a noun, not an adjective. 'Achieve a podium' is the correct term.

And I think that Prezioso's departure is the best thing to have happened to Ducati since 2007; now they have a chance of actually advancing their racing programme.

I guess we can agree to disagree, but let’s compare the 2011 race to the 2013 race and agree that the more competitive race will be the one in which the field is closer on split times.

In 2011, Stoner won the race with a finishing time of 42’38.5 vs. 42’39.8 for Lorenzo in 2013 (nearly identical starting point). However, the gap from 1-6 in 2013 was 22.148 seconds (vs. only 10.4 in 2011) and the gap from 1-10 was 44.908 (vs. only 28.9 in 2011). Of the main field of competitors, the gap from 1-4 was 9.4sec (vs. 5.9 in 2011) and the gap from 4-6 was 22.1sec (vs. just 4.5sec in 2011). The numbers clearly paint a more competitive picture for this race in 2011 than 2013. A SIGNIFICANTLY more competitive picture.

I am puzzled why you threw Bautista in the mix. Bautista is not more competitive this year than Dovi, Spies, Sto, or Sic? He is faster than he was last year, but that is off a lower base. How can you say Crutchlow is a contender, but that Sic was not. Wasn’t Sic fastest in pre-season testing at Sepang in 2011…didn’t he post a faster QP time than Crutchlow in QAT? Wasn’t he a 250cc champion (Like Lor, Ros, and Ped). So with Lorenzo and Pedrosa the only constants from 2011 compared to 2013, then, like you say, there are really only four riders that can challenge for 3rd as Rossi is back and you have Marquez. You STILL do not have Stoner, Simoncelli, Dovi, or Spies “challenging” the for the Podium. So Marquez will only need to beat only one of them.

Simoncelli vs Crutchlow in 2011 is not a fair comparison. Simoncelli was in his second year, and on a factory bike, while Crutchlow was fresh from World Superbikes, and still adapting to the Bridgestone tires and 800cc MotoGP machines. Simoncelli topped preseason testing at Sepang, Crutchlow topped preseason testing at Jerez.

You can't compare the times from 2011 with the times from 2013. The track was absolutely terrible in 2013, really really dusty, as construction started earlier this year on the soccer stadium. On the other hand, temperatures were a fraction higher in 2013, though the difference was only a couple of degrees.

You could also argue that Marquez faces much stiffer competition in 2013. Jorge Lorenzo is a much better rider now than he was at Qatar in 2011, more mature, and more focused, witness his season in 2012. Pedrosa, too, is better than he was two years ago, finally happy racing and comfortable now that he is injury free. Rossi, a far better racer than Spies or Dovizioso, is on what can be argued is the best bike on the grid.

My point, above all, is that to say that Marquez faces either more or less competition this year is a specious and pointless argument. There is no objective way of measuring it, whatever numbers you throw at it. Conditions are very different each year, riders are different, bikes are different, the weather is different, the track is different, the tires are different, the competition is different. Numbers clearly show absolutely nothing, though there are underlying patterns you can make out if you try. You have to be careful not to be seduced by mirages, however, something which is very easy to do in the desert.

Look at it this way. My argument is not about the quality of the remaining riders so much as it is about the “quantity of quality" riders remaining. That Jorge or Rossi is stronger in 2013 than 2011 is irrelevant because Dov and Spies are weaker and Stoner is gone. If Marquez was racing in 2011 on a factory Honda, all else being equal, he would still have THREE Repsols, TWO Yamahas, and One Satellite Honda to fend off for a podium (that is SIX total). In 2013, he has only Two Yamahas and One Repsol. If a rookie on a factory bike in 2013 gets to the podium, he will have only had to outpace one of three other riders in the field of 18 to get there....not five or six.

I think a podium in 2011 was a lot more difficult to come by than a podium will prove to be in 2013 due to the quanity of competition. I still predict that at the end of the 2013 season you will see less than four different riders with a dry track podium vs. six in 2011. Crutchlow cannot outride Rossi or Lorenzo and will certainly not out accelerate two Marquez or Pedrosa on the Hondas and with 7-15kg less body weight (ignoring the weight minimum and regardless of Crutchlow’s fuel mapping errors).

As to not using number to support an argument, but did you not just post an entry with a headline “Crunching the numbers…”? (Rhetorical question)

I have just posted that story, but I only used numbers from one event, and even then surrounded the argument with caveats. 2011 and 2013 might as well be centuries apart, in terms of their relevance to each other.

Stoner - Factory RCV
Lorenzo - Factory M1
Pedrosa - Factory RCV
Dovi - Factory RCV
Simoncelli - Factory RCV
Spies - Satellite M1

Would be a tougher top 6 for Marquez to face than

Lorenzo - Factory M1
Rossi - Factory M1
Pedrosa - Factory RCV
Crutchlow - Satellite M1
Bradl - Factory RCV
Bautista - Factory RCV

There are still the three aliens, but the next 3 were tougher/faster opponents IMO. Dovi proved he's better than Crutchlow. Simoncelli was faster than Bradl, and Spies is better than Bautista who I don't really rate at all.

However the question of what is overall a more competitive field is altered by the fact Marquez is actually riding in 2013, which means there are 4 aliens on competitive bikes again. Which probably makes it the toughest field since 2008 where we had

Rossi - Factory M1
Stoner - Factory GP7
Lorenzo - Factory M1
Pedrosa - Factory RCV
Hayden - Factory RCV
Dovizioso - Satellite RCV