2013 Le Mans MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Of Titles, Shot Tires, Fast Students, And A Spaniard-Free Podium

Defending titles is not easy. In the last twenty years, only Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi have managed to win successive championships, despite both Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner winning twice. Why is it so hard? A lot of reasons. Nothing motivates a rider, a team or a factory like losing. Winning a championship requires a lot of hard work and talent, but also a smattering of luck, and at some point, luck runs out. Winning a title means always looking forward, eyes on the prize, while defending a title means looking back, at everyone out to get you. All these things combine to make winning the second title in a row much, much harder than winning the first one.

Jorge Lorenzo found this out the hard way in 2011, when he faced an unleashed Casey Stoner on the Honda RC212V. And now, after his second title in 2012, he's learning exactly the same lesson again, this time at the hands of Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez on the Honda RC213V. At Le Mans, all of the above factors came together, working against Lorenzo to drop him down the field, and move him from just four points to seventeen points adrift of the new championship leader, Dani Pedrosa.

What happened? First and foremost, the Hondas happened. Dani Pedrosa rode a brilliant race to take his second win in a row. It was arguably one of the best races of his career: getting a fantastic start, managing the wet conditions brilliantly, and putting in a number of hard, precise attacks to gain positions. His pass at Garage Vert to take the lead for the final time was one of particular beauty: jamming the bike precisely inside Dovizioso on the first of the double right handers, holding the tighter line, then taking a clear lead through the second. From that point he was gone. Since the Sachsenring last year, Pedrosa has won nine of the last fifteen races, a strike rate of sixty percent. That's the kind of batting average you need to win a title.

The Honda itself is better, now arguably the best machine on the grid. Where HRC struggled at the start of the 2012 season to deal with the extra weight and modified tires, the RC213V has been strong right out of the gate in 2013. With more time to adapt the bike to the weight increase from 157kg to 160kg, and tires remaining more or less unchanged from last season, the Honda is now right on the money. And with the right man in charge, when HRC build a racing motorcycle, they play for keeps, and HRC Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto has proven time and time again to be the right man in charge.

Then there's the factor luck. The 2012 season went almost perfectly for Lorenzo, rarely off the front row of the grid, never finishing worse than second, and making only a single mistake, at Valencia once the title was already secured. Lorenzo's luck failed him only once, when he was torpedoed by Alvaro Bautista at Assen, taken out of the race and losing a brand new engine into the bargain. 2013 has not gone quite as swimmingly: a superb win in the first race; a surprisingly strong performance in the second, though he finished only third; trouble managing tires and a rude awakening in the last corner at Jerez to take another third spot. And now Le Mans, where he was strong all weekend, only to suffer a mysterious lack of grip in the race which effectively put him out of contention. He dropped like a stone in the early laps, clawing his way back later to cross the line in seventh. It was his worst finish since the last race of 2008.

What was the problem? Jorge Lorenzo believes that his rear tire was defective, an issue which had affected Valentino Rossi on Saturday morning in France. Bridgestone, unsurprisingly, disagrees. At his press debrief, Lorenzo told the Spanish press, "I don't think we got the set up wrong. It was practically the same as we used in the warm up. There was less water on the track in the warm up, but it was going better all the time. With more water [during the race], and slightly softer rear suspension, the [tire] behaved totally differently." The only explanation he could think of for the loss of performance was a problem with the tire, though he admitted he was 'not a tire engineer'. Every time he entered the corner, he felt like he was going to crash, and he was losing a lot of time.

A Bridgestone spokesperson later reported that both Yamaha and Bridgestone had examined the tire, and that neither party had found a problem. Bridgestone engineers had looked carefully at the tire, and found nothing wrong.

Could there have been a problem with Lorenzo's tire? It is possible, as the tire used by Rossi on Saturday morning demonstrates. Rossi received a replacement tire on that occasion, the tire being replaced without losing one from his allocation, as Bridgestone is obliged to do, though it is up to the tire company to ascertain whether there is a genuine problem with the tire or not. Unsurprisingly, Bridgestone rarely finds a problem with a tire, but in truth, the number of quality control issues with tires is negligible. We asked Cal Crutchlow last year whether there were problems with quality control of the Bridgestone tires, and he almost laughed. Yes, he had had one, maybe two duff tires in his time in MotoGP, but that was all. It was nothing like his time in World Superbikes, where the feel would be almost comically inconsistent between supposedly identical tires.

Given that each rider receives twenty slick tires and eight rain tires each race weekend, and there are eighteen races in a season, along with various tests both in and outside the season, the failure rate is incredibly low. There have been many complaints about Bridgestone tires in MotoGP - too hard, too stiff, don't warm up quickly enough - but almost none of them have been about quality control. The only exception was Assen in 2012, where a number of tires lost large chunks of rubber from the carcass. Even then, Bridgestone were not willing to accept that the problem was with the manufacturing process, pointing to other riders not suffering any problems at all.

Whether it was a tire quality control issue, or a problem with his set up, Lorenzo's luck clearly ran out at Le Mans. This was compounded by another factor, the joker in the 2013 MotoGP pack, and a man who has already ruined one race for Lorenzo this year. In 2012, events conspired so that Lorenzo only had to deal with either one Honda rider or the other. Casey Stoner was strong in the first half of the year, until he lost focus and then injured himself at Indianapolis. In the second half of the year, Dani Pedrosa found the winning groove, the groove he remains in to this day.

In 2013, Marc Marquez has joined the fray, and he is double-teaming with Dani Pedrosa to steamroller Lorenzo. At three of the four races this season, both Marquez and Pedrosa have finished ahead of Lorenzo. That Marquez is already up to speed is fairly remarkable - for the progress a rookie is supposed to make, see Bradley Smith, who is improving along the same path set out by Stefan Bradl in 2012, and Marco Simoncelli in 2010 - but the speed at which he is learning is truly phenomenal. His podium at Le Mans makes it four podiums from four races, the best start in the premier class since Max Biaggi in 1998. He has already entered the history books as the youngest rider ever to win a premier class race, and is in with a good chance of becoming the youngest ever champion as well.

The Le Mans race showed very clearly just how exceptional Marquez is, though to see it, you have to dig into the detail. Marquez' start clearly was far from exceptional: starting from pole, he was down in 9th after just a few corners, and losing ground all the time. The Repsol Honda rookie had barely ridden a MotoGP bike in the wet, having had only a few laps in the rain at Sepang, and a few laps on a damp track at Valencia. He had a lot to learn, and twenty eight laps to learn it in.

He only needed four laps. After a poor start and first lap, which saw him lose four seconds, he lost another five and a half seconds over the course of laps two, three and four. On lap four, he was 1.5 seconds slower than his teammate Dani Pedrosa. On lap five, he was 0.1 seconds faster than Pedrosa, and one of the fastest men on track. He then proceeded to reel in the front runners by just under half a second a lap, until a mistake saw him throw away over a second of the time he had gained. He soon recovered, and hunted down Jorge Lorenzo, Stefan Bradl, Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso, to get on the podium. If the race had been any longer, he joked, he could have had Cal Crutchlow as well.

His pace was remarkable, in just his fourth MotoGP race and his first ever race in the wet. Eight riders posted a total of 69 laps under 1'45. Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl posted 5 a piece. Valentino Rossi racked up 6. Nicky Hayden set 8, while Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizoso - who led the race superbly for a long time - had 9. Cal Crutchlow posted 10 laps under 1'45, and impressive performance for a man with a fractured tibia and blood on his lungs. But both Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa racked up 13 fast laps apiece, a positively scorching pace in the wet. One of those men is a seasoned, seven-year veteran of MotoGP, and in the form of his life. The other is a rookie, in his fourth race in the class.

If it hadn't been for his poor start and those early laps … but that is of course nonsense. Ifs and buts mean little in life, and even less in professional sports. The truth is, he was slow in those early laps, and lost a lot of ground. What was impressive was the way he made it up later, and chased down the leaders.

Marquez' chase came too late to catch Cal Crutchlow, giving the Monster Tech 3 rider his best finish in MotoGP. Crutchlow has been threatening to get on the podium for a while, showing bags of speed at almost every track. Despite a massive crash on Saturday - "that one really hurt," he said about it afterwards - Crutchlow had the speed and the tenacity to take second. His performance was notable not just for how fast he was, but also for how calculated it was, risking only that which was needed to pass the riders ahead. Each pass was lined up carefully, and, though he had a little help from a small mistake from Dovizioso, he got by without crashing out, as he did last year.

Crutchlow's podium also helped break up the monotony of the podiums this year, joining Valentino Rossi as the only non-Spaniard to get on the rostrum in MotoGP in 2013. The Spanish domination of Grand Prix racing had been shattered earlier in the day. After the Moto3 race, there had been a Spanish winner in every race in all three classes (a total of ten) this year, but the Moto2 race at Le Mans blew the doors off that record. Scott Redding finally got his long-awaited, and thoroughly deserved first win in Moto2, after a mature, calculated and careful race on a dry track, under a threatening sky. Redding had not been flustered by a poor start, and had picked his way carefully forward as the race progressed.

He was helped by errors by his competitors. First, Tito Rabat and Pol Espargaro crashed out, going down in almost synchronized fashion. Rabat had passed Espargaro earlier, and Espargaro was sat in his teammate's wheel. He was following Rabat around the track, and when Rabat made a mistake, Espargaro followed suit, hitting the same patch of treacherous tarmac which Rabat had fallen on. Four laps later, Takaaki Nakagami, who had pulled a huge gap, crashed in the same place, making a small mistake and suffering the consequences.

Redding did not make the same mistake, and once he had picked off the riders in front of him, he managed the gap nearly all the way home. A red flag two laps before the end brought a slightly premature end to proceedings, after the rain which had been threatening finally began to fall in earnest. The red flag was bad luck for Xavier Simeon, as the Belgian had just overtaken Mika Kallio for second place. Moving the race back one lap meant Simeon finished down in third, giving the Marc VDS Racing team a one-two in the Moto2 class.

Redding's victory and Simeon's podium broke a couple of long dry streaks for both Britain and Belgian. Redding's win was the first intermediate class victory for a British rider since Jeremy McWilliams in 2001, and the first British victory at Le Mans for thirty years. Simeon's podium was the first for a Belgian rider since Didier de Radigues in 1990, a podium drought of twenty three years. With a Brit, a Finn and a Belgian on the podium, it was the first podium of the year without a Spaniard on it. And as the Marc VDS Racing team is based in Belgium, the entire podium had a distinctly Belgian feel to it.

With Crutchlow's second place and Redding's victory, Yamaha's rumored decision to sign Pol Espargaro to race in the Tech 3 team is looking distinctly premature, and even mistaken, perhaps. Espargaro is in a very negative spiral at the moment, with internal warfare having broken out in the Pons Tuenti HP 40 team. Espargaro has accused Tito Rabat of being 'too aggressive' and has blamed the Jerez race winner for his own crash. Espargaro is lashing out at all sorts of external factors in his search for blame. Meanwhile, Redding leads the championship by 24 points, and is looking like a very complete racer: fast, mature, calculating, decisive. Redding is very much the hot property in Moto2 this year, and MotoGP teams should be beating a path to his door. If Yamaha are looking for a rider to take the place of Valentino Rossi once he decides to retire - and if they have decided that Cal Crutchlow will be too old to pick up that particular mantle, despite his outstanding results - then they really could do a lot worse than sign Scott Redding to take Crutchlow's place at Tech 3.

Le Mans always manages to produce intrigue, and the 2013 version was no different. Just four races in, it is too soon to speak of a turning point in either the MotoGP or Moto2 championships. But clearly a pattern is being formed. The Hondas are looking ominous in MotoGP, and it is getting harder to look beyond Redding in Moto2. Motorcycle racing is all about momentum, both literally and figuratively. The momentum is clearly there.

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great race. Another amazing come to podium for Marc Marquez.

glad Rossi wasn't injured, but as a fan, I hope more winning/podium for Rossi.

Dovi, i was hoping for the podium. He almost had it but alas.

"If it hadn't been for his poor start and those early laps … but that is of course nonsense. Ifs and buts mean little in life, and even less in professional sports. The truth is, he was slow in those early laps, and lost a lot of ground. What was impressive was the way he made it up later, and chased down the leaders."

When Rossi did similar in race 1 you said that those in front helped him. When Marquez does it it's "impressive". You also said that Lorenzo "thrashed" him at Qatar. Is it fair to say that Pedrosa "thrashed" Marquez?


Just trying to figure out the journalism.

David said Rossi was helped by Pedrosa being 4 seconds slower vs 2012 while Lorenzo was 4.4 seconds faster.

If you went to the trouble of posting a link you might as well paraphrase correctly.

What is it that you're trying to passive aggressively argue? I'm not sure if you're trying to take Marquez down or build Rossi up. Either is a doing a disservice to two amazing talents given their respective results in the 2013 season.

Just trying to figure out the cynicism.

What are you trying to do, BrickTop? Why misquote David to make a moot point? Really.
The first line in the Qatar round up says:
"What was the big story of the MotoGP season opener in Qatar? It's obvious: The Doctor is back."
That should please you as a Rossi fan, right? Why play down the incredible performance of a rookie in his first wet race?

PS: In retrospect, one could argue that saying 'The Doctor is back' was a little premature. Some serious pro Rossi bias, right BrickTop?

Despite your somewhat one eyed view, yes, I think it is fair to say Pedrosa thrashed Marquez. At this race, and the last one.

That doesn't make Marquez' performance any less spectacular. His first wet race on a motogp bike took him 5 laps to get up to speed. That is far more impressive than a multiple world champion in the premier class managing to get second place.

Pedrosa has been building upon his, Lorenzo and Rossi haven't been able to hold on to theirs after Qatar and Marquez just rides as if there is no such thing but simply to go fast no matter where and what.

4 races is too little, but they are telling. Lorenzo will face an uphill struggle against the HRCs and he will need all the help available from Cal and Rossi. I expected Le Mans to be a Honda track, but not a wet race to suit them so well while Lorenzo struggled. Mugello will be the first make or break GP of the season. It has been a Yamaha track ever since Rossi joined and Honda's win came very unexpectedly in 2010. It is the perfect opportunity for Lorenzo (and Rossi even more) the break his slump to remind people who's who. OTOH, if any of the Honda wins, it means business and them having a complete package.

I can hardly wait!

Did i miss some thing here? So if it weren't the tires then what went wrong with JL's race? will we ever find out? BTW an excellent read as always David.

Plenty of action. Brilliant rides from Dani, Cal and Marquez(Marquez's adaptation to the conditions after only a handful of laps was both spectacular and definite proof the future of motogp is in good hands) and very good rides from the Ducati guys though not quite as good as last year, the proof being there has been almost zero talk about Rossi and the ducati this season). Yamaha despite the bluster about Jorge, appear to be back to where they were in 2003, a target they have been working towards for sometime, serious work needed by both the engineering team and the riders. Despite it being de rigueur to say otherwise, congrats to Honda who have built an outrageous motorcycle...Would like to see Cal on it next year as Bradl and Bautista, are not doing a 'factory' honda justice, by any stretch.

Considering the machines haven't changed all that much. The conditions were a bit different though with the track drying out a bit but still. Last year Jorge was a machine in the wet, finding a spot on set up and powering away. Rossi was excellent on the Ducati, far better than he was this year on the Yam. Even without the stack Rossi was losing ground to the leaders not making it up. Whereas Dovi had no grip at the end of the race on the Duc. And the lead Honda rider was Stoner in third last year, who killed up his rear tyre getting there where this year both Hondas were relatively fast at the end of the race despite the drying track and wet tyres. I guess it does reflect that Honda have sorted out the balance of their bike a bit better but Crutchlow's podium demonstrated that the Yamaha still had a lot of potential in the conditions. That why the occassional wet race is good, you never quite know whats gonna happen.

His moves on Dovi were admirable. It was clinical, accurate, aggression. I find him difficult to admire but I was smiling for him yesterday.
He makes Marquez look like a very successful mugger.
It seems likely the title will be picked up by one of them. As the Honda now appears to have the ability on any track the championship should be theirs too.
I'm not giving up on an exciting season by any means, but Yamaha seem to have lost something and I wonder if JL has led them down the wrong development path. If so, I also hope that Rossi can find the balance he had before the capacity change.
As noted above Mugello may be 'make or break' for the present Yamaha mould.
Somehow, this still seems a very tyre-dominated era and they either suit you or they don't (as HRC showed last year). That doesn't seem right somehow and even if the BS's are very consistent quality and performance-wise, I would prefer less-than-perfect competition in this vital area. Otherwise, the teams might all be heading in HRC's direction, and that definitely isn't healthy.

there's always an Italian on the podium...don't know the order yet...

After watching this race, I haveta admit... I am a fan now! As stated earlier, Dani's passes on Dovi were amazing and that of a MotoGP-Champ! Dani was able to put his RCV anywhere he wanted to on the track, rain or not! He and MM93 made mistakes that they were able to recover from (unlike other riders) and yet continued to blaze forward taking scalps along the way! The Repsols are dialed-in and they are not taking any prisoners this year! If they both stay healthy and uninjured, the championship will be between DP26 and MM93! Great read David!

Some of you guys are so quick to jump on this bandwagon or that bandwagon based on the latest results. It's quite comical actually that many of you were writing off DP26 not long ago, and now he is THE man (based on 2H last year, that was to be expected). While the Honda's have dominated the last 3 races, the last 2 have been in unique conditions that seriously hampered the Yamahas...these were weekends when up to the race, JL99 had been the fastest. Only in COTA was it apparent that the Hondas had an advantage, and it was very clear why. It's an uphill battle for Yamaha, but so many things can happen...

What is also very apparent, now that Vale is getting slapped around, is just how good JL99 is (Crutchlow too it seems) and it remains to be seen if Vale can get the last 0.5% out of his new environment. That is all he is lacking. I'm hoping he can pick it up because it would make the races that much more exciting...

Marquez has just left me speechless...I thought he would have launched himself to the moon by now but he has kept everything completely under control while going insanely fast. Just wow....

Very enjoyable season so far...Mugello will be epic. :)

I agree with all that, but just enjoy the ebb and flow with each race marc - it's funny! ;-)

We enjoyed magnificent sunshine in Austin. And terrible racing. Both MotoGP and Moto2 were excellent races!

There is a fine line between nationalism and racism, and I think the headline here comes close to it. Celebrating one group's accomplishments is one thing. Describing something as "Spaniard-Free" pushes a lot of the wrong buttons for me.

I think there's been way too much discussion lately as to the nationality of the riders involved, more than I've ever seen in the decades of watching racing that I've done. No one complained when U.S. riders were dominating, and no one complained about Doohan's nationality or Rossi's nationality.

Unfortunately, that was my first reaction to seeing the race report here.

I will confess that I wondered whether Dani had the fire to do this. He looked in the last two races like he was riding at (or a little bit over) his level of ability. And I think that a little desperation might nail him the title that has eluded him all these years.

A few points.

Firstly, a podium free of Spaniards is an exception, and therefore worthy of mention. Given the frequency with which the word "triplete" is used in the Spanish media, a podium without a single Spaniard on is remarkable enough to warrant a mention.

The phrase "Spaniard-free" was used because it was a headline, and there was no room to use "without a single Spaniard, which is unusual, because so far this year, there has been at least one Spaniard on the podium for every race."

And do not be fooled into thinking that there was no complaining before the current Spanish-dominated era. There was no internet, and so the complaining found different outlets, but people in Spain and Italy were just as annoyed with the English-speaking domination in the late 80s and early 90s, and the Spaniards were as annoyed with the Italian domination of the early '00s, though fortunately, they had Sete Gibernau.

The biggest difference at the moment is that Spaniards are dominating (well, were, until Pol Espargaro started struggling this year in Moto2) in all three classes. Before, there were Italians and Spaniards in 125 and 250, Dutch and Germans in 50cc and 80cc classes, and Brits, Americans and Australians in the 500s.

However, the Spanish domination will also pass. The next hot property from the Red Bull Rookies is Czech. Livio Loi looks set to grow into a real sensation once he matures, and he's Belgian. There's even a fast young Dutch kid ripping up Moto3 in the Spanish championship. The Spanish deserve their current domination, as it is merely the reward for the resources they have invested in their national and regional championships. Other federations are following suit, and riders from around the world are using the Spanish championship as a stepping stone.

Someone before mentioned momentum, and its obvious that Marquez has done nothing but continue improving over the past 4 years. Interestingly, far from challenging him, the jump to MotoGP has allowed his talent to shine through in so many new and different ways.

I think the learning curve will only slowdown (god forbid) once he has had his first big crash. And I think he is being very, very lucky this far.

Remember Lorenzo's first MotoGP season in 2008? He dazzled everyone until he hit that sequence of 3 or 4 big crashes. The spectacular China high side most people will remember, but he credits his tumble and subsequent loss of consciousness at Montmelo as the moment when he first realized the way he was riding could cost him dearly.

The way Marquez throws the Honda around is spectacular, as is his ability to save and come back from near misses. However I really fear when he will eventually be caught out. He’s had his share of big crashes in the past, but a high side on a 160 kg. MotoGP…

For years VR46 seemed immune to crash damage. He either didn't crash or seemed to escape serious injury. And he toyed with the competition, often managing things so that he'd pass on the last lap. He was able to do this because of the combination of his talent and the capability of his bike & setup. I've got a feeling that MM could manage the same feat.

And since then he's won 1 race in nearly three years. Not saying the crash is the sole reason but the timing is interesting.

It's only a matter of time before Marquez comes a cropper big style somewhere IMO.

What nonsense! The only thing that thrashed Marquez was his left hand, when he changed to second gear off the start, spun his rear wheel and lost 8 places in the process. Had he had a great start, he'd have won once again this season. The young man is a phenomenon. May God bless him, keep him well and allow him to take an inaugural MotoGP championship. No one else can keep him from winning this year, that's for sure. It isn't Honda superiority, or Yamaha inferiority that'll make the difference. He'd be in the same boat if he were on a Yamaha. The old guard is gone. Goodbye Rossi, you should have retired with dignity. Now you'll fade into obscurity like a nobody. Agostini will still be the GOAT, unless Marquez can rise to the challenge.

"Goodbye Rossi, you should have retired with dignity. Now you'll fade into obscurity like a nobody."

Wow, 'a nobody'? Really? Which rock have you been living under the last decade? Why is it that some people think athletes have to retire at their peak, to be remembered as 'the greatest'. Why can't we just accept that they are in fact human, and just like you and me they will experience a body growing older and physical abilities deteriorating. Who gives a **** about when Rossi retires... what he has achieved in his career has been great and will always be great, regardless. The 'greatest of all time'? Who knows... but it surely doesn't depend on his choice to retire or not... and I even doubt it depends on him winning one more world championship or not.

You know, showing some respect has never hurt anyone...

Settle down. There were only 2 bikes in that last race that looked like they could win (we all knew the ducati would fade) and Marc was on one of them, but ended up 3rd.

It's very lopsided right now. I don't recall any time in recent history where there were so few winnable bikes on the grid. Crutchlow is doing ok, but he's overriding - riding at high risk with lots of crashing to get there.

Sure, Marc's the young star and doing very well, but getting a podium when really only 4 people have the kit to race (and one is over the hill)... big deal.

I've thought often about the comparison between MM's start this year and Jlo's start in 2008, and there is nothing to say that MM will not meet the same fate as Jlo did during his rookie year: start off hot winning poles and races, then big crash and a rethink of style. But, I think there is a lower probability of that "big off," or huge highside happening to MM in 2013 than there was to Jlo in 2008 due to the improvements in electronic traction control and tire grip in the last 5 years. MM could still have a high-side like Stoner did at Indy just last year, and if he does, I'm hoping it does not change his style or mentality toward racing. But, on the other hand, I think it is less likely now than it was when it happened to Jlo in 2008. We shall see....

Are you just a little sore because the races we not dominated by your own nation?
There are way too many spaniards in the 3 classes and i would whole heartedly welcome a spanish cull.
I read somewhere this week that Ezpeleta is talking about a nationality quota, bang on the money and get it done dude.
Or look at implementing a success points drop system for the nationality that has the most in the respective classes, in that if there are more of '????' nationality then the most successful one has to drop his 1st highest points haul at the end of the season.
Ok the last paragraph is a bit far fetched but something does need to be done because having (without being tagged a racist) so many spaniards in the classes is ruining the racing.
Either that or the championship gets a Re-Brand and call it the Spanish MotoGP Championship.
Chill out dude, its only one race they have not dominated everything and i'm sure they will take over all podiums on more occasions this year...

I live in California, USA, which last I checked is not from Spain. I've lived here my whole life, and my ethnic background is a hodgepodge of people from east, west, north and south hemispheres.

Sad and narrow-minded that the only reason you could imagine for my comment is that "my" nation was being insulted.

I'm really not joking when I say that when the visor is dropped, everyone looks the same, and that's all that matters to me. That really has been the joy of racing - it has been my respite from national tribalism. I celebrated the accomplishments of Rainey, Doohan, Rossi and Marquez as though they were my flesh and blood - and in a way, as I am a fan and a participant in this sport, they are.

I have a counter proposal to your "spanish cull";

Remove nationality from the championship. Remove the national anthems and remove country abbreviations beside the riders names. If they're not awarding points to nations for a National Championship to go along with the Rider and Manufacture Championships then there's no point in having nationality mentioned by Dorna at all. Leave the nationalism to broadcasters and the marketing departments of the sponsors/manufacturers.

I wouldn't miss all the nationalism at all... but let's be honest, there's not much chance of that happening...

You're right, of course. Dorna is in the entertainment industry, and nationality is a product they can sell.

"Ok the last paragraph is a bit far fetched but something does need to be done because having (without being tagged a racist) so many spaniards in the classes is ruining the racing."

WTF? How does it ruin the racing? A great battle is a great battle, and a boring race is a boring race, regardless of where the riders were born. If someone is fast, they deserve to be there regardless of their country of origin.

Excellent review David, but it think it would be worth looking at who was fastest on each lap too. Considering the constantly changing conditions it's hard to compare the first laps under 1:45 to the last ones. I think that info would lead you to see Dani, Cal and Marc as the fastest out there?

Yes it did. And after all, what do "stats" matter anyway apart from 1st, 2nd 3rd!

David (and all readers), is there any truth to the rumor that Casey Stoner will be back in MotoGP next year! I read elsewhere that his time away isn't turning out to be what he thought it would be, that he would kick the butts of everybody on the MotoGP grid, and if he doesn't return to Honda... he may be on the Ducati once again next year!!! I'd love to see the Repsol team with 3 riders trying to prove to HRC who the best in the world is. Hayden may haveta go to WSB if Casey goes to Ducati.

I read that 'story' on the internet. It is entirely fabricated. There is no truth to it that I know of, and the story ignored a whole herd of elephants in the room.

First and foremost, Honda already offered Stoner $15 million a year not to retire, and he turned it down. He was sick to death of MotoGP.

Secondly, Stoner himself has repeatedly and publicly said he has no intention of returning to MotoGP. He has been interviewed on the subject a number of times during Aussie V8 races, and he always says the same thing: misses bikes, hates MotoGP.

Thirdly, it is impossible to underestimate the personal antipathy between Casey Stoner and Carmelo Ezpeleta. As long as Ezpeleta is in charge, Stoner will not want to come back. And frankly, I don't think Ezpeleta would lift a finger to attract Stoner back, he has Rossi on a competitive bike, and Marquez turning into a new superstar. Ezpeleta shows no signs of retiring, and looks in excellent health each time I see him.

Fourthly, Stoner left Ducati for very good reason. He was fed up of having to override the bike to get results, of the glacial pace of developments, of the management. He was fiercely loyal to both his crew and to Filippo Preziosi. Preziosi is gone, his crew are at Honda, most of the people he worked with at Ducati have moved on. Ducati is the last place I would expect to see Stoner return to.

My personal feeling, based on all the time I spent talking to him, was that he had absolutely no intention of ever coming back. If Ezpeleta resigned, and MotoGP started racing two strokes again, then he may be tempted. But that simply won't happen.

The story I read on the internet sounded like a complete fabrication, whether intentional or not. Given the number of times I came across that story on various forums, it may have achieved its purpose in generating traffic for an otherwise extremely respectable and reliable site. But I found the whole story impossible to believe, and riddled with fictions and inaccuracies.

I had not heard of this "story", but thanks for the summary! Saves me having to wade through lots of nonsense!

Yes, David....Ghostrider11's question was one I was getting ready to ask. Audi willing to pay Casey $15 large to return next year... Or back at HRC? Heard anything like this? Supposedly said during the Jerez race....

You can understand why people would love it to happen. Marquez and Stoner on the same track would be freaking sensational to watch.

One thing Stoner has proven is that he'll do whatever the hell he wants and say whatever the hell he likes. If one day he feels like giving GP another crack he'll do it no matter what he's said previously. Apart from the Carmelo/Dorna situation the thing that could change with Stoner is his perspective on life. If he can stop taking it all so seriously and just enjoy the good bits and not sweat the shit parts.. Its a long shot but I'd love to see him ride a Yamaha one day. I'd even take a Suzuki.

A couple things struck me as off, so I checked the numbers.

1. MM93 was not the second fastest man on track on lap five, or even six or seven. On lap five was fourth fastest behind Cal, Rossi and Hayden.

2. MM93 was not catching the frontrunners by almost a second per lap during laps five through 12. It was not even a half second per lap. For this part I'll eliminate lap thirteen where you note that MM93 made a "mistake" and lost a second.

Average lap times for 5-12

MM93 44.998
DP26 45.473
CC35 45.208

A difference of only .475 seconds per lap, but still not a clear picture of his pace in relation to the leaders.

Marc gained 3.8 seconds on Dani over those eight laps. However, 2.817 of that gain came on lap eight when Dani had a problem (mistake?) and produced a lap over 2.5 seconds slower than his own 7th and 9th laps. If we remove that lap Marcs gains were .14 seconds per lap.

After that, during laps 14-21, Dani put an aditional .579 second per lap between himself and Marc.

On a side note, and strictly my opinion, but I don't think it is 100% relevant to compare the number of sub 45's that Dani the seasoned vet did to the number of sub 45's Marc the rookie did. My reasoning is that Marc did as many as he could possibly produce, while Dani only did as many as he needed to. I suspect that Dani had plenty more in the bag, if needed, but set it on cruise control beginning lap 22. And also because Dani did a couple laps well down into the 43's, which Marc never even got near.

1. Corrected. I hadn't looked properly, and missed Crutchlow and Hayden.

2. Also corrected, but I was not so much looking at Pedrosa (by then he was in a class of his own) as at the battle for second. Pedrosa may have been the leader, but the group behind Dovizioso were still the front runners.

A user on the Adventure Rider forum put together a chart of fastest laps. It is extremely instructive. Pedrosa was the fastest man on track for most laps, Marquez was second in that comparison.


IMO that chart doesnt offer enough of the story. :-)

2. ^ Dani was still battling in second place on lap 14 while Marc had a clear track and had been making his "fast" laps. Cal, behind them (Dani and Dovi), was only .21 off Marc's pace. During those laps Cal passed Bradl, Jorge and Rossi while Marc had a clear track. ;-)

Marc was never chasing down the leaders. At the end of lap four Marc was exactly 9.000 seconds behind Dani. At the end of lap 21 Marc was over 11.181 down on Dani. By the end of lap 21 Cal had increased the gap between himself and Marc from lap five by over half a second as well.

Despite having an open track, and never having to battle Rossi or Bradl, Marc was still losing ground on The leaders/fast guys.

The Ducati's were losing ground, and Marc was losing less, so it looked like Marc was moving forward.

That chart shows us that Marc made "more" "fast" laps during the entire race. What The chart does not indicate is that Dani was deliberately producing "slow" laps for the final 7. Or, that Cal was being held up by Dovi. Once past, Cal was dropping Dovi like a stone. Cals board never told him that Marc was catching Dovi, but Cal knew from looking at the big TV screen. Cal then upped his pace as needed and produced two faster (final two) laps than Marc to keep his second position.