2013 Indianpolis MotoGP Saturday Round Up: An Unstoppable Marquez, A Breakable Spies, And A Desirable Hayden

Somebody appears to have neglected to inform Marc Marquez of the laws of physics. Though the track is less slippery than it was last year, and so a little faster, where Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo upped their pace by three tenths of a second, dipping under last year's pole record, Marc Marquez positively obliterated it. The Spanish rookie put in one of the best laps every seen on a MotoGP bike, and stripped nearly nine tenths of a second off the pole record, held by his teammate Dani Pedrosa. He sits half a second ahead of reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo, and a fraction more ahead of Pedrosa.

That gap bears repeating. Half a second in a single lap is a world apart in MotoGP: If they both started at the same time, Marc Marquez would have crossed the line 22 meters ahead of Jorge Lorenzo after that first lap, or roughly 11 bike lengths. By comparison, third place man Dani Pedrosa would have followed 60 centimeters later, or just over a wheel length, while Cal Crutchlow would have crossed the line 1.3 meters later, his front wheel in line with Pedrosa's boot and Lorenzo's rear wheel.

Of course, posting a fast lap in qualifying is one thing, hammering them in lap after lap is another. Jorge Lorenzo is the master of the metronomic lap times, but at Indy, Marquez is just blowing him and everyone else away. Marquez' race pace is around the low 1'39, a lap time he is capable of comfortably repeating, while the rest struggle to post the occasional 1'39.4. If you're the betting type, it's not even worth putting your money on Marquez for the win, the bookmakers have already priced the rest of the field out of the market.

Can anyone stop Marc Marquez? On the face of it, it doesn't look like it. The battle looks to be for second, but that could be quite a battle indeed. With the track improving, the Yamahas are getting stronger, better able to brake later and carry some corner speed. But they are still a way behind the Hondas, Cal Crutchlow insists, the Yamahas suffering with the front wheel locking up under braking. "[That] seems to be hindering us a lot more than the Honda, because they can still come out of the corner," the Englishman told reporters. "We need to carry our corner speed, but if we're locking [the front] going into the corner, we've got no confidence to release the brake, so it's difficult."

Jorge Lorenzo is a little more confident. "I think we have a good pace," the factory Yamaha man said. "The rear tire doesn't drop as much as we expect, so maybe tomorrow we can fight for the podium or even for the victory." That seems a little optimistic, especially if the temperatures rise as expected. Right now, Lorenzo can't use the hard compound rear tire, as it does not provide sufficient grip, something the Yamahas need to maintain corner speed. The Hondas, on the other hand, spend less time on the edge of the tire, and can get the hard tire to work. If it heats up sufficiently at Indy on Sunday, Marquez may well already be packing for his flight home by the time the Yamahas cross the line.

If we have penciled in Marc Marquez' name as the winner on Sunday, what about the rest of the podium. It looks like being pretty tight, with Stefan Bradl, Cal Crutchlow, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa all in the hunt. There is little to choose between the four of them, with the real question mark being how the respective collarbones of Lorenzo and Pedrosa will hold up. Both men are confident, the pain remaining within manageable bounds, their respective front row starts a sign of just how well they are doing.

On paper, Stefan Bradl should be able to stay with Lorenzo and Pedrosa, the German having excellent pace in free practice. But in the heat of the afternoon, problems with the front tire left him struggling, despite using the harder of the two options. He saved a couple of big slides in qualifying, classifying the save at Turn 1 as "one of my biggest saves ever," the front nearly getting away from him. It left him qualified on the third row, a good distance behind the leaders. The issue he is struggling with is down to set up, and if they cannot find a solution, then Bradl will struggle in the expected heat of Sunday.

As for Crutchlow, he looks very fast and very consistent. He finally has the new fuel tank the factory Yamahas are using, though for the moment, he has not seen any noticeable effect. The fuel tank is a little lower, and sits a fraction further back than the tank he was using, but the benefit only comes with a full fuel tank, something which the team rarely practices with during the weekend. "At the moment, definitely 100% I feel zero difference, because it's not supposed to help in any other way than at the start of the race," Crutchlow said. But even then he might not get much benefit, because of the state of the circuit. "I don't expect it to be any better here, because the track surface is so slippery. In the first laps you don't push as hard at this track as at other tracks. "

While Lorenzo is vying for the front row, teammate Valentino Rossi is having another tough weekend. The solution the Italian and his crew found to his braking problem at the Aragon test is simply not working at Indy, leaving Rossi languishing down in 9th, 1.4 seconds behind Marquez. "I have very much problems, especially braking and corner entry," Rossi told the media. "I can arrive to one level, and after that, when I try more, I have too much movement on the front," He said. "I made some mistake, I had two moment with the front, so I lose a lot of feeling."

The situation was reminiscent of the start of the season, when Rossi had struggled with the same problem. That issue had been resolved at Aragon. "From the Aragon test when we modify a bit the setting and use another fork, we did a good step. Especially in the race, but also in the qualifying, I was able to start always in the top 5, and was not so bad." That feeling was now gone, with no resolution in sight. Yet Rossi's pace was not as bad as his qualifying position suggests, only a couple of tenths off the pace of Lorenzo and Pedrosa. "For me, tomorrow in the race, about the pace, we are not very far. "

Rossi's travails are as nothing to those of Ben Spies, however. The Texan was happy and confident after the first day of practice, pronouncing himself glad that he was finally able to "race with both arms again." His joy lasted less than half the morning session of practice on Saturday. Spies exited the pits on his second run of the day, and as he got on the gas out of Turn 4, was spat off his Pramac Ducati and fell heavily on his left shoulder. It was immediately clear that there was something wrong, the footage showing Spies' collarbone sticking up higher than it ought to. Fortunately - or perhaps unfortunately - his collarbone was not broken, but he was instead diagnosed with a grade 3 acromioclavicular dislocation. In lay terms, his collarbone had come loose from its mooring on the shoulder blade, and will need to reattach.

How did it happen? Spies told Cycle News that the problem was down to the way the traction control works on the Ducati. The system is automatically engaged once the rider changes up into second gear, but the section out of the pits at Indy is tight and twisty, and can be taken in first gear. This is what Spies did, and when he opened the throttle coming out of Turn 4, the bike bit him. Whose fault was this? It looks like a failure of communication. Spies had either forgotten or hand never been told how traction control was switched on, unsurprising given that none of the circuits he has ridden at so far see a rider spend so long in first gear out of the pits. On the Yamaha, traction control engaged automatically once launch control was disengaged, and Spies had assumed the Ducati worked the same way.

It was a painful and potentially costly mistake. The Texan will likely be out for three to four weeks, once the full extent of his injury has been assessed back home in Dallas. Having already missed 7 of the 9 races so far, he could end up making that a grand total of 10 out of 12. Team boss Francesco Guidotti is reportedly not impressed. The Italian told GPOne.com, "we shouldn't speak of bad luck. I don't want to point the finger of blame at the rider, but these situations don't resolve themselves on their own." An oblique threat, perhaps? While Spies' decision to allow his injured right shoulder to heal properly was clearly the right one, damaging his left shoulder in his first race back has not endeared him to the team. Spies has a contract directly with Ducati to race for them in 2014, but if Pramac keep the Ducati junior team franchise, the atmosphere between Spies and the team will not have improved.

While Spies' position in MotoGP is looking more and more shaky, Nicky Hayden's appears to be firming up. Though he has been dropped from the factory Ducati team, Hayden is still in demand in the MotoGP paddock. Hayden is still in talks with the NGM Forward team for one of the non-MSMA Yamaha M1 machines which Forward will be leasing next year, but Honda are also keen to retain his services. American Honda is in talks with HRC about placing Hayden alongside Stefan Bradl in the LCR Honda team, riding one of Honda's production racers. The Kentucky Kid still enjoys huge popularity in the states - items related to Hayden often fetch the highest prices at the Riders for Health auctions held at MotoGP events - and American Honda is keen to capitalize on his selling power.

It is, Nicky Hayden told reports, a question of money. Somebody has to pay for this, and in the case of placing Nicky Hayden on a production racer at LCR, that somebody would be American Honda. "Only if American Honda would support this idea does it become possible," LCR Honda boss Lucio Cecchinello told Italian site Moto.it. A final decision for LCR will come at Misano, in mid-September.

With the news that Indianapolis will remain on the calendar for 2014, it seems likely that Dorna will encourage American Honda, and help support Hayden at LCR, or any other team he wants to remain at. The US market remains critical for Dorna, and Hayden is one of the keys which they are continuing to use to try to unlock the market. Until a replacement comes along, Hayden has a place in MotoGP.

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You have to ask why Ducati didn't test with Ben first, to get him back in the swing of things. To put any rider on that bike in essentially his first proper race meeting at that track is questionable. To not know how your bike works as a professional rider is neglectful.

David, at 300kph, they cover 83m/s so MM93 would have a lead of over 42 meters at the line.

Average speed is meaningless.
All that matters is time differential and speed at the line, the location at which David is making the comparison.

Assuming they are going ~190 miles per hour, the distance between bikes is indeed 140 feet or ~43 meters.

Average speed is meaningless.

Huh? That's pretty much the only thing that matters. You can't apply (the assumption of) their top speed over the course of a whole lap to determine the distance that separates them. Doing that assumes they're going that fast all the time, which they are dlearly not. Math doesn't rely on assumptions. What if we assume they're going 50 mph? Or 500 mph?

I don't think you're quite grasping the point. :)

A half second time advantage will be represented by a physical lead of _varying_ distance. This distance is directly proportional to the speed of the two vehicles AT THE MOMENT. That's why the bikes appear to bunch up in the slower corners, then separate as they blast down the straight. Their time differential remains more or less constant, but their varying speed greatly affects the on-track distance between them.

What the bikes have done before they cross the line is utterly irrelevant. Lap time, average speed, color of underwear, etc., are all moot; a half second gap at a given instantaneous speed will always produce a fixed separation distance. Change the speed, and that distance will also change.

1/2 second at 50 MPH = 36.6 feet.
At 500 MPH, a half second gap spans 366 feet.

Geonerd is 99% correct, the distance is better approximated by the instantaneous velocity than the average velocity over a lap.

The actual distance between the riders depends on their average velocity over that 0.5 seconds. Whose average velocity is relevant depends on when you want to take the measurement - when Marc Marquez crosses the line? In that case, we need to know the average speed of Jorge Lorenzo over the 0.5 seconds. When JL crosses the line? We need to know the average speed of MM over the 0.5 seconds.

This would give us a closer approximation, anyway. To figure it exactly, we need to also know their acceleration data and even the rate of change of acceleration - but this gets more technical.

To picture this, think about how drag cars work. Two cars can drag down the strip of identical length, one can cross the line with a time of 7 seconds at 130mph, another can cross in 8 seconds at 150mph. The second car took a longer time to cover the same distance, but ultimately ended with a higher speed. The difference is in the acceleration curve (and reaction speed).

The drag cars are an extreme example to illustrate a point, the difference in acceleration of motogp bikes is not likely to be that different come the end of a straight. Instantaneous velocity of either bike would give a pretty close indication, particularly at 180mph when the bikes are not accelerating a significant amount in that time.

Agree with the Spies assessment. That's twice he's returned to racing and been 'surprised.' The first was when he suddenly 'discovered' that his damaged shoulder was still FUBAR. Now, he jumps on the bike and promptly crashes due to a huge (for these guys) mental oversight. I don't pretend to 'get it,' but I do fear that Ben is done for good unless he has an airtight contract for next year. (Anyone - Does he?)

You have to ask why Ducati didn't test with Ben first, to get him back in the swing of things. To put any rider on that bike in essentially his first proper race meeting at that track is questionable. To not know how your bike works as a professional rider is neglectful.

David, at 300kph, they cover 83m/s so MM93 would have a lead of over 42 meters at the line.

David, at 300kph, they cover 83m/s so MM93 would have a lead of over 42 meters at the line.

No no no no no.
They are only doing that speed at the end of the lap on the straight. Your calculations assume their doing that speed the whole lap. Clearly they're not.

If 2 bikes doing 83m/s at a set point are 1 second apart, they are 83 metres apart. (remember, the bike behind is approaching at 83m/s too. Average speed means nothing, time and current speed are everything to calculate distance) If they are in a hairpin at 20m/s and a second apart, they will be 20 metres apart. As the start line is crossed at approximately 300kph (83m/s) and the bikes are half a second apart it stands to reason the bikes would be 42 (ish) metres apart.

If I recall correctly, Lorenzo launched himself off the Yamaha after doing a practice start at Laguna a few years back. It was the same situation as Spies - TC didn't kick in until 2nd gear after a launch control start. RTFM (do MGP bikes come with a manual??).
I do get tired of hearing about Spies' 'bad luck'. Most of what went on last year was seemingly down to bad bike preparation, with some rider error on the odd occasion the guys in the pit put it together correctly.
I'm sorry to see him down and out again though and hope he can turn it all around. At present you'd think he's on the steep and slippery slope out of MotoGP, or at least onto an even less competitive ride than now. Given his contract is directly with Ducati, maybe they'll shuffle him into WSBK on the Panigale. If the bike responds to the removal of the inlet restrictors it might end up quite a positive move.

... by all that Marquez is accomplishing. And I really like the kid a lot.

That said, I'm afraid that the Moto2 race is where the actually-worthy-of-watching action is gonna happen.

Am I the only one who is getting a "Schumacher at Ferrari a few years back" type of sinking feeling?

When I know the end of the movie before I go to the cinema... it kinda ruins it for me. And YES, even If Rossi was that fast, it would still feel preordained and... well... you get my point.

OK. I'm done. Rant over.

Marc Marquez has done amazing stuff in Moto2 and continues to achieve even more impressing results in MotoGP. By the look of it, he'll become world champion in his rookie season. Which does not bode well at all for the next five to ten years. I've termed what's to come as "serial boredom".

Wake me up when his little brother Alex Marquez (who just made his first podium in Moto3) arrives in the top class, either on Yamaha, Ducati or Suzuki, anything that's hopefully as competitive as a Honda by then.

Funny, folks are now starting to comment on the races being boring. They have been a bore since the switch to 800cc. Since the 800cc rule was introduced only 4 riders (with the exception of Spies in Assen) won races the entire error (pun intended)

Now there are 4 competitive bikes, 3 competitive riders and Rossi. We all know that barring a serious injury or string of DNFs Marquez is going to be champ. We also know that Lorenzo and Pedrosa will be 2nd or 3rd. The class has devolved into the Yamaha-Honda match race series. The rest of the field is just filler. No of the other teams talk about winning, just "getting results" who wants to race and more importantly who would want to sponsor a team that goes the track every weekend knowing they have 0% chance of winning? Yamaha can't find a sponsor, who wants to sponsor some crappy CRT fighting for 13th in a field of 20?

There should be one rule in this class. "It has to have two wheels" Then it would be a true prototype class. This is nothing more than a Honda driven spec series....

You know, it's rather pleasant to come here and NOT find a spate of comments that Rossi's travails are a direct result of Stoner's alleged negative development of the bike. Perhaps David's exhaustive ( and doubtless, exhausting) moderation of comments is finally bearing fruit.

Marquez is, quite frankly, a scintillating addition to motoGp. Not withstanding the HRC progress that Pedrosa underlined in the second half of last year, we are witnessing a paradigm shift in the natural order that has not happened since 2007 and before that, 2004.

Nicky is in demand. Besides his promotional value, there is no reason to think he has forgotten how to ride a reasonably competitive machine....which at this stage means anything not a CRT or Ducati....

Marquez is all that he's cracked up to be, simply amazing.

Come on Ben, get it together, you're too good for what's been happening.

Can't wait to see Nicky on a competitive machine next year.

Vale is still a champion in my book, on and off the track.

Jorge - what a machine!

The city and track are amazing. The Indy facility is fun and friendly, as are the locals and the city in general. A great place to bring the family.

So the track is a bit slippery. Stop whining and ride. You are being well compensated and every track has some type of "character"to be delt with. Super Sic loved this place and if it was good enough for him, I'm good with that.

Love this place, love this sport.

Spies is done, he can go join John Hopkins in the "always injured" has been heap. Seems it is not possible for him to crash without needing 3-4 months to heal.

On the bright side, not racing the ducati is less embarrassing than actually racing it and getting beat by 1/2 the CRT field.....

One can only wonder how Spies would have fared on full factory equipment his first year had Dorna bent the rules for him as they have for Marquez. Flipside is how would Marquez have fared this year on a satellite bike. Hopefully Ben can ride the Panigale.

It's a real shame to see Spies injured again, I like the guy and he's clearly deserving of a ride in GP, just no point in paying someone who's not actually riding the bike. Sucks. :(