Pol Espargaro

2013 Motegi MotoGP Sunday Round Up: On The Unpredictability Of Racing, And Why You Should Never Trust Pundits

There have been occasions over the past few years when I have asked Nicky Hayden how he manages to find the motivation to keep racing every Sunday. His answer is always the same, whether I have asked him after a surprise podium, or after coming in tenth: 'You never know what can happen in the race. That's why we line up.' Hayden is living testament to his own deeply driven mixture of ambition, hope and determination. His 2006 championship was won against the odds, and against the greatest rider of the period at the height of his powers.

Sunday's races at Motegi - indeed, the races at all three of the flyaways - have been a shining example of the vicissitudes of racing. In all three classes, the presupposed script was torn up and thrown away. In Moto3, young men facing pressure made major mistakes. In Moto2, one astounding comeback met with disaster, another astounding comeback met with triumph, and a championship. And in MotoGP, the champion elect as of a couple of races ago is finding himself having to fight for his title. The season is only over once everyone crosses the line for the last time at Valencia.

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2013 Motegi MotoGP Saturday Round Up: An Impressive Lorenzo, A Determined Redding, And Cultural Sensitivities

At the post-qualifying press conference at Motegi, Jorge Lorenzo reminded his audience of the last two times he had ridden in the wet. At Le Mans, he had had his worst race finish since his rookie season in 2008. Then at Assen, his growing confidence saw him get launched off the bike at over 250 km/h, and break a collarbone in his fall. So when the MotoGP riders took to the track at a rain-soaked Motegi, Jorge Lorenzo had every reason to be cautious. He worked carefully building his rhythm for the first 20 minutes or so of the extended practice/qualifying session, before pushing on hard, eventually destroying the opposition with a lap just under 8 seconds off the dry race lap record. It was a testament to just how quickly Lorenzo can recover his confidence.

It was good just to have any action at the Japanese circuit. After fog had prevented the medical helicopter from arriving at the circuit on Friday, making practice impossible, teams and riders headed to the Motegi Twin Ring with hope in their hearts on Saturday morning. The fog was gone, and when the medical helicopter arrived at the track, a cheer went up in the media center. Practice was on.

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MotoGP Penalty Points: Sepang Sees Punishments Handed Out, Marquez Has Highest Total

If there was any doubt that Race Direction in MotoGP is trying to impose a stricter code of behavior on riders in all three Grand Prix classes, the bumper crop of penalty points issued at Aragon and Sepang makes their intention clear. At Aragon, three penalty points were awarded: One for Alessandro Tonucci in Moto3, for staying on the line during qualifying, and one for Sandro Cortese for the incident in the Moto2 race, when he touched Alex De Angelis, causing the Italian to crash.

The most discussed penalty was of course the one issued for Marc Marquez, who was penalized for the touch on Dani Pedrosa which severed the cable to Pedrosa's rear wheel speed sensor, confusing the electronics and causing the unlucky Pedrosa to be ejected from his Repsol Honda. Marquez had to wait until Sepang to be hear what the punishment for that incident would be, after Race Direction asked for more data.

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2013 Sepang MotoGP Post-Race Round Up: Pedrosa's Revenge, Lorenzo's Valiant Defense, And History Made In Moto3

Sunday at Sepang provided a fascinating mix for motorcycle racing fans. A blistering Moto3 race, an impressive, if shortened, Moto2 race, and some breathtaking action in MotoGP. History was made several times over, and best of all, the races took place in front of a sellout crowd. Over 80,000 fans packed the stands in Malaysia, proof, if any were needed, of the slow, eastward drift of motorcycle racing's center of gravity.

In the MotoGP race, Dani Pedrosa did what he had set out to do two weeks earlier at Aragon, before he was so rudely ejected from his bike. Pedrosa had a look of grim determination on his face from the moment he rolled up at Sepang, and it barely left him all weekend. He had come to do a job, the pain in his hips merely spurring him on to get what he had been robbed of by an overeager teammate and an exposed sensor. He ruled proceedings in free practice, got caught out by conditions in qualifying, but leapt off the line at the start, as he has all year, and slotted in behind Jorge Lorenzo. After four laps, he worked his way past a valiantly defending Lorenzo, put the hammer down and went on to win.

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2013 Sepang MotoGP Friday Round Up: Pedrosa's Speed, The Brain As A Complex Organ, And Honda Flying In Moto3

Is Sepang a Honda track or a Yamaha track? On the evidence of the first day of practice, you would have to say it is definitely a Honda track. Or more specifically, a factory Honda track, according to Valentino Rossi. The Italian veteran told reporters that the factory Hondas seemed to have something extra at Sepang, even compared to the satellite RC213Vs. Having lighter riders meant they did better on the long straights, consumed less fuel and could therefore use more power, Rossi said, but there was more to it than that. They were also better on corner entry, especially in the tight corners, where HRC appears to have found something extra. The only place the Yamahas had any kind of advantage was in the longer faster corners, Rossi said. Through turns five and six, Rossi could catch Dani Pedrosa. Once they left that section, Pedrosa was gone.

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2013 Aragon MotoGP Saturday Round Up: On Championship Turnarounds, Honda's Moto3 Gambit, And The 2014 Calendar

Qualifying at Aragon showed that the fourteenth round of the season could turn out to be a turning point in all three Grand Prix championships. Momentum shifts, sometimes suddenly, sometimes slowly, and before you know it, title races can open up again. Foregone conclusions are shown up for the illusions they are, and the words of every championship leader - 'I won't start thinking about the title until Valencia - are brought into keen focus.

In Moto3, the lead Luis Salom had built up after the summer break has slowly been dissipating, as Alex Rins and Maverick Viñales have clawed points back from the Spanish veteran. On Saturday, Alex Rins took yet another pole - his sixth of the season - crushing the opposition and putting seven tenths of a second into Viñales, the man in second. Luis Salom struggled, ending the session in 8th, over a second slower than Viñales, and 1.7 seconds off the time of Rins. He must attempt to defend his championship lead from the third row of the grid, and with Rins, Viñales and Alex Marquez ahead of him, he will have his work cut out.

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MotoGP Silly Season Nearly Done: Hayden, Laverty And Espargaro Start Final Shuffle

As the 2013 MotoGP season heads into its final five races, negotiations for 2014 are coming to a head. While the seats on factory and satellite machines were filled some time ago, the next level of competitiveness, both in terms of riders and bikes, is now up for grabs.

Two names and two teams were the focal point of the negotiations, and the log jam behind which many other riders were waiting. It was up to Aleix Espargaro to make a decision on whether to stay at Aspar, or pay off his contract and head to the NGM Forward squad, and up to Nicky Hayden to decide whether his future lay in MotoGP with Aspar or Forward, or if it was time to head over to World Superbikes, and become the first rider to win a title in both series. 

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2013 Misano MotoGP Post-Race Round Up: An Imperious Lorenzo, Rookie Mistakes, And Remembering Shoya

If half a second is a long time around Misano, seven tenths of a second is almost a geological era. Jorge Lorenzo was lacking grip and braking stability on Saturday; on Sunday morning, Ramon Forcada stiffened the front to improve Lorenzo's braking, and the factory Yamaha man crushed the opposition in the warm up. Four hours later, the reigning world champion did exactly the same again in the race, destroying his rivals in the first three laps, and holding on for a victory that was both overwhelming and important.

The first three laps? Lorenzo probably won the race in the first 100 meters off the line. Lorenzo had fluffed his practice starts on Saturday, bogging down and not really getting off the line. On Sunday, he was so fast away off the line that he had two bike lengths before he had even changed up into second gear. By the time he crossed the timing line at the end of the first sector, he was already 0.4 seconds ahead. By the end of the first lap, he was 1.2 seconds ahead. It was already game over.

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