2013 Le Mans MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Of Exceptional Rookies, Real Race Pace, And What It Takes To Be Champion
Marc Marquez is just starting to let the mask slip. Asked in the press conference about the fact that he will start from pole at Le Mans, despite this weekend being the first time he has ridden a MotoGP bike at the French track, Marquez admitted he always has to play down his chances ahead of each weekend. "On Thursday, I always need to say something similar," he said.
His modesty is very becoming, and throughout the preseason and the early races, he has continued to dampen down overly-inflated expectations. Yes, pole is nice. Yes, winning is fantastic. No, he is not even thinking of the title yet. But everything about Marc Marquez screams ambition, the desire to win, to do what it takes to beat his rivals and prove to everyone what he believes, that he is the best rider in the world, a (self-)belief that motivates every top level athlete.
The last-corner lunge inside Jorge Lorenzo at Jerez will be cited as evidence, but more than that, the desperate attempts in the preceding laps were proof enough, if proof were needed. Is Marc Marquez thinking of winning the MotoGP championship in his first year, a feat previously only achieved by Kenny Roberts? No, it is not chief among his concerns. Is he trying to win as many races as possible, an objective that will bring him the 2013 title if he succeeds? Of course he is. He may not be thinking about the championship, but he is definitely trying to win it.
2013 Le Mans MotoGP Friday Round Up: Of Four Fast Men, Improved Ducatis, Redding's Reign, And A Quota On Spaniards
So far, so good. That seems to be the story from the first day of practice at Le Mans. A full day of dry weather - except for the last few minutes of FP2 for the Moto3 class, where the rain turned briefly to hail, only to blow out again as quickly as it came - means that everyone had a chance to work on their race set up. With the top four separated by just 0.166 seconds, the top five are within a quarter of a second, and Alvaro Bautista, the man in ninth, is just over seven tenths from the fastest man Dani Pedrosa.
A good day too for the Hondas. Dani Pedrosa was immediately up to speed, as expected. Marc Marquez was also quick in the afternoon, which was less expected. Unlike Jerez and Austin, this was the first time he rode a MotoGP machine at Le Mans, and getting used to hauling a 260 hp, 160kg bike around the tight layout of the French track is a different proposition to riding a Moto2 bike with half the horsepower here. He took a morning to get used to the track, asked for a few changes to the base set up inherited from Casey Stoner, and then went and blitzed to second in the afternoon, 0.134 seconds off his teammate.
More important than Marquez' speed is his consistency, however. In the afternoon, he posted seven laps of 1'34, which looks to be the pace to expect for a dry race. Only two men did more, Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo having posted nine laps at that pace, with both men also consistently a tenth or two quicker than the Spanish rookie.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races at Jerez:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Jerez:
One record down, one to go. By qualifying on pole in just his second MotoGP race, at the age of 20 years and 61 days, Marc Marquez becomes the youngest premier class polesitter in history, deposing the legendary Freddie Spencer of the crown he has held for 31 years. On Sunday, Marc Marquez will go after the next target: the record as the youngest winner of a premier class Grand Prix, also held by Spencer. If he fails to win on Sunday - a very distinct possibility - he still has until Indianapolis to take Spencer's record, making it very far from safe.
Marquez' pole was the crowning glory of an utterly impressive weekend so far. The Repsol Honda youngster has dominated most of practice, leading his teammate by a quarter of a second or more in every session but one. He was immediately fast, but his race rhythm is just as impressive. In FP3, as grip on the track improved, Marquez cranked out 2'04s and 2'05s like they were going out of style. He was consistent, too. Not quite Jorge Lorenzo consistent, but he was running a pace that would have let him build up a lead, with only Dani Pedrosa able to stay close.
If you have aspirations of winning the championship, the first qualifying session of the year is your first chance to stake your claim. Qualifying is the moment you stake your claim, show everyone what you have, and what they are up against. The rest of the year, pole position is nice, but the most important thing is to be on the front row, and get a good start. But at the first qualifying session of the year for the first race of the year, you need to send your opponents a message: This is what you are up against. This is what you face if you wish to beat me.
Champions know this. At Qatar, the champions made their presence felt, and announced their intent to the world. In MotoGP, the defending champion - and the man who starts the year as favorite - set a pace that none could follow, robbing upstart Cal Crutchlow of what would have been his first pole. In Moto2, Pol Espargaro made a mistake, crashed, and corrected his error as soon as his bike was rebuilt, pushing hard to take pole in the dying seconds of the session. And In Moto3, Luis Salom took his first ever Grand Prix pole by putting it on the line when it mattered, seeing off all-comers in the final moments, while Maverick Viñales gritted his teeth to ride through the pain and grab 2nd on the grid.
As many of you will have spotted, this was in fact an April Fool's story. While discussions about the future of the World Superbike series are ongoing, there are no proposals at the current time to switch to naked bikes. The sales trend of the sport bike market segment is true, as are the numbers for bike sales in Belgian (I wrote a column for the Belgian magazine Motorrijder on this very subject, which is to appear in the April issue). The idea was sparked both by the current market trends in motorcycle sales, and by pictures of former greats like Eddie Lawson and Freddie Spencer muscling Kawasaki Z1000s and Honda VF750s around the track. For another year at least, all of the stories on the website will be as accurate as possible. Normal service has now been resumed...
The news that Dorna had been handed control over the World Superbike series struck terror into the hearts of WSBK fans around the globe. The fear was Dorna would use their position of controlling both World Superbikes and MotoGP to widen the technical gap between the two series in an attempt to cut costs. With Dorna having so often complained that World Superbikes was encroaching on MotoGP territory, and with MotoGP's technical regulations becoming ever more restrictive, the logical step would appear to be to severely restrict the level of machinery used in WSBK.
Over the winter, and during the first round of the 2013 World Superbike series, talks between Dorna, the Superbike teams and the manufacturers involved in the series failed to make much headway. The factories could not agree among themselves what level of modification to allow, while the teams were unimpressed by Dorna's demands that a WSBK machine should cost 250,000 euros a season, stating that the money saved in the bike would only be spent elsewhere.
Talks had continued at the IRTA test at Jerez, with Dorna's new World Superbike boss Javier Alonso present, and engaged in private discussions with the bosses of HRC, Shuhei Nakomoto, Yamaha Motor Racing, Shigeto Kitegawa, and Ducati Corse, Bernhard Gobmeier. MotoMatters.com has learned that since then, further telephone discussions have taken place with Kawasaki boss Ichiro Yoda and Suzuki's Shinichi Sahara, while Alonso had previously spoken to Aprilia Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna at the Jerez circuit, during their test there.
With just over a week to go to the start of the 2013 MotoGP season, it's time to take another trip down memory lane and get ourselves excited about this season's racing. Today, shots from MotoMatters.com star shooter Scott Jones taken at Jerez. Remember also to check out the special offers Scott has on signed photos, including riders such as Casey Stoner, Cal Crutchlow and Nicky Hayden. Not long to go now...
The Aspar organization launched their MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3 campaigns in Valencia on Tuesday, ahead of next week's season opener at Qatar. After the launch, they issued the following press releases:
The Marc VDS Racing team issued the following press release ahead of the Moto2 and Moto3 tests due to get underway at Jerez from Monday:
With the 2013 MotoGP season due to start in just four weeks' time, it's time to take a trip down memory lane and get ourselves excited about this season's racing. To do so, over the next few weeks, we will be running an occasional series of shots by MotoMatters.com star shooter Scott Jones, taken at some of the rounds he attended last season. His stunning photos are a reminder of why we love motorcycle racing so much. Remember also to check out the special offers Scott has on signed photos, including riders such as Casey Stoner, Cal Crutchlow and Nicky Hayden. Not long to go now...
Marc VDS Boss Michael Bartholémy Interview: On Scott Redding, Livio Loi, And What Went Wrong With Ducati
As well as speaking to Scott Redding about his aims for 2013 at the Marc VDS launch in Belgium, we also had the opportunity to interview Marc VDS Racing boss Michael Bartholémy. The German-speaking Belgian had a lot to say on his expectations, not just for Scott Redding and Mika Kallio in Moto2 this year, but also of the high hopes he has for Livio Loi, the 15-year-old Belgian youngster who will be racing in Moto3 for the team.
But perhaps most interesting of all, Bartholémy talked openly about what went wrong in the team's negotiations with Ducati last year. Through the middle part of 2012, it looked as if Marc VDS Racing was in the running to be managing the Ducati Junior team, with Scott Redding on one of the two satellite Ducati Desmosedicis. It did not work out, leaving Redding racing in Moto2 for another season. Bartholémy explains why. The Marc VDS boss also gives his vision on the production racers likely to be introduced for 2014, and how they affect the team's plans for next season. The interview follows after the jump: