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.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's thrilling races at Le Mans:
Race summary and results for Moto2:
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.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Le Mans:
Summary of qualifying and results for Moto2:
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 the first day of practice at Le Mans:
Scott Redding continues to dominate the Moto2 class at Le Mans, comfortably topping the second session of free practice in the afternoon. The young Englishman took the lead early in the session, then extended it to nearly three quarters of a second, before spending the rest of the session lapping faster than anyone else on track.
The sole exception was the man in second place, Thomas Luthi. The Interwetten rider chipped away at Redding's time, ending the session just under four tenths behind the Englishman. Luthi just pipped Julian Simon to second, finishing six thousandths ahead of the Spaniard, while Takaaki Nakagami ended FP2 in fourth. It was a tough session for Pol Espargaro, the Pons Tuenti HP 40 rider managing only the ninth fastest time, though the gap between ninth and fourth is small, less than two tenths of a second. Tito Rabat, championship leader and fourth fastest in the morning, ended the afternoon session in fourteenth.
Scott Redding has ended the first session of free practice for the Moto2 class at Le Mans firmly in charge of proceedings. The Marc VDS Racing rider seized control in the first fifteen minutes of the session, and kept the lead all the way to the end.
Redding was challenged by his main title rival Pol Espargaro, but the Pons Tuenti HP 40 rider stranded a tenth off Redding's time. Tom Luthi grabbed third spot, the Swiss rider now starting to recover from the horrific arm and shoulder injury he suffered during preseason testing, while Jerez winner Tito Rabat ended the session in fourth, just under half a second off the time of Redding. Two more Spaniards grabbed fifth and sixth, Nico Terol finishing ahead of Julian Simon.
Maverick Viñales has set out his statement of intent, topping the first session of free practice for the Moto3 class with a late charge. The Spaniard deposed both Alex Rins and Jonas Folger, after Folger had controlled the second half of practice. The session got underway with a few spots of rain, but, that soon cleared up and temperatures rose dramatically towards the end of practice, meaning times dropped.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's races at Le Mans:
Dorna Sports issued the following press release on the acquisition of the broadcast rights for MotoGP in the United Kingdom for the next five years. More information and full commentary will be released soon, but there are a few key details which are already known. Firstly, for details on how to receive BT Sport, see the BT Sport website. Secondly, although the commentary team is as yet unknown, the names of Julian Ryder and Keith Huewen are circulating, though this could of course be wishful thinking. Thirdly, it seems almost certain that British Eurosport will no longer provided delayed broadcast of the MotoGP races, as that deal was tied up with the BBC contract.
Below is the press release from Dorna:
BT Sport to bring MotoGP™ to British audiences from 2014
Dorna Sports announces today an agreement with BT Sport for the exclusive broadcast rights to the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship, starting from the 2014 season, to be shown across all its platforms in the UK and Ireland.