Photography by Gold & Goose
The one thing Marc Marquez’ competitors hung there hopes on coming into Laguna Seca was that the rookie might be perplexed by the unique and hard-to-learn classic American circuit, but no such luck. Marquez handled the circuit and the race brilliantly, patiently following early leader and pole winner Stefan Bradl for 20 laps before making a decisive move outbraking Bradl into the last turn and then methodically pulling away to a 2.298 second margin of victory.
The victory not only extended the lead for Marquez in the world championship standings to 16 points over Dani Pedrosa, it also solidified the notion at the halfway mark of the season that the 20-year-old Repsol Honda rider is beginning to get comfortable with the idea of being world champion in his rookie campaign. The fact is MotoGP heads to its summer break with the young Spaniard leading and pulling away in the championship.
Marquez becomes the first rider to win in his MotoGP debut at Laguna Seca and the youngest rider ever to win back to back Grand Prix races.
American fans were delighted to see living legend Valentino Rossi turn in a very strong result, finishing on the podium and holding off a determined Alvaro Bautista in the closing laps to earn the spot. The podium result moved Rossi past Crutchlow to fourth in the standings.
Cutchlow had a sub-par outing in seventh.
Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo did their part to stay in the championship battle. Both rode injured from crashes in the previous round in Germany, but managed strong finishes in fifth and sixth respectively.
Americans Nicky Hayden and Colin Edwards both had Laguna races they could be proud of. Hayden beat out Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso for eighth in a hard-fought last few laps that saw the riders coming together in some of the hardest racing between teammates in MotoGP this season. It was sweet revenge of sorts for Hayden, who was told this week he would not be asked back to the factory Ducati squad for 2014.
Edwards scored 12th, fittingly his best result of the season on his FTR Kawasaki. He finished just behind first CRT finisher Hector Barbera and Pramac Ducati’s Alex De Angelis, who was sitting in for the still injured American Ben Spies.
The race started with Bradl leading Rossi into the first turn. Marquez stayed clean and emerged third while battling Lorenzo and Bautista.
Michael Laverty and Claudio Corti were the first riders out with crashes on lap three.
The most spectacular pass of the race came on lap five when Marquez made his move in the Corkscrew on Rossi. It was reminiscent of the famous pass Rossi made on Stoner in 2008. Marquez came around the outside entering the plunging downhill switchback only to find Rossi running hot into the corner and forcing Marquez wide, off the track and over the track’s edge strips to complete the pass for second.
From there Marquez shaved Bradl’s narrow lead, but once on Bradl’s LCR Honda’s tailpiece Marquez just waited patiently to see if the German, who had never led a MotoGP for so long, would make an error. Bradl was solid under the relentless pressure, but finally on lap 20 the inevitable happened when Marquez made the classic Laguna pass, going inside on the brakes in the final turn to take the point. From there he smoothly pulled away to victory.
Bradl, the former Moto2 world champ, came home second earning his first MotoGP podium.
Rossi stubbornly refused to give up the final podium spot to Bautista, who in the midst of silly season must have been quite desperate for a podium result.
American Blake Young was due to make his second wild-card appearance of the year with Attack Performance Racing, but withdrew after heavy damage to the bike on Friday.
Marquez was well pleased and somewhat relieved after his effort in his first visit to Laguna Seca.
“I expected that I would be struggling,” Marquez admitted of his fears of facing Laguna for the first time. “I expected I would be struggling more because from the TV it looks so tricky, this circuit, but from FP1 I feel so good. And OK, it takes time to learn where are the bumps and everything. Yesterday I find another bump in corner eight where I crashed.
“But anyway today in the race was so good. In the beginning with full tank I was a little bit scary, because you know; with all the bumps it was too easy to lose the front. But I take it then I try to go in front. First I overtake Valentino then I catch Bradl. I stay some laps there and when remain 12 laps more or less I try to pass him and try to open some gap.
“I’m very, very happy because new circuit, we get 25 points so I’m very happy because now it’s coming to summertime and it’s so good to go with that result.”
Bradl seemed pleased to score second, even though he led more than half the race.
“It’s a great result for us,” Bradl said. “We did a good job all over the weekend. Of course the expectations were high after the pole position yesterday, but I knew I had good speed. I knew that I can be fast from the beginning. I tried to push from the start and I think I did that very good. I knew Marc will have some good reference with me, but also I struggle a little bit. I thought the race speed would be a little higher, but also with the full fuel I got some problems with the front.
“Then when he (Marquez) catch me I see that he just had more edge grip on the tire. He could open some gap. I tried to manage the gap with Valentino, which was not easy. It was a long and tough race.”
Rossi seems to be making major strides in getting back to competitiveness. This was his third straight podium result and draws him ever closer to the battle for the championship.
“I am so happy about this podium,” said a beaming Rossi. “It is more positive and more important compared to Sachsenring, because here with the Yamaha we suffer a bit. It looks like we have some disadvantage compared to the Hondas. But I did a good race, with a good pace and I was the first Yamaha. I did a fantastic start, but I don’t have enough pace for stay with Stefan and also Marc make a great overtake. But anyway he was too fast for me.
“From that moment I have to do a great battle with Baustista that today was very strong. I always try, always try to push without making mistake. I had a big, big moment with the front where I pick up the bike with the elbow, so I think, ‘This is a sign. I have to go to podium if I don’t crash here.’ (laughs)
“At the end I have a lot of problem with the slow guys because no blue flag – I don’t know why. And I get a small gap on Alvaro, but Alvaro come back and we arrive on the last corner together, but anyway I am happy this is my third podium in a row. I am the first Yamaha and I’m happy about the race and the result.”
Now the series goes into a three-week summer break before returning to Indiana for the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix for round 10 of 18 on August 16-18. Going into the start of the second half of the season Marquez is leading 163-147 over Pedrosa. Lorenzo is a close third with 137 points and Rossi is coming into contention as well with 117 points to Crutchlow’s 116.
It is shaping up to be one of the most competitive MotoGP seasons in years.
MotoGP – Laguna Seca – Race Results – July 21, 2013
1. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 44m 0.695s
2. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) 44m 2.993s
3. Valentino Rossi ITA Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 44m 5.193s
4. Alvaro Bautista ESP Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 44m 5.252s
5. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 44m 9.952s
6. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 44m 13.665s
7. Cal Crutchlow GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 44m 15.999s
8. Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Team (GP13) 44m 34.658s
9. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (GP13) 44m 34.824s
10. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Blusens (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) 45m 3.064s
11. Alex De Angelis RSM Ignite Pramac Racing (GP13) 45m 3.299s
12. Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) 45m 4.288s
13. Danilo Petrucci ITA Came IodaRacing Project (Suter-BMW CRT) 45m 21.145s
14. Karel Abraham CZE Cardion AB Motoracing (ART CRT) +1 lap
15. Yonny Hernandez COL Paul Bird Motorsport (ART CRT) +1 lap
16. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Avintia Blusens (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) +1 lap
17. Bryan Staring AUS Go&Fun Honda Gresini (FTR-Honda CRT) +l lap
18. Lukas Pesek CZE Came IodaRacing Project (Suter-BMW CRT) +1 lap
Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) DNF
Aleix Espargaro ESP Power Electronics Aspar (ART CRT) DNF
Randy De Puniet FRA Power Electronics Aspar (ART CRT) DNF
Claudio Corti ITA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) DNF
Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART CRT) DNF