Photography by Gold & Goose
Spain’s domination of Motorcycle Grand Prix racing was on full display in Barcelona Sunday as Spaniards Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Marq Marquez finished one-two-three, much to the delight of the 90,000-plus partisan fans at the Circuit de Catalunya.
It was a commanding win for Yamaha’s Lorenzo, even though the Repsol Honda pair of Pedrosa and Marquez stayed close for much of the race. Lorenzo made an aggressive start, took the lead, managed his tires on the hot racing surface and then turned in a set of perfect laps three-quarters of the way through to open a gap. In the end it was Lorenzo winning his third race of the season and pulling to within seven points of leader Pedrosa in the standings.
The early going was hectic. Lorenzo launched perfectly and then sealed the great start by braking late into turn one to hold the lead over factory Honda teammates Pedrosa and Marquez, who made a great jump from the second row.
Things went wrong in turn 10 where Álvaro Bautista crashed the Gresini Honda in a classic low-side, very nearly taking out Valentino Rossi in the process, in what might have been a repeat of Mugello. Simultaneously Michele Pirro and Michael Laverty ran off into the turn 10 gravel trap. Pirro was able to re-enter the race. Then a lap or so later Randy de Puniet was out with engine problems on his Aspar Racing ART., followed by Andrea Iannone, a victim of turn 10, low-siding the Pramac Ducati.
It marked a very high attrition rate so early in the race and it would continue.
Up front five laps in and it was still a close battle between the top five with Lorenzo leading Pedrosa, Marquez, Cal Crutchlow and Rossi. Fourth-placed Crutchlow then crashed out his Monster Energy Tech 3 Yamaha on lap six, suffering his first DNF of the season.
American Nicky Hayden was the rider on the move. After a poor start the factory Ducati rider rallied and was making his way through the field. Hayden was on the charge and had just passed Stefan Bradl for fifth when he too became yet another victim of turn 10, crashing on lap six just as he was entering the sweeping left-hander on the brakes. The former world champ was up and okay, hitting the fence with his fist in frustration as he walked away from what might have been his best race of the season.
The rest of the race was a battle of the three Spaniards, as Rossi fell off the pace of the leaders.
The top trio ran very close, the race seemingly percolating for a boil at the end. With about seven laps to go however Lorenzo found a little extra in his Yamaha and was able to establish the first gap of the race. Once he saw an opening he went in for the kill and his lead went from mere tenths to nearly two seconds with three laps to go. He finished with a margin of victory of 1.763 seconds.
For nearly the entire final third of the race Marquez was trying to find an opening on his teammate. With two to go he tried to force the issue, went extremely late in a turn, tried to go inside Pedrosa and almost hit the rear of the Pedrosa’s bike. Marquez grabbed a big handful of front brake to keep from hitting mid-turn, his front wheel tucked. He quickly saved it, but totally lost his drive.
It looked as if Marquez had no shot at second at that point, but the rookie sensation gathered it back and charged again to the rear wheel of Pedrosa in the final set of turns, but came up just short at the line by six-thousandths of a second.
Rossi came home a lonely fourth, five seconds behind the leaders, but over 20 seconds ahead of Bradl.
With the high attrition (Lukas Pesek and Hector Barbera crashed with Pesek re-entering and Karel Abraham pitting with mechanical problems) many riders scored their top finishes of the year, including Bradley Smith, who took sixth on the Tech 3 Yamaha in spite of racing with a badly injured finger.
American Colin Edwards scored his best ever CRT finish, taking ninth on the NGM Mobile Forward Racing FTR Kawasaki. It marked his first top-10 result since 2011 when he was part of Tech 3 Yamaha.
For winner Lorenzo, he said the late spring heat at Catalunya made it the most difficult race of the year so far.
“It was very difficult because this was the hottest race,” said Lorenzo, as he wipe sweat from his brow in the press conference. “Physically it was very tough. Very tough to stay focused and not lose your concentration. I made a better start than I expected. I wanted to overtake Cal, but also took Dani in the first corner. And then I just tried to keep my rhythm… my pace and to stay focused and not make any mistakes. Dani was there always – 0.3, 0.5. He never gave up. Only in the last five laps I put up a little gap like at Mugello and I won this special race in front of my people.”
Pedrosa thought his race was under control, but when he tried to push he found issues.
“At the beginning of the race I was quite OK and just trying to let the laps come down,” said the series leader. “I was riding smooth, but when I try to push to be a little closer and step up a little bit the rhythm I start to feel like the front tire was giving up in almost every corner.”
For Marquez it was another case of the exciting rookie try maybe too hard to pass Pedrosa and coming oh so close to going over the edge.
“On the last two laps I tried to attack him, but on the wrong place,” said Marquez of his attempt to get by Pedrosa. “I did a big mistake, but any way I tried again on the last lap, but wasn’t close enough. I’m happy because we struggled a lot, but I’m still standing on the podium.”
Assen and the Dutch TT is up next for MotoGP on June 29.
Catalunya MotoGP, Sunday, June 16, 2013:
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yam).
2. Dani Pedrosa (Hon).
3. Marc Marquez (Hon).
4. Valentino Rossi (Yam).
5. Stefan Bradl (Hon).
6. Bradley Smith (Yam).
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Duc).
8. Aleix Espargaro (ART).
9. Colin Edwards (FTR Kaw).
10. Michele Pirro (Duc).
11. Danilo Petrucci (Ioda-Suter).
12. Claudio Corti (FTR Kaw).
13. Yonny Hernandez (ART).
14. Bryan Staring (FTR Hon).
15. Javier del Amor (FTR).
16. Lukas Pesek (Ioda-Suter).
Randy de Puniet