Photography by Gold and Goose

Jorge Lorenzo raced a brilliant race to win the final MotoGP of the season, but the spotlight was clearly on Marc Marquez, who did what he needed to do. Marquez ran a smart GP at Valencia and finished a safe third to wrap up the 2013 MotoGP Championship. The 20-year-old Honda rider rewrote the history books by becoming the youngest ever to win motorcycle racing’s most prestigious title and the first rookie to score the coveted title since Kenny Roberts in 1978.

Marquez hadn’t turned a cautious lap all season, but on this day, with so much on the line, the rookie showed veteran savvy and let his head, instead of his heart, control his throttle hand. Surely Marquez could have run up front and battled Lorenzo, but he stuck to plan and took the safest possible route to the championship. In the end the margin between him and Lorenzo was four points.

For his part Lorenzo did all he could reasonably do by keeping the race close, controlling the pace in the early laps, but in the end there were no shenanigans from the outgoing world champ. He was classy in relinquishing the title and simply rode to victory and let the cards fall where they may behind him. Lorenzo won over Pedrosa by 3.934 seconds. Marquez a conservative third, 7.3 seconds back. But while the end of the race played out like many thought it would, the first half of the Valencia finale was epic and featured a plethora of strategic moves and passes.

The tension on the grid was palpable and the crowd of 104,000 festive as the final race of the season roared off the line at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit. Lorenzo blasted off the line in on his Yamaha first with the Honda’s of Pedrosa and Marquez falling in behind in second and third. Pedrosa took over the lead at the end of the front straight, starting the second lap, but Lorenzo was right back around and the duo began a torrid battle for the lead, trading back and forth several times with Marquez sitting in waiting. Alvaro Bautista and Valentino Rossi rounded out the front grouping in the opening laps.

Lorenzo seemed to be using a strategy of keeping the pace down from the front, perhaps knowing that at times this year he would burn up his tires with too fast of an early pace. He also might have been hoping that Rossi or Cal Crutchlow could come up to help. He did an excellent job moving back in front of Pedrosa when the diminutive Spaniard would briefly take the lead. And Pedrosa was brilliant as well, running as a buffer between Lorenzo and his teammate Marquez.

After one particular overtake by Lorenzo Pedrosa could be seen shaking his head, but he had to understand that Lorenzo was going to do whatever he could within reason to retain his world championship. Both riders were being ultra-aggressive as MotoGP saw the most swapping of the lead as at any race this season.

Marquez, who has never played it safe throughout the year, finally seemed to realize the importance of the moment and in the first half of the race was uncharacteristically patient, letting his teammate do the dirty work up front.

Finally the battle broke up front with 21 laps to go. Pedrosa drafted his way to the front and Lorenzo aggressively moved inside forcing Pedrosa off the line. Pedrosa went high and slipped, losing several positions, back to fifth (the move by Lorenzo was later said to be under investigation by racing officials). Then Marquez took advantage of the chaos and went to the front. That made it a straight up battle in the front between the two title contenders and they began trading the lead. The cheers from the crowd nearly drowned out the sound of the motors.

Meanwhile Crutchlow crashed out of the race at the tail end of that lead group in his final ride with Tech 3 Yamaha. One of the potential munitions for Yamaha was out.

The second half of the race was much calmer. After trading punches with Marquez for the lead, Lorenzo put a small gap on the championship leader, while Pedrosa worked his way past Rossi and Bautista, but was now a couple of seconds back from the leader. Lorenzo actually got direction from his pits to slow down. The strategy of trying to control the pace to allow as many players mixing it up with Marquez was clear. But Lorenzo decided to have nothing of it.

In the closing laps it appeared that Lorenzo had worked out the equation and decided to just twist the throttle and win the race, serving up notice by winning the final three races that next year he would be fully ready to take up the battle again.

Lorenzo embraced Pedrosa in Parc fermé after the race, showing appreciation for the great battle the two waged all season.

“When came here this weekend, in my mind my strategy was to run away,” said the 2012 world champ Lorenzo. “But then this morning after the warm-up we make a meeting and we decided to change the strategy and try to slow down a little bit the race, in the first laps. For not regretting anything. For this we try this and then see what happens. The other riders, apart from our three, they were too slow to stay in the group. So I stay some laps trying to slow down the race with Dani especially, and also some times with Marc, taking so much risk, especially with Dani. But then when I looked behind and I see that the others were too far I thought to win this race to run away and that’s it. We tried our best to win another championship. I cannot regret. Today Marc is the winner. He deserved the win.”

For Marquez the championship was an overwhelming moment.

“It’s a dream that comes true,” said a beaming Marquez. “Maybe too early (he laughed) because I did it in the first season in MotoGP. Now I feel so good I cannot explain what I feel. In front of all our fans to fight with Jorge and Dani. That (to win against) one of the best riders in the history of MotoGP. Now I just want to say thanks to Honda, to all my team, to all the people who helped me, to my family because they are always there. I don’t know what else I can say because I feel so good.”

In addition to Marquez claiming the world title, Honda also won the prestigious Constructors Championship.

American Nicky Hayden finished eighth in his final ride with factory Ducati, outscoring his teammate Andrea Dovizioso for the third straight time to finish the season with a statement. Colin Edwards took 15th finishing the season the second ranked CRT rider.

Valencia MotoGP Results – Nov. 10, 2013
1. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 46m 10.302s
2. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 46m 14.236s
3. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 46m 17.659s
4. Valentino Rossi ITA Yamaha Factory Racing (YZR-M1) 46m 20.881s
5. Alvaro Bautista ESP Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 46m 25.267s
6. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) 46m 34.701s
7. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) 46m 39.345s
8. Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Team (GP13) 46m 50.195s
9. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (GP13) 47m 3.498s
10. Michele Pirro ITA Ducati Test Team (GP13) 47m 13.285s
11. Aleix Espargaro ESP Power Electronics Aspar (ART CRT) 47m 14.499s
12. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Blusens (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) 47m 17.128s
13. Claudio Corti ITA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) 47m 21.783s
14. Danilo Petrucci ITA Came IodaRacing Project (Suter-BMW CRT) 47m 23.945s
15. Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) 47m 34.551s
16. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Avintia Blusens (FTR-Kawasaki CRT) 47m 43.312s
17. Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (ART CRT) 1 lap
18. Luca Scassa ITA Cardion AB Motoracing (ART CRT) 1 lap
19. Bryan Staring AUS Go&Fun Honda Gresini (FTR-Honda CRT) 1 lap
20. Martin Bauer AUT Remus Racing Team (S&B Suter-BMW CRT) 1 lap
Andrea Iannone ITA Energy T.I. Pramac Racing (GP13) DNF
Randy De Puniet FRA Power Electronics Aspar (ART CRT) DNF
Cal Crutchlow GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) DNF
Yonny Hernandez COL Ignite Pramac Racing (GP13) DNF
Lukas Pesek CZE Came IodaRacing Project (Suter-BMW CRT) DNF
Damian Cudlin AUS Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART CRT) DNF

 

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