MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix 2013
Honda's full house of front-row starts was extended at Phillip Island today, when championship leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda RC213V) bounced back unhurt from a low-speed morning tumble to qualify second fastest.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa was fifth in the middle of the second row in a bunch riders with very close times. The winner of the Malaysian GP the week before missed the front row by a tenth of a second, and was only three-hundredths off the lap time set by on-form Alvaro Bautista (Team GO&FUN Honda Gresini RC213V), heading the second rank with fourth fastest time in qualifying.
Defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo claimed pole, only the third this year for the Yamaha rider; while team-mate Valentino Rossi was third, to complete row one.
This is an important race for both Repsol Honda team-mates But there are many uncertainties, including the possibility of a change in the weather after two all-dry practice days. The climate at the scenic seaside circuit is notoriously fickle, and the race of the day takes place two hours later than usual, with the start at 4 pm.
There is also a question of tire endurance on the grippy new surface of the 4.448-km circuit, where lap times have dropped considerably. In MotoGP, there has been an unprecedented change to the rules requiring that all riders must pit to change bikes at least once in a shortened race, cut from 27 laps to 22. No rider may do more than 14 consecutive laps, while all are required to use the hardest available compound option. The decision came after control tire suppliers Bridgestone informed Race Direction they were “unable to guarantee safety of their rear slick tires beyond 14 laps”, according to an official statement. “Flag-to-flag” races normally only take place in response to changing weather conditions.
Control tire suppliers to Moto2, Dunlop, have similar problems, and race distance has been all but halved, from a planned 25 laps to just 13.
For Marquez, victory tomorrow would mean a historic maiden World Championship win in the most prestigious category of MotoGP racing, as long as his last remaining rival Lorenzo finishes lower than second. It would be the first by a premier-class rookie in more than 30 years. The fast-rising Spaniard would also become the youngest-ever world champion, still aged just 20.
The reigning Moto2 champion and former 125 champion has made a blistering start to his MotoGP career, showing an immediate affinity to his 1000cc V4 Repsol Honda RC213V. His first win came at only the second round of the series, and since then he has added five more, including a purple patch of four in a row while his major rivals suffered from injuries. On the rostrum at all but one other race (he crashed in Italy), he has amassed an almost unassailable point total of 298 points, with only Lorenzo on 255 mathematically able to catch him.
His spectacular style has won him an army of new fans, while his overtaking techniques have left established riders shaking their heads. He was second last weekend in Malaysia, behind team-mate Pedrosa.
Pedrosa’s target is also Lorenzo, for his own reasons. His clear victory in Malaysia last Sunday not only signalled his return to full strength and top form. It also brought him within 11 points of Lorenzo for second overall.
The 28-year-old Spaniard led on points earlier in the season, only losing that position with a disastrous crash in practice for the German GP, round eight. It ruled him out of that race, and left him nursing a fractured collarbone for the next rounds. A further issue with bike settings was solved at tests after the San Marino & Rimini GP, and he came back strong at the next round at Aragon … only to fall innocent victim to a freak misfortune. A light brush from his team-mate severed an electronic connection, disabling the vital traction-control system and triggering a crash as soon as he opened the throttle.
His clear win at the next round in Sepang was his first revenge against the fates, and he will be seeking more in tomorrow’s race, after setting fastest time in the final free practice session.
Qualified marginally ahead of Pedrosa, Bautista again underlined his improving form in the latter part of the season, as he and his team get to grips with his exclusive use of Showa suspension and Nissin brakes. The Spaniard is working alone to race-develop the Japanese components, made by companies with close associations with Honda. Strong progress in this task means that the former 125cc World Champion has finished out of the top six only once in the last eight races.
His team-mate Bryan Staring (GO&FUN Honda Gresini FTR Honda) was enjoying intimate circuit knowledge of one of the few tracks he has prior experience of as he contests his first grand prix season. The Australian is also making progress with getting the most out of his Honda CBR1000RR-powered CRT bike, and qualified 21st, but only one second off 16th.
Honda ranks were depleted by the withdrawal after the first practice session of German Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda RC213V). Bradl suffered a fractured right ankle in a freak crash in Malaysia the weekend before, underwent immediate surgery, and tried for a prompt return, but found the injury made it impossible to continue.
Drama in the all-Honda-powered Moto2 qualifying session came in a series of accidents, the first of which brought out the red flags as Thai rider Thitipong Warokom (Thai Honda PTT Gresini Moto2 Suter) was stretchered away, fortunate to escape major injury. Leading riders Esteve Rabat (Tuenti HP40 Pons Kalex), Mika Kallio and title leader Scott Redding (both Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) all fell, with Redding also stretchered off the track for medical examination to a potentially costly wrist injury.
Redding was taken to Melbourne where a detailed examination of his left wrist revealed a fracture that has ruled him out of tomorrow’s race.
Redding was already in danger of losing the points lead he has held for most of the season, with rival Pol Espargaro (Tuenti HP40 Pons Kalex) closing to within nine points after finishing second to team-mate Rabat in Malaysia last weekend. No date has, or could be, set for Redding’s return to racing. However, should he miss just one race his hopes of taking the Moto2 title now depend upon Espargaro, and possibly Rabat, failing to score points in one of the three remaining races!
Competitive and reliable racing is guaranteed in Moto2, with the organizers supplying all riders with identical race-tuned Honda CBR600 engines; but tomorrow’s radically shortened race stands to be even more spectacular than usual. Concerns about tire life prompted Race Direction to cut race distance by almost half, turning it into a 13-lap sprint and making qualifying positions all the more important.
Rabat’s crash cost him the chance to reclaim the fastest time as team-mate Espargaro took his fifth pole of the season by 0.018 of a second. The final front row position went to Jordi Torres (Aspar Team Moto2 Suter). His lap time was identical to the nearest thousandth of a second to that set by Alex de Angelis (NGM Mobile Forward Racing Speed Up), but he was awarded the position because his second-best lap time was better.
Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Suter), Kallio, Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex), Nico Terol (Aspar Team Moto2 Suter), Mattia Pasini (NGM Mobile Forward Racing Speed Up) and Redding completed the top ten.
In the Moto3 class, Honda-powered machines again showed strength in practice and qualifying, at a track of fast corners and high rhythm that plays to their strengths. Honda is up against rival factories in the smallest class, where 250cc four-stroke engines operate under strict technical restrictions.
Four Honda riders were in the top 12, with Isaac Vinales (Bimbo Ongetta-Centro-Seta FTR Honda) the best of them, claiming sixth place to start on the second row … the Spanish teenager’s best so far.
An all-Honda row four is led by Australian Jack Miller (Caretta Technology-RTG FTR Honda) from Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold FTR Honda) and Niccolo Antonelli (GO&FUN Gresini Moto3 FTR Honda). Miller currently leads Masbou by 11 points in their battle to be top Honda overall in the championship.
San Carlo Team Italia FTR Honda rider Romano Fenati qualified 17th, one place ahead of Alan Techer (CIP Moto3 TSR Honda), with John McPhee (Caretta Technology-RTG FTR Honda) 19th.
Fenati’s team-mate Francesco Bagnaia was 22nd, Matteo Ferrari (Ongetta-Centro Seta FTR Honda) 24th, then Lorenzo Baldassarri (GO&FUN Gresini Moto3 FTR Honda) 28th. Hyuga Watanabe (La Fonte Tascaracing FTR Honda) was 32nd, replacement-team-mate Hafiq Azmi 33rd, and wild card Lachlan Kavney (Bullet Racing Honda) 34th, with fellow wild card Callum Barker (McVey Racing Honda) unqualified.
|1||Jorge LORENZO (Yamaha Factory Racing)|
|2||Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)|
|3||Valentino ROSSI (Yamaha Factory Racing)|
|4||Alvaro BAUTISTA (GO&FUN Honda Gresini)|
|5||Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)|
|6||Cal CRUTCHLOW (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)|
|7||Bradley SMITH (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)|
|8||Nicky HAYDEN (Ducati Team)|
|9||Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)|
|10||Andrea IANNONE (Energy T.I. Pramac Racing)|
|11||Colin EDWARDS (NGM Mobile Forward Racing)|
|12||Randy DE PUNIET (Power Electronics Aspar)|
|13||Aleix ESPARGARO (Power Electronics Aspar)|
|14||Claudio CORTI (NGM Mobile Forward Racing)|
|15||Yonny HERNANDEZ (Ignite Pramac Racing)|
|1||Pol ESPARGARO (Tuenti HP 40)|
|2||Esteve RABAT (Tuenti HP 40)|
|3||Jordi TORRES (Aspar Team Moto2)|
|4||Alex DE ANGELIS (NGM Mobile Forward Racing)|
|5||Thomas LUTHI (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Racing)|
|6||Mika KALLIO (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|7||Sandro CORTESE (Dynavolt Intact GP)|
|8||Nicolas TEROL (Aspar Team Moto2)|
|9||Mattia PASINI (NGM Mobile Racing)|
|10||Scott REDDING (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|11||Xavier SIMEON (Maptaq SAG Zelos Team)|
|12||Johann ZARCO (Came Iodaracing Project)|
|13||Dominique AEGERTER (Technomag carXpert)|
|14||Simone CORSI (NGM Mobile Racing)|
|15||Takaaki NAKAGAMI (Italtrans Racing Team)|
|1||Luis SALOM (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|2||Jonas FOLGER (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3)|
|3||Efren VAZQUEZ (Mahindra Racing)|
|4||Maverick VIÑALES (Team Calvo)|
|5||Alex RINS (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|6||Isaac VIÑALES (Ongetta-Centro Seta)|
|7||Ana CARRASCO (Team Calvo)|
|8||Miguel OLIVEIRA (Mahindra Racing)|
|9||Zulfahmi KHAIRUDDIN (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|10||Jack MILLER (Caretta Technology - RTG)|
|11||Alexis MASBOU (Ongetta-Rivacold)|
|12||Niccolò ANTONELLI (GO & FUN Gresini Moto3)|
|13||Alex MARQUEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|14||Jakub KORNFEIL (Redox RW Racing GP)|
|15||Brad BINDER (Ambrogio Racing)|