MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix 2013
Repsol Honda RC213V rider Dani Pedrosa kept his head in an extraordinary Australian grand prix today to claim a valuable second place in a race that was shortened twice and run in a flurry of rule changes, black flags, penalties, and pit-lane mayhem in the first-ever grand prix with a compulsory mid-race change of motorcycle.
Unfortunately for second Repsol Honda RC213V rider Marc Marquez, he was one of three riders to suffer the black flag penalty, after missing the brief window for his compulsory pit stop.
Alvaro Bautista (GO & FUN Gresini Honda RC213V) was fifth, and with Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) ruled out by injury and Bryan Staring (GO & FUN Honda Gresini FTR Honda) also black-flagged, he was the only other Honda finisher in the premier class.
The “flag-to-flag" race rule was designed to allow bike changes if weather conditions should change mid-race. After high-level meetings by the controlling Grand Prix Commission followed by drastic revisions to the rule book, it was invoked as a compulsory measure at this race in response to a crisis in tire safety.
The 4.448-km track had been fully resurfaced, while conditions were unexpectedly warm. A combination of faster lap times and corner speeds, higher grip levels and higher temperatures than anticipated proved disastrous for the control tires in both the MotoGP and Moto2 classes. Suppliers Bridgestone (MotoGP) and Dunlop (Moto2) both informed Race Direction that due to severe overheating issues they could not guarantee the safety of their tires over full race distance. Surprisingly neither tire provider had tested at the circuit in preparation for racing on the relaid surface.
While the Moto2 race was all but halved, from 25 laps to 13, MotoGP elected to apply flag-to-flag rules to MotoGP, along with other strictures including compulsory use of the hardest tire option. Race distance cut from 27 laps to 22. Bridgestone had put their safety margin at 14 laps. Then after further issues in race-morning warm-up they cut it back still further to ten laps. Race distance was reduced once more, to 19 laps.
Pedrosa's tactics were perfect. Running a very close third to Lorenzo and Marquez from the start, he decided to pit one lap earlier than the others, to take advantage of a clear pit lane. Unfortunately he too suffered a penalty, being later obliged to drop one position on track after he was judged to have run over the pit-lane limit. He served this without losing much time, dropping behind Marquez.
After the change, his clear hopes of a second successive race win faded when his second bike lacked the extreme handling finesse of his first, and he was unable to push as hard as before.
He gained another 20 points as he demonstrates his return to top form and full strength, and regained a mathematical chance of winning the title.
Marquez was well-placed in the race, but for leaving his pit stop one lap too late, and looked certain of his 15th rostrum finish of the year as he ran with the leading pair … until the penalty was applied. It was the result of a team misunderstanding of the hastily rewritten rules, altered on race eve then again on race morning, over the method of counting the laps.
Disqualification meant a zero points score at a race where the 20-year-old Spaniard had a mathematical chance of securing the World Championship at his first attempt, and cut his lead over race winner Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) from 43 to 18 points. With two rounds remaining, he will have to be sure of strong results in Motegi and Valencia if he is to succeed in what, before this misfortune, seemed almost a certainty – becoming the youngest premier-class World Champion in history.
Bautista had another strong race, jousting throughout with the Yamahas of Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow. The three riders were changing places right up until the last lap, and the Spanish former 125cc World Champion's fifth place missed a top-three rostrum by less than two tenths of a second, as they flashed across the line all but line abreast.
Bautista is the only rider to use Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, in his role as race-developer for the Japanese companies, closely associated with Honda. This position continues a strong run in the latter part of the season: this was his fourth time in fifth place in the last six races.
The all-Honda-powered Moto2 class, also run in dry conditions, was a frantic 13-lap sprint, with no room for tactics. This made for an even more hectic battle than usual, in a class where close and reliable racing is ensured, with all competitors furnished with identical race-tuned Honda CBR600 engines by the organizers, fitted into full-race prototype chassis.
Crucially for the championship, pre-race points leader Scott Redding was absent. The British Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider was eliminated after a heavy crash in qualifying yesterday. He broke his wrist and underwent immediate corrective surgery, but is a doubtful starter also for next weekend's Japanese GP.
Spanish star Pol Espargaro (Tuenti HP 40 Pons Kalex) had closed to within nine points of Redding in the title charts, and now took over the championship lead with a determined start-to-finish victory. He now leads the championship with 240 points to Redding's 224, with his Tuenti HP 40 Pons Kalex team-mate Esteve Rabat still in with a mathematical chance on 204.
Espargaro was obliged to fend off a strong early attack from Alex De Angelis (NGM Mobile Forward Racing Speed Up), who later set a new lap record. In the closing laps came another fierce attack from Thomas Luthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Suter).
Luthi crossed the line just over half-a-second adrift for his best result of the year, himself fending off a last-lap attack from German GP winner Jordi Torres (Aspar Team Moto2 Suter), less than a tenth behind. Simone Corsi (NGM Mobile Racing Speed Up) was almost as close to him, with De Angelis on his back wheel, and the top five covered by 1.1 seconds.
Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert Suter) lost touch in the final stages in sixth while battling with Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex), who finished less than two-tenths behind.
Rabat came back to eighth, after running off the track and dropping out of the leading group, while holding third place, putting two-race winner Nico Terol (Aspar Team Moto2 Suter) ninth.
Australian rider Anthony West (QMMF Racing Team Speed Up) fought through to tenth in a crowd-pleasing ride after finishing the first lap in 20th. Moto3 champion Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex) Ricard Cardus (NGM Mobile Forward Racing Speed Up). Danny Kent (Tech 3), Gino Rea (Argiñano & Gines Racing Speed Up) and Doni Tata Pradita (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Suter) claimed the remaining points.
The Moto3 race was the only one of the day to run to full scheduled distance, set at 23 laps. In a class where Honda-powered machines are up against rival factories in a variety of prototype chassis, the top Honda rider Jack Miller came heartbreakingly close to a first rostrum finish. The Australian finished fifth in a tight pack, but less than three-quarters of a second off third place, and only six tenths behind the winner. The top seven places were covered by just 1.1 seconds.
Miller (Caretta Technology-RTG FTR Honda) had played a popular role in a lead group that was eight-strong for much of the race, moving up to third in the closing stages. He was still pushing out of the last corner, but lost out in the run to the finish line.
The usual gang of Spanish KTM riders dominated the rostrum, with Alex Rins winning by inches from Maverick Vinales and Luis Salom. Rins closed to within five points of long-time title leader Salom, with Vinales another 17 behind, ensuring an exciting championship finale.
Niccolo Antonelli (GO & FUN Gresini Moto3 FTR Honda) narrowly lost touch with the leading group to finish eighth.
Honda riders played a strong role in a fearsome battle for the next title points, the gap from ninth to 18th place only just over two-and-a-quarter seconds, with places changing corner by corner. Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold FTR Honda) was tenth; Isaac Vinales (Ongetta-Centro Seta FTR Honda) 13th, Romano Fenati (San Carlo Team Italia FTR Honda) 14th, and John McPhee (Caretta Technology-RTG FTR Honda) just out of the points in 17th.
The next race is the Japanese GP at the Honda-owned Twin Ring Motegi circuit, in one week, with the season finale a fortnight later at Valencia in Spain.
|1||Jorge LORENZO (Yamaha Factory Racing)|
|2||Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)|
|3||Valentino ROSSI (Yamaha Factory Racing)|
|4||Cal CRUTCHLOW (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)|
|5||Alvaro BAUTISTA (GO&FUN Honda Gresini)|
|6||Bradley SMITH (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)|
|7||Nicky HAYDEN (Ducati Team)|
|8||Andrea IANNONE (Energy T.I. Pramac Racing)|
|9||Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)|
|10||Randy DE PUNIET (Power Electronics Aspar)|
|11||Aleix ESPARGARO (Power Electronics Aspar)|
|12||Colin EDWARDS (NGM Mobile Forward Racing)|
|13||Yonny HERNANDEZ (Ignite Pramac Racing)|
|14||Hector BARBERA (Avintia Blusens)|
|15||Danilo PETRUCCI (Came IodaRacing Project)|
|1||Pol ESPARGARO (Tuenti HP 40)|
|2||Thomas LUTHI (Interwetten Paddock Moto2)|
|3||Jordi TORRES (Aspar Team Moto2)|
|4||Simone CORSI (NGM Mobile Racing)|
|5||Alex DE ANGELIS (NGM Mobile Forward Racing)|
|6||Dominique AEGERTER (Technomag carXpert)|
|7||Mika KALLIO (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|8||Esteve RABAT (Tuenti HP 40)|
|9||Nicolas TEROL (Aspar Team Moto2)|
|10||Anthony WEST (QMMF Racing Team)|
|11||Sandro CORTESE (Dynavolt Intact GP)|
|12||Ricard CARDUS (NGM Mobile Forward Racing)|
|13||Danny KENT (Tech 3)|
|14||Gino REA (Argiñano & Gines Racing)|
|15||Doni Tata PRADITA (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2)|
|1||Alex RINS (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|2||Maverick VIÑALES (Team Calvo)|
|3||Luis SALOM (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|4||Alex MARQUEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|5||Jack MILLER (Caretta Technology - RTG)|
|6||Jonas FOLGER (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3)|
|7||Efren VAZQUEZ (Mahindra Racing)|
|8||Niccolò ANTONELLI (GO & FUN Gresini Moto3)|
|9||Niklas AJO (Avant Tecno)|
|10||Alexis MASBOU (Ongetta-Rivacold)|
|11||Zulfahmi KHAIRUDDIN (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|12||Jakub KORNFEIL (Redox RW Racing GP)|
|13||Isaac VIÑALES (Ongetta-Centro Seta)|
|14||Romano FENATI (San Carlo Team Italia)|
|15||Brad BINDER (Ambrogio Racing)|