MotoGP World Championship Grand Prix 2013
Repsol Honda RC213V rider Marc Marquez qualified second for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix, further extending Honda’s record of front-row starts at every race this year, after two days of practice and qualifying when the riders only went out on track once, and all free practice was cancelled.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa qualified fourth, to lead the second row; Alvaro Bautista (FUN&GO Honda Gresini RC213V Honda) heads the third row in seventh position, with Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda RC213V) alongside. Bryan Staring (FUN&GO Honda Gresini FTR Honda) placed 24th on his CRT-category machine.
Times were set in a single qualifying session extended to one hour and 15 minutes, after foul weather conditions on the periphery of Typhoon Francisco caused all Friday sessions to be cancelled, and also the scheduled final free practices on Saturday.
The track was streaming as heavy rain continued to fall, but the major cause of cancellation was indirect: the essential medevac helicopter was officially grounded under strict Japanese aviation regulations, because low cloud cover at the hilltop circuit cut visibility below safe limits. With the official hospital more than one hour away by road, Race Direction kept competitors grounded as well, because of the risk of being unable to provide quick treatment in the case of serious injury.
The delays and repeated rescheduling tested the patience of riders and fans alike. Finally the green light came after mid-day on Saturday, with all three classes having just one session – 75 minutes for MotoGP, 55 minutes for Moto2 and Moto3,
Marquez moved up to second on a drying track in the closing stages, to start alongside pole qualifier and title rival Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha).
This is a crucial race for the championship fight between the two Spaniards. Defender Lorenzo clawed back a significant 25 points one week ago in Australia, when Marquez scored zero points after he was disqualified for a technical infringement. With serious tyre-life issues, the race featured a compulsory pit stop and bike change for the first time in grand prix history. A misunderstanding of the instructions meant the championship leader missed the prescribed pit-stop window. The penalty was severe: a black flag and disqualification.
It was the first serious set-back to the 20-year-old class rookie’s stunning first season in the premier class. Marquez won the Moto2 championship last year having previously claimed the 125 crown; and adapted instantly to the much more powerful and specialised V4 Honda RC213V. The first of six wins came at only the second round, and before the Australian debacle Marquez has finished on the rostrum at every race but one.
He arrived in Australia with a points advantage of 43 and the possibility of becoming the youngest ever World Champion. But he left for Japan – third of three flyaway races on successive weekends – with his lead cut to 18 points, with a maximum of 50 still available.
Marquez will be youngest-ever champion if he extends that advantage to more than 25 points tomorrow … he needs to win, and for Lorenzo to finish no higher than third. Failing that, the fight will continue to the final round at Valencia in Spain in two weeks.
Pedrosa will also have his sights set on Lorenzo, in his own interests. The 28-year-old former 125 and double 250 champion is still in touch for second overall, only 16 points adrift. He has won at Motegi for the past two years, and a third win at the Honda-owned circuit would narrow the gap still further.
Pedrosa added a third win this season in Malaysia three weeks ago, following it up with second in Australia as his return to full strength maintains momentum. He missed the Motegi front row by three thousandths of a second
The older Repsol Honda RC213V rider led on points earlier in the season, but fractured his collarbone at round eight in Germany, missing that race, and hampered over the next rounds, though he did claim two more second places while still recovering. A further set-back came at round 14 at Aragon, when a minor collision with his team-mate freakishly disabled his crucial electronics, and he crashed out while challenging for the lead.
Pedrosa has been on the top-three podium at every race he has finished bar three.
It is an important race also for seventh-placed Bautista. The Spanish former 125cc World Champion has a special role: race-developing Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, made by Japanese companies with close ties to Honda. As the only rider using this equipment he has no reference points: his and the team’s good progress in this task has seen a series of strong rides in the latter part of the season. He has not finished lower than seventh in the last ten races, with a best of fourth, and fifth places at the last two rounds.
Motegi marks a comeback ride for final RC213V rider Bradl, who has missed the past two races after sustaining ankle fractures in practice in Malaysia. Immediate surgery gave hopes he might return the next weekend in Australia, but after a brave attempt in the first free practice, he was ruled out. Another week of intensive physiotherapy meant he was passed fit to ride in Japan. His two missed races allowed Bautista to move ahead, to sixth overall, but only 12 points ahead.
Bryan Staring is approaching the end of his first grand prix season, riding the Honda CBR1000RR-powered CRT bike. He has scored points as he adapts to the machine and learns new circuits, but today his time was outside the 107 percent-of-pole cut-off point for qualification. Due to the extraordinary circumstances, however, the team hoped he might be allowed to start.
Moto2’s single qualifying session was the last of the day, run on a drying track as sun broke through for the first time all weekend, reinforcing hopes of good race-day weather. Close and reliable racing is a given for the all-Honda powered class, with all riders using identical race-tuned Honda CBR600 engines supplied sealed by the organizers.
Although it was never dry enough for riders to use slick tyres, conditions improved throughout the session, yielding a somewhat different front row.
Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) claimed a career-first pole position, only his second front-row start this season. The Finnish rider has taken one race win and two more podium finishes so far this year.
Belgian racer Xavier Simeon (Maptaq SAG Zelos Team Kalex) took second place, two-tenths slower than Kallio. This was his second front row start of the season having claimed pole position in round eight at The Sachsenring earlier this year. France’s Johann Zarco (Came Iodaracing Project Suter) sits alongside alongside, his third time this year on the front row.
Italian Simone Corsi (NGM Mobile Racing Speed Up) headed row two from Rafid Topan Sucipto (QMMF Racing Team Speed Up), a career best for the Indonesian racer.
With his team-mate Esteve Rabat sixth, new championship leader Pol Espargaro (Tuenti HP40 Pons Kalex) was pushed down to lead the third row in seventh.
Dominique Aegerter (Technomag carXpert Suter) came through in the closing stages for eighth. Danny Kent (Tech 3) was ninth; Mattia Pasini (NGM Mobile Racing Speed Up) completed the top ten.
All eyes were on English rider Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex), making an heroic return one week after breaking his wrist in practice for the last round at Phillip Island. Missing the race meant he lost a long-standing World Championship lead to Espargaro, by 16 points. Redding underwent same-day surgery, with a plate and six screws to repair the fracture. Determined not to give away the title easily, he was passed fit to ride at Motegi, and qualified 15th.
The Moto3 class sees Honda-powered machines pitted against rival factories – and the single 55-minute practice session gave riders a chance to show the strength of the well-balanced design. Five Honda riders placed in the top ten, with the next-best 12th. The best of them only missed a front-row start by tenths of a second.
That was Australian Jack Miller (Caretta Technology-RTG FTR Honda), who was in the top three until the closing minutes, and was caught up in traffic in his final attempt to get back for his first front-row start of the year.
Miller ended up fifth, at the head of a phalanx of fast Hondas. Isaac Vinales (Bimbo Ongetta-Centro Seta FTR Honda) was sixth, alongside on row two. Seventh and eighth were Niccolo Antonelli (GO&FUN Gresini Moto3 FTR Honda) and Japanese wild card Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia Honda), heading row three. Second wild card Sena Yamada (Team Plus One & Endurance Honda) led the fourth, tenth-fastest, after showing the regulars the way in the early stages.
Hyuga Watanabe (La Fonte Tascaracing FTR Honda) was 12th, but usual front-runner Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold FTR Honda) was 20th, with John McPhee (Caretta Technology-RTG FTR Honda) 22nd, Lorenzo Baldassarri (GO&FUN Gresini Moto3 FTR Honda) 24th, Romano Fenati (San Carlo Team Italia FTR Honda) 26th, Alan Techer (CIP Moto3 TSR Honda) 27th, Hafiq Azmi (La Fonte Tascaracing FTR Honda) 28th, Matteo Ferrari (Ongetta-Centro Seta FTR Honda) 30th, Juanfran Guevara (CIP Moto3 TSR Honda) 33rd and Francesco Bagnaia (San Carlo Team Italia FTR Honda) 34th.
|1||Jorge LORENZO (Yamaha Factory Racing)|
|2||Marc MARQUEZ (Repsol Honda Team)|
|3||Nicky HAYDEN (Ducati Team)|
|4||Dani PEDROSA (Repsol Honda Team)|
|5||Valentino ROSSI (Yamaha Factory Racing)|
|6||Andrea DOVIZIOSO (Ducati Team)|
|7||Alvaro BAUTISTA (GO&FUN Honda Gresini)|
|8||Stefan BRADL (LCR Honda MotoGP)|
|9||Aleix ESPARGARO (Power Electronics Aspar)|
|10||Yonny HERNANDEZ (Ignite Pramac Racing)|
|11||Cal CRUTCHLOW (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)|
|12||Katsuyuki NAKASUGA (Yamaha YSP Racing Team)|
|13||Bradley SMITH (Monster Yamaha Tech 3)|
|14||Colin EDWARDS (NGM Mobile Forward Racing)|
|15||Andrea IANNONE (Energy T.I. Pramac Racing)|
|1||Mika KALLIO (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|2||Xavier SIMEON (Maptaq SAG Zelos Team)|
|3||Johann ZARCO (Came Iodaracing Project)|
|4||Simone CORSI (NGM Mobile Racing)|
|5||Rafid Topan SUCIPTO (QMMF Racing Team)|
|6||Esteve RABAT (Tuenti HP 40)|
|7||Pol ESPARGARO (Tuenti HP 40)|
|8||Dominique AEGERTER (Technomag carXpert)|
|9||Danny KENT (Tech 3)|
|10||Mattia PASINI (NGM Mobile Racing)|
|11||Alex MARIÑELARENA (Blusens Avintia)|
|12||Sandro CORTESE (Dynavolt Intact GP)|
|13||Thomas LUTHI (Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Racing)|
|14||Gino REA (Gino Rea Montaze Broz Racing)|
|15||Scott REDDING (Marc VDS Racing Team)|
|1||Alex RINS (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|2||Maverick VIÑALES (Team Calvo)|
|3||Alex MARQUEZ (Estrella Galicia 0,0)|
|4||Luis SALOM (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|5||Jack MILLER (Caretta Technology - RTG)|
|6||Isaac VIÑALES (Ongetta-Centro Seta)|
|7||Niccolò ANTONELLI (GO & FUN Gresini Moto3)|
|8||Hiroki ONO (Honda Team Asia)|
|9||Jonas FOLGER (Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3)|
|10||Sena YAMADA (Team Plus One & Endurance)|
|11||Jasper IWEMA (RW Racing GP)|
|12||Hyuga WATANABE (TASCA RACING)|
|13||Zulfahmi KHAIRUDDIN (Red Bull KTM Ajo)|
|14||Toni FINSTERBUSCH (Kiefer Racing)|
|15||Brad BINDER (Ambrogio Racing)|