The word ‘unexpected’ would be an understatement for this race weekend at Valencia. Riders may have found it difficult but they sure gave the excitement that we enthusiasts wanted.
One just cannot afford to miss the Moto3 class, and if you do then you are missing something really spectacular. The drama started happening even before the lights went off for the Moto3 race. Jonas Folger may have turned around his season in to a success with the Aspar team but bad luck hasn’t just let him have the positive result that he deserves. It was a wet race and in the sighting lap his bike gave away due to some electrical issue, stalled in the middle and refused to start. He rushed back to the pits on a scooter but his bike was no where to be seen. By this time all the other riders had lined up on the grid. Apparently despite having the pole position, he would have started from last place or even from pit lane. Fortunately his bike started and he began the race from the pit lane.
Meanwhile the first lap was led by Louis Salom on a bright pink painted bike that one couldn’t have missed bike on the track such was the paint scheme. There was still the runner up position in Moto3 to be decided with Salom ahead of Maverick Vinales by 9 points. Salom had to finish the race ahead of Vinales or at least not that far behind him, to seal the second place and probably that fact made him more cautious in the race. He was dropping positions every other lap and was relegated to the third by lap 4. Moto2 2012 champion, Marc Marquez’s younger brother Alex Marquez had taken the second place but soon crashed out of the race. The conditions weren’t favourable to the riders, one momentary lapse in concentration would have caused a crash. Malaysian rider Fahmi Khairuddin didn’t have a great qualifying and started the race from 17th position but soon he was battling for lead along with 9 other riders, a spectacle probably only possible to see in Moto3.
Folger’s bad luck had the best of him and he retired about half way of the race. Moto3 2012 champion Sandro Cortese again showed his class, with his calm patient approach slowly took the lead. He was accompanied by the two riders who are joining the Mahindra Racing team next year, Efren Vazquez and Miguel Olivera but Vazquez’s mistake caused both of the riders to crash out.
Young South African rookie, Brad Binder found himself fighting for the podium and he sure gave a fight till the end. Last few laps saw the British rider Danny Kent, who was in the leading group, catching up with Cortese and also Khairuddin making up to 4th. Danny Kent had saved his cards till the last lap and eventually went past Cortese with a fantastic move in probably the most difficult corner of the track. In the same corner Khairuddin made a move on Brad Binder and finally sealed the final podium position. It was a heart break for Brad Binder as this would have been his first podium in grand prix racing. He will have his share of great result in coming years for sure.
Danny took his second win and Khairuddin celebrated his second podium after Sepang race. The runner up position in championship was taken by Louis Salom.
Coming to the Moto2 race there is only one rider to talk about and that is the Spanish prodigy, Moto2 2012 champion, Marc Marquez. We witnessed something special that is something before yesterday I didn’t think could be possible or at least only in the wildest dreams. Marquez had to start the race from the last place i.e. 33 due to a penalty put on him by the race direction following his dangerous riding on Friday. Before the race people were asking him whether he will try to tear through the field to get to the front the same way he did in Motegi, he said he wouldn’t take any risks that will endanger his upcoming MotoGP test with Repsol Honda team on Tuesday. Race started and the first corner was led by home boy Nico Terol, who now has a corner named after him. He was followed by Julian Simon. Soon Simon took over at the front and started build a comfortable distance. He looked to have no issues tackling the tricky conditions. The pole man, Pol Espargaro had a slight tumble and was relegated to 18th place.
While the other riders, Xavier Simeone, Simone Corsi, Johann Zarco, etc were crashing out something special was brewing up all this time. Marc Marquez, who might have told off-track that he wouldn’t take chances but on track it was altogether a different scenario. By the first corner he had made up almost to the 17th spot and by the end of first lap he was in the 11th position. Soon enough he was battling with Gino Rea for 3rd position. All this spectacle wasn’t without the obvious hard manoeuvres by Marquez. He had dashed Dominic Aegerter from behind at the end of the home straight which caused Dominic to lose the position to Marquez. Marquez apologized by raising his hand in the next corner, Dominic looked like he acknowledged Marquez’ gesture. Gino Rea who was following the two riders crashed out and rejoined the race. Marquez had Terol in his sight and by 20th lap he was in second place and was around 6 seconds behind the race leader, Julian Simon. Marquez wanted to finish his season with a win and guess that’s what was in his mind and had forgotten about his own previous decision of not taking any risks. Clocking lap times almost 1 second better than Simon, he caught up to him and finally took the lead and eventually the win. This result probably is every rider’s dream, starting from the last place and winning the race, but only some of the rider can actually do this. Marquez is the rider who did it yesterday. His lap progression through out the race was 33-11-9-6-2-1. Truly an astounding feat, we are fortunate enough to have witnessed such a thing. This is not the first time he has achieved this kind of feat. In 2010 he won the Estoril 125GP in similar conditions starting from the pit lane when he had a tumble in sighting lap.
It would be very interesting to see what he can do on a MotoGP bike. Upon asking about his moves, the top riders, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, acknowledge that he is a talented rider but has to calm down his approach. On the other hand Tech3 Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow has a different view, he is ok with Marquez’s aggressive riding style and believes there is nothing wrong in his style. Love him or hate him, he is here to stay and will probably win the title very soon. And to add to his talent, the kid loves taking the centre stage and enjoy’s all the glamour which was evident with his post race celebrations.
The Valencia MotoGP race can easily be marked as the most chaotic race of the season. After the two races already happening before MotoGP, the track was quickly drying and that posed a real question, whether to go with dry slick tyres or go with wet rain tyres initially and if need be come back to pits and get on the other bike with dry tyres. The race was declared a wet race which meant it was allowed to come to pits and change the tyres any time riders wanted. But going on dry tyres is a big gamble because if it starts raining again (which looked like it will) there is a big risk of crashing due to tyres not holding on to the slippery tarmac and probably destroying the bike ending the race right there. The other risk was to run on wet tyres on a dry tarmac, destroying the tyres and then coming back to change to slick ones which in turn would cause wasting too much time (usually it takes about 25-30 seconds to come back, change the bike and get back on the track).
After the sighting lap Jorge Lorenzo decided to take the big risk of starting the race with dry slick tyres. He wasn’t alone in this decision, Stefan Bradl also had decided the same. In the warm up lap at the last corner 4 riders, Dani Pedrosa, Cal Crutchlow, Nicky Hayden, Alvaro Bautista, realized that the track has become too dry to run on wet tyres. They came into the pits to switch bikes which meant they would have to start the race from pit lane and they did. Start of the race was surprising the least. Lorenzo didn’t have a great start probably spinning too much due to water on the starting grid. The first corner was led by Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia CRT. Valentino Rossi got a great start and he was up to 3rd. The track was drying too quickly to run on wet tyres, Stoner and Dovizioso decided to come in the pits and switch bikes. By lap 5 Rossi also followed the suite and switched but he could never get the bike working in dry.
Meanwhile Lorenzo started to pick up the pace, obviously his gamble had paid off and was covering ground very quickly. The four riders who started from pit lane didn’t get a good start as the pit lane was wet, nevertheless out of those 4, Nicky Hayden soon crashed out. Dani Pedrosa sacrificed his pole position and his gamble also paid off and started to pick positions fairly quickly.
The race soon turned chaotic with faster prototypes of Lorenzo and Pedrosa started lapping the slower CRTs and it posed risk of crashing out. Valencia is a difficult track in terms of overtaking especially with the much faster prototypes taking on much slower CRTs. The that thing everybody has been fearing all season had happened with Lorenzo, he crashed out spectacularly while trying to overtake James Ellision on a Aprilia CRT. Although the fault was on Lorenzo’s part but the fact that it happened due to slower CRT poses a serious question.
Dani on the hand kept his cool all through the race and kept going very patiently. It was very hard as a viewer also to keep a track who is racing with whom as the riders were getting lapped more than once. The worst was seeing the 9 time world champion, Valentino Rossi, getting lapped by Dani Pedrosa, Probably the worst nightmare for all the Rossi fans.
Eventually Dani took the win, today he outdid Marquez in a way by winning the race starting from pitlane. However the real surprise was the second place rider. He was none other than the replacement rider, Katsuyuki Nagasuka, in for injured Ben Spies. He rode a brilliant race having taken the similar gamble like Lorenzo, going with dry slick tyres. To add to Nagasuka’s great racing day, it was the day when his second kid had born, a special day for the rider indeed. A well deserved third place was taken by Casey Stoner and he ended his MotoGP career on a high. When he crossed the checkered flag his pit board was showing “Going Fishing” describing what he would be doing after he goes back to his home. Also we came to know later that he has been named as the 20th MotoGP Legend, not that Casey cares about it much. When asked about it post race test, he said he won’t be interested too much in it.
Aleix Espargaro finished as the top CRT of the season beating his own team mate Randy De Puniet. All through the season there were virtually two championship going on in one; one was won by Lorenzo and the other one, the top CRT title, was taken by Espargaro. CRTs might not have had much affect or importance on track but surely it had an affect on upcoming big rule changes in 2014 for MotoGP. Details of which we can discuss later.
Now that the racing season is over the action is certainly not over. Tuesday is the day when the riders will be testing their 2013 bikes and with so many riders jumping ship to different manufacturers it will be very interesting to see who does what. With Valentino Rossi getting back on his beloved bike, Yamaha M1, after his nightmare of two win less seasons with Ducati, the whole world will be watching eagerly of how he performs on Tuesday. Discussing all this would probably need a separate time.
For now congratulating all the three champions for the titles. Moto3 Champion, Sandro Cortese; Moto2 Champion, Marc Marquez; And finally MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo. Roll On!! 2013.