2013 MotoGP Qatar Preview

An article similar to this appears at Motorcycle.com, with some great images.  Here is the raw version.

Pedrosa, Marquez feeling it as the season begins 

When last we left our brave young men, they were engaged in a damp all-day Valenciana crashfest that saw eight riders exit the racing surface prematurely and allowed Yamaha factory test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga the feel good moment of the season with his easy second-place finish.  Starting the season under the lights of Doha, there appear to be four Aliens in 2013, as Casey Stoner has retired, for now, while rookie Marc Marquez joins returning alum Valentino Rossi in the premier class fast lane.  They, along with 2012 runner-up Dani Pedrosa, will set off under the lights on Sunday night in the hope of taking down two time champion Yamaha icon Jorge Lorenzo. 

Judging from the changes that have occurred in the field since last November, as well as the results of the off-season testing runs, it appears that the 24 bike premier class breaks fairly cleanly into several distinct gaggles:

The Aliens—Honda and Yamaha Factory studs Pedrosa, Marquez, Lorenzo and Rossi.  These four guys should account for 95% of the podium spots in 2013.  Rossi has something to prove after two years lollygagging on the Ducati.  Has he lost a step?  Probably.  Is he still good enough to compete for a podium every week on the factory Yamaha?  You betcha.  Marquez appears to be the fastest thing since Lorenzo in 2008.  We’ll look at how these aliens started their careers in a moment, in order to gauge expectations for young Marquez.

The Lurkers—Cal Crutchlown on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda and Alvaro Bautista on the GO & FUN Gresini Honda.  If one or two of the Aliens falter, one of these guys could snag a podium this season.  Crutchlow’s reluctant decision to stay on the satellite Yamaha will look much better when he finishes in the Top 6 and Dovizioso has to work to make the Top 10.  Bradl will probably have to wait for Pedrosa to retire or move on before he gets his Repsol factory ride.  And Bautista keeps on being the best rider available for Fausto Gresini, although the two don’t seem to get along all that well.

Good, but not Very Good—Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso on the factory Ducatis and rookie Bradley Smith on the satellite Yamaha.  These three will have to work like crazy or pray for rain to see many Top 6 finishes.  Hayden appears to be in his last contract with Ducati, while Dovizioso has rented, if not sold, his soul for two years of all-Italian inconsequentiality.  Smith was, and remains, a rather curious choice for promotion from Moto2.  Reasonable to assume the team knows more about him than do I.

Pramacs and Aspars—The teams of rookie Andrea Iannone and veteran Ben Spies on the “junior” Ducati Desmosedicis, and top CRT teammates Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet on the Aprilia-powered ART frankenbikes.  Ducati says they expect Spies and Iannone to be competitive this year.  Hope their happy competing with the top CRT guys, and not the factory entries.  It seems to me that the last few seasons, the only competition for the Ducati bikes was other Ducatis.  Just sayin’.

Group Five—Not sure what else to call Avintia Blusens teammates Hectic Hector Barbera and Hiro Aoyama on their Kawasaki-powered FTR machines.  Danillo Petrucci, the second-year senior of the two IodaRacing entries, joins Karel Abraham, working his way downhill on the new Cardion CRT entry.  These four will just have to entertain each other most weeks, as they will seriously lag Pramac-Aspar and will generally lead this last bunch.

This Last Bunch—must have located sponsors needing huge tax losses, as there is not much here.  Yonny Hernandez and Michael Laverty on the Paul Byrd Motorsports combo.    Forward Racing teammates Colin Edwards and rookie Claudio Corti, moving up from Moto2.  Finally, you have Lukas Pesek, the junior IodaRacing entry, and Bryan Staring, the junior Gresini (CRT) entry whose hopes are as faint as the dried wings of a dragonfly.  Of these six riders, I expect four to still be turning laps when Valencia rolls around.

Alien Debut Seasons

ROOKIE STATS ARTICLE 1

This chart says it all.  I’ve taken the liberty of predicting Marc Marquez’s statistics for the season.  He’ll need a year or two to learn how to stay aboard the RC213V.  Once he does, he’ll be a consistent winner for as long as he wants.  Someone needs to remind me in November to compare these numbers to his actual.    But, for the record, let me just state here and now that Marquez, no matter how brilliant his rookie season may turn out to be, will not finish at Laguna Seca.

So, the expectation here is that excitable boy Marquez will easily win Rookie of the Year, will set a few rookie records, and will crash often enough to stay out of serious contention for the title.  Pedrosa looks as if this may be his year, but Lorenzo already has two titles and Rossi seven, and they will have plenty to say about who takes it home in 2013.

Late News

As we approach deadline, one item passed across the wire that inspire hope in our hearts.  The first is that Suzuki is apparently going to try to join the 2014 grid through a partnership with Aspar, with Randy de Puniet rumored to be under contract to test for Suzuki several times this season.  Aspar could easily mimic Fausto Gresini, with an “A” prototype bike under de Puniet and a “B” CRT entry.  One article I read described the new Suzuki as mad fast.  That’s good news. 

Round One:  The Losail Circuit, Doha, Qatar 

Once upon a time, Losail was spoken of as being “Ducati-friendly.”  Stoner won here in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and crashed out of the lead in 2010.  He returned to win again in 2011, but on the Repsol Honda.  Sadly, those were the days.  Rossi won on the Yamaha back in 2010, and Lorenzo captured the flag in 2012.  At this point, it’s safe to say only that one of the Aliens will win on Sunday.

Losail is long and wide and hot and gritty and dark, a layout that has favored the Yamaha in the recent past.  So far this year, it seems that every circuit on the calendar may be Honda-friendly, with a smaller number favoring the Yamaha.  2013, it appears, is Dani Pedrosa’s last best chance to capture a title.  Perhaps the Repsol team will haze the rookie, make him lie back and tangle with the Yamahas.  Doubtful.  But I expect Marquez to avoid contact with Pedrosa and invite it with Lorenzo and Rossi, which should make for exciting racing and some epic images of Marquez sailing over his handlebarsSee Lorenzo in China in 2008.

Lorenzo airborn on Saturday, finishes 2nd on Sunday!

Chineese GP 2008–Lorenzo airborne on Saturday, finishes 2nd on Sunday!

We’ll have race results for you late Sunday or early Monday.

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