Indianapolis, Indiana – In case anyone was still wondering, 20-year-old Spanish wunderkind Marc Marquez is definitely the real thing.
At Indy’s round of the Moto GP he was fastest in every practice session, took pole position, and after regrouping after a so-so start walked away to victory.
As an aside, that makes him the winner in three for three in the U.S. rounds, and four out of the 10 races held so far. Not bad for a “rookie”. Oh, and he’s leading the championship standings as well.
“I didn’t make a good start … once the fuel had gone down a little I went on the attack. Then I tried to push a bit more, I opened up a gap and I was able to enjoy sliding the bike. It was so good,” Marquez said with his trademark huge smile.
He finished ahead of his Reposl Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who made a bit of a last-gasp effort to get past Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo. The defending world champion led much of the race, but in the end had to be content with third at a track he and most other riders considered to be a playpen for Honda horsepower.
“I’m disappointed, but not just because I didn’t win,” explained the Majorcan. “Marc was just unbelievably good this weekend … I was able to follow him for a few laps when he overtook me, but then the rear tire suddenly started to drop a lot and I couldn’t even defend second place.”
Both Pedrosa and Lorenzo are still recovering from broken collarbones, making their results even more impressive.
The race for the podium was good, but the mayhem behind was more like a Moto 3 slug-fest than the usual Moto GP procession. Tech 3 Yamaha ace Cal Crutchlow, Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda, and Alvaro Bautista on the Go&Fun Gresini Honda did everything but enter into fisticuffs over fourth, then were all shocked when Valentino Rossi caught them up in the last quarter of the race.
Rossi had a typically lousy qualifying, starting from ninth, and spent the first half of the race trolling around more or less alone. Then he suddenly caught fire, caught and passed Bradl, then chased down the other two, passing Crutchlow for the final time in a Hail-Mary pass on the last lap. The three of them finished within 3/10 of a second.
“At the end the race was not so bad,” reflected the nine-time world champion, after saying that he had trouble with the front tire for the first third of the race. “… in the second half I was able to ride the bike in a good way and enjoy it. I did a very good lap time in the second half and had great battles with Bradl and Bautista, but especially with Cal on the last lap, that was very funny!”
The top 10 was rounded out by Tech 3’s rookie Bradley Smith, who beat Nicky Hayden to the line by less than a wheel diameter after Hayden and his team-mate Andrea Dovizioso collided on the last corner of the last lap as Hayden forced a pass. Both the Ducatis ran wide and jumped a curb, getting back on track but not quite soon enough to stay ahead of Smith. Hayden shrugged the incident off, Dovizioso was a little less sanguine. Both riders had a chat with Race Direction after things had cooled down.
The Moto 2 race offered as much drama as did the feature event, with Tito Rabat taking his second-ever win in the class. Qualifying fourth and running fifth for much of the race, the Spanish rider conserved his tires well and in the second half of the race was easily the fastest rider on the track.
He chased down the riders in front of him – including Scott Redding and his team-mate Pol Espargaro, who’s locked in a battle with Redding for the title – finally overhauling Japanese rider Takaaki Nakagami for the lead on the 23rd of 25 laps. The Japanese was heart-broken, having led most of the race in dominating fashion but apparently using up his tires in the process.
Redding and Espargaro completed the podium, moving Redding 26 points (or a point more than a full race win) ahead of Espargaro.
A crazy Moto 3 battle made it three for three for dramatic races at the Indy track. Estrella Galicia team-mates Alex Rins and Alex Marquez (younger brother of Moto GP ace Marc) finished first and second ahead of Maverick Vinales, while injured series leader Luis Salom managed a brave fifth after hurting himself in a huge practice crash, gathering enough points to remain atop the championship chase.
The top three were scary-close, passing almost at will, until at about 2/3 distance Vinales had a “moment” and dropped back slightly. Although he caught up again, the order remained unchanged to the end.
Moto GP Championship standings after 10 of 18 races:
1. Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 188 points
2. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 167
3. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 153
4. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Yamaha Factory Racing, 130
5. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 127
6. Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 93
7. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 87
8. Alvaro Bautista, Spain, Go&Fun Gresini Honda, 81
9. Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Ducati Team, 72
10. Bradley Smith, U.K., Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 59
Next race, August 25, Brno, Czech Republic.