Valencia, Spain – Marc Marquez, as of November 10 the youngest-ever Moto GP/500 cc World Champion, always seems to have a puckish sense of humour, and his victory T-shirts – Baby Champion on Board – made reference to the endless comments all season about his youth.
He brought his factory Honda to the final race of the season in his first year in Moto GP with an 18-point lead over fellow Spaniard and defending champ Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha, the only other rider with a shot at the title. Lorenzo had to win and hope that something happened to Marquez; Marquez had to stay out of trouble and finish fourth or better.
In the event, both did what they had to do, Lorenzo riding a storming race for yet another perfect flag-to-flag victory, while Marquez rode as hard as ever but in the end was happy to settle for third, even letting his team-mate Dani Pedrosa by late in the race to chase Lorenzo, the two Repsol Hondas finally finishing in that order.
The early laps up front looked more like a Moto 3 knife-fight than a Moto GP world final, as Pedrosa was determined to take the win and pushed past Lorenzo several times. The Yamaha ace wasn’t having any of it, however, and aggressively barged back after each pass, the two coming into contact several times (after the race, Pedrosa was showing Marquez tire marks up both legs from the action). Pedrosa eventually got the worst of it, being forced wide and losing several places; he made them back up but by the time Marquez waved him by Lorenzo was too far ahead to be caught.
Lorenzo was gracious in defeat, warmly congratulating Marquez after the race. He’d tried to slow things down in the early laps in hopes that Marquez might have trouble with other riders, but when the three of them started pulling ahead anyway, “I thought that today it was better to concentrate on winning the race and waiting to see if Marc makes a mistake … We have to congratulate Marc because he really deserved the championship and we will make a party tonight!”
Pedrosa was obviously seriously pissed at Lorenzo, after the race making several oblique comments about their various contacts. In the end, however, he temporized by saying, “The race was difficult at the start because of the overtaking moves between myself and Jorge. However, we fought to the limit until I was taken a little off the track and lost ground as a result. Above all, I want to congratulate Marc today.”
Marquez, his family, and his crew were all beside themselves. The new world champ said, “It was a really long race! … At the start I was very nervous, I know I said I wasn’t but if I’m honest I really was … towards the end, I decided not to push as I knew my position was secure and safe to take the Championship. It has been a fantastic year, I am still in a dream!”
Behind the three up front, the race was even more processional than usual, although there were an unusually high number of crashes, all without injury, and several mechanical failures as well. Most upset was probably tough Brit Cal Crutchlow who fell in his last ride for the Tech 3 Yamaha squad – “The race with my Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team didn’t really go according to plan, I’m feeling probably more disappointed for the team than for myself … I tried to close the gap to the riders in front of me but unfortunately I touched the curb and lost the front. We still made sure of fifth in the World Championship which was my target for this season, so I can’t be too upset with how this year went.”
He’ll be lucky to see another fifth in the next couple of seasons, as he starts with the Ducati team in tests on Monday.
Behind the podium trio came Valentino Rossi and Alvaro Bautista, who scrapped over fourth on and off during the race, while Stefan Bradl and an ever-improving Bradley Smith followed them. Next up was the Ducati contingent, Nicky Hayden riding an excellent race to again top the red squad in eighth, followed by Andrea Dovizioso and test rider (and wild-card entry this weekend) Michele Pirro.
Hayden, who’s back on a Honda in 2014 – in fact, this week in the post-season testing – said, “It’s not a great result, but it was nice to finish the race as first Ducati rider … it’s pretty emotional. I spent five years with a great group of guys, and although it hasn’t always been easy, we were a good team together. I wish them all the best.”
For sure, despite those sentiments he’s going to be delighted to wash his hands of the evil Desmosedici and get his butt back on a Honda, albeit a customer bike.
Newly-crowned Moto 2 champion Pol Espargaro wanted to make a point by winning the final race of the year in front of his home crowd. He got a great start, built a big lead – then crashed out, losing the front end. He managed to remount but could only finish 29th.
Nicolas Terol won, taking his third victory of the year with a four second margin over second-place finisher Jordi Torres. Torres spent much of the late race in a battle with Simon Corsi, who not only lost to Torres, but was also just beaten to the line by Johann Zarco in a photo finish, Zarco making one of his patented late-race charges. With Corsi taking fourth, Esteve Rabat rounded out the top five.
Scott Redding, who led the championship for much of the season before breaking his wrist in Australia, rode through intense pain to a brave 15th place and managed to finish the championship in second spot. He and Espargaro will renew their rivalry in 2014, as both are moving up to Moto GP teams.
As almost always, the Moto 3 race was the best show of the weekend. This time, three riders had a shot at the title, and Luis Salom, Alex Rins, and Maverick Vinales continued to show their class by qualifying at the front of the field.
Vinales took the win in a spectacularly exciting duel with the other two, while Jonas Folger and Jack Miller hung close enough behind to grab a spot if any of the leaders faltered. The action was nuts, with all three contenders leading at various times, although Vinales, who had fewer wins than the others but had scored 15 podiums out of 17 races, was in front most of the time.
At about 2/3 distance, Salom made a rare error and crashed out, and in the final couple of laps Rins and Vinales were swapping positions and paint like there was no tomorrow – which in fact, there wasn’t as far as the title went. Rins grabbed the point on the last lap, but Vinales made a spectacular re-pass in the final corner to take the win and the title. He’ll be moving up to the Moto 2 class next season, amusingly as a team-mate to his great rival Salom.
Folger grabbed second by a hair’s-breadth. After politely keeping out of the championship duel in front of him for the entire race, he scooped past Rins when the youngster went wide on the last corner following Vinales’ pass.
It’s worth mentioning the excellent result of Ana Carasco, who rides on the same Calvo team as Vinales. As a relatively new entry to GP racing and the only female in the GP paddock, her eighth-place in the race was terrific, her best result to date, getting her a 21st overall for her first full year in GPs.
Final Moto GP Standings after 18 races
1. Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 334 points
2. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 330
3. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 300
4. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Yamaha Factory Racing, 237
5. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., Tech 3 / Monster Yamaha, 188
6. Alvaro Bautista, Go&Fun Gresini Honda, 171
7. Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 156
8. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Racing Team, 140
9. Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Ducati Racing Team, 126
10. Bradley Smith, U.K., Tech 3 / Monster Yamaha, 116
Final Moto 2 standings
1. Pol Espargaro, Spain, Aspar Team Kalex, 265 points
2. Scott Redding, U.K., Marc VDS Racing Kalex, 225
3. Esteve Rabat, Spain, Aspar Team Kalex, 215
4. Mika Kallio, Finland, Marc VDS Racing Kalex, 187
5. Dominique Aegerter, Switzerland, Technomag carXpert Suter, 157
Final Moto 3 Standings
1. Maverick Vinales, Spain, Team Calvo KTM, 323 points
2. Alex Rins, Spain, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Team KTM, 311
3. Luis Salom, Spain, Red Bull KTM Ajo , 302
4. Alex Marquez, Spain, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Team KTM, 213
5. Jonas Folger, Germany, Mapfre Aspar Team KTM, 183