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GP Week : Issue 176
21 GPWEEK.com // 21 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: The 2013 MotoGP World Championship began with two days of testing in Valencia, but rain and cold weather denied the senior set most of their allotted time. Some of the more adventurous riders ventured out on the cold, wet track; many others didn’t. Yamaha decamped for Aragon, hoping for better weather for Jorge Lorenzo and returning hero Valentino Rossi. They would be disappointed. Still, despite the limited track time it was clear that next year ’s title fight will be a battle among Spaniards, Honda vs. Yamaha, MotoGP world champion against MotoGP world champion wannabes. Yamaha’s MotoGP champ Jorge Lorenzo may have his hands full with Dani Pedrosa, but he’ll also need to fend off a second diminutive but aggressive Spaniard from the increasingly more determined Repsol Honda team. The battle will be a conflict of styles – Lorenzo, a rider uncomfortable with racing in intimate spaces against a rider known to invade another rider ’s personal space when needed, often to his own detriment. Marc Marquez, the talented Moto2 World Champion whose Joker-like grin belies a ruthless streak, announced his intent to be a championship factor in his rookie season with a stunning performance at the Valencia test. Two days after getting off an underpowered Moto2 bike, he showed remarkable poise on the twice as powerful Repsol Honda RC213V. In a matter of hours at the end of the second day, Marquez (above) lowered his lap time until, after only 28 laps, he was about a second off pace-setter Dani Pedrosa. Watching from his couch 4700 miles away in Texas, the recovering Ben Spies tweeted “@marcmarquez93 Hey kid! First test 30 laps and only a second off the pace, take it easy! Damn kids....” Early in his career Lorenzo was a hothead. Motegi 2005 was a turning point. A last lap incident involving Lorenzo, Pedrosa, and Alex de Angelis ended with Lorenzo on the ground, and at fault. His penalty was a one race suspension. “Without this penalty, probably I would not change so much my mind and my behavior,” Lorenzo said. Since then, Lorenzo has been outspoken about rider aggression, too much so many believe. Again, Motegi is informative. In pursuit of the final podium spot in the 2010 race, Lorenzo and then teammate Valentino Rossi had a spirited battle over the final two laps. To Rossi it was racing, hard but “funny,” as he says. Lorenzo understood the value of the spectacle, but added that “Unfortunately where you’re on the bike and you are so fast with these bikes and then you feel that another rider touches you and you feel you are risking your life, it is not a great feeling.” Enter Marquez, a rider with a history of aggression for which he’s unapologetic. At the 2011 Australian Grand Prix. Marquez barreled into the back of Thai rider Ratthapark Wilairot, destroying both of their motorcycles and sending Wilairot to the hospital. Six inches to either side it would have been catastrophic for both. It was clear to all but Marquez and his camp that he was at fault. His guilt was further verified by Race Director Paul Butler, who said Marquez was “going faster on that segment in that timing cut than he had during practice” on his fast lap. There were further incidents this year in Qatar, Barcelona and Valencia. Riders who graduate to the MotoGP class often abandon their more offensive ways. Whether Marquez does remains to be seen, but Lorenzo will certainly be the first to find out. ALL IN THE FAMILY OPINION OPINION HENNY RAY ABRAMS Guest columnist