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GP Week : Issue 187
30 GPWEEK.com // 30 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: before the final round. Another Spencer record gone. He has had to re-adjust his sights. We are witnessing something remarkable: potentially the next Hailwood; the next Rossi. The next candidate for Greatest of All Time. Lorenzo won the first race in Qatar, Marquez the second at the new-to-all CotA circuit in Austin, Texas. Then Pedrosa took the next two: he had won eight of the previous 12 races; and he took over the points lead from Marquez. Then it was Lorenzo, but two wins later at Assen he made the mistake of announcing: “I am riding better now than ever in my career.” Next day, he hit a wet white line, looped his Yamaha, and broke his collarbone. Nothing daunted he flew to Spain, under went surgery that night, and returned the next day, ready to race on the following one. It was a remarkable display: he finished a valuable fifth, while Pedrosa slumped to fourth after starting from pole. But hubris hadn’t finished with him. Back two weeks later at the Sachsenring, he was back in his pomp, setting fastest times in the first day of free practice when another slip-grip- flick precipitated him onto the same shoulder, and back to hospital where the bent plate was replaced and the re-fractured bone re-set. Dani’s big chance. He muffed it. Caught out by a cold tyre on his first flying lap on Saturday morning, he too went flying at low speed but on a high trajectory. Though he only partially fractured his collarbone, dizziness the next day (low blood pressure problems) meant he was ruled out of the race. Marquez’s second win, he said, “was not the same without Dani or Jorge” . His third win, one week later, featured a brave return from each of them, but riding injured they did well to claim fifth and sixth respectively. Damage control. Rossi lies fourth, but hasn’t yet got his mojo under complete control, though he has eventually been more successful in taming the M1 Yamaha so he can brake and enter corners in his preferred style. Victory at Assen proved it, but he’s been bamboozled twice now by Marquez, and in any case Lorenzo was absent. “I am still not at my full potential,” he promised. Vale only took the championship position at Laguna, when satellite Yamaha rider Crutchlow had an uncharacteristically downbeat outing to seventh. In his third season, the Englishman has come out fighting, a regular on the front row (pole at Assen) and likewise on the rostrum, with a best of second in Germany. A fans’ favourite for his mischievous humour and press-on riding style, Cal is a target for all three factories for next year. The rest of the top ten are a mixed bunch: Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) started badly but has been getting better, and got pole and his first rostrum at Laguna, moving him three points ahead of Andrea Dovizioso. Dovi has been stalwart as Rossi’s replacement at Ducati. Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Honda) is next, recovering from the opprobrium of two first lap crashes, one of which took Rossi out of his home GP at Mugello. Then Nick Hayden, plugging away dutifully on the second Marlboro Ducati. And tenth? Step for ward Aleix Espargaro on the Power Electronics ART Aprilia. A CRT bike that has been worrying the lesser prototypes very severely. A rare crash at Laguna spoiled his chances of exploiting another twisty track where his access to the CRT super-soft tyres meant he was ready for another strong top-ten finish, fifth in a row. Must try harder? That’s obvious. In spite of new owners, new management and new engineering staff in Bologna, Ducati riders are still battling the same old problems. There’s nothing wrong with the engine. But the Desmosedici still won’t turn in right or hold a cornering line. Perhaps this is proof that all their energies are focused on something all-new and hopefully fully competitive for 2014. >>> MOTOGP FEATUrE