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GP Week : Issue 203
23 GPWEEK.com // 23 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Has Marc Marquez met his match? One year ago, the question would have had the ring of absurdity. He’d won a race by then, but was such a rank beginner few expected it to last. Now the same question is coloured by a not entirely convincing optimism. For although Marquez was obliged to battle harder than anyone had seen so far, Jorge Lorenzo still didn’t beat him at Mugello. Though he did tough it out impressively, and fail by only a matter of a tenth. Or to put it another way, by inches. This followed five races of complete domination by the stripling superstar. And though the final result was unaltered, many took it as a road-to-Damascus moment. Marquez might have emerged as still unbeatable (his last lap was a masterpiece of catch-me-if-you-can), but he certainly had to work for it. There were several factors at play. Firstly, the nature of the circuit. Fast straights make for close bike racing. And the nature of the Yamaha. The short and cobby Honda likes to get the corners with over quickly, then use its horsepower. It’s at its best on short, tight corners: stop, turn, GO ... The Yamaha has always been better at corner speed, and has recently been developed further along the same lines to suit the clean sweeping style of Lorenzo. Most importantly, Lorenzo himself, redux from a slump in results and doubtless a consequent crisis of confidence. He explained it, at least partly to himself, as a matter of physical condition. Surgery at the end of last year meant he had been late to start his training programme. MotoGP bikes are very physical to ride, and margins very small. He hadn’t been quite fit enough. Now, he said before the race, he was. What had returned, more conspicuously, was a fighting spirit. And how. Lorenzo attacked and resisted most vigorously. If no paint was exchanged, it was more by luck than anything. It was certainly a feisty performance, from the rider whose safety concerns have been oft loudly expressed. Just the sort of bullish riding that he, one year ago, condemned wholeheartedly, wondering why Marquez was not being punished under the new penalty-points system. Anyone surprised by his ferocity last Sunday has a short memory. It was in Malaysia last year that Lorenzo publicly changed his policy on the matter, as he pursued a remarkable latter part of the season that all but ended with a championship win. “All but” having become a bit of an unwelcome watchword for the double-champion with the inexorable rise of Marquez the Merciless. We can expect more of the same probably next week, at Montmelo. Long fast corners and a long straight. The two best of the best, making use of their respective talents and machinery to an awe-inspiring maximum. Personally, I expect the same final outcome. If I am proved wrong, I shall be delighted. It will mean a hell of a second two-thirds of the season. CLOSE buT THE SAME RESuLT OPINION OPINION MotoGP MICHAEL SCOTT