It is here. Well, very nearly here. There is but one more day to go before the comforting growl of MotoGP bikes fills my living room. They will soon be here, fresh from a long, never-ending vacation. Oh, I can’t wait. This season has made so many promises, of dreams fulfilled, of redemption, of dreams turned reality and of battles fought with passion.
Speaking of battles, I can’t wait to see Valentino Rossi back on the Yamaha, racing with the young guns. Rest easy, all ye naysayers, watching Rossi during testing and the practice sessions just seemed to indicate that he is most at home on the M1. Besides, that gleam is back. You know the one I speak of. Qatar isn’t Vale’s favourite track, but it doesn’t really matter. I do see him winning quite a few races this season (fingers crossed, perhaps even the championship), but it won’t be easy.
For a change, this year, the competition is nothing short of intense. Vale is back on his darling M1 and will be determined to show that the spark is still alive. It will be good to see him back on the podium, but that’s not to say the wins will be handed to him on a platter. Vale knows it and said as much during an interview at the launch of the 2013 livery. “Unfortunately, I am quite old, this is true… but I feel very good! I think the mental and physical conditions are very important, and from this point of view I am in good shape. Especially the motivation is very important: the motivation to make everything possible to stay at the top and I still have this motivation,” he said. But teammate Jorge Lorenzo is equally motivated and will be defending his title with every trick in his kitty.
For all intents and purposes, it does seem that the two have built a feeling of mutual respect. Or at least that’s what the PR machine would like us to think. The two also said the ‘right’ things during the launch of the 2013 livery. So, Lorenzo said, “Probably our relationship is better than three years ago. Now we are a bit older, more mature, especially me, as I was only 20 when I arrived in MotoGP. We do not have to be friends, as motorcycle racing is not soccer or basketball, but if the relationship is good this is much better for us but also for the team. We will try to stay calm and to push together in the same direction.”
Vale almost echoed Lorenzo while saying, “I changed my perception of Jorge especially in the last two years. I had a lot of troubles but Jorge was always very friendly with me and also when he noticed I was coming back to Yamaha he was very happy, so I think that we can be a good team in the next two seasons.”
It seems obvious that Yamaha has two potential champions in their castle. But so does Honda. The testing and the practice sessions have clearly indicated that the team has without doubt, the faster package. They also have a brilliant team: Dani Pedrosa, who literally came alive and shone through the 2012 season, and Marc Marquez, the new kid on the block. Pedrosa will be trying very hard to make the folks over at Yamaha sweat. And in all probability, he will be a definite contender.
Just like Marquez. This year kid, barely 20, comes with a lot of expectations and a bucket-load of determination. His elbow-sweep has already made waves (with even Vale tipping his hat to the move on Twitter), as have the statistics. At 19, the Moto2 champion had won 26 races from 78 starts! His racing style is aggressive, fast and undoubtedly furious. There is no doubt that the old hands will have their work cut out.
But that’s not all. Jumping into this competitive, crazy mix is Cal Crutchlow, who stayed on with Tech 3 and pairs with Bradley Smith to make up an all-Brit MotoGP team. Cal undoubtedly gave us phenomenal fights last season and it is obvious that he will be looking at a few podium finishes for himself. The tests and Qatar practice sessions show as much. And if there is anything that 2012 showed us, it is that you can never underestimate the honey badger.
His former teammate Andrea Dovizioso took a plunge and joined the jinxed factory team: Ducati. If the practice timings are anything to go by, then he seems to be faring much better than teammate Nicky Hayden.
Speaking of the Kentucky Kid, Hayden has had terrible seasons at Ducati. It can’t be easy for a former world champion to be at the back of the pack, on a factory team. Top it up with the fact that Ducati has signed him on for just one year. In more ways than one, it is possible that 2013 will prove to be Hayden’s make-it or break-it year. It is heartbreaking though, watching him struggle on a bike whose uncompetitive nature has left many puzzled.
Another American, Ben Spies, will be seeking redemption this season. He has had a terrible year at Yamaha. It almost seemed like Lady Luck had it in for him. A nasty crash in Sepang last year left him with injuries that also prevented him from fully testing the bikes over at Ignite Pramac Racing. But Spies is determined to put terrible 2012 firmly behind him. I am definitely wishing him all the luck.
This isn’t it though. The 2013 season also brings with it a new qualifying format that is sure to up the ante and bring on the drama. Read more about it here. Another change this year is the new yellow card system where riders can be penalized for ‘dangerous riding’. This is sure to spice things up a bit.
The 2013 season has come a-calling and I, for one am gearing up a late, late night race. Keep those coffee mugs handy!
Who is Riding What Made Easy
Yamaha Factory Racing
Repsol Honda Team
Monster Yamaha Tech 3
Pramac Racing Team
GO&FUN Honda Gresini
LCR Honda MotoGP
NGM Mobile Forward Racing
Paul Bird Motorsport
Came IodaRacing Project
Cardio AB Motoracing
Power Electronics Aspar
Randy De Puniet