Sunday morning dawned shiny and happy. It was Jorge Lorenzo’s birthday and he was on the front row, at second place. It seemed like he had finally broken free of that nastiness, which has dogged him through the first couple of races this season. Plus he had led the warm-up lap with 1’38.983s and was celebrating 200 Grand Prix starts. Just like his rival and world champion, the young Marc Marquez, who was celebrating 100 Grand Prix starts. There was some definite hope in the air. After all, this was the only circuit where Marc Marquez had not won. Maybe it would stay that way?
Ah! Naïveté, thou art such a wondrous thing!
What was that we were saying? Now, take all of it, shove it into a box and sit on it. For when the lights went off, the birds stopped tweeting and the air filled with the roars of MotoGP bikes. Our warriors took off and for a moment I stopped and waited.
There was that exciting jamboree at the front once again, just like in Argentina. Though this time it was Marquez and Rossi, no make that Pedrosa, no, no, no, that’s Lorenzo. Wait, did Lorenzo just go wide? Pedrosa, is slipping back. Whoa, is that Dovizioso? What is he doing in the front? What is going on? What does it all mean?
Deep breaths. Deep breaths. It has settled down… not by much, though. Rossi vs Marquez vs Rossi vs Marquez. The exchange was phenomenal, and just for a moment there I wished those bikes were technologically at par. Now wait, I am not saying Marquez is not fast. That kid is so talented, it probably rubs off on people sitting next to him. And for a moment there, we got a glimpse of a Rossi of the old and that, was heartwarming for the fan in me.
The exchange was too short, but laced with excitement and adrenalin. You could see Rossi and Marquez push each other to the limit, in a way that has become just too rare. But before we knew it, and rather inevitably, Marquez pulled a fast one on Rossi and shot off into the first place. The nine-time world champion tried to catch up, but Marquez was too fast. He increased the gap —.071s in lap 1 to 1.483s on lap 5, and a jaw-breaking 5.073s on lap 20.
Even as Rossi tried to catch up, Jorge Lorenzo, right behind, tried to make a play for second place. But it just wasn’t meant to be. The birthday boy tried really hard, but gave up, running a lonely 3rd for most of the race. Until Dani Pedrosa was right on his heels. It seemed like a matter of time and soon Lorenzo fell victim to the Honda, ending the race in 4th place. “I did a bad start today, this weekend we didn’t have a good practice start in any session,” Lorenzo later said in a team press release. “The race was worse than I expected and my physical condition was worse than I expected also, so we need to work more on that and wait for our moment.”
The best battle though was being fought for 5th position, as Andrea Dovizioso held strong, while Aleix Espargaro and Alvaro Bautista made a run for that coveted place. It all started in the beginning. Dovi suddenly found himself in the lead, albeit just for a moment, and was soon passed by the big guns, leaving him in the 5th. Espargaro meanwhile was in 8th and had two equally determined riders in front – Bradley Smith and Stefan Bradl. Like that would stop him. I mean seriously, if there was ever a guy who deserved a factory ride, it is Aleix Espargaro. I mean the things he is doing with that bike!
Anyway, the young NGM Forward Racing rider was disposing off the competition. He rapped Bradl on his knuckles and took 7th place by the lap 2. By lap 4, he was behind Dovi in 6th place. Meanwhile, at that moment Alvaro Bautista tried to fight his way out of 10th place. He was desperate, as the start of the season has been far from auspicious. He needed to bring home a few points. He took 7th place by lap 15 and the chase began, one that lasted 12 laps. It was a brilliant fight to the finish, one that ended at the final corner, when Dovi, who had lost his place to Bautista, dived inside to take back his place.
But his teammate Cal Crutchlow was far from happy. One can’t really blame him. He worked hard to recover from his surgery, post injuring his right hand at Austin, he battled pain to ride bike and perform through FP and Qualifying. Race day too wasn’t all that bad, with Crutchlow started from the 5th row and passing five riders in four laps, moving up to 9th. But at the end of lap 5, Crutchlow pulled into the pits, punching his tank in anger. There was no choice but to retire because of a front brake problem. “I am very disappointed with today’s result, especially because I got a great start and the feeling with my bike in the race was the best I’ve had all weekend,” he said in a team press release. “I was making up a lot of places and was up to ninth when my brakes failed. I slowed down for a lap to try and see if they would work again, but they didn’t and I pulled in just to be on the safe side, but it was clear that I had no brake lever working.”
The star of the day however was the invincible Marc Marquez who crossed the line to become the first rider to win the opening four premier class races of the year since Mick Doohan in 1992. How’s that for a perfect victory – Four wins of four poles in the four races so far this season. What are the chances that it will become 5 with Le Mans? Well, we still have two weeks to go before we find out!
Picture Perfect (this time, there are two!)