Marc Marquez 6 / Rest of the World 0
Mugello was a reaffirmation of Marc Marquez’s sheer dominance, yes. But it was also the dawn of hope that all was not lost!
There was a hint of inevitability as race day dawned bright and shiny over the hills of Tuscany and the circuit of Mugello. It was a sense borne of witnessing sheer dominance in action this season; of watching talented riders scattered by the wayside as one man rose to take the crown and tear through records again and again.
Would we ever see another rider win a MotoGP race?
Would our stellar, brilliant riders ever give Marc Marquez competition?
Not that I would ever grudge Marquez a victory. The young Spaniard has this rare ability to woo even the most hardcore fan – is it his quick smile? His charm? Or is it sheer talent that spills over every facet of motorcycle racing? Perhaps, it is all three.
Winning and breaking records is all very well. But the dominance of one man, takes away a lot of fun from racing – especially when you know, without a shadow of doubt that man at the lead, is the man who will win – everybody else be damned.
That’s about how we entered beautiful Mugello.
We didn’t however account for one man. He has been making boo-boos, jumping starts, getting stuck at the back and generally being off his game – bike issues or no bike issues. But by the time the last lap was run, and the battle for the top step on the podium was fought, Jorge Lorenzo had dusted the past off his bike.
He will be known as the man who first challenged Marquezilla. Because he gave us the battle we have wanted this year; the battle we have yearned for. Lorenzo made Marquez work for his 6th win – no zooming off into the distance this time.
And what a battle it was. Now that is a perfect MotoGP race. It was drama that started from the get go, just as the lights went off. Marquez fell back to 3rd place, even as Andrea Iannone took charge with Lorenzo in pursuit. The two-time world champion passed the young Italian and took over the lead. Marquez tried to find a way past. Meanwhile Lorenzo started increasing his lead, seeking to put as much distance between him and Marquez as the bike allowed. Iannone tried to hold off the young Spaniard briefly, but his tricks only a while. By lap 3, Marquez had taken over second place and started hunting Lorenzo.
But the Yamaha rider wasn’t going to give up that easy. He stayed ahead of Marquez, lap after lap, evading him by just that much, making it impossible for an overtake manoeuvre. He stayed ahead even when there was less than 0.3 seconds between the two riders. It was masterful.
But 7 laps before race end, Marquez finally managed to make his move. What followed was an incredible battle that lasted till the very end. The two riders traded places, once, twice, several times. Throats became hoarse, the crowds screamed, cheered and clapped – it didn’t matter who they were supporting. This was racing. And they raced within inches of each other. Until the last lap, when Marquez made his final pass and managed to open up a gap. But not by much. He beat Lorenzo by .121s.
Lorenzo later said in a team release, “I’m happy, I could be more happy if I had won, but I tried my best. Probably in the last corner I should have stayed more in the inside to try to overtake him on the inside line, but I made a mistake and went wider and it was impossible to overtake him on the straight.” Marquez though was ecstatic. He had won the battle, and he had to work for it. He said in a team release, “I am very happy with this win; Jorge and I had a really good battle and had a lot of fun out there! I wasn’t expecting the victory, because it has come at a circuit that I had marked on the calendar as being one for picking up Championship points – not thinking about winning the race. However, I saw that it would be possible and took more risks than at other races, because Jorge and Vale were very fast and we were fining it difficult to keep up the same pace.”
But this is Mugello. And Mugello is just not the same without the Doctor on the podium. In the beginning, it didn’t look like it would happen. Last year, it was Alvaro Bautista. This year, it was Vale unenviable 10th place on the grid, courtesy a bad Qualifying. The fans hoped. It was Vale’s 300th Grand Prix appearance. And faith was rewarded as the nine-time world champion fought his way up the grid. He made up three places by the first corner and by lap 2 was in 5th place. He was quick to dispatch Andrea Dovizioso who was holding on to 4th place and then passed Iannone with 20 laps to go, to take 3rd place. It was a fantastic resurgence, but it wasn’t enough. The two riders in front had already extended their lead and Rossi had no option but to stay ahead of the rest of the pack. However, Rossi managed to reduce the distance and was just 2.688s behind Marquez as he crossed the finish line.
Rossi later said in a team release, “Today was a great day for all the people and for MotoGP. Mugello is one of the greatest race tracks in the world; a lot of the people around and the race was very funny with a great battle between Jorge and Marc. I wasn’t too far from them and all the people were happy for my podium. It is a great emotion as always, it was a solid race from fourth row to third…The podium in Mugello is always fantastic, it’s the most special moment of the season, it’s like a great concert…This is my 300th GP, so I am in the middle of my career, another 300 before the end!”
But it wasn’t a good day for everyone. Dovizioso showed good form in the beginning but ended up in 6th place. Ducati teammate Cal Crutchlow had a worse day as he crashed on lap 4 while pushing his bike hard. The scary crash saw the British rider take a tumble, but fans watched horrified as the bike slid across the track and into Stefan Bradl’s way, taking him out as well.
Iannone, who has shown great form the past few races, had a slightly better day as he led the race in the beginning, until Lorenzo, Marquez and Rossi passed him. But he put up a fight, and finally finished the race in 7th place. Teammate Yonny Hernandez got his best finish this season with a 10th place.
And what of Dani Pedrosa? The Repsol Honda rider finished 4th on the grid, yes, but was invisible for most of the race – barring a few passes at the start of the race.
And so the riders left the gorgeous Tuscany valley. This weekend they are at Spain, at another battle and another fantastic race… Fingers crossed!