Lorenzo in it to Win it

2013 MotoGP AirAsia Grand Prix Of Japan, Montegi

story and photos courtesy of MotoGP and IMS

Jorge Lorenzo (above) won for the seventh time in 2013, winning Sunday’s AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan. The Yamaha Factory Racing rider fought off a stiff challenge from Repsol Honda Team’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to ensure that the MotoGP™ title battle goes down to the wire for the first time since 2006.

Providing a truly unpredictable end to the late-season triple-header, the Motegi weekend was very much shaken up by inclement weather conditions; this led to the cancellation of all track action on Friday as well as heavy modifications to the Saturday agenda. Ironically, Sunday’s race took place under clear blue skies in Japan.

From his fourth pole position of the year, it would be a lights-to-flag victory for Lorenzo to move one win ahead of Marquez in the 2013 season. Teammate Valentino Rossi looked to be providing a buffer between the current titleholder and the pair of factory Hondas, but suffered braking issues at Turn 11 twice, and fell back down the order.

Lorenzo would come under severe pressure from Marquez at the mid-way point of the race, with Pedrosa in hot pursuit. However, the Mallorcan was spared some breathing space as Marquez made mistakes at both Turn 11 and Turn 1. The 20-year-old would never be as close to Lorenzo again, eventually ending the day 3.1 seconds in arrears.

Pedrosa’s third place marked his 12th podium finish of the season, but the Sabadell rider was unable to complete a hat trick of Motegi victories, as his chances for the 2013 world title officially evaporated. Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl rounded out the top five, with the GO&FUN Honda Gresini rider having slipstreamed his way past the LCR Honda MotoGP bike at the start of the eighth lap. Rossi fought back to sixth place after running as low as 11th, while Cal Crutchlow, who suffered from overheating brakes, got the better of impressive Monster Yamaha Tech3 teammate Bradley Smith in seventh and eighth spots.

Ducati Team completed the top ten with Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso, while 11th place was taken by wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga for the Yamaha YSP Racing Team. In 12th was lead CRT rider Colin Edwards (NGM Mobile Forward Racing), with Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro having become the third of three retirements courtesy of a high-speed accident due to loss of braking power – he escaped with a left hip contusion. Lukas Pesek (Came IodaRacing Project) was first to retire, while Cardion AB Motoracing’s Luca Scassa pulled into the pit lane with a loose right foot peg.

Sunday’s result – marking the 200th premier class race victory for Yamaha – sees Lorenzo move to within 13 points of Marquez with just the Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana remaining. This signals the first final-race MotoGP™ title-decider for seven years; in 2006 it was also a duel between the Honda and Yamaha factory teams, with the crown won by Nicky Hayden as the American picked up a maiden title from then reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi.

MotoGP™ Race Classification
1- Jorge Lorenzo SPA Yamaha 42:34.291
2- Marc Marquez SPA Honda +3.188
3- Dani Pedrosa SPA Honda +4.592
1st CRT 12- Colin Edwards USA FTR Kawasaki 1:03.213

FULL RESULTS

Alex Marquez has claimed his first ever World Championship race victory in the Moto3™ AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan. In a race full of surprises, title contenders Luis Salom and Alex Rins both suffered crashes before Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Marquez beat Maverick Viñales by just two hundredths of a second.

The events of Sunday could not have been scripted at Twin Ring Motegi. Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0) started from his seventh pole position of the season, whereas championship leader Salom (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was fourth on the grid and would claim the title if he won with Rins 11th or lower. However, the destiny of the championship would be shaken up on various occasions throughout the race.

It was a shocking opening lap for Red Bull KTM Ajo. Just seconds after Zulfahmi Khairuddin was taken out in a Turn 1 incident with Ambrogio Racing’s Brad Binder, Salom was collected in V Corner by Ongetta-Centro Seta’s Isaac Viñales. The Mallorcan re-joined the race and proceeded to post lap records as he began a charge back up the order, only to highside out of contention at Turn 4 on Lap 8.

Knowing the championship leader was out, Rins was set to top the points table as he ran third behind Viñales (Team Calvo) and teammate Marquez on the 14th lap, following an entertaining scrap with both of the riders in front of him. Unbelievably, a mistake from Rins saw him lose control to throw the championship fight wide open once again. He re-joined the race but recovered only to 24th position, out of the points.

It was Viñales who led into the final tour, but an error at the Turn 10 hairpin was more than the invitation Marquez needed. The younger brother of MotoGP™ World Championship leader Marc would hold on for his first victory by the slim margin of 27 thousandths of a second. Viñales shot back up into title contention with second place, with the podium completed by Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger.

A somewhat quiet place for Mahindra Racing’s Miguel Oliveira ended with fourth position, while a dramatic fight for fifth saw San Carlo Team Italia’s Romano Fenati beating Caretta Technology – RTG duo Jack Miller and John McPhee. The top ten was rounded out by Niklas Ajo (Avant Tecno), Niccolo Antonelli (GO&FUN Gresini Moto3) and the aforementioned Binder. There was also contentment for Japan’s Hyuga Watanabe, who scored for La Fonte Tascaracing. Nine riders failed to make the finish, including Ongetta-Rivacold’s Alexis Masbou who crashed on the final lap.

The remarkable events of Motegi leave Moto3™ with a triangular final round shootout for the title. Salom will head into the Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana with a two-point lead over Viñales, with Rins only a further three in arrears.

Moto3™ Race Classification
1- Alex Marquez SPA KTM 39:45.953
2- Maverick Viñales SPA KTM +0.027
3- Jonas Folger GER Kalex KTM +7.750

Pol Espargaro (above) has become Moto2™ World Champion of 2013, winning Sunday’s AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan in fine style. The Spaniard’s task was aided when chief rivals Scott Redding and Tito Rabat were both removed from the action in a multiple collision on the first lap. Mika Kallio and Tom Luthi completed the podium.

Under clear skies and with ambient temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius, it was a clean start to proceedings until a crash occurred on the exit of the second corner; Redding, Rabat (Tuenti HP 40) and Alex Mariñelarena (Blusens Avintia) were involved, and none of the trio would restart. Mariñelarena unfortunately suffered a broken left wrist. At Turn 3, Dominique Aegerter suffered a separate incident but the Technomag carXpert rider was able to re-join the grid following a red flag stoppage.

On the first of 15 laps for the restarted race, Espargaro took the lead from Marc VDS’ Kallio and would not be headed for the rest of the afternoon. This left the Finn second from a pole position start, with Interwetten Paddock Moto2’s Tom Luthi on the podium for the third race in a row and the sixth time this season.

Xavier Simeon (Maptaq SAG Zelos Team) and Julian Simon (Italtrans Racing Team) completed the top five from Aspar Team Moto2’s Nico Terol, NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Alex de Angelis and Italtrans Racing Team’s Takaaki Nakagami – the leading Japanese rider in his home event. It was a race of high attrition, with no less than nine riders failing to make the finish, although the aforementioned Aegerter impressively fought back to eighth position after running last at the restart.

With the title wrapped up in favour of Espargaro, a single race remains on the 2013 Moto2™ calendar. The Gran Premio Generali de la Comunitat Valenciana will take place at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit on 10 November.

Moto2™ Race Classification
1- Pol Espargaro SPA Kalex 28:15.162
2- Mika Kallio FIN Kalex +1.344
3- Thomas Luthi SWI Suter +3.379

Pol Espargaro’s 2013 success signals his first title win in the World Championship. The 22-year-old Spaniard becomes the fourth Moto2™ World Champion and the 107th different rider to win a title in the history of the World Championship.

The younger brother of MotoGP™ racer Aleix Espargaro made his World Championship debut as a wildcard in 2006, at the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya situated barely ten minutes’ drive from his Granollers home. From 27th on the grid, Pol would finish that 125 race in 13th position to become the youngest ever rider to score points in the World Championship, barely one week after his 15th birthday. Covering for the injured Andrea Iannone for the final six races, Espargaro impressed with sixth place in the Valencia season-closer. His first full season came in 2007, switching from Derbi to Aprilia equipment and achieving a first podium finish at Estoril as he finished only two tenths of a second behind winner Hector Faubel.

Espargaro switched back to a Derbi bike for his final three 125 seasons. In 2008 came a further three podium finishes plus his career-first pole position in Barcelona. He would finish fourth in the standings in 2009, then going one better to manage third overall as he missed the podium on only five occasions in 2010. Marc Marquez would win the title before both he and Espargaro jumped up to Moto2™ for 2011. Espargaro’s first campaign in the intermediate category was with FTR machinery and would prove to be difficult, not scoring a podium until Indianapolis before following up with another top three result in Malaysia. He ended a somewhat low-key year 13th in the championship, switching to a Kalex for a title assault in 2012.

Remembered for the battle between Pol Espargaro and Marc Marquez, the 2012 Moto2™ World Championship would not be without its controversy. Espargaro would rack up no less than eight pole positions and four race victories, including Round 2 at Jerez which was red-flagged. The other three wins came at Silverstone, MotorLand Aragón and Phillip Island, with the Australian success being nothing short of dominant as he clinched victory by the massive margin of nearly 17 seconds. However, there was a contentious incident in Barcelona when Espargaro crashed following a chop from Marquez who was recovering from an incident of his own. He would eventually end the year as runner-up and 56 points in arrears of Marquez.

A favourite for the title in 2013, Espargaro started off as he meant to continue by winning in floodlit Qatar but only after an entertaining battle with Scott Redding. He would not retain the championship lead for long, crashing at the inaugural Grand Prix of the Americas two weeks later. A third place in Jerez was followed by a crash at Le Mans and fourth at Mugello, then celebrating back-to-back wins at Barcelona and Assen. The low point was eighth at Silverstone as title rival Redding romped away to a popular home victory, but victories at Misano and Phillip Island were more than welcome. The turning point was qualifying in Australia, when Redding crashed and fractured his left wrist which left the Englishman on the sidelines for a race.

Espargaro clinched the title at Motegi on 27th October, winning the Japanese Grand Prix after closest rivals Redding and Tito Rabat were involved in a first-lap multiple collision. In 2014, he will step up to MotoGP™ with Monster Yamaha Tech3 and is expected to be in contention for podium finishes as he partners Bradley Smith.

A few facts about Pol Espargaro:

Espargaro becomes the sixth Spanish rider to win the intermediate class world title, joining: Sito Pons (1988 and 1989), Dani Pedrosa (2004 and 2005), Jorge Lorenzo (2006 and 2007), Toni Elias (2010) and Marc Marquez (2012)

Espargaro has won the title by recovering from a 38-point deficit to Scott Redding following the 11th race of the year at Silverstone

From the 16 Moto2™ races so far in 2013, Espargaro has had most pole positions (five), most podium finishes (ten) and most race wins (six)

Biography

Date of birth: 10th June 1991
Place of birth: Granollers, Spain
First Grand Prix: Catalunya 2006, 125
First pole position: Catalunya 2008, 125
First podium finish: Portugal 2007, 125
First Grand Prix victory: Indianapolis 2009, 125
Grand Prix starts: 121
Grand Prix victories: 15
Podium finishes: 44
Pole positions: 16
Fastest race laps: 15

World Championship Wins: Moto2™ (2013)

MotoGP™ Career:

2006: 125 World Championship – 20th position on Derbi, 7 starts, 19 points
2007: 125 World Championship – 9th position on Aprilia, 17 starts, 110 points
2008: 125 World Championship – 9th position on Derbi, 14 starts, 124 points
2009: 125 World Championship – 4th position on Derbi, 16 starts, 174 points
2010: 125 World Championship – 3rd position on Derbi, 17 starts, 281 points
2011: Moto2™ World Championship – 13th position on FTR, 17 starts, 75 points
2012: Moto2™ World Championship – 2nd position on Kalex, 17 starts, 268 point

2013: Moto2™ World Championship – WORLD CHAMPION on Kalex, 16 starts, 265 points

Lorenzo on Pole, Spies Retires

Jorge Lorenzo (above) will start from the front in the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan, having clinched his second pole position within the space of a week. At the end of a single 75-minute qualifying session, the Yamaha Factory Racing rider headed Marc Marquez and Nicky Hayden, who picks up a first front row start for over a year. On the same day, Ignite Pramac Racing’s Ben Spies, who has been plagued by injury, announced his retirement from racing.

On a weekend heavily disrupted by inclement weather, Qualifying on Saturday afternoon marked the first time the MotoGP™ riders had taken to the track at Twin Ring Motegi. In order to allow the field as much track time as possible, one single session of 75 minutes replaced the usual setup of 15-minute Q1 and Q2 periods.

Already quickest on a drying track, Lorenzo recorded blistering pace as conditions improved towards the end of the period, registering an effort of 1’53.471. Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) went second on his final flying lap, demoting Hayden to third; nevertheless, the Ducati Team rider still achieves his best qualifying result since the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez in 2012. He now aims to take advantage of his grid position with Ducati before switching to Power Electronics Aspar next season.

Lorenzo’s impressive pace was demonstrated by the fact that all riders from third place downwards were over a full second in arrears. Behind, Row 2 will be occupied by Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi for Honda and Yamaha respectively, with the second Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso in sixth position. GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista will line up seventh – despite a crash at Turn 7 – from LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, with the German returning from a fractured right ankle. Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro was ninth, having already claimed the overall CRT honours for 2013.

Yonny Hernandez completed the top ten for Ignite Pramac Racing, while wildcard Katsuyuki Nakasuga enjoyed a strong session en route to 12th place for Yamaha YSP Racing Team. However, it was a difficult time for Monster Yamaha Tech3 as Cal Crutchlow and Bradley Smith could manage no more than 11th and 13th spots. Nakasuga’s compatriot Hiroshi Aoyama will begin his home race from 18th position on the grid with the Avintia Blusens FTR machine.

Should he be able to end the race with a points lead of 26 or more, 20-year-old Marquez will become the youngest ever MotoGP™ World Champion and first rookie title winner for 35 years. Taking place over the course of 24 laps and with dry conditions expected, Sunday’s 2013 AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan is set to begin at 2pm local time (GMT +9). Due to the lack of track time, Free Practice will start at 9.40am local time, and run for 50 minutes.

On the same day, American rider Ben Spies, who has taken part in only two races this season, has announced that he will retire from racing, and hence split from the Ducati family. Spies and Ducati sighted his injuries as being too much of a hindrance, feeling that he is not able to race at the highest standard next season. He had originally signed with Ducati until the end of the 2014 season. Spies raced in only the first two events of the 2013 season on the Ignite Pramac Ducati as he struggled to recover from reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder in October 2012. Spies suffered the major shoulder injury last October in a crash during the Grand Prix of Malaysia.

“I had such high hopes for racing for Ducati, and Ducati has been incredibly supportive of me during this challenging year, so I am tremendously disappointed that I have not been able to fulfill my personal goals and team goals with Ducati,” Spies said. “I want to thank everyone from racing organizations, factories, teams and all my fans for helping me and supporting me throughout my career. I never dreamed that I would reach the level of success that I have over the past 20 years of racing, but the time has come to stop, and I do so with great sadness.”

Spies, from Longview, Texas, enjoyed a meteoric career on the world level. He won three consecutive American Motorcyclist Association Superbike titles from 2006-08 and won the World Superbike championship as a rookie in 2009 in his first season of global racing.

Spies climbed to MotoGP in 2010 with Monster Yamaha Tech 3, earning Rookie of the Year honors after finishing sixth in the World Championship standings. His best event of his rookie year was the Red Bull Indianapolis GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Spies earned his only career MotoGP pole and finished second in the race.

Promoted to the Yamaha Factory Racing team in 2011, Spies earned his only career MotoGP victory in a magisterial ride in the rain at the prestigious TT Assen. He also finished third at Indianapolis, one of four podium finishes that helped him to fifth place in the points that season. The 2012 season was a nightmare for Spies. He fought through illness, injury and numerous mechanical problems, finishing 10th in points with a best result of fourth for Yamaha Factory Racing before suffering the major shoulder injury in Malaysia.

Spies moved to the Ignite Pramac Ducati team for a fresh start in 2013. But he struggled with weakness and pain in his surgically reconstructed shoulder during preseason testing and finished 10th and 13th, respectively, in the first two races of the season. Continuing pain and weakness in his shoulder and a chest injury forced Spies from his bike for the next two races. He practiced and qualified in late May at the Grand Prix of Italy but did not race due to persistent problems with his shoulder.

Spies attempted one more comeback, in August at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP at IMS. But that return ended early when he crashed during pre-qualifying practice and separated his left shoulder. That would end up as his final MotoGP event.

“We would like to salute Ben Spies for his remarkable career and are sad that injuries are forcing him from the seat,” said J. Douglas Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president. “Ben has been a fantastic ambassador for the Red Bull Indianapolis GP and for the exciting, great sport of MotoGP motorcycle racing in the United States, and we always will welcome him back to IMS with great affection and appreciation. We wish him the best of luck for the next phase of his life.”

MotoGP™ Qualifying Practice Classification
1- Jorge Lorenzo SPA Yamaha 1:53.471
2- Marc Marquez SPA Honda +0.658
3- Nicky Hayden USA Ducati +1.068
1st CRT
9- Aleix Espargaro SPA ART +2.248

Mika Kallio will start from pole position for the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan, picking up the top spot in Moto2™ for the first time. The Marc VDS Racing Team rider will share the front row with Xavier Simeon and Johann Zarco, while title contenders Tito Rabat, Pol Espargaro and Scott Redding line up sixth, seventh and 15th.

Ahead of Qualifying, there had been no track action for any category through a lack of visibility and heavy rain at Twin Ring Motegi. Eventually, the intermediate class had one hour of running time in which to set up bikes as well as posting lap times for grid position. On a mostly dry circuit as the sun began to set in Japan, Kallio topped the timesheets with a 2’01.248, edging out Simeon by two tenths of a second; this marked Kallio’s first pole since the 250 season closer in Valencia six years ago.

Less than one tenth of a second covered the riders filling spots two to four, with Simeon (Maptaq SAG Zelos Team) second, as Zarco (Came IodaRacing Project) demoted Simone Corsi (NGM Mobile Racing) to fourth place in the last knockings of the session. There was a top-five effort from QMMF Racing Team’s Rafid Topan Sucipto of Indonesia, while Tuenti HP 40 pairing Rabat and Espargaro will line up sixth and seventh from Technomag carXpert’s Dominique Aegerter. The top ten was rounded out by Danny Kent (Tech3) and Mattia Pasini (NGM Mobile Racing).

It was a difficult day all-round for Redding. On Thursday, the erstwhile championship leader had been cleared to compete, having missed the last race in Australia after breaking his left wrist on the Saturday. In pain today, the Marc VDS rider rode to 15th position ahead of a day on which Espargaro could win the 2013 title; to claim the ultimate honour, he would need to finish inside the top seven, with Rabat not winning and Redding far enough behind to be left outside of touching distance. The current margin between Espargaro and Redding is 16 points, with a maximum of 50 remaining.

Sunday’s Moto2™ AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan is schedule to commence at 12:20pm local time (GMT +9), being decided over the course of 23 laps. Due to the lack of track time, Free Practice will start at 8:50am local time, and run for 40 minutes.

Moto2™ Qualifying Practice Classification
1- Mika Kallio FIN Kalex 2:01.248
2- Xavier Simeon BEL Kalex +0.204
3- Johann Zarco FRA Suter +0.236

Fresh from his victory in Australia last weekend, Moto3™ title contender Alex Rins has taken pole position for the AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan. The Estrella Galicia 0,0 rider sealed the top spot for the seventh time this season as the field was presented with an unprecedented challenge, having not taken to the track before Qualifying.

In a highly unusual situation, Moto3™ Qualifying signalled the first track action of the weekend at Motegi, with all Friday action plus Saturday morning practice having been called off due to poor visibility and wet weather. Qualifying began at the slightly delayed time of ten to one; with 55 minutes on offer, the riders were challenged with adapting to track conditions as well as attempting to post lap times for grid position.

With the circuit already wet when the green light illuminated, further late rain helped to cemented pole in the form of Rins’ best effort of a 2’09.387 – 11 seconds off record pace. On Sunday, the Spaniard will aim to overhaul compatriot Luis Salom in the championship table, having already moved to within five points of the leader. Rins will be joined on the front row by fellow title challenger Maverick Viñales (Team Calvo) and Estrella Galicia 0,0 teammate Alex Marquez.

Championship leader Salom (Red Bull KTM Ajo) will start fourth, joined on the second row by Caretta Technology – RTG’s Jack Miller and Ongetta-Centro Seta’s Isaac Viñales. Niccolo Antonelli and Jonas Folger will line up seventh and ninth for their respective GO&FUN Gresini Moto3 and Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3 outfits, while Japanese wildcards shone as Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia) and Sena Yamada (Team Plus One & Endurance) qualified eighth and tenth. Fellow countryman Hyuga Watanabe also enjoyed a strong day, managing 12th place for La Fonte Tascaracing.

Some qualified lower than expected, but could be ones to watch in Sunday’s race, which is forecast to take place in dry conditions. Mahindra Racing’s Miguel Oliveira and Efren Vazquez could muster no more than 18th and 21st positions, while Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin and Arthur Sissis will be looking to rise from their corresponding 13th and 19th places. Several riders were caught out by the wet surface, including Rins, who slid off-track at the end of the session but had already sealed pole.

Sunday’s Moto3™ AirAsia Grand Prix of Japan is scheduled to begin at 11am local time (GMT +9), taking place over the course of 20 laps. Salom could win the title this weekend, but would have to win the race with Rins finishing 11th or lower. Due to the lack of track time, Free Practice will start at 8am local time, and run for 40 minutes.

Moto3™ Qualifying Practice Classification
1- Alex Rins SPA KTM 2:09.387
2- Maverick Viñales SPA KTM +0.923
3- Alex Marquez SPA KTM +0.926

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