Published on November 20th, 2013 | by Bedlam
2013 MOTOGP REPORT CARD
Season 2013 left many questions unanswered. Does Nicky Hayden shape his eyebrows? Has excessive peroxide given Alvaro Bautista brain damage? Does Dani Pedrosa use one of those plastic turtle stools to reach the toilet, or has his Repsol wealth allowed him to have a dwarf-sized toilet built for him?
These are questions I cannot answer. What I can do is summarise the season…
All hail the new king
MotoGP 2013 was not merely a year of great motorcycle racing, it was the beginning of a new golden era. The future of MotoGP is in safe hands, and we are entering the era of a new motorcycling genius. Moto2 and Moto3 are brimming with talent (mostly Spanish), and 2014 promises to be even better than this season was, as a host of contracts expire, and a many of the choice seats become available for 2015, including the returning Suzuki team. The competition for those seats should make for an incredible year of racing, and a very different-looking field when the music stops before the circus arrives in Valencia next November.
This season also saw the championship battle spread to social media, as both Marquez and Lorenzo rallied their Facebook and Twitter fan groups to build hype as the championship reached its climax. Lorenzo cultivated the underdog label, and tried to build support with his #readytofight campaign. Marquez and the hugely popular Valentino Rossi spent the year sharing the love with their digital communities. It’s a dimension that won’t be going anywhere.
1 Marc Marquez – Repsol Honda Team
Competitive from Day One, yet mature enough to be a little conservative and spend time learning the idiosyncrasies of the big bike. By mid-season he had its measure, and his riding style was far more aggressive, assuming the championship lead brought further confidence, not nerves. As the championship entered the summer break, Honda, who’d offered Stoner more money to stay than anyone in the company’s history, found themselves asking “Casey who?”
Every practice and qualifying session was a test session for him, and he improved consistently in every session on the bike. It’s ominous for 2014, when he’ll have a full season under his belt.
Incredible ability. Amazing attitude. Apart from an unforced error at Mugello, and his part in the Bridgestone debacle at Phillip Island, his championship season was flawless. His pace on the track was complimented by his maturity to manage the championship lead when it mattered, and winning the silverware at Valencia was just. He’s the ideal ambassador for MotoGP, and hasn’t stopped smiling all year. I’m surprised his grin didn’t split his helmet when he crossed the line in Valencia.
Marquez will define the next decade of motorcycle racing, as Rossi has the last.
2 Jorge Lorenzo – Yamaha Factory Racing
Demonstrated his maturity this year, plus a mountain of courage at Assen when he rode to fifth after surgery on his collarbone. Fighting back when the championship seemed lost made for a thrilling climax at Valencia. Unfortunately his riding on the day was less than sportsmanlike, and takes the sheen off his otherwise incredible efforts this year. Was it illegal? No, but it was unbecoming, and poor sportsmanship. He wasn’t blocking, or swerving in a way that would attract a penalty, but he was deliberately slowing pre-apex to bunch the field up behind him in an obvious attempt to unsettle Marquez, or create an incident in the pack. Proved that his happy persona is a façade that crumbles quickly under pressure, just as it slipped when Marquez barged him out of the final corner at Jerez. He was quick to seize the moral high ground on that move post-race, but didn’t have the same objections about contact at Phillip Island and Valencia.
Despite that shortcoming, Lorenzo is at the peak of his powers right now. His riding style has developed to the point that it is near-perfect. His race preparations are clinical in the way he uses practice and qualifying to optimise his race set-up and determine his race pace, and still set the bike up to be contending for pole on Saturday. His riding style is almost boring in its technical brilliance, and his ability to execute a plan and manage a race is unparalleled. He’ll punch hard to get his title back in 2014.
3 Dani Pedrosa – Repsol Honda Team
Another top three finish for the perennial underachiever, outclassed by his rookie team mate. This is his third team mate to win the championship, and Dani needs to take the final step in 2014, or he’s unlikely to get another chance in a top team. Had some great races, and racked up a few wins, but the sad irony is that the best of Pedrosa highlights the worst of him. His performance at Valencia was brilliant, and reminded us that he has freakish talent, but in the context of the entire season it underlines the fact that he is inconsistent and regularly underperforms, which is where the championship gets away from him. If the world championship was held only on Spanish tracks, Dani would’ve won a few by now. But it isn’t, and that’s why he’ll never win the big trophy.
4 Valentino Rossi – Yamaha Factory Racing
For a while it seemed that two years racing CRT bikes on the Ducati might’ve lead him to forget how to ride at the front of the pack, but he put it all together in Assen for an emotional return to the top step. It was an otherwise underwhelming year for the bloke who has set the standard in motorcycle racing for so long. His long-term engineer, Jeremy Burgess was made the scapegoat for Rossi’s underachievement, and if he doesn’t spend more time competing for victories in 2014, that move will leave a bitter taint on Rossi’s career. Despite his results, Rossi is still the greatest drawcard for spectators and adds plenty to the spectacle.
5 Cal Crutchlow – Monster Yamaha Tech 3
Somewhat disappointing season after starting out well. Ran with the front-runners in the early part of the season and threatened to fight for race wins, but fell back over the course of the season as the factory bikes developed. Cal Crashlow spent more than his fair share of time picking his bike out of the kitty litter, but on every occasion was trying to squeeze 110% out of the bike. His reward for a successful year was the Ducati seat he coveted for so long. Crutchlow is one of the gutsiest blokes in the championship, and a fiercely competitive rider, so only he knows why he chose to jump from the most competitive non-factory bike, to a bike that’s nowhere near as fast. Especially after seeing his 2012 team mate take his Tech 3 Yamaha off to market and return with magical Ducati beans that failed to yield.
6 Alvaro Bautista – Go&Fun Honda Gresini
Made it through a whole season without repeating last year’s first corner tenpin trick, and even seems to have got away from his other habit of dropping the bike in the closing laps of the race. Perhaps it dawned on him that his results greatly improve when he actually finishes the race. Another one who needs to pull out big results in 2014, or he’ll be overlooked when musical chairs commences. He showed plenty of competiveness fighting with the other satellite bikes, but still hasn’t met the expectations that accompanied his arrival in MotoGP acouple of years ago. He must be the front runner for a Suzuki seat in 2015, though if that relationship is renewed the bike should have Oggy knobs built in this time.
7 Stefan Bradl – LCR Honda MotoGP
Solid, but unexciting performance this year. Regularly among the fastest of the satellite bikes, but hasn’t distinguished himself from that pack. Factory seats will be up for grabs next year, but so far he hasn’t put himself in contention. Has plenty of ability, as he’s proved by mixing it with Rossi and Crutchlow this year, but needs to do more if he wants a faster bike. 2014 will be the decisive year for him, and he’s Jew for a big result. I mean due. Unless he delivers more, it’ll be his last chance.
8 Andrea Dovizioso – Ducati Team
It’s unknown whether he has a massive stock portfolio, an enormous yacht, or just built a mansion and furnished it with supermodels, but one hopes Dovizigoslow received adequate reward for swapping a bike that competed for podiums in 2012 for one that battled with backmarkers on production bikes in 2013. Last season, Andrea was battling with the factory bikes and spending his own money to upgrade components that Herve Poncheral couldn’t afford, such was his will to win. He gave that away, seduced by the red Italian succubus that’s stolen the last competitive years of three Italian riders before him. But next year’s bike will be more competitive. Ducati has assured us. It’s their standard end-of-year press release now. Regardless, 2014 sees him teamed with Crutchlow again in what promises to be a series of great battles, regardless of where they are in the field.
9 Nicky Hayden – Ducati Team
Fifth year of the same from this partnership. Hayden keeps his higher-paid team mates honest, and still seems to genuinely enjoy racing, despite his bike being a dog. On a customer Honda next year, Hayden will show the younger kids a thing or two.
10 Bradley Smith – Monster Yamaha Tech 3
A decent, if uninspiring first effort. His position as the new kid in the class entirely overshadowed by the young Spanish student. Some questioned his admission to the class, and his 2013 results haven’t completely answered those questions. Exam results must improve next year or he’ll be removed from the class. He improved toward the end of the year, but he’ll need to go further next year if he wants to stay. A top-class rookie team mate in Pol Espargaro is likely to embarrass him next year if he doesn’t. The world is screaming out for a ranga to win the world championship, but Smith isn’t that ranga.
11 Aleix Espargaro – Power Electronics Aspar
The standout performer on a pile of crap that shouldn’t be on the MotoGP grid. Aleix has a tonne of ability and was very unlucky not to get a real bike for 2014. How he’s overlooked in favour of riders like Bautista and Smith is a mystery to me. Putting Aleix on the other Tech 3 bike with his brother next year would’ve been a fantastic scenario.
12 Andrea Iannone – Pramac Racing Team
Had a decent year, and showed he could be capable of more with better machinery underneath him. In saying that, he beat his team mate by a very slim margin, so not a hugely successful effort.
13 Michele Pirro – Pramac Racing Team
Not a bad year. As with his team mate, it’d be interesting to see what he’d be capable of on a real racebike.
14 Colin Edwards – NGM Mobile Forward Racing
An old dog with nothing to prove, who races for passion. He’s much better than the bike he’s on, but the sport is better for him being there, and he still knows how to make a bike go fast.
15 Randy de Puniet – Power Electronics Aspar
Had a reasonable year, but regularly outclassed by his teammate. Showed promise testing the Suzuki in anticipation of its return to the sport, but overshadowed in CRT by Espagaro and Edwards, so his chances of getting a prototype bike aren’t great. De Puniet is also in danger of having less profile in the MotoGP paddock than his wife.
16 Hector Barbera – Avintia Blusens
2013 was a learning year for Hector, particularly when he learned that beating his wife didn’t make the bike go any faster. Was little more than a backmarker in MotoGP, and it appears his best years were in 250cc.
17 Danilo Petrucci – Came Ioda Racing
Didn’t do enough to justify his place on the grid, but difficult to apportion blame between him and the bike.
18 Yonny Hernandez – Pramac Racing Team
Did little to distinguish himself, which adds to the rumour that the only reason he stays in MotoGP is because it’s safer than living in Columbia. Unless he delivers more in 2014, he’ll have to buy a bullet-proof vest and go back to Bogota.
19 Claudio Corti – NGM Mobile Forward Racing
Did little other than make up numbers on the grid. It’s always difficult to judge with such different machinery, but in this case his team mate was light years ahead of him, and his results didn’t improve over the course of the year. Hard to call it a successful season based on that.
20 Hiroshi Aoyama – Avintia Blusens
Has never quite delivered the form he showed in the 250cc championship, where he had some great battles with Simoncelli. In fact, he seems a completely different racer to who he was in 2009. It’s not widely known that most of his family perished in the Japanese tsunami in 2011, so he could be forgiven for having lost some of his fight. The guy has a mountain of courage to deal with that and compete in a world championship, but courage doesn’t always assist with lap speed.
21 Ben Spies – Pramac Racing Team
Who? Oh yeah, I kind of remember him. Turned up at Indianapolis, but produced a sick note and went home early. Said he wouldn’t be coming back to play in 2014. Nobody seemed to mind.
Off the track winners
Nerds. The socially awkward techno-geeks who compensate for their lack of female company by dedicating themselves to the betterment of digital technology.
Don’t take for granted how fortunate we are that the digital technology is developing as it is. High Definition imagery, gyroscopic cameras on bikes and miniaturised cameras embedded in the track surface, helicopter-mounted cameras, and high speed, super slow motion footage all edited and broadcast to your lounge room in real-time, with live timing available on your mobile phone, if you need that level of detail. As great as the racing is on the track right now, it’s the Audio-Visual technology that allows us to appreciate it fully, in a way that has never been available previously.
Off the track losers
Channel Ten, for their criminal negligence of the Assen TT broadcast. It’s an accepted fact that the F1 procession generates more revenue for the network, so MotoGP gets punted down the broadcast queue when the two clash. But the Dutch TT was different, being a Saturday race, all it clashed with was F1 qualifying. So rather than broadcast the race (and Valentino Rossi’s emotional victory) live, we were served over an hour of F1 promos. Not even the qualifying itself; the broadcast switched to a Mercedes F1 infomercial, with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg flying paper aeroplanes to demonstrate simple aerodynamics to the kiddies at home. After commercials, pre-recorded interviews and promo footage, Channel Ten finally broadcast F1 qualifying an hour after they’d commandeered the broadcast. Treating MotoGP like a red-headed step-child was seriously poor form, and undermines all their rhetoric about being the home of MotoGP. For god’s sake, they even created a dedicated sports channel with One HD, and all it runs is Wesley Snipes movies. Is MotoGP really that unimportant to you, Ten?
As a host, Daryl Beattie gets better every year. Or maybe Greg Rust just gets worse, I’m not sure. Either way, the pretty blue tie ‘Rusty’ picked up this year doesn’t mask the fact that he hasn’t got a clue about bike racing. Maybe spending less time in wardrobe, and more time familiarising himself with the sport might help. He’d also learn more if he talked less. You can’t overlook the fact that Ten have done great things for the Motogp telecast since they salvaged it from the 2am delayed telecast Channel Nine used to serve up, with Daryl Eastlake screeching over the top of it. But there was no reason to treat it with the contempt they dished up in June.