November 9th, 2013
Jorge Lorenzo would like to make something clear: Marc Marquez isn't the only rider capable of winning in Valencia come Sunday. To that end, Lorenzo set the fastest time in FP4 with a lap of 1'31.313. Moreover, he spent nearly the entire 30-minute session putting down laps in the 1'31 range -- a pace only Marquez seems to be able to match consistently. Marquez was second-fastest rider in the final free practice with Valentino Rossi in third.
Pol Espargaro isn’t in a particularly generous mood this weekend. Already owning 2013 Moto2 championship, the Spanish rider made it abundantly clear he'd like to win again before graduating to the top class next year. His lap time of 1'35.126 beat second-fastest Jordi Torres by two-tenths of a second. Third-fastest Nicolas Terol was another two-tenths back.
Former points leader Scott Redding -- who likely will take the runner-up prize in this year's Moto2 championship -- currently sits out of the points in 18th position and more than a second back of the leaders. Redding, who is nursing a broken wrist, also will be moving to the top class next year.
Aleix Espargaro and Colin Edwards will race for the NGM Forward team in MotoGP next year, riding FTR-based Yamaha production machines. The announcement had been expected for a very long time, but confirmation only came on Saturday morning at Valencia, as haggling over buying out Espargaro's contract had continued over the past couple of months. Negotiations have finally been completed, and Espargaro has been cleared to join Forward.
Marc Marquez broke the all-time lap record and used the pieces to carve away the hopes of his championship rival in Saturday’s free practice at the Valencia circuit. Marquez’s lap of 1’30.803 is the fastest-ever lap at the 2.5-mile circuit and it bettered Jorge Lorenzo's best by a full tenth of a second. More importantly, Marquez didn't set the time until Lorenzo turned what appeared to the fast lap of the weekend.
And it was -- for about 25 seconds. Then Marquez topped it again.
Valentino Rossi made a late charge to take the third. Dani Pedrosa -- the only rider to win in every class at this Spanish track -- placed fourth with Cal Crutchlow in fifth. Completing the top 10 and avoiding the first qualifying practice are Alvaro Bautista (sixth), Stefan Bradl (seventh), Nicky Hayden (eighth), teammate Andrea Divizioso (ninth) with Bradley Smith in the 10th and final slot. The rest of the riders must head into the first qualifying session in the afternoon with the top-two finishers there given a chance to better their grid positions in the second qualifying practice.
In Saturday’s FP3, Luis Salom did what he does best: Stalk the leaders for the better part of a contest and then pounce at the end. And that is the way in went Valencia, Spain on Saturday with Salom putting a blistering final lap to take the top time with a 1’39.879 -- the fastest Moto3 time of the weekend so far. Maverick Vinales also put in a late, fast lap to set the second-fastest FP3 time, 75 thousandths back. Jack Miller and his FTR Honda spoiled the KTM party with a third-fastest time.
Miller actually hit the top of the timesheet with six minutes remaining in the practice. He was the first rider to dip under the 1’40 mark with a 1’39.963. But within four minutes, Vinales grabbed the top spot again. And it looked to be the top time until points-leader Salom nipped him with at the very end. Both Luis Salom and Alex Rins were slowed briefly by a technical problems that kept the bikes in the pits for short stretches. Maverick Vinales, second in the championship, led most of the session. Alex Rins and Jonas Folger rounded out the top five. Three riders -- Salom, Vinales and Rins -- are separated by only five points in the championship so any of them could claim the title on the season's final race Sunday.
MotoGP fans have been rubbing their hands in anticipation of this weekend's final round of the championship. The race has everything: a mental Moto3 race to be decided outright by the rider who wins, with just five points separating Luis Salom, Maverick Viñales and Alex Rins; a triumphant homecoming for a newly crowned Moto2 champion, Pol Espargaro wearing a positively regal helmet to celebrate, while his title rival Scott Redding wears special leathers and helmet thanking the Marc VDS Racing team who have stood behind him for the past four seasons; and a shootout for the MotoGP championship, between Jorge Lorenzo, a man with nothing to lose, and Marc Marquez, who has to balance between riding hard enough to keep the bike working properly and not taking any unnecessary risks, while ensuring he comes home in fourth, something which sounds easier than it is. There were even a couple of sideshows: the presentation of the Honda RCV1000R production racer, and Yamaha's annual technical presentation, in which they brief the media on how they have developed the bike to be so competitive.
All that is forgotten. Valentino Rossi's shock announcement on Thursday that he had told long-term crew chief Jeremy Burgess that he wanted to replace him with someone else has dominated the headlines, as well as the hearts and minds of almost everyone in the paddock. In the search for the elusive last couple of tenths of a second which separate Rossi from the three Spanish superstars who have dominated the 2013 season, the Italian is leaving no stone unturned. Even the most revered of institutions - Burgess is held in extremely high regard throughout the paddock, even by his fiercest rivals - are no longer sacred. Rossi still wants to win, and so far, he has failed. 'We've been chasing rainbows for four years,' as Burgess so succinctly put it, but to no avail. 'We haven’t nailed anything decent in those four years. These are long periods in racing and it becomes more and more difficult.'
Even though he already claimed his world chanpionship, Pol Espargaro didn't relinquish his spot at this top of the timesheet by again setting the fast time in the second practice at Valencia. Esparago remained more than a tenth of a second clear of the field with teammate Esteve Rabat in second and Thomas Luthi in third. Last year's Moto2 winner here, Marc Marquez, sits at the top of the MotoGP practice in what traditionally is the final race of the season.
Marc Marquez again emerged from Valencia's second practice with the top time, leading both teammate Dani Pedrosa and championship challanger Jorge Lorenzo. Marquez set the fastest time of the weekend thus far with a 1'31.220 that put him more than one-tenth ahead of current world champion Lorenzo. Marquez needs only to finish fourth or better (if Lorenzo wins) to claim the championship as a rookie. The Yamahas of Cal Crutchlow and Valentino Rossi rounded out the top five.
As it turns out, Alex Rins had a response to Luis Salom's dominance at FP1. Later Friday in FP2 at the Valencia circuit, Rins set the fastest lap of the session with a 1'40.489 with Salom in second and Maverick Vinales in third, not quite one tenth of a second behind the leader. The fact that the three riders who have a shot at the championship set the three fastest practice times does nothing to dispell the notion that the Moto3 race could be the race of the weekend among the three classes. Jonas Folger and Jack Miller rounded out the top five. The top ten riders finished FP2 separated by a single second.
Pol Espargaro, already crowned the 2013 Moto2 World Champion, obviously isn't content to rest on his laurels. The Spaniard and future MotoGP rider set the fast lap during FP1 at the Valencia circuit Friday with a time of 1'35.691. Esteve Rabat placed a close second at eight-hundreths back with Thomas Luthi rounding out the top three. Championship runner-up Scott Redding, still nursing a fractured wrist, lapped 23rd quickest.
MotoGP rookie and championship points leader Marc Marquez pounced at the end of FP1 at the Valencia circuit Friday to set a fast lap of 1'31.557, a mere 18-thousanths faster than second-fastest rider Jorge Lorenzo. In this case, that .018 must feel like an hour for Lorenzo who sits second in the championship and needs to finish Sunday's final race of the 2013 season several places in front of his Spanish rival if he is to win the championship. Dani Pedrosa's 1'31.581 took third fastest, another six-thousandths behind Lorenzo.
The surprise of the session was an improving Bradley Smith who put his Tech 3 Yamaha into the fourth slot, a little more than one-tenth of a second faster than Valentino Rossi, in fifth.
The championship leaders all wanted to make a statement in the first free practice at the Valencia circuit in Spain. Luis Salom, current points leader, spoke the loudest with a fast lap of 1'40.403, a time that puts him two-tenths of a second clear of second fastest and second in the championship Maverick Vinales. Jonas Folger ended FP1 as third fastest, one tenth ahead of Alex Rins. Rookie Rins, third in the championship, sits six-tenths behind Salom in what should prove to be an exciting and likely hard-fought final race of 2013. A mere five points separates the top three riders going into the 17th Moto3 race of the season.