2013 Motegi MotoGP Preview: Three Championships On The Line, And The Weather Ready To Play A Role

After the farcical yet compelling Australian Grand Prix, the Grand Prix paddock heads north to Japan for the last of the three overseas races. The contrast could not be greater: from unusually warm weather at the magnificent, sweeping Phillip Island circuit, it is cold and very wet conditions which greet the riders at Motegi, a circuit dominated by stop-and-go corners with little rhythm to it. While almost every rider on the grid adores Phillip Island, you would be hard pressed to find a rider not holding a Japanese passport with any affection for Motegi. The challenges the riders face are mainly of physical endurance, with very few spots testing their mettle and skill.

Adding the test of endurance will be the weather this weekend. Though Typhoon Francisco has now weakened to a tropical storm and is forecast to pass much further south than was feared, large amounts of rain are still expected at Motegi, especially on Friday evening and Saturday morning. While all of practice looks set to be wet, at least the riders will get some practice, as early forecasts had suggested that several, if not all, sessions could be a complete washout. For now, it just looks like the riders will be cold and rather wet.

That could add to some real excitement at the Japanese circuit. The championship is still far from decided in all three classes, after the surprises at Phillip Island stirred up the title fight. Alex Rins' victory in Australia saw him close the gap to Moto3 championship leader Luis Salom to just 5 points with two races to go; Scott Redding's qualifying crash in which he fractured his wrist allowed Pol Espargaro to turn a 9 point deficit in the Moto2 title chase into a 16 point lead; and the bizarre mistake by Marc Marquez' crew which led to him being disqualified meant that his lead over Jorge Lorenzo was slashed from 43 points to just 18. Two of the three titles could be decided at Motegi on Sunday, but there is a strong possibility that all three championships could be taken down to the final race at Valencia, the first time that has happened in the history of the series.

Marc Marquez looks the rider most likely to wrap up his title at Motegi, a result which would be a dream come true for Honda. The Japanese factory owns the Motegi Twin Ring circuit, which also serves as a test track for HRC. Sunday will see all of Honda's top brass present, and given the resources which HRC continues to invest in MotoGP, and their wish to spend heavily in Moto3, winning the championship at home would go a long way to pacifying any internal resistance from Honda's board.

The track is ideal for the RC213V, playing to the bikes strengths. Hard braking areas, followed by slow corners with hard acceleration, a long, high-speed back straight and a circuit which is very heavy on fuel: if there is a circuit where you'd bet on a Honda to win, it is Motegi. Yet at the pre-event press conference, Jorge Lorenzo was sounding confident. The Yamaha is strong in acceleration, he told the press, especially since they received the new gearbox, and the larger diameter brake disks which the teams are allowed to use because of the very heavy braking zones at the circuit help with the Yamaha's weakness on the brakes.

The biggest obstacle Lorenzo faces is fuel consumption. The Yamaha is the thirstiest of the MotoGP bikes - in part due to the long bang firing order of the inline four cylinder, which requires a balance shaft to cut down on vibration - and Motegi is very hard indeed on fuel. Last year, Cal Crutchlow ran out of fuel on the last lap, while battling with Alvaro Bautista for a podium. Lorenzo has finished 2nd at Motegi for the past two years, and that will be his aim again on Sunday. A 2nd place finish in Japan is all Lorenzo needs to take the title fight to a final showdown in Valencia.

To do that, he has to beat one of the two Hondas. Dani Pedrosa has won the last two MotoGP races here, and Marc Marquez won the Moto2 race in 2012, after failing to get his bike into first gear at the start, and leaving the starting line almost dead last. Staying ahead of either Pedrosa or Marquez will be a massive challenge at Motegi for Jorge Lorenzo.

Two things could come to Lorenzo's aid. The first is an appeal by Yamaha to Race Direction over Marquez' exit from pit lane at Phillip Island. When he rejoined the track after swapping bikes, Marquez cut across the track just as Lorenzo was hurtling into Doohan Corner, the fast, sweeping first corner. At the time, Lorenzo judged blame for the incident as being 50/50 between himself and Marquez, Lorenzo admitting he had run wide, and Marquez having left him little room after rejoining from pit lane. But after reviewing the footage with team managers Wilco Zeelenberg and Maio Meregalli, Lorenzo had felt that Marquez' move was more dangerous than he had at first though.

A delegation from Yamaha is to face Race Direction on Friday, where they are set to make their case for penalizing Marquez. The omens are not good for the Yamaha team, as Race Direction has not summoned either rider to hear their side of the story, a sign that penalties are unlikely. Race Direction already examined the move during the race at Phillip Island, and dismissed it as a racing incident then. The four members of Race Direction are unlikely to have changed their mind since then.

What may be of more assistance to Lorenzo is the weather, with heavy rain expected throughout practice. As the forecast stands, the first dry session the teams will get is likely to be Sunday morning warm up. What that means is that the team that gets their set up right first time will have the advantage. Though Honda have the benefit of having tested recently at Motegi, Lorenzo's crew, led by the irascible Catalan genius Ramon Forcada, have been very quick to find a working set up all this year, and for the rest of the season. If the crews have to gamble on a set up for the race, Forcada is a safe bet to get it pretty close first time.

The wet weather will also help Lorenzo's engine situation. Though it is far from critical, Lorenzo only really has one good engine, with three more that are starting to get very tired. If it's wet, then engine performance becomes far less important to setting a good time, with traction a far more significant issue. Two days of wet practice would allow Lorenzo to rest his good engine, and run up some more miles on the old motors.

Rain would also be welcomed in the Ducati garage, and not just because wet conditions are the only hope of being competitive for Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden. Hayden is running dangerously close to needing to take a 6th engine, which would incur the penalty of starting from pit lane. Two days of heavy rain - preferably including a couple of sessions where conditions made riding impossible - could be the difference between a pit lane start and making it to the end of the season without penalty. Even ordinary wet sessions would help, taking the engine decision to Valencia. There, pit lane is just about in the perfect location if you had to start from there for a penalty, offering a clear run into Turn 1.

The weather may also throw a lifeline to Scott Redding. His championship hopes seemed to be in tatters after his crash in qualifying at Phillip Island, the Marc VDS Racing rider fracturing his radius as he tried to grip on to his bucking Kalex and prevent a highside. It did not work, and Redding was forced to have surgery that Saturday night. At first, the team had announced he would not be at Motegi, but Redding was not ready to give up. After intensive therapy, he will attempt to race, and has already been passed fit by the circuit doctor, subject to another examination on Friday after free practice.

Wet weather would be a godsend for the Englishman, as it would massive reduce the stresses of braking. Fortunately - if you can call it that - for Redding, it was his left wrist he fractured, and not the crucial right. Racing at Motegi with a hand or wrist injury is always painful because of the stresses placed by the braking zones, but at least the left wrist is not needed for braking and accelerating. What effect bearing most of the strain on his right arm will have on the arm pump he recently had surgery for remains to be seen.

Having Redding competing is also good for Pol Espargaro, as the Spaniard told the press conference. Winning while your competition is absent is not the same as beating them out on track, but mistakes and accidents are part of racing, he told the press. And while wet weather favored Scott Redding, conditions on Sunday look to be going Espargaro's way, with the weather set to be sunny and dry. With tropical storms involved, of course, those things can change very rapidly, however.

The 2013 Grand Prix motorcycle racing may be drawing to a conclusion, but it isn't there yet. There is still plenty to play for, and a group of willing combatants ready to slug it out. Titles may be decided this weekend, but don't be surprised if all three championships go down to the wire. That is a sign of just how competitive all three classes have become, at least among the elite in each class. The fat lady may be waiting in the wings, but she doesn't look like she'll start warming her vocal chords just yet.

Round 17
2013

Comments

Taking it easy on lorenzo...

>>At the time, Lorenzo judged blame for the incident as being 50/50 between himself and Marquez.....But after reviewing the footage

Don't you mean 'after being told by Wilco that one more point would mean a back of grid start for Marquez which would make Jorge's title chances even better he had a change of heart'?

Looking at the helicopter footage it didn't seem that Marquez 'cut across' anything. He started the turn while within the pit out lines and didn't change his trajectory once he left them while leaving plenty of room between him and the inside edge of the track. Jorge was wide compared to Pedrosa's line. And it is a race. If race direction will set up dangerous situations while a race is running then it is only a matter of time before something dangerous happens. That Marquez was involved is not a surprise!

Chris
http://moto2-usa.blogspot.com/

Total votes: 44

well it is sad that bickering

well it is sad that bickering and moaning to race direction has become a way to gain an advantage over your rival. id rather they settle it on the track. For Jl to go 180 on what he said straight after the race seems to be a very petty move IMO..

Total votes: 37

this is racing

Ofcourse politics are involved. Millions of dollars matter, championships are marketing gems which financially support the racing effort and define the level of involvement. It is irrational to not push every avenue for a chance at the title.

Having said that, I agree very much with the cosman on that this is truly race directions fault who had their hands forced by Dorna. If the tires were only going to last 10 laps then I think 2 races with split points would have been safer and just as entertaining If not more, but ofcourse this overextends time schedules.

What is very clear, is that the pitlane at Phillip Island, as criticized by David previously, is not of suitable nature for this type of racing.

Also, the rules for the speed during most of the exit of pitlane, while logical from a safety standpoint to prevent racing before pitlane exit, was completely nullified by the immediacy of a very high speed corner.

The reason there won't be any penalizing, and there shouldn't, is because Honda would lobby a massive appeal or threat against Race Direction and Dorna, because Marc while having been in a few altercations already, did everything within the rules about his exit.

Total votes: 11

Well, technically...

a previous article on another site said that Yamaha would be willing to take a 1 point hit for Lorenzo as well from the same incident (given the fact that he has a clean license). This would maintain the validity of Lorenzo's "50/50" statement. JL wouldn't lose out on anything, really... even credibility. Adding this single point to Marquez's long list of infractions, however, would seriously hurt MM 93's title hopes.

As far as Lorenzo's "wider line" compared to Pedrosa... well that is almost always the case.

Total votes: 25

Pulling It All Out...

How sad is Jorge and his team that they are actually insisting that Marquez gets another penalty point in order to win the championship?! Desperate tactics by a 2-time MotoGP Champion!? Race Direction should ask Jorge to give back his 2 MotoGP titles if he wants Marquez to be penalized again at JL99's team request! If there ever was a time for HRC to hand out team orders... it's now! HRC needs to sit all the Honda Teams down and tell them what the Big Picture is for this weekend! Not saying to let MM93 win... but that there should be All Hondas on the podium and every Honda in front of Lorenzo and the rest of the Yamahas. The other political Honda-team rivalry non-sense can be addressed later after Marquez wins the title. Go Redding and Bradl. Alvaro should make P3 on Sunday.

Total votes: 36

this can all be

just for adding more pressure on mm and let him know don't ride dangerous were all watching you.

and, how things are inside honda.......

don't mind yamaha take the title

Total votes: 22

Yamaha didn't make their

Yamaha didn't make their claim after the PI race so they won't get anything. It's also quite petty and I'm assuming Lin Jarvis's idea in the first place. Either way, decide it on the track, not in race direction. The kid got black flagged (IMO, a ride through should have been sufficient) so to kick him while he's down is poor sportsmanship. Yamaha you got outclassed by Honda's bike this year, man up, and build a competing motorcycle instead of whinging like a tot who has tossed all his toys out of his pram.

Total votes: 33

Never mind the politiking...

GET THE RACE BACK TO SUZUKA!

Sorry for shouting, Motegi is almost as annoying as the TV director cutting to fat plebs in pitlane while we miss out on the last corner battle between Rossi, Crutchlow and Bautista every race.

I thought Marquez' pit exit was reckless and figured a penalty point would be perfectly suitable. Witnesses have described basically every other rider hanging wide and constantly checking behind while they regained racing speed, it was only Marquez who didn't display that situational awareness (as usual).

The most amusing thing would be a penalty point for MM during Motegi, meaning he would start from rear of grid at Valencia. Penalty points reset at years end, so he could do whatever he liked while bashing his way to the front. Would make for awesome TV, OK there'd be some broken bones etc but hey, check out the ratings!

Total votes: 29

Hehe, that was pretty good

Hehe, that was pretty good mate.

Total votes: 20

oh..

By cutting to fat plebs in pit lane, do you mean journalists ? :)

Agree MM re-entry was reckless but also, didn't bother looking. Eyes front, everyone else avoid me, which is how he has been racing. I absolutely cheered when Jorge gave him the bump and run.

No if only Dani could be convinced to fight the same way that Jorge now is willing to,ie fire with fire, we would have an amazing top three.

Total votes: 21

Genius

Sorry, in my opinion, changing fork springs doesn't make you one. I'm sure he's a very competent crew chief.

Total votes: 11

Maybe

There will be no appeal, perhaps there will, it's highly unlikely to carry any weight given the time since the 'incident' or non 'incident' depending on your view. It could just be more mind games aimed at ruffling MM's feathers after all given last week's almighty cock up it might bear fruit.

Total votes: 13

Funny

@@ Yamaha you got outclassed by Honda's bike this year, man up, and build a competing motorcycle instead of whinging like a tot who has tossed all his toys out of his pram.@@

realy? Honda you got outclassed by yamaha in PI, man up and hire some people who can count instead of whining like a TOT who has tossed all his toys out of his pram.

Honda complained after BF even when the knew it wouldnt help.
yamaha is complainig after honda first did, even they know it wont help.

if the WT will be decided the last round i think yamaha is the MAN with ony a 1/3 of what honda has.
honda has no dreams only money!

Total votes: 19

Dream Championship?

It could be a dream ending to this season for Honda. If Marquez and Pedrosa are 1-2, which could happen, given their previous form, then that wraps the championship up at Honda's own track in front of all the bosses.

Perfect!

Total votes: 19

2006

Anything could happen. Rossi went to Valencia with an 8pt lead.

Total votes: 19

Yamaha in the house...??

Seems like there are more Honda bashers on the board than usual. I think Yamaha is doing what any manufacturer should do in their place, which is everything they can to win the title. Whether you call that shameless or not, you do what you have to do. As another post mentioned- even if the appeal to RD is futile, they may succeed in putting further pressure on MM. Marc has seemed unphased all season by anything really. Admirable for such a young rider. Last week though was a HUGE deal. And coming up to the end of the season Jorge is almost certainly not going to make a mistake. All year it was easy for MM to say - "I'm not 'supposed' to win the championship." Now, the situation is different. It's Marc's to lose and the pressure is on. I was saddened last week that the race wasn't decided as we'd expect - the fastest rider winning on the track in a start to finish shoot-out. But dwell not! And with the adverse conditions this weekend, Jorge must be salivating at the chance to fight his way back into the title chase. That's the Jorge we've seen the last few races, and that's the only Jorge we want to see. LET'S RACE! MOTEGIIIIIIII!!!! I almost just peed on my keyboard.

Total votes: 13

agree

Yamaha has to do everything it can, and should have protested after PI within the hour... I won a national title by protesting a competitor, won and won... It is all part of racing. Also, don't think for a moment, both Marc and George didn't know exactly what they were doing. Marc came out of the pits in the hope of intimidating George, make him think twice. He left him enough room, but also crowded him in the hope of effing him up. George acted similarly. Broke late in an attempt to get/stay ahead. Choose to give Marc a tap, also an intimidation move, hoped to make him think twice. This isn't ballet folks...

Total votes: 17

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