CN III IN THE PADDOCK
BY MICHAEL SCOTT
o that's how it goes. After
a year of rising and falling
tension, it's all decided in
one race. That's how it should be
in sport. But what does it mean
for the future?
Maybe that what everyone expects will be a long and dominant
reign by the boy-wonder Marc
Marquez will not be quite so untroubled.
Without doubt throughout
2013 we have been watching the
changing of the guard. Valentino
Rossi has been watching it too,
without a great deal of comfort.
Fourth place – hmmmm. Likewise Dani Pedrosa, consigned to
the far end of this year's eternal
triangle. Both are looking at the
wrong end of their careers.
The revelation of 2013, however, has not been Marquez. Or
at least not after the first handful
of races, when his speed, aggression and rostrum consistency had
already been underlined by a first
MotoGP win. Became normal.
Jorge Lorenzo is surely the
man of the year, for all sorts of
reasons. Most of them the very
essence of the vainglory that
makes motorcycle racing so
wonderful. An ostensibly pointless – even childish – game of
"I can go faster than you can,"
which makes it somehow worthwhile (and worth millions) to develop skills and take risks just to
get back where you started from.
I'm not questioning this. I'm applauding it. And noting the Don
Quixote element indivisible from
this Spanish struggle.
Quixote is famous for tilting at
windmills – charging the whirling
sails with lance held ready, on
his war-horse Rocinante. Never
mind his delusions and muddled
mind. The persistence in the face
of almost certain defeat is what
fits the Lorenzo model.
The defender's performance
has been remarkable, and not
only for jumping off the operating
table and into an aircraft to finish
fifth after breaking his collarbone
The landmark was the arrival at
last of Yamaha's seamless-shift
gearbox. The benefits of this married perfectly to Lorenzo's style:
smooth and inch-accurate. Every move is considered, and has
been practiced until perfect. Just
look at the way he starts every
race; it's become the norm for
him to lead into the first corner.
He's found a way to beat even
jackrabbit lightweight Pedrosa.
And not by accident.
The gearbox came at Misano,
round 13 of 18. More than improving his results, it improved his
threat and increased the pressure. By the first of the crucial
three-in-a-row flyaways in Malaysia, Lorenzo also showed a new
side, again in a studied manner,
underlined by his irony in suggesting that his rival should be given
extra points rather than rapped
on the knuckles for bumping into
Pedrosa at Aragon. Next day he
showed he meant it: if Marquez
was to be forgiven after a series
of more-than marginally dangerous moves on Lorenzo, Rossi
and Pedrosa, then he was going
to take advantage of the leeway.
He came off second-best in the
fight in the race, but not for want