The Dutch Grand Prix showed
that Jorge Lorenzo is the toughest man in the paddock. The
defending World Champion
crashed in qualifying, flew
home to Spain to have surgery
on his collarbone and returned
the next day to finish fifth in the
half-a-second off Lorenzo's top
time and really hounding his senior teammate. Then at special
factory circuit shakedown tests
at Austin, Texas, something really
special. Nobody had any track
knowledge or data: it was ground
zero for all. And Marc was fastest.
The season ahead divides
into four parts: the first being the
opening third of the year, with the
championship candidates all laying down markers. Lorenzo was
the first leader, then Marquez,
and then Pedrosa. Rossi was
still off the pace: it had got faster
during his two doldrum years at
Ducati. It was already clear: this
was a three-way struggle. And allSpanish.
Then the hiatus: injuries for the
two older riders and a purple patch
for Marquez. He took over the lead
again, and started to run away.
Part three, the fight-back,
actually started at Silverstone,
as Lorenzo returned to the top
step. It really got going in Australia, where an astounding error by Marquez's team saw him
disqualified. What had seemed
a foregone conclusion suddenly
became a fight to the bitter end.
The last act had just one
scene. The Valencia GP.
Part One: Marquez
Makes It Three
The landscape around Qatar
does not excite pastoral fantasies, nor does it lend itself to typical races. It's one to get out of
the way before the real patterns
start to emerge.
It was a fine win for defender
Lorenzo, with Rossi triumphing
over Marquez in hand-to-hand
combat for second, Pedrosa a
glum fourth. It would be the last
time Valentino played at the sharp
end for quite a while, and when
he got there it would be Marquez
winning any on-track battles.
Lorenzo also sounded a warn-
ing for the upcoming season: he'd had to ride like
the devil; the Hondas were
stronger than his Yamaha.
And they had a seamlessshift gearbox to underline
their accelerative powers.
Back to Texas, and
things started to get tasty. Marquez showed his strength in more
than one area. On track he took
his first pole (youngest-ever, displacing Freddie Spencer) and his
first win (ditto). The Hondas had
been outrunning Lorenzo, then
Marquez pounced and again
outran Pedrosa. During practice
Marquez also had his first crash
- something everyone had been
waiting for, and at some speed.
He jumped up and carried on.
This was definitely the most positive aspect of his youth.
He left sharing the points lead
with Lorenzo, who finished third.
The kid was certainly grabbing
the headlines. Now the European season began in earnest at
Jerez, and while it was Pedrosa's
turn to win the race Marquez and
Lorenzo had a classic scrap for
second, won (after several near
collisions) by the youngster with
a brutal final strike at the last hairpin, sending a disgruntled Lorenzo off at a tangent.