Marc Marquez is just starting to let the mask slip. Asked in the press conference about the fact that he will start from pole at Le Mans, despite this weekend being the first time he has ridden a MotoGP bike at the French track, Marquez admitted he always has to play down his chances ahead of each weekend. “On Thursday, I always need to say something similar,” he said.
His modesty is very becoming, and throughout the pre-season and the early races, he has continued to dampen down overly-inflated expectations. Yes, pole is nice. Yes, winning is fantastic. No, he is not even thinking of the title yet.
But everything about Marc Marquez screams ambition, the desire to win, to do what it takes to beat his rivals and prove to everyone what he believes, that he is the best rider in the world, a (self-)belief that motivates every top level athlete.
The last-corner lunge inside Jorge Lorenzo at Jerez will be cited as evidence, but more than that, the desperate attempts in the preceding laps were proof enough, if proof were needed. Is Marc Marquez thinking of winning the MotoGP championship in his first year, a feat previously only achieved by Kenny Roberts?
No, it is not chief among his concerns. Is he trying to win as many races as possible, an objective that will bring him the 2013 title if he succeeds? Of course he is. He may not be thinking about the championship, but he is definitely trying to win it.
So far, so good. That seems to be the story from the first day of practice at Le Mans. A full day of dry weather – except for the last few minutes of FP2 for the Moto3 class, where the rain turned briefly to hail, only to blow out again as quickly as it came – means that everyone had a chance to work on their race set up.
With the top four separated by just 0.166 seconds, the top five are within a quarter of a second, and Alvaro Bautista, the man in ninth, is just over seven tenths from the fastest man Dani Pedrosa.
A good day too for the Hondas. Dani Pedrosa was immediately up to speed, as expected. Marc Marquez was also quick in the afternoon, which was less expected. Unlike Jerez and Austin, this was the first time he rode a MotoGP machine at Le Mans, and getting used to hauling a 260 hp, 160kg bike around the tight layout of the French track is a different proposition to riding a Moto2 bike with half the horsepower here.
He took a morning to get used to the track, asked for a few changes to the base set up inherited from Casey Stoner, and then went and blitzed to second in the afternoon, 0.134 seconds off his teammate.
More important than Marquez’s speed is his consistency, however. In the afternoon, he posted seven laps of 1’34, which looks to be the pace to expect for a dry race. Only two men did more, Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo having posted nine laps at that pace, with both men also consistently a tenth or two quicker than the Spanish rookie.
Three races into the 2013 MotoGP season, and the Yamaha Factory Racing team have been forced to tear up the script they had written for themselves after pre-season testing. Their original goals were for Jorge Lorenzo to win as often as possible in the early part of the season, building a lead at the tracks at which Yamaha is supposed to be strong, then defend that lead in the second half of the year. Valentino Rossi, meanwhile, was to finish adapting to the Yamaha once again, and get on the podium ahead of the Hondas as much as possible, to help build out Lorenzo’s lead in the championship.
The plan worked perfectly at Qatar. Lorenzo was untouchable in the race, and won easily. Rossi showed he still had it by getting on the podium and taking second, while the first Honda was Marc Marquez in third. This worked out even better than expected, as although Marquez is clearly an exceptional talent, the real title threat, Yamaha believed, would come from Dani Pedrosa.
If we had to summarize MV Agusta’s new model plans right now, we would classify it as a “no stone left unturned” approach, as the Italian brand seems committed to make every possible iteration of machine from its common parts bin of motorcycles.
Debuting the MV Agusta F3 675 three-cylinder supersport in 2010, and finally bringing it to market in 2012, the Varese brand is set to bring another iteration of the F3 to market, the MV Agusta F3 800.
Ever since Pierer Industrie AG bought Husqvarna from the BMW Group, there has been a great deal of speculation as to how the Italian-based Swedish-born brand would fit within the KTM empire. With zie Austrians needing another dirt bike marque like a hole in the head, it was curious to see KTM add a third off-road brand name to its stable of two-wheeled machines.
Adding even more intrigue to the situation, Stefan Pierer announced that he would discontinue Husqvarna’s pursuit of on-road machines with his acquisition, starting with the Husqvarna Nuda 900, and that he would also be closing down the bulk of the brand’s very beleaguered Italian operations, much to the chagrin of local officials and worker unions.
Now, the next chapter of Husqvarna is set to unfold, with the announcement of a new company, Husqvarna Sportmotorcycle GmbH, which unsurprisingly will be based in Mattighofen, Austria and will build off the technology that Husaberg has developed, while using the more recognizable Husqvarna name.
That MotoGP is too Iberocentric – too many Spanish races, and too many Spanish riders – is obvious to all who follow the sport, with the possible exception of a blinkered Spanish journalist or two. The series has to change, to move away from having four races a season in Spain, and to explore new markets in South America and Asia.
This is exactly what is to happen, according to an interview Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta gave to the Reuters news agency on Friday. Reuters reporter Alan Baldwin spoke to Ezpeleta at the Barcelona circuit, where the Dorna CEO was attending the Formula 1 race.
In the interview, Ezpeleta laid out his intentions to move away from Spain and, to a lesser extent, the US, and towards Asia and South America, with new races to be held in Brazil and Asia, though as he has done before, Ezpeleta would not be drawn on exactly which Asian country.
We already covered the Honda MSX125 monkey bike when it debuted at the start of this year, and at the time we knew that the tiny street-terror would be a world market machine. Confirming our hopes at the time of its launch, Honda Motor Corp. has announced that it intends to bring the MSX125 to the United States, renaming it the Honda Grom.
The 2013 Honda Grom will come with just under 10hp, and features a four-speed gearbox that is mated to a 125cc single-cylinder motor, which comes from the common-parts bin of the Japanese company’s popular Honda Wave 125i scooter. Fuel-injected, 225 lbs at the curb when topped-off with its 1.45 gallons of fuel, and priced at $2,999 MSRP, we think Honda hit its mark with an affordable, bulletproof, and fun grocery-getter.
Track day enthusiasts, we have found your perfect pit bike; new riders, we have the ideal machine for you to cut your teeth on, while still being “cool” in the eyes of your more experienced riding friends; and for those who are vertically challenged, your 29.7 inch inseam machine is ready. More photos after the jump, but note America will only be getting the red & black models.
Triumph is recalling certain bikes from its crop of 2012-2013 Triumph Explorer and Triumph Explorer XC motorcycles because the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) on the certification label is incorrect. The error means that the affected motorcycles fail to comply with the DOT’s certification requirements, and thus need correcting to be road-legal.