I knew it was going to be a big day at Valencia when I found myself taking two hours to get into the circuit on Sunday morning instead of twenty minutes. After years of relatively light traffic on the back roads, I took a wrong turn and found myself on the main motorway going from Valencia to Madrid, which was packed with cars and motorcycles heading to the circuit near Cheste.

The sun was shining, two titles were to be decided between five Spaniards, and that had brought the fans out in force. I was stuck in the middle of them, reminding myself once again that the best way – the only way – to visit a motorcycle race is on a motorcycle. These were big, big crowds who had come to see a show.

And what a show they got. The Moto3 race took a while to come alight, but once it did it was explosive. The first casualty was Luis Salom, the championship leader falling shortly after the halfway mark. It was his second unforced error in consecutive races, surprising given that Salom is the oldest and most experienced of the three men in the running for the Moto3 title.

That left Alex Rins and Maverick Viñales, and with four laps to go, the battle started heating up in earnest. Viñales was pushing, getting past Rins only to run wide and let the Estrella Galicia rider back through. He looked wild, off line, barely in control, and liable to crash out at any time. But he didn’t, he held on, diving past Rins in the final corner to take the lead and leaving him nowhere to go. At Saturday’s qualifying press conference, Rins predicted the Moto3 title would be decided in the last corner. He was right, though he had probably hoped that it would be him deciding it in his favor.

Viñales was the first deserved winner of the day, and the first title to be settled. Despite having the fewest wins of the three title contenders, the Team Calvo rider held his nerve, profited from the mistakes of Salom and Rins, and when it counted, pushed home his advantage. Before Motegi, he had given up on winning the Moto3 title, he said after the race.

But when Salom and Rins crashed out, he believed it was possible. He had complained about his bike all season, that it didn’t have enough power and he couldn’t keep up with his two main rivals. At Valencia, his team had given him the best bike of the year, and Viñales had repaid them with a win and a title.

After Viñales tantrums at the end of 2012, when he refused to race and walked out of his then team, he had looked to be more trouble than he was worth. But team manager Pablo Nieto had decided he was worth a second chance. At Valencia, Nieto’s faith was repaid with interest.

It was an excellent day for the Calvo Team all round. Teammate Ana Carrasco rode a brilliant race to finish 8th, becoming the first female rider to score a top ten finish in 18 years. Carrasco came close to finishing even higher, battling for 6th for much of the race.

But, she was beaten back into 8th at the end of the race by Alexis Masbou and Isaac Viñales, two young men who have been regular front runners this season. Carrasco may well be aboard a KTM, but unlike her teammate, she is riding the production version, lower spec and less powerful than the factory bike of her teammate Maverick Viñales.

It was both a good day and a bad day for female racers. Carrasco may have scored a top ten, but because her teammate won the championship, Maria Herrera will not now move up to the world championship. If Alex Rins had taken the Moto3 title, then Herrera would have taken the slot in the Estrella Galica team vacated when Rins moved up to Moto2. Now, Herrera will have to wait another season.

In the Moto2 class, Pol Espargaro managed to end his own dominance of the weekend by the simple expedient of crashing out from the lead. Espargaro’s eagerness to celebrate the title he secured in Japan seduced him into pushing too hard, and paying the price.

Taking Espargaro’s spot on the top step was Nico Terol, a worthy winner now starting to reap the rewards of a successful diagnosis and treatment of lactose intolerance. Like Casey Stoner before him, it is a hidden disease, not visible, and poor results are easy to blame on other causes. But like electricity, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

As entertaining as they were, for most fans, the Moto3 and Moto2 races were just a sideshow. MotoGP was the real draw, and with so much at stake, both hopes and fears were high. A title on the line in the last race of the year meant that there were more riders with more to prove:

Jorge Lorenzo wanted to find a way to beat Marc Marquez to the title; Dani Pedrosa wanted to make up for his failed titled bid, which stumbled through a combination of injury and being taken out by his Respol Honda teammate Marquez at Aragon; Marquez was torn between riding like the wild man of MotoGP that he is, and focusing on the title; Valentino Rossi was desperate to put the string of fourth places behind him; Cal Crutchlow was keen to give his team a podium to celebrate as a leaving gift.

The race had every possibility of being a classic, but there was just as much chance of it turning into a snoozer, as Jorge Lorenzo had already told the press that his only hope lay in trying to get away at the front and win the race, and hope for something to happen further back.

A broken engine in qualifying put a premature end to that idea. Before the warm up on Sunday morning, Jorge Lorenzo was extremely worried, having lost his best engine during qualifying on Saturday. After qualifying, Lorenzo told the media they expected it to be fixed for Sunday, but that turned out to be a little white lie – one of a couple Lorenzo would tell over the weekend.

Putting one of his older, slower engines in for warm up, Lorenzo found he was still capable of running a good pace. That gave him extra options, and he and his team hatched a plan.

It was a plan the fans would be grateful for. For it meant trying to hold up Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez and allow the riders behind him to get involved. “Winning was not enough today, so we decided to try to keep the group together for the first ten lap,” Lorenzo’s team manager Wilco Zeelenberg told me.

To that end, Lorenzo lapped a second slower than he had during practice, making his M1 as wide as the IVECO truck which brought it to the circuit. “If you open the throttle a little bit later than normal, the rest have to wait as well,” Zeelenberg said.

The risk was that while he was trying to hold everyone up, either Pedrosa or Marquez would get by. Lorenzo’s racecraft saved him, for every time Pedrosa passed him in the first ten laps, Lorenzo struck right back, either straight away or within a couple of corners. It was an impressive show of controlling the race, and spectacular to watch, Lorenzo and Pedrosa swapping places almost every lap.

But Pedrosa was wise to Lorenzo’s tricks, and changed the places he attacked, in an attempt to prevent Lorenzo striking back. Where previously Pedrosa had been forced to leave the door open when he passed Lorenzo, by choosing a different place to attack, Pedrosa could close the door and holding the Yamaha man off.

It did not help, Lorenzo using physical force to get by, a departure from his user ultra-clean riding style. In the end, he pushed Pedrosa wide at Turn 2, and the Repsol Honda man dropped three places back to fifth, his challenge for the lead at an end.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Wilco Zeelenberg admitted, “but Dani wasn’t really a player in this game, it was between Jorge and Marc, and Jorge was trying to keep the group together.” Even Lorenzo responded almost with shame at his actions. “In normal circumstances I want to be clean and race without touching, to be more respectful,” he said after the race. “I had to race against my normal mentality.”

That attitude earned him a trip to Race Direction, where he was spoken to firmly and told in no uncertain terms that they now have their eye on him. Handing points out would do no good – the points slate is wiped clean at the end of each season – but Lorenzo’s card has been marked. If he decides the only way he can race against Marquez is by being more physical, Lorenzo may find himself paying the price next year.

While Pedrosa was rather upset with Lorenzo’s behavior, Marquez, had no problem with the move. “We are here to fight. Racing is like that,” he said.

Lorenzo’s bullying tactics had no effect. “It was right on the limit, but I thought it was a great show,” Wilco Zeelenberg said. “Then again, it’s not easy to hold up the two guys who are capable of winning, especially not by a second a lap. Unfortunately, there was nobody who had the balls to try to pass Dani and Marc, something I think was possible.”

When Lorenzo looked behind him, he could see that Rossi and Bautista were too far back to be able to mix it with Pedrosa and Marquez, and Lorenzo resigned himself to signing off with style, in the knowledge that the title was Marquez’s for the taking.

And take it he did. Marquez had struggled to suppress his natural instinct to get stuck in and join the battle when he saw Lorenzo and Pedrosa engaging in combat. “It was hard to keep calm, as something inside me kept telling me I should be fighting as well,” Marquez said.

He resisted that temptation, however, and was rewarded in the end with is first world title, becoming the youngest world champion ever in the process, taking the crown from Freddie Spencer and equaling Kenny Roberts’ record as the only rider to win a premier class title in his first season.

It has been a record breaking year for Marquez. “I speak a lot with Freddie [Spencer] and Kenny [Roberts],” Marquez said. It was great to have two such legends sing his praise, Marquez said.

How had Marquez won it? He won the championship by taking risks and learning quickly. The first half of the season had been one massive learning process, but he had adapted much better in the second half of the year, Marquez said. He had capitalized on the mistakes of others, scoring points after the Sachsenring when Lorenzo and Pedrosa were still suffering with injury.

He had also learned quickly, getting quickly up to speed with the electronics on a MotoGP bike, learning enough that by the second half of the season he was comfortable giving input to his team, something which had seemed impossible after the first few races.

Marquez’s strongest points, Jorge Lorenzo told reporters, were his talent and his ambition. The strength of his will had been decisive, and allowed him to fight all year and come out on top.

That battle reminded Jorge Lorenzo of Jerez, where he had left the door open for Marquez, and Marquez had taken advantage, taking 2nd instead of 3rd. That was a difference of 4 points – the difference between 20 points for 2nd, and 16 points for 3rd. Nothing that Lorenzo could change now, his mind now looking towards 2014.

Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow both felt that Marquez had deserved the title, though both also mentioned that the Yamaha was nowhere near the factory Hondas as a package.

The difference between Rossi and Lorenzo was that Rossi was not able to ride the bike as he wants to. After yet another fourth place, Rossi said “this is my potential now.” Until Yamaha can come up with a bike that is much more stable on the brakes, Rossi is set to languish in 4th, with little else he can do.

So now, we have three new world champions, Marc Marquez and Maverick Viñales joining Pol Espargaro for both the pictures on the grid. It has been a long and astonishing season, in all three classes.

With Marquez having a new season under his belt, the top Moto3 men moving up to Moto2, and some of the most talented of the B group in Moto3 moving on to extremely fast motorcycles, this could be quite a year.

Photo: © 2013 Scott Jones / Scott Jones Photography – All Rights Reserved

This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.

  • Jimbo

    David thanks for all your race commentary this year, its the highlight of otherwise miserable Mondays back in the office after the weekend!

    Very excited for next year!

  • n/a

    I like Yamaha as a brand. However this year, as a race team they have become a bunch of jokers.

    Checking the rule book after every session to see did Marquez break any rules and then trying to get him penalized.

    Then, after criticizing Marquez all year for his riding, Lorenzo comes out and does the exact same thing!

  • smiler

    Bit harsh n/a it is racing after all. Given the difference between Hinda and Yamahaha’s budget, what would you do.

    Repsol must be happy to have been so well supported by Dorna.

  • Josh

    Yes.. I have to agree with the “aggressive” riding comment n/a made. Why is it ok this time, but not the other times? Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure you’re battling for the championship in the 5th round of the season as well as the last round. I wish Lorenzo would stop being a b**** and ride like this all the time.

    The first 10 laps were an awesome display of race-craft. Glad to see Marquez get the championship. I hope Yamaha can improve the bike so Rossi can fight. It would be a blast to see two aggressive riders battle it out at the front. The Pedrosa and Lorenzo pussy footing is zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    Someone tell Stoner to rejoin Ducati. They need a rider who can ride around the bike’s weaknesses. If I was Ducati I would pay him 20mil euro.

  • Bruce Monighan

    Dani Pedrosa has to wonder…..when Honda wins a championship it is always his teammate. How long can he keep his job at this rate? They redesigned a bike around him for 2007, Nicky could not even fit on it. Honda appreciates that he finishes high and has lot of podium finishes but they like winners. Expect the 2014 Honda to be more to Marc’s liking that Dani’s

    2006 5th MotoGP World Championship – Nicky Hayden Honda Champion
    2007 2nd MotoGP World Championship – Casey Stoner Ducati Champion
    2008 3rd MotoGP World Championship – Valentino Rossi Yamaha Champion
    2009 3rd MotoGP World Championship – Valentino Rossi Yamaha Champion
    2010 2nd MotoGP World Championship – Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha Campion
    2011 4th MotoGP World Championship – Casey Stoner Honda Champion
    2012 2nd MotoGP World Championship – Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha Champion
    2013 3rd Moto GP World Championship – Marc Marquez Honda Champion

  • Bruce Monighan

    By the way that is 8 years for Dani on a Honda in MotoGp with no Championship.

  • Norm G.

    re: “Honda appreciates that he finishes high and has lot of podium finishes but they like winners.”

    no worries, they (repsol) have got that now. if anything this could be a blessing in disguise. he won’t be in the spot light. he won’t be racing under the burden of expectations. well, expectations other than playing “tail gunner”… and from what I saw…? that’s right up his alley. :)

  • Joe

    I feel like Rossi might be finished with fighting at the front. Yesterday Lorenzo held up Dani and Marc by a second a lap and Rossi still couldn’t get in there and fight with them. If he was ever going to run among the top 3, that was his chance. Once Lorenzo realized his plan wasn’t working he took off and all three left Rossi in the dust. Don’t get me wrong, I love Rossi. But his time might be up. Which, after so many years at the front, isn’t a slight to him at all. Time just catches up.

  • Kev71

    Great racing all season. I love that DORNA has Lorenzo on “Double Secret Probation” and will have their eye on him. LOL…. Didn’t Dean Wormer tell that to the guys at the Delta Tau Chi house?

    I am gonna spend the $ on the MotoGP.comvideo pass. Anyone have a suggestion on if I should get it now or wait ’till the season starts?

  • Jez

    Great season, the talent of Marquez lit a fire under the competition this year. 2014 looks set to be a blaze..

    RE: Pedrosa, i’d wager 6 figures that he is not at honda beyond 2014. 9 years of investment from Honda with nothing to show theres no way his free ride will continue. He needs to grow some balls and make some hard decisions to try and find the last piece of the puzzle, like parting with his nanny Puig. I just don’t think he has the temperament to TAKE the title.

  • ” Anyone have a suggestion on if I should get it now or wait ’till the season starts?”

    I vote to get it now. You’ll have all the races back into the ’90s to watch on-demand as well as the off-season testing. And when next year ends, you’ll probably get the chance to renew with the off-season coverage free. That’s generally a perk that’s enjoyed by current subscribers.

  • For me, Lorenzo was the real class act of the season. He’s a lone wolf on the Yamaha, duking it out with the Hondas and receiving no help or point denying assistance from his over the hill team mate. It would be interesting to know what the points tally would be if you completely took Dani out of it and elevated each of them (Jorge and Marquez) up a place in all of the respective races.

    Likewise I respected Lorenzo for trying to make things happen at Valencia. If race direction aren’t going to sanction Marquez for his ‘wildness’ why shouldn’t Jorge get stuck in?

    I like that Zeelenberg said “Unfortunately, there was nobody who had the balls to try to pass Dani and Marc, something I think was possible”. My brother and I were screaming at the TV for someone to ‘nut up’ and take the fight to Dani & Marquez but either they’d been paid by Honda or just didn’t have the ring for it.

    Kudos to BBC but their blatant favouritism to Rossi (I’m not denying he’s the man) was always a source of huge frustration. They couldn’t grasp that promoting Gibernau, Stoner etc rather than the regular derisory comment was detrimental to the competition. Rossi delivered when he was pushed and if you wanted to see him at his best, you needed to recognise that his worthy opponents needed some occasional ‘love’ as well.

  • crshnbrn


    I agree with Trane Francks. You can watch races from the archives to pass the off-season. I can watch Catalunya from 2009 – especially the last few laps – over and over.

  • crshnbrn


    “For me, Lorenzo was the real class act of the season. He’s a lone wolf on the Yamaha, duking it out with the Hondas and receiving no help or point denying assistance from his over the hill team mate. It would be interesting to know what the points tally would be if you completely took Dani out of it and elevated each of them (Jorge and Marquez) up a place in all of the respective races.”

    If I did the math right, the result is the same with a bigger 13 point spread. Marquez with 356 points to Lorenzo’s 343. Where Pedrosa was a factor was finishing between Marquez and Lorenzo four times costing Lorenzo 14 points where Rossi finished between Lorenzo and Marquez only once costing Marquez only four points. Lorenzo is not quite a “lone wolf” at Yamaha, but he is definitely the alpha male.

    I really wanted to see Lorenzo win the championship after his truly super-human effort at Assen after breaking his collarbone during practice. To see him coming out of the turns late in the race with his head down low and then picking it up and continuing on gave one a sense of just how deep he was digging. No doubt it wasn’t the safest or smartest decision to race, but it illustrates his desire to be MotoGP champion. It just wasn’t meant to be in 2013.

  • @crshbnbrn

    Thanks for looking at that. Maybe not a lone wolf but it always seemed that he was out front with two Honda’s snapping at his heels, whilst Rossi was little or no assistance.

    With the final points difference between the two, it certainly highlights that rather than Marquez being the second coming, that they are just two guys at the very top of their game.