Thank you, Jorge Lorenzo, for giving us a race. You lost, but without your tenacity Marc Marquez would have had a yawning 73-mile canter to victory on his Repsol Honda in the British MotoGP here today.
Marquez, 21, had been fastest in all four practice sessions and qualifying, and he looked set to score his 11th win of the season. But Lorenzo, his 27-year-old Spanish countryman, blasted into the lead on his Movistar Yamaha on the first of 20 laps of the 3.666-mile circuit.
For 13 laps Lorenzo maintained a lead of a quarter of a second, but there was always the suspicion that Marquez was just being kind to the crowd. Surely he would deliver a squirt of pace in the closing laps and sprint clear to the chequered flag.
In the Honda pit box Marquez’s Catalan father, Julia, who had bought his boy his first 50cc motorcycle at the age of three, covered his mouth with his hand because of the tension produced by the closeness of this duel at speeds of up to 200mph. Marquez duly pulled off his coup, flailing his rear wheel from side to side like a speedway rider as he took the lead for the first time on the 14th lap. But only two laps later he ran wide on a corner and Lorenzo sped through the gap.
Then Lorenzo left just a shoulder-width corridor of space on the entry to a corner. Marquez went for it, appearing to brush his rival’s shoulder as he pushed into a lead that he was never to surrender.
“This race was much better than we expected,” Lorenzo said. “I am very, very proud of the way I rode, but my rear tyre started to fade and I lost acceleration.”
Marquez admitted: “I didn’t expect Jorge to ride like that. At first I was trying to save my rear tyre on the left side because it was on the limit. But in the end we were able to fight with him and get the 25 points.”
The old warrior Valentino Rossi, 35, was delighted to shrug off twentysomethings Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso to claim his eighth podium of the season and make it two Movistar Yamahas in the first three. It was also a fitting way to celebrate his 246th MotoGP race – a record for any rider in the history of the series.
“The important thing about this record is not the number, but the way he has achieved it,” Marquez said. “You could get there just by doing race after race, but Vale [Rossi] has always been fighting for the podium and the win.”
Scott Redding, 21, was the highest British finisher in 10th place, a result that might appear unspectacular but will boost his chances of getting a more powerful bike next year. His Gresini Honda is a lease-hire version of Honda’s RC213V, and not the factory-honed edition Marquez rides.
Redding is the youngest rider ever to have won a grand prix, a feat he achieved when he was 15, and the youngest ever to compete in 100 grands prix. Now he wants a bike like Marquez’s so that he can run at the front with the big boys.
The MotoGP circus now heads for the 13th round at Misano, San Marino. Lorenzo will be heartened by the way that he and Yamaha were able to take the battle to Marquez. But it is still a huge hill to climb. Marquez pulls off stunts on a MotoGP bike that nobody else can match, and he is still improving. It has been a great show for nearly two seasons, but now the novelty of the relentless winning is starting to pall. Would you prefer to see the Premier League settled a month before the close of the season or do you want the outcome to be poised until the last weekend?
Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have made Formula One boring in the past with periods of total domination. Perhaps only Jorge Lorenzo can save MotoGP from an era of Marquez monopoly.