Catalunya Preview

Moto GP 2013

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By  Byron Wilson

 The 2013 MotoGP World Championship heads to Barcelona for the Gran Primi Aperol de Catalunya, the second Spanish round of the year and an event that will likely be packed to capacity with the current top-three riders all hailing from the region. Leading the charge is Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, who with two wins, two seconds and a fourth place finish sits 12 points ahead of Yamaha Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo. The Mallorcan moved into second overall following his commanding performance in the previous round at Mugello, where he took win number two for the season. Pedrosa’s teammate, Marc Marquez, slipped to third following his first misstep of the year, crashing out of competition while in the runner-up spot in Italy, and he enters Round 6 with a 26-point deficit from the leader.

Pedrosa will celebrate his 200th Grand Prix start in front of his home crowd at Catalunya, and he’ll be fighting to deflate the momentum Lorenzo gained after beating the field by nearly six seconds at Mugello.

“I've been able to rest a little since returning from Italy and now we head to my home Grand Prix in Catalunya, still leading the World Championship,” said Pedrosa. “This track is one of the circuits where you stay on the edge of the tire longer and also a long time turning right so it's important to have a good feeling with the tires. In general it's a nice track and with a very special atmosphere, all my family and friends come to support me and the fans are incredible.”

Lorenzo is in good position to continue his assault on the leaderboard, considering his record at Catalunya over the past four years. In 2009 the Yamaha ace went head-to-head with his teammate for the win, Valentino Rossi, in a memorable battle that ended in Rossi’s favor after the final turn. Lorenzo returned in 2010 and claimed victory in the premier class, followed by a second-place finish in 2011 and another win in 2012.

Marquez has been the breakout star of the 2013 season and was in position to be the first rookie ever to podium in the first five races of his premier-class career. With five laps remaining at Mugello the young rider lost grip and slid into the gravel, ending his chance at the record and sealing-up a weekend that saw the Honda ace go down a total of four times. Though he’s yet to ride at Catalunya aboard the RC213V, he’s competed at the track since childhood and remains a threat in the battle for championship points.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow finished third at Mugello and became the first British rider to take two consecutive GP podiums since Ron Haslam in 1987. Crutchlow is 32 points off the lead in fourth-place overall and has been consistently challenging prototype riders for position all year. LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl trailed Crutchlow at the Italian circuit, earning his best finish of the season following a difficult start that saw the German rider suffer through a host of crashes and mechanical issues. Thanks to the slow start, Bradl sits ninth overall.

Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso finished fifth at Mugello and bumped former Ducati rider, Rossi, to sixth in overall points. Dovi has found an improved pace on the GP13 over the past two rounds, though he’ll have his work cut out for him in Barcelona since the fast corners at Catalunya may prove tricky for the GP13, which “tends to ‘pump’ a bit in the rear” in such conditions, according to the Italian rider.

Rossi barely had a chance to compete at Mugello thanks to an early race bump from Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista. The Doctor and Bautista both went off track at speed and into the air fence as a result of the contact, forcing both to retire. Rossi has been hard at work in preparation for Catalunya and will be fighting for an improved result at the Spanish circuit. Much will depend on whether he’s able to improve his fortunes in qualifying, since as yet he’s been unable to secure a grid position better than fifth.

“For a few days after I had the crash at Mugello, I hurt everywhere,” said Rossi. “Fortunately I was able to start training immediately and I did not waste any time. The Barcelona race will be very important, especially after recent results. I want to get on the podium in Spain. It will be important to start the weekend in the best way and make a good qualifying. It will be very important to start from the front.”

Dovi’s teammate, Nicky Hayden, is seventh overall heading into Barcelona and Bautista sits eighth. Leading the CRT field is Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro in 10th. Espargaro, who also looks to Catalunya as his home round, earned his best result of the season in the previous contest at Mugello.

Crutchlow’s teammate Bradley Smith trails Espargaro in the season tally by two points, followed by Ducati test rider Michele Pirro in 12th. Pirro will once again fill-in on track at Catalunya since Ignite Pramac Racing’s Ben Spies has opted to sit the round out due to lingering pectoral and shoulder issues.
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