Monday, June 3

LORENZO CLOSES THE GAP

DEFENDING MotoGP Champion Jorge Lorenzo used his factory Yamaha YZF-M1 to close the gap to 2013 championship leader Dani Pedrosa with a dominant performance in the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello on June 2.

Going into the race, Lorenzo trailed Pedrosa by 17 points but his emphatic win at Mugello saw him pull five points back, so after five of 18 races he is 12 points behind Pedrosa's Repsol Honda.

Pedrosa's new tally is 103 points to Lorenzo's 91.

Marc Marquez, who crashed three times in practice, one of them while slowing from 330 km/h for the San Danato corner, crashed out late in the race shortly after passing his Repsol team-mate to take over second place.

This was the first time in four races the MotoGP rookie had not finished on the podium.  As a result, he dropped from second to third in the title chase and with 77 points is only six ahead of Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow, who finished in third place.

But Marquez still managed to get his name into the record books by breaking Pedrosa's year-old 1m 47.705s lap record with a 1m 47.639s effort on just the second lap of the race.

Lorenzo led every lap to record his third successive Mugello race win. His race time was 41m 39.733s, just outside his 2012 race record of 41m 37.477s.  But having established a buffer of more than six seconds with two laps to go, allowed him to ease the pace.  If he had been pressed to the end there is little doubt he would have equaled or bettered his 2012 race record.

From the start Lorenzo took the lead on the first lap and led every lap from there to the finish, with the Repsol Hondas of Pedrosa and Marquez right on his tail. On the second lap the two Honda riders dropped into the 1m 47s bracket so just over one tenth of a second covered the leading trio as they flashed over the line to start the third lap.

Lorenzo had set his metonome on a low 1m 48s lap time and clicked those off for 17 consecutive laps, never varying by more than two tenths of a second, except on lap 13 when he clocked a 1m 47.929s effort to finally get his lead out to just over a second.  Having broken the Honda men, he worked away until he had a four second buffer, then eased the pace a fraction, to mid to high 1m 48s laps, then allowed himself the luxury of a 1:49 then a 1:50 on the final two laps.

Behind the Hondas, Crutchlow on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha ran in fourth place most of the race and by lap 19 of the 23 he was 8.2 seconds adrift.  But he pressed on lapping in the high 1m 48s range over the final few circuits while Pedrosa dropped into the 1:49s.  That was what had allowed Marquez to get past Pedrosa and also allowed Crutchlow to close in, so that at the finish he was 6.4 seconds behind race winner Lorenzo and just a second behind Pedrosa.  Had he been able to find a fraction more pace earlier, he could have been second.  But he spent the first lap behind Andrea Dovizioso's factory Ducati and that lost him the tow.

Behind Crutchlow, German Stefan Bradl worked the LCR Honda into fifth, picking off the second factory Ducati, that of Nicky Hayden, then getting past Dovizioso.  From there to the finish he had both factory Ducatis camped on his rear wheel but he never bowed to the relentless pressure, and came home fourth. 

Behind the young German, Hayden and Dovizioso battled for the honour of being the first Ducati home, with Hayden getting ahead of his team-mate with six and a half laps to go. But Dovizioso, after trailiing the American for two laps, got ahead again.  Then on the penultimate lap Hayden made a mistake and that was that, he had to settle for sixth.  

Interestingly, when Pedrosa dropped back into the 1m 49s bracket in the second half of the race, the two Ducati men were matching his pace.  But by then they were more than 12 seconds behind the Repsol Honda.  Still, it was an encouraging sign: that the Italian V4s were able to match the pace of a Repsol Honda for half the race is a big change from the Rossi years.

And what of the legendary Italian?  The man who had won seven successive races at Mugello in the pre-control tyre years did not complete a single lap in this year's race, colliding with Alvaro Bautista's Gresini Honda.  Both riders slid off the track, across the gravel trap and whacked into what should have been an airfence pretty hard.  Neither was injured.  Remarkable since in fact the 'safety' barrier was haybales covered in plastic.  Times are tough in Italy.

For full results, click here