In Valencia this weekend, MotoGP fans the world over will enjoy a final-race decider for the first time in seven years. On the last occasion of such an occurrence, a Repsol Honda Team rider claimed his first World Championship by beating the previous title winner, who happened to be riding for Yamaha Factory Racing.
The last time was 2006. Honda’s Nicky Hayden, who in the previous round had been taken out of action by rookie teammate Dani Pedrosa, claimed the ultimate honor in the most unbelievable of circumstances as Valentino Rossi made a rare mistake. Seven years on, more drama is certain as Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo go head-to-head at the climax of a magical season. The amazing newcomer up against the hard-charging seasoned campaigner and two-time World Champion.
The year all began with a Lorenzo win in Qatar while Marquez surprised the world by cheekily overtaking Valentino Rossi en route to a podium. Who would have believed that the 20-year-old Catalan would go on to celebrate rostrum results in every GP he has finished this year? The only two blots on the copybook are the crash out of second place at Mugello and the much-publicized disqualification due to a trivial team mistake while challenging for victory at Phillip Island. Just how decisive that was to be will be revealed at around quarter to three on Sunday afternoon.
Of course, Lorenzo has his ‘What Ifs?’ as well. His Assen ride was nothing short of breathtaking under extraordinary circumstances, having crashed on Thursday and returned to race via an operating table in Barcelona. A feat all the more remarkable, should he go on to claim a third world title on Sunday – incidentally, this would mark the first time the Mallorcan had retained a premier class crown. Let us not forget the Sachsenring crash, as well, as perhaps the most costly moment of them all. Marquez has certainly not been without his slip-ups either, having walked away from a number of sizeable accidents which would have left many on the sidelines for weeks. ‘He is young and he bounces well,’ has been a popular phrase in the paddock this year.
They have both pulled off incredible victories and heart-stopping overtaking maneuvers, not to mention entertaining the world with their Silverstone battle which went down in MotoGP folklore as one of the very best of all-time. Some say Marquez should have wrapped up the title already. Others say he is more than lucky to have escaped major injuries. Equally, many claim Lorenzo deserves it more as he has been forced to try harder, whereas others would hate a sudden charge to glory by the reigning Champion. Opinions will vary and not all will be pleased with the result.
Whether you sit on the Marquez fence or take the side of Lorenzo (or neither), the facts are set in stone. Marquez heads to Valencia with a championship-leading advantage of 13 points, meaning a single fourth place would guarantee the title no matter what Lorenzo is capable of. Why are Honda fans still worried, then? Because they know their dream could still crumble all too easily…lapped traffic, inclement weather and freak technical problems all spring to mind. On the other hand, Marquez boasts an astonishing six race wins, eight pole positions, 14 front row starts, 15 podium finishes and 11 fastest laps. That surely all goes in his favor, doesn’t it?
Lorenzo’s 2013 success is nothing to be ashamed of, either. The Champion of 2010 and 2012 has now won seven races this year – one more than Marquez. His heroics in Holland need no more explaining and the fact he still stands a chance of the title – despite ‘only’ four pole positions and two fastest laps – is evidence in itself. Furthermore, he has retired from not a single race he has started and – unlike his rival – has never had to pass through Q1 qualifying. Perhaps the biggest achievement has been his continual belief that winning the championship was still possible despite one fifth place, one sixth and one seventh as well as his quintet of third place finishes, all behind Repsol Honda one-twos in Texas, Jerez, Indianapolis, Brno and Sepang.
And so, let battle commence for the final time. Two men each deserving of the world title for their own discrete reasons and each with their legions of fans, to be left either euphoric or disconsolate on Sunday evening in Spain. Stand-by for the finale of the 2013 MotoGP World Championship. One last hurdle in a truly outstanding season.