Jorge Lorenzo is the man in MotoGP. He is the 2012 championship title holder, won over his long time adversary Dani Pedrosa and a field full of talented riders. After the season opener at Qatar he is the 2013 points leader. He has lead, literally, every lap of the (admittedly still young) season and by a healthy margin. He is the lead rider of the Yamaha factory squad, sportsmanship and marketing aside the strongest OEM on the MotoGP grid today. He is the rabbit that the field is chasing, enjoying unprecedented success while they fight for the scraps. Austin Texas' Circuit of the Americas will present a new and virtually unknown challenge to the man who has already proven that he is more than capable of mastering men and machines alike. He has tested here to be sure, but so have his opponents. There is also the factor of Texas' notoriously unpredictable weather. After weeks of almost sunny conditions Austin has been experiencing a rather wet and cold spell. The face that mother nature shows on race day may be as much a factor as any in determining the outcome.
You can tell that Valentino Rossi is a man on top of the proverbial world. It's not that he qualified well - languishing in 7th place wasn't a particularly impressive start to his reunion with Yamaha. It wasn't that he managed to work his way up to second place. He managed that on a Ducati after all. It wasn't even the media images of a smiling Rossi and Burgess in the GP paddock during testing and practice. No the true hallmark of just how happy the former world champion is came in the late stages of the race when, previously held up by satellite Hondas and acres of empty track, he went from fifth to second by the simple expediency of shoving his M1 onto the sparse inches beneath any rider in front of him, make the pass look clean (not even hard) and soldier on to the finish. The path from mid-pack to runner up was not without drama. An early charge was thwarted when Rossi ran into the back of Pedrosa's motorcycle, a certain crashed saved only by the recently fitted brake guard mandated in the GP class. Rossi kept it together, running wide and falling back only to fight his way to 2nd place. The motorcycling world is left with a series of what-ifs - what if he had used the new qualifying session better? What if he had waited just one more corner to make the pass? What if Crutchlow had been just a bit more aggressive in his racing? For Rossi, there are no such scenarios. The race hapened, it is over and the questions are answered. The Doctor is home again.
Marc Marquez entered the GP class to much pomp and circumstance. He was not the first to do so in recent times. He "shocked" the media world during off-season testing by posting times the equal of (and sometimes greater than) the established pecking order of racing. This has been done before by other talented rookies. Marc Marquez silenced his critics by stomping the field to podium on his first race, losing out only to the two most successful GP riders on the grid - current and multi-champion Lorenzo, and 7 time multi-champion Rossi. If you had to miss out on scalps to take, that's not too bad for a weekend's work. Better still for Marquez, he displayed race craft rarely seen just a year ago in his days aboard the 250. While his riding could easily have been described as brash and reckless with a complete disregard for his fellow competitors, Sunday's race under Qatari lights saw Marquez display a trait that some may not have thought he had: patience. Marquez fell back initially and then cut through the field for 3rd place behind teammate Dani Pedrosa, then stayed there for several laps as he learned some of the intricacies of the RC. Then, when he had his fill, he simply breezed past Dani and took second. He couldn't hold it, and eventually fell back to third; but on the way he gave Rossi absolute fits, never yielding the position right down to the wire. Given time and a touch more time and confidence he is going to give the front runners absolute fits.