Spanish riders dominating early races of 2013

Updated: April 24, 2013, 2:23 PM ET
Associated Press

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AP Sports Writer

AUSTIN, Texas -- The Spanish stars are rising in MotoGP.

Marc Marquez's performance at the inaugural Grand Prix of the Americas, where the 20-year-old became the series' youngest rider to win a pole position and win a race at the premier level -- was just the latest example of Spanish riders dominating the sport.

Finishing second and third were countrymen Dani Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo, the defending world champion. And that's just the start. Look further down the line to find Spanish riders Nicolas Terol and Esteve Rabat finishing 1-2 in Moto2. And in Moto3, Spain's 17-year-old Alex Rins, Maverick Vinales and Luis Salom were 1-2-3.

That's nine out of 10 podium places taken by members of a two-wheeled Spanish armada.

Lorenzo credits both the natural talent of Spanish riders and the national commitment to developing it into world-class racers.

"For me, it's 50 percent quality and 50 percent the work of the federation, making championships for the little kids to grow up on the bike quick," Lorenzo said. "There's also a lot of support economically. I know that there are a lot of other countries equipped with more economic power and are growing a little bit more than us, but I think we've got riders for at least five or 10 years more."

Marquez is living up to high expectations.

After winning the Moto2 championship in 2012, Marquez signed with Repsol Honda as a replacement for retired former world champion Casey Stoner. After two races, he's finished on the podium twice and is tied with Lorenzo at the top of the championship standings with 41 points.

At the season-opener in Qatar, Marquez bumped teammate Pedrosa off the podium with a third-place finish. In Austin, he dominated the field in practice and qualifying. During the race, Pedrosa grabbed the lead seconds after the start, but Marquez overtook him with nine laps to go and steadily pulled away.

In the post-race celebration, as Marquez stood on his bike and waved to the crowd of about 60,000, he got a handshake of congratulations from none other than seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi, who finished sixth.

"The first victory is always different. Your confidence changes a little bit. It looks like everything is going well. We can't forget that we'll be at some tracks that will be more difficult for us," Marquez said, adding he's still learning the nuances of driving in MotoGP.

"When I started in Moto2, I crashed three times in a row. In Moto2, you can start the race 100 percent and finish 100 percent. Here it's different. If you try to start 100 percent, you get tired," Marquez said.

On Sunday, it was Pedrosa, an eight-year veteran with 22 career victories, who tired during the chase.

"Marc was super. He had a good race, riding every lap very good," Pedrosa said. "I was just focused to do my best and at the end I struggled with my left arm. I lost my strength there so I couldn't really manage the bike."

The Grand Prix of the Americas was the first of three races this year in the U.S. The series now moves to Europe for the next six races, starting with the Spanish Grand Prix on May 5 where Marquez and his countrymen can race in front of adoring home crowds.

After his third-place finish in Austin, Lorenzo suggested it's a long season and a long chase for the world title.

"He's got a good bike and he's a strong rider and he was on a track he liked," Lorenzo said of Marquez. "When you are 20 years old and a rookie in MotoGP, you see things in a different way. You are not afraid to crash. When you get a little older, you start to be more cautious about the risk. You have a different view of the championship."

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

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