Top 15 Stories of 2013. No. 14: Moto3 Comes Down To Last Corner
by staff
Thursday, December 19, 2013

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series counting down the top 15 stories in MotoGP in 2013, as determined by the Soup staff.

There's only so much oxygen available for fans and media to inhale during a MotoGP season. The natural law of racing - and the promotional might of factories, sponsors and Dorna - ensures that the premier class engulfs most of the attention.

That reality was a shame in 2013 because the best championship race wasn't the titanic tussle in MotoGP between Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo, decided by just four points. It was the terrific tug-of-war between Maverick Vinales, Alex Rins and Luis Salom, which came down to the final turn of the final lap of the season finale at Valencia.

Statistics show Vinales beat Rins to his first world title by 12 points, with Salom 21 points behind the champion. But those numbers deceive.

The final race was a classic. Salom entered Valencia as the championship leader, two points ahead of Vinales. Rins was third, just five points behind Salom in this all-Spanish, all-KTM affair.

All three championship protagonists wasted little time moving to the front at Valencia. Salom led with 17 laps remaining in the 24-lap race. Vinales took the lead two laps later. Four laps later, Vinales and Salom traded the lead twice.

Salom then ran wide with 11 laps remaining, handing Rins second place. With 10 laps left, championship leader Salom low-sided into the gravel trap at Turn 5 while chasing Vinales and Rins. He returned to the race, his title chances evaporated.

The title then appeared to be a straight fistfight between Vinales and Rins. But Folger became the third man in over the closing laps. Vinales and Rins traded the lead during the final three laps, with Rins taking the lead on the last trip around the circuit.

But Vinales waited until the VERY LAST TURN of the final lap of the season to dip underneath Rins and pull a few hundred yards to the finish to win the World Championship. His margin of victory was .186 of a second to Folger, who edged Rins for third by one-thousandth of a second.

The gripping, suspense-dripping finale was a fitting conclusion to a season that took a rotating triangular path like an old tire swing occupied by the three riders. Salom, Vinales and Rins were the only riders to lead the championship in 2013, and the points gap was single digits after nine of the 17 rounds.

Salom led after 11 consecutive races from Catalunya to Motegi, with his margin expanding to a season-high 26 points after beating Rins by 49-thousandths of a second for victory Sept. 1 at Silverstone.

But Salom's championship charge slipped into neutral the last six races of the season. Just one of his seven victories came during that stretch run, and his only non-finish of the season came when he crashed out at Motegi in the penultimate race on the calendar. That let Vinales pull to within two points entering Valencia, setting the table for an epic decider.

This season's Moto3 title chase proved three indisputable facts.

One, Spain continues to spawn the best young riders in the world, as the top four in points raced under the colors of Bandera de Espana. The Spanish national anthem was the unofficial soundtrack of Moto3.

Two, KTM ruled the introductory class. All three title contenders were aboard the Austrian bikes, with fourth place Alex Marquez also on a KTM and fifth place Folger on a Kalex-KTM.

Three, Moto3 continues to produce some of the most cut-and-thrust, spellbinding motorcycle racing in the world. The bikes are devoid of heaps of electronic gizmos, putting a premium on rider skill.

And we saw skill to spare among Maverick Vinales, Alex Rins and Luis Salom in 2013.


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