MotoGP: 2009 Jerez Results

The reign in Spain falls mainly on the crossplane crankshaft


The MotoGP Grand Prix of Spain on Sunday proved at least one thing. Compared to big American professional sports – basketball, baseball and football – where home teams enjoy a decided, and often corrupt, advantage, there is no home field advantage in MotoGP. Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, both Spaniards coming off impressive showings in Japan, figured to have the inside track in Jerez. And although he was no 50-1 shot running for the roses, Valentino Rossi demonstrated again that the best motorcycle rider on the planet is Italian.

Saturday’s qualifications raised expectations for the Spaniards, as Fiat Yamaha’s Lorenzo and Repsol Honda’s Pedrosa ran first and second. Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner and Fiat Yamaha’s Rossi qualified third and fourth, respectively, and seemed to be bothered by the windy conditions. From the fifth position down, surprises abounded. Andrea Dovizioso, Alex de Angelis and Mika Kallio lagged, while Randy de Puniet and Loris Capirossi placed surprisingly high on the grid. The surprises wouldn’t end on Saturday.

Fiat Yamaha's Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo ahead of the surprising Randy de Puniet from the Playboy-sponsored LCR Honda.

Sunday dawned sunny, warm and breezy; for the first time this season, we wouldn’t be spending all day hearing about the weather. Rossi and Lorenzo had it going on in the morning warm-up, with Pedrosa, Stoner and Rizla Suzuki’s Capirossi hot on their heels. Once the race started, Pedrosa, Stoner, Lorenzo and Rossi opened a gap on the fifth through ninth riders, and, as usually occurs in MotoGP, the lines were drawn.

The first 18 laps of the race were eerily similar to the race in Indianapolis last year, only with Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda instead of Nicky Hayden. Like Hayden, Pedrosa led most of the race on his home cicuit while Rossi began picking off the riders ahead of him.

2009 Spanish Grand Prix quick recap
Pos. Lap 1 Lap 2 Lap 6 Lap 13 Lap 18 Finish
1 Pedrosa Pedrosa Pedrosa Pedrosa Rossi Rossi
2 Stoner Stoner Rossi Rossi Pedrosa Pedrosa
3 Lorenzo Rossi Stoner Stoner Stoner Stoner
4 Rossi Lorenzo Lorenzo Lorenzo Lorenzo De Puniet

Rossi finally passed Pedrosa on Lap 18, and Jerez was largely over. Lorenzo was unable to challenge for the lead all day. By Lap 23, though, he was starting to push Stoner, and appeared ready to challenge for a spot on the podium when he laid his bike down in a fast right-hand turn. Just like that, his day was over.

“I am very sad, because I was so fast all weekend and on pole position,” Lorenzo said later. “Unfortunately today the temperature meant that our setting did not work in the same way and at the moment we don’t understand why. This is really more disappointing than the actual crash.”

Body language test: Guess which one finished first and which one came in second.
Marco Melandri and Loris Capirossi were surprisingly competitive in Jerez. 

Stoner coasted home in third position, and LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet, who had spent his day tussling with the likes of Melandri, Capirossi and Colin Edwards, suddenly found himself in fourth place.

There were a few other noteworthy rides on this day.

Andrea Dovizioso on the second Repsol Honda went off the track on Lap 6 and fell from fifth place to 16th. Over the next 20 laps, he battled back and finished a respectable 8th. Mika Kallio of Pramac Ducati had a mechanical problem that ruined his day. Marco Melandri started in the 11 hole and finished fifth, hopefully moving Kawasaki to reconsider their role with his Hayate Racing team.

Sete Gibernau of Grupo Francisco Hernando and Yuki Takahashi of Scot Racing Honda, whom I had criticized Friday, actually figured out how to get out of their own way and finished 11th and 12th, respectively. Not great, but not disgraceful, either. James Toseland continued showing nothing whatsoever on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3, and Pramac’s Niccolo Canepa again finished the race without removing his training wheels. As he did in his previous role as a Ducati factory test rider, he may not score points, but at least he doesn’t break his bike.

For American fans, the biggest story of the season thus far has to be the inexplicable irrelevance of Nicky Hayden. Watching him compete last year, I thought he was better than his equipment, that his skills on the Desmosedici would put him in the top three in the world. Not surprisingly, I was wrong, but I didn’t expect to be this wrong. He is leading exactly one rider in the World Championship standings – Canepa – and trails rookie Ducati rider Mika Kallio. If he were a golfer, one might suspect a case of the “yips”, the inability to sink a two foot putt. Is it fear? Nerves? Complacency?

The only rider this former MotoGP champion beat across the line is a former test rider. Something's not right.“I was nervous that physically it would be a tough race but it turned out to be a lot worse than we expected,” said Hayden. “In the beginning I struggled a lot again with a full fuel load and I made a mistake on the first lap – I was trying to make some positions up and I actually lost some. I tried to recover but something was wrong with the set-up of the bike. I can’t make the harder compound work well with my bike and I have to go with the softer one but today even those didn’t start to work well until I got a lot of heat into them.

“I did my best time on the seventeenth lap so there is something we have definitely to work on with the team. We need to look at the data and think up something different for the next one.”

Nicky, you might have run better in the Kentucky Derby. In the immortal words of Desi Arnaz, “you got some ‘splainin’ to do.”

The Red Bull Rookies Cup ran their first two races of the season on Saturday and Sunday. Here are the Top Five results from both days and the standings after the first two rounds of the eight round championship.

Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup - Jerez results
Pos. Race 1 Race 2 Overall
1st Sturla Fagerhaug Danny Kent Sturla Fagerhaug
2nd Mathew Scholtz Sturla Fagerhaug Danny Kent
3rd Danny Kent Daijiro Hiura Mathew Scholtz
4th Alexander Kristiansson Florian Marino Alejandro Pardo
5th Joshua Hook Alejandro Pardo Jakub Kornfeil

American Jacob Gagne sits in 10th place, while Hayden Gillim is currently 16th.

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