In the run-up to today’s Spanish Grand Prix, several things were clear. Defending world champion Marc Marquez would be riding wounded with a broken left pinkie. Jorge Lorenzo, dominating the practice sessions, had that look in his eye reminiscent of 2010, 2012 and late 2014. The Ducatis were having a tough time getting anything going in the Spanish heat. And Valentino Rossi had a great chance to secure his 200th career podium.
At the end of today’s high speed parade, most of the expectations were met. Lorenzo got away at the start, led every lap, and celebrated his first career win from pole at Jerez. On the final lap, he saluted the swooning fans in Lorenzo’s Land, his mojo clearly back in place. Marquez managed to secure second place, confessing afterwards that he chased Lorenzo mostly with his right arm, which was as sore as his finger in parc fermé. (Let’s hope he doesn’t show up on Wednesday with a case of arm pump.) Rossi got his podium and increased his lead from 6 points to 15 over a frustrated Andrea Dovizioso.
Ducati Woes in Spain
Last week, we heard the dueling Andreas, Dovizioso and Iannone, singing the blues about how hard it would be for them to compete at Jerez. I thought they were sandbagging; they obviously missed my earlier article proclaiming the GP15 competitive at every track on the calendar. And although five of the six Desmosedicis on the grid finished in the points, there is no joy in Città di Fango tonight.
Iannone qualified solidly in third, but got caught in traffic at the start, dropping back to around 11th place early. He spent his day pedaling as hard as he could to finish sixth and, in the process, dropped from third place for the season to fifth. Dovizioso, mimicking recent Rossi acts by qualifying in the eight hole, started okay, finishing Lap 1 in seventh before going walkabout on Lap 2, which he finished in 25th place. As in last place. As in behind Alex de Angelis. He spent his day grinding his teeth to nubs on the way to an eventual ninth place finish. His seven (7) points today left him in second place for the season but increased his deficit to Rossi from six to 15, and brought his string of consecutive second place finishes to a grating halt.
On the brighter side, Yonny Hernandez pushed his Pramac entry to a respectable 10th place, teammate Danilo Petrucci (who lost 20 pounds during the offseason) managed 12th, and Avintia Racing’s Hectic Hector Barbera scored two points, ending the day in 14th place. On a day when I expected to see two Ducatis on the podium, my prognostication skills once again took a thorough thrashing.
Elsewhere on the Grid
CWM LCR Honda hooligan Cal Crutchlow, who doesn’t get enough respect here, ran a smart, controlled race for a legitimate fourth place finish, his only whining this week (other than a head cold) occurring after qualifying when he said he SHOULD have started on the front row but for a bad tire choice. The Espargaro brothers, Little Pol and Big Aleix, qualified well in fourth and sixth respectively and finished well, too, in fifth and seventh. They had an altercation during qualifying, after which they could be seen inside the Suzuki garage, where Aleix administered a Chinese burn on Pol, whereupon Pol retaliated with a wet willie, sticking his spit-soaked index finger in his brother’s ear. Tech 3 Yamaha’s Bradley Smith qualified 10th and finished 9th, somewhat off the pace of his season to date.
Other than Assen, they’ve been hosting MotoGP races at Jerez longer than anywhere on the schedule. Today’s results raise the question as to whether we should consider Jerez to be Yamaha-friendly or Honda-friendly, presuming a healthy Dani Pedrosa would have finished somewhere in the top six. Hard to say, with all four Yamahas finishing in the top eight and both real Hondas, Marquez and Crutchlow, nestled in the top four. From this vantage point, only two conclusions are available. First, Scott Redding has to get his act together on the Marc VDS Honda; 13th place isn’t getting it done. Second, Jerez is definitely un-friendly for the factory Ducati team. At least it was today.
Spain is one of the few countries where the podium celebration features the nation’s king. Juan Carlos hung out with Lorenzo and Marquez before the race and strolled across the podium afterwards, high-fiving all three riders. You’ll never see the King of America doing that in Indy or Austin, unless Donald Trump manages to steal the 2016 election.
The Spanish Grand Prix marked Lorenzo’s first pole since Misano last year and his first win since Motegi. He looked visibly relieved on the podium and gave us a classic Lorenzo Leap at the end. It would be fun to have a legitimate three way race this season, with Marquez, Rossi and Lorenzo in the hunt at the end. My irrational exuberance about the Ducati team needs a lift, which it may receive in France in two weeks if the French Grand Prix holds to form and gives us three days of rain.
Pol Espargaro finally got one of the monkeys off his back, beating teammate Bradley Smith for the first time this season. And it was a big weekend for the Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, as they doubled their point total for the season from one (1) to two (2), based on Alvaro Bautista’s heroic run to 15th place. Fausto must be going insane, despite the pleasure of watching #2 rider Marco Melandri not finishing last today.
The Big Picture Heading for Le Mans
Is it premature to suggest that Jorge Lorenzo is back? Today he looked like he did over the second half of last year and during most of 2010 and 2012. Rossi took what the defense was willing to give him today and extended his lead in the championship, courtesy of the futility of the factory Ducati team. And Marquez, who should be close to 100% in two weeks, still looks capable of winning a third straight title. If you happened to have watched the Moto2 race today, Alex Rins’ fall in the Jorge Lorenzo turn on the last lap took him from first place in the championship down to third. Things can change swiftly in this sport, and there are 14 rounds left. It’s too soon to write off any of the three.
Today was Jorge Lorenzo’s day. He will turn 28 tomorrow feeling great and looking forward to mixing it up with Marquez and Rossi in two weeks. Meanwhile, the teams will gather again tomorrow at the Circuito de Jerez for a fast one day test. If I’m Marquez, I’m going to sit this one out and be grateful I didn’t do any more damage to myself today. If I’m Rossi, I’m going to count to 200, do whatever Lin Jarvis wants done and give some serious thought to how I can do a better job in qualifying.
If I’m Lorenzo, I’m going to replay today’s race in my head a few times and offer up a prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupé for more days like today.
|2015 MotoGP Jerez Top Ten Results|
|1||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||–|
|2||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||+5.576|
|3||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||+11.586|
|4||Cal Crutchlow||CWM LCR Honda||+22.727|
|5||Pol Espargaro||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+26.620|
|6||Andrea Iannone||Ducati Corse||+27.021|
|7||Aleix Espargaro||Suzuki ECSTAR||+35.445|
|8||Bradley Smith||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+36.296|
|9||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Corse||+41.933|
|10||Yonny Hernandez||Pramac Ducati||+51.072|
|2015 MotoGP Top Ten Standings After 4 Rounds|