Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa, looking like the 2012 version of himself, won today’s Spanish Grand Prix, leading wire to wire for his first win since Misano last year. Teammate and defending champion Marc Marquez gave chase for most of the race, but never seemed to have quite enough to mount a serious challenge to Pedrosa on one of those days…

Underdog Jorge Lorenzo claimed third step on the podium in a credible performance on the factory Ducati, his first podium in red which, he said afterwards, felt like a win. When the smoke cleared, the 2017 race had tightened considerably, to the delight of the majority of fans, especially those expensively dressed.

We’ve seen these three Spaniards on top of podiums together may times before, so it comes as a bit of a surprise to that Dani Pedrosa, Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo have not shared a podium together since the final race of the 2015 season.

Practice

Practice sessions at Jerez varied from wet to damp to dry, and the timesheets were informative:

FP1: Wet. Repsol Honda veteran Dani Pedrosa, Brit Cal Crutchlow, and Australia’s Jack Miller. All Hondas.

FP2: Damp/drying. Pedrosa, Miller and Crutchlow. Hmmm.

FP3: Dry. Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Maverick Vinales. Hmmm again. Clearly Pedrosa has it going on this weekend. Race day to be dry. Seems to be pretty Honda-friendly.

Who goes through to QP2: Four Hondas and four Yamahas (Vinales 4th, Valentino Rossi 7th late), Andrea Iannone on the Suzuki, and Lorenzo the top Ducati in 8th. Jerez is not a Ducati-friendly track, to say the least.

Q1: Iannone and Aleix Espargaro’s Aprilia advance; Petrucci and Dovizioso do not, but then comes the factory KTM team of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro, putting both on the fifth row for what I guess to be the first time. I’m starting to develop a little motowood about this KTM bunch.

KTM continues to make progress, even if the race results aren’t there yet. Pol Espargaro was fifth in Q1, just ahead of teammate Bradley Smith.

Q2: The Usual Suspects, joined once again by Dani Pedrosa, dominate. Pedrosa, teammate Marquez and Crutchlow oust newest wunderkind Vinales from the front row. Three Hondas and two compatriotas on Row 1! Southern Spain is dancing in the streets. It’s a big deal over there.

As dusk falls on Saturday, it looks like one of the Hondas is going to stand on the top step. Yet, Rossi shows up on Sundays, as does Vinales. Crutchlow and Lorenzo are lurking. Worth a ticket if you’re in the neighborhood on Sunday.

Undercard: Moto2 Procession

Alex Marquez won his first career Moto2 race, putting an end to Franco Morbidelli’s winning streak.

Moto2 Estrella Galicia heartthrob and series leader Franco Morbidelli crashed out of the lead unassisted, allowing young Alex Marquez to break his Moto2 cherry, winning easily for the first time since his Moto3 championship in 2014. Afterwards, he was congratulated by big brother Marc in Parc Ferme, in a moment none of us ever forget, of which older brother must have surely reminded him.

The Race Itself

Johann Zarco continues to impress, starting strong in Jerez before finishing just off the podium in fourth.

In the early action, Pedrosa took the hole shot from pole followed closely by Marquez. Johann Zarco, the precocious rookie on the Tech 3 Yamaha, proceeded to trade paint with Rossi on Lap 1 before going through on him. We watched Lap 2 in some amazement as he then proceeded to reel in Vinales, Crutchlow and Iannone, taking over third place behind the Repsol Hondas. Say what you will about the French, this Zarco has onions. Especially with a full tank.

By Lap 4 Lorenzo was running seventh and Rossi eighth, giving the crowd a brief flashback to 2009 and 2010 when the two of them used to duel regularly for Yamaha. Lap 5 saw the impudent Zarco go through on Marquez into second place and Miller get taken down by the spatially unaware Alvaro Bautista, leading to the swing/slap thing from Miller. On Lap 6 Crutchlow fell out of fourth place and Pol Espargaro grounded his KTM machine, while Lap 7 gave us more Lorenzo vs. Rossi. During all of this, the Repsol Hondas were beginning to disappear, after Marquez had taken second back from Zarco.

Jack Miller was understandably displeased after being taking out by Alvaro Bautista. Miller later gave Bautista a shove for which he received a 1000 euro fine.

On Lap 10, team Marc VDS Racing’s day was completely ruined when Tito Rabat crashed out, joining Bautista in the Zero Points Club. Moments later, Iannone slid his Suzuki into the gravel. Lorenzo was suddenly dogging Zarco for third place, and Dovizioso went through on Rossi, who was definitely having tire issues.

There was some jousting further down the order that you’ll need to watch on video to understand fully. Rookie Jonas Folger, on the second Tech 3 Yamaha, had the temerity to go through on legend Rossi on Lap 22 while Rossi’s tires continued to disintegrate beneath him. Lorenzo finally broke Zarco around Lap 23 for his first Ducati podium. Plenty of exhaling taking place at Ducati Corse over that one.

Former teammates Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi battled it out with Lorenzo coming out ahead. Coincidentally, it took both riders four races after switching from Yamaha to Ducati to score their first podiums on a Desmosedici.

Dani Pedrosa, climbing back into Tranche 1, and Jorge Lorenzo, advancing to Tranche 3, still have some go in their tanks. That Lorenzo could do well at Jerez on the Ducati says much about him and the GP17, that they appear to be nearing a rapprochement that will allow Lorenzo, as well as Dovizioso, to compete for the podium most every time out.

Danilo Petrucci, with a solid seventh place finish on the Pramac Ducati GP17, moves up to T2. Here’s the rest, including a look-back at the previous rankings:

Bruce’s Rankings After Round 3
Tranche 1: Vinales, Marquez, Rossi
Tranche 2: Pedrosa, Crutchlow, Dovizioso, Zarco, Miller
Tranche 3: Bautista, Iannone, Petrucci, Baz, Redding, Folger
Tranche 4: A. Espargaro, P Espargaro, Barbera, Lorenzo , (Rins)
Tranche 5: Smith, Lowes, Rabat, Abraham
New Rankings after Round 4
Tranche 1: Vinales, Marquez, Rossi, Pedrosa ↑
Tranche 2: Crutchlow, Dovizioso, Zarco, Petrucci ↑
Tranche 3: Lorenzo ↑, Folger, A Espargaro ↑, Miller ↓, Iannone, Redding
Tranche 4: Bautista ↓, P Espargaro, Barbera, Baz
Tranche 5: Smith, Lowes, Rabat, Abraham, (Rins)

Social climbers: Pedrosa, Petrucci, Lorenzo, and Aleix Espargaro.

Lorenzo’s podium very impressive; he looked in command of the GP17. Aleix Espargaro has the Aprilia competitive.

A much-needed third-place result takes some of the pressure off of Jorge Lorenzo. The podium puts Lorenzo into the top 10 in the championship standings for the first time this season.

Pedrosa now owns a new record for consecutive seasons with at least one grand prix win at 16. He won it during the 3000th Grand Prix race of the modern era. Worthy of respect, more titanium in him than most golf clubs and forearms like cables: Little Big Man is what I used to call him, and I still like it.

The last time Dani Pedrosa went a whole season without a win was 2001, his rookie season in the 125cc class.

Losing Face: Miller and Bautista. Miller, in part, for such a prissy swing he took at Bautista. I don’t care that it was Bautista’s fault. But either swing like you mean it or don’t swing.

Crutchlow is flirting with T3. Rossi is flirting with T2 and hasn’t won since Mugello last year. Tire issues today not his fault, but rider’s choice nonetheless.

So Moto2 and MotoGP are Modeling One Another…

…as the following comparison clearly shows. Focus groups have informed Dorna that fans prefer it if an old crafty veteran challenges a young buck for the top spot. They don’t want either rider to get away. And the more riders challenging for the title the better. Four and five would be optimal.

Franco Morbidelli crashed out at Jerez but he remains on top of the Moto2 standings.

Statistically, the most attractive cross-class matchups for this season appear thus as of May 7, 2017:

Judging from Sunday’s performances, things are about where the suits want them.

The Big Picture Heading to Le Mans

In the premier class, the top four is as tight as Tupperware:

  1. Rossi 62
  2. Vinales 60
  3. Marquez 58
  4. Pedrosa 52

This is sweet. This is what fans want, heading into Round 5. The tranching and the standings stand up, I feel, to one another. Some riders have positive momentum, while others are struggling. The Tech 3 Yamaha guys are strong every time out and not intimidated by future hall of famers. Each of the top four is fully aware of the chestnut that in order to finish first, one must first finish.

Despite finishing well back in 10th, Valentino Rossi remains on top of the championship standings.

Over at Moto2, Morbidelli now leads Luthi by a manageable 11 points, with Oliveira another 15 points back. Alex Marquez and 20-year-old Italian wonder Francesco Bagnaia (second today after successfully fighting off an extended challenge from Mattia Passini) make up the top five. Six riders took the checkered flag within the first ten seconds at Jerez.

One of the things Le Mans is known for is sketchy weather. If, as is not uncommon, conditions are less than ideal in northern France two weeks hence, we could see how the top four MotoGP riders perform in the wet, the cold, or both. This could be revealing about those riders with aspirations to top five finishes for the season. Riders like Miller and Petrucci enjoy the rain, while other riders don’t. Wet weather could further tighten the race at the top of both classes.

For the focus groups and the suits at Dorna it doesn’t get any better.

  • Gruf Rude

    Nicolas Goober, the Michelin Man, opined before the race that tyre wear would not be a problem. In that no one had a blowout, I suppose he was right . . .

    • Old MOron

      Bonus points for the play on Goubert.

      • Gruf Rude

        Thank you.

  • Starmag

    I should have known The Jockey would would pull out a win on Kentucky Derby weekend. Good for him, the medical marvel has some real tenacity, has proven he is a class act over a long period of time, and is a good guy admired by the rest of the riders.

    Although El Gato’s haters are legion, for me it was good to see him conquer the Ducati demons and appear on the podium. Always good to see anything other than a Honda or Yamaha there as well. Dorna shouldn’t rest too easy with the focus groups with two factory Yamahas and two factory Hondas at the top of the Championship standings. It’s not like we haven’t seen that before, but I think Dorna is doing a good job under the circumstances.

    Also, kudos to Zarco.

    “motowood’. lol. I love making up my own words also. Good one Bruce.

  • Prakasit

    Alright, I am officially on the Predrosa bandwagon for the championship. It’s always more fun to cheer for the underdog.

    • john phyyt

      .. Great.. I agree. Remember. Bruce was a fierce critic of Honda for re-signing Pedrosa .
      This reverse Golden touch from Mr Allen ; has allowed Crutchlow to blossom and Even Lorenzo gets a boost.

      • Starmag

        Now if he’d tell us his stock picks we could contrary and retire early.

        • I could stick my neck out at this point and predict that Jerez was Pedrosa’s 2017 win. Goes along with his win last year at Misano, the two wins in 2015, and the single winner at Brno in 2014.

          • Starmag

            Last year made me glad that I don’t bet on Motogp. It was great for spectating, but if I had been speculating it would have had me pulling my hair out.

  • BDan75

    Incredible race by Dani–look at the lap times–and I’m glad to see him on the top step. I’ll be bummed if we don’t see a Zarco podium pretty soon. Nothing like beating both factory guys on last year’s bike!

    According to information elsewhere, Rossi’s problem was setup more than tire degradation. Vinales seemed to blame the tires more.

    Does anyone really think Tito Rabat is still going to be around (in the premiere class, anyway) next season? I wonder how differently things might have gone for him if he hadn’t had to learn on the Honda.

  • JMDGT

    Regardless of who you may be pulling for, this is turning out to be a great season. I personally cannot wait for the next race.

  • Old MOron

    Full marks and congrats to Dani. Hooray for us, the fans. Everything is wide open, and they look to stay that way. Super hooray for Zarco. That race would’ve been a snooze fest without his barnstorming. Too bad his tires didn’t last.

    If you haven’t seen Moto 3 yet, WATCH IT!

    I like this week-by-week retranching, Bruce. Can’t wait to see how Guintoli goes at Le Mans in two weeks.

    • Gruf Rude

      NObody’s tires lasted. There was a quick glimpse of Pedrosa’s rear tire as he rolled up in parc ferme and it was so blistered it was a wonder it held air. Pedrosa’s FRONT tire was graining so bad you could see it in the slow motion shots 2 or 3 laps from the end. Marquez noted that his hard front tire was too soft to push. Vinales was in a controlled crash from the opening laps. Rossi’s tires went off so bad he was losing 5 seconds a lap toward the end. Jorge’s smooth got the Duc to podium. Everyone in the top four was a tire controlling magician. Zarco obviously learned tire management VERY well in Moto2.

      • john phyyt

        Correct. Wonder if Michelin had eyes on the Lap time of Rea’s Superbike in pre-season at this circuit. And NEEDED the Moto GP boys to be comfortably quicker thereby sacrificing durability .

  • Gruf Rude

    $5 got you $5.01 on the Iannone challenge.

  • Vrooom

    Tires seems to play a larger role in this race than usual for a number of riders. My picks for finishers were their usual useless. Lorenzo has to be in heaven, after being utterly irrelevant all year. You can’t move Rossi down while he’s in first in the championship Bruce! That may not last long with another 10th, though his tires seemed to perform particularly poorly.

    • Haven’t moved him yet. He is in deep yogurt, however.

      • Barry_Allen

        Rossi’s grip on the lead is even more tenuous when you consider that he’s the only rider in the top seven without a zero in the results column this year. Rossi, Folger, and Redding (really, REDDING?!?) are the only three to have scored points in all four races this season.

        Honda seems to have figured something out. The only guy faster than Marquez was Pedrosa. The only guys faster than Dani were in the fighter jets overhead during the pre-race ceremonies. A win would have given Marc the lead in the championship. As it was he had to settle for little brother Alex bringing home the big trophy on Spanish Mother’s Day.

        Our boy Crutchlow dropped to second independent behind Zarco after his second DNF of the year. The new bike livery and leathers look good, but to reach for the stars Cal’s going to have to first get up off the pavement.

        What happened to Lorenzo? On the grid before the race Ducati’s Davide Tardozzi told BT Sport’s Neil Hodgson that they gave Lorenzo a piece of advice this last week that nobody had brought up before; “Ride it like a Ducati.” Apparently you can’t treat a Desmosedici like an M1. Who’d a thunk it.

        Hodgy also got a couple of minutes trackside with Kevin Schwantz, who is getting a free tour of Europe courtesy of Suzuki to promote the new GSX-R. Revvin’ Kevin predicted number 26 for the win. It seems he still knows a thing or two about racing motorbikes.

        Moto3, Bruce, Moto3. More lead changes per lap than an entire GP race. It doesn’t take that long to figure out who’s who and get into it. Besides, when you watch all three classes, including pre- and post-race activities, it changes Sunday from a 45 minute “I’ve got to watch the GP race now, Honey,” break from the weekend honey-do list to a full blown, all day, 6+ hour “Not now Dear, I’m working’. Is there any pizza left?” moto-fest.

  • spiff

    Didn’t watch the race straight through, long story, but what I did watch was was a bummer. It seems that certian bikes like certian tires. It would be nice if one carcass was agreed upon, and was available H/M/S. There has been enough controversy about dictating race results with rubber. They need to be standardized, and randomly dispersed. Are we going to see races where it is a Honda weekend then a Yamaha weekend then a KTM 🙂 weekend?

    Also, Michelin has had a year to figure this out. Everyone deserves a learning curve, but with that curve results are expected.

    As far as the race, right on to Pedrobot. I hope he makes it a 4 horse race. Also, good on Lorenzo. I don’t root for him, but do like to see talent prevail over adversity.

    As far as the Yamahas? Some may say this is crap, but my buddy has been growling about it all day. He wonders if they are penalizing Vinales for running away with it all. The guy has been perfect since he threw a leg over the bike. Suddenly he has an uncharacteristic lowside, then tip toes around at the next race. Has anyone read any interviews with him on the topic? Sounds like something NASCAR would do. Please don’t start a NASCAR flaming session. Feel free to flame me.

    • Old MOron

      Kind of you to invite flames upon yourself, Spiff. But we still haven’t finished giving Bruce his rash of shit. You may have to wait until after Le Mans.

      • spiff

        A friend of mine brought up something interesting. Is the rubber laid down by Moto2, Dunlop I believe, screwing with the Michelin’s performance?

        • Old MOron

          I’ve heard that suggestion before. But the Hondas dominated both before and after the Dunlop layer of rubber, so I kind of doubt it. And Vale basically admitted that he sucked all Fri, Sat, Sun, so it seems unlikely that Dunlop rubber messed him up.

        • Gruf Rude

          Moto2 & 3 alternate track time all weekend with MotoGP and have done so for years, almost always on a different manufacturer’s tires. Hasn’t been a factor in the past.
          Sunday, Vinales was fast on Michelin in the morning and then the temperature went up and the Michelins went away. They have a problem with rubber compounding that Bridgestone solved a few years ago.

    • Consider yourself flamed. And not about your wacko NASCAR conspiracy. It’s early in the morning here, raining again, and I’m just in a foul temper. Burn on!

  • Kos

    Clinical riding by Pedrosa. Not a fan (ever since he took Hayden out). Regardless, I heard that several in Spain celebrated (he may have a large family).

    I’m tired of the over-emphasis on tire management. I want kick ass racing the whole way. Michelin needs to get their act together. You don’t hear anybody worrying about managing the chain through the race, do you?!

    • But hasn’t it been like this pretty much forever? On Sundays, you generally have two types of riders. Those who win, and those who complain about their tires. This assumes that there is a RIGHT compound to choose, in which case it’s on the rider. If the problem, as suggested elsewhere here, is that there are NO good compounds, then, yes, Michelin has more work to do.

      • Kos

        Fair points. Maybe the commentators are just emphasizing the tire factor more?

        I really want to hear Nick Harris say “His tires are ABSOLUTELY fragged!”

        • dBassDrumr

          If we really didn’t want tires to play a factor, we’d make the race ten laps. Its fun watching Zarco go mad on the track but Nick Harris and the rest of us know what any tires are going to look like after ten laps of abuse at the hands of Zarco. The thrilling thing is he will learn to manage the rubber and be really dangerous. That he has managed to be more “Crazy” than Iannone and stay upright is telling at this point in his career.

          • Old MOron

            That’s why I like the guy. He’s like a successful blend of the Maniac Joe and Jorge Lorenzo.

      • Gruf Rude

        Michelin has more work to do.

    • Ian Parkes

      Yeah, I’ve been sniffy about Michelin fronts before but tyres have hell of a job to do on these bikes. I agree with another poster that they may be just too powerful now. We used to have a 125cc class championship once and the big boys were on 500s. But as someone else pointed out it would be absurd if MotoGP bikes were softer than superbikes.

  • Old MOron

    So I just read on another (inferior but still informative) website that Lorenzo doesn’t want Michelin to switch to the harder tire. From what I read, the difference between the two tires doesn’t really affect him (other Ducati pilots have said the same thing), but he doesn’t want Marquez or Rossi to have the harder tire.

    I guess this is a natural reaction from a competitor, “It doesn’t hurt me, but if it helps my rivals, I don’t want it.”

    Michelin have declared that they will switch to the stiffer tire if a clear majority of the riders want it. But I don’t think they’ll get a strong majority. I expect all of the Ducati pilots will vote against it, and there’s six of them. But I don’t mind. Ducati spend a lot of bucks to put six bikes on the grid and to entertain us. If they direct all their votes against the stiffer tires, fair enough.