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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
Statistically, the most attractive cross-class matchups for this season appear thus as of May 7, 2017:
|Franco Morbidelli||Marc Marquez|
|Tom Luthi||Valentino Rossi|
|Miguel Oliveira||Maverick Vinales|
|Alex Marquez||Jorge Lorenzo|
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:
- Rossi 62
- Vinales 60
- Marquez 58
- 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.
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.
|2017 MotoGP Spanish Grand Prix Race Results|
|1||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||45:26.827|
|2||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||+6.136|
|3||Jorge Lorenzo||Ducati Corse||+14.767|
|4||Johann Zarco||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||+17.601|
|5||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Corse||+22.913|
|6||Maverick Viñales||Movistar Yamaha||+24.556|
|7||Danilo Petrucci||Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati||+24.959|
|8||Jonas Folger||Monster Yamaha Tech3||+27.721|
|9||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia Gresini||+31.233|
|10||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||+38.682|
|11||Scott Redding||Octo Pramac Ducati||+40.979|
|12||Hector Barbera||Avintia Racing||+43.199|
|13||Loris Baz||Reale Avintia Ducati||+43.211|
|14||Bradley Smith||Red Bull KTM||+47.964|
|15||Karel Abraham||Pull&Bear Aspar Ducati||+51.279|
|16||Sam Lowes||Aprilia Gresini||+1:08.885|
|17||Takuya Tsuda||Suzuki Ecstar||+1:27.450|
|DNF||Andrea Iannone||Suzuki Ecstar||18 Laps|
|DNF||Tito Rabat||Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda||18 Laps|
|DNF||Cal Crutchlow||LCR Honda||22 Laps|
|DNF||Jack Miller||Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda||22 Laps|
|DNF||Alvaro Bautista||Pull&Bear Aspar Ducati||22 Laps|
|DNF||Pol Espargaro||Red Bull KTM||22 Laps|
|2017 MotoGP Top 10 Standings After 4 Rounds|