The MotoGP world, turned on its ear by qualifying on Saturday, was put back in its proper order today in Jerez by the incandescent Marc Marquez, who led wire-to-wire. The Petronas Yamaha SRT team, which spent Saturday night in the penthouse, ended Sunday in the outhouse. Rising Suzuki star Alex Rins took second, and Maverick Viñales found the podium for the first time since Buriram 2018. Four riders were separated by nine points heading to Jerez; four riders remain separated by nine points heading to Le Mans. Life is good.

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After an uncharacteristic DNF at COTA, Marc Marquez is back on top, both on the Jerez podium and the 2019 MotoGP championship standings

Practice and Qualifying

Based upon the baffling buffet that was four free practice and two qualifying sessions, one could envision almost anyone on Sunday’s podium, with he possible exception of, like, Randy de Puniet or one of the Laverty brothers. FP1 gave us Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo, today and yesterday in the same Repsol Honda colors, with Valentino Rossi whistling “Dixie” in 18th position. A brutally hot FP2 somehow belonged to the Wishin’ Minnow (?) factory Ducati Team, with Danilo Petrucci, studmuffin #2, edging teammate Andrea Dovizioso on the fast new-in-places racing surface; Rossi sweating bullets in 14th.

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Jerez hasn’t typically been kind to Ducati but both factory racers Danilo Petrucci and Andrea Dovizioso looked strong this weekend.

Saturday was cloudy, lowering air and track temps. FP3 melded Friday’s results as Petrucci, Marquez and brazen Petronas Yamaha SRT rookie Fabio Quartararo topped the sheet; Rossi 11th and screwed to the fifth row on Sunday. Petrucci broke the old track record, surprising, I think, even himself. Jerez was once reputed to be unfriendly to the Ducati Desmosedici, but not anymore. The only notable results from FP4 were Viñales closing the session in 2nd place (after failing to make the cut into Q2) and Andrea Iannone being helped off the track with a left leg issue after a hard fall late in the session.

Q1 and Q2, apart from offering some of the most exciting moments of every weekend, were especially instructive at Jerez. Late in Q1, with Viñales and rookie protégé Pecco Bagnaia on the Ducati sitting 1-2, Doctor Rossi had enough time to attempt two flying laps, hoping to sneak into Q2 after a miserable two days. Most of the crowd clad in his colors held their breath for almost three minutes watching the GOAT not have enough. For Rossi, a Sunday driver who can podium from pretty much anywhere on the grid, it was just another in a series of vexing issues this weekend. But it would get worse in Q2, the teacher getting schooled by former students half his age.

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It was a remarkable Saturday for the Petronas Yamaha SRT, with Fabio Quartaro (right) taking the pole and Franco Morbidelli qualifying second.

The increasingly-irrelevant Jorge Lorenzo set the first marker in the 1:37s on his second lap out of the pits (on his way to P11.) Marquez stepped up 11/100ths of a second later with a 1:36.970, flirting with Petrucci, which held up for almost 10 minutes until the LTMOQ2 (Last Two Minutes of Q2), which are a thing to which we will refer going forward. Saturday’s madness edition – get this – ended with rookie Fabio Quartararo, who had the decency to turn 20 years old last month, on pole, holding both the track record and the record for youngest polesitter in MotoGP history, eclipsing #93 hisself. And, to make matters worse for the factory team, Franco Morbidelli, yet another Rossi protégé, finished second, putting two 2015 vintage M1s on the front row. You’d have to go back to the Bush administration to find the last time two satellite bikes have started a premier class race 1-2. Marquez completed the front row, backed by Dovizioso, an unconvincing Viñales and Cal Crutchlow lurking in Row 2. Takaaki Nakagami 8th, Rins 9th, Bagnaia 10th and Joan Mir 12th, but third in the Sunday morning WUP.

Here’s How It Went

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Marc Marquez jumped into the lead early on, passing the Petronas duo.

Marquez took the hole shot and led exiting Turn 1, and never looked back. He was dogged by upstart Morbidelli for the first ten laps until he decided to check out. Quartararo, having spent some quality time in third place, went through on Morbidelli into second place on Lap 11, as the Italian appeared to be developing grip issues. This, as Rins was making light work of Viñales. My notes on Lap 13 read, “AR will podium.”

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Starting ninth, Alex Rins ran a strong race and fought his way to the podium.

It was on Lap 14 that Quartararo, seeking his first MotoGP podium in only his fourth race, found his gearbox stuck in third which, if you’re going to have a stuck gearbox, is a good gear in which to get stuck. It ended his race, however, and he showed us how remarkably young he is by dissolving in tears in his garage afterwards. Teammate Morbidelli found himself, as do so many early overachievers, with tires turning to suet beneath him, sliding from P2 to P7 over the last 15 laps, with Rossi exacting a modicum of revenge at the end to steal 6th place from him.

Factory Ducati teammates Dovizioso and Petrucci finished P4 and P5, a decent afternoon’s work at a track which no longer punishes them but does not favor them either. Crutchlow, Nakagami and test rider Stefan Bradl put Hondas in the final top ten spots.

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Jerez didn’t provide the renaissance that Jorge Lorenzo was hoping for.

A word about Jorge Lorenzo, for whom Jerez was supposed to mark a re-birth of his thus far stillborn Honda career. After spending most of the day in P15, he finished 12th, through no fault of his own, but rather due to the retirements of Bagnaia, Quartararo, Mir and Jack Miller in front of him. El Gato promised us he would return here, at Jerez. There are new reports The Spartan will make his initial 2019 appearance in Aragon. Whatever. The bike designed around Marc Marquez does not work for Jorge Lorenzo. Another two years down the drain.

Four Riders Separated by Nine Points

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Marc Marquez jumped up three spots to move into the championship lead. Alex Rins also rose a couple of spots after his second consecutive podium. Maverick Viñales joined them with his first podium of the season.

Heading to Jerez:

Dovizioso 54
Rossi 51
Rins 49
Marquez 45

Heading to Le Mans:

Marquez 70
Rins 69
Dovizioso 67
Rossi 61

Tranche Warfare

After COTA:

Tranche 1: Marc Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso, Valentino Rossi, Alex Rins
Tranche 2: Cal Crutchlow, Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Fabio Quartararo
Tranche 3: Maverick Vinales, Pecco Bagnaia, Takaa Nakagami, Franco Morbidelli, Pol and Aleix Espargaro
Tranche 4: Joan Mir, Andrea Iannone, Jorge Lorenzo, Johann Zarco, Miguel Oliveira
Tranche 5: Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat

After Jerez:

Tranche 1: Marc Marquez, Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins
Tranche 2: Valentino Rossi, Cal Crutchlow, Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Vinales
Tranche 3: Pecco Bagnaia, Takaa Nakagami, Franco Morbidelli, Pol and Aleix Espargaro
Tranche 4: Joan Mir, Andrea Iannone, Jorge Lorenzo, Johann Zarco, Miguel Oliveira
Tranche 5: Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat

Coming Up: Round Five Le Mans

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The 2019 MotoGP season continues in two weeks time at Le Mans.

The French Grand Prix, for some reason, rarely seems to live up to expectations, Perhaps it’s the storied Bugatti Circuit, a veritable straitjacket of a track. Maybe it’s the French weather, which ranges from wet to leaden to merde. Possibly the French fans, who will be schizoid this year having two (2) countrymen to inspire their typically rude behavior. Regardless, it’s good to be back in Europe on a race-every-other-week schedule. There are four manufacturers with legitimate title aspirations and a host of fast young riders. So bring it on, France. Everyone’s ready.