Posts Tagged ‘jerez’

MotoGP Jerez Results 2017

May 7, 2017

©  Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motrcycle.com

Pedrosa rules as the 2017 plot thickens in Spain 

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… 

Dani-Pedrosa-2013-HD-Wallpaper-Photos

Underdog Jorge Lorenzo claimed the third step on the podium in a credible performance on the factory Ducati, his first podium in red which, he said afterward, 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

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 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, Rossi 7th late), 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 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 Cal Crutchlow oust newest wunderkind Maverick Vinales from the front row.  Two Hondas and tres 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. Afterward, 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 Valentino Rossi on Lap 1 before going through on him.  We watched Lap 2 in some amazement as he then proceeded to reel in Maverick Vinales, Cal Crutchlow, and Andrea 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 up at the front.  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, Andrea 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.  On Lap 12 Lorenzo made it through on Zarco and there was your podium.

There was some jousting further down the order that you’ll need to watch the 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:

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:

T 1:  Vinales, Marquez, Rossi, Pedrosa↑

T 2:  Crutchlow, Dovizioso, Zarco, Petrucci↑

T 3:  Lorenzo↑, Folger, A Espargaro↑, Miller↓, Iannone, Redding

T 4:  Bautista↓, P Espargaro, Barbera, Baz

T 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. Won it during the 3000th grand prix of the modern era.  Worthy of respect.  More titanium in him than most golf clubs.  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:

Moto2          Franco Morbidelli             MotoGP        Marc Marquez

Moto2          Tom Luthi                       MotoGP        Valentino Rossi

Moto2          Miguel Oliveira                MotoGP        Maverick Vinales

Moto2          Alex Marquez                  MotoGP        Jorge Lorenzo

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

RossiQatarPole-567x300

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 just doesn’t get any better. 

Full Jerez 2017 Results 

2017 Standings after 4 Rounds 

MotoGP Jerez Preview 2017

May 2, 2017

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Dejó los juegos comenzar 

The reversal of fortune in Austin, Repsol Honda’s Maximum Marc Marquez winning while young savant Maverick Vinales kissed the tarmac for the first time in Yamaha blue, has produced an early three-man race for the top of the 2017 heap.  Valentino Rossi, teammate Vinales and Marquez now stand separated by 18 points with a lot of season left.  Six races in the next eight weeks means the offshore shakedown cruises are over.  There’s a title to be won.  In Europe.

After three far-flung rounds overseas, MotoGP returns to its European cribs with a wide-open race on its hands.  Behind the top three, another small cadre of riders—Cal Crutchlow and Dani Pedrosa among them—entertains serious thoughts of contending for serious points.  Here’s what we know so far:

  • Vinales and Marquez are in a league of their own, a league in which Rossi is trying desperately to remain. In our pre-season look we suggested Vinales could win the title but for the likelihood that he would crash out of too many (4) races.
  • That said, Rossi is leading the championship, guile, patience and a sense of the moment overcoming mad skills and youthful exuberance. For now.
  • The Ducati GP17 is not a radical improvement over its predecessor. As a result, Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo and Danilo Petrucci will not threaten for the title, but will, at the right tracks, battle for the podium.  (They could actually finish 1-2-3 in Austria if it don’t rain, since there aren’t many of those pesky turns.)
  • Cal Crutchlow and Dani Pedrosa are not Aliens. Very good, but not (or no longer) great.  Plenty of actual miles on both.
  • If Johann Zarco were 22 instead of 26 he would be Alien material. Have to wait and see on Alex Rins.  Still not sold on Jonas Folger.  Very much sold on the 2016 M1.
  • Jack Miller, in a contract year with Honda, is improving.
  • A front row start in Argentina does not mean Karel Abraham is not a Tranche 5 rider.

Recent History

The 2014 race featured Marquez winning easily from pole during his 10 for 10 season.  Rossi managed second place for his second podium of the season; we had no idea he would end up spraying magnums of champagne 13 times on his way to second for the year.  Pedrosa went through on Lorenzo late for the last podium spot, another indication that 2014 would not be Jorge’s year.

2015 was vintage Lorenzo.  Qualify on pole, get out front early, attach bike to rails, press “Go,” and keep the last 26 laps within half a second of one another.  Reg’lar as a piston, dad used to say.  Dull as dishwater, mom used to reply. The resulting procession left Marquez (nursing a broken digit on his right hand) 2nd and Rossi 3rd.

Last year, we observed The Doctor as he made a house call on Lorenzo, winning at Jerez for the first time since 2009.  He led every lap after an early challenge, Jorge-style, and was joined by teammate Lorenzo and Marquez on the podium.  The church bells rang in Tavullia a year ago as glazed Italians got off watching Vale, sense of the moment firmly in hand, spitting in the eyes of both Lorenzo and Marquez.  On their home soil.  Oh yes.

Rossi, Lorenzo and Marquez have each won here in the last three years.  Maverick Vinales, The Heir Apparent, has a checkered record in southern Spain, his only win coming in 2013 with KTM in Moto3.  An 11th and a 6th with Suzuki the past two years.  In front of his homeys.  I think I speak for all of us when I say how much I would like to see Rossi, Marquez and Vinales go knives-in-a-phonebooth over the last three laps on Sunday.  I can hear ancient announcer Nick Harris gathering himself, saying, “Here.  We.  Go.”

Vinales and Rossi promo shot

Let’s Talk About Tranches

After Round 1:

Tranche 1:  Vinales, Marquez, Dovizioso, Rossi

Tranche 2:  Pedrosa, Iannone, Crutchlow, Bautista

Tranche 3:  Petrucci, Lorenzo, Zarco, (Rins), Miller, Barbera, A Espargaro

Tranche 4:  Baz, Redding, P Espargaro, Folger

Tranche 5:  Smith, Lowes, Rabat, Abraham

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

:  Zarco, Miller, Baz, Redding, Folger

:  Dovizioso, Bautista, Iannone, AEspargaro, Barbera, Lorenzo, Rins

One of two possible conclusions is available when 12 of the 23 riders re-tranche after two rounds.  1. The author doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  2. A two-race span is entirely unpredictable in this sport, at any point in any season.  Even at the tail end of the annual Pacific sweat rounds and Valencia.  That a rider can go from 25 championship points to zero in the blink of an eye makes “trends” difficult to identify.

Zarco has been the surprise of the season, starting with the first half-dozen laps at Qatar.  Miller and Redding are top ten guys, or should be.  Loris Baz is punching above his weight on a Ducati GP15.  Folger has impressed early, but rookies get excited and crash.

Dovi, on the other hand, has his usual bad luck and a bike he claims needs to be redesigned from the ground up.  (The unpleasant sound you hear in the background is that of Gigi Dall’Igna grinding his molars to powder listening to Dovi.)  Barbera and Rins have been hurt.  Bautista, Iannone and Lorenzo have been unguided missiles.  And I had expected more from Aleix Espargaro than he has shown thus far on the Aprilia.

Anyway, props to Messrs. Zarco, Miller, Baz, Redding and Folger.  And who wants to jorge-lorenzo-ducatiexplain to me how Jorge Lorenzo is not a Tranche 4 rider right now?

Tito Rabat Thrown Under the Bus

Marc van der Straten is the deep-pocketed team owner of the Marc VDS Racing (Honda) MotoGP team, currently featuring Australian Jack Miller and Spaniard Tito Rabat in the saddle.  He was quoted elsewhere stating that, in essence, if Franco Morbidelli, also on the VDS payroll, wins the Moto2 title this year he can have Rabat’s seat next season.  Talking about what a giant step up it would be to have Morbidelli over Rabat, who, admittedly, has failed his MotoGP audition and would be better off at WSBK or going back to Moto2.

Van der Straten is awaiting clarification on the status of Jack Miller—will Honda continue to employ him directly?—hoping to end up with one very fast Italian and one mostly free Australian.  He should take some of his money and learn to give a press conference that doesn’t gut one of his riders.

Here I thought Marc VDS had had enough bad juju in MotoGP and was prepared to fold their tent and make way for a satellite Suzuki team.  Morbidelli, who is suddenly a calm, contained, undefeated King of the Hill in Moto2 at age 23, may be Alien material.  He also may NOT want to ride a Honda for the next few seasons.  Perhaps Marc VDS Suzuki Racing is in the cards; not sure Franco would be thrilled with that, either.  What becomes of the team probably depends on what Honda does with Jackass.

Your Weekend Forecast

Weather is not expected to be a factor on Saturday or Sunday.  Jerez is one of the fans’ and riders’ favorite tracks; the weather and the crowd should be grand.  The facility itself, well-groomed and lush when I was there in 2010, has fallen on hard times and is now mostly dandelions and buttercups.

But they don’t call it The Spanish Grand Prix for nothing.  The race goes off at 8 am EST in the U.S.  We’ll have our usual instant results and analysis for you once the editorial staff, lawyers, and corporate censors have had a chance to discuss them during their customary post-race drinks and luncheon.

___________________

In 2010, before many of you were reading this stuff, I took my wife, daughter, and S-I-L to southern Spain for a vacation and to attend the MotoGP round at Jerez de la Frontera Which happened to be a great race.  MO helped with expenses; Dorna was no help, denying credentials to the only American journalist anywhere near the place.  I prepared an extra article, kind of “The Road to Jerez,” along with my usual race summary.  I wrote two of my all-time favorite MO articles that weekend, both of which were courtesy, in no small part, of some decent Spanish table wine.  Although these articles are long gone from the MO website, here are links to my MotoGP blog, where I’ve re-posted them:

https://motogpindy.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/getting-to-the-spanish-grand-prix-is-half-the-fun/

https://motogpindy.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/2010-lorenzo-enjoys-a-late-lunch-at-jerez/

2010: Lorenzo enjoys a late lunch at Jerez

April 25, 2017

© Bruce Allen

Filet of Rossi on Lap 21; Roast of Pedrosa on Lap 27 

The Gran Premio bwin de Espana at Jerez de la Frontera on Sunday was a hash of the worst and the best that MotoGP has to offer.  The first 22 laps were an absolute parade with virtually no lead changes and little drama, aside from guys pushing 200 mph on two wheels.  The last five laps were a masterpiece by Jorge Lorenzo, who moved from fourth place to first for his first win of 2010.  In the process, he again demonstrated the patience and strategic thinking he has lacked until now.  It appears that his development as the heir apparent to Valentino Rossi may now be in its final stages. 

Sunday was a perfect day on the dazzling Spanish Riviera.  The usual suspects had qualified well on Saturday, led, somewhat surprisingly, by homeboy Dani Pedrosa, who apparently solved the suspension problems that had plagued him all year.  Pedrosa was on the pole, followed by Lorenzo, Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi.  Nicky Hayden, Randy de Puniet and Colin Edwards completed Tranche One on this round, and it looked as if the long-suffering Pedrosa might enjoy his first day in the sun since his win last year at Valencia.

Recall that Round 1 in Qatar had left Casey Stoner gasping for air, Valentino Rossi looking impregnable, and Jorge Lorenzo sporting the long-awaited maturity he had lacked as recently as last season.  Lorenzo’s balls-to-the-wall racing style had secured second place in the world in 2009, but the three DNFs he recorded in his reckless (not wreckless) style had probably cost him the championship.  At Qatar, Nicky Hayden looked rejuvenated, Andrea Dovizioso looked threatening, and rookie Ben Spies looked ready for prime time.

As they say here in Spain, “Bienvenido a Espana.”

For the bulk of the first 20 laps today, it was Pedrosa, Rossi, Hayden, Lorenzo, Stoner and Dovizioso going round and round.  There was some action in the seven-to-eleven spots, but I’m generally too busy to pay much attention to that stuff.  Several riders went walkabout early on, including the soon-to-be-late Loris Capirossi and Aleix Espargaro.  Pramac Racing’s Espargaro recovered and re-entered the race, only to spend most of his day working feverishly trying not to get lapped by Pedrosa.  Ben Spies retired on Lap 7 with mechanical issues.  By Lap 20, the guys in the row front of us started passing big joints around, noticeably bypassing us.  One of the gorgeous brunettes (a dime a dozen in these parts) in the stand next to us was fiddling with her split ends.  “Off in the distance, a dog howled.”

Suddenly, it became obvious that Jorge Lorenzo had found something.

On Lap 10 he had passed Hayden without breaking a sweat, and began patiently lining up Rossi.  By Lap 21 he was on top of Rossi, and then past him.  Pedrosa, who led all day by more than a second—plenty in MotoGP time—led Lorenzo by .8 at that point.  I was thinking it would end up Pedrosa/Lorenzo/Rossi, a nice day for the hometown crowd, when Lorenzo left Rossi in his wake and drew a bead on Pedrosa.

Everyone knows the depth of enjoyment Jorge Lorenzo experiences passing teammate and arch rival Valentino Rossi.  Judging from how Lorenzo handled himself on the last three laps of this race, it’s possible he enjoys taking down Dani Pedrosa equally well.  Teammate or countryman?  Countryman or teammate?  Who really knows what’s going on in Jorge Lorenzo’s head?

Not that it matters.  Both Lorenzo and Pedrosa performed as expected in the last five laps of the race.  Lorenzo exerted his will on his bike and his countryman.  Pedrosa rode well in the lead and folded when it mattered, running wide in a late right-hander and allowing Lorenzo through, conceding the path to the win.  Talking a brave game all week long and then lacking los cojones at the moment of truth to hold his ground and force Lorenzo on to the brakes.  The book on Dani is “doesn’t like to mix it up in the corners.”  The book had it dead right today.

All in all, it was a great day to be a Spanish racing fan.  Early in the morning, it was 18-year old Spaniard Daniel Ruiz starting the day by winning the first Rookie’s Cup race of the season.  Pol Espargaro took the 125cc race while many of the fans were still finding their way to their seats.  Toni Elias, fresh off his crash in Qatar and nursing a bad wrist, battled Thomas Luthi and Shoya Tomizawa all day and finally prevailed for his first Moto2 win before his home fans, most of whom were delirious with joy at the end of the race.  Lorenzo and Pedrosa took the top two spots on the premier class podium.  And although the fans claim to prefer Pedrosa to Lorenzo, as Jorge hails all the way from Barcelona, for God’s sake, it appears they’ve grown a little weary of Pedrosa’s mad Chihuahua routine, his underdog-singing-the-blues rap.  There was no shortage of Lorenzo fans in today’s crowd.

Elsewhere on the grid, Pramac’s Mika Kallio had a great day, starting dead last and finishing 7th.   Marco Melandri recovered from a dreadful outing in Qatar to finish 8th today.  LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet qualified 6th and finished 9th, making him two for two this year qualifying better on Saturday than he raced on Sunday.  Alvaro Bautista recovered from a last lap fall in Qatar to finish 10th and claim the Top Rookie of the Week award from Hiroshi Aoyama, who won it at Losail but struggled today, finishing 14th.

The top five finishers in a great 17 lap Moto2 race today included Elias, Shoya Tomizawa, Thomas Luthi, Yuki “Crash” Takahashi and Simone Corsi.  The race was red-flagged early due to a pile-up involving some nine bikes, the first of what promises to be many such collisions in the overcrowded Moto2 field.

The crowd seemed as interested in the 125s today as they were the big bikes.  Espargaro claimed the top spot on the podium, flanked by two other Spaniards, Nicolas Terol and Esteve Rabat.

On to Le Mans for Round 3.

Getting to the 2010 Spanish Grand Prix was half the fun

April 25, 2017

© Bruce Allen            May 2010

For a couple of gringos, the road to MotoGP Jerez is a blast 

Last January, four of us decided to take a family vacation to southern Spain in early May.  I worked out a deal with my editor at Motorcycle.com to pay me handsomely to cover the Gran Premio bwin de Espana, subject to my securing press credentials, providing some extra copy and photos, and giving them way more than my usual vapid kitchen table rant.  In mid-April, after reserving and paying for airfare, hotels, rental cars, etc., it became fully clear that Dorna, the Spanish company that owns the rights to MotoGP, was not going to sully their pressroom by credentialing the likes of me.  What had started out as a slam dunk junket had become a longshot. 

Four of us left for Spain from O’Hare on Friday afternoon.  I/we were lacking several of the necessities for most respectable journalists:  press credentials, tickets for the race, journalistic skills, and/or a clear idea of where the track was actually located.  When I say “we”, I’m including my intrepid son-in-law and budding photojournalist, Ryan Collins, who had the good sense several years ago to marry my youngest daughter Cate.  Ryan, who knows even less about motorcycle racing than I do, told me he was pretty much up for anything, up to and including trying to find the track, trying to get into the facility, and trying to provide some semblance of “covering” the race, as opposed to just missing a day on the beach, and instead sitting around with 130,000 drunk Spanish racing fans under a hot sun for eight hours.

Ryan and I set out from Cadiz, a jewel of a town that sits on the southern coast of Spain where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic, on Sunday morning.  [By this time we had missed Friday practice and Saturday’s qualifications.  We had also survived a monstrous case of jetlag and the drive from Madrid to Cadiz in which I came uncomfortably close to getting us included in Spanish highway fatality statistics not once, but twice.  And although we missed the action at the track on Saturday, we caught the action on the strip in Cadiz on Saturday night, eating tapas amongst a bunch of riders and listening to the music of big bikes turning high RPMs on the seaside street in front of the restaurant all evening.]

Cadiz sits about 25 miles south of Jerez, and we had passed several Jerez exits on the drive down from Madrid on Saturday.  Once we cleared Cadiz on Sunday, the task of actually finding the track became pretty simple:  stay with the hundreds of bikes on their way to the race that morning.  Which sounds easier than it actually is, in that these bikes were mostly traveling in excess of 100 mph while the Guardia Civil politely turned a blind eye.  Finally, we were one of a handful of cars in a veritable sea of motorcycles, and getting to the parking lot was a breeze.  The way getting from point A to point B in a mosh pit is a breeze:  make no sudden movements, don’t resist, and go with the flow.

Problem #1 solved.

Problems #2 and #3—no press credentials, few journalistic skills—weren’t going to get solved this day.  This left Problem #4—no tickets to a sold out race.  On the walk from the parking lot to the track itself, I kept an eye out for ticket “vendors” on the street, and was finding none.  Plenty of guys and ladies selling a lot of other junk—Spanish flags, food, water, trinkets, belts (?), etc., from little improvised roadside stands.  No guys holding tickets in the air yelling “Got Four!” in Spanish and looking furtively over their shoulders for the aforementioned blackshirts who, one suspects, take a less generous view of ticket scalpers than they do speeders they’re unable to catch anyway.  A mile in and it was looking bleak, when we noticed a trailer set off on a little side “street” with a big sign on it reading “Taquillas”.  Ryan, my interpreter, said he had no idea what a taquilla is.  I, by this time, was hoping it was Spanish for “tequilas”, as I was ready to give in and spend the day drinking shots and eating limes.  It occurred to me that “tequila” is already a Spanish word, and one very rarely used in the plural, but I shook off this notion.

We approached the trailer, and people were, indeed, stepping up to a window and purchasing SOMETHING, but we couldn’t really tell what.  Apparently, by this time Ryan and I were looking fairly furtive ourselves, for it was at this moment that a guy in a Lakers shirt approached me and asked, in pretty good English, if we needed tickets.  He, it turned out, was getting comped by Repsol (a friend of a friend of a friend…) and was going to stand with the great unwashed in the Pelousse, the fans’ and riders’ favorite section of the Jerez track, between Turns 10 and 11, where the crowd gets right on top of the riders.  We negotiated a mutually satisfactory price for his tickets and, suddenly, Problem #4 was solved.

We still don’t know what folks were buying at that trailer; I’ll try to report back on that later tonight. (Later, it turned out they were “tickets.” but who knew?)  We do know that we sat high in the stands between Turns 12 and 13 with a great view of the race.  We spent plenty of time wandering around the facility mingling and taking pictures of a few of the gorgeous women you find in quantity at these events.  We watched one helluva Moto2 tilt and a premier class event that was a procession for the first 22 laps and a heart-stopping thriller for the last three.  We made it back to the parking lot and thence our hotel in one piece without dying of dehydration or getting T-boned by any of the nutjobs they issue drivers licenses to in Spain.  And we captured the story; a beautiful day spent 4500 miles from home in a second language, with a manual transmission, on the road to Jerez.

MotoGP 2016 Jerez Results

April 24, 2016

© Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

Rossi reigns in Spain 

Just when we thought we knew what to expect from the 2016 MotoGP season, today happened.  The practice sessions leading up to the (first of four) Spanish Grand Prix found the factory Yamaha team consistently at or near the top of the charts. Repsol Honda wonderkid Marc Marquez was competitive while struggling with rear grip.  Valentino Rossi waited until the last lap of Q2 to lay down the fastest lap of the weekend, for his first Jerez pole since 2005.  Today, The Doctor made a house call on Lorenzo, “administering a dose of his own medicine” in winning at Jerez for the first time since 2009. 

Today’s race was a reversal of form in several ways.  How many times have we seen Jorge Lorenzo or Marc Marquez get out front, try to leave the field behind, only to have #46 materialize on their rear tire looking for a way to steal their lunch money?  Today Rossi took this approach, withstanding an early challenge from Lorenzo on Lap 2, surrendering the lead for roughly 50 meters, before striking back and leading the rest of the race.  My trusty Dial-A-Cliché tool suggests “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” would fit well here.  (Look for the quotation marks this tool generates, much like a watermark.)

For the first half of the race, Lorenzo dogged his teammate, seeing red, personal animosity vying with grudging professional respect, looking desperately for a way through which never appeared.  Marquez, likewise, tailgated Lorenzo for many of the first 14 laps and looked to be lining his countryman up for what would have been a risky pass.  Having learned the hard way last year that “discretion is the better part of valor,” he decided to settle for third place, in front of his home fans, a bitter pill to swallow which left him leading the 2016 race “at the end of the day.”

Viewing the 2016 championship from a distance, the dynamics of the Honda/Yamaha rivalry have changed dramatically over the past few years with the reunion of the Bruise Brothers at Yamaha and the gradual fading of Dani Pedrosa on the #2 factory Honda.  On a personal level, the loathing existent between Rossi and Lorenzo, and Rossi and Marquez, has resulted in some strange bedfellows. Between 2011 and 2013 it was Lorenzo routinely getting double-teamed by the Hondas. In late 2013 and 2014 it was Marquez’s turn to get doubled by Lorenzo and Rossi.  Now, the personal having overshadowed the corporate, it is Rossi expecting resistance from Lorenzo and Marquez. During the podium ceremony, if you just watched Marquez and Lorenzo, you would have sworn Rossi wasn’t even there, the body language of the three screaming contempt, Latin-style.

All sports thrive on rivalries.  Team sports are far more predictable than individual sports like MotoGP because teams, despite the pronouncements of commentators, really don’t have personalities.  Highly competitive individuals, notably the three occupying the front row of today’s grid, most assuredly do.  These rivalries become more intense as they become personal; at this point they appear to be driving the 2016 season, “much to the delight” of the fans.

Elsewhere on the Grid 

Readers of a certain age will recognize the blues standard “Born Under a Bad Sign” by William Bell, the best version of which was recorded by Cream back in the 70’s.  Factory Ducati pilot Andrea Dovizioso should consider having the main lyric—“If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all”—stitched onto his leathers.

Dovizioso, who could easily occupy one of the top three spots for the season, finished a strong second in Qatar.  But he got flattened by teammate Andrea Iannone in Argentina while running second, and was pancaked by Pedrosa in Austin while contending for yet another podium.  Today, having qualified fourth, with the entire Ducati contingent struggling, he was running seventh when his bike emitted a puff of smoke, causing him to pull off onto the shoulder, turn on his flashers, and call AAA, his day over “through no fault of his own.”

Dani Pedrosa managed another low impact 4th today, a complete non-factor after Lap 6 despite a decent start.  The Suzuki Ecstar team, “on the other hand,” made it happen, with Aleix Espargaro taking 5th place, two seconds ahead of soon-to-be-Yamaha hotshot Maverick Vinales.  Ducati’s Andrea Iannone enjoyed an atrocious start, falling from his qualifying slot in 11th to 14th place by Lap 5.  His hard front tire, installed while he sat on the tarmac and untested all weekend, finally warmed up, and he clawed his way back to 7th at the flag.

Tech 3 Yamaha’s Pol Espargaro, the rider NOT joining the factory KTM project next year, kept his ride vertical again for an 8th place finish, falling from 4th to 5th for the season as Pedrosa stole his spot. Eugene Laverty, overachieving yet again, finished 9th as the #2 Ducati behind Iannone, with Hectic Hector Barbera completing the top ten on another second-hand Duc.

At the bottom of the premier class food chain today were two Marc VDS Hondas, Jack Miller, he of the splintered ankle and redneck facial hair, and Tito Rabat, getting consistently KO’d “punching above his weight.”  By far the saddest sack of the day was Scott Redding, who finished last, over a minute behind Rossi, the optimism of an outstanding offseason having become but “ashes in his mouth.”  Having announced this past week that his ultimate goal was a seat on a factory Ducati, he backed it up with perhaps his worst performance ever in the premier class.  Gigi, one assumes, was not overly impressed, much as my wife is when I announce that my ultimate goal is to get jiggy wit’ Heidi Klum.  Not sure which aspiration is less likely, though my wife does not suffer such uncertainty.

“Precious” Points

While I steal liberally from race announcers Nick Harris and Matthew Birt, both of whom “have forgotten more about MotoGP than I’ve ever known,” I need to register a protest over their oppressive use of the adjective “precious” when discussing championship points.  Points are important.  Points are, well, the point of competing for a championship.  Points are never refused—“No thanks, I’ve got plenty already.”  But “precious,” other than its alliterative value, is best reserved for describing babies—kittens, puppies, penguins, etc.  Banging on about the precious 13 points Dani Pedrosa earned today, or Cal Crutchlow’s first five of 2016, makes me long for an American announcing team, who would probably refer to them as “points.”

A Look Ahead

The grid returns to the historic Bugatti circuit at Le Mans in two weeks, the standings at the top somewhat tighter than they were yesterday.  Tomorrow’s test at Jerez may offer an opportunity for the Aliens to work on the rear grip problems they all complained about—loudly–after today’s race.  The three Brits—Smith, Crutchlow and Redding—need to work on doing more racing and less talking.  Gigi Dall’Igna needs to give some thought to upgrading the machines on loan to Laverty and Barbera. Finally, with Lorenzo looming on the horizon, the two Andreas of the factory Ducati team “need to fish or cut bait.”

Jorge Lorenzo coasts to win over Marquez and Rossi at Jerez

May 3, 2015

MotoGP 2015 Jerez Results, by Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com.

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.

Jorge-Lorenzo-Smile-HDAt 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. dovizioso-iannone-658x437

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, Pol and Aleixqualified 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.

Quick Hitters

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 at Le Mans 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.

podium-mugello-2014Today 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 Marc 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 Valentino 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 Jorge 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.

Repsol Honda team in disarray heading to Jerez

April 28, 2015

MotoGP 2015 Jerez Preview, by Bruce Allen.  Exclusive to Motorcycle.com

First it was Dani Pedrosa, after a disappointing season opener in Qatar, announcing that his chronic arm pump issues would require immediate surgery, keeping him out of the saddle indefinitely. Then, just the other day, we learn that teammate and Supreme Intergalactic Potentate Marc Marquez smashed the little finger on his left hand to bits in training, necessitating a delicate surgery and some hurry-up physio. Pedrosa is out, and Marquez has been deemed “questionable” for Round 4 this weekend. Several Italians smell blood in the water.

RossiFirst and foremost of the shark-ish Italians would be Valentino Rossi, sponsored this year by Fountain of Youth Waters. Rossi leads the title chase, having accumulated three podia and two wins thus far, making the application of the adjective “wily” almost unavoidable. He has shown speed, strategic thinking, consistency and sound judgment all year, and is, suddenly, a viable contender for his first premier class title since 2009. Our crack research department is looking into the last time a premier class champion suffered five years in between titles.

Next in line is Andrea Dovizioso, #1 on the factory Ducati team, trailing Rossi by six points after three mostly brilliant dovizioso-iannone-658x437outings on the new Desmosedici GP15, with three silver medallions to show for his efforts thus far. His wingman, Andrea Iannone, sits in third place some 20 points behind Dovizioso but still leading double world champions Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo. With a third, a fifth, and an achingly narrow fourth place finish in Argentina to his credit, Iannone is thinking podium again this week.

Sitting in 12th place with but 10 points to his name, Dani Pedrosa’s season lies in ruin, offering him no reason to come back from his injury prematurely. Marquez, whose 36 points to date put him in fifth place, had likely been hoping to take over third place this weekend, the first of four Spanish rounds. Now, it appears he will be lucky to post at all, his customary whackadoodle riding style mostly out the window with a titanium splint on his left pinkie. The double defending world champion, one must think, will be content to line up on Sunday’s grid and capture some points while in healing mode. There is a word to describe the pressure on the wounded Marquez, after his ill-considered encounter with Rossi in Argentina; I just can’t think what it is. Immense? Indescribable? Intergalactic?

Some of you may wish to point out that Marquez trailed Pedrosa by 30 points after six rounds in 2013 and still managed to win the title. This was due in no small part to both Pedrosa and Lorenzo having been sufficiently genteel to suffer broken collarbones at Assen and The Sachsenring. Valentino Rossi, on the other hand, has been absurdly healthy during his entire career. Starting his 16th season in the premier class, the Italian has recorded a DNS exactly four (4) times, all of which occurred in 2010 after his brutal crash in practice at Mugello.

Trailing the virtually invulnerable Rossi by 30 points is vastly different than trailing the snake-bit Dani Pedrosa.

Recent History at Jerez

Factoid, courtesy of MotoGP.com: Rossi, with six premier class wins here, the most recent in 2009, is one of only three non-Spaniards ever to occupy the top step of the MotoGP podium in Jerez, along with Casey Stoner and Loris Capirossi.

The Jerez round in 2012 was memorable, with defending world champion Stoner trimming Lorenzo by a second and Lorenzo punking Pedrosa at the flag by 4 /10ths. With the podium separated by a mere second and a half, one could be forgiven for thinking this had perhaps been the Moto2 race. Nicky Hayden, who qualified his Ducati third on Saturday, would fondly remember this race as the last he would start from the front row.

Dani Pedrosa won the 2013 affair which, too, was memorable if for entirely different reasons. Jerez 2013 was the day rookie Marc Marquez sprouted some premier class whiskers, as described here:

“As the riders crossed the start/finish line for the last time, Marquez re-appeared on Lorenzo’s pipes. Lorenzo, who had struggled all day with front grip, appeared to be in trouble, but continued blocking Marquez, other than a momentary exchange of positions around Turn 6. Finally, though, at, of all places, the Jorge Lorenzo corner, its namesake went a shade wide and Marquez, lizard brain firmly in control, dove inside. As Lorenzo attempted to cut back, the two touched, with Lorenzo being forced wide into third place both for the day and the season.”

Lorenzo - MarquezLast year’s race featured Marquez winning easily from pole, on his way to starting the season 10 for 10. A jubilant Rossi managed second place for his second podium of the season; at that time we had no idea he would end up on the rostrum 13 times on the way to finishing second for the year. Pedrosa went through on Lorenzo late in the day for the last podium spot, another harbinger that 2014, despite being even-numbered, would not be the Mallorcan’s year.

With Honda and Yamaha having split the last eight races here, this weekend’s tilt would have been considered a Japanese crapshoot under normal circumstances. The abysmal health of the Repsol Honda riders, a white hot Rossi, a desperate Lorenzo and two suddenly competitive Ducatis suggest there may not be a Honda on the podium come Sunday afternoon. CWM LCR Honda pilot Cal Crutchlow may have something to say about this, after an encouraging ride at Rio Hondo, but his history at Jerez has been, um, undistinguished up until now.

Compared to recent years, the first weekend of May 2015 must be termed anything but normal.

More Rounds, New Tracks on the Horizon

Dorna released word this week suggesting that the MotoGP season may find itself extended up to perhaps 20 rounds in 2017, with the Red Bull Ring in Austria (referred to by some as one of the most dangerous circuits on the planet) definitely on the way, along with the possibility of another Asian round. I read elsewhere that a Finnish track is nearing completion, and that the owners have told F-1 to kindly pound sand, wishing instead to host a MotoGP round in the foreseeable future. As if England and German aren’t cold enough. What could possibly be next? The Siberian GP?

Your Weekend Forecast

Weather.com says the weather in Jerez this weekend will be hot and dry, normally a good thing for the Repsol Honda team. Whether it will be hot and dry enough to help Marquez remains to be seen. Perhaps conditions will allow Crutchlow to find his way back onto the podium for a second consecutive round, but I don’t think he has too much experience on the RC213V when the track is melting and oozing grease. If nothing else, broiling temps will give him something to complain about.

2015 Losail PodiumOne would have to be silly not to pick Rossi to win on Sunday, especially after Marquez suggested this may be his last opportunity to do so. (I’m not sure about the wisdom of throwing down on The Doctor with your hand in a cast.) Anyway, I expect to see Dovizioso second on the podium, with Lorenzo, Iannone and Crutchlow slugging it out for third. The lights go out at 8 am EDT, and we’ll have results, commentary and analysis right here by noon.

Marquez Goes Four for Four in 2014

May 4, 2014

MotoGP 2014 Jerez Results by Bruce Allen 

On a picture-perfect Sunday afternoon in southern Spain, Marc Marquez took care of business, becoming the first polesitter to win in Jerez since Nicky Hayden in 2006.  He is the first rider to win the first four races of the season since Valentino Rossi in 2002.  He checked off Jerez on his list of Tracks Where I’ve Won Races, the last venue on the 2014 tour to make the list.  He is undefeated since clinching the world championship at Valencia in 2013.  In short, at age 21, he is the bomb-diggity of the MotoGP world. 

Before getting into the race itself, which was a procession up front and a dogfight in the middle of the pack, consider for a moment what it must be like to be #1 in the world at anything at age 21.  How about hitting .450 and winning the World Series in MLB?  Earning a ring while canning 40 points a game in the NBA?  Capturing the Grand Slam in the PGA?  For the Canadians reading this, scoring 200 points per season and hoisting Sir Stanley’s trophy?  Doing whatever it is they do at Manchester United really really well?  You get the point.  The question for Marquez is, other than the monotony of winning championship after championship for the next umpteen years, what’s left?

PodiumCapture

The 2014 Gran Premio bwin de España

Today’s race was riveting for perhaps the first half of the first lap, with Marquez on the Repsol Honda, Valentino Rossi and the desperate Jorge Lorenzo on the Movistar Yamahas, and dark horse Andrea Dovizioso on the factory Ducati all leading the race for a few seconds.  Things sorted themselves out fairly quickly, with Marquez taking the lead followed by Rossi, Lorenzo and, by Lap 2, Repsol #2 Dani Pedrosa.  Marquez then laid down a vapor trail and disappeared, leaving the other three Aliens free to slug it out all day for the less cool spots on the podium.  Things stayed this way until Lap 21, when Pedrosa finally managed to go through on Lorenzo, crushing his spirit on what had to be a miserable 27th birthday for the Mallorcan.

At day’s end, Marquez and Rossi appeared jubilant, Rossi having secured his second podium of the year.  At the post-race presser, Pedrosa appeared tired and subdued.  Lorenzo, naturally, was not invited to meet the press.  Having a hard time imagining what it’s like to be on top of the world at age 21?  Imagine what it must be like to feel past your prime at age 27. The 37 year-old Rossi appears rejuvenated, and pretty much announced today that he will remain in MotoGP after this year.  Rule #1 in this game is beat Cristina-Capella3your teammate, and Rossi is doing this.  Good for him.  Lorenzo’s sole consolation today was having been awarded the #1 brolly girl on the grid, a breathtaking long-stemmed brunette who made me regret once again not having studied Spanish in high school.

Elsewhere on the Grid

The battle for spots five through nine raged all day, with too many position changes to keep track of.  Ducati Corse #1 Andrea Dovizioso, in the midst of a very good season, started sixth and held off a resuscitated Alvaro Bautista on the Gresini Honda for fifth place.  Bautista, who had qualified 10th after crashing out of the first three races of the year, bought himself a little grace with his respectable sixth place finish today.  He will need to keep improving for the rest of the year to hold into his seat with the GO&FUN team next year.

Aleix Espargaro, the victim of another qualifying practice crash, started from the middle of the second row and finished seventh, not bad for an Open class entrant, but still disappointing after his stellar offseason.  Once again, the two Tech 3 Yamaha guys, Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro, occupied consecutive spots at the finish, having traded places during the race from their starting positions.  All this togetherness from the French team leads one to believe they sit down tout ensemble after races for some brie and a glass of sauvignon blanc, passing around their camera phones to compare photos and share a few laughs.

LCR pilot Stefan Bradl, on a factory spec Honda, started seventh on the grid and finished 10th on a track where his dad won a race decades ago.  He finished just in front of Nicky Hayden, Hiro Aoyama and Scott Redding, all of whom were riding “customer” Hondas.  For would-be Alien Bradl, such stunning under-achievement will surely tarnish his reputation if it continues.  Guter Gott allmächtig! 

Pain and Suffering at the Back of the Pack

Three riders had forgettable days in Andalusia.  Andrea Iannone, over-achieving on the Pramac Ducati all season, came crashing back to earth this weekend.  After threatening for podiums at both Austin and Argentina, he qualified 15th on Saturday and retired out of 18th place during the race.  We will keep an eye on him going forward to see which was the fluke, today or Rounds 1-3.

Cal Crutchlow, whose crash in Austin left him with a mangled right pinky and “bruised lungs” (?) missed the trip to Argentina and returned this weekend for three days of Churchillian blood, toil, tears and sweat.  Fighting the pain in his hand, he could only qualify 14th and retired on Lap 6 with a braking problem, i.e., every time he applied the brakes he cried out for his mama. Welcome to Ducati Corse, big guy.

Finally, we turn to Colin Edwards, whom many of you hold in much higher esteem than do I.  Having somehow made it into Q2, he spent most of the day running at the back of the pack with the likes of Michael Laverty and Broc Parkes before “retiring” on the final lap.  One has to be careful with that word these days, as Colin is apparently considering calling it a career before the end of the season, a rumor he denies.  But the three days of testing at Jerez commencing tomorrow will apparently see Simone Corsi, late of Moto2, on Edwards’ #5 NGM Forward Racing Yamaha.  Listen carefully, and you can hear the drumbeats off in the distance.

Tired of Tires

One of my least favorite subjects in this sport has to do with tires.  The race announcers were banging on about tire conservation during both the Moto2 and MotoGP races; other than Pedrosa, no one had much to say about tires after the race.  Rossi did credit his choice of the harder option front for his ability to hold off Pedrosa at the end, but tire selection and tire conservation are separate issues.

Bridgestone logoThe biggest announcement of the week, that Bridgestone was bailing as the official tire supplier to MotoGP after next season, produced a shockwave throughout the paddock, with every rider quoted on the story professing their profound respect and affection for the company and its products they’ve spent the past few years bashing continuously.  Dorna wants a single supplier, and has put out an RFP for same that expires in only a few weeks.  Perhaps some aggressive manufacturer will step up, perhaps not.  I, for one, would like to see MotoGP return to letting each team negotiate its own tire contract.  Given the profusion of classes on the grid—Factory, Factory 2, Open, Mongrel—it seems a little silly for Dorna to require one manufacturer to come up with the range of compounds necessary to allow each team to maximize its on-track performance.  Just sayin’.

MotoGP Jerez 2013 Results

May 5, 2013

An edited version of this story will appear on Motorcycle.com sometime tomorrow.  Until then, enjoy the raw copy here.

Pedrosa wins as Marquez and Lorenzo tangle 

The 2013 Gran Premio bwin de Espana brought a startling reversal of fortune for the top teams and riders in the premier class.  Yamaha owned the practice sessions as factory studs Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, joined by the ascendant Cal Crutchlow, took three of the top four spots again and again.  Honda, though, qualified Dani Pedrosa and rookie Marc Marquez on the front row.  The final podium of Pedrosa, Marquez and Lorenzo delivered a new series leader and a furious double world champion. 

By all rights, defending champion Jorge Lorenzo should have had a more satisfying result today.  He turned 26 on Saturday, and celebrated by having Turn 13 named in his honor.  He had been at or near the top of the timesheets all weekend and qualified on the pole.  While everyone around him spent Saturday crashing into the gravel, Lorenzo ran as if on rails.  In the stifling Spanish heat on Sunday, though, it was Dani Pedrosa who had the pace.  After a poor start, Lorenzo moved back into the early lead on Lap 1 and held it until Lap 6, when Pedrosa passed him on his way to a comfortable win.

By then, Lorenzo was getting dogged by rookie Marquez, who showed no respect going through aggressively on Rossi on Lap 2, with Crutchlow sitting in 5th place hoping for bad karma among the leaders.  As the race approached its midpoint, Marquez was attacking Lorenzo at every opportunity, slipping, sliding and generally causing heart failure among the team and his ever-present dad.  After one of those “moments” on Lap 12, the rookie backed off, appearing content to settle for the third spot on the rostrum.  The race at that point devolved into another of those premier class processions most everyone hates, other than the 111,000 locals in attendance going mental over the prospect of an all-Spanish rostrum.

As the riders crossed the start/finish line for the last time, Marquez re-appeared on Lorenzo’s pipes.  Lorenzo, who had struggled all day with front grip, appeared to be in trouble, but continued blocking Marquez, other than a momentary exchange of positions around Turn 6.  Finally, though, at, of all places, the Jorge Lorenzo corner, its namesake went a shade wide and Marquez, lizard brain firmly in control, dove inside.  As Lorenzo attempted to cut back, the two touched, with Lorenzo being forced wide into third place both for the day and the season.

As race announcers Gavin and Emmett observed, it appeared Marquez, accelerating when he should have been on the brakes, would have run wide had Lorenzo not been there to provide a bounce.  From here, it looked to be one of those incidents where Race Direction might step in and assess some of their shiny new penalty points for 2013.  [At deadline, the silence from the stewards is deafening.]  Lin Jarvis, who directs Yamaha racing, spoke of the contact as being “just a racing incident,” showing immense self-control.  Lorenzo, visibly angry after the race, rebuffed several attempts from Marquez to make nice, but declined to threaten vengeance upon the gifted upstart at LeMans.

Farther Back on the Grid

Valentino Rossi, who ran an uninspired fourth today, sits in fourth place for the year, 15 points behind teammate Lorenzo, and not yet as relevant as we had hoped entering the season.  Cal Crutchlow, with puzzling rumors circulating about him losing his Tech 3 Yamaha ride next season to Pol Espargaro, delivered another gritty performance today for fifth, after crashing twice on Saturday and with everything bone and organ to the left of his sternum throbbing.

A number of other riders acquitted themselves nicely today.  Alvaro Bautista, on the GO&FUN Gresini Honda, battled Crutchlow most of the day, eventually coming in sixth, ten seconds in front of Nicky Hayden, who led the woeful Ducati effort and spanked teammate Andrea Dovizioso by some 16 seconds.  Aleix Espargaro qualified poorly in 13th but finished 9th, once again topping the CRT charts.  Dude deserves a shot at a prototype ride next year, especially if his big brother, who washed out of the premier class once already, gets one at Tech 3.  And Michele Pirro, wildcarding onboard the so-called Ducati GP13 “Lab Bike”, managed 11th place today, which sounds better than it actually is, given the fact that three of the five riders who crashed out early likely would have beaten him.

The Big Picture

In a split second, the 2013 standings shifted, with rookie Marquez now standing alone at the top of the pile, with a large bull’s-eye on his back.  Pedrosa is resurrected into second place, four points down and a single point ahead of Lorenzo, who had entered the weekend tied for the lead.  After three races this season, we’ve had three winners, a major upset, and the beginning of a new inter-team rivalry.  Jorge Lorenzo is saying his Yamaha M-1 is not yet good enough, although he certainly is.  And let’s not forget that Jerez is one of the tight, slow tracks that typically favors the Honda RC213V.  Lorenzo can be forgiven for being in a bad mood after today’s cluster.

Quick Hitters

The rider suddenly under considerable pressure is 2012 Moto2 champion Stefan Bradl, whose quick offseason testing on the LCR Honda raised eyebrows and expectations heading into the season.  With two crashes in three starts and 11 points for the season, Bradl may start looking over his shoulder.  Given, however, the history of Germans in France, we can expect young Stefan to return to form at LeMans, possibly at the head of a Panzer division…Yonny Hernandez took the weekend off, qualifying 21st and crashing out early.  And here I thought he was on his way up the food chain.

Randy de Puniet, who pressed teammate Espargaro all last year for top CRT honors, appears to be coasting this season, after rumors of a romance with Suzuki surfaced several weeks ago.  With but six points to show for 2013, he’ll undoubtedly play the “home race” card in two weeks and turn a fast lap in qualifying before settling back into the bottom ten on Sunday…Colin Edwards made a liar out of me, moving from 17th to 15th position on the last lap to steal his first championship point of the year, and making hash of my prediction he would go 0-for-2013.

There will be a one day testing session here on Monday, and, as has become customary since Casey Stoner left in 2011, Ducati has the most on the line. Having again raised expectations with their new Lab Bike, we are fully prepared for another major disappointment from the Bologna factory, which seems to need an entire division just to keep track of the hundreds of iterations of the once-proud Desmosedici floating around.  These days, Ducati Corse must resemble O’Hare Airport on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Watching the Sun Setting on the Circuito de Jerez

Although attendance today was huge—111,000—it’s down from 2010, when I joined 130,000 fans at the storied Andalusian venue.  As the Spanish equivalent of the Daytona 500, the Grand Premio bwin de Espana continues to draw spectators, some of whom probably had to hock their watches to buy tickets.  The track oozes water when the weather is wet and oil when it’s hot.  Hot and slippery works great for sex, but not so much for two-wheeled racing, as it was today when five riders crashed out on the first four laps.  And the infield, which was a manicured lawn back in the day, is now a sea of dandelions and weeds, a symptom of the decline of the Spanish economy and the Estoril-like future of one of its most loved venues.  Qué pena!