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Race report: Jerez MotoGP

Photo: Facebook/Dani Pedrosa

CIRCUITO de JEREZ, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain – The fourth round of the Moto GP series, held May 7 at this classic south-western Spanish circuit, tossed up more than a few surprises. Among them was the fact that no fewer than six out of the 23 starters crashed out – most unusual!

There was really no surprise in the winner, however, as Repsol Honda stalwart Dani Pedrosa took the win after dominating the weekend, leading every practice session, taking pole, and leading every lap of the race. That kept alive an amazing streak; in the past 16 years, the Spaniard has won at least one world championship race every season.

The only rider to get close to him in the final was team-mate and defending world champion Marc Marquez, but even his incredible skill could only get him to just less than a second shy of Pedrosa, and that for only a few laps toward the end of the race. The world champion said, “Today Dani was really fast, as he has been over the whole weekend … in the end I had a few risky moments, so I checked where Valentino and Viñales were and said to myself, okay, second place is fine.”

He added, “I dedicate this good result to my mom as today is Mother’s Day!”

Pedrosa said, “I’m super-happy with this win in Jerez, a track that I love very much, and in front of my family, my friends, and all these amazing fans! … It’s also a special honour to be the winner of the 3,000th  Grand Prix race (since the series started in 1949) and be alongside riders like Mick (Doohan, who won race number 2,000) and Angel (Nieto, who won race number 1,000).”

Third went to Jorge Lorenzo in by far his best result with Ducati after his switch to the team this year. The Spaniard’s had a tough transition from Yamaha, and after the race said, “A podium here at Jerez, in front of all my fans and after three complicated races, is the best present I could receive for my 30th birthday. This result felt like a victory!”

In spite of Pedrosa’s superb weekend and race, perhaps equally impressive rides came a bit farther back in the pack. Frenchman Johann Zarco collected a magnificent fourth after barging his way as high as second early on, disposing of big names like Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez in the process. The class “rookie” (quote marks because he’s a two-time Moto 2 champion) has opened his Moto GP career with a bang, impressing strongly in all four races so far on a satellite Yamaha (last year’s factory bike). He’s clearly going to be a force to be reckoned with all season long.

Behind him in fifth came the second factory Ducati rider, Andrea Dovizioso. Dovi had a terrible practice and qualifying, starting the race mired in 14th. But at a track he doesn’t much like, and that has always been difficult for Ducati, he smoothly and cleanly disposed of nearly half the field to collect some decent championship points and remain fifth in the championship.

The series leaders, Yamaha factory team-mates Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales would just as soon forget the weekend. Neither could get their bike to work properly on the famously greasy Jerez pavement and could only manage 10th and sixth respectively. Rossi summed it up with, “It was a difficult weekend for the whole team. We expected to be stronger and more competitive at this track, looking at the results of last year (when Rossi won). We need to try and understand what happened, tomorrow we have the test and we‘ll see” (there’s a two-day test for all teams scheduled Monday and Tuesday).

The riders who crashed out all did so at about one-quarter distance: Pol Espargaro, Cal Crutchlow, Jack Miller and Alvaro Bautista all went out in one lap (Miller and Bautista after tangling, the other two in separate incidents; Miller actually went after Bautista in a fury, earning himself a 1,000 Euro fine for his behaviour), while Tito Rabat and Andrea Iannone (continuing his horrible start with Suzuki) exitted in separate crashes two laps later.

Rossi still carries a thin lead (only two points) over Viñales, but the Honda duo of Marquez and Pedrosa are right behind them, and Dovi isn’t that much farther back. After four of 18 races, it’s definitely still anybody’s championship.

Moto 2

The Moto 2 race wasn’t much to watch up front, as Marc VDS team-mates Alex Marquez and Franco Morbidelli began stretching the field right on the first lap. Unlike the first three races (all won by Morbidelli), Marquez (younger brother of Moto GP champ Marc) was the fastest all weekend, and although Morbidelli did get by briefly, he soon made a rare error and crashed out, handing a safe 4+ second lead to his team-mate.

Marquez easily held on to win, his first in two seasons in Moto 2, and only his second podium. Another first went to second place finisher Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia, riding for Valentino Rossi’s VR46 team. It was only his fourth Moto 2 race, so a very impressive result.

Behind him came Portuguese Miguel Oliveira, riding the factory KTM to its second podium in only four races since first entering the class. The top five were rounded out by Italians Mattia Pasini and Luca Marini (Valentino Rossi’s half-brother).

Second in the series behind Morbidelli, Swiss Tom Luthi could only collect eighth at a track he dislikes, but Morbidelli’s crash means Luthi has closed to within 11 points in the championship.

Moto 3

As usual, perhaps even more than usual, Moto 3 was the kind of rock ‘em sock ‘em contest that Don Cherry would love. On the tight Jerez circuit there was lots of contact and moderately rough riding, with on the final lap no fewer than 10 riders who were close enough together to potentially win!

In the event, the victory went to Spanish teen Aron Canet, his first-ever GP victory, and a huge relief to him and the team after he’d crashed out of the lead at the last race in Texas. He just edged out Italian Romano Fenati by 0.03 second at the last corner, with series leader Joan Mir only 0.07 farther back.

Mir maintains his series lead, but Fenati is only nine points behind. The other top riders in the championship had lacklustre days; Jorge Martin never looked threatening despite his pole position and collected ninth at the flag, while Scot John McPhee crashed out early.

World Championship Standings after three of 18 races

  1. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Movistar Yamaha, 62 points
  2. Maverick Vinales, Spain, Movistar Yamaha, 60
  3. Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 58
  4. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 52
  5. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 41
  6. Johann Zarco, France, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 35
  7. TIE,  Cal Crutchlow, U.K., LCR Honda /  Jonas Folger, Germany, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 29
  8. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Ducati Team, 28
  9. TIE, Danilo Petrucci, Italy, Pramac Ducati / Scott Redding, U.K., Pramac Ducati, 26

Next race, May 21, Le Mans, France

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