The rain in Spain fell mainly in practice and qualifying, then cut short the Moto 2 race. But things stayed cold and blustery, albeit dry, for the Moto GP event at the Jerez circuit, where Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner took his first-ever win at that track.
The first few laps were wild, as Stoner’s fast-starting team-mate Dani Pedrosa, Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati’s Nicky Hayden, and Yamaha Factory boy Jorge Lorenzo mixed it up with Stoner, the track looking more like the kind of knife-fight in a closet we’ve come to expect from the Moto 2 field.
Things soon started to settle down, however, as Stoner pushed his way into the lead and he and Lorenzo started inching away from the rest of the group. Hayden was riding hard and well, dicing with Pedrosa, Dovizioso, and Crutchlow for third until his soft front tire started going off. It was a great performance from the Kentucky Kid on the still-wayward latest version of the Desmosedici.
Lorenzo had also chosen the soft front, and although he was able to stay with Stoner he wasn’t comfortable enough to try for a pass, although he was close enough to try for a few laps just before the end.
Stoner later said he’d eased off a bit as he suffered a milder recurrence of the arm-pump that killed his race in Qatar, and the Spanish ace added, “We were wrong [in our tire choice] and had a lot of problems during the race; I wasn’t as confident as in practice. Without good feelings, to finish second is not so bad!”
Third was a battle to the end, Crutchlow finally breaking free of his team-mate and chasing down Pedrosa. It looked like he’d be able to get his first Moto GP podium, but eventually finished a couple of tenths back after setting the race’s fastest lap, getting his second fourth place of the season. “That was a seriously hard race but I really enjoyed it … it is only the second time I have raced here, so to come away with a fourth and been within touching distance of my first MotoGP podium is fantastic.”
Farther back it was surprising to see Valentino Rossi and Ben Spies fighting to be in the top 10. Spies, who’s had two dismal outtings this season and must already be wondering if he’ll have his job next year, said the front end just didn’t feel right and he had no confidence.
“It was a pretty pathetic race really for me. I’ve apologized to the team and we’ve had a long meeting about what I was feeling with the bike … It was a bad day at the office today.”
Rossi, who finished ninth, just behind team-mate Hayden, said that he’d tried an entirely new set-up more similar to Hayden’s, and was slow in learning how to work with it in the early laps.
“I wasn’t going bad once I found my rhythm,” said the Italian star, “in the sense that I was matching the times of those who were fighting for sixth place …This helps me to be a little more optimistic as I look ahead to the next races.”
Toward the back end of the field, CRT honours went to Aleix Espargaro on one of the Aspar ART Aprilias. His team-mate Randy de Puniet had that spot locked up until his bike quit on the last lap, leaving the French rider in despair just a few corners from the flag.
In the Moto 2 clash, Spanish rider Pol Espargaró got his first world-level victory. With half-a-dozen leaders at different times and a constant mad scrap for position, especially when the rain started and it seemed certain things would be stopped, the race was definitely a spectacular font of action.
Espargaró finished ahead of countryman Marc Marquez and Swiss Thomas Luthi, those three riders leading the title chase with Marquez leading Espargaró and Luthi, followed by Englishman Scott Redding and Italy’s Andrea Iannone.
The Moto 3 race also had a first-time winner, Italian teen Romano Fenati taking a big 31-second win after tussling with the rest of the field until attrition on the damp but drying track took out several of his competitors.
Next race, May 6, Estoril Circuit, Portugal.
Moto GP World Championship standings after two of 18 races
1. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 45 points
2. Casey Stoner, Australia, Repsol Honda, 41
3. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 36
4. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 26
5. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Tech 3 Monster Yamaha, 22
6. Alvaro Bautista, Spain, Gresini Honda, 19
7. Nicky Hayden, U.S., Marlboro Ducati, 18
8. Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 17
9. (tie) Valentino Rossi, Italy, Marlboro Ducati and Hector Barbera, Spain, Pramac Racing Ducati, 13.