Jerez GP: Preview
Jerez de la Frontera is the first European stop on the 2011 MotoGP World Championship calendar this weekend, as the famed Spanish circuit hosts the second round of the season. With crowds regularly in excess of 120,000 on GP race day at the Andalucian track, the Gran Premio bwin de España promises a weekend packed full of atmosphere and on-track entertainment.
After victory on his Repsol Honda debut in Qatar, Casey Stoner is the early 2011 pacesetter having become the first Honda rider to win the opening round of the season since 2003. Stoner has however only stepped onto the podium at Jerez on one previous occasion across all GP classes (in 2009), and will have to contest with the might of defending World Champion Jorge Lorenzo and his own Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, both of whom will be fully focused on delighting a partisan home crowd.
Lorenzo was the only non-Honda inside the top five across the finish line in Qatar, and the Factory Yamaha Racing rider will be determined to underline the message his second place at Losail sent out. Having achieved his first MotoGP win on Spanish soil at Jerez last year thanks to a last-lap pass on Pedrosa, the pair will both aim to improve on their podium finishing starts to 2011. Pedrosa will also hope that he does not experience as severe a reaction from his recovering collarbone as the one he did towards the end of the Qatar race, which prompted him to have a medical check-up last week following Round 1.
Italian duo Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) have both experienced success on the track in the lower categories and will fancy their respective chances of pushing for a first premier class podium at Jerez this weekend, whilst Ben Spies (Factory Yamaha Racing) aims to build on a season-opening sixth place finish.
Valentino Rossi is the most successful rider ever at the Jerez circuit having taken six premier class victories there, and the Italian kicked off his Ducati career with seventh in Qatar. Still undergoing a process of adaptation to the GP11 and contending with his recovering shoulder, Rossi and Ducati Team colleague Nicky Hayden will be concentrated on adding to Ducati’s sole podium finish in the 800cc era (Stoner, 2009) in the last season of the engine capacity limitation.
Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) has finished on the podium at Jerez (2007) whilst team-mate Cal Crutchlow enters his second MotoGP race confident following a solid introduction at Qatar. Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) comes in off the back of a top-ten start to the season and has won at Jerez in the 250 class, whilst Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar Team) and rookie Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) will seek progress.
Pramac Racing pair Loris Capirossi and Randy de Puniet will aim to put a disappointing opening round behind them, as will Toni Elías (LCR Honda) at a track on which he took Moto2 victory last year.
Álvaro Bautista remains sidelined following surgery on the left femur he fractured during practice in Qatar. The Spaniard’s place on the Rizla Suzuki team will be taken by American substitute John Hopkins, who makes his first MotoGP appearance since the 2008 Valencia GP.
Leading the way in Moto2 after Round 1 is Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing), whose second Moto2 victory of his career came from his first ever pole position start at the Losail circuit. The German rider led Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) and Tom Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) across the finish line in Qatar, with Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2) and Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) all putting forward early reminders of their ambitions to be challenging at the top this season in the ultra competitive category.
Lüthi placed on the podium at Jerez in last year’s race and will aim for consistency as the early stages of the season unfold, and alongside the top five finishers from Qatar a number of others will be forceful in their attempts to push forward and initiate a pressured atmosphere around their numerous rivals. Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project) and Jules Cluzel (Forward Racing) will be amongst them, as will pre-season title favourite Julián Simón (Mapfre Aspar), who placed tenth in the season opener and whose focus will be the podium. Likewise, Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing) will aim to recover ground following his 31st placed finish at Losail.
Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing) made an impressive start to life in Moto2 with a top-ten finish and will hope to continue on the same path at Jerez, whilst Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) will be determined to make up for what was a frustrating debut in the category following a crash. Joining the field for the second round will be two wild card entries, Iván Moreno (Andalucía Cajasol) and Steven Odendaal (MS Racing), as the Moto2 spectacle intensifies.
Spanish rider Nico Terol will aim to build on a formidably strong start to the season on home soil following a dominant win in Qatar. The Bankia Aspar rider took victory in the first race of the 125 season by more than seven seconds at Losail, further underlining his status as title favourite this year. Last year he finished second in the race at Jerez and will now aim to go one better, and Terol is the only rider from last season’s Jerez race top five who remains in the 125 class this season.
Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) and Sergio Gadea (PEV-Blusens-SMX Paris Hilton) completed the podium in Qatar and will hope to reduce the substantial advantage Terol held throughout the weekend, whilst Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) and Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) both scored top-five finishes and will target further progress following their promising starts to the campaign.
Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar) will seek an immediate response following his Qatar result, having finished 11th, and the Spaniard will be well aware of the importance of not letting team-mate and rival Terol open up too great an advantage in the early rounds.
Rookies Maverick Viñales (PEV-Blusens-SMX Paris Hilton) and Miguel Oliveira (Team Andalucía Banca Cívica) impressed with top-ten finishes at Losail, and the young talents will be supplemented in Round 2 by wild card entries Josep Rodrigues (Wild Wolf – RACC), Daniel Ruiz (Larresport) and Kevin Hamus (Team Hanusch). The Mahindra Racing team made an encouraging World Championship bow in Qatar with riders Danny Webb and Marcel Schrötter, and will arrive at Jerez – where the category completed its final pre-season Test at the start of March – confident of making further advances.