Spanish GP, Jerez, raceday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
All weekend the leading three were in a league of their own. Rossi, Lorenzo and Marquez had filled the top three spots of almost every practice session and lined up next to each other on the front row of the grid. The three biggest names in MotoGP™ were alongside each other once more and everything in practice had indicated that there was almost nothing to choose between them. As is typical of the Spanish GP, the grid was packed with mechanics, guests and officials but the riders did their best to block it out and run through their race plans.
With all three on the same hard front and medium rear tyres, managing tyre life could very well decide the race but those concerns would come later. The sun beat down on the grid and getting into, and out of, Turn 1 quickly and safety was all any of the MotoGP™ riders were worrying about. Races can’t be won in the first corner, but they can certainly be lost. Right hands gripped throttles; riders leaned forward and tensed as the lights came on. Off the lights went, the crowd erupting into applause and cheers as Valentino Rossi made a great start to lead into Turn 1. But he wasn’t alone Jorge Lorenzo right behind with Repsol Honda Team duo Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa within touching distance.
Perhaps the best start of the race was from Pedrosa who quickly put his RC213V into third midway through the first lap. Across the line they went as the second lap began as the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP pair stretched their lead. Marquez attacked Pedrosa into Turn 6, running wide as his line was blocked. Through Turn 9 Lorenzo launched a similar attack on Rossi, the Italian holding off his teammate as the Hondas clawed back the gap with Marquez now in third.
Fans were transfixed on the leading four, few noticing the incredible start of Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team MotoGP) who was in eighth as the third lap began and the leading Independent Team rider. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) chased Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) for fifth with Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) on the tail of his Ducati. Dovizioso’s teammate, Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) was having a terrible race, dropping like a stone down to 14th in the opening laps.
All of the leaders lapped in the mid 1’40s, Rossi trying to escape as Marquez looked for a way through on Lorenzo. His lead would soon be over half a second, Rossi upped his pace lap after lap and drew out hundredths of a second at each corner. Before long the gap was at a second, Valentino Rossi seemingly doing as his teammate had done so many times before and breaking the field early in the race. No matter what Lorenzo did he was unable to close in on Rossi nor shake off Marquez.
Disaster struck for Dovizioso on the tenth lap as yet again, through no fault of his own, his race came to an end. The factory Ducati rider was forced to sit up as his Desmosedici GP encountered a terminal issue, forcing him to ride back into the pits and once again make the long walk across the garage to spectate the race.
Rossi and his team had focused on race setting throughout the weekend, ‘The Doctor’s’ work paying off as the gap soon grew to over two seconds as no one was able to match his lap times. Behind him Lorenzo had his hands full fending off Marquez, the Repsol Honda rider not quite close enough to attack but able to apply ample pressure.
Overtakes were scarce at the front but the battle for seventh place produced some thrilling racing, Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) leading the group ahead of Laverty. Just behind them Andrea Iannone and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) pushed each other hard for 10th position, not what either rider wanted before the race. In front, Pedrosa had Aleix Espargaro to contend with, Pedrosa working hard to hold off the Suzuki man. Since his fifth in Austin, Espargaro has been in some of the best form of his career after a setup breakthrough.
With over half race distance gone, Lorenzo broke Marquez and opened up a one second lead on his fellow Spaniard. Marquez had chosen to run winglets on his Honda, which assisted with keeping the front end down but also ran the risk of overheating the front tyre over the race. With ten laps to go, Lorenzo hadn’t just broken Marquez but he also began to close in on Rossi. A gap that was once three seconds quickly dropped to two and that gap continued to fall by a couple of tenths a lap, would it be enough with eight laps remaining?
His chances of victory would fade as Rossi responded to Lorenzo’s increased pace and once again dropped into the low 1’41s. The gap would grow to over three seconds, Lorenzo unable to push any harder and settling to take valuable championship points. Marquez also continued to drop back, his chances of a home victory long gone as he found himself over five second behind Lorenzo.
After a terrible start to the race, Iannone set about making up for lost time and quickly got past Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and ran away with seventh place. This would be one of the last battles of the race as the field stretched out, only a handful of riders within a second of each other.
For the 113th time in his career and the 87th time in the premier class, Valentino Rossi pulled a wheelie across the line to celebrate victory. After the disappointment of Austin, the result is exactly what ‘The Doctor’ needed. Behind him Jorge Lorenzo took his 100th premier class podium finish and Marquez was able to keep the lead of the Championship, his lead reduced slightly to 17 points.
Pedrosa withstood Espargaro’s challenge to end in fourth ahead of the Spaniard.
Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team), Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team MotoGP) and Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) completed the top ten.
Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) crashed out of the race at Turn 11 after battling with Cal Crutchlow in the opening stages.
The sun blazed down on the thousands of fans gathered at the Circuito de Jerez to witness the Moto2™ World Championship race at the Gran Premio Red Bull de España. It was a reduced grid as both Julian Simon (QMMF Racing Team) and Edgar Pons (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) withdrew from the race on medical grounds. All riders, aside from Alessandro Tonucci (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) chose to run the medium front and hard rear tyres.
At the head of the grid Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) remained focused on the task ahead, the Brit knew he had the pace to win but had crashed several times throughout the course of the weekend. With a number of his title rivals such as Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) and Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) starting outside the top six, the scene was set to opening up his championship lead.
Red flag removed and lights out, Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) shot off the front row of the grid to grab the holeshot into Turn 1. There were a number of moments behind but everyone made it through the first corner safely. Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) and Ratthapark Wilairot (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) had a heavy fall at Turn 5, but the racing continued. The pair was taken to the medical center where Wilairot was diagnosed with cranial trauma and taken to a local hospital.
Folger continued to up the pace, Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) unable to match the speed and sliding off at Turn 2. Try as he might, Folger was unable to hold off Lowes who took the lead midway through lap two. From seventh on the grid, Rins made the start he needed and put a hard move on Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) to get up into third. Unfortunately Zarco did not make as strong a start and was battling down in 12th in the opening laps.
The leading four were all within touching distance, Lowes unable to shake off Folger as they traded fastest sectors. Their speed was brutal and the top three opened up a second leader over Morbidelli. Lap times were quick but the conditions caught many out as Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) crashed early at Turn 2. Luca Marini (Forward Team) slid off at Turn 13 at the end of lap four and Sandro Cortese’s (Dynavolt Intact GP) front row start ended in the gravel at Turn 2 on lap five.
Danny Kent (Leopard Racing) crashed and remounted at Turn 6 as Axel Pons (AGR Team) was another victim of Turn 13. All of these falls occurred within the first six laps, the conditions slightly different to Qualifying and proving difficult.
No such issues for the leading three as they maintained their pace in the mid 1’43s, Rins just dropping back slightly as the race crept towards half race distance. Morbidelli was having a lonely ride in fourth, but fellow Italian Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) was steadily closing the two-second gap.
Having worked on used tyres for the majority of Free Practice, many were expecting Alex Rins to be strong towards the end of the race but as the laps went by, the Spaniard dropped further back. With 16 laps remaining, Lowes and Folger had opened up a second on the local rider and looked set to decide victory between them. The German and the Brit were taking radically different lines around the Jerez circuit, but the gap remained constant.
By lap 13 Baldassarri was with Morbidelli and fighting for fourth, the Forward Team rider waiting for his chance and spending several laps behind him. Morbidelli would respond and up his pace to open up a half second advantage over his compatriot.
Lowes continued to push ahead at the front of the race, his Kalex bucking and weaving underneath him as he extended his advantage over Folger to near a second on lap 17. Each time Lowes had a moment, Folger would up his pace and continue pushing the Brit in an attempt to push him over the limit. But Folger’s attacks would work and soon Lowes opened up a lead of over a second and a half, the Brit just needing to remain upright for the final six laps.
Further down the order there were great rides from the likes of Miguel Oliveira (Leopard Racing) who battled with Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) for sixth, the pair ahead of Zarco. After a challenging start to the race, Zarco found his rhythm and was able to get inside the top ten. Disaster struck for Oliveira on lap 21 as he slid off at Turn 4, his bike tumbling through the gravel trap.
Zarco eventually got past Luthi to move into sixth with four laps to go, the leading five too far ahead for even the reigning Moto2™ World Champion. But Zarco would benefit from a late fall by Baldassarri, the Frenchman promoted into the top five.
The last lap began with the podium set in stone, Lowes crossing the line over three seconds ahead of Folger for his first win of 2016 and just the second of his Moto2™ career. Alex Rins would complete the podium with a steady ride to third position. Unfortunately Rins encountered problems on the cooldown lap and had to ask Zarco for assistance in getting back to the pits.
After the pressure of Baldassarri, Morbidelli took his best race result of the year with fourth ahead of Zarco.
Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten), Luis Salom (SAG Team) and Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing Team) formed the top ten.
Victory is exactly what Lowes needed, the Brit extending his championship lead to 10 points over Alex Rins. Johann Zarco takes third with 56 points, 16 behind Lowes. Folger, who took his fifth podium in six Jerez visits sits fifth with 47 points.
Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team) also crashed at Turn 13, remounting to later crash at Turn 9.
Drama began even before the Moto3™ World Championship lined up on the grid as Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was sent to the back of the grid, moving every rider up a position on the grid. The penalty came as the result of a mapping infringement, the South African’s KTM was found to be using non-homologated ECU software after Qualifying.
With the morning fog gone and the championship leader starting last, it was set to be as thrilling a Moto3™ battle as ever. Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) lined up in pole ahead of Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) with Francesco Bagnaia (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) moved onto the front row due to Binder’s penalty. Conditions were ideal, the track at 26°C and ambient temperature at 18°C. Jules Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold) was the only rider to deviate from the medium front and rear tyre trend, the Frenchman running a soft front.
Excitement continued to build as riders revved their engines, the 35-rider field lurching forward as the lights went out. From third Bagnaia made a great start on his Mahindra to lead into Turn 1. Meanwhile the drama continued as Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) was forced to start from pit lane due to an issue on the grid. Further down Binder quickly picked his way through the field.
Turn 6 claimed both Fabio Quartararo (Leopard Racing) and Jorge Martin (Aspar Mahindra Team Moto3) on the first lap, both riders rushing to their bikes. Meanwhile Jorge Navarro had taken control of the race with ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia tucking in behind him in an attempt to break away, but fellow Italian Bulega loomed large behind them. This small group began to quickly open a gap, a second ahead of Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) as they started lap three.
The start of lap three also saw Binder inside the points, the South African having forced his way up to 15th from 35th in just two laps. Binder rapidly closed on the group battling for fourth, setting a 1’46.922 on lap four, while the leading trio continued to press their advantage. All three remained calm and in line, working hard to open up a large gap and ensure their fight would be one for victory.
It was all calm until with 18 laps to go Bulega took control of the leading group, sliding up the inside of Navarro and tightening the three up again. But Bulega’s size worked against him, Navarro taking the lead back at Turn 1 the following lap. The battle at the front was exciting, but Brad Binder’s charge was awe-inspiring as the South African was inside the top ten after just six laps. Almost every corner offered Binder another chance to gain a place, slipping through with incredible ease.
Before even a third of the race was gone, Binder was fourth and leading the chasing group. Could he defy the odds and claim victory from the back of the grid? He had 15 laps to close the 3.7-second gap, fighting at the front helping him immensely. The leading three lapped in the low 1’48s while Binder produced a steady flow of mid 1’47s.
Turn 6 was the stage for a number of attacks at the front, the long straight before hand giving Navarro and Bagnaia the chance to get past each other. Unfortunately fighting on lap 11 allowed Binder to close an entire second, just 1.5 seconds behind a podium finish.
Eyes were focused on Binder, but the fight for fifth remained an intense brawl as the likes of Joan Mir (Leopard Racing), Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) and Philipp Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) traded positions.
As the laps ticked down, so did the gap to the front and soon Binder was involved in the podium battle, moving to third at Turn 1 on the 14th lap. Not long after Binder would move into second as Bagnaia ran wide at Turn 1. The leading group gathered together once more, but it didn’t worry the South African as he pushed his way into the lead at Turn 6 on lap 18.
Clear track ahead, Binder began to open up a lead as Navarro and Bagnaia diced for second. As the final three laps began Binder had a one second lead over second, still lapping in the mid 1’47s. The Red Bull KTM Ajo rider was gone but the fight for second was fierce as Bulega struck at Turn 6, slamming his way into second but Bagnaia and Navarro responded. All three traded places and it all came down to the drag to the line after an incredible move by Bulega into Turn 13. It was enough to ensure Bulega took second and thus a debut podium with Bagnaia taking his second podium of the year with third.
The gap would grow to an unbelievable 3.4 seconds as Binder became the first ever South African to win a lightweight class race. With his first victory, Binder extended his championship lead to 15 points over Navarro.
Jorge Navarro lost out on the podium in the final corner, forced to settle for fourth. Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC Racing Team) would eventually win the battle for fifth.
Joan Mir (Leopard Racing), Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46), Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3), Jules Danilo (Ongetta-Rivacold) and Phillip Oettl (Schedl GP Racing) completed the top ten.
There were a number of falls throughout the race with Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing), Hiroki Ono (Honda Team Asia) and Karel Hanika (Platinum Bay Real Estate) all going down together on the third lap. Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was in contention for the top ten until he fell at Turn 1 on lap six.
John McPhee (Peugeot MC Saxoprint) fell at Turn 2. Several laps later Niccolo Antonelli would also fall, but at Turn 8 as he attempted to recover from his pit lane start.
Round five will commence on the sixth of May at the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in Le Mans.