#SpanishGP Jerez, weekend preview: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
From another weekend of intrigue, drama and spectacle, the paddock now heads east along the Algarve and into Andalucia, ready to set up shop at the classic Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto. If it was tight at the top of the standings before it’s even more so now, with Fabio Quartararo’s (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) win in Portugal seeing him take the lead in the Championship for the first time this year… but equal on points with Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). If that wasn’t enough, Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) remains only three points off in third, and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) is still within eight of the top. That’s the closest top four after five races with this scoring system… ever.
As unpredictability continues to somewhat rule then, what are we to expect from the Gran Premio Red Bull de España? One thing is likely a fast Quartararo. The reigning Champion was sublime last time out and pretty much wiped the floor at a venue he’s ruled before, and that’s a criteria Jerez more than matches. El Diablo’s speed at the track has made him formidable from that very first MotoGP™ pole, and it’s also another track where the main straight isn’t a mammoth runway down to Turn 1 for the Yamaha to tackle. So, is it another Quartararo special coming up?
If it is, Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) will want what he’s having. It remains a tougher run of it so far in 2022 as the number 21 continues to look for the sweet spot with a new crew and coming back from injury onto the new bike. Andrea Dovizioso (WithU RNF Yamaha MotoGP™), meanwhile, has had Morbidelli’s number a few times recently – although he will, like his compatriot, very much still be looking for more.
With four different winners in the first five races, Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins and Joan Mir are high on the list of riders looking to book their ticket to becoming the fifth. Rins put in an astounding comeback ride on the Algarve to recover from a disastrous seeming qualifying in P23 to home in on the podium fight and come home fourth. After a tough season for the number 42 last year tumbling over the limit at times, the mental strength to keep that on the road for some magic is a good sign – and that’s aside from the pure speed itself.
2020 Champion Mir also had some of that speed and led the race away before getting caught by Quartararo, but the number 36 now finds himself with a deficit to the top of the standings – having at one point looked able to lead on the way into Jerez – after that late crash with Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team). Bad luck is bad luck, but it puts the Mallorcan in an unenviable position after his characteristically mistake-free run in 2022 had done wonders. What can he do this weekend?
At Aprilia, meanwhile, the dream continues – as does the speed of the new RS-GP. Aleix Espargaro put in another impressive ride as he took that third step on the podium, and that means two things: a) he’s very much in contention right at the top still and b) the Noale factory are right on the cusp of losing those concessions. The number 41 said he doesn’t care and would actually welcome that, but it does add an intriguing extra arc to the story. As does Maverick Viñales’ continued search for better early race form, with some good signs coming in from the number 12 and another solid finish last time out – but he’ll want more.
So what about Ducati? A third of the grid is a lot of headlines to cover, but one is definitely another impressive ride from Johann Zarco as the Pramac Racing rider completed the second ever French 1-2 behind Quartararo. He wants a win though, as the rider with the most premier class podiums without one being a visit to the top step, and will be pushing again this weekend – as will teammate Jorge Martin after he crashed out in Portugal. Jerez, not only home turf but a venue he’s already show more form at, will likely see the number 89 back at the front and complicating life for the more veteran runners around him.
At Ducati Lenovo Team, Miller needs to bounce back from that crash after an otherwise solid weekend in Portugal, but the good news for the Australian is that Jerez is where he took that first ever win in red last year. Then, teammate Francesco Bagnaia followed him home, and the Italian arrives a little bruised after his Saturday crash on the Algarve but nevertheless still put in an impressive ride. Will a few more days to recover work some wonders?
Bastianini, meanwhile, continued a pattern: the winner of the race before has never finished in the top ten in the next. In his case it was a DNF and after a crash on Saturday had also dented his qualifying, but he remains close at the top in the standings and Jerez is chance to reset. Can the Beast put that GP21 back on top – and take back the Championship lead?
Over at KTM, the picture in Portugal was also a mixed one. For Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) it was a quality ride to fifth on home turf, with the Portuguese rider putting to bed some tougher form in the dry so far in 2022. Can he do that on Spanish soil now? On the other side of the garage for Brad Binder though, it was a disappointing end to race day – and one so rare for the South African it’s actually a whole year nearly on rewind to find the last time the number 33 crashed out… and it was at Jerez. Still, that Moto3™ win from the back must be mentioned, and the then-rookie’s unreal pace in his first race weekend in MotoGP™, with plenty of form at Jerez to prove a blip does not a tradition make. What will he bounce back with in 2022?
For Honda on the way into Jerez, there are also some mixed fortunes. For Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) it’s a reset needed after a tough weekend, but Jerez is where he’s taken his equal best MotoGP™ result. For Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) the hill has seemed to tip upwards again in the last couple of races – although he was suffering with illness at COTA – and he’ll want more from a first home Grand Prix of the year. At the other end of the scale, Portugal was a revelation for Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) as the number 73 took a huge step towards the front – in qualifying and on race day – and missed out on beating Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) by a margin humans would struggle to count without digital help.
So what of the number 93? COTA was an incredible comeback after that issue at the start, but Portugal was an intriguing one. Almost taking pole before that lap cancellation then led to a more muted Sunday as he fought it out for the top six, and most perhaps most interestingly surrounded by other Hondas he previously had some margin over. That said, Marc Marquez had only ever raced at Portimão once before, and Jerez is a different beast entirely. Some amazing memories, some very tough ones. But before those were made, Marquez’ display of speed on that Sunday remains enough to give goosebumps. Where will the eight-time Champion and the new RC213V be this time around? You’ll have to tune in to find out.
The Gran Premio Red Bull de España sees MotoGP™ back in that time slot at 14:00 (GMT +2), with the schedule returning to regular programming.
It was a seismic moment when a number of the lead riders crashed out in Portugal, and as the paddock heads for the Gran Premio Red Bull de España there is plenty to talk about. The biggest news in the standings was the advantage gained by Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) as the Italian mixed skill and a little lady luck to take home a valuable 20 points, with many of those who did fall now on the back foot to cut the gap back down – not least of all home hero Aron Canet (Flexbox HP 40). So that’s a good place to start.
From the Vietti side, 20 points and a 0 for many key rivals was a coup, but the Italian may also be heading in a little disillusioned with his speed before the restart, with the number 13 not having shown his early, seemingly effortless pace either at COTA or in Portimão. So can that change? Canet, for his part, will be hoping not as the Spaniard arrives from surgery but looking to race. Some pins in his wrist and a steadfast determination to keep pushing for those podiums, and that first win, see the Spaniard facing a pain barrier but knowing, before the multi-rider incident, he absolutely did have the speed. Turning up only a few days on also points towards Canet feeling this is a Championship fight more than ever…
Some fellow perennial frontrunners like Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team), Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo), Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) and Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) were also caught up in the crash, and they’ll be looking to push. Lowes has won at the track before too, and many have great CVs at the venue. COTA podium finisher Jake Dixon (Autosolar GASGAS Aspar Team) likewise faces a reset, but it’s a little different for the Brit after he crashed out of the restart.
And then there’s Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team). The American was already a podium finisher but has had a tougher run of it at times recently, before everything came together. The number 16 was off like a shot once he hit the front, pulling out three seconds on the fight for second led by Vietti – and in only a seven-lap race. It was an impressive performance but also a confidence boosting one, so the American will be an interesting one to watch at Jerez.
Sergio Garcia (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) is making a habit of winning in 2022, and after his perfect final lap push in Portugal to move ahead and stay ahead, the gauntlet has been well and truly thrown down. The GASGAS rider is more usually earning his stripes as a baby-faced assassin, leaving his attacks late and serving up the perfect amount of aggression, so defending to the line was a new style of victory for the Spaniard. But if ever a track was tailored for a final corner, Garcia-esque lunge, it’s Jerez – and it’s home turf too.
The first candidate looking to hit back will be the rider forced to cede the points lead last time out: Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing). The Italian had a more muted weekend in Portugal, qualifying a little down the order but, this time, not able to put in one of his Sunday miracles. It was a solid finish but not a spectacular one, although the deficit in the standings is only one single point.
Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo), meanwhile, arrives from his first back-to-back podiums since 2020, with the Spaniard having put some bad luck to bed in the last couple of races. An experienced winner, Masia will likely prove a threat again, as will fellow veteran Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team) if the Italian can find that missing link from Portugal. Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) has also proven his speed in 2022, with another podium for the number 71 seeing him go from strength to strength.
There are plenty more home heroes to look out for too: Izan Guevara (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) was strong again on the Algarve and only just missed out late on, with the number 28 now a consistent frontrunner and threat for victory. Carlos Tatay (CFMoto Racing PrüstelGP) also had another good race and a top six finish, and he’ll be gunning for glory.
Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), meanwhile, remains on the hunt for that first podium of 2022 – but the Turk has found some really good consistency. As we return to Jerez, where an overeager move from the number 53 has previously spelled disaster, his measured season of fighting for the podium nearly every weekend bodes well.
On rookie watch, Jerez will also be an interesting one. Many know Portimão well, but plenty know Jerez even better. Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) once again impressed last time out but will want to avoid those track limits infringements, Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Ajo) has speed but is looking for some luck, and Joel Kelso (CIP Green Power) was a key top ten presence once again on the Algarve. As was Scott Ogden (VisionTrack Racing Team), and the Brit is most definitely one of those who knows Jerez pretty well: he took his first Moto3™ Junior World Championship win at the track last year, and in some style. What will he have in the locker this weekend?
We’ll find out soon enough, with lights out for the Moto3™ race at 11:00 (GMT +2) on Sunday as the Gran Premio Red Bull de España gets in gear.