Little Samurai Wins Big GP
Racing is mostly about numbers, but this year’s Spanish GP was more than ever about numbers. The MotoGP race was the 3,000th Grand Prix race since world championship racing began on the Isle of Man in June 1949. Dorna marked the occasion by bringing in Gi
IT WAS ALL OVER BY THE FIRST
corner. Pedrosa was back to his old self; not only had he found his old speed, he was also unbeatable away from the line. He led the entire race. It was no pushover, however. He was under huge pressure throughout, with Marquez chasing hard, refusing to give up the hunt, even though Pedrosa’s medium rear allowed him to establish an early lead over his team-mate, whose more aggressive technique forced him to use the hard rear.
By lap three the gap was 1.5 seconds and it stayed around that mark for most of the race, until Marquez did finally wave the white flag three laps from the end, quite sensibly preferring 20 points to a face full of gravel.
Pedrosa was delighted with his 30th MotoGP win, and with good reason: he had simply outridden everyone. “The race wasn’t as easy as it looked,” he said (as if that ever needs saying). “The track wasn’t as grippy as it had been in practice, because of the temperature, so it was difficult to manage the medium rear tyre. I was trying not to stress the tyre too much. Marc closed the gap a little, but I had to keep my pace, even though the hard front was also critical in some corners. At one point I was off the track and lost a few tenths.”
Second place for Marquez was good enough to move him to within two points of Viñales and four of leader Rossi. “Jerez is one of the more difficult tracks for my riding style,” said the reigning champion. “The rear worked quite well but it took time to warm up. My limitation was the front tyre. Anyway, I’m really happy to be four points behind the leader.”
Lorenzo proved his class to score his first Ducati podium and silence the doubters, albeit 14.7 seconds behind the winner. He rode a brilliantly judged race, choosing the medium front instead of the hard, as used by all the factory Honda and Yamaha riders and by his team-mate, Andrea Dovizioso. He picked his way through from eighth on lap one, passing Rossi (which must have felt especially good), Viñales and Andrea Iannone (Ecstar Suzuki), his super-smooth riding style making him look slower than he actually was. “Some people spoke too early and now they must eat their words,” he said. “I was surprised I could overtake people, but the pace was quite slow because of the heat.”
His final victim was Zarco, the real hero of the race for many. The Frenchman’s first few laps were glorious: he overtook Rossi twice on the first lap,
then Crutchlow, Iannone and Viñales on lap two and Marquez on lap four! For a moment it looked as if he might chase down Pedrosa, but he couldn’t maintain the pace and dropped back behind Marquez, then succumbed to Lorenzo. His best-yet fourth-place finish competed the best start to a rookie campaign since Lorenzo and Marquez. But the twice Moto2 champ remained as cool as ever. “At the beginning of the race, my feeling was great and I felt very comfortable,” he said. “I was able to overtake some of the top guys and then when I was second, I still felt good. However, I almost crashed twice, which allowed Marc to overtake me and from that moment I couldn’t push any more on the front because I was really on the limit.”
Dovizioso surprised himself with fifth place, at one of his least favourite circuits, but he probably wasn’t as surprised as Viñales, who slumped to sixth, his pace almost a second slower than Pedrosa’s. And this after he had topped morning warm-up when the track was much cooler. “I had no feeling from the front tyre from the start,” he said. “The Yamaha is normally good in fast corners but I nearly crashed at Turn 11 [a fast right, three corners from the finish] on three occasions.” The following day Viñales tested in similar conditions with the same tyre choice and was much faster, which suggests he may have raced with a dud front tyre.
At least he didn’t suffer as badly as team-mate Rossi, who went backwards as the race went on: fifth on lap 10, 10th at the finish. “It was a very, very difficult weekend and a very, very difficult race,” he said with a sigh. “We modified the balance of the bike to reduce spin in the lefts but it was even worse. By the end I felt vibration from the rear tyre and we were lucky to finish.”
Rossi’s final laps were three to four seconds slower than the winner’s, which allowed Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) to nip past. The next day he also took part in the post-race tests, trying different settings, a revised chassis and Michelin’s stiffer front slick. But he left Jerez still looking for answers.
Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Ducati) was the second best independent finisher, riding a typically aggressive race which very nearly got him past Viñales in the final laps. Iannone, who had surprised
with his second-row start, was one of several crashers along with Crutchlow, who went down while chasing the lead group — Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia Honda), Pol Espargaro (KTM), and Alvaro Bautista (Aspar Ducati) — who took out Jack Miller (Estrella Honda).
Miller gave Bautista a hefty shove as they climbed to their feet in the gravel trap. The Australian was fined €1,000 for this misdemeanour, but Bautista escaped sanction for causing the accident.
Marquez (93) and Zarco’s (5) fight was worth a watch in the 3000th GP
Miller and Lorenzo came into contact at the start of the race