MotoGP Jerez Preview

© Bruce Allen

Returning to Europe, the Plot Thickens 

After three store-bought rounds, MotoGP 2019 returns to Europe, where it is totally legit, to Jerez, one of the sport’s shrines, for the Gran Premio Red Bull de España, at the recently-renamed Circuito Jerez – Angel Nieto. The title chase appears closer than it really is due to Marc Marquez’ unforced error in Austin. Never having missed the podium in seven previous premier class visits here, one expects Marquez to be highly motivated to put things in their proper order come Sunday afternoon. 

On his way to 70 points and an imposing lead in the 2019 championship, multi-world champion Marc Marquez lost his marbles on one of the trademarked rumblestrips at COTA last time out for his first DNF of the year. (Last year, his first DNF of the season came at Phillip Island, after he had clinched and no longer gave a rip.) His challengers—Andrea Dovizioso, Vale Rossi and Alex Rins, at this point—need to eat their Wheaties this weekend, need to keep him in sight. Other reputed contenders entering the season—Cal Crutchlow, Maverick Vinales and poor Jorge Lorenzo—have already shredded their seasons. They are fast enough to contend at times (maybe this weekend) and will undoubtedly appear on podia this year. Marquez’ only real title challengers, heading into Round 4, number three. So far so good for #93.

Many of you are surprised to see upstart Alex Rins, age 23, among the big boy Alien crew on his suddenly-competitive Suzuki. Me too, although I’ve been a fan for a while. He will be juiced to return to Spain, but aware that his history here is poor. Besides, he, like Marquez, is a Catalan, which locals think of as a separate country from Spain. Whatever. ‘Home race’ card coming your way soon. As for Dovizioso and Rossi, though they lead the championship now, it is difficult to see either of them winning it, absent some disastrous crash for Marquez. Sorry, but there it is. Dovizioso has not appeared on a Jerez podium since 2007, in his 250cc days. And of Rossi’s nine career wins here, eight of them came before 2010.

Expect Marc Marquez to gain ground on all three this weekend. 

Recent History at Jerez 

2016 was a Yamaha kind of year at Jerez. The Doctor made a house call on soon-to-be-former teammate Lorenzo, winning here for the first time since 2009.  He led every lap after an early challenge from his restless teammate, with Marquez running a strangely quiet third. It was a Yamaha year, starting and finishing in the top two slots. The church bells rang in Tavullia as Rossi spit in the eye of both Lorenzo and Marquez.  On their home soil.  For Rossi fans, this was a keeper.

2017, on the other hand, was your basic Honda year. Repsol Honda #2 Dani Pedrosa, looking like the 2012 version of himself, won, leading wire-to-wire for his first win since Misano in 2016.  Teammate and defending champion Marquez gave chase for most of the race, but never seemed to have quite enough to mount a serious challenge to Pedrosa on one of those Dani Days. Underdog Jorge Lorenzo claimed third step on the podium in a credible performance on the factory Ducati, his first podium in red which, he said afterwards, felt like a win. This “win” started a string of nine off-podium finishes that turned his season to mud. Still, Lorenzo loves him some Jerez.

Entering last year’s race, five riders were separated by eight points. (Recall Marquez’ comedic disaster in Argentina.) This year, we have four riders separated by nine points after #93’s carefree off in Texas—what, a month ago? Anyway, last year’s race featured the memorable Lap 20 crash involving Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Dovizioso, clearing the field for a dominating win from Marquez. As is usually the case, when big names go down, smaller names rise. Thus it was that Johann Zarco, then toiling for Yamaha, claimed second place while Andrea Iannone, Suzuki #2 at the time, found the third step. [Incidentally, both riders would give their bicuspids to be back with their previous teams after offseason moves to KTM and Aprilia, respectively.] 

Current Events 

Elsewhere on the grid, some riders are visibly happy these days, Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha), Takaa Nakagami (Honda), Jack Miller (Ducati) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) amongst them. 19-year old Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) sits in the top ten. He’s happy. Guys like Maverick Vinales (Yamaha), Andrea Iannone (Aprilia) and anyone riding for KTM, not so much. Poor Hafizh Syahrin has a goose egg going on, drawing the close attention of team owner Herve Poncharal. Zarco looks like his dog died. Rookie Miguel Oliveira is happy to be making C’s in his first year in college. Pol Espargaro is having the best year of the four, sitting in ninth place. Again.

In the lighter classes—it no longer seems right to apply that term to the 765cc Triumphs in Moto2—Lorenzo Baldassarri appears to be the cream of the crop, despite not having completed a single lap at COTA. In Moto3, 18-year old Jaume Masia and veteran Aron Canet lead a pack of Hondas on their KTMs. We are pleased to report that so far in 2019, fully unreformable Italian headjob Romano Fenati has not attempted to grab the brake levers on anyone’s bike but his own. 

Your Weekend Forecast 

The weather forecast for the weekend is typically Jerez—hot and sunny. Honda weather for sure, not helpful to the Ducati and Yamaha contingents. Jury is out on the Suzukis. Much of the circuit has been repaved, which is good and bad. Good, in that the owners wouldn’t have made the investment in the track if Dorna were going to take it off the calendar anytime soon. Bad, in that it will have different asphalt in different sectors, which the riders hate. But, hey, it’s Jerez. Everyone suck it up.

By now, you’ve probably discerned that I, along with most of the civilized world, expect Marc Marquez to win Sunday’s race. I would enjoy seeing him and Rins square off. I would REALLY like to see Alex Rins school Marquez one time, take a little chink out of his armor, announce his arrival, motivate Suzuki to go ahead and pull the trigger on a second factory-supported team starting in 2020. Most lucid people would also expect to see Valentino Rossi on the podium again—points is points. So that would be my top three—Marquez, Rins and Rossi.

Visit Motorcycle.com on Sunday evening for results, analysis and classy high-rez photos from Jerez. Or, just come here early Sunday afternoon for everything but the pix, which you can find anywhere.

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10 Responses to “MotoGP Jerez Preview”

  1. Dale Mensch Says:

    Excellent as always, and 99% accurate. I still don’t understand how you can believe that people with this level of pathological drive and live to win can be seen to “after he had clinched and no longer gave a rip”!

    Like

    • Bruce Allen Says:

      All I meant to say, Dale, was that the pressure was off and he could go out, have fun, try to win, but not get too bent if he ended up in the gravel. Thanks for the kind words, as usual.

      Like

  2. Vrooom Says:

    I’ll agree with that podium. Maybe Dovi in 4th and Quartararo 5th. Just cause I want to see a Rookie pressuring the top guys.

    Like

    • Bruce Allen Says:

      Quartararo is clearly the toilet seat in the sorority house. Bright future. And we all thought JZ was the Great French Hope.

      Like

      • Barry_Allen Says:

        In two weeks he’ll get his chance to go full “Win It Or Bin It” for the home crowd. He’s the best of a great rookie class this year.

        Like

  3. Mad4TheCrest Says:

    Spiff’s not here, so I’ll say it:

    Go Rossi!

    End transmission

    Like

  4. Barry_Allen Says:

    I think you’re right about a Marquez crash being anyone else’s only hope. With Jorge supposedly healthy we might finally see what he can do on a track where he’s already tested the Honda. Just as long as he doesn’t spill the salt or qualify 13th. He’s already got the “Flying Fickle Finger of Fate” Award for this season. He doesn’t need anything else to go wrong.


    (Look it up, kids.)

    – AND NOW FOR SOME OFF TOPIC RAMBLING-

    Riders having bad luck leads into some other curiosities I’ve been pondering.
    During the second three week gap in this still fledgling season, whether out of boredom or cabin fever due to bad weather, I’ve spent too much time looking at stats from last season hoping to glean something of interest.

    After COTA, which saw Jack Miller and Takaa Nakagami bring home the points for their respective factories, I’ve found myself considering the other competitions: the Manufacturer, Team, and Independent Championships. Specifically, how at least two of these were decided by injuries last year.

    After Austria, Jorge was actually a point ahead of Dovi in the championship and Ducati’s One-Two punch had them in real contention for the team championship. It was Lorenzo’s injuries removing him from the last third of the season more than it was Pedrosa’s parade laps on his farewell tour that gave Honda the Team Championship. I doubt that Petrucci is going to do Jorge the same favor this year.

    It was the same with Johann Zarco and the Independent Championship. Cal Crutchlow missed the last three races due to a broken ankle. It’s easy to think Cal could have gotten 10 points in those races and won Best Independent.
    (With Zarco and Petrucci both going to factory teams this year Cal is left, at the moment, trailing his friend Jack and his teammate Takaa, for that consolation spot on the “Peasants’ Podium.”)

    As far as the Constructors Championship goes; Crutchlow and Morbidelli combined scored Honda’s margin of victory when Marc was off point (or off track). Other than that, Honda cruised to the Manufacturers title on the back of Marquez’ bike. No surprise there.

    The point of all this? I don’t know, but it does reinforce that old staple “To finish first, you must first, finish.”
    It seems to hold true for the season as well as individual races.

    My pics for the weekend – Marquez, Rins, Rossi, Dovi – Just because it packs ’em tighter and makes it more exciting.

    Highlight of the weekend would be a Pasini win. (Unless Vale pulls off one, too.)

    Like

  5. Starmag Says:

    I like Ant man because he’s not a blamer or complainer, so this is probably true:

    https://www.crash.net/motogp/news/918814/1/marquez-hints-cota-crash-caused-honda-mechanical-issue

    In any event, he’s a terror the next race after a DNF.

    Like

  6. Old MOron Says:

    Wow, how about that front row!
    Wow, how about that fifth row?

    Like

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