Marquez arrives on top as Lorenzo prepares to dress in red
Two wins in three races have Marc Marquez sitting pretty at the top of the MotoGP™ World Championship as Jorge Lorenzo announces his signing with Ducati for 2017 and 2018.
The Circuito de Jerez is a classic World Championship track, first holding a round in 1987 and hosting a number of titanic battles since. Be it Doohan and Criville, Rossi and Gibernau, Lorenzo and Pedrosa or Marquez and Lorenzo, Jerez always produces great racing between the biggest names in the sport. Races are won and lost in the final corner, Turn 13, named after Jorge Lorenzo and causing fans and riders alike to hold their breath as they tip in for the last time. Almost every corner on the circuit has seen some kind of memorable moment, the track dripping with Grand Prix history.
After struggling to get to grips with the new rules in testing, Honda and Marc Marquez have turned it around and currently lead the championship. The Spaniard is the only rider to finish on the podium in all three of the opening rounds, Marquez’s breakneck speed and consistency netting him 66 points as he returns home to Spain. His rivals have a lot of catching up to do in the coming rounds as the closest of them, Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) is 21 points behind.
Fortunately for his rivals, Marquez doesn’t enjoy the Jerez circuit as much as the Circuit of the Americas, the higher curbing not allowing him to take the lines he wants. Despite finding the curbing restrictive, Marquez has never finished off the podium in Jerez in the premier class and has been inside the top two for the last five years at the circuit. It will take a herculean effort to overthrow Marquez but as the first three rounds have shown, even the most experienced riders can make mistakes.
Jorge Lorenzo is one of the many riders trying to make up for a costly mistake, in his case the crash in Argentina. A second place in Austin proved that the fall was just a small blip and otherwise the Movistar Yamaha man is a serious title contender yet again. He was unable to challenge Marquez in Austin, but Lorenzo was under no delusion that Marquez would be almost unstoppable at the American track. Riding in front of his home fans for the first time in 2016 as the MotoGP™ World Champion, Lorenzo heads to the Gran Premio Bed Bull de España with no such reservations, hungry for victory.
Since joining the premier class in 2008, Lorenzo has only twice missed the podium in Jerez and has taken victory of three occasions. His 2015 win started a run of four straight victories, getting his championship challenge back on track after three races off the podium. The Majorcan is in a similar situation in 2016 as he sits 21 points behind Marquez in the championship standings and as the only rider who could lead the championship after Jerez other than Marquez.
Just ahead of the weekend it was announced that Jorge Lorenzo and Ducati would join forces for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Rumours have filled the paddock since the first round of the year and on Monday they were final put to rest as Yamaha announced they would wave goodbye to the three-time champion at the end of the 2016 season. He may be heading to pastures new in the coming season, but both Yamaha and Lorenzo remain focused on fighting for another title. Who Lorenzo’s Ducati teammate will be is still unknown.
Third in the championship is Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) who failed to finish for the first time since Aragon 2014 as he crashed out on the third lap in America. He was unhurt, but his championship challenge took a serious blow as he’s now 33 points back on Marquez. The last two years have seen Rossi finish on the podium in Jerez, his premier class podium count at the circuit an impressive 11, including six victories.
Rossi continues to look for improvements to his Yamaha, testing the rear fuel tank once again during the Americas GP. The part was originally used during testing, but changes to the Michelin tyres made it largely unnecessary for both Rossi and Lorenzo. More time is needed to evaluate the fuel tank fully and discover whether it may offer any advantages in the current climate.
Alongside Marquez, Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) is one of just seven riders to score points in all three races so far in 2016. With two sevenths and a sixth place, Espargaro holds fourth position in the World Championship and leads the Independent Team riders battle with 28 points. The Spaniard is still looking for his first MotoGP™ podium finish and could very well visit the box for the first time if his current form continues. Meanwhile his teammate, Bradley Smith ventures to Jerez with the aim of returning to the top ten. The Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas was a disaster for Smith who was forced to completely re-do the setting of his M1 after a horrid start to the weekend. Improvements were made and he was on track for more points in the race until he fell, remounting for 17th place.
The Americas GP may have ended due to a crash for Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), but he returns to Spain with the respect of the paddock and fans alike. After crashing at Turn 1 and taking Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) down with him, Pedrosa leapt to his feet to check on the Italian. He would then retire from the race and apologise to Dovizioso immediately once back in the pits, an incredible display of sportsmanship from Pedrosa.
After being taken out in two of the last three races, ‘Desmo Dovi’ has slipped to seventh in the championship and is in desperate need of some luck. As Dovizioso missed out on a potential third podium finish, Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) got his first as he finished third in Texas. This was Iannone’s first finish in five races and puts him a distant 11th in the championship with 16 points.
Aside from Pol Espargaro, Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing) has also taken huge benefit from the rule change achieving three straight top ten finishes and has already scored 25 points, just eight less than he scored throughout the entirety of 2015. Sixth in the championship also sees Barbera as the highest placed Ducati rider.
Having achieved their first double top five finish since returning to MotoGP™, Team Suzuki Ecstar remained in Austin for an extra day to run a brief test. Both Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaro made big steps forward in the test and are eager to get back on track to put what they learned into action. The pair continues to edge ever closer to returning Suzuki to the podium for the first time since 2008, a top three finish is certainly just around the corner.
Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) sits out once again for this event as he is still not fully recovered from the hand injury he sustained during the winter tests.
MotoGP™ Free Practice 1 commences at 09:55 Local Time on Friday the 22nd of April.
MotoGP™ World Championship Standings
1 – Marc Márquez (SPA) HONDA 66 points
2 – Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) YAMAHA 45 points
3 – Valentino Rossi (ITA) YAMAHA 33 points
4 – Pol Espargaró (SPA) YAMAHA 28 points
5 – Dani Pedrosa (SPA) HONDA 27 points
Lowes leads as top four split by 4 points
After three rounds, four riders have emerged as title favourites in the Moto2™ World Championship.
As ever the Moto2™ class produced thrilling racing in the first three round of the season. Thomas Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten), Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) and Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) have all taken victory and shown themselves as championship contenders. The paddock now heads to Jerez, a classic European circuit which is almost a world away from the likes of the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit and the Circuit of the Americas. With the first official test of the year having taken place there, riders will already have a basic setup ready which should see the field more competitive than ever.
Luthi was the first winner of the year, holding off Franco Morbidelli’s (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) assault in Qatar. Since his win he has not managed to finish above seventh place, the Swiss rider often coming strong towards the end of a season. In Austin he was involved in the heated battle for third and showed he certainly has the aggression to fight for the podium. Jerez is a circuit in which he has never won in any class, taking two top ten finishes in his last two visits but unable to recreate his run of three podiums at the track between 2010 and 2012. Luthi is fourth in the title hunt with 43 points.
Whilst Luthi had a strong start and has faded somewhat since, the opposite is true for Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) who seems to be getting quicker with each round. The Brit took consecutive second place finishes in Argentina and Austin and subsequently moved to the top of the championship table thanks to his consistency, collecting 47 points. In all three races Lowes has shown the pace needed to win races, but has been unable to close down the gap once the race leader broke away. Expect him to be stronger than ever in Jerez, he and the Gresini team having done multiple tests at the circuit during the winter. Lowes has also wowed fans with his sideways style; his entry into Dry Sac corner will no doubt be as spectacular as ever.
Only a single point behind Lowes is Alex Rins, the Spaniard finding his form once more in Austin after a somewhat slow start to the year. Rins is yet to score a point in Jerez while racing in the Moto2™ class and has only once finished on the podium, when he was third in the 2014 Moto3™ race. Not only will Rins be racing in Jerez, but his CEV Moto3™ team will also be competing on the world stage with two riders.
A point back on Rins and two from Lowes, Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) has gotten his title defence off to the best start of any defending champion in the class. At this same stage in 2015, Tito Rabat had just 17 points whereas Zarco sits third with 45 points. After his perfectly managed victory in Argentina, the Frenchman was unable to match the speed of Lowes and Rins in Austin but left pleased to have scored a podium nevertheless. Zarco’s best intermediate class finish at Jerez is a second place in 2015.
2015’s Jerez GP winner, Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) will be out to repeat his performance in 2016. After an unforced error in Qatar saw him crash out of a sizeable lead, the German bounced back to take third in Argentina before once again battling for the podium in Austin. Currently a dark horse for the title, victory in the Gran Premio Red Bull de España would certainly raise his profile in the eyes of many.
Another rider to watch will be Axel Pons (AGR Team) who topped pre-season testing in Jerez with an incredible 1’41.730 lap. The official Jerez Best Lap is a 1’42.706 set by Stefan Bradl in 2011. All of the top 11 in testing were under Bradl’s time.
Round four of the championship will also see the first Moto2™ wildcard of the year as Federico Fuligni makes his fourth World Championship appearance. He will mount the Kalex of Team Ciatti, the same team in which he competes in the FIM CEV Repsol Moto2™ European Championship with.
Free Practice 1 begins at 10:55 Local Time on Friday the 22nd of April for the intermediate class.
Moto2™ World Championship Standings
1 – Sam Lowes (GBR) KALEX 47 points
2 – Alex Rins (SPA) KALEX 46 points
3 – Johann Zarco (FRA) KALEX 45 points
4 – Thomas Lüthi (SWI) KALEX 43 points
5 – Dominique Aegerter (SWI) KALEX 35 points
Tight at the top as Moto3™ arrives in Europe
South African Brad Binder and Jorge Navarro sit close at the head of the championship as Romano Fenati aims to carry momentum from his Austin victory.
The first three races of the 2016 Moto3™ World Championship have produced three different winners in three very different races. In Qatar Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold) won a classic drag to the line. In Argentina Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia) put Malaysia on the racing map by crushing his experienced opposition in tricky conditions. Then in Austin, Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) produced a calm and mature ride to take his first win in almost a year. But all three are still chasing one rider: Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo).
After a week off the Championship now heads back to Europe and to Jerez, a circuit all the riders and teams are intimately familiar with. Not only was Jerez the stage for the first pre-season test, many teams also chose to run a number of private tests at the Andalusia track. With ample data from testing and previous races, expect a number of new names to be in the podium battle. 2015’s race in Jerez saw the top three split by just 0.3 seconds.
On the podium in all three races, Binder’s consistency has given him the championship lead with 52 points. He’s yet to take a win in the lightweight class, but aims to change that in Jerez. In 2015 Binder finished third behind Danny Kent and Miguel Oliveira in Jerez, the pair have now moved up to the Moto2™ World Championship and once again Binder heads into a weekend as an early favourite. After two third place finishes where luck played a role, a return to battling for victory could cement him as the title favourite.
Much like Binder, Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) is still-hunting his first World Championship win. He looked set to take victory in Austin until two mistakes saw him drop back to a safe second. The Spaniard is sat on 49 points, three back on Binder and is out for his third consecutive podium in 2016. Navarro is the only rider in the top four of the championship to have not been competing full time in the Moto3™ class since its inception in 2012.
Winner in Austin and twice a winner in Jerez, there’s few with finer historic form than Romano Fenati in Jerez. In 2012 Fenati won the Spanish GP in just his second ever Grand Prix appearance but has struggled for consistency since. However, in 2016 Fenati has seemed a changed man, gone are his Qualifying woes and in Austin he produced a calm and mature ride, waiting for his chance to pass Navarro rather than relentlessly attacking him. Taking a third career victory at the Gran Premio Red Bull de España would do wonders for Fenati’s title campaign. The Italian has 38 points and is third, but is already 14 points behind Binder.
Since taking their victories, Antonelli and Pawi have been unable to re-create the magic. Neither rider scored in America, Antonelli crashing out after an incredible ride from 30th place to the top ten. Both have ample experience in Jerez, Antonelli from years in the World Championship and Pawi from testing and a season in the FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship and each need to return to the points, especially Antonelli.
In 2015 the FIM CEV Repsol Moto3™ Junior World Championship round in Jerez saw Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46) take his first and only win of the season in a thrilling battle. He won the race from pole, his pole time faster than the World Championship pole time from that same year. Already the Italian has impressed many with his first three races, taking two top tens and proving he can stay with the front group.
Both Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Joan Mir (Leopard Racing) will also be looking to capitalize on their CEV experience and emulate Pawi’s incredible Argentina ride. So far both riders have scored points twice and crashed once, but the familiar setting of Jerez should give them a chance to shine. In 2015 Mir finished Race 1 in the CEV on the podium in third before crashing out in the second race.
The return to Europe also sees the return of wildcards lining up alongside the established grid. In Jerez Alex Rins’ Procercasa – 42 Motorsport team will compete in the World Championship with French rider Enzo Boulom and Italian Davide Pizzoli, two up and coming riders. Pizzoli makes his second World Championship appearance, having raced in Aragon in 2015.
Free Practice 1 begins at 09:00 Local Time on Friday the 22nd of April.
Moto3™ World Championship Standings
1 – Brad Binder (RSA) KTM 52 points
2 – Jorge Navarro (SPA) HONDA 49 points
3 – Romano Fenati (ITA) KTM 38 points
4 – Niccolò Antonelli (ITA) HONDA 31 points
5 – Khairul Idham Pawi (MAL) HONDA 25 points