In the qualifying sessions, Dani Pedrosa managed to score pole position after being fast all weekend. Pedrosa did everything to precision as his fellow teammate Marc Marquez put everything on the line in attempt to take pole position away from him. Unfortunately, Marquez slid his bike out which lost a small section of time that left him in a very strong second place. Pedrosa and Marquez felt as though the battle was fun. “This was probably one of the best poles of my career because it was a really hard battle. It was a strategic end of the session with Marc there right behind me”. Marquez on the other hand was very smart in following Pedrosa to determine his strengths and weaknesses. It worked well for the current World Champion as his lap times were fast and the bike adjusting to the Jerez circuit in a more positive manner than in 2016.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales struggled a lot in the practice and qualifying sessions. Vinales qualified fourth and Rossi seventh. The lack of grip really hurt the two Yamaha riders and their use of the warm up session before the race start is where more miles were attempted to be made. The left hand side of the tyre is where Vinales had problems as it created lots of wheel spin and it did not seem to go away easily. The body language of Vinales is that of frustration and his temper is starting to show through more than expected. Whereas, Rossi, is feeling positive and wants to improve his corner entry precision and continue working hard as per usual. Rossi is optimistic of his chances even when he is not at 100%.
Cal Crutchlow very vocal in his opinions was happy with third place on the grid although did mention that the testing schedule was helping other Honda riders more than himself. Crutchlow felt as though the time testing in practice cost him valuable hours to get his bike set up properly. Crutchlow is hungry for victory and more success as an individual rider within a one set up team. In amongst the joy of getting on the front row, Crutchlow was stung by a wasp multiple times and had to get out of his leathers as soon as possible. Luckily, qualifying was over! With the debates over testing, Honda also introduced new anti-wheelie software to go with its updated engine and this progress is essential to their race start techniques. This new technology is guaranteed to help the Honda manufacturers in the long run. It will not be overnight success. Both Marquez and Pedrosa have complained about the anti-wheeling over the last couple of years and that if they can fix this problem, it will enhance their opportunities off the line.
Alternatively, Jorge Lorenzo has been focusing on his engine power and anti-wheelie management to maximise his ability to keep with the front-runners. In qualifying, Jorge Lorenzo put on a display of growth, as he was the top rider for Ducati as a manufacturer. He qualified eighth and his pace was similar to the riders in front of him. There is no doubt that Iannone gained by pulling a tow from Lorenzo during a lap of complete slipstream. In amongst this, Lorenzo did not have enough rear grip from the rear tyres and was unable to accelerate out of the corners with more speed. The most positive aspect of his qualifying sessions is that his performance is becoming more consistent and the progression towards the front is strong. Lorenzo wants to feel strong on the bike every time he goes out on a circuit and Jerez is proving that it is working well.
Overall, the rest of the grid was quite mixed although Jack Miller is making his mark with another strong qualifying result. He qualified tenth and felt very comfortable with a good abundance of confidence. Miller is in good shape at this stage of the World Championship and it is nice to see as he progresses further forward with Honda. With three Honda’s on the front row, we were in for a battle.
The start of the race was sensational with multiple riders taking off strong and Marquez, Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Iannone and Crutchlow pushing with complete focus on lap one. The race was jam packed with action from start to finish and had fans on their toes as the Honda, Ducati and Yamaha brands went up against one another. It was an unfortunate end to the race for Crutchlow, Iannone, Pol Espargaro, Tito Rabat, Jack Miller and Alvaro Bautista who did not finish the race. Miller and Bautista put on a display of anger where Miller pushed over Bautista after the race incident which ended up with Miller fined $1000 euros. Miller was in the top ten when Bautista took him out and the frustration got the better of him. This is very evident considering Miller is riding for his future.
Crutchlow on the other hand was pretty upset as he carried in some serious corner speed at turn eleven and when he opened the throttle, the front tyre closed and sent him rolling in to the kitty litter. It will be a regroup style of thinking for Crutchlow and the team as they look forward to Le Mans where more opportunities are guaranteed to arise. Fellow Honda rider Dani Pedrosa was in awe of winning in Jerez and feels like his chances of winning more races are coming together nicely. “It’s also a special honour to be the winner of the 3,000th Grand Prix race and be alongside riders like Mick (Doohan, who won race number 2,000) and Angel (Nieto, who won race number 1,000).”
Marquez had a few risky moments though kept his cool and the momentum going to finish in a strong second place. He was thinking of damage control and not putting himself in any danger because if he had done so, the World Championship may have seemed a bit further away. “I’m very happy with the result, to be just four points off the top and to be back in the battle for the Championship.” Alternatively, Lorenzo was so happy and excited finishing third and bringing home Ducati’s first podium finish with him on board the Desmo. “A podium here at Jerez, in front of all my fans and after three complicated races, is the best present I could receive for my thirtieth birthday. It’s a result that gives me more satisfaction than many wins I scored in the past, because it was very difficult to achieve.” Lorenzo said it loud and clear that those who doubted him will have to take back their words as he makes the journey with Ducati a very memorable one.
Finally, Vinales and Rossi had a weekend that they may want to forget. Vinales felt as though he lost crucial World Championship points and Rossi did everything he could just to stay on the bike. For Vinales it was a strange day. “In the warm up I was feeling really good, so precise in all the breaking points, but in the afternoon I didn't have the same feeling. I felt like I was going to crash in nearly every corner, so it was a really strange and difficult day for us.” Whereas Rossi mentioned that he thought in 2017 the Jerez track would be more favourable to their Yamaha set up. Unfortunately, the complete opposite took place. “We tried to work a lot, especially to fix the spin and acceleration, but unfortunately for the race we did worse. We tried to modify it a bit, but I was also in trouble with the front. At the end I had to slow down a lot and had a lot of vibration.” With that said, Rossi kept his title lead intact and now the plot thickens as Marquez and Pedrosa are right up there with Rossi! The World Championship is heating up and this is what makes two-wheel motorsport a bundle of fun. We head to Le Mans next where the weather is sure to throw a spanner in the works!