Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo took the lead at Jerez de la Frontera from the start and held it to the end of Jerez’s 27 flowing laps, winning over Marc Marquez by 5.5 seconds.
“This time everything felt fine at the start of the race. I could brake late and enter very fast into the corners. I had a good corner speed and good grip in acceleration,” said Lorenzo.
This was a big improvement over expectations, as the Spanish weather had developed like a repeat of Argentina – too hot for the medium rear tire option to finish the race, and with the hard tire a low-performing question mark.
Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi wasted all of Friday trying to make the hard tire work as it had worked for him in Argentina, but it was to no avail.
“We thought that was the best tire for the race,” said Rossi. “Unfortunately, the performance is very low and the lap time isn’t good enough.”
Riders noted lack of rear grip. Said American Nicky Hayden: “The lack of rear grip made it difficult to get the bike turned.”
Scott Redding, on the Marc VDS Honda, said, “The bike is working well under braking and on corner entry, but it feels like we just lose a little bit when I first touch the throttle with the rear spinning.”
Track temperature was 80 to 84F range in the Friday morning session but spiked to 127 in the afternoon. Lorenzo’s fast lap from the morning stood all day as grip worsened. Second-fastest on Friday was Aleix Espargaro on the new Suzuki. World Champion Marc Marquez, who had suffered a broken little finger while practicing on the dirt (and had a pin installed earlier in the week), was third-fastest.
Lorenzo was clearly feeling 100 percent himself this weekend. And Jerez, with its Yamaha-favoring flowing layout, was just the place for him to end his string of off-the-podium finishes.
On Friday of race weekend, he commented: “Yamaha and I did great things together in the past. In the last two years I felt less good but we focused on the year and now it seems we’re coming back stronger. We will have to demonstrate it tomorrow and especially on Sunday.
“My mentality from this morning was to go for it and not think too much, just try to ride according to my instinct and it worked very well, especially in the morning.
“In the afternoon we tried the hard rear tire. That was very bad, with lots of spinning for everyone and I decided to go back to the softer (medium) one, since that one is much better in cold but also in warmer conditions.”
The Yamaha is optimized for steady turning at high corner speed, minimizing the role of acceleration and calling for the smoothest of transitions from braking to turning. The Hondas, on the other hand, are set up for late, violent braking, more sudden turning, and a quick lift onto the meat of the tire for early acceleration. Yamaha’s way works best in flowing or sweeping corners, and Honda’s way best in more stop-and-go corners.
On Saturday morning, Lorenzo ran a block of 10 laps with race-like consistency in the 1:39 range. In the afternoon’s FP4, Lorenzo was sandwiched between the Ducatis of Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso, with Marquez 4th and Cal Crutchlow 5th. Marquez, at one point, lost the front and could be seen protecting the hand with the damaged finger as he slid. Being mindful!
Qualifying was the stunner, as Lorenzo somehow found grip in the intense afternoon heat to hammer the course record with the first-ever 1:37 lap (a 1:37.910), which was 0.390 sec faster than Marquez and seven-tenths faster than his teammate (and points leader) Rossi.
Yet riders –especially those on Hondas—were noting that the high temperature was most affecting edge grip.
“From the start of the final free practice there was just no grip at the front at all,” said Redding. “As soon as I got on the edge of the tire the front was just going away from me, in almost every corner.”
Sunday morning’s warm-up, in cooler weather, saw a fresh mix of riders at the top—the two Espargaro brothers, Marquez, then the Yamahas of Lorenzo and Rossi.
Race day failed to steadily heat up as expected, instead becoming partly cloudy, dropping track temperature by significant 25 degrees. Rear tire choice ceased to be a question, with all the top runners choosing the medium.
At the flag, Lorenzo led. Only he and Marquez were able to each make laps 2 and 3 in the 1:38s. Most of the top riders made their fastest race time on lap 2 (with a couple on lap 4). Compare this with Argentina, where the fastest laps came on laps 20 and 25.
Lorenzo now began to pull away—at two- to three-tenths a lap. Lorenzo’s race pace was in the 1:39s, which he continued until his first 1:40, on Lap 16. Marquez’s first 1:40 came on lap 12. Rossi, after a single 1:40 on Lap 13, continued in the 1:39s in his pursuit of Marquez and second place.
But it was no go: “I had to risk too much,” said the Italian. “I got to within one second of Marc but I started to have some problems, some issues, so I thought it was too risky to try.”
Marquez, meanwhile, had made a decision of a similar kind:
“I tried to win. But today when I was behind Jorge and I saw the way he was riding, I thought ‘Okay, today is the day for Jorge. My place is second.’”
Ducati’s Dovizioso made a braking mistake entering the last turn on lap 1, running onto the gravel and rejoining in last place. His race was a long climb back to become 9th on lap 17. Teammate Iannone, completing lap 1 in 11th, similarly spent his race “on the ladder,” climbing to 6th on lap 16, where he then finished.
The Suzukis continue to impress, and not just in their excellent practice times: Aleix Espargaro finished a substantial 7th. There is a story here, and we’d like to hear it.
Cal Crutchlow, who received Honda’s chassis update at COTA, worked his way forward from an early 6th to finish 4th. As this is the LCR ride on which the once-so-promising Stefan Bradl failed to “get it,” Crutchlow’s task is stay with the top group as he did today—or, if possible, get amongst them. Bradl was never able to master the “quick-lift-and-accelerate” style of the other Honda men—perhaps because too much emphasis on late and hard braking gave him chronic problems with front grip, making early acceleration impossible.
It seems lately that gaps are appearing between tire hardness ranges. The medium tire is too soft to finish, and the hard one is too hard to grip. Is this because motorcycle set-ups have become more specialized? The weather too extreme? Some other cause?
Marquez’s Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa is still out because of his arm-pump surgery, and is expected back for Le Mans. There is a MotoGP test on the Monday following Jerez, but Marquez plans not to ride. “Honda has some things to test to try to improve some problems we have,” said Marquez. “But at the moment I prefer to try to recover for Le Mans.
“We know where we need to improve and try to be stronger at circuits like this one, with the flowing corners. Qatar and here is where we struggle more.
“When you are injured…it is more difficult. Like here, at the end of the race I was struggling more on the straights than in the corners…to (control) the wheelie and everything, I was struggling a lot.”
Rossi continues to lead the series with 82 points. Will Marquez arise and shake off his rivals, like a bear beset by dogs? Or might a three-way or four-way contest emerge?
“I am absolutely proud of myself and of the team that we finally delivered some extraordinary work, because we had some problems that have been beyond our control. Due to the lining of the helmet in Doha, my illness in Austin and the tires in Argentina we couldn‘t demonstrate our true potential. This time I could do it during the whole weekend and especially on braking. Sometimes it happens that on Sunday I feel a bit worse on braking than during the rest of the weekend, but today that didn‘t happen. I was able to brake really late, enter well into the corners, and carry good corner speed and acceleration, so everything was fine. When this happens you have to make profit of it and win the race. I was thinking about jumping into the lake, but I am 28 years old! It‘s not the same as when you are 23, so in the last second I decided to stop and go back to the bike. Today it‘s mother’s day so it‘s very special, because my mum saw the race and saw me winning and tomorrow I turn 28. It‘s important that we recover some points to Vale because he‘s been very strong at the beginning of this season and always on the podium. It‘s also important we have recovered the feeling and ability to go fast and now we have to enjoy these hours, this night and this victory!”
|1||LORENZO Jorge||99||SPA||25||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||44’57.246|
|2||MARQUEZ Marc||93||SPA||20||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||+5.576|
|3||ROSSI Valentino||46||ITA||16||Movistar Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||+11.586|
|4||CRUTCHLOW Cal||35||GBR||13||CWM LCR Honda||Honda||+22.727|
|5||ESPARGARO Pol||44||SPA||11||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||+26.620|
|6||IANNONE Andrea||29||ITA||10||Ducati Team||Ducati||+27.021|
|7||ESPARGARO Aleix||41||SPA||9||Team Suzuki Ecstar||Suzuki||+35.445|
|8||SMITH Bradley||38||GBR||8||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||Yamaha||+36.296|
|9||DOVIZIOSO Andrea||4||ITA||7||Ducati Team||Ducati||+41.933|
|10||HERNANDEZ Yonny||68||COL||6||Pramac Racing||Ducati||+51.072|
|11||VINALES Maverick||25||SPA||5||Team Suzuki Ecstar||Suzuki||+51.674|
|12||PETRUCCI Danilo||9||ITA||4||Pramac Racing||Ducati||+52.421|
|13||REDDING Scott||45||GBR||3||Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS||Honda||+53.052|
|14||BARBERA Hector||8||SPA||2||Avintia Racing||Ducati||+53.200|
|15||BAUTISTA Alvaro||19||SPA||1||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||+57.344|
|16||BRADL Stefan||6||GER||0||Athina Forward Racing||Forward Yamaha||+59.018|
|17||HAYDEN Nicky||69||USA||0||Aspar MotoGP Team||Honda||+1’01.506|
|18||LAVERTY Eugene||50||IRE||0||Aspar MotoGP Team||Honda||+1’03.163|
|19||MELANDRI Marco||33||ITA||0||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||+1’06.895|
|20||MILLER Jack||43||AUS||0||CWM LCR Honda||Honda||+1’14.182|
|21||DE ANGELIS Alex||15||RSM||0||Octo IodaRacing Team||ART||+1’26.832|
|22||DI MEGLIO Mike||63||FRA||0||Avintia Racing||Ducati||1 lap|
|23||AOYAMA Hiroshi||7||JPN||0||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||13 laps|
|24||BAZ Loris||76||FRA||0||Athinà Forward Racing||Yamaha Forward||19 laps|
|25||ABRAHAM Karel CZE||17||CZE||0||AB Motoracing||Honda||24 laps|
World Standing 2015
Rossi – 82
Dovizioso – 67
Lorenzo – 62
Marquez – 56
Iannone – 50