after a three week break (which felt like six), the circus that is motogp arived in southern spain for the second round of the champioship and first round on european soil. this was a race for spanish supremacy with no quarter given. the outcome was surprising in more ways than one.
i consider this race to be the proper first round of the season since conditions in qatar were so unfamiliar. world champ casey stoner (marlboro ducati) dominated the historic night race and must’ve had the paddock scratching their heads in disbelief.
jerez is quite the opposite to qatar. first, the race run during the day and, second, the track layout is much tighter with only a 600 m back straight (400 m less than losail).
the atmosphere is also totally different. the spanish are notorious for their exuberance and fanaticism when it comes to motorsport whereas the arabic culture is subdued and austere.
but i digress… let’s get on with the racing!!!
the weekend got going with no real surprises in fp1. however, things started getting interesting in the afternoon session. riders began pushing and the top 12 were within a second of each other with spanish rookie jorge lorenzo (fiat yamaha) leading. several riders went down, in particular pre-event favorite stoner who suffered a heavy fall when he tucked the front in turn 7, a fast left-hander that leads into the stadium section. this incident was, unfortunatly, a sign of things to come. ultimately, he ended the day on the backfoot only 6th fastest. the resilient valentino rossi (fiat yamaha) looked to be back in good form just 0.04 sec behind his teammate.
sat morning began well for another spanish rider. dani pedrosa (repsol honda) bounced back from a dismal fri to lead the morning session with americans colin edwards (tech 3 yamaha) and nicky hayden (repsol honda) nipping at his heels. stoner couldn’t overcome his woes with his gp8 suffering handling problems throughout the weekend.
qp was fantastic!!! lots of action. bikes looked like unbroken horses, bucking and sliding under their courageous riders. a wily edwards showed everyone why he’s still on a motogp bike by saving an inevitable low-side in turn 1 with sheer grit and determination. genius!!!
lorenzo proved to be too much and set a blistering couple of laps that broke the lap record by almost a second (and they thought the 800’s would slow things down). pedrosa fueled by hate for his compatriot was second fastest. edwards on a severely underpowered bike rounded out the front row. rossi suffered an “electrical” problem on his final qualifier and could only muster a 2nd row start. and stoner continued to struggle with setup leading the 3rd row of the grid.
i hate to say it, but the beginning and end were the only real moments to watch in this race. the rest was just filler. jerez was like a bottlerocket – sparks and anticipation while the fuse burns, lift off, nothing…, nothing…, then a raucous BANG!!! at the end. u’ll see what i mean if u check the lap chart.
dani blitzed the field taking the holeshot with teammate hayden in tow. in addition, stoner got a great start rocketing up to 3rd by turn 2. hayden dropped back to 4th after almost missing turn 2 while lorenzo took advantage of it passing the stoner and hayden in one fell swoop snatching 2nd. hayden regained his composure and was putting the heat back on stoner. rossi dropped a position to 6th on the start (he’s never been great out of the blocks) but eventually recovered and slipped past ex-teammate edwards in turn 1 on the 2nd lap. stoner still lacking front end confidence had a moment at curva dry sac and ran it wide and hayden then subsequently hung him out to dry (har! har! har!). at the next corner, rossi, smelling blood, dive-bombed past the out of shape ducati relegating stoner to 5th (it gets worse…). meanwhile, pedrosa is pulling out at gap on lorenzo. rossi then outbrakes hayden into turn 8 while stoner, pushing way too hard, can’t make the corner and runs it into the gravel (same place where he lost the front on the previous lap). stoner rejoined but at the tail end of the pack. edwards again couldn’t hang and was getting passed left-and-right until he ultimately crashed out on the 5th lap. rossi was then on a mission to catch lorenzo who pulled out a lead of 0.4 sec (pedrosa was a further 1 sec ahead). curva sito pons (turn 5) must be a favorite of rossi’s because he again put the pass on lorenzo there on the 3rd lap. phew!
so by the 6th lap, the race settles with only andrea dovisioso (jir/scot honda) moving up the field and a sick james toseland (tech 3 yamaha) literally roughing up chris vermeulen (rizla suzuki). we haven’t mentioned loris capirossi (rizla suzuki) yet and he’s been traipsing around in 5th since the 3rd lap when casey ran off. speaking of which, stoner had another moment in, u guessed it, curva dry sac. he didn’t lose a spot and eventually ended the day in a paltry 11th place.
basically, the top 4 didn’t change for the the last 24 laps. not much happened behind them, either, until the last couple laps. rossi almost made a rookie mistake and thought that the penultimate lap was actually the final lap. luckily, he kept his head down and didn’t lose a position as lorezo was not too far behind. his crew was probably having a heart attack.
capirossi lost a few places and was down to 6th as he passed the white flag. toseland and dovi, respectively, got past him while john hopkins (kawasaki) was gaining on the group. it all went down at the hairpin that leads to the finish on the last lap. as toseland and dovi were having at it running wide and opening the door, a wily capirossi squeezed by to take 5th demonstrating to the rookies how it’s done! respect ur elders, young-uns. surprisingly, hopkins also capitalized on the mistake and pipped dovi at the line for 6th. fantastic stuff!!!
pedrosa won by a comfortable margin (he had a lead of over 4 sec on rossi) with rossi and lorenzo comprising the podium. unbelievably, dani aka pedrobot showed some emotion as he crossed the finish line. he is human!!!
it’s getting late so i’ll have my “analysis” of the race tomorrow…