2015 Jerez MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Lorenzo's Unappreciated Excellence, And Pushing Ducati's Buttons

One of the greatest privileges of my job is to stand at trackside and watch the riders up close. It is the ideal antidote to the malaise which can affect journalists like me who tend to spend too much time indoors, in the press room, in the back of garages, and in team trucks and hospitality units, endlessly talking to people in pursuit of information. Walking out to Nieto, Peluqui and Crivillé, turns 9, 10 and 11 at Jerez, savoring the passion of the fans cheering as their favorite riders pass by, observing each rider closely as they pass, trying to see if I can see anything, learn anything, understand anything about the way the best motorcycle racers in the world handle their machines.

There is plenty to see, if you take the trouble to look. This morning, during warm up, I watched the riders brake and pitch their machines into turn 9, give a touch of gas to turn 10, before getting hard on the gas out of turn 10 and onto the fast right handers of 11 and 12. In the transition from the left of turn 8 to the right of turn 9, you see the fast riders move slowly across the bike, while the slow riders move fast. You see them run on rails through turns 9 and 10, before forcing the bike up onto the fatter part of the tire while still hanging off the side out of 10 and heading off to 11. You see the extreme body position on the bike, almost at the limit of physics. It is hard to see how a rider can hang off the bike further, outside hands barely touching the handlebars, outside feet almost off the footpegs. Photos and video barely start to do the riders justice. To experience it you need to see it from the track, and from the stands and hillsides that surround it.

Of all the riders to watch around Jerez, none is as spectacular as Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo is spectacular not for his exaggerated mobility, but rather for the lack of it. He slides around the Yamaha M1 like a python, oozing from side to side, his motion almost invisible to the naked eye. One moment he is hanging off the left side of the bike, then next he is over on the right, and you find yourself with no clear memory of seeing him go from one side to the other. He appears almost motionless, while the bike underneath him chases round the track at immense speed. He looks like a special effects montage, Lorenzo having been filmed in slow motion, sitting atop a motorcycle being shown at double speed. It is a truly glorious spectacle.

Tragically for Jorge Lorenzo, the television cameras (even the astonishing 1000 fps ones being used so well by Dorna at various points around the track) fail utterly to capture his magic. In the flesh, Lorenzo is one of the most majestic riders to watch. On TV, it simply looks flat and boring. All the excitement you feel when seeing him on track disappears.

Which explains why Jorge Lorenzo's victory at Jerez seemed so flat. Make no mistake, what Lorenzo did on Sunday was extraordinary, one of the most commanding and imposing displays of motorcycle racing the world has ever seen. Though the conditions helped – light layer of cloud helped keep track temperatures well below the blistering heights of previous years – Lorenzo chased round Jerez 27 times fully 20 seconds faster than anyone ever has before. He shattered his own lap record by over eight tenths of a second. He left Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi gasping for breath. Lorenzo's win was the perfect way to cap a perfect weekend.

Such perfection was not particularly entertaining to watch on TV, however. After two thrilling races in Moto3 and Moto2, the MotoGP race was a bit of a snoozer. Lorenzo got away at the front, Marc Márquez clinging heroically to his tail for four laps before being forced to let the Movistar Yamaha rider go. Twenty two inch-perfect laps later, Lorenzo emerged victorious, troubled only briefly by a vibration from the rear wheel around lap 17. He cut his deficit to championship leader and Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi to just 20 points. Lorenzo is not only back on the top step of the podium, he is back in the hunt for the title. The race may not have been great to watch, but it has done marvels for the excitement in the championship.

Behind Jorge Lorenzo, the question was whether Marc Márquez would stay the distance and hold the chasing Valentino Rossi off for the second spot on the podium. That Márquez could do just that was down to a couple of factors. In the first instance, because Rossi got held up by Pol Espargaro for just long enough to allow Márquez to open a gap of over a second to the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha man. Rossi took two and a half laps to get past Espargaro, by which time he had left himself with a little more to do than he wanted. Rossi opened the chase for the Repsol Honda man, but he lacked a bit of speed to close the gap. That was down in part to the Yamaha man's assumption on Friday that the harder of the two rear tires would be the best option, losing time to figure out that it was in fact not.

But Marc Márquez deserves most of the credit for his second place behind Lorenzo. The Repsol Honda man managed his race perfectly, resting his arms when he could, then pushing on when Rossi started to close and reopen the gap, getting all that he could out of the race. Márquez knew he could not match the pace of Lorenzo, but to claw back points from Rossi was a valuable prize. Márquez had suffered a little with his injured little finger, but his biggest problem had come from arm pump in the opposite arm. To take the pressure of his injured left finger, Márquez had to over stress his right, with arm pump as a result. Márquez managed the second half of the race by backing off to relax, and give his arm a fraction to recover, then pushing on once Rossi got too near. If Márquez' Argentina race had been characterized by impetuousness, his Jerez race was one of measured maturity.

Márquez was not the only rider with arm pump. After his fast start, Pol Espargaro dropped backwards, as he too was plagued by problems at a very physical track. Espargaro blamed it largely on himself. He had pushed too hard too early to try and stay with Rossi after being overtaken. The two long right handers, followed by the harsh hairpin in the final corner, stressed his arms a little too much, and never gave them a chance to recover. Espargaro had been a little too determined to stick with Rossi, suffering the consequences of getting over excited.

Espargaro's problems allowed Cal Crutchlow to get past and into fourth once again. Like Rossi, Crutchlow felt that he had lost too much time in the early battles, a problem which could have been avoided if he had qualified better. By the time he was past Espargaro and chasing Rossi, he felt that he had to be careful not to destroy his rear tire. Managing that meant he closed on Rossi, then dropped back again, as he cosseted his tire to the end of the race.

The Jerez race turned into something of a nightmare for the factory Ducati team. First, Andrea Iannone failed to get off the line, with no apparent explanation. After the race, it emerged that Iannone had accidentally pressed the wrong button sequence, engaging the rain mode instead of launch control for the start. That meant that Iannone's GP15 was circulating under the impression that it was fitted with rain tires and on a wet track. With rain mode changing everything, from traction control to horsepower to anti-wheelie to engine braking, it was impossible to be competitive. To finish sixth is an incredible achievement, given the circumstances.

The first sign that something was wrong was the fact that Iannone's rain light had come on, the red LED rear light fitted to every MotoGP bike for use in the rain. Iannone plummeted down the order, before the adaptive settings of the Ducati started to figure out there was more grip than expected, and modify the setting a little bit. That helped, but did not fix the issue completely. It did allow Iannone to fight his way forward and cross the finish line in sixth. Ducati project leader Paolo Ciabatti hailed his performance as 'exceptional', in explaining what had gone wrong.

"On our bike, if you look at our left handlebar, there are all these switches, which are actually the switches that Marelli gives to all the Open teams," Ciabatti explained. "We use them since the beginning of last year, because we think they are useful, and they have a lot of functions. So basically, in the middle, you have a yellow button, which is the mode, and then on top, you have a blue button, which is the launch control. So to change the map, the mechanic will push this yellow button for I think 5 seconds, in order to go into that menu, and then from there. If you press there, and you have a dry map, and you keep pressing it, it goes into wet automatically. Then the launch control, you have to press it for 1 second before it's engaged, and the dashboard will say "launch control" or it will say "wet". For whatever reason, and I think he has already sufficiently apologized for his mistake, because mainly it's spoiled the race, he was able to do a very good race, and considering he rode the race with a wet, or rain map, I think he did an exceptional race, for the whole race with a rain map."

Why did Iannone not simply switch back from rain mode to dry mode? The system is protected from doing so, to avoid riders doing it accidentally. Selecting the dry mode in the middle of a downpour is a sure-fire way of getting a one-way ticket into low earth orbit. "To disengage it is complex, and especially when you are already a little bit in a situation where you have to manage a race which is going in a different way than what you expected, and you are 11th, starting from the front row of the grid. So, anyway, he didn't really have time to do the procedure while riding the bike at that speed," Ciabatti said. That this was possible is solely because Ducati had never even thought it might be possible for someone to accidentally engage rain mode. They realize now that there is no reason for this to happen, usually, this mode is selected by a mechanic on the grid or in the pits. Expect Ducati's electronics to be a lot harder to put into rain mode by the time the paddock rolls up at Le Mans.

Iannone's teammate, Andrea Dovizioso, also had a tough weekend. Dovizioso had suffered a glitch with the engine braking system, forcing him to run straight on into the final corner. That left him dead last once he rejoined, so to fight his way forward to ninth is quite an achievement.

At Suzuki, a frustrated Aleix Espargaro mourned a lack of grip, despite having opted for the softer of the two options. The bike was still lacking some grip on corner exit, Espargaro said, and this, more than plain horsepower, was what was holding the Suzuki GSX-RR back. Both Espargaro and Viñales have new parts to test on Monday, including a swing arm, a new software package, and other sundry parts. By the time they leave here, Suzuki should be more competitive.

If the MotoGP race was barely memorable, that cannot be said of Moto3 and Moto2. Danny Kent won a thriller of a Moto3 race, holding off a very stiff challenge from Fabio Quartararo, Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira to take victory. This was a much bigger deal than most of his races, as Kent has previously been able to escape at the front. This time, he had to participate in a four-way tussle before emerging victorious.

It nearly didn't happen: Quartararo entered the final corner determined to win, and attempting a dive up inside into the final corner. It was a little too much to ask, however, the Frenchman locking up the rear and nearly taking Kent out. At 16, Quartararo is showing incredible maturity for his age.

Moto2 was not quite the barnstormer which Moto3 had turned out to be. Tito Rabat was robbed of second after Alex Rins tried a similar move to Quartararo in Moto3, but failed to save it this time. That put Rins out of contention, and Rabat heading home with a third place rather than a second. Victory went to Jonas Folger, once again a rider after Jorge Lorenzo's heart. Fast, smooth, and lonely. Johann Zarco bagged second, having profited from Rins' mistake. Rabat finished third, but still happy. Finally the reigning champion had had a good weekend, his head having been turned round by the smallest thing: his crew chief and his data engineer having gone out to Almeria, and having helped him find a little more speed for his training.

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Comments

After a "difficult" first three races that saw his teammate romp to two wins and a third, while Jorge suffered, it's time for Jorge to wake up---and he did! Not the most exciting race (after the last three), but Jorge was inch perfect. The season is still WAY young---gonna be good...

Why do they allow it? There's already too much technology in racing, but I'd have thought any rider worth his salt could get a bike off the line.
Tito Rabat wasn't robbed of victory, it was 2nd place. I hope that Jonas Folger can continue running at the front, he's been a good rider since his first appeared, sadly he's also an unlucky rider.
Is there any news on the Lowes tyre problem?

Rabat corrected. Funny thing is I had corrected it in the following sentence, but not that one.

Lowes believes he had a bad tire. Was just sliding absolutely everywhere. Knew he was in trouble.

I saw his taillight on during the race and I was wondering why he was the only one. That clears up that mystery.

Brilliant write-up.

Also: you used the word "cosseted" in a motorcycle race report. You win the internet this fine Sunday ;)

Boring race indeed, but happy to have JL back on form (not that there was much doubt he would bounce back).

I agree, Jack is unfortunately seeming to confirm the doubters who rubbished his bold move up direct from Moto 3. I believed he'd prove them wrong, but with extra private tests at Sepang pre-season and four races done with only one decent result, perhaps Stoner's infamous words "Your ambition exceeds your ability" are starting to apply to his young compatriot.

I still hope and believe it will come good for Miller, but time is marching on and he doesn't seem to be profiting from the special Honda support or from being in a good team with a fast, experienced co-rider. He seems to have all the ingredients for stardom, it would be great to see them coming to fruition. But if his season continues like this he'll be lucky to get a half decent ride in Moto 2, let alone Moto GP next year. C'mon Jack!

Marc Marquez somehow seems to have made it some kind of thumb rule to get onto a MotoGP machine and decimate the opposition. But if you set him aside for a moment, the lesser mortals need sometime to get used to the rigours of GP racing. It took the great Valentino Rossi a couple of seasons to sort himself out after his infamous adventure at Ducati. Miller is still a kid and probably puffed himself a little unnecessarily because he got a double promotion. Probably needs to set himself some realistic targets considering that he is riding a machine (even if it is the open Honda) that is four times more powerful than the last motorcycle he rode. I am sure if he can sort things out properly in his head he will get there. I hope Shuhei Nakamoto is not breathing down his neck and telling him to pick up or pack up. The kid probably needs a mentor who can be with him and help him get a perspective on things. I have seen many careers coming to a premature end due to poor or complete lack of mentoring. Some people can do it themselves, some need some help and maybe the young Miller falls into the second category.

And has completely disproved the doubters who thought the move from Moto3 wasn't possible by already finishing as top open rider in only his third race. In fact he leads all the other open class Hondas, including Nicky Hayden, in the championship points. Anybody that thinks that is a disappointing effort is smoking crack.

Of course there is going to be the odd race where Miller struggles because he's still learning how to set the bike up for different conditions. It's his 4th MotoGP race ever. At places like Jerez he starts further behind riders like Hayden who have raced there in the top class for over a decade and know what the track requires. But as he builds experience and confidence he will get better at finding a set up that works, as long as he doesn't listen to fools that want to write him off as soon as he has a bad race.

Also, its worth remembering that the open class Honda is a turd. At Jerez even the Aprilia had more pace.

Miller has also set fastest Open Honda race lap in 3 out 4 races so far this year, including Jerez.

Well if you believe this site Shuhei Nakamoto himself recently described Miller's performance so far as 'a little disappointing'. Never met the bloke but my guess is smoking crack isn't high (ha!) on his agenda. My opinion's not worth 2 bob but Nakamoto's is, especially if you ride for hrc.

Nakamoto also said things like "lucky podium" to Marco Simocheli. It is his way to try and modivate them.

made Marquez get on and do testing today. Sorry but that's not exactly brilliant with your injured rider. If he falls down and makes it worse, is that good? He's their only shot at a title. I'd think twice before aggravating that injury and taking VERY unnecessary risks. Especially with a young champion like Marc who should have many more in his future unless he was to rack up injuries or a serious one.

As for Miller, he's doing fine. He's learning which will include mistakes and bad races. He jumped from just above a pedal pusher to a slightly under powered rocket ship. Give him time to adjust his rudder and fins before expecting traveling amongst the aliens And he's on the RC213V RS. I think the RS is for really slow.

RS = Rat Shit in Australia.
A derogatory slang term for no good.

If Paolo Ciabatti's description of the process of engaging and disengaging certain power mappings is indeed accurate I think they (or Marelli) need to hire an 'ease of use' systems engineering consultant to sort out that shizzle. Never let programmers or software engineers design interfaces!!

agreed ... i believe there is great need for an UX specialist with all the options (and data shown) for the rider ...

It is true there was not much action shown. But I firmly place that blame on the directors. There were some good tussles going on down the list that they caught the tail end of instead of at least the passes as they happened. Could have followed Dovi (2nd in the championship)I through the pack instead of just showing the monotonous laps over and over of the front three, (except for when Rossi seemed to be catching Marquez).

Here is another thing. Why not do split pictures? A small scree. Showing the leaders the big one showing the action. Or vice versa. Definitely could use that when they show pit reactions.

I enjoyed the race. It was good to see Lorenzo back on it. But for some reason he still does not feel like the ominous force he used to seem like from my couch. Hope he maintains this co fidence. He is still one of the greats in my eyes.

Unfortunately, I think it is included in the "multi-screen" package but not the generic basic videopass package.

$$Cha-ching$$

On the bright side, you can choose your own split screens instead of letting a producer dictate what it is.

Still, I will send them an email by clicking on the support link (bottom right of the motogp home page) and asking them to do split screens. The most they can say is no or buy a multi-screen pass. Maybe they will do it in order to show Marquez twice at the same time in Spain and Rossi in Italy while there is action elsewhere. lol

Now if JL99 stays fast and Marquez and Dani get/stay healthy and Rossi got his tiny allotment of tire choice/set up mistakes for the year out of the way and Iannone gets some after school tutoring on the electronics controls and Dovi stops finding every single glitch and gremlin ... on every bike he has ever ridden ... in every track condition possible ... maybe we will get a proper 6 way battle royale. That would be delightful.

What a pity Andrea Iannone had that problem. Having him in the mix near the front would have livened up the race a lot. He must have been in a virtual state of panic once he clocked what had happened in the intense few seconds on the grid before the red lights came on and the bikes roared away. As Gigi said, well done to him on the damage limitation, but he must be rueing what might have been. I think that when the stars align for Iannone and his GP15 this year he will win a race, or two. He has the raw talent, the bike, a great team and co-rider to learn from. I think it will all come together, sooner rather than later, as his front row grid spot portended. To have him mixing it with Marquez, Rossi and Lorenzo will be great to watch.

Congratulations to Lorenzo, magnificent. Commiserations to Scott Redding, hope today's test finds the problem.

Lorenzo was trying super hard to regain his confidence, his post race was cocky even. I just hope he can sustain it because I'd love to see races like Motegi when he embarassed Honda. The broken flag thing made me chuckle. Also has to suck when you win and the crowd chants for Rossi!

Evidently Fabio Quartararo has yet to meet a gap he didn't like in his 16 years.

This kid is a racer. I will be surprised if he doesn't snag a win or two this year as he gains experience.

Did anyone notice how the top Moto3 riders were using bits of riding style from Moto2 and MotoGP? A few were (trying to) back in the rear, others were leaning off the bikes and taking lines similar to MotoGP riders. Amazing, truly amazing.

Moto3 (and the old 125cc class) used to often be the fun to watch over-enthusiastic kids taking big chances and often bang fairings. Yesterday's race at Jerez was one of the best Moto3 races I think I have ever seen with the top riders using racecraft rather than testosterone to get ahead. I look forward to watching these young men as they advance up the ranks.

You could give a little more credit to Zarco, coming back from 14th after the first corners and clawing back more than 5 seconds to get on the back of Rins and Rabat's wheel by the last lap. He also very shrewdly position himself for the last corner taking a wide entry line that would emphasize exit speed for the run to the line as he knew full well that Rins would dive to the inside of Rabat and that Rabat would take an inside line to defend that corner, both sacrificing some exit speed.

Zarco clearly deserves massive credit, he had a fantastic race. I wanted to write more about the Moto2 and Moto3 races, but it was very late and I was exhausted. The two classes deserve more coverage than I can give them. I shall maybe write an extra piece about them later on.

Not convinced that Quartararo's move on the final corner is a good indicator of his maturity, if I'm honest :D Good on him for keeping it upright though!

Maturity and racecraft can come with time. As someone who grew up racing 3-5 times a week on California dirt tracks in the late 60's and early 70's I saw a lot of guys who were very fast, and not aggressive. They were still Novices or Juniors 3 years in. Quartararo has that aggression. I don't think that's something you can learn, or teach. The rest of it is.

IMO, what separates riders like Rossi and Marquez (and Stoner) from Dani or Jorge is the aggression. They love the battle and are not at all afraid of it. I see that in Quartararo too. And I love watching it.

Definitely Lorenzo can, but often he won't, is my opinion. I think with his confidence a bit down, he'll tend not to and would rather drop back and protect his finish than fight and risk it all. Also, a rider on top like Marquez can risk and possibly take a couple of crashes and it's the most exciting thing in the world, but if Jorge did it, he'd not be treated well by the fans.

That's as good a description of Lorenzo's riding style as I've read anywhere. He really is "Mantequilla". I watched him from by the bridge at COTA's T3-4-5 chicane on the Saturday of the Austin race weekend, and any observer could clearly see the difference between him and everybody else. Many of the younger riders and those newer to COTA looked almost under-confident coming uphill blind into 3 and aiming for a horizon mark to pass through 4 and 5 - Lorenzo just rocketed through there like he was on a rail, the bike shifting under him, same line each time, as if he was on a freeway thinking about the grocery shopping. If you're in the right place to watch him, his Zen appears: his style is No Style, and the bike "flows like water" (to borrow a Bruce Lee-ism) beneath him. It is something special to see, if you know HOW to look for it.

The way Jorge moves on the bike really is that smooth, and takes a lot of leg strength. And that's why he can carry such corner speed, he doesn't upset the chassis AT ALL in turns. When his set up is good he's darn near unbeatable,but the flip side is when his set up is slightly off and the chassis starts moving a bit he's not one to manhandle the bike to get the last couple of tenths out of it like Marquez can or Stoner used to. Dani is very similar to Jorge in that regard and I've always thought the Yamaha might actually suit him more than the Honda for that reason. Rossi is also more like Lorenzo than Marc in rising style, if Jorge is at one end of the scale and Marc at the other. Stoners natural inclination was to ride loose but he was very smooth when he had to be. Marc is of course smooth to a point as well but it world be interesting to see how he'd go on the M1, my hunch is that he'd have to adjust his style a lot, particularly that dirt tracker corner entry technique.

is Zen appears: his style is No Style, and the bike "flows like water" (to borrow a Bruce Lee-ism)

I don't remember if it was in Faster, or Fastest. But Lorenzo did quote Bruce Lee saying exactly that. The way he manipulates a bike through corners is very underrated by those not on the track with him. But for those racing against him he is almost invincible when he finds the rhythm he wants.