May 3rd, 2015
Qualifying confirmed what we had already seen on Friday: the old Jorge Lorenzo is back. The Movistar Yamaha rider was fastest in FP1 and FP2 yesterday. He was fastest in FP3 in the cool of Saturday morning, and he was quick in the heat of FP4. He wasn't fastest in the one session of truly free practice for the MotoGP class – Andrea Iannone put in a quick lap on the Ducati, proving once again that the GP15 is an outstanding motorcycle – but he posted five laps faster than Iannone's second-quickest lap. Then, during qualifying, he set a pace which no one could follow. Using a three-stop strategy, copied shamelessly from Marc Márquez last, Lorenzo posted a 1'38.2 on his second rear tire, then became the first man to lap the Jerez circuit in less than 1'38, stopping the clock at 1'37.910.
That is a mind-bendingly fast lap. Especially given the conditions. Set in the middle of the afternoon, in the blistering heat: air temperatures of over 30°, and track temps of nearly 50°. Set on a track which is notoriously greasy when it's hot, offering the worst grip of the year, especially now that Misano has been resurfaced. Set on asphalt that was laid eleven years ago, and has been used very intensively ever since. If there was ever a time and a place to break the pole record at Jerez, Saturday afternoon was not it. Nobody told Jorge Lorenzo, though.
Lorenzo is not just fast over a single lap, but has consistently run a faster race pace than anyone else has looked capable of managing. He is looking very much like the Lorenzo of old: fast, smooth, utterly consistent, unstoppable. If he gets a good start, it is hard to see who could stay with him for 27 laps. He told the press conference he will be trying to escape on the first lap. It looks like that will be the last the rest of the field see of him.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying at Jerez:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
Marc Marquez has already lost one of his engines from his allocation of five for the season. The engine in the bike Marquez was forced to park against pit wall during qualifying at Austin can no longer be used, Marquez admitted to MotoMatters.com.
The engine problem occurred during Marquez' qualifying run at the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin. As Marquez was about to start a hot lap, he saw a warning light come on on the dashboard of his Honda RC213V. The world champion had been told by his HRC engineers that if he saw that light, he was to stop as quickly as possible, which he duly did. The problem forced him to sprint back to his pit box, leap on his spare bike, and race out of the pits for a last-gasp dash for pole. It resulted in a spectacular lap, which gave him pole position, from which he went on to take a convincing win.
The engine from that bike was taken from Austin straight to Japan, where HRC engineers examined it as best they could, without breaking the seals. After the press conference at Jerez, I asked Marquez if he had heard whether the problem was with the engine or the gearbox. "I don't know," Marquez replied, "but we cannot use it any more."
Andrea Iannone was the fastest MotoGP man during FP4, putting the factory Ducati on top of the leaderboard, ahead of Jorge Lorenzo. Iannone did not have the race pace of Lorenzo, though, the Movistar Yamaha rider hammering out lap after lap in the mid 1'39s. Andrea Dovizioso ended the session in 3rd on the other factory Ducati.
Marc Marquez ended the session in 4th, despite suffering a small crash halfway through the session. Marquez lost the front in Turn 1, but could not catch it, his injured finger perhaps hindering him a fraction. He was completely unhurt in the crash, going out again a little later on his second bike. Cal Crutchlow set the 5th best time, just ahead of an impressive Danilo Petrucci.
A lot of riders spent their time working on tires. The combination which most seemed to be happiest with was the medium rear tire, and the hard front tire. Most of the grid opted for this combination.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class at Jerez:
Johann Zarco took control of the Moto2 class, the Frenchman topping the FP3 session at the end of a glorious morning at Jerez. Sam Lowes had led early, but with the Speed Up affected more by the lack of grip as temperatures rose, he had a gaggle of Kalexes come past. Tito Rabat led for part of the session, the reigning Moto2 champion back in the swing of it at Jerez, before Zarco and then Tom Luthi got ahead of him.
Jorge Lorenzo has topped the third session of free practice for the MotoGP class, holding off the stampede of fast riders all rushing to secure their place in Q2. The Movistar Yamaha man was fastest for nearly all the session, putting in a soft tire and grinding out an impressive string of laps at race pace. That was the plan for most of the grid, until the final ten minutes when the scramble for qualifying began.
Lorenzo ended the session as fastest, just ahead of Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Pol Espargaro. Cal Crutchlow ended in top spot, having also posted an impressive string of laps early in the session. Crutchlow had a shot at the fastest time, passing through the third timed sector half a tenth up, before looking up and backing off.
Danny Kent put in a fast lap at the end of the final session of free practice for the Moto3 class at Jerez, exploiting perfect conditions to extract maximum speed. Kent displaced the brilliant young rookie Fabio Quartararo from the top spot, who had in turn knocked his Estrella Galicia teammate Jorge Navarro from the top of the timesheets. Navarro found himself being bumped down to 4th, after an impressive display by Jorge Martin on the Mahindra.
2015 Jerez MotoGP Friday Round Up: How Rossi And Lorenzo Took Different Tire Strategies, And Why Stoner Was Snubbed
The Circuito de Velocidad in Jerez is not just a single circuit, it is three. It is a highly abrasive, very grippy track in the wet. It is a grippy, flowing track in the dry, when track temperatures are below around 35°C. And it is a treacherous, greasy, low-grip track when it is above 40°C. It didn't rain today (nor will it for the rest of the weekend) and so we only got to see two of the three tracks on Friday. But boy were they different.
Different or not, the same man ended both MotoGP sessions at the top of the timesheets. In the cool of the morning, when track temps were low and grip high, Lorenzo went out and dominated, hammering out a string of low 1'39s, well below the lap record pace. In the afternoon, the Movistar Yamaha man took his time, experimenting with then discounting the harder of the two tire options, before putting the soft back in and running another string of mid 1'39s, five of which were better than Marc Márquez' second fastest lap. It felt like the real Jorge Lorenzo was back.
Was Lorenzo's down solely to the fact that he was running the medium tire, where others were struggling to make the hard tire work for race distance? To an extent, but that is to misunderstand Lorenzo's intention. The Movistar Yamaha man believes he will be able to race the softer of the two tires, that tire being better for the Yamaha over race distance. It is better because of the way Bridgestone have changed the allocation this year, widely hailed as an improvement. For all three tires – the medium and hard for Yamaha and Honda, the soft and medium for the rest – the compounds have been changed slightly, going just a fraction harder. That has left everyone with two viable choices of tire for the race, the option of endurance with the hard, or early speed and a more predictable drop.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Jerez:
Press releases after the first day of practice at Jerez: