Jerez, Spain

2016 Jerez MotoGP Saturday Round Up: A Country For Old Men

2005. That is the last time Valentino Rossi was on pole at Jerez. Eleven years ago. If you wanted an illustration of just how remarkable Rossi's career is, then the dramatic way he snatched pole position on Saturday afternoon is surely it. At the age of 37, after the incredible emotional blow of 2015, Rossi reinvents himself for the umpteenth time, learns how to qualify better, makes it three front row starts in a row – for the first time since 2009 – and takes his fourth pole position since the start of the 2010 season. Motivation, thy name is Valentino Rossi.

We shall talk about how this happened later, but first, back to 2005. There are so many parallels with that weekend, it is impossible to resist the temptation to explore them. In 2005, there was this fast Spanish rider who dominated almost every session. It was only during qualifying that Rossi seized the initiative, putting nearly half a second into Sete Gibernau.

Race day was even more dramatic. Rossi on the Yamaha, and Gibernau and Nicky Hayden on two different factory Hondas broke away from the pack. Hayden could not match the pace of the two others, and had to let them go. A tense battle unfolded in the laps that followed, Rossi stalking Gibernau for most of the race, taking over the lead with a few laps to go, then handing it back after making a mistake into the Dry Sack hairpin on the last lap. The pair swapped positions with audacious passes through the fast right handers leading on towards the final corner.

John Laverty's Pace Notes: Jerez 2016 - On Marquez, Viñales, and How to Go Fast in Spain

John Laverty is a former professional motorcycle racer, who raced three seasons in BSB. He is currently manager and rider coach to his brother Eugene Laverty, racing for the Aspar Ducati team in MotoGP. John acts as a track spotter for Eugene, checking what he sees on track from Eugene and other riders, and providing feedback to help the Aspar Ducati rider go faster. John will be contributing his insights into the things he sees at each track on a regular basis.

It was a cool and overcast Saturday morning when John Laverty came to take me out around Jerez. We were headed for some of the faster corners round Jerez, where John was particularly interested in gear selection, as Jerez' low grip meant the bikes were spinning the rear Michelin much more than normal.

First stop was the section between turns 3 and 4, the two fast lefts which lead round towards the right hander at the start of the back straight. "Getting the right gear is crucial here," John said. "You've got to choose what you want on the exit, if you want to short shift or spin it." It used to be easier to spot gear changes, but the seamless gearbox has made that much harder. "You can hardly hear it now. You've got to look at the foot a lot more." Sure enough, some riders were snicking a gear up on the way in, where others were not.

The importance of gear selection was evident on corner exit, especially between the Ducatis and the Yamahas. "The Ducatis have that much power that you don't want to get the bike into the aggressive part of the power." Managing that was a good deal easier for the factory and Pramac Ducatis with the seamless gearbox, however. John pointed out the two Andreas shifting gears between turns 3 and 4, then on the exit of 4 again, the seamless box keeping the rear relatively stable while the bike was still leaned over.

2016 Jerez MotoGP FP4 Result: Lorenzo Slaps Down An Early Gauntlet

Five minutes into the untimed session, Jorge Lorenzo laid down a 1'39.372, followed by a 1'39.241, the quickest time of the weekend so far, on his third flying lap. This stood as the quickest time for the remainder of the session.

Marc Marquez inserted himself between Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. Dani Pedrosa was fourth quickest while Aleix Espagaro kept the wingless Suzuki near the top in fifth ahead of Andrea Dovizioso on the bewinged Ducati. 

Results:

2016 Jerez MotoGP Friday Round Up: You're Nothing Without Wings

The infection of the MotoGP paddock is almost complete. At Jerez the last of MotoGP's factories fell to the winglet virus. Aprilia debuted some massive double decker items on the nose of the fairing. Suzuki brought a more modest pair, sitting below the bike's nose. And Honda's case of winglets grew more severe, the tiny side-mounted winglets replaced with much larger versions, akin to the early Yamaha ones. The only holdouts are most of the satellite teams, and even they are starting to look longingly at the mustachioed factory bikes.

Why is this happening? Because the winglets provide a tangible benefit. Not huge, but big enough to make a difference. As Valentino Rossi put it, after also succumbing to the winglet infection, "small wings, small help." That had been the tenor of rider comments on winglets from the moment they first started to appear at the start of last season.

But at Jerez, we finally heard from a rider who was unashamedly enthusiastic about the wings. Aleix Espargaro had spent Thursday night pleading with Suzuki engineers to be given a chance to try the winglets during the weekend, instead of waiting until the Monday test, following the original plan.

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