Jorge Lorenzo was first in, first out at Jerez. He was the very first bike out of the pits at the start of FP1, and put in a final push in the end to take top spot. The Yamaha man knocked Avintia Ducati's Hector Barbera off the top spot, Barbera having alternated the lead with Valentino Rossi for much of the session. Rossi had led for much of the second half of practice, posting a string of fast laps, but was overtaken towards the end.
It has been three years in the making. Ducati have been chasing Jorge Lorenzo for a very long time, almost since the moment Gigi Dall'Igna took over as head of Ducati Corse. Dall'Igna came to Ducati with a master plan. "Ducati had a plan when we started with Gigi at the end of 2013, which was to develop a competitive bike and - once the bike was competitive - to attract one of the top riders," Ducati MotoGP boss Paolo Ciabatti told a specially convened press conference on Thursday.
The candidates who qualified as "top riders" (for the linguists, this is the English phrase the Italians use where English speakers would use the term Alien) are few and far between. Ciabatti made it perfectly clear what he meant. "With all due to respect to all the other riders, including the two Andreas, there are a few riders who have been showing their potential. They are able to win championships. Obviously if you look at history in the last six years three times Lorenzo, twice Marquez and once Stoner. So obviously to be sure to be in a position to fight for a world title we needed to aim for one of the two riders which are Lorenzo and Marquez."
Picking an alien
One interesting detail: before talking to Lorenzo, Ducati had first asked Casey Stoner if he would like to make a full-time return to racing. "No," Stoner replied. "I am fine like this." He is happy as a test rider. That opened the door for Lorenzo.
Here’s a special MotoGP request ahead of this weekend’s Jerez GP
I’m often a bit mean about Dorna, because they’re the people in charge of MotoGP, so they’re in the firing line. But they are big enough to take it. I fully realise that much of the time they do great work, but I’m only a journalist, so, as Pavarotti once said, “when a journalist write about the positive he write fives lines; when he write about the negative he become a poet”.
Dorna’s greatest act over the past year or so has been to admit that MotoGP is too expensive to survive entirely on outside sponsorship, so it has wisely and kindly decided to underwrite the poorer end of the grid for the foreseeable future. This is in stark contrast to Formula 1 and top-level football, where those in charge only seem to care about the headline teams.
If anyone still doubted that Jorge Lorenzo has signed for Ducati for 2017 and beyond, then the news that Yamaha Motor Racing boss Lin Jarvis will be at Thursday's pre-event press conference at Jerez should finally convince them. It is not so much that team bosses never appear in pre-event press conferences, but rather that such appearances are vanishingly rare, and often momentous. If Jarvis is not there to discuss Lorenzo's move to Ducati, then something has gone very awry indeed.
We have been here before, of course. When Valentino Rossi finally announced he would be moving to Ducati in 2010, a similar procedure was adopted. So taking account of the lessons from that move, and of Rossi's return to Yamaha, let us gaze into our crystal ball and see what we can expect for the upcoming days.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the test at Jerez:
Zarco completes Official Test at Jerez
Ajo Motorsport rider ends three-day test at the Spanish track satisfied with pace and eager to improve one-off lap times.
03/04/2015 - Jerez Circuit, Spain
Nicolo Bulega has ended the final day of Moto3 testing at Jerez on top of the timesheets. The FIM CEV Moto3 Junior world champion was impressive throughout the test, finishing eight hundredths ahead of Brad Binder on the factory Red Bull KTM. Fellow rookie Joan Mir took third spot, the Leopard Racing rider under two tenths off the time of Bulega. Niccolo Antonelli was fourth fastest on the final day, ending ahead of Jorge Navarro and Romano Fenati. The top six were all within three tenths of each other on Friday.
Sam Lowes has ended the final day of testing for the Moto2 class on top of the pile, the Gresini rider edging out Italian Lorenzo Baldassari by just under a tenth of a second. Lowes was not just fast over a single lap, he also put in a very impressive stint of laps during a half-distance race simulation. Overall, Lowes showed outstanding pace, lapping consistently in the 1'42s.