Jerez is always a very special weekend. When Valentino Rossi described the first race back in Europe using those words, he spoke for everyone in the MotoGP paddock. Everyone loves being back in Europe, because the atmosphere changes, the hospitality units fill the paddock, the catering staff, hospitality managers, runners, cleaners, general dogsbodies – in other words, the people who actually do any real work – return to fill the paddock, and old friends are reunited after a long winter away, often doing something else to subsidize the meager pay they take for the privilege of working in Grand Prix during the summer. The paddock becomes a village once again, awaking from the long winter slumber.
The setting helps. The charming old city of Jerez is showing the first shoots of economic recovery, not yet enough to match the full bloom of spring happening on the surrounding hillsides, the slopes covered with wild flowers, but there is a much more positive vibe than there has been for some years. There is a sense of optimism. That sense of optimism flows into the paddock, already buzzing after a sizzling and surprising start to the 2015 MotoGP season. With over 100,000 people expected to pack the stands on Sunday, Jerez feels like the right way to kick off the long European leg of the championship.
The weather helps too. It is hot and sunny, with a long, dry weekend ahead of us. That will please everyone, giving them all a chance to actually work on set up. The track is short enough for them all to go out, test a set up, come back in and try something else, and with the weather holding, they can repeat that process until Sunday's race. For Andrea Dovizioso, this was key: with so much still to figure out with the brand new GP15, the factory Ducati men want as much dry weather and stable conditions as they can get. The bike has worked at every track they have been at so far, and Jerez was always a particular bugbear of the Ducati. Both Andreas, Dovizioso and Iannone are keen to see how the new bike will actually go around the track here. "I have a good feeling for this weekend, because the agility has improved a lot," said Iannone. Agility is key at this track, because of the many changes of direction. "I think this bike is ready to fight with the best," the Italian said.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone ahead of this weekend's race at Jerez:
Press release previews from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams, as well as Dunlop:
Dani Pedrosa will not be racing at the Jerez round of MotoGP. Despite the optimism displayed by Repsol Honda team principal Livio Suppo earlier this week, a test ride on a supermoto bike showed that Pedrosa's arm is not recovered sufficiently for him to be able to ride.
The Spaniard announced the news on his blog on the Repsol website. He wrote there that he had ridden a supermoto bike to test his arm, and that though the riding had gone well, it gave problems after riding, Pedrosa describing it as "not 100%". Having already missed two races, Pedrosa believes it is better to miss this race as well, and try to come back fully fit at Le Mans, two weeks after Jerez. The priority is to make a full recovery and come back competitive for the rest of the season, rather than trying to race at any cost, and risk creating a bigger problem.
The Jerez race was always going to be a big ask. The recovery period for the surgery Pedrosa had - a fasciectomy of the right arm, to cure arm pump - was estimated at five weeks, and Jerez comes just a week too early.
It appears that both Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa will attempt to ride at Jerez this weekend. Dani Pedrosa will get his first chance to ride a MotoGP bike after having radical surgery to cure a persistent arm pump problem, while Marc Marquez has just had surgery to plate a broken proximal phalanx in the little finger of his left hand. Speaking to the Italian website GPOne.com, HRC Team Principal Livio Suppo said that he expected both riders to be present at Jerez, and to test their fitness during practice on Friday.
Marc Marquez has broken a finger in his left hand in a dirt track training crash. The reigning world champion fell heavily, suffering a displaced fracture of the proximal phalange in the little finger of his left hand. This means that the bone between the hand and the first knuckle was broken, and the two parts of the bone moved.
Marquez was taken immediately to the Dexeus Institute in Barcelona, where Dr Xavier Mir, who performs surgery on many of the top MotoGP and WSBK riders, operated on the Spaniard. The bone was put together again and then fixed with a titanium plate. Marquez is due to start functional recovery within 24 hours.
The press release issued by Honda is strangely hesitant about Marquez' prospects of racing at Jerez. The press release says, in rather unconventional wording, that Marquez participation at Jerez "has not been ruled out." The aim for Marquez will be to ride, but the injury sustained is a particularly difficult one. Wheeless' Textbook of Orthopaedics describes fractures of the proximal phalange as "potentially the most disabling fractures in the hand". Full recovery for normal patients is 4 to 6 weeks. In motorcycle racer terms, that's 2 to 3 weeks.
Poor weather continued at Jerez on the final day of testing for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, with high winds and rain lashing the circuit. The weather limited action on the track, many teams preferring to sit out the day rather than risk injury or severe material damage with less than a week to go to the start of the 2015 season.
A couple of heavy crashes by riders who did choose to ride rather proved their point. Tito Rabat crashed heavily, destroying his Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Moto2 machine and leaving his mechanics with a lot of work to do to get the bike ready to ship to Qatar. But Rabat was lucky, he walked away with just bumps and bruises from the crash. Ana Carrasco was less lucky in Moto3, the RBA Racing Team rider falling and breaking her collarbone. Carrasco may still be fit in time for Qatar, as she will not need surgery on the collarbone, but it is far from ideal preparation.
The poor weather saw Marcel Schrotter end the day as fastest Moto2 rider, lapping nearly a second quicker than Julian Simon on the QMMF Speed up, and Mika Kallio on the Italtrans Kalex. In the Moto3 class, Jakub Kornfeil ended the day with the fastest time, the SIC KTM rider ending ahead of Spanish rookie Jorge Martin on the Aspar Mahindra, and Niccolo Antonelli on the Ongetta Honda.
The weather has not been kind to the Moto2 and Moto3 classes at their last preseason test of 2015. Intermittent rain, some of it very heavy, has severely limited action on the first two days of the test. Even when there have been dry spells, the track has only been completely dry for relatively short periods of time. Miss those dry windows of opportunity, and you miss out on dry practice.
Speed Up rider Sam Lowes has had the best of conditions, the track drying out towards the end of the first Moto2 session on Wednesday morning, though Lowes is still a couple of seconds off lap record pace. Jonas Folger set the 2nd fastest time, but was over a second slower, edging Tom Luthi into 3rd.
In the Moto3 class, it was Jorge Navarro who made best use of the dry line which the second session started with on Wednesday, ending nearly three quarters of a second faster than Danny Kent, who was in turn over a tenth faster than Navarro's teammate Fabio Quartararo. Jorge Martin was the first non-Honda in 4th on the Mahindra, while Isaac Viñales put the Husqvarna (a rebadged KTM) into 6th, behind Enea Bastianini.
Dunlop issued the following press release, previewing the final test of the 2015 preseason for the Moto2 and Moto3 classes:
Dunlop’s Moto2 Countdown to 2015 – 4-3-2-1………
With just one test remaining before the 2015 Moto2 and Moto3 seasons get underway, Dunlop riders are getting close to ready for more FIM Moto World Championship wheel to wheel track action. The latest tests for both Moto2 and Moto3 show that times could well be slashed compared to 2014.
Riders have had the chance to give the 2015 tyre specifications a thorough workout. February saw Moto2 and Moto3 testing at Valencia and Jerez with the fastest times breaking all four circuit lap records. The closest times were for Moto3 in Valencia where the top 14 riders, over the three days, were separated by less than one second. The top performers on both tracks were Moto3’s Fabio Quartararo and Johann Zarco in Moto2.
Press releases after the three-day test at Jerez for the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
Moto2 times from the last day of testing
Improving weather saw lap times drop at Jerez, allowing lap records to fall in both Moto2 and Moto3 classes. In Moto2, it was Sam Lowes setting the pace, the Speed Up rider knocking four tenths of a second off Mika Kallio's pole record. Lowes spent most of the day using the carbon fiber swing arm the team used last year, with the aluminum swing arm still to be tried. The aluminum item is believed to be the better of the two, offering more improvement to come when the team gets a chance to try it out.
Behind Lowes, several riders made some big steps forward. Luis Salom finally beat his rookie teammate, ending the day in 2nd just a tenth behind Lowes. Johann Zarco remains fast, ending up 3rd and ahead of reigning Moto2 champion Tito Rabat, while Axel Pons had a good day to end 5th. Three tenths separated the top five, offering prospects of a very competitve season in 2015. Revelation of yesterday Alex Rins had a steadier day today, dropping down the order to finish 9th, while Alex Marquez showed good improvement, jumping up to 12th place, a second off the pace of Lowes, and just behind Mika Kallio. The battle between the two Alexes promises to be just as good as it was in Moto3.
Press releases from some of the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of testing at Jerez:
The provisional MotoGP calendar for 2015, updated on 11th February, when Silverstone was confirmed as replacing Donington: