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2016 Jerez Sunday Post-Race Round Up: Of Genius Young and Old, and Tire Trouble

Jerez is an important punctuation mark in almost every Grand Prix season. Whether it kicks off the year, as it did ten or more years ago, or whether it marks the return to Europe after the opening overseas rounds, the racing at Jerez is always memorable and remarkable. Not always necessarily exciting, but always portentous, marking a turning point in the championship.

So it was this year. The MotoGP race saw a shift in momentum, and Valentino Rossi win in a way we haven't seen since 2009. The Moto2 race solidified the positions of the three best riders in the class, and edged winner Sam Lowes towards a role as title favorite. And in Moto3, Brad Binder broke his victory cherry with one of the most astounding performances I have ever seen in any class, let alone Moto3. Put to the back of the grid for an infraction of the software homologation rules, Binder worked his way forward to the leading group by half distance, then left them for dead. It is a race they will be talking about for a long time.

The old switcheroo

First, though, to MotoGP. Valentino Rossi needed a win to get his championship back on track, and he got it in the least Rossi-like way imaginable. The Italian got the holeshot, held off attacks in the opening laps, including a fierce assault from his teammate Jorge Lorenzo, then set a metronomic pace which nobody, not even Lorenzo, could follow. He opened a gap of a couple of seconds, then managed it home to take what looked like an easy victory.

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 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.

2016 Jerez Thursday Round Up: Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha, and Ducati Speak at Last

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.

Lorenzo To Ducati: Why It Happened, and What Happens Next

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.

2016 Austin MotoGP Sunday Round Up: Imperious Marquez, Complex Crashes, and Intrigue in the Support Classes

If the big question at the Circuit of the Americas was "Who can beat Marc Márquez?" then we found out the answer on Sunday: Nobody. There were only two brief moments during which Márquez was not leading the MotoGP race. Off the line, Jorge Lorenzo was a fraction quicker going into Turn 1, but Márquez turned earlier and already had the lead on the exit. Lorenzo tried once more into the hairpin of Turn 11, but overshot and ran wide, Márquez taking back the lead immediately.

After that, Márquez was gone. Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo kept Márquez honest for a couple of laps, but the Repsol Honda rider's relentless pace forced them to concede. Márquez went on to win his fourth straight Grand Prix of the Americas, and his tenth straight win in the United States of America. Since ascending to MotoGP, he has never been beaten on American soil.

There are plenty of adjectives you could throw at Márquez' performance – imperious, dominant, superlative – but perhaps the best word to sum up Marc Márquez at the Circuit of the Americas is "Unbeatable." His rivals will have to wait another year to try to find a way of stopping him.

2016 Austin MotoGP Saturday Notes: On Beating Marquez

Does Marc Márquez still own the Circuit of the Americas? So far, there has been just one session of practice which the Repsol Honda rider did not head. But as that was Q1, a session he had managed to bypass by heading up every other session of practice, it seems fair to say he does still own the place.

2016 Austin MotoGP Friday Round Up: Marquez' New Style, Viñales' Bright Future, Smith's Personal Revolution

After the drama of Argentina, the first day of practice at the Circuit of the Americas was pleasingly normal. The track was not perfect, but it was the normal kind of not perfect, Friday-green-track-not-perfect. A week ago, a filthy unused track left everyone struggling for grip and worried faces. On Friday, there were a few concerns over tire wear, especially on the right-hand side, but they were minor compared to Argentina. It was just another Friday in Texas.

And just like any other Friday in Texas, Marc Márquez was slaying the field. The Repsol Honda rider was fastest both in the morning and in the afternoon, and though Jorge Lorenzo kept Márquez honest in FP1, FP2 saw him go seven tenths of a second quicker than anyone else. His gap over the rest made the gaps look massive, just six riders within a second. Take Márquez out of the equation, and a second separates places two and fourteen. The field is actually quite close, as long as you disregard the man out in front.

2016 Austin MotoGP Preview Notes: On Rider Resentment, and the Importance of Tires

It was a particularly tetchy press conference at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin on Thursday. That may have come from the travel – team staff trickled in throughout the day, as the final stage of their epic journey from Termas de Rio Hondo to Austin came to an end – but more likely it was the questions about the future of Jorge Lorenzo, in particular, which generated a sense of real irritation. Little was said directly by Lorenzo, by Rossi, or by Márquez, but it was clear that the mutual antipathy between the Italian and the Spaniards is reaching new heights. There is a storm coming, and it will break some time this year. When it does, things are going to get very ugly indeed.

First, though, about that journey. Reconstructing the tales of those who arrived in good time after an uneventful voyage, and those who were only just traipsing in towards the end of Thursday afternoon, it was clear that the weather had been the deciding factor. Those who had left on Sunday night and Monday morning had made it to Austin without incident. In the afternoon, though, the clouds rolled down the mountains and into Tucuman, where charters were flying in and out of the regional airport.

Flights were canceled, and teams were sent off, first towards Cordoba, then back to Tucuman, then off to Buenos Aires, then finally to Cordoba once again. From there, they flew to Buenos Aires, then dispersed over half the globe. Sometimes almost literally – one Dorna staff member flew all the way back to Barcelona, then back across the Atlantic to Houston. The MotoGP paddock is much richer in air miles after Argentina, but much poorer in sleep.

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