Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class at Jerez:
KTM have officially confirmed that they have picked up the second year of Miguel Oliveira's contract, and he will be with the Tech3 team in 2020 as well. The press release appears below:
After another delay caused by yet another red flag in the premier class, Moto2 riders took their turn to ensure a Q2 place and finish whatever work they had left on setup. Finding time was not an issue in the cooler conditions and a handful of riders beat Friday’s benchmark from the off, led by early leader Alex Marquez. The Spaniard showed good pace in his long runs but did not get to keep top position to the checkered flag because of a rapid Remy Gardner. The Australian took over the lead in the final third of the session to show the way by one tenth of a second and under the lap record.
Overcast and cooler conditions offered the perfect conditions for the premier class to fight for Q2 honours and some were more eager to get going than others. Alex Rins put in a banker lap on softs early on to join the provisional top ten while Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha thrived in the conditions to also take a massive step on the timesheets, from 14th to 6th. However, Marc Marquez was keen to keep the spotlight on himself and immediately took over at the top on a medium-hard tyre combination.
The usually gloriously sunny Jerez had a surprise in store on Saturday morning, when against all forecasts, drops of rain touched the tarmac before the lightweight class started their gallop. However, the cooler cloudier conditions did not seem to impede riders too much in their quest for Q2 and the fight was on at the halfway mark of the session.
Friday is turning into update day, especially since Ducati opened the can of worms which is aerodynamics in places not covered by aerodynamics. The first day of practice at any race now is the day the other factories roll out their new swingarm attachments, or devices, or whatever you want to call them. But let's be honest: they are aerodynamic spoilers.
Jerez was no different. On Friday, both Aprilia and Yamaha debuted their versions of Ducati's swingarm spoiler (poetic justice for Yamaha, as their water-deflecting spoiler from last year was the inspiration for Aprilia and Ducati to start adding parts to the swingarm). Stefan Bradl, making an appearance as a wildcard as a reward for his role as HRC test rider, was spotted riding a chassis covered in carbon fiber (stuck on top of aluminum, not an entirely CF frame).
Normally, test riders don't attract too much media attention, but HRC's obsessive secrecy managed to change that around. As soon as Bradl entered the garage, mechanics from the test team put up massive screens, hermetically sealing off the garage to prying eyes. This alerted the media to the fact that Something Big Was Going On in Bradl's garage, and a group of keen observers gathered every time he exited the pits. That kind of behavior did more to draw attention to what Honda was doing, rather than keep it out of the public eye.
The hidden, the visible, the overlooked
Despite a small delay with the start due to a late red flag in the MotoGP session, the intermediate class riders were eager to go out and brave the heat. While the FP1 benchmark took some beating, Tetsuta Nagashima was the fastest man on track for much of the session, dethroning FP1 leader Jorge Navarro. Fresh rubber came out of its heaters for the final five minutes and it made a massive difference to the timesheets. Marcel Schrotter was the main beneficiary, the Dynavolt rider leading the way from Alex Marquez, who missed out on top honours by only one hundredth of a second.
The 50 degrees of track temperature did not seem too inviting for the riders or the Michelins but they got the job done in the second session of the day for the premier class. Marc Marquez picked up where he left off – at the top of the timesheets but the Ducatis didn’t allow him too much breathing space with Danilo Petrucci half a tenth behind for most of the session. However, times were not quite tumbling compared to the morning session until riders threw fresh soft rubber at it for the final five minutes.
The sun was well and truly burning the asphalt by the time the second batch of sessions of the day got to a start. After a morning session out of the limelight, Romano Fenati came out fighting and set camp at the top of the timesheets early on in FP2. However, his early benchmark was a long way away from the best time of the weekend and it allowed compatriot Niccolo Antonelli to rob him soon after. The two Italians hogged the attention of the cameras but rivals were on the offense for the final time attack.
The intermediate class had a tough act to follow after the speed shown by their Moto3 and MotoGP colleagues in FP1. However, the Triumph engine seemed pretty handy around Jerez and Jorge Navarro put it to good use to top the timesheets with a time under the lap record for Moto2. Brad Binder got close, under two hundredths of a second slower than the leader and Jorge Martin made it an excellent start for KTM in the top three.
The fresh grippy asphalt and the familiar layout of the Jerez circuit meant that the first outing on home ground for the premier class was a fast and furious affair. The challenge was to catch up with Marc Marquez once be built one second’s advantage on the competition and teammate Jorge Lorenzo was unsurprisingly up to the challenge. Honda’s new arrival was in his element in Jerez and caught up with his compatriot by the midway point of the session, the infamous Dream Team showing the way for much of FP1.
The lightweight class got set up for their first performance now that the circus returned home and Jerez welcomed them with warm brand new tarmac. Going by the final timesheets for FP1, the surface got predictably faster and the fastest of them all was John McPhee, who climbed into top position as the checkered flag was waved. The first home rider was a tenth and a half off, Aron Canet narrowly edging out Riccardo Rossi. The Gresini rider briefly led the way but missed out on one final fast lap as he crashed out in the very last minute of the session.
And so MotoGP returns to terra cognita. At Qatar, the sand and dust conspire with temperature and moisture to make for unpredictable conditions. Termas De Rio Hondo, despite its magnificent layout, barely gets used, meaning conditions change from session to session. And the shifting substrate below the Circuit of the Americas means bumps come and go, and shift around from year to year in Austin. Furthermore, MotoGP visits Argentina and Austin just once a year, meaning the teams have very limited data for the track, making setup just that little bit more complicated.
How very different is Jerez. There cannot be a rider on the MotoGP paddock who does not have thousands, if not tens of thousands of laps around the Circuito de Jerez in Andalusia, Spain. If they raced in the Spanish CEV championship (now the FIM CEV championship), they raced there once or twice a year. When they got to 125s or Moto3, they tested there two or three times a year. Same again in 250s or Moto2. Even in MotoGP they test there regularly, both private tests and now at the official IRTA test in November. Each and every one of them could post a lap of the track blindfolded.
Preview press releases from some of the teams and Michelin ahead of this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez: