2017-05-08 15:54:09+0000 - Jerez de la Frontera, Andalucía, Spain

MotoGP Round 4 Recap: Pedrosa Has a Perfect Race

The Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuito de Jerez. Pedrosa rides a perfect race, Lorenzo gets his first podium on the Ducati and Zarco puts on a show.

Today was the fourth round of the 2017 MotoGP season at the Circuito de Jerez in Spain. It was also the 3000th Grand Prix race since its inception in 1949, making it a somewhat historic occasion.

In a country where motorcycle racing is very popular in Spain, Jerez has been referred to as “The world’s capitol of motorcycle fans”. Having signed to Yamaha where he won the first two races of the season, Maverick Vinales has clearly garnered a lot of attention. Marc Marquez, who won the world championship in the premier class last year, as well as round three (the US GP @ CoTA) has been expected to go head-to-head with Vinales but because of several crashes earlier this season the fans have yet to be treated to this “dream rivalry." Their native Jerez couldn’t be a more perfect venue to watch the two young Spaniards battle it out.

Aside Mav and Marc, a lot of attention has also been paid to the riders who are on new bikes for the 2017 season. This includes rookies like Johann Zarco, and seasoned racers like Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Iannone. The one thing all these riders have in common is that they’re getting increasingly familiar with their new machines which will hopefully make them contenders for the podium.

Round three at CoTA reminded everyone that some of the premier class veterans are just as competitive as ever with nine-time world champ Valentino Rossi currently at the top of the overall standings, as well as Dani Pedrosa who put on an excellent performance at the US GP. More than ever, it’s impossible to say who will come out on top by the end of the season. Even having to guesstimate a top five would be beyond taxing. So without a crystal ball all we can do is watch the races and cheer on our favorite two-wheeling demigods. (or if you couldn’t watch the race, just keep reading…)

The Race
At the start of the race the two Repsol Hondas clinched (what we’ll call) the holeshot, with Pedrosa just ahead of Marquez. Next were Iannone on the Suzuki and then (Cal) Crutchlow, followed by Vinales and finally Rossi. Lorenzo - who has been having a difficult time this season on the Ducati -managed to clinch and hold onto a position in the top ten. Considering Jerez has a turn named after the new Ducati rider, it feels appropriate for Jorge to do well here.

Zarco, who was tailing Rossi, managed to slip up the inside and pass the doctor by turn two. In classic Valle-fashion, Rossi struck back right away, reclaiming his position behind his teammate, with an excellent “blocking” pass on the French rookie, Zarco. On the next turn Zarco again slipped up the inside of the #46 rider via some spectacular late braking. Within the first sector of the first lap it appeared the battle we witnessed two weeks ago between Italian and Frenchman would be repeating itself at Jerez.

After the first lap the positions differed greatly from that of the starting grid. The top ten were now, in order: Pedrosa, Marquez, Iannone, Crutchlow, Vinales, Zarco, Rossi, Lorenzo, (Jack) Miller and then (Jonas) Folger.

Miller began making repeated overtake attempts on Lorenzo but didn’t have the drive to make any of his attacks stick. Zarco, on the other hand, set his sights on the other Movistar Yamaha rider and made an inside pass on Vinales on turn six which would stick. On turn seven Zarco briefly lost the front end though he was able to make a save and keep the bike upright. While a minor close call may seem insignificant, especially so early in a race, it blatantly demonstrated just how hard the two-time Moto2 champ was pushing his machine, especially considering his medium option tires were pretty much new at this point in the race.

On the next turn and seemingly undeterred by a close call, Zarco took a line up the inside of Crutchlow’s LCR Honda, landing the French Tech-3 rider in fourth behind Iannone. To put it simply, lap two was a damn good lap for Zarco, though tire management would come back to haunt him in the final laps. On turn thirteen of the same lap Zarco then did some impressive late braking up the inside of Iannone on the GSXRR, finishing the lap in third behind the Repsols.

Meanwhile the field behind Vinales was experiencing its own action. Lorenzo moved his way up the field, eventually passing his old teammate Rossi. His new teammate Andrea Dovizisio had moved up where he passed Miller, bumping him into tenth and landing Dovi in ninth putting both the factory Ducati’s in the top ten. Ahead of the field Pedrosa had set the fastest lap of the race at 1:43.56 (thus far), biding his advantage and milking the open track ahead of him. Lorenzo began closing the gap on Vinales, Iannone got into position to make an attack on Crutchlow and Zarco made it to the rear wheel of the #93 Repsol bike.

Zarco made a move on Marquez to no avail. Lorenzo than found his way past the other blue Yamaha while Zarco tried once again to overtake Marquez, again to no avail. Once more the Frenchman took a crack at Marquez and this time it would just barley stick. Pedrosa now had a 1.6 seconds clear of the field. Zarco had now passed Rossi, Crutchlow, Vinales and Marquez, I don’t have a follow-up to that but it doesn’t really necessitate one.

Iannone got close enough to Vinales to perform a clean overtake, passing the #25 rider on the Suzuki on the very bike said rider cut his teeth on in the premier class. Jack miller then lost the front end and took out Bautista. They then proceeded to partake in a mini-scuffle with Miller immediately pushing Bautista back to the ground prompting the incident race direction will surely be talking to Miller about. They eventually started picking up their bikes with the help of flag marshals and retired to the pits. Two laps later Tito Rabat would also crash out, hitting his head hard enough to warrant a medical inspection that would determine he was shaken up but okay.

Marquez got into position to retake second place behind the Monster Tech-3 Yamaha before pulling the trigger and overtaking Zarco in a move that would stick. Crutchlow then lost the front-end on turn eleven, crashing out of fourth place in a fast lowside that resulted in him barreling and tumbling through the gravel. Pol Espargaro then reenacted Critchlow’s high-speed lowside on the new steel-framed KTM RC16, both crashes looked like they hurt. Dovizioso made his attack on Rossi after patiently waiting for an opportunity which arose when Rossi took a turn too wide.

Lorenzo then snuck up on Zarco, getting into position to make a move that would land him on today’s podium. Up ahead Marquez was failing to make any progress on catching up with his teammate. Pedrosa was riding with the consistency of Lorenzo on the Yamaha when he was at his best, maintaining a constant 1.6 second lead. Lorenzo found a gap and moved up into third. Daniel Petrucci had slowly been moving up the field until he found himself behind Rossi. Getting right on Rossi’s rear tire Petrucci began a series of overtake attempts on the doctor who would always defensively maintain his position, in this case a ridiculously hard-fought seventh place.

Zarco was then passed by the Ducati around the same time Petrucci managed to overtake Rossi who’s pace at this point was being noticeably limited by his tire option. Essentially turning him into a passenger aboard the M1 where he could do little more than watch as riders overtook him. At this point only ten laps remained, there was still enough race left for anyone to potentially end up on the podium. Vinales appeared to be suffering the same setbacks as his teammate due to the bike’s tires as Dovi got out ahead of the #25 Yamaha.

Pedrosa’s lead started to diminish, though a full second lead still provided the jockey-sized racer with a little security. Meanwhile behind the Repsols Lorenzo continued to nurse his lead over Zarco who is on the other end of the predicability spectrum for the #99 Ducati rider. Folger who had been closing the gap on Rossi got into position to attack the nine-time world champ. With seven laps to go, Folger seemed to be biding his time and waiting for the right moment to strike. Then with six laps remaining Folger passed Rossi in a move that can only be described as easy, or at least far easier than it normally is to pass the doctor, especially for a rookie, (so long as that rookie’s name isn’t Marquez). Rossi was now in ninth just ahead of Aleix Espargaro.

Rossi was then pushed into tenth place by (A) Espargaro with five laps to go and all Rossi could do is finish the race. Positions would remain until only two laps were left. Tire options clearly played a massive role in today’s race, something typically reserved for races in the wet. While a few last minute attacks appeared to be forming, in the end positions would remain the same until the checkered flag as Pedrosa went on to win the race he dominated from the very start. From holeshot to checkered flag, the #26 Repsol rider spent the entirety of the race in first. Behind him was his teammate Marquez and then behind him was Lorenzo, scoring his first podium on the factory Ducati.

Zarco who put on an incredible show today ended up finishing in fourth ahead of Dovi and Vinales. Petrucci, Folger, Espargaro and Rossi would make up the top ten in front of Scott Redding, Hector Barbera, Loris Baz, Bradley Smith, Carl Abraham, Sam Lowes and Takuya Tsuda who subbed in for today’s race but sadly finished in last out of the riders that would cross the finish line.

The fourth round was a particularly interesting one today at Jerez. Though the fight for the top of the podium wasn’t what i’d call riveting, some brilliant race craft was exhibited nonetheless. Lorenzo who seems to be figuring out how to ride the Ducati has given us our first glimpse of what he might be able to do after becoming better acquainted with the Italian machine. The Ducati has been notoriously unpredictable in previous years which totally clashes with Lorenzo’s riding style so having seemingly ironed out the kinks, Jorge could very well be a real contender for the championship. (A friend of mine spoke with Loris Caperosi recently and discussed the Ducati. Loris said it was “the worst bike he’d ever ridden” and explained how he would ride consistently and then have the Ducati randomly lose the front end and crash. “I do nothing different and I crash” he said). Pedrosa’s lightweight and consistent riding style allowed him to nurse his medium tire options all the way to the finish line.

The Yamahas that have previously dominated this season had a bad day. A top ten finish in the premier class is never by any means something to scoff at, but when you’re more than capable of finishing atop the podium, (or in Rossi’s case leading the league in points prior to Jerez), it can still be a bitter pill to swallow. Rossi and Vinales are both clearly gunning for a world championship which means being focused on points and trying to nab every single point they can. Taking risks that could result in crashing out and going home with no points simply isn’t an option for them.

It is for this very reason that Zarco was able to put on such a fantastic show today. Though he was competing in the same race as the Movistar Yamaha riders, his objective is totally different. Zarco isn’t aiming to take home a world championship, at least not at this point in his premier class career so he’s happy to take risks that better his chances of winning a grand prix race.

Suzuki test rider Takuya Tsuda was replacing the injured Alex Rins...

  1. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 45m 26.827s
  2. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 45m 32.963s
  3. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP17) 45m 41.594s
  4. Johann Zarco FRA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1)* 45m 44.428s
  5. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici GP17) 45m 49.740s
  6. Maverick Viñales ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 45m 51.383s
  7. Danilo Petrucci ITA Octo Pramac Racing (Desmosedici GP17) 45m 51.786s
  8. Jonas Folger GER Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1)* 45m 54.548s
  9. Aleix Espargaro ESP Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 45m 58.060s
  10. Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 46m 5.509s
  11. Scott Redding GBR Octo Pramac Racing (Desmosedici GP16) 46m 7.806s
  12. Hector Barbera ESP Reale Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP16) 46m 10.026s
  13. Loris Baz FRA Reale Avintia Racing (Desmosedici GP15) 46m 10.038s
  14. Bradley Smith GBR Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (RC16) 46m 14.791s
  15. Karel Abraham CZE Pull&Bear Aspar Team (Desmosedici GP15) 46m 18.106s
  16. Sam Lowes GBR Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP)* 46m 35.712s
  17. Takuya Tsuda JPN Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 46m 54.277s
    Andrea Iannone ITA Team Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) DNF
    Tito Rabat ESP Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) DNF
    Cal Crutchlow GBR LCR Honda (RC213V) DNF
    Jack Miller AUS Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS (RC213V) DNF
    Alvaro Bautista ESP Pull&Bear Aspar Team (Desmosedici GP16) DNF
    Pol Espargaro ESP Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (RC16) DNF
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