MotoGP 2019 – Round Four
Gran Premio Red Bull de España
Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto
MotoGP is back in Europe this week after the season-opening fly-away tour of the Arabian Peninsula and a visit to both South and North America. The MotoGP travelling show is now in Europe for the next 11-races as the championship heads this weekend to Spain, for the Gran Premio Red Bull de España at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto.
Located just outside of Jerez de la Frontera in the Andalusian region of southern Spain, the Circuit de Jerez – Angel Nieto was constructed in 1986 and staged its first Grand Prix the following year. It has become the traditional first European Grand Prix of the season and as such is a very popular and colourful event, with huge crowds in attendance the whole weekend. It is an area that is noted for consistently pleasant weather, but wet weather is always a possibility.
After a dramatic race at COTA that saw Marc Marquez slide out of the lead, that’s definitely true as 25 points slithered away from the seven-time World Champion at a venue where his name is usually penciled in next to the word ‘winner’. The number 93 was unscathed and the damage was in the standings – and maybe a little pride – but that’s something to give some serious consideration as we head back to Europe. Errors can breed less margin for error, and that’s what Marquez has now after losing one of his aces.
“Jerez is always a special race because it is the first in Europe and there’s a lot of support from the Spanish fans. Of course we approach it the same as any weekend, with how tight the championship is we must make the most of every moment on track. The time between America and here has seemed longer than ever, I’m looking forward to getting back out on my bike.”
The Jerez circuit has undergone massive repair work since last year to fix the issues with the surface following last year’s resurfacing. Substantial parts of the track have again been resurfaced and this will give another aspect in the preparations for the 25-lap race for all concerned.
Michelin has been keeping an eye on the latest work that has been carried out on the 4,423m circuit, but due to the nature of the MotoGP calendar it has had no chance to test the new surface, so the French company will be bringing a larger allocation of tyres to Jerez than is usually made available to the teams. This weekend’s selection will feature four front and four rear Michelin Power Slick tyres, designed to give as much choice for the teams and riders to get the optimum performance from the bikes on the asphalt. The front range will be available in soft, medium and two hard compounds, all in a symmetric design, with the same mixture available for the rear, but this time featuring an asymmetric finish with a harder right-hand-side to cope with the eight right turns which give extra demands to the tyre, compared to just five left corners.
Piero Taramasso – Michelin
“This weekend is another big test for us and has echoes of our return to MotoGP in 2016. Then we were going to many tracks where we had no data and this weekend is similar as the track has had a lot of resurfacing since we tested there last November. Because of this we are permitted by the regulations to take four front and four rear specifications of slick tyre, so we have selected a range we believe will be ideally matched to the circuit’s asphalt from the information we have from last year and have received from the company that has done the work, and from the circuit. We are confident we have the right compounds for the new surface and are looking forward to racing in Europe after a hectic start to the season with the two fly-away tests and three fly-away races.”
So as we head for Jerez – and the 300th MotoGP race since the category was introduced – it’s not Marquez on top, it’s Andrea Dovizioso. The Italian has been on damage limitation in the second and third races of the season over the last couple of years, but in 2019 he emerges nine points clear of Marquez as the ‘European season’ begins and he hits the milestone of 200 premier class starts.
Dovizioso’s record at Jerez isn’t the best and it can be a more difficult track for Ducati, but we’ve said that before and watched the number 04 defy that idea as the Italian machine continues to develop. Is ‘DesmoDovi’ armed for a serious attack on Andalucia? Or will those walking taller after Texas have the upper hand at a venue where Marquez has never been imperious?
Valentino Rossi has a great record at the track – as he does at most – but it includes a more recent triumph as Rossi obliterated the competition in 2016.
Only three points behind Dovizioso now, a win in Jerez for Rossi could catapult him back to the top, and make Boris fizz in his pants.
Team-mate Maverick Viñales will be hoping the bike is underneath the two to try and do just that, but all signs have been positive in 2019 – the Spaniard seems to have the tools to dig himself out of P12 after a tough start. In front of the home crowd he’ll be aiming to do just that – as will Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team).
After a tough start to the season marred by injury, Lorenzo is back to nearer fully fit and only gaining experience on the Honda.
Jerez has been serious hunting ground for him with the Spaniard’s record at the track enough to make anyone jealous – and it’s where he took his first podium with Ducati. In a stage of adaptation once again, there could be no better place for the number 99 to race next and the final corner even bears his name. Will it be a turning point for him?
“I have been focusing on this race since the start of the season. With limited testing, we knew the opening rounds would be tricky. Jerez is one of my favourite circuits. The surface normally has a lot of grip and this suits my style very well unlike a couple of tracks we have already visited. I am sure we can achieve a good result with the Repsol Honda Team after learning a lot in the opening rounds.”
In Texas though, we may have witnessed a turning point for someone else: first time premier class winner Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). Rins fought off Rossi like a veteran and kept calm to carry on under some serious pressure, crossing the line to make a serious statement. The Suzuki man has arrived, and there’s no reason why he won’t be fighting for a similar result in front of the carnival home crowd at Jerez.
Meanwhile in the Independent Team rider standings, it’s another COTA hero: podium finisher Jack Miller (Pramac Racing).
Miller’s first premier class podium in the dry couldn’t have come at a better time and the Australian is on good form in 2019.
The fastest man in Jerez testing, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) isn’t too far behind him though, and the Japanese rider’s teammate Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) dented his place in the standings with a crash at COTA. The three-time Grand Prix winner will want to hit back quick and take top Independent honours, if not much more.
Rookie of the Year should be a thriller in Jerez, too. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) has led the way for much of the season and the Frenchman will be confident he can continue the trend in Spain – giving him a good foundation for his upcoming home race in France.
“As always, I have been training a lot over these past couple of weeks, but above all I have been enjoying time with family and friends. I have also been able to celebrate my birthday with them. Jerez is a different track for me, because it is a circuit where we have already ridden with the bike. We will try to have a good FP1 and keep inside the Top 10 throughout the whole weekend, which is our main objective. The bike is different now than it was at the test, but it is also positive to have tested there beforehand. At the moment, my goal is to be inside the Top 10, but if we have a good pace then I’m sure that we will be able to fight for a good result.”
But Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) is gaining some traction and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) has been quick when avoiding errors like his COTA jump start.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), meanwhile, has been shining and causing a headache for new Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Johann Zarco – can he continue that in Jerez?
“Jerez is a very nice Grand Prix, first of all, because it’s very close to my country. It’s the closest GP we get from Portugal and therefore also the biggest attendance from Portuguese fans, so it’s very special for me. It’s also a track, which I like a lot, so I’m looking forward very much to ride there again. After the test in November of course there are already some points, which I know, I need to improve on my riding. So, it’s going to be a fantastic weekend, I can’t wait to see all the team again after two weeks and get ready to work. Of course, the target for this race is to fight for the points again and I think this is where we should stay the whole season. After the result in Austin I want to get back up and work hard to improve.”
Or can the top man for the Austrian factory so far, Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), continue to pull out all the stops and get closer to the front?
MotoGP action kicks off track on Friday 3rd May with two Free Practice sessions; this will be followed by two further sessions on the Saturday ahead of the all-important Qualifying in the afternoon. The schedule in Australian eastern time is included below.
2019 MotoGP – Round Three
MotoGP Championship Points Standings
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