Sure, the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez this Sunday lacked the thunder and lightning of the past few races. There was strategy – but just a tad. There was emotion and adrenalin, yes. But it was not the nerve-wracking, heart-thumping, screaming-at-the-screen variety. Instead, there was a steady progression to the top, a race well run, and a masterclass if you will, on winning with style.
Jorge Lorenzo finally showed us the spark he has been missing this year and the win has obviously brought back his confidence – it was evident in that little wave to crowd even before he crossed the finish line at 1st place. It was evident in the classic Lorenzo Leap off the top of the podium. And yes, it was definitely evident in that unstoppable smile that has been missing the past four races.
Let us admit it, as much as we love Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez dicing it out on the track – they give us a heart-thumping race every time – a worn-out, lack-lustre Jorge does nothing for race day. On a good day, he gives us perfection. Jorge does specialize in it, after all. And the Jerez weekend was definitely good days.
It began with the Qualifying when Lorenzo broke his own record and scored a perfect 1’37.910s. Then, during the race, he set a new circuit lap record on his way to victory with a stunning 1’38.735s. Yes, Lorenzo was definitely displaying his mastery.
It was in fact, evident from the beginning. Lorenzo made the perfect getaway, escaping the crowd, determined to build a substantial gap between him and Marc Marquez. The reigning world champion meanwhile, battling a broken finger and a surgery, seemed almost content in second place, pacing himself and not getting into any unnecessary confrontation. Even though Marquez tried his best to stay with Lorenzo, the Yamaha rider was extending his lead, from a paltry 0.185s on lap 4 to a phenomenal 5.576s on the final lap.
Fan favorite Rossi meanwhile was not having such a great time. The Italian qualified 5th on the grid (his Qualifying has always been so problematic, isn’t it?), and the race start saw him make up one position, slotting in behind Pol Espargaro. The Tech 3 rider proceeded to hold up Vale, who was trying his best to get past – he knew Marquez was a tough one to catch. But by the time he caught with Marquez, it was too late. The young Spaniard had pulled away, and increased his gap substantially.
Would Vale be able to catch him? Would this be déjà vu? Would we see a repeat of Argentina? Maybe. After all, if there is one thing we have learnt, it is that we should not underestimate the wily 9-time world champion.
But neither can we underestimate Marquez. Remember what he said after Argentina? “I’ve always said that he’s (Vale) my idol and my reference, so you always learn things from him” he said after the race.
He definitely learned the importance of pacing one’s self.
Marquez realized that he was riding with a hand tied behind his back, quite literally. The pressure of the weak, injured left hand was no falling on his right hand. And so, Marquez pulled away from the competition, as much as he could. And then, he let his hand rest. Rossi meanwhile was busy cutting away at Marquez’s lead, slowly, but surely… inch by inch.
“…by lap five I could tell that although my finger was not a problem, I was unconsciously working more with my right arm and it began to stiffen up. From then on, I decided to just try and finish the race strong. Then I saw that Valentino was closing in on me and I thought “it’s going to be Argentina all over again” but I gathered strength and this time I was able to maintain the gap between us,” he said in a Repsol Honda press release.
Much to the heartbreak of every Vale fan (including me), Marquez pulled away in the nth hour. There would be no second place for Vale. He would have to be content with a 3rd place. “In the end it’s a podium, so it’s not so bad, but alsop in the race I wasn’t strong enough to fight with Jorge and also with Marc. Especially entering the corners I wasn’t at 100%. I had one moment in the race where I was not doing so bad, and I was close to Marc. We hoped for another good fight until the end and I thought I could do it, because I got the gap down to one second, but had to give up,” he later said in a Yamaha press release.
Even as Vale was celebrating his 200th podium – a record of course – the folks over at Ducati were mulling over the sudden dip in their performance. It was perhaps the strangest thing ever!
Andrea Iannone who had qualified 3rd on the grid ended up making the worst mistake ever. A Ducati press release stated that Iannone “inserted the ‘wet’ mapping by mistake a few seconds before the start, and as a result his race performance was undermined as the electronic management of his Desmosedici GP15 did not function optimally.” Essentially, his bike thought he was running a wet set-up, and his race performance plummeted as a result.
Teammate Andrea Dovizioso had an equally disappointing run. While braking near the final corner on lap 2, Dovi went into the run-off area. The effect was immediate, as he slipped down the grid and ended up in the last place. The Ducati pace kicked in and the 29-year-old Italian started working his way up. It was a phenomenal effort that saw him eventually finish the race at 9th place.
Despite the slip and the 9th place, Dovi retains his hold on the 2nd place championship standings. Rossi leads the pack with 82 points while teammate Lorenzo displaces Marquez and takes 3rd spot with 62 points. It’s still too early to place any bets. As Vale said in the Yamaha press release, at the end of the Jerez round: “He is just 20 points behind (Lorenzo), but the championship is still long. We don’t have to think about the points yet, just of the bike, trying to be competitive every weekend.”