MotoGP: Round 2 – Jerez, Spain – May 2

Dani Pedrosa always gets the best flying start in MotoGP, and given that he was starting from pole position as well, his lead into turn 1 was assured. More surprisingly was Valentino Rossi sneaking into second place, as he’s not naturally the best of starters. He was also carrying a nasty shoulder injury coming into this race that had seen him perform poorly in qualifying and be lucky to qualify in 4th.

Rossi’s flying start meant that between him and Nicky Hayden, Jorge Lorenzo got squeezed out to an outside line and left stuck as the meat in a Ducati sandwich between Hayden and Casey Stoner in fifth. Stoner got past Lorenzo at the start of lap 2, but he couldn’t make it stick for long and Lorenzo – getting stronger as the tyres heated up – got the position back and then went on to pursue Hayden, finally luring the American into outbraking himself which allowed Lorenzo to take third place from him on lap 9.

The two surprises of the afternoon were that (a) Dani Pedrosa’s flying form didn’t start to dip by one-third distance, instead getting better and better allowing him to pull away from Rossi – perhaps it was the extra boost from the combined mental willpower of the home crowd support for Dani; and (b) that Casey Stoner, far from threatening to storm through the field as one would expect, started to fall off the pace and into the clutches of Andrea Dovizioso in sixth. By the closing laps of the race, these top half dozen riders were over 12s ahead of the rest.

As much of the running order seemed settled midrace, the most exciting racing was a multi-bike battle between Mika Kallio, Gresni Honda team mates Marco Simoncelli and Marco Melandri (whose dicing must have been watched by the team in extreme trepidation) and Randy de Puniet who lurked behind in case there was an accident from which he could leap to benefit. Loris Capirossi had already crashed out on lap 2, and Ben Spies retired on lap 7 with tyre problems. Aleix Espargaro damaged his bike with a crash of his own, but was able to get back out and circulate for the practice.

Then with seven laps to go, far from seeing Rossi closing on Pedrosa for the lead, the Spanish crowd were treated to the sight of their other local hero Jorge Lorenzo charging up fast on the back of his clearly ailing team mate. After a lap and a half of stalking, Jorge made his decisive move down the inside line – and Rossi seemed to know that he didn’t have it in him to stave off the attack, consequently not putting up much of a fight this time, opting to settle for third and consider himself lucky to secure the championship points.

Now it was down to whether Lorenzo could cut the gap to the leader and do anything about Pedrosa. Sure enough, with two laps to go, Lorenzo was right on the back of Pedrosa and champing at the bit to get past, while Dani was every bit as determined not to let his arch rival past. The two nearly collided as Lorenzo tried an audacious and chancy outbraking move down the inside of the backstretch, and they banged together seconds later into the final corner of the penultimate lap but just managed not to take each other out. Lorenzo was doing everything possible to get past short of literally driving over the top of Pedrosa: sure enough, a few turns later Lorenzo made another lunge into the hairpin at the end of the back straight. This time Pedrosa couldn’t hold the line and was pushed out wide, and Jorge was through with 30s to spare, a thrilling end to the race.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Jorge stage a Lorenzoland celebration; and then he topped it by jumping straight into the circuit’s convenient scenic lake for a swim, racing suit and helmet and all – although the cumbersome airbags going off in the suit meant that he then required saving by a marshall! Nothing if not entertaining at moments like this, is Jorge.

While Lorenzo bounced around like the energizer bunny and played the crowd like a master musician, Pedrosa and Rossi back in parc ferme looked tired and drained, and happy to be done with the race. By the time Jorge finally made it back after his swim, he too looked to be coming off the adrenaline high and close to collapse – confirmation of how hard and physical this race had been for all.

The result means that Rossi loses the championship points lead to his team mate: but he will be happy enough to have done some effective damage limitation.

Race result

Pos  Rider             Team                  Time/Gap
 1.  Jorge Lorenzo     Yamaha              45m17.538s
 2.  Dani Pedrosa      Honda                 + 0.543s
 3.  Valentino Rossi   Yamaha                + 0.890s
 4.  Nicky Hayden      Ducati                + 9.015s
 5.  Casey Stoner      Ducati               + 10.034s
 6.  Andrea Dovizioso  Honda                + 23.144s
 7.  Mika Kallio       Pramac Ducati        + 34.489s
 8.  Marco Melandri    Gresini Honda        + 34.687s
 9.  Randy de Puniet   LCR Honda            + 36.160s
10.  Alvaro Bautista   Suzuki               + 36.791s
11.  Marco Simoncelli  Gresini Honda        + 37.155s
12.  Colin Edwards     Tech 3 Yamaha        + 38.260s
13.  Hector Barbera    Aspar Ducati         + 38.371s
14.  Hiroshi Aoyama    Interwetten Honda  + 1m02.052s
15.  Aleix Espargaro   Pramac Ducati         + 3 laps


      Ben Spies         Tech 3 Yamaha      7 laps
      Loris Capirossi   Suzuki             2 laps

MotoGP championship standings

Pos Driver            Points
1   Jorge Lorenzo     45
2   Valentino Rossi   41
3   Daniel Pedrosa    29
4   Andrea Dovizioso  26
5   Nicky Hayden      26
6   Randy de Puniet   17
7   Colin Edwards     12
8   Ben Spies         11
9   Casey Stoner      11
10  Marco Melandri    11
11  Marco Simoncelli  10
12  Mika Kallio       9
13  Hiroshi Aoyama    8
14  Loris Capirossi   7
15  Hector Barbera    7
16  Alvaro Bautista   6
17  Aleix Espargaro   1

Pos Constructor       Points
1   Yamaha            50
2   Honda             36
3   Ducati            26
4   Suzuki            13

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