When Valentino Rossi proved at Jerez that at 37 years old he’s still got the proverbial ‘it’ he set MotoGP experts and fans the task of recalling the last time he did it in such a commanding fashion. He has a fantastic record at Jerez after taking the third win of his career in 125cc there in 1997, a win in his 250cc title year in 1999 and six wins in the premier class between 2001 and 2009. Jerez was the scene for Rossi’s infamous clash with his then arch rival Sete Gibernau as he passed the Spaniard on the final corner to win the race with a very late move which pushed the Honda rider into the gravel (he recovered to finish second). None of those races trigger memories of a performance like we saw in this race though as the Italian delivered the kind of race for which his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo is more famous.
Rossi was starting from only his third pole position since he returned to Yamaha in 2013 after beating Lorenzo to pole by 0.122 seconds. Once the lights went out he led the whole race apart from a brief moment when Lorenzo went past only to be re-taken by his team-mate at the next corner. Rossi pulled away, established a comfortable lead and held it to the finish even taking the fastest lap in the process. The record books show numerous occasions where he’s had the holy trinity of pole, win and fastest lap but I cannot recall a race where he led every lap and dominated from start to finish. With Lorenzo leaving Yamaha at the end of the season to join Ducati and his new team-mate yet to be decided it was a great statement from Rossi that he will be the number one rider in 2017. He stays third in the championship but is now 24 points behind Marc Marquez after being 33 points back at the start of the day.
Lorenzo took a commanding win here last season which set off a four race win streak but the 28 year-old didn’t have an answer for Rossi’s dominance this weekend. After being second on the grid and second in the race he stays second in the championship now 17 points behind Marquez. It looked at one stage like Lorenzo would have a good battle for second place but he could not hold the same pace and was five second back from his fellow Spaniard by the end of the race. He retains his grip on the championship though as they head to Le Mans. What was disappointing but not surprising was Lorenzo’s lack of sportsmanship on the podium. Despite their rivalry Rossi and Marquez applauded each other and Lorenzo while they received their trophies where the reigning champion stood sulking like a child who’d had his lunch money stolen.
Dani Pedrosa finished fourth after a bright start to the race where he briefly passed Marquez for third place but his challenge soon faded and he had to focus more on the Suzukis chasing him than what was happening in front. For the first time this season it was Aleix Espargaro that was the lead Suzuki after he muscled past Maverick Vinales at the start and finished 2.629 seconds in front of his team-mate. It shows how far Suzuki have come since their return to MotoGP that they are now third in the Teams’ Standings behind Movistar Yamaha and Repsol Honda. Espargaro and Vinales have amassed 65 points and are 9 ahead of Monster Tech 3 Yamahas on 56 and 17 in front of the Ducati Corse boys who were expected to challenge for wins this season.
Speaking of Ducati then, Andrea Iannone’s season goes from cold to tepid as he spent the whole of the race fighting for single figure points before finally working his way up to seventh to take nine points. That at least took him above team-mate Andrea Dovizioso in the standings now after the elder Italian retired with an undiagnosed mechanical fault.
In eighth place Pol Espargaro continues to out-perform Bradley Smith on the Tech 3 Yamahas as he has done every race this season. It’s a big turnaround from 2015 and you have to wonder how much Bradley has his eyes on that factory KTM contract in 2017 in much the same way that Cal Crutchlow’s performances dropped off at Tech 3 once he had the factory Ducati contract in his pocket. I don’t think it’s anything deliberate by Smith but he certainly isn’t delivering the same performances he was last season when his future was on the line.
Apart from Rossi’s masterful win the ride of the day has to go to Eugene Laverty who brought the Aspar Ducati home in ninth and showed for most of the race how much he has developed in the last year and a bit. His fourth place in Argentina may have been a brilliant result but even he admits he was pretty much gifted four places on the last lap. In Jerez though he ran as the top Ducati for a long time until Iannone worked his way through and still finished above Hector Barbera on the Avintia Ducati to be top satelite Ducati rider. Laverty remains ninth in the standings and is just three points behind Barbera in eighth and here’s another nice face for him – apart from Valentino Rossi he’s the first non-Spanish rider in the standings.
Cal Crutchlow scored his first points of the season in eleventh place to go to eighteenth in the standings with five points. Smith was next to add just four to his tally and drops to twelfth overall on twenty points. Loris Baz had his best result of the season with thirteenth place in front of Stefan Bradl whose two points take him on to seventeen for the season. Aprilia are really improving this season and have as many points as the Aspar boys and more than Pramac Ducati which nobody would have predicted after four races. Yonny Hernandez took the final point for Aspar Ducati in fifteenth.
The riders still running outside the points at the finish were both Pramac Ducatis and both Estrella Galicia Marc VDS Hondas. At Pramac you can almost forgive Michele Pirro as he is a substitute for the injured Danilo Petrucci and clearly better suited to a test rider role but this was a horror weekend for Scott Redding. I really expected Scott to excel given the chance to shine on such a competitive bike and I know he’s had a lot of bad luck (the Argentina breakdown for example) but he is fourteenth in the standings with just sixteen points. The only saving grace is that he has more points after four races this season than he did last on the Honda which takes us to Jack Miller and Tito Rabat. As with Pirro I don’t expect anything special from Miller as I think he’s in over his head but I thought Rabat would be a little more on the pace by now. Perhaps the satelite Hondas aren’t as near to their factory counterparts as the Ducatis and Yamahas are as Crutchlow isn’t challenging for good points yet either.
STANDINGS (Top 15 only)
1 – Marc Marquez – SPA – Repsol Honda – 82
2 – Jorge Lorenzo – SPA – Movistar Yamaha – 65
3 – Valentino Rossi – ITA – Movistar Yamaha – 58
4 – Dani Pedrosa – SPA – Repsol Honda – 40
5 – Pol Espargaro – SPA – Monster Tech 3 Yamaha – 36
6 – Maverick Vinales – SPA – Suzuki Ecstar – 33
7 – Aleix Espargaro – SPA – Suzuki Ecstar – 32
8 – Hector Barbera – SPA – Avintia Ducati – 31
9 – Eugene Laverty – IRL – Aspar Ducati – 28
10 – Andrea Iannone – ITA – Ducati Corse – 25
11 – Andrea Dovizioso – ITA – Ducati Corse – 23