Marquez and Lorenzo Aim to Shine in Sunny Spain
CIRCUITO DE JEREZ – ANGEL NIETO, Spain, May 5, 2019
Spanish team-mates Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) and Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) race at home this weekend, contesting the hugely popular Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.
Jerez is renowned for its electric atmosphere and superb circuit, which flows between packed hillsides and provides superb racing. The venue has attracted millions of fans to the country’s Andalusian region since hosting its first Spanish Grand Prix in April 1987, when Honda rider Wayne Gardner won the headline 500cc race.
Both reigning World Champion Marquez and his new team-mate Lorenzo have big points to prove on Sunday, round four of this year’s 19-race campaign.
Marquez finished a close second in the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix and won last month’s second round in Argentina to lead the World Championship, but slid out of the lead of the Americas Grand Prix in Texas, USA, two weeks ago. That brings the 26-year-old to his home race holding fourth place in the points chase, albeit only nine points behind series leader Andrea Dovizioso, who finished second overall to Marquez in 2017 and 2018.
Thus Marquez needs a good points haul this weekend and he will also want to thank his legions of Spanish fans by repeating last year’s dominant victory at the circuit, which has been resurfaced for this season. If he can manage that he will complete a Jerez hat-trick for the Repsol Honda Team, which also won the 2017 Spanish GP, with Dani Pedrosa.
Marquez’s 2018 Jerez success was only his second at the venue, following a MotoGP victory in 2014. His best Moto2 result at the track was second in 2012 and his best 125cc finish was third in 2009, his second visit to a Grand Prix podium.
Despite his tiny mistake in Texas, Marquez’s pace on the 2019 RC213V at the first three races proved that the latest iteration of Honda’s 1000cc V4 is definitely the best yet, with more horsepower and refined chassis details.
This year Marquez chases his sixth MotoGP world title in seven seasons, to add to the Moto2 and 125cc titles he won before graduating to the premier-class in 2013. Despite his relatively short career in the big category, Marquez has already won more MotoGP titles than any other Spaniard and lies second in the race-win rankings on 45 race wins, two behind Lorenzo.
Marquez is also the second most successful Spanish rider across all three MotoGP categories, with a total of 71 victories, behind Angel Nieto, who won 90 Grands Prix in the smaller classes between 1969 and 1985. The Jerez circuit is now named in memory of the late, great 13-times World Champion.
Lorenzo looks forward to his first Spanish Grand Prix as a Repsol Honda Team rider, hoping to put behind him the bad luck that dogged him at the first three races. The 31-year-old’s year had already got off to a difficult start when he broke the scaphoid bone in his left wrist during an off-season training accident, then during Qatar GP practice he cracked a rib during a nasty fall.
When things have gone his way, Lorenzo has shown impressive speed on his RC213V. And by the time he gets to Jerez the worst of his injury problems should be behind him, so he will be keen to show what he can do in front of his home crowd.
Lorenzo has an excellent record at Jerez, which suits his corner-speed riding technique. So far he has achieved five Grand Prix victories at the track: in the MotoGP race in 2010, 2011 and 2015, and in the 250cc race in 2006 and 2007. On Sunday he will aim to climb the Jerez podium with Honda machinery for the first time since he rode his RS250RW to second place in the 2005 Valencia GP, which was won by Pedrosa, who retired from racing at the end of last year, after 13 glittering seasons with the Repsol Honda Team.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) is another rider who hopes to move on after a couple of luckless races. The 33-year old Briton spent last winter recovering from injury and made a stunning return in Qatar, racing to third place, just meters behind Marquez. He would almost certainly have scored two more podiums in the Argentine and Americas GPs but for two tiny mistakes.
In Argentina he was judged to have jumped the start, by just a few centimeters, which resulted in a ride-through penalty which cost him around 30 seconds. Without that punishment he would have comfortably finished in second place, behind winner Marquez. In the USA he was fighting nine-times World Champion Valentino Rossi for second place when he lost the front and slid off at low speed.
Nonetheless Crutchlow is delighted with his pace, which once again underlines the performance of the 2019 RC213V. The former World Supersport Champion is an HRC rider, but rides for the independent LCR Honda CASTROL team owned by former rider Lucio Cecchinello, who won the 2002 and 2003 125cc GPs at Jerez. Crutchlow has yet to climb the podium at Jerez, but he started last year’s race from pole position and knows that a top-three should be within his grasp this weekend.
Cecchinello isn’t the only Honda MotoGP boss to have won races at Jerez. In May 1995 Repsol Honda Team manager Alberto Puig won the Spanish 500cc Grand Prix aboard a Honda NSR500!
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) arrives at Jerez holding seventh place in the 2019 MotoGP World Championship, one place in front of Crutchlow. The 27-year-old from Chiba has made a brilliant start to his second season in the premier class, with top-ten finishes at each of the first three rounds, including an excellent seventh place in Argentina, his best dry-weather result so far.
The omens are good for an even better result at Jerez. Last May he finished 12th at the track, his equal-best performance in the dry during his apprenticeship season. Then last November the former Moto2 race winner topped the end-of-year MotoGP tests, ahead of Marquez, Lorenzo and the rest.
Nakagami rides a 2018-spec RC213V and is already getting excellent performance from his equipment, which is also looked after by Cecchinello’s highly respected squad.
Jerez’s layout suits some riders better than others. The track offers a great challenge for riders and engineers with an interesting variety of corners. Excellent machine balance is vital to allow riders to maintain high corner speed through the many long turns, the real secret to a quick Jerez lap. The track’s fastest corners – the Crivillé and Ferrari right-handers – lead into the slowest – the Lorenzo hairpin, scene of many a thrilling last-lap duel. Constructed in 1986, Jerez hosted its first GP the following year and quickly became popular with riders, teams and fans.
Honda has an amazing premier-class record at Jerez, with 21 victories from 32 races staged at the venue. Those victories were achieved by the NSR500 two-stroke with Wayne Gardner, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan, Puig, Alex Crivillé and Rossi; the RC211V four-stroke with Rossi and Sete Gibernau, the RC212V with Pedrosa; and the RC213V with Casey Stoner, Pedrosa and Marquez.
The Moto2 World Championship also returns to Europe this weekend, with the top three riders separated by just five points. Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40 Kalex) crashed out of the last race on the first lap but still leads the title chase, thanks to victories in the first two races. The 22-year-old Italian stands three points ahead of 26-year-old German Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex), who took top-three finishes in Qatar and the USA, but has yet to win a race. Two points further back is 32-year-old Swiss rider Thomas Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex), who won last time out in the USA.
Fourth in the standings is Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team Kalex), son of 1987 Jerez 500cc winner Wayne. Underlining the fact that motorcycle racing is a family affair, 21-year-old Gardner is followed in points standings by Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex), Marc’s brother, and Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46 Kalex), Rossi’s half-brother.
This is a big weekend for Moto2 team-mates Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia, Kalex) and Dimas Ekky Pratama (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) who both commence their first European Grand Prix seasons. However, both riders have already raced at the circuit, in the FIM CEV Championships.
Chantra has had the best start to his rookie World Championship season, with a stirring top-ten ride at round two in Argentina. The last time the 20-year-old Thai rider raced at Jerez was in last September’s CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship event, when he finished one of the two races in 12th position.
Ekky Pratama competed in the Moto2 European Championship race at the same meeting, taking an excellent fourth-place finish, less than two seconds off a podium finish. He hopes that his knowledge of the Jerez circuit will help him score his first World Championship points on Sunday.
Six of the eight top scorers in the 2019 Moto3 World Championship are Honda riders, equipped with the latest version of the NSF250RW, which won the Riders and Constructors World Championships in 2017 and 2018.
The highest of those is Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW), who stands third overall. The 21-year-old Italian has scored one podium so far, with his second-place finish in Qatar. Equal on points with Dall Porta is 23-year-old Italian Niccolo Antonelli (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW), who started the last race in the USA from pole position. Antonelli is returning to form after two challenging seasons – at Jerez he will be aiming for his first win since 2016.
Just one point behind the Italians is Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW), who started his third Grand Prix season with a stunning win in Qatar. He also scored well at round two but was out of luck last time out, when a collision cost him time, which he tried to regain, but crashed in the attempt. The talented 19-year-old from Fukuoka has reason to approach this weekend with optimism, because last year at Jerez he scored one of his three top-ten finishes, taking ninth place, just four seconds off the win.
Toba’s team-mate Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) also has a good record at Jerez. Last May he made his Grand Prix debut at the Spanish GP and impressed onlookers by scoring a World Championship point in 15th place. And last September he finished a close second in one of the Moto3 Junior World Championship races at Jerez. He is currently 17th overall, with 11th-place finishes at two of the first three races.
Tony Arbolino (Snipers Team Honda NSF250RW), Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) and Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) stand sixth, seventh and eighth in the Moto3 World Championship standings. Arbolino has already shown his speed this year, with an excellent third-place finish in Argentina.
After Sunday’s racing the MotoGP paddock heads north to the legendary Le Mans racetrack, venue for the French Grand Prix on May 19. This stage of the championship marks a noticeable change of pace: until now there have been three rounds over eight weekends; whereas there will be six rounds over the next ten weekends.
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team:
“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.”
Jorge Lorenzo, Repsol Honda Team:
“I have been focusing on this race since the start of the season. With limited testing, we knew the opening rounds would be rough. Jerez is one of my favorite 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.”
Takaaki Nakagami, LCR Honda IDEMITSU:
“For me, another two weekends off between races is a little bit too much, but this has given me the time to prepare very well in Spain for Jerez, so I will be really ready to fight this weekend. I’m pretty confident with the track because in the winter tests last November we were really strong – P1 – and my lap times were good. But conditions will have changed since then, with higher temperatures, so the track will feel different compared to November. Anyway, the team is working well and I already made some plans for the weekend with my crew chief Giacomo [Guidotti]. The weather forecast looks okay and I like the track, so let’s see what happens!”
Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda CASTROL:
“I’m really looking forward to going to Jerez, which is a circuit that I like and where I’ve had some good performances, like pole position last year. We know the circuit is good for us and we are able to be fast there, so hopefully we can have a good strong weekend. I think it’s very important to have a good result after the disappointments of Argentina and America. I’m looking forward to working with the team over the weekend and we are all motivated to work hard alongside Honda to get another good result.”
Lorenzo Baldassarri, Flexbox HP 40:
“The last race showed what can happen in Moto2 – everyone is on the limit and sometimes things happen because of that. Anyway, we didn’t score any points in Texas but we know we can be fast again this weekend, especially because I won at Jerez last year. Of course this year we have a different engine and this weekend we will get a new rear tire from Dunlop that works better with that engine, so we will have a lot of detail work to do. However, I feel confident that we can once again be strong at this track.”
Marcel Schrötter, Dynavolt Intact GP:
“We had three really good first races of the season. Even though Argentina was a disappointment for not finishing on the podium. But heading to Jerez we are in a very good position. We’ve been fighting all race weekends for the podium and I expect the same in Jerez. Although the season changes a little bit when you come to Europe. Everyone knows the tracks very well, especially Jerez. In Moto2 and Moto3 we all have done one million laps there. We have to get the best out of the situation. The conditions during the winter tests to now will be different. We have to be on point this weekend and try to focus on our job and try to achieve the same results!”
Thomas Luthi, Dynavolt Intact GP:
“To get zero points in Argentina was painful, really painful for the championship. I knew I had to recover some points and that I needed to be clever in the race in Austin. To get the victory was an amazing feeling. But now we have to be focused again! We come to Jerez, a very special track. All our winter tests took place in Jerez. Nearly everybody had done many laps there. In February we weren’t that strong yet, the bike was still new, but now after three races we know the bike a lot better; we have a better set-up. So I’m very excited to arrive in Jerez and to see how the bike works there. It’s good to be back in Europe, we have to keep on doing our job and we have to keep fighting. The motivation is very high!”
Somkiat Chantra, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia:
“This weekend I want to work to get back into the points, so this is what I will work for with the team, who are doing a great job for me. This year we have already tested at Jerez, plus I already know the track from racing in the CEV championship. In Argentina and the USA I had to learn completely new circuits on Friday and Saturday, so it will be really nice to be able to start this weekend with a lot of knowledge of the track and then work hard to get the maximum performance from myself and my machine for Sunday’s race.”
Dimas Ekky Pratama, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia:
“This weekend race we start the European season at Jerez. I already tested there earlier this year with IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia and the rest of the Moto2 grid, so I have good feelings going into the Jerez Grand Prix. I know it will be a tough race because many riders know this track so well, but I am thinking positive and I will do my best to catch some points.”
Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Leopard Racing:
“Finally the European season starts and I cannot wait until I get back on my bike at Jerez! The last two races weren’t so good for us, so we need to regain the form that got us onto the podium in Qatar. Of course I believe we can do it, even though I haven’t had the best results at Jerez in the past. The team is working great for me and I know the difference between a good result and not-so-good result is tiny in Moto3, so we have to work better than ever!”
Niccolo Antonelli, Sic58 Squadra Corse:
“In Texas we proved that we are fast again, with pole position. Now I want to continue that improvement into the race at Jerez. So far I have never finished on the podium at Jerez, so this will be my goal this weekend. We need to take our qualifying speed into the race and be quick in the first laps, but at the same time make other riders don’t get in our way, because the first laps in Moto3 are always a bit crazy!”
Kaito Toba, Honda Team Asia:
“Last year at Jerez I had a good race, so this year my target is simple: a minimum of a podium, but I will try to get the victory. I feel this is possible because I was fast at Jerez last time and I like the track a lot. The team and I will work hard during the week to get the best possible bike for Sunday, so I can try my maximum in the race.”
Ai Ogura, Honda Team Asia:
“I feel really excited about going to Jerez. We carried out winter testing at the track and I had a really good feeling with the circuit and my bike. We will work hard and I will try my best as always. I did the first three races of the year without a top-ten result, so I will try to make my maximum and get a top-ten finish at Jerez.”