Five riders arrive in Andalucia within eight points – Dovi, Marquez, Viñales, Crutchlow and Zarco. It’s show time!
Speed, sun and the south of Spain. The Gran Premio Red Bull de España is coming, with Jerez one of the true greats on the calendar; a classic that has staged some true classics. In addition, it’s an extra special edition this year as the track gets renamed – becoming the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto in honour of the Spanish great who sadly passed away last year.
With the stunning stadium section always packed to the rafters and the final ‘Jorge Lorenzo’ corner sure to provide some fireworks, everything is perfectly placed to go down to the wire as five riders arrive at the track within eight points.
After his sixth straight Americas GP win, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) comes into the Spanish GP off the back of a big statement in the title fight and only one point off the lead – but now it’s back to Europe and the Circuito de Jerez. With only one win in Andalucia, in 2014, it’s a track that the number 93 often picks out as one he finds tougher – will that be true this season?
The man he’s chasing down in the standings is currently Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team). After winning the opening race of the season and then taking two solid top six finishes, ‘DesmoDovi’ is back on top. He came fifth last year at Jerez, but was a good haul of points below where he is at this point in 2018. A good omen? Consistency is the Italian’s calling card. His teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, was top Ducati in 2017, however – taking his first podium in red…
And what of Marquez’ teammate Dani Pedrosa? After breaking his wrist in the Argentina GP, the three-time World Champion put in a stunning ride in Texas to – somehow – come home seventh on one of the most challenging tracks on the calendar. Now he’s had a good few more days to recover, can he replicate that superhuman performance? Pedrosa is the most recent winner at the track, decimating the field in 2017, so he can’t be counted out from a challenge despite his injury.
Last year leaves some other questions to be answered, too. Movistar Yamaha MotoGP duo Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi had a tougher weekend suffering with grip in 2017 – but it seems so far that big progress has been made for the Iwata marque. The year before that, too, it was Rossi who was uncatchable on Sunday – the third in a row of four men on pole who have gone on to win. Rossi has a little ground to make up in the points, but Viñales could even take the lead in Jerez – only a handful off the top. It will be a big weekend for Yamaha, but as a stock take or another incredible challenge at the front?
Challenging at the front was the modus operandi for Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in Texas as the ‘Maniac’ was the only man able to get close to Marquez in practice and then on race day, so he’ll be guns blazing in Andalucia – and so will his teammate Alex Rins, racing on home turf and keen to claw back some ground in that duel. Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) is wanting more too after a P6 in Texas and he impressed in Jerez last season as a rookie – as well as being equal on points at the moment with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol). Crutchlow was leader on the road to COTA before a crash out, but remains up there in the higher echelons as the two men take the challenge to the factory riders.
Five riders, eight points and everything to play for in Jerez. Life at full throttle? That’s how the Spanish GP does business, at one of the most spectacular carnivals of the season. Practice starts on Friday 4th May, racing starts at 14:00 (GMT +2) for the premier class on Sunday.
MotoGP™ World Championship Standings
1 – Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) DUCATI – 46 points
2 – Marc Marquez (SPA) HONDA – 45 points
3 – Maverick Viñales (SPA) YAMAHA – 41 points
4 – Cal Crutchlow (GBR) HONDA – 38 points
5 – Johann Zarco (FRA) YAMAHA – 38 points