Jerez MotoGP Preview

Paul Carruthers | October 1, 2008

The following is from Yamaha…

MotoGP finally resumes action this weekend, after the recent Icelandic Volcano forced the postponement of the Japanese GP. It has been a frustrating time for the paddock as the ash cloud has billowed over Europe and it will be an excited Fiat Yamaha Team that lands in Spain this week, with Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo itching to get back to action after their brilliant one-two in the opening round.

Rossi has an impressive record at Jerez, with seven wins in all classes there including three for Yamaha in 2005, 2006 and last year, when he overhauled Dani Pedrosa to take his first win of the season. Despite being on a high from his brilliant win in Qatar, Rossi was perhaps more grateful than most for the volcano’s eruptions as he slightly damaged his shoulder muscles in a motocross training accident ten days ago. The cancelled race has given him unexpected extra time to recover and he hopes to be in good enough shape to put up a fight in Jerez.

Lorenzo is now hopefully back to full fitness after breaking his hand in the pre-season and the 22-year-old has a score to settle with the first Spanish track of the year, after he crashed out when challenging for the podium last year. It was at this track where he made history as the youngest ever rider to compete in a Grand Prix and he has won there twice since, on the way to his two 250cc titles in 2006 and 2007.

The Andalucian city of Jerez is a shrine for Spanish motorcycle racing and draws one of the biggest crowds of the year. More than 120,000 fans make the pilgrimage south and pack into the natural amphitheatre to create a three-day carnival. The track itself has few hard braking points and little opportunity to fully open the throttle, but often throws up some spectacular racing. The 4.423 km layout features regular and quick changes in direction, meaning the rider requires a responsive overall set-up and good grip at maximum lean angles.

“Of course it was a pity not to go to Japan, Yamaha’s home race, but we will go in October now and for me it was quite lucky to have this extra week. I didn’t hurt myself badly in the motocross fall but my shoulder was quite sore so it was good to give it more time to recover. I don’t know yet how much it will affect me this weekend, I hope not too much. The win in Qatar was fantastic but we saw there that we are lacking in some areas compared to our rivals so we have work to do. I love to race at Jerez, the atmosphere is amazing and I have fantastic fans in Spain. Last year I had a great win and I hope we can challenge again this time.”


“I was sad not to go to Japan because I love the country and the race and last season I won, so I was looking forward to going back. Anyway, we can’t change it and at least we will still go, in October. Now we go to Jerez, an amazing track where you can actually hear the crowd as you race! At Nieto and Peluquil corners especially you can feel the people, it’s like nowhere else in the World Championship. Last year I crashed when I was trying to pass Stoner and get the podium but until then the weekend had been good, I was fast and took pole position. This year I’m confident that I can finish the race and get as close as possible to the front.”

The following is from Honda…

This year’s Spanish Grand Prix was originally scheduled as round three of the 18-race MotoGP World Championship, the traditional curtain raiser for the main European sector of the season. But the chaos wreaked by Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano which shut down much of European airspace last week, forced the cancellation of the second race in Japan, so Jerez has moved up the order to become round two.

Apart from the rescheduling of the Japanese GP to October 3 and the logistics efforts required for the early return of 270 tonnes of MotoGP freight from Japan to Spain, the sport was otherwise unaffected by Eyjafjallajökull. And there is an upside from the postponement of the Japanese race – riders will have less jetlag to contend with at Jerez than if they had raced at Motegi on April 25.

Motorcycle Grand Prix events don’t often get cancelled due to natural causes. The last GP to fall victim to nature was the 1980 Austrian GP which was called off when three feet of snow hit the Salzburgring the night before practice was due to start. Severe weather conditions are certainly not expected at Jerez, where Honda’s six MotoGP riders will be aiming to build on what they learned at the opening race at Losail, Qatar, on April 11.

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) was Honda’s star performer under the Losail floodlights, winning a thrilling battle for the final place on the podium with Nicky Hayden (Ducati). Dovizioso fully understood the significance of that fighting third-place finish. It suggests the Italian is destined for great things this season and he is 100 per cent focused on keeping the momentum going at Jerez and beyond.

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) had a more difficult start to his 2010 campaign and will be aiming to bounce back from his seventh-place result at Losail. The Spaniard – who led the early stages of the Qatar GP – will be using the two days of practice and qualifying at Jerez to hone his machine setup to improve race-long stability. Pedrosa has a great record at Jerez scored two GP victories at Jerez – he won the 250 GP in 2005 and the MotoGP race in 2008.

Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda RC212V) will be looking to go one better than he did at Jerez last year, when he finished just one place off the podium. And the Frenchman has every reason to believe he can challenge for a front-running result after an impressive start to the season at Losail where he qualified a superb fourth quickest and finished in sixth place, just seven seconds off the podium.

MotoGP rookie Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP RC212V) was initially disappointed when he heard that the Japanese GP had been postponed. Obviously the reigning 250 World Champion was keen to ride a MotoGP bike in front of his home fans for the first time, but on reflection he realised that the race postponement should work in his favour, because when he returns to Motegi in October he will have much more experience of a MotoGP bike. Aoyama impressed in Qatar, qualifying and finishing in tenth place, just behind the hugely experienced Loris Capirossi (Suzuki), who was riding in his 189th premier-class Grand Prix!

Fausto Gresini’s riders Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) and Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) are in positive mood following a challenging weekend in Qatar. Melandri is looking forward to trying some revised chassis parts designed to improve front-end feeling, which he lacked at Losail, while Simoncelli is certain he can continue the progress he made at the Qatar GP. Despite the Motegi postponement, Simoncelli travelled to Japan after Qatar to undertake wind tunnel testing with HRC.

Jerez also welcomes the Moto2 World Championship, MotoGP’s all-new intermediate class powered by Honda. The historic first race of the new series at Qatar was full of surprises, with Japanese teenager Shoya Tomizawa (Technomag-CIP, Suter) winning an enthralling encounter from Alex Debon (Aeroport de Castello, FTR) and Jules Cluzel (Forward Racing, Suter).

The concept of Moto2 is to allow up-and-coming riders to compete in GP racing’s intermediate category without the requirement for a multi-million euro budget. Qatar certainly proved the efficacy of the new regulations – Tomizawa proved his huge talent by beating a grid full of riders using identical Honda engines and Dunlop tyres, not by having the richest team behind him.

Many Moto2 riders and teams tested at Jerez during the off-season, so round two of the series may well turn out a different result to the first race.

Series leader Tomizawa expects a fascinating weekend right from the start of practice on Friday. The 19-year-old from Chiba was on the pace during the final preseason tests at Jerez during March, so he should be able to run up front during the Spanish GP weekend. The former
125 and 250 All-Japan race winner insists he feels no pressure to stay at the top of the points table – his main aim this year is to be consistent, with good finishes at every GP.

Suggesting that Moto2 should continue to serve up thrillingly close racing, the fastest 16 riders at the Jerez test were separated by just one second, with Tomizawa only six tenths off the fastest man, but in 13th place! Claudio Corti (Forward Racing, Suter) was fastest during the tests at 1m 44.044s, three hundredths faster than Toni Elias (Gresini Racing Moto2, Moriwaki), who this coming weekend should be much stronger than he was in Qatar, where he suffered with a preseason injury. As well as confirming the competiveness of the new class, the Jerez testing times also prove its ability to serve up surprises. While Tomizawa was 13th quickest, fellow Qatar podium men Debon and Cluzel were 15th and eighth!

Qatar runner-up Debon, who broke a collarbone only weeks before the first race, is determined to do well at his home GP. And he has high hopes because he loves the Jerez track – he started last year’s Jerez 250 GP from pole position. Third-place finisher Cluzel is also convinced he can carry on from where he left off in the desert, having felt comfortably fast during the Jerez tests.

Constructed in 1986, Jerez hosted its first Grand Prix the following year and has remained on the World Championship calendar ever since. Through the 1990s the event grew to become the most popular GP of all. Riders love the Andalucian venue because it’s a track that rewards rider talent over machine performance. Many of the circuit’s 13 corners flow into one another, placing the emphasis on smooth, neat riding and stable, all-round machine performance. 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 final hairpin, scene of many a thrilling last-lap duel.

Honda riders have won 16 of the 22 MotoGP races staged at the track on a variety of machinery, from the NSR500 500cc two-stroke to the RC211V 990cc four-stroke to the RC212V 800cc four-stroke.


Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso said: “We were feeling very motivated for the race in Japan and we will definitely carry forward that determination for Jerez. To be honest the racetrack is not one of my favourites and it’s quite slow – but the crowd and the atmosphere are incredible because there are always so many spectators packed into the grandstands and the hillsides. In the past I’ve never had really good results at this track but now we are arriving in Jerez after an important result in Qatar and I’m looking forward to this race and to continuing in the positive direction we have been moving in recently. My target is that we maintain the momentum we have, and build on it over the next few races. I’m also looking forward to the test on Monday after the race. This year there are not so many opportunities to test, so Monday will be important and we’ll work hard to make the most of it.”

Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa said: “Jerez is always a very special race for the Spanish riders and I’m really looking forward to this weekend. We didn’t have the best start to the season in Qatar, and in Japan we couldn’t race due to the problems caused by the volcano, but I hope in Jerez, with the atmosphere, which is always fantastic, and the characteristics of the circuit, the situation can be different. I’m determined that we make improvements from the first practice onwards – unlike Qatar where we struggled a lot throughout the weekend – and that we’ll be able to go fast right from the start. I would really like to feel more comfortable with the bike and get a good result here. Our rivals are very strong and I’m sure they want to make the most of their advantage, so we have to work very hard to get to their level and be able to fight with them from the beginning to the end of the race. In Jerez we will try some changes to the chassis so that the bike is not so nervous and I’m hopeful that they can work”.

LCR Honda rider Randy de Puniet said: “After the postponement of the Motegi GP I have increased my training programme to be at 100 per cent for Jerez race. After the good result we have obtained in Qatar our target remains the same: a top-ten finish. Last year’s Jerez GP was one of the best moments of my season as I finished fourth. I aim to be in the front this year again. The base setup we have developed during winter testing was very helpful in the first round and I think it will be the same in Spain. We will start from the same setup and, session by session, we will adjust the bike.”

Interwetten Honda MotoGP rider Hiroshi Aoyama said: “As I had no chance to compete at my home Grand Prix last week, the more I look forward to the race at Jerez. After the Japanese GP was postponed I had a lot of time in Japan to relax with my family and to recover some new energy. The Grand Prix at Jerez is only my second race in the MotoGP class, but in 250cc I always liked this track and I won the race here last year. I know I still have to learn a lot in MotoGP, but I hope and expect that we will have a good race here.”

San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli said: “Honestly, I was a little disappointed about the postponement of the Motegi round because I was keen to go racing again but to have an extra week to prepare for Jerez is also good. I actually went to Japan anyway because we had some wind tunnel tests that had been planned for a while. It was quite a ‘compact’ trip in the end because I was there and back in just three days but it was still very worthwhile. We were able to test a few modifications that should allow us to make some aerodynamic improvements for straight-line speed. It won’t make a dramatic difference but like everything it is a case of taking a small but useful step forward. I also had the opportunity to experience firsthand the strong desire on behalf of everybody at Honda to work hard and succeed. There is a lot of positivity about everything they do and I am sure that in time we will be able to achieve good results together. Jerez is a circuit I like, where I won my first race and where I have always been able to go fast, so I hope that remains the case this year. We go to Jerez with the target of improving on our performance in Qatar.”

San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Melandri said: “Having done as badly as it was possible to do in Qatar we’re hoping for a positive reaction at Jerez. The postponement of the Grand Prix of Japan was definitely a good thing for us because it has given us more time to reflect and make important technical preparations. Over the past two weeks the team have been working hard alongside Honda and there will be some new things for me at Jerez that should help me find a better feeling with the front. In Qatar I was struggling to control the bike under braking and in corner entry, and when that happens it ruins everything else. If we can find a feeling for the front then we’ll have a base from which to work on the rest of the bike. Obviously we have to confirm everything when we get out on the track but I’m confident and to have the chance to work on everything in good conditions at a circuit I like is important. I had my best race of the season at Jerez in the dry last year. It is a track where you need to have a good feeling with the bike to ride well because you switch from fast corners to really slow ones so you need good feedback from the front to commit to them, especially the fast ones. My best memory of Jerez is my podium there in 2005, a season that was really important for my MotoGP career.”


Paul Carruthers | EditorPaul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.