Photography by Gold & Goose
One of the few things Marc Marquez hadn’t accomplished in his short, but brilliant career was to win at Jerez. He can now cross that one off his list. Honda’s world championship leader survived early skirmishes with the legendary Yamaha duo of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo to score his fourth consecutive victory in front of a packed house of over 117,000 sun-drenched fans at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit, round 4 of 18. It marked the first time since 2002 (Rossi) that a rider has opened the Motorcycle Grand Prix season with four straight wins.
Marquez’ final margin of victory of 1.431 seconds wasn’t indicative of how he controlled the race. He actually held almost a five second lead much of the race before backing off the pace in the closing laps. Rossi just held off a typical late-race charge by Honda’s Dani Pedrosa. Jorge Lorenzo ran up front in the early going, but dropped to a distant fourth at the flag.
Marquez now has a commanding 28-point lead over Pedrosa in the standings. That’s more than a race win’s worth of points lead after only four rounds, a sobering thought for anyone hoping to dethrone Marquez.
“Of course I’m really happy,” a beaming Marquez said after the race. “It’s a different victory, because on this circuit I struggled a little bit more on the weekend. My level and the level of Dani, Valentino and Jorge was so close. I don’t know why, but in the race I felt good. The front [tire] was a little bit critical, so anyway in the beginning I was able to open some gap and then I continued to push because in the end I know that Dani was so strong, but also Valentino for that reason. I pushed in the beginning, because with new tires I feel a little bit better. And then it was a special victory. We are in a very good moment and we need to try to use that advantage and do our job as always.”
The race kicked off with Andrea Dovizioso getting a great jump and leading the pack into the first turn, but Marquez was quick to attack and came to the front exiting the turn. It was super hectic action as Rossi moved up to sweep under Marquez to take over the lead, bringing up a cheer even from the Spanish partisans. Lorenzo meanwhile wheelied off the line and that resulted in a poor launch, but he too made aggressive moves early and got up to third.
Rossi briefly took the lead again at the start of the second lap when Marquez ran wide into a turn. Lorenzo even made a stab at going through on the defending champ, but Marquez squeezed back into line leaving Lorenzo nowhere to go. Marquez was a beast again on the brakes and took over from Rossi and from the third lap forward he began to open a gap on the grouping of Rossi, Lorenzo and Pedrosa. Dovizioso headed the rest of the field in fifth, already four seconds back from Marquez.
Karl Abraham fell early and Michele Pirro was out early as well. Cal Crutchlow pulled into the pits on lap four, pointing to his Ducati’s brake lever. Andrea Iannone fell on the brakes in the last turn on lap six, but his bike slid easily and he was able to pick it up and continue. Mike Di Meglio pitted for tires on lap 11, the hot Jerez tarmac taking a toll on the Bridgestones. Danilo Petrucci crashed in morning warm-up and broke his wrist and was unable to start the race.
Tire wear had been an issue this weekend, so as the race entered the second half it was going to be interesting to see how tire management came into play.
By the halfway mark Marquez’ lead was up to nearly five seconds over Rossi, who continued to hold off his teammate Lorenzo. Pedrosa was stalking closely in fourth, perhaps planning a late-race charge. Dovizioso and Aleix Espargaro battled over fifth and a couple of second back Alvaro Bautista and Bradley Smith were involved in a good contest over seventh.
With seven laps to go Pedrosa made his way past Lorenzo to third. Rossi was getting warnings from his pits that the second Honda rider was coming.
In the closing laps Marquez managed his lead at about 4.5 seconds. The attention turned to Pedrosa’s charge on Rossi and a developing battle for fifth between Dovizioso, Bautista and Aleix Espargaro. Rossi staved off the challenge of Pedrosa to score his second podium of the season. Lorenzo dropped off the pace late, but managed to easily hold fourth. The epic battle was for fifth with Dovizioso just nipping Bautista, Aleix Espargaro and Smith, who came up to join the skirmish late.
For the American pair it was not a memorable weekend. Nicky Hayden rode to lonely 11th-place finish, while Colin Edwards pulled out of the race late.
Rossi admitted it was a challenge to earn his podium.
“The conditions of the race were very, very difficult for everybody,” Rossi explained. “Our pace was a little bit slower. I chose the extra hard [tire] on the front. It was a risk, but I was worried about the medium at the end of the race. I think it was the right choice for Yamaha, in fact I can push a lot. The bike slide everywhere, but I could stay with a quite good rhythm and at the end when Dani arrive I know he was a little bit fast, but I give the maximum and I’m very happy. Thanks to Yamaha and thanks to my team for this second place.”
Pedrosa once again was much stronger in the second half of the race and his charge very nearly took him to second, but for a heroic effort by Rossi to hold him off.
“It was a very hard race,” Pedrosa said. “In the beginning I was struggling a lot with the front tire and couldn’t really push. So I stayed all the race behind the Yamahas. I couldn’t push the limits of the bike, but I just managed to stay there and towards the end I could get a little stronger. I managed to pass Jorge and get closer to Valentino. With two laps to go I was just really close, but I had a big slide in the rear and lost touch again. The last lap I pushed hard and was close enough to be on the tail, but not really to make a pass. Unfortunately not the best today, but consistent. I looking forward to tomorrow [testing] to improve the bike and get better for the next race.”
The series moves to France and Le Mans in two weeks.
Jerez MotoGP results, May 4, 2014
1. Marc Marquez ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 27 laps
2. Valentino Rossi ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) +1.431s
3. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) +1.529s
4. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) +8.541s
5. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici) +27.494s
6. Alvaro Bautista ESP Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) +27.606s
7. Aleix Espargaro ESP NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha) +27.917s
8. Bradley Smith GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1) +27.947s
9. Pol Espargaro ESP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1)* +29.419s
10. Stefan Bradl GER LCR Honda MotoGP (RC213V) +32.872s
11. Nicky Hayden USA Drive M7 Aspar (RCV1000R) +35.490s
12. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN Drive M7 Aspar (RCV1000R) +40.083s
13. Scott Redding GBR Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RCV1000R)* +43.830s
14. Yonny Hernandez COL Pramac Racing (Desmosedici) +52.295s
15. Hector Barbera ESP Avintia Racing (Avintia) +54.873s
16. Michael Laverty GBR Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART) +1m 06.182s
17. Broc Parkes AUS Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART)* +1m 23.420s
18. Colin Edwards USA NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha)
19. Mike Di Meglio FRA Avintia Racing (Avintia)*
20. Andrea Iannone ITA Pramac Racing (Desmosedici)
21. Karel Abraham CZE Cardion AB Motoracing (RCV1000R)
22. Cal Crutchlow GBR Ducati Team (Desmosedici)
23. Michele Pirro ITA Ducati Team (Desmosedici)
DNS Danilo Petrucci ITA IodaRacing Project (ART)
Standings after 4 of 18 rounds
1 Marc MARQUEZ Honda SPA 100
2 Dani PEDROSA Honda SPA 72
3 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha ITA 61
4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati ITA 45
5 Jorge LORENZO Yamaha SPA 35