A turbulent launch to Jorge Lorenzo’s MotoGP career chapter as a factory Ducati Corse rider hit an upward trajectory today at Jerez when the five times world champion lifted his first podium trophy ‘in red’ with third position under the Spanish sun. Laying rubber around a circuit upon which he has tasted victory on three occasions, #99 ran to his maiden top-three on the fierce Desmosedici and followed countrymen Marc Marquez and winner Dani Pedrosa on a day where the local fans were granted ‘home’ celebrations in each of the three classes.
Lorenzo began to move through from the mid-top ten as several of his peers struggled with grip in temperatures that nudged into the high 20s. He chased the excellent Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Johann Zarco (who would finish fourth and the top M1) and edged away from the Frenchman in the final laps. Lorenzo did not vault into the Jerez lake in jubilation as he memorably did in 2010 but made a ‘splash’ of a different kind with the iconic Italian brand.
“This is more than a victory with the Yamaha,” he grinned of his 108th rostrum appearance in what was the 3000th MotoGP race. “Everybody knows how difficult it has been to be competitive in the dry with a special bike - like we have now with the Ducati - and at a difficult track like Jerez [for the brand] in the last years. This is one of my favourite tracks and it helped us be stronger this weekend so I knew we had the pace to fight for fifth or sixth position, then unexpectedly I started overtaking the riders and the race pace was quite slow because of the heat. I could overtake the riders little by little and in the last laps I could escape and enjoy this very good result for me and the team.”
Mistakes and crashes affected the outings of Cal Crutchlow, Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi – the two Yamaha stars eventually finishing the 27 lap distance in sixth and tenth respectively with Viñales mystified by a lack of front end grip and Rossi frustrated by wheelspin issues that ruined chances of repeating his 2016 success at the same track.
The Italian still heads the standings from his teammate by only 2 points with four riders separated by just 10.
“A very difficult weekend and race for us,” The Doctor said “and we didn't expect this after the last few years but we struggled a lot with spin on acceleration. For the race we tried to modify the balance [of the bike] but we didn't fix the spin and in the last 6-7 laps I had a lot of vibration on the left of the tyre and had to slow.”
“There are four riders within ten points but if you look from the first race then Viñales won two and we had two bikes on the podium and now Honda have done the same; it is like each race is a mini championship! We will try to be faster in Le Mans.”
The first blip in EG 0,0 Marc VDS Franco Morbidelli’s Moto2 season came when the Italian slid out of the lead while vying with teammate Alex Marquez for his fourth victory in a row. Franco was forced into the pits with a damaged motorcycle leaving the way clear for former Moto3 world champion Marquez to ride unperturbed to his very first success in the intermediate division.
“A relief,” #73 said. “It was the longest race of my life and on the main straight there was an electronic banner counting down the laps. I saw 14, 13, 12, 11 and I said ‘OK, try not to watch it!’ I kept calm and tried not to make any mistakes.”
The Spaniard was followed onto the box by Moto2 rookie, Pecco Bagnaia, who also delivered the SKY Racing Team VR46’s maiden trophy in the category.
“We changed a little bit our way to work this weekend and it allowed us to make a step ahead. Austin was really difficult but by FP2 this weekend I was fast and right through to the race where I could make second position.”
Moto3 bedlam went down to the last metres of the race as Aron Canet seized his very first Grand Prix victory by half a bike length from Romano Fenati and after a final corner move that seemed to defy physics.
“It was so difficult but I tried to get two riders, could stop the bike well and get into the corner good,” the ecstatic 17 year old said of the key moment at his home fixture in just his second season. “I really pushed and I’m so happy with this win it is tricky to say more about it at the moment!”
MotoGP resumes speed, talking points, disputes and exhilaration at the historic circuit of Le Mans for the Grand Prix of France in two weeks.