Connect with us


MotoGP Jerez Qualifying: ‘Little Samurai’ storms to pole for all Honda front row




Under the bright Spanish sun, Dani Pedrosa secured a brilliant pole position, narrowly ahead of his team-mate Marc Marquez in second, with Cal Crutchlow rounding out the front row in third.

Having led the first three practice sessions of the weekend Pedrosa is obviously in fine form as MotoGP returns to Europe. Today’s pole position is his first since Sepang in 2015 (where he stormed away and took a dominating win) and his first front row start since Barcelona last season.

The Little Samurai had marked out qualifying as one of the key areas to improve in this year and he was delighted to have secured an elusive pole saying it was “probably one of the best poles of my career because it was a really hard battle.”

That battle mostly came from the World Champion Marc Marquez who initially led the qualifying session. On their final run, the two Repsol Honda riders exited together and with Marquez right behind him, Pedrosa knew that if he pushed for a fast lap there was a chance that it would benefit his team-mate and take pole position out of his hands… but the risk was one worth taking for the Spaniard and he secured top spot on his last lap with a gap of 0.049 seconds back to Marquez, who said that he’s been struggling slightly with pace for 1 fast lap in Jerez.

Despite usually being known as a “Yamaha track” Jerez’s higher temperatures and low grip levels played to the Honda’s advantages today, with Crutchlow making it a 1-2-3 for the Japanese manufacturer; the first since Sachsenring in 2014, despite the British rider having a large testing workload from Honda this weekend and being stung by a wasp that sneaked inside his leathers in qualifying.

For Pedrosa, the first two days of this race weekend have been a welcome return to form following a brilliant performance last time out in Austin. I’d expected him to be one to watch in Jerez, but Dani is well and truly back in business.

[fbvideo link=”” width=”688″ height=”433″ onlyvideo=”1″]


In the Yamaha garage, one of the main issues stemmed from the lack of grip, with both riders having issues in corner entry. Another problem is the tyres with Maverick Vinales (4th) explaining that “the right side of the tyre is really good, but when I go onto the left side I suddenly have a lot of wheelspin”. The cause for that is likely due to the asymmetric nature of the medium compound rear, which has a harder right side because of the higher number of right corners. The hard rear might not be the best option for them but the harder shoulder seems to perform better in the medium compound.

For team-mate Valentino Rossi, he wasn’t too disappointed with qualifying back in 7th because he feels his pace was good and they improved the feeling a lot throughout the day, but both riders will have work to do in warmup, especially with temperatures expected to be even higher tomorrow.

Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone put in a good performance to qualify in 5th, recovering from a difficult day yesterday, while Tech 3’s Johann Zarco secured 6th despite the track’s lack of grip.

Jorge Lorenzo is back on familiar soil at a track he knows and adores, combined with more time on the Ducati and further improvements he had an impressive day in Jerez, finishing second in FP3 and 4th in FP4. While 8th on the grid might not look particularly exciting, his pace has definitely improved; “overall today’s sensations were good and for the first time this season I had a pace that was similar to those riders ahead of me.” Despite complaining of a lack of rear grip that caused corner exit acceleration to suffer, Jorge was pleased with the day’s work “today was one of the best days I’ve had this season from every point of view.”

Unfortunately for his Ducati team-mate things weren’t so positive for Andrea Dovizioso who has been struggling in Jerez, particularly on 1 lap pace. But his grid position of 14th doesn’t reflect the race pace that he showed in FP4 so he’ll undoubtedly be able to move through into higher positions tomorrow.

Aleix Espargaro (12th) again impressed on the Aprilia showing good pace, but is struggling with the front end stability, saying he’s too close to the limit in braking. While KTM’s new “Big Bang” engine has definitely brought their riders closer to the pack, with Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith qualifying in 15th and 16th respectively, and Pol making it into the top 10 in a couple of sessions this weekend.

Tomorrow will ultimately come down to tyres and who can make them last. The Jerez track is low grip but when temperatures rise (and they will tomorrow) it becomes surprisingly abrasive despite being slippery. The hard tyre could give Marquez and Crutchlow an edge towards the end of the race, but might take them away from the leading pack at the start, while the medium tyres favoured by Yamaha might not last the distance.

But when it comes to tyre management, few riders are as skilled as Dani Pedrosa and judging by his pace so far this weekend, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Samurai himself on the top step tomorrow.

Fire it up in the comments below:


MotoGP 2018 Preview: Marquez is the rider to beat! But don’t bet against Dovizioso!




It’s finally time.

Winter is over (unless you live in the Southern hemisphere, then summer is nearly over for you… sorry about that), testing is finished and it’s time to go racing in 2018.

Three pre-season tests saw three different riders at the top of the combined timesheets, with Jorge Lorenzo ruling the roost in Sepang before Dani Pedrosa rose to the top in Thailand and Johann Zarco brought testing to a close in Qatar as the number one.

But testing only tells us so much. Yes, it can give a basic idea of what the pace is like and how competitive the grid will be, but with each team and rider running their own schedules and battling their own issues, it’s not until we get down to racing that we really know what this season has in store for us.

2017 was an incredible year that taught us to forget almost everything we thought we knew. It followed a season with 9 different winners that we all thought would be hard to beat in terms of a spectacle. But over 18 races we saw some of the greatest battles in Grand Prix history, last lap and last corner challenges that left us wondering what the hell had just happened, saves that should never have been possible (yes Señor Marquez, I’m talking about you), team orders that had us questioning the strategies we thought we knew and a championship fight that went down to the final race.

2016 was supposed to be hard to beat, then 2017 took our breath away. What does 2018 have in store? Undoubtedly more of the same and probably more than a few surprises that will leave us all stunned. The bikes are new, there’s some new rubber, a new track, even new riders with 5 rookies joining the grid. It’s going to be fast, it’s going to be fierce, and it’s going to be 19 weekends of glorious racing.

There really is no point in making predictions, they’ll probably be wrong and even if I could say with certainty what would happen where would the fun be in that?

Marc Marquez is the rider to beat, of that there’s no doubt. He has a big target on his back, as he has done since he arrived in the class. If you want to win in MotoGP then you have to beat the man who has dominated and revolutionised it first. I do hope he falls off less this season though; his saves are spectacular but a bit less gravel bouncing would probably be a good idea.

Last year it was Andrea Dovizioso that pushed Marquez to Valencia and I fully expect him to be putting in a repeat performance in 2018. Last season was a big milestone in terms of his own development as a rider and a person, he might’ve have turned to the “dark horse” mentality in 2017, but he’s firmly in the spotlight as a title contender this year.

Marquez’s team-mate Dani Pedrosa is almost certain to return to the top step in 2018, and if he can get the tyres to work well for him across more tracks he’ll still be right in the mix once again.

For Dovizioso’s garage companion Jorge Lorenzo, 2017 was a longer learning curve than he had expected and pre-season testing had a few tricky moments as well. But I do believe he will win a race this year and once he finds that winning space everyone else should probably watch out.

At Yamaha, last year started so well for Maverick Vinales, who joined the team and dominated testing before winning 3 of the first 5 races, but then it all burned up with the M1’s rear tyre. Both Vinales and Valentino Rossi have already renewed their contracts with Yamaha for another 2 years and testing has seen a few sparks of optimism. But they do still have issues to work on, particularly with electronics and in certain conditions. If they can find a consistency then both riders have every chance of fighting at the front throughout the year and challenging for the championship.

Their fellow Yamaha rider Johann Zarco was the surprise of 2017, starting when he led a few golden laps at the season opener before crashing. He secured pole positions, swapped paint on more than one occasion (not everyone was pleased) and stood on the podium. Could we see him win this year? Absolutely. Could he potentially be fighting for the title? It’s possible; if any independent rider can do it, then it’s Johann because that Frenchman is fearless.

Joining Zarco at Tech 3 this year will be the first Malaysian in MotoGP, Hafizh Syahrin, who comes in to replace Jonas Folger due to illness. Syahrin wouldn’t necessarily have been the first choice of riders to move into MotoGP based on his Moto2 performances, but in a difficult situation, he’s already proven that he’s a good choice after performing strongly in testing and I’m really looking forward to seeing how he develops over the year.

The other rookies to keep your eyes on in 2018 are Takaaki Nakagami at LCR, Franco Morbidelli and Tom Luthi at Marc VDS and Xavier Simeon at Avintia. Through testing, they’ve all been focussed on just finding their way in the premier class, so as the season progresses they should all make very visible steps forward and put in some good results.

Across the rest of the grid there’s Cal Crutchlow who again takes on the role of the third factory Honda rider, Danilo Petrucci who’s hunting for a factory ride for 2019, Jack Miller who joins Petrucci at Pramac and already looks so much more comfortable on the Ducati, Tito Rabat at Avintia who like Miller seems to prefer being on Italian machinery and Alvaro Bautista and Karel Abraham both return at the renamed Angel Nieto team.

At the other factories, Aleix Espargaro has a new team-mate at Aprilia as he’s joined by Scott Redding who seems to have adapted quite well as the Italian team continue to develop their package. Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro line-up together again at KTM, with the Spaniard still recovering from a hernia operation but feeling much better than at the last pre-season test. Suzuki is once again made up of Andrea Iannone and Alex Rins with both riders showing good promise in testing. Rins, in particular, could bring out a few surprises in 2018 and if Iannone can keep his level of motivation high hopefully we’ll see The Maniac back in full force (just without the crashes and seagull murder please).

The track is fast, particularly once you’ve reached the more open areas of sectors two and three, before tearing onto the front straight. Turn 1 is one of the most challenging on the calendar as riders brake from 350km/h down to 99km/h over 289 metres in 5.1 seconds. Only Jerez sees riders use the brakes more times over race distance. It brings close, fast racing despite overtaking being tricky with only four main areas; turn 1 at the end of the straight, the tight left of turn 6, turn 12 and turn 16 onto the back straight, but watch out for the slipstream!

When the riders hit the track for the first time on Friday afternoon we’ll start to get some idea of who could be standing on the top step come Sunday, but we won’t really know until they’re racing under the floodlights.

The Losail International Circuit in Doha has played host to the season opener of MotoGP since 2007 and as the city has grown around it, the racing it hosts has itself been evolving.

This year will actually bring something a little different with Moto3 racing in daylight, Moto2 at sunset (which should look amazing) and MotoGP getting underway once it’s dark.

But one thing that’ll remain the same is that we are guaranteed three amazing races for the next 19 races, and personally, I can’t wait to get started.

Fire it up in the comments below:
Continue Reading


WSBK Phillip Island: Double Ducati delight for Melandri in drag race finish




After the addition of a flag-to-flag format caused by rapidly declining tyre issues, yesterday we ended with an intense hope for something interesting to happen in race two.

Well, today did not disappoint, because Race two threw up several intense, race long battles and an incredible  photo finish.

Continuing the form shown in qualifying, it was Eugene Laverty who had an incredible start off the line to pull a considerate lead over his rivals. sadly, it wasn’t meant to be for the Irishman whoever, who crashed out on lap three; re-joining at the back of the field.

As anticipated, it was to be the pit-lane changes that were to be the root of most of the action and first into the pits came Xavi Fores, Jonathan Rea and Michael van der Mark on lap ten – with Fores the quickest out the blocks.

One lap later, and Chaz Davies, Marco Melandri, Ales Lowes, Tom Sykes and Leon Camier all came in, with Camier winning the coming out race.

However, all riders held back on the pit exit in order to avoid a ride through penalty for leaving pit lane before the mandatory one minute and three second time, so it was Davies who led the pack back onto the track; only to see him crash on lap 13 and to hand the lead to Fores.

And from there it was close. Nobody could create a gap, and the lead tossed between Fores and Rea.

Just as it looked as if Rea would taste victory for the first time this season, Race One winner Melandri passed Fores and by the last lap, he was all over the back of Rea.

Melandri leapt almost immediately for the lead, but Rea fought straight back, with the two now locked into an intense last lap battle.

It was a drag race out of the final corner to the line, but Melandri it was who was declared victorious from the photo finish.

Say what you like about the rest of the bike, but that Ducati has some serious straight line speed.

Xavi Fores bought it home in third as the top independent rider. After a seriously impressive race where he was constantly fighting in the top five, it was well deserved for the Spaniard, who has only ever had one podium in the Superbike class.

A personal standout for me was Leon Camier on the Honda SP2, a bike that so desperately struggled during the last season. The Brit was always up there, fighting with the Yamaha’s and never losing time which cements the fact that last season, he was the driving force for the MV Agusta’s success.

World Superbike next heads to Buriram, Thailand in a month’s time. So there is a long wait until the next battle.

So, a long delay, but long may this close racing continue.

World Superbike race two:
1. Marco Melandri – Racing Ducati – 34.42.633
2. Jonathan Rea – Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK + 0.021
3. Xavi Fores – BARNI Racing Team + 0.304 (top independent)
4. Tom Sykes – Kawasaki Racing Team WorldSBK + 1.488
5. Alex Lowes – Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team + 2.474
6. Leon Camier – Red Bull Honda WorldSBK Team + 2.745
7. Michael van der Mark – Pata Yamaha Official WorldSBK Team + 3.098
8. Jordi Torres – MV Agusta Reparto Corse + 14.301
9. Loris Baz – Gulf Althea BMW Racing Team + 14.361
10. Toprak Razgatlioglu – Kawasaki Puccetti Racing + 19.785

Fire it up in the comments below:
Continue Reading

On Fire...

Copyright © 2018 Motofire Limited