Marquez lost an ace in Texas and heads onto home turf on the back foot. Can the likes of Rossi and Rins keep the momentum in Europe?
When Championship contenders crash, there are usually consequences. After a dramatic race at COTA that saw Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) slide out the lead, that’s definitely true as 25 points slithered away from the seven-time World Champion at a venue where his name is usually penciled in next to the word ‘winner’. The number 93 was unscathed and the damage was in the standings – and maybe a little pride – but that’s something to give some serious consideration as we head back to Europe for the Gran Premio Red Bull de España. Errors can breed less margin for error, and that’s what Marquez has now after losing one of his aces.
So as we head for Jerez – and the 300th MotoGP™ race since the category was introduced – it’s not the Spaniard at the top, it’s Andrea Dovizioso (Mission Winnow Ducati). The Italian has been on damage limitation in the second and third races of the season over the last couple of years, but in 2019 he emerges nine points clear of Marquez as the ‘European season’ begins and he hits the milestone of 200 premier class starts. His record at Jerez isn’t the best and it can be a more difficult track for Ducati, but we’ve said that before and watched the number 04 defy that idea as the Italian machine continues to develop. Is ‘DesmoDovi’ armed for a serious attack on Andalucia? Or will those walking taller after Texas have the upper hand at a venue where Marquez has never been imperious?
The first name to mention is the second man in the standings: Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). The ‘Doctor’ has a great record at the track – as he does at most – but it includes a more recent triumph as Rossi obliterated the competition in 2016. Only three points behind Dovizioso now, a win in Jerez could catapult him back to the top. And teammate Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) will be hoping the bike is underneath the two to try and do just that, but all signs have been positive in 2019 – the Spaniard seems to have the tools to dig himself out of P12 after a tough start. In front of the home crowd he’ll be aiming to do just that – as will Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team).
After a tough start to the season marred by injury, Lorenzo is back to nearer fully fit and only gaining experience on the Honda. Jerez has been serious hunting ground for him with the Spaniard’s record at the track enough to make anyone jealous – and it’s where he took his first podium with Ducati. In a stage of adaptation once again, there could be no better place for the number 99 to race next and the final corner even bears his name. Will it be a turning point for him?
In Texas though, we may have witnessed a turning point for someone else: first time premier class winner Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). Rins fought off Rossi like a veteran and kept calm to carry on under some serious pressure, crossing the line to make a serious statement. The Suzuki man has arrived, and there’s no reason why he won’t be fighting for a similar result in front of the carnival home crowd at Jerez.
Meanwhile in the Independent Team rider standings, it’s another COTA hero: podium finisher Jack Miller (Pramac Racing). His first premier class podium in the dry couldn’t have come at a better time and the Australian is on good form in 2019. The fastest man in Jerez testing, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) isn’t too far behind him though, and the Japanese rider’s teammate Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) dented his place in the standings with a crash at COTA. The three-time Grand Prix winner will want to hit back quick and take top Independent honours, if not much more.
Rookie of the Year should be a thriller in Jerez, too. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) has led the way for much of the season and the Frenchman will be confident he can continue the trend in Spain – giving him a good foundation for his upcoming home race in France. But Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) is gaining some traction and Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) has been quick when avoiding errors like his COTA jump start. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), meanwhile, has been shining and causing a headache for new Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Johann Zarco – can he continue that in Jerez? And can the top man for the Austrian factory, Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), continue to pull out all the stops as he impresses race on race?
The Gran Premio Red Bull de España Rolls into the Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto from the 3rd to 5th May as MotoGP™ starts to gain momentum and the season hits top gear. Will Marquez find some redemption in front of the rowdy home crowd? Can Dovizioso protect or increase his lead? Or is the ‘Jaws’ music set aside for the two men who ruled COTA – Rins and Rossi, on a roll and ready to rock…
1 - Andrea Dovizioso (ITA - Ducati) - 54
2 - Valentino Rossi (ITA - Yamaha) - 51
3 - Alex Rins (SPA - Suzuki) - 49
4 - Marc Marquez (SPA - Honda) - 45
5 - Danilo Petrucci (ITA - Ducati) - 30