Casey Stoner had a solid start to his 2011 season at Qatar. Can the Aussie repeat the dominating performance at Jerez?
After its debut under the lights at Qatar, the 2011 MotoGP series steps into Spain for the second round of the championship at Jerez. Following a dominating performance by Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner in the season opener, the Aussie will look to extend his impressive start into the next round at Jerez. The Honda rider will be challenged by Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and Stoner’s own teammate, Dani Pedrosa. The threatening duo of Lorenzo and Pedrosa will also be competing on home soil, adding extra motivation to pull off the victory.
Jerez’s quick directional changes and hard braking zones have historically not played in Stoner’s favor. The Australian has only stood on the Jerez podium once during his entire GP career (2009 season). With history against him can Stoner hold the advantage he demonstrated at Qatar?
Said Stoner in pre-race PR: “In the last few years, I haven’t had very good results at Jerez, as I could be fast. But in the race things didn’t always go my way. After the good start of this season, we have the chance to complete a positive weekend. The Championship has just started and we have a lot of work to do.”
With Honda dominating nearly every pre-season test coming into the 2011 season opener, it was a welcome sight for many to see Lorenzo’s Yamaha YZR-M1 throwing fists with Stoner. Lorenzo was the only non-Honda rider inside the top-five at the finish line, which sent a powerful message throughout the paddock. Last year Lorenzo was not content with runner-up status at Jerez as the Spaniard made a pass on Pedrosa during the final lap to take the win. It was Lorenzo’s first win on Spanish soil and marked the beginning of nine victories throughout the 2010 season. This year the champ will once again have the chance launch an attack at Jerez.
Jorge Lorenzo was pleased with second at Qatar but heads to the circuit where he claimed his first ever Spanish MotoGP victory in 2010.
“I am ready to come back to Jerez,” said Lorenzo. “We started the Championship so well in Qatar and I believe it is a great moment to ride for my people and my Fan Club here in Spain. Last year the situation was quite similar and perhaps I got the best victory of my career, closing a big gap in the last few laps. We can’t make predictions for Sunday, but my crew and I will work as much as possible to be in front.”
Pedrosa was the leader for much of the contest at Qatar before fatigue from last year’s collarbone injury forced him down in the order. He eventually finished third but experienced a loss of sensation in his left arm and fingers. Reports state further medical tests Perdrosa show a stretch in the plexus which requires more time to heal. Whatever the details, Pedrosa’s fitness is in doubt.
“I honestly didn’t expect my arm would react in this way because during pre-season I didn’t feel too much trouble and I thought the problem was solved,” Pedrosa said. “However, I felt really bad in the Qatar race and was aware that the injury is not completely healed. It was a shame because in Qatar I had a good feeling and, until the second half of the race, which is when the pain started – I was really strong and I saw a realistic chance of winning. I would be lying if I said I’m not disappointed because this year the bike is working very well and physically I feel good, but unfortunately this complication has arisen and I have nothing else to do but give my best until the injury heals completely.”
Italian Andrea Dovizioso refused to let San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli get the best of him at Qatar. The forgotten third man at Repsol, Dovizioso made a pass on Simoncelli in the final laps for fourth which put him 12 points behind Stoner in the standings. Dovi will continue to work against his Italian rival at Jerez and look to humble his two teammates whenever possible.
Factory Yamaha newbie Ben Spies, who is still looking for the first win of his MotoGP career, earned sixth at Qatar after a spirited fight with Ducati’s Valentino Rossi. The American comes to Jerez seeking to overcome a poor result from last year after earning a DNF due to a mechanical problem.
“I have unfinished business here at Jerez,” Spies said. “I really enjoyed riding here last year and was disappointed not to be able to take some points from the race. Now I’m back with a full factory machine so I believe the outcome should be a little different! We have track knowledge from last year so we can focus straight away on getting the 2011 M1 set up and we’ll see what we can do.”
One of the biggest plots coming out of the season opener was Rossi’s performance on the GP11. The Italian finished seventh at Qatar after losing a tight battle with Spies. In addition to lingering
Rossi is also struggling with lingering injury, needing to return to full fitness and mor development of the Ducati.
shoulder issues, The Doctor is also facing a slow adaption to Ducati. While he remains the most successful rider to ever grace the Jerez circuit with six premier class victories, he also lacks full strength in his shoulder and the Ducati platform is not particularly suited to the circuit’s layout.
“Qatar, with its many hard corner entries and areas where we brake to the right, was difficult for my shoulder,” Rossi said. “We’ll see if Jerez is a little easier from that point of view, although I think I’ll still have to grit my teeth for a while. Since Qatar, I’ve continued working out in the gym to try and increase my strength and especially my endurance, but after Spain I’ll have almost a month to recuperate more fully, following the postponement of the Japanese Grand Prix.”
Rossi’s teammate, Nicky Hayden, had a poor start to his 2011 campaign after getting a bad launch off the grid in 13th. The Kentucky Kid remained in the back of the field for much of the 22-lap contest before making minor progress in the final laps to finish ninth. Hayden comes to Jerez with a podium finish in 2006 and after narrowly missing the podium last year in fourth.
“Jerez is a really unique race with a great track,” Hayden said. “It’s one of the highlights of the whole season, and because it’s the first European race, in some ways it almost feels like it’s the first race of the year all over again. It’s a track I’ve enjoyed in the past, and I definitely enjoy racing there. We don’t really have any miracle game plan or anything crazy. We’ll just go in there and try and get a good result.”
Other riders to watch at Jerez include the Tech 3 Yamaha duo of Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow. The Texan once again logged a typical top-10 result
Stefan Bradl will face many threats at Jerez after winning the opening round of the 2011 Moto2 Championship.
in eighth, with Crutchlow making his Grand Prix debut in 11th. The Anglo-American combo will look to improve the satellite M1’s fortunes under the Spanish sunshine.
In the Moto2 field Viessmann Kiefer Racing’s Stefan Bradl will turn to Southern Spain in the hopes of clenching another victory. After earning his first pole position at Qatar, Bradl went on to land a dominating victory ahead of Speed Master’s Andrea Iannone by more than four seconds after leading every lap. Meanwhile, Interwetten Paddock Moto2’s Thomas Luthi claimed third in Qatar and is expected to be in solid form for Jerez after earning a podium finish there last year.
In addition to JiR Moto2’s Alex de Angelis and Gresini Racing’s Yuki Takahashi, who rounded out the top-five at Qatar, other contenders looking to stake their claim at Jerez include Ioda Racing Project’s Simone Corsi, Forward Racing’s Jules Cluzel and Mapfre Aspar’s Julian Simon. Marc VDS Racing’s Scott Redding will also be in the mix as the Brit suffered a disappointing opening round and will look to counteract his poor start with a solid showing in Spain.