MotoGP Battle Heads For Spain

Following a two-week break since the Grand Prix of the Americas at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, the 2018 MotoGP Championship this weekend heads to Jerez for the first of four races in the Spain.

Three races in, and we already have three different winners.

The battle is tight; the top five riders are within eight points of each other. Leading the way with 46 points is Dovizioso, who is a single point ahead of Marquez after three of 19 rounds.

Maverick VinalesMovist ar Yamaha MotoGP

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Vinales is third, five points behind Dovi. The Spaniard is followed by Crutchlow and Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Johann Zarco, who just signed with the Red Bull Factory KTM Team for 2019/2020 MotoGP; both riders are tied at 38 points.

All eyes will be on Marquez, who has caused a bit of drama this season – especially in Argentina where he was penalized three times. One was incurred for taking out Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi, who said he doesn’t feel safe racing with Marquez.

The four-time MotoGP Champion redeemed himself in COTA, claiming his sixth-straight victory. He has now won every MotoGP race in Austin, and will be looking to bring some of that momentum into Jerez.

But Marquez admits he struggles at Jerez, and his record proves that; he only has one win there (2014).

“We arrive in Spain following a great weekend and a great result in Texas, but now a new phase begins in Europe, where we’ll see the level of every team and rider,” Marc Marquez says. “Here, the circuits are generally different and more ‘traditional,’ starting with Jerez, which is a tighter, slower, and more difficult track than the ones like Austin. We had a good setup there, and now it will be important to also find a good base for circuits like Jerez.

Aleix Espargaro Aprilia Racing Team Gresini

“We had a good test there at the end of March, and we’ll approach it with a positive mentality. Racing in front of my home crowd and my fan club will of course add to the good feeling and atmosphere. We’ll keep working hard and focusing on consistency, which is a crucial point for the title chase; I think Dovi will be a great rival, as he was last year.

“Anyway, this year I feel really good on the bike: In Qatar, Argentina, and Austin, the confidence was always there, and that’s the most important thing. We’re just one point behind in the championship, so we must continue this way.”

Marquez chases Dovizioso, who finished fifth at COTA. Last season he finished fifth in Jerez; this was his best in Jerez. He also finished fifth there in 2012 and 2014.

“We come to the first European round of the season first in the standings, a situation that is clearly much better than last year, and this is certainly positive,” Andrea Dovizioso says.

“We managed the first three rounds well, but we could also see that our rivals are all really fast. In November last year we did a good test at the Jerez circuit and the new asphalt had good grip, but it was colder then so we will have to wait for Friday to get a better idea of the track conditions.”

Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda Team

Besides Vinales, Crutchlow and Zarco, Marquez and Dovizioso have to watch out for the other factory Honda RC213V pilot, Dani Pedrosa. The Spaniard rode at COTA just days after surgery for a broken wrist, and finished seventh. Last year, Pedrosa dominated at Jerez, claiming his third premier-class win at his home circuit.

The other riders that can cause a stir in Jerez are Rossi, who has the most wins there with seven, and Ducati Team’s Jorge Lorenzo, who has three wins there (all with Yamaha) and the circuit record set in 2015.

The 2018 Spanish Grand Prix gets underway Friday with the first free practices ahead of Saturday’s qualifying for Sunday’s 25-lap MotoGP.

Pictures: Michelin