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Preview Grand Prix of Spain, Jerez de la Frontera
Posted by: newsla on Apr 29, 2014 - 03:51 PM
Preview Grand Prix of Spain, Jerez de la Frontera

MotoGP returns to Europe this weekend – and the factory Repsol Honda team is leading the way to the Jerez classic after three successive race wins and double podium finishes in the first three “flyaway” rounds in Qatar, the USA, and Argentina.


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Defending World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda RC213V) has scored maximum possible points in the opening rounds, with three wins from pole-position. His older team-mate Dani Pedrosa is second overall, with two second places, and one third.

The return to the Spanish riders’ home GP promises to deliver of more of the same, at an iconic event. Fans flock from far and wide, cramming the grandstands and the hillsides overlooking the circuit outside the sherry capital Jerez, scene of many classic races.

Last year the Repsol Hondas were first and second at the Andalusian circuit, in the opposite order to the first races of the current campaign. Jerez was the first of three race wins for Pedrosa, igniting his own title challenge that ended only when he became innocent victim of an on-track collision that triggered a freak accident.

This year, both factory riders return to the circuit, brimming with confidence and competitive desire, riding the clear class-leading MotoGP bike. The Honda RC213V has proved time and again to have achieved the strongest balance of awesome horsepower with civilised behaviour at the highest level of motorcycle racing.

Marquez, 21, became the youngest ever World Champion last year, still aged 20, and is setting a course to become also the second-youngest, after dominating the opening rounds. At race two, he added another lap record to his growing portfolio.

At Jerez last year he finished second to Pedrosa, after a dramatic last-corner pass on rival Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), the third man in the Spanish triumvirate. But Jerez is one of few tracks where Marquez, former 125cc and Moto2 World Champion, has yet to claim a victory, and he is eager to add it to his list this year.

He will face a strong challenge from his team-mate. Pedrosa first raced at Jerez in 2001 in the 125cc class, where he was champion in 2003. He won the 250cc crown the following two years, and moved to MotoGP in 2006. He has had his greatest success at the circuit in the premier class. He has won there twice, and finished on the podium at every other attempt, five times second and once third.

Pedrosa has a full house of podiums this year too, with one third and two second places. The last of these came last weekend at the new Argentine circuit at Termas de Rio Hondo, where he also set the new lap record in a dramatic and successful chase-down on Lorenzo in the closing laps.

The factory pair are backed by two satellite riders – both former World Champions – riding the awesome V4 Honda RC213V.

Germany’s only MotoGP rider Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda RC213V) has made the better start to the 2014 season, the former Moto2 champion’s third in the premier class. He crashed out of the lead in Qatar, but made up for it in Texas and Argentina, finishing fourth and fifth.

Former 125cc champion Alvaro Bautista (GO&FUN Gresini Honda RC213V) has plenty to make up for, after crashing out of the first three rounds. The first of these misfortunes was at Qatar, when he was making a strong late challenge for the podium. Bautista, along with GO&FUN team-mate Scott Redding, has a special role: race-testing Showa suspension and Nissin brakes, made by Japanese companies with close associations with Honda.

Redding is one of four Open class pioneers, racing the new factory replica Honda RCV1000R machine, introduced this year for customer teams. Unlike factory bikes, those in the Open category use mandatory electronic software as well as hardware, provided by the organisers. Adapting to this is one of the most important tasks.

The 1000cc V4 Honda production-racers have made a strong start, with three of the four battling together while knocking on the door of the championship ten.

Current leader is Honda’s 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden (Drive M7 Aspar Honda RCV1000R), with a best finish of eighth so far. The American has returned to Honda, and is rapidly coming to grips with getting the best out of the new machine.

His Drive M7 Aspar team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama managed to pip Hayden at the post in Argentina, snatching tenth place over the line in a dramatic finish. Aoyama is another former World Champion, winning the last-ever 250cc title in 2009.

Class rookie Scott Redding (GO&FUN Gresini Honda RCV1000R) has also battled with Hayden all season, with a best of seventh in Qatar, ahead of the experienced American.

Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing Honda RCV1000R) has shown improvement over the first three races, as he continues to regain full strength following major shoulder surgery last year. The Czech former Moto2 GP winner was 13th in Argentina after battling with Hayden and Aoyama, and has finished in the points at all three opening rounds.

Honda powers all machines in the Moto2 class, where identical race-tuned Honda CBR600 engines provided by the organisers guarantee close and reliable racing.

All the same, Spanish rider Esteve “Tito” Rabat has pulled clear of his rivals in the opening three rounds, claiming two clear wins and one second place, all after starting from pole position, to seize a commanding early championship lead. This underlines the Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider’s status as preseason favourite, and he returns to Jerez as last year’s race winner.

His team-mate Mika Kallio (Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex) lies second overall, the experienced Finn counting second in Qatar as his best result so far.

There has also been strong opposition from several class rookies, who have moved up from the Moto3 class, led by reigning champion Maverick Vinales (Pons HP 40 Kalex), who took the other win with a blazing ride in Texas. Although he crashed out in Argentina, fourth in the opening round in Qatar puts him a strong third overall.

Pons HP 40 Kalex team-mate Luis Salom, a strong Moto3 title contender last year, has also shown a strong hand, taking his first podium with third in Argentina.

Experienced Belgian Xavier Simeon (Federal Oil Gresini Suter) was second in South America, making up for disappointment at the previous round, where he crashed out after leading for much of the race.

In Moto3, Honda is up against rival manufacturers. The four-stroke entry class, with machines powered by strictly controlled 250cc four-stroke engines, is in its third year, and the racing is dependably ultra-close and breathtakingly exciting.

Honda’s new NSF250RW has played a leading role in the opening rounds, with at least one Honda rider on all three podiums, and the first win within touching distance.

Top Honda scorer is Spanish veteran Efren Vazquez (SaxoPrint RTG Honda), lying a close third overall with two second places, followed by sixth in Argentina. Vazquez has been a reliable member of the front group in every race so far.

So too Marc’s younger brother Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda), next most successful, with two second places – his record spoiled by a crash in the final corners while fighting for the rostrum in Texas. He is fourth, only two points adrift; while Estrella Galicia 0.0 team-mate Alex Rins lies a close fifth, with a best so far of fourth in the USA.

French rider Alexis Masbou (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda) has a best of sixth in a perfect points-scoring record this year, and is sixth overall, with Hondas holding four of the top six places. John McPhee (SaxoPrint RTG) is 13th, and Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Ongetta-AirAsia Honda) lies 21st.

Jerez has become the traditional first round in the European season, and the Circuito de Velocidad is a cornerstone of the MotoGP series after almost three decades of continuous use not only for GPs but also as a major test circuit. First used in 1987, it has been on the calendar ever since as host to the Spanish GP, except in 1988 when it ran under the Portuguese flag. In 2002 the layout was modified to add variety, and the paddock buildings modernised.

In that 26-year span, Honda has won the premier class 18 times, almost three times as many victories as the next-best.

Overlooked by a soaring tower named for one of the famous Jerez sherry houses and with the start-finish straight straddled by a glassed-in circular “UFO”, the very technical track is 4.423 km (2.748 miles) of almost continuous corner sets. There are five to the left and eight right-handers, and a short straight of just over 600 metres (0.38 miles). The lap finishes with a hairpin overlooked by grandstands – frequently the scene of decisive last-lap battles.

The next round is at Le Mans in France, in two weeks.

Honda MotoGP rider quotes

Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez says:
“Argentina was only a few days ago but we are already on our way to Spain! We had a really good weekend, taking another important 25 points, but now we go to Jerez where I know Dani and Jorge are very strong. The crowd and ambience is very special there and it gives you special motivation to perform at your maximum level. After three flyaway races it will be nice to arrive back in Europe for a few ‘normal’ races, I’ll try to relax a little and prepare myself ready for Friday’s FP1.”

Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa says:
“It was a good weekend in Argentina although I would have liked to be in the battle for the victory, but I really enjoyed the race and the track. Now we have no break, and next weekend we race in Jerez. This is one of my favourite circuits on the calendar, I really enjoy seeing all the fans and racing back in Spain after three long races away. As usual we will start working hard from the Friday and hope to continue with the same momentum that we found in Argentina.”

GO&FUN Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista says:
“I really hope that the first European race can finally put an end to this bad period: the only thing we can do right now is to continue to believe in ourselves and work hard, like we have done so far, in order to try to reverse the trend.”

GO&FUN Honda Gresini rider Scott Redding says:
“I’m looking forward to the first European race of the season because I like to travel on the road to the circuits and get the atmosphere. I also like Jerez, because it’s quite fast and it suits my riding style well. It’s quite a demanding track, but I also think that it’s one of the tracks that could be good for the characteristics of our bike. We are getting closer to our rivals and we want to be back on top among the Open Class Hondas: this is our target and we need to achieve it.”

LCR Honda MotoGP rider Stefan Bradl says:
“After all the travel and far-off races, it’s good to be starting up in Europe. Jerez is always a great event, with a lot of passion from the fans. The first three races have shown that I have a good pace, to run with the front group. In Argentina I went from ninth on the grid to fifth. I was strong on braking and I could fight with the other guys. I hope to do more of the same at Jerez, with an even better result.”

Drive M7 Aspar Honda rider Nicky Hayden says:
“I am really looking forward to going to Jerez this week, it’s an interesting track. You could say the season is more back to normal this weekend after a night race in Qatar, a very difficult weekend for us in Texas and a new track in Argentina. Now we go to Europe, the home of the championship, and a circuit we all know well. It’s an awesome track with an unbeatable atmosphere and most riders are fast there. I always enjoy racing at Jerez. You can’t use all of the power of a MotoGP bike in certain sections of the track but that could prove to be an advantage to us compared to the factory bikes. If we do our job right maybe we can get closer and be more competitive. Hopefully the conditions are on our side.”

Drive M7 Aspar Honda rider Hiroshi Aoyama says:
“We have had three long-haul races to kick of the season and it hasn’t been an easy start for us. A new bike, new team, a lot of work to adapt and set the bike up. The positive thing is that we have made progress every week and last Sunday we were able to score a very positive result in Argentina. Now it’s time to kick off the European part of the season and this week we go to Jerez, a circuit I love and have lots of good memories of. I am sure that the characteristics of the track can really suit our bike and even though we had a good race last time we need to keep working. The main objective for this weekend is to improve the bike in corner entry and we will try to maintain the positive trend from last week.”

Cardion AB Motoracing Honda Karel Abraham says:
“I’m really looking forward to the first European MotoGP race of the season. After couple of months of travelling we are finally heading ‘home’, where I can meet the rest of our team, my fans, friends, sponsors. And of course Jerez is very special circuit for me. I scored my very first top ten MotoGP finish here in 2011, and I like it very much because of its atmosphere. Last year I missed this race because of the collarbone fracture from Austin, so I’ll be back after two years. Since the beginning of the season we have improved the bike a lot and I’m getting more familiar with Honda race by race. Our target is to continue in the direction we set in previous race. We want to fight with the other production Hondas and stay close to the top ten.”

Moto2 Rider quotes

Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Esteve Rabat says:
“I am very happy to be going back to Jerez, because it is my home and the team’s home, with my family and friends and fans there. Even more because I had my first grand prix win there last year. Of course I want to repeat that. I need to be very focused and concentrated all weekend. My team-mate Kallio is closest to me in the championship, but I need to focus on me.”

Marc VDS Racing Team Kalex rider Mika Kallio says:
“It was always going to be important to get three good results on the overseas races. Austin and Argentina didn’t quite go according to plan for me, but we go into the Jerez weekend lying second in the championship standings behind Tito and we need to build on that. We know from pre-season testing that we have the pace at Jerez, but we also know that it’s going to be close. Almost everyone on the grid has done hundreds, if not thousands, of testing laps around Jerez, so every tenth will count, especially in qualifying. And qualifying is where I need to focus, as my race pace is good but, all too often, just like in Argentina, I have to make up ground from the start. This is something we need to improve upon, starting this weekend.”

Pons HP 40 Kalex rider Maverick Vinales says:
“After winning in Austin, it was very disappointing to crash in Argentina, because I don’t understand why it happened. It is only my first season in Moto2, so we can expect some difficulties. But after the win I am really confident, and thinking about Jerez – a good track for me and a good track for the team. The pre-season test went well, and now the bike had changed a bit and I have improved my level. I think we can be really fast and consistent there.

Honda Moto3 Rider quotes

Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda rider Alex Marquez says:
“Jerez is a circuit that we know well. We did the IRTA official test there and I think that with our pre-season work we were strengthened ahead of the season’s start in Qatar. I think that the base that we have is good, but I also think that we need to be focused and work intensely to improve our setup, feel on the bike and to give our all on the track. It is a home GP and having the fans there is something extra that you need to deal with; they give you a lot of extra motivation, but if you don’t keep your focus then that same motivation can cause you problems.”

Saxoprint-RTG Honda rider Efren Vazquez says:
“My new Honda has been really good at every track so far this year, and my new team is working fantastically. Now we go to Jerez. I like the track, and it is not so far from my home. I want to continue on the same line, to push every practice and in the race.”

Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda rider Alex Rins says:
“I don’t have fond memories of the last few Spanish Grands Prix at Jerez, but we will try to do as well as possible this year. I am very eager to work hard whenever we get out on track, and to give 100 percent in the race. Having the fans there is the best thing about the race; the fact that everyone comes out to support you is a big boost to your motivation.”

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