Jorge Lorenzo dominated qualifying to claim pole position at Jerez with the Spaniard smashing Marc Marquez' circuit record and showing everyone a clean set of heels in Spain. The Yamaha rider will be hard to beat tomorrow but with soaring track temperatures in Jerez the race could present a very different challenge for the field.
Lorenzo back on top
After qualifying Lorenzo joked that talk of his crisis was greatly exaggerated after a poor showing in Argentina. His form this weekend clearly shows that this was the case but given his speed in Qatar and his illness in Austin this has been a solid rather than spectacular start to the campaign for Lorenzo. He's been lighting fireworks on track all week however and should be able to break away from the pack tomorrow to win for the first time since Motegi last year.
"It wasn't a perfect start to the season but I think now I get back the confidence, the bike, on the team and also myself," said Lorenzo. "I changed my way of thinking on the bike and I think it worked very well. Also when everything is good I don’t have any physical problem and I feel great on the bike, I can do great things. That’s what happened during the weekend until now. Now tomorrow start the important thing but I can say I feel great for the moment."
Lorenzo has been consistently fast in Spain and there's little doubt that he'll be able to make the tyres last throughout the race tomorrow. With Marquez hobbled by injury and the Honda struggling for grip Lorenzo looks imperious.
" Here we don’t have any big issue on the tires like in Argentina, the soft option was dropping a lot, finally I think less because the conditions improved. But we decided to go with the hard tire but the tyre wasn’t good. Here we don’t have any problem, physically or the bike or the tyres. Also maybe I just ride by instinct and it works without thinking too much how can I be faster. Just ride the way I feel in every corner. I try to keep the same way tomorrow. It’s a combination of things.
"Today we were able to go fast in hot conditions in the free practice four with new tires, and qualifying with new tires. As I told before the start of the weekend the Yamaha is a better bike this year. I just needed to find everything in perfect conditions to demonstrate it and feel confident like I am now. But let’s see tomorrow. If tomorrow we don’t make a good race then we cannot say we came back. I’m waiting for the race tomorrow."
No painkillers for Marquez...yet
Marc Marquez refused to use painkillers today in qualifying but the champion said that he would be availing of injections for tomorrow's race. Marquez was able to qualify second, and set the pace in FP4, but having the endurance to last 45 minutes in the searing heat of Jerez will be a very different story for him.
"I’m really, really happy for this front row because we’re the main target, maybe the best target for what I believe," smiled Marquez. "We know that tomorrow will be a long race. During all weekend I didn’t work on the same way as normal. I make short runs and not many laps because I tried to save the energy for Sunday.
"But in the same way I couldn’t find the speed to have the best lap but anyway I’m happy with the package we have. Tomorrow we will see with the hot conditions where we can be. Of course Jorge was impressive this weekend and he’s really fast but we would like to fight him for the podium."
Marquez has had to dig deep this weekend but it's going to be very difficult for him tomorrow to compete with Lorenzo. The Yamaha rider has the pace and consistency to win tomorrow and while Marquez shouldn't be underestimated a podium would be a solid result for the Honda rider.
Dovi lacking speed
Andrea Dovizoso qualified eighth after a disappointing day for the Ducati rider that saw him struggle in the second half of the lap at Jerez. This meant that he lost a large chunk of time compared to pole sitter Jorge Lorenzo through the fast corners that lead back towards the end of the lap at the Spanish circuit. Dovizioso explained that "In T3 and T4 is the place where I really lose a lot. I believe is the speed in the middle of the INAUDIBLE that is the negative point for me."
When asked about his qualifying performance Dovizioso said:
"It was impossible for me [to get on the front row ]because my speed wasn’t good enough," said the Italian. "But the second row, it was possible I believe. On the pace we are not so far, but we INAUDIBLE the pace the first few days to fight for the weekend. And from the bottom INAUDIBLE is very difficult.
"We have to study all the data today to understand what we want to try tomorrow in the warmup. Normally it’s not something I want to compare to make working in the warmup, especially because tomorrow in the morning it is much more slow compared to the afternoon. But if we understand something we can make it more better in the warmer conditions. It could be interesting."
With his Ducati teammate, Andrea Iannone, qualifying on the front row it's clear that there was potential for a much better qualifying effort from Dovi but with changing track conditions offering a moving goalpost it was very difficult to get the most from the package. Having finished second at each race thus far in 2015 he faces an uphill task in tomorrow's 27 lap race to maintain his podium form.
Rossi on the second row but unsure of tyres
Valentino Rossi will line up fifth on the grid but the world championship leader faces a dillema in the race about deciding on which tyres to use. Jorge Lorenzo has been fast on both compounds of Bridgestone's but Rossi has been much more confident on the softer rubber but making it last a full race distance could be a challenge.
The tyre spins up very early in a stint and generates a lot of heat causing the grip to fall off and leave the rider scrambling on track. Rossi's inability to make the hard tyre work at Jerez is costing him because it will likely force him to use the softer rubber tomorrow.
"On the paper the rear tyre for the race will be the hard because last year we use the hard," said Rossi. "It’s already quite soft. Unfortunately for some reason the lap on the left doesn’t work. You have to go a lot … for this reason we always try to do a lot of laps to understand. For me it’s the soft. But it is still open because some other riders try the hard. We have to see the condition to see whether it will be more for the soft."
Having shown an ability to make the harder tyre work in Argentina and bridge a huge gap to Marquez in the second half of the race Rossi doesn't expect a similar event at Jerez because all riders will be forced to run the same compound of tyre.
"Unfortunately I don’t have the potential to do like Marquez. Also because I think the majority of the riders will choose the rear soft. It will be a more normal MotoGP race because all the guys go for the same option. The top guys with Ducati, their hard tyre is the same as our soft tyre. For the front is open. Looking at performance on the track Jorge will try and escape from the beginning. He’s the guy with more pace. He set the pole position. He usually start well, he will try to escape. I will try to make a good start and stay close to Jorge. After we will see where we are with the other riders, the pace with Marquez and the pace of the Ducatis."
Crutchlow: We can fight with Ducati tomorrow
Cal Crutchlow qualified seventh fastest but the LCR Honda rider felt that he had the pace to challenge for a front row start but mistakes hampered him in the qualifying session. Having made three exits in QP2 Crutchlow later admitted that scarifying one exit so that the team could change the front tyre would have made a world of difference and given him a chance of challenging. Having chosen to use the softer tyre Crutchlow said that with the benefit of hindsight that he would have elected for the hard tyre to set his time.
In the race Cal thinks that he can fight with the Ducati and Suzuki riders ahead of him on the grid but making a good start will be pivotal.
"I think our battle will be with maybe the two Ducatis tomorrow," said Crutchlow. "If we ride well maybe with Valentino. But you never know with Valentino. He could come out tomorrow morning and do a run that will be five seconds faster than me as well. Overall I’m quite happy. We know the cooler conditions suit our bike. It suits my experience riding the Honda."
While Lorenzo will be out of sight for Crutchlow the rest of the field will be very much in play as he looks to follow on his Argentine podium with a strong start to the European campaign.
Laverty flips the bird...
Eugene Laverty set the Open Honda pace in Jerez but a freak incident in the morning saw him ride into a bird and destroy the front screen of his Aspar machine. Laverty wound up 17th on the grid, just behind Hiro Aoyama, and he's looking strong having grown in confidence since the start of the season.
"It was ok like yesterday but we’re still just lacking rear grip, that’s the main thing," said Laverty. "The front was already really good and then after the crash we improved the front again. We keep improving in another area but the problems with the main grip remains. That’s what’s holding us back tomorrow. The Honda is a difficult bike. We’ve got to understand. It’s a strange way the bike’s sliding. I’m getting to know the bike more. We’re learning more and more about it but we still can’t quite put our finger on how to fix it.
"If conditions are cooler for a few laps it doesn’t come at all. When conditions are hot, even on a new tyre, it affects me. It affects me for those first three laps and then afterwards it’s a problem. The main thing for me is the race. 27 laps and probably 24 of those are difficult. That’s not how I like to race."
Quartararo on pole in Moto3
Fabio Quartararo came into Moto3 as the most hyped rookie in years and having claimed a podium finish at his second race he instantly lived up to his billing as "the next Marc Marquez." By claiming pole position today at Jerez he became the youngest pole sitter since Marco Melandri at the Sachsenring in 1998 and a win on Sunday would make him the youngest winner since Scott Redding at Donington in 2008.
Having been a double CEV champion Quartararo knows his way around the Jerez circuit but it's to do him a massive disservice to credit his pole to local knowledge. The Frenchman has been on stunning form all year and this is just another step in his progression as a Grand Prix rider.
"I’m really happy because it’s my first pole position on my fourth grand prix," said Quartararo. "It was a difficult qualifying because with hot conditions the tire is not working really good. But I’m happy because the team has done a really good setting on the bike and I really thank you for all my team. I will try to win here but it is not an obligation. I will try, but it’s not necessary to push. It’s better to finish 4th, 3rd, 2nd but not crash in this race."
Quartararo has been turning heads for years but hearing Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo praise him will have still made him blush during the press conference.
"What can I say about Fabio? In my fourth grand prix I was 20 or 22. I needed a long, long time to be competitive," said Lorenzo. "In 2002, 2003 until Brazil I didn’t get any podium. Fabio try to win tomorrow at 16 years old... He will probably win before my age for my first win. He will beat me for sure. It’s impressive, he's a quality talent."
Marc Marquez concurred with Lorenzo by saying:
"Of course it's impressive," said Marquez. "I met him on Thursday and we spoke about it. I think he already knows here he has a good chance to make the pole and also to fight for the victory. I followed a lot Fabio when he was in the Spanish Championship. I knew already that he was really fast on this track and this season. Tomorrow I think he can fight for the victory and he knows that he has a good chance."
To win tomorrow Quartararo will have to beat Danny Kent in what looks sure to be a hard fought race.