The fight to lead the 2019 MotoGP championship standings reached a new level of intensity in Jerez when Marc Marquez took a stunning win to go from fourth in the standings to first after four rounds of the series. But while his victory bagged important points, it hasn’t been enough to allow the reigning champion to pull away. Now locked firmly in battle with not only long-time rival Andrea Dovizioso but also Suzuki superstar Alex Rins, the trio are now separated by just three points.
In Sunday’s race, Marquez was able to put his game plan into action perfectly, making the most of the inexperience of the Petronas Yamaha duo of Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli who started alongside him on the front row to make a break. Eventually winning by 1.6 seconds, he said that part of the reason for his exuberant celebrations was the message his convincing win had delivered to his rivals after he crashed out of the lead in Texas.
Taking an incredible 31 seconds off the race record in only 25 laps of the Jerez circuit, he said afterwards: “I was happy to win and especially happy to do it in that way, because that was the intention. After my mistake at CoTA last time out I wanted to win in the same way as I was trying to do there, and that’s what we managed to do.”
But with only a single point advantage in the standings he acknowledged that he now has to consider fellow Spaniard Rins every bit the title rival, and even conceded that the youngster might even be at something of an advantage heading forwards.
“I’ve known since preseason testing that Alex would be there, and he’s started the season in the best way. The strongest point for him is that he doesn’t have pressure yet. For sure it will arrive for him later, but at the moment he can be happy to finish third, very happy to finish second and to win is amazing for him. He’s another opponent for the championship, and he and the Suzuki are ready to fight.”
Looking like a more and more complete package with each race weekend, Rins was able to string together a series of super-fast laps towards the end of the race to leave the rest of the grid behind and secure second. But while he was as quick as Marquez in the closing stages, he couldn’t do anything to hunt him down – highlighting again the one weakness that he’s got to fix.
Rins said: “I need to work harder on qualifying, but it’s not easy to do a very fast lap. I need to try to improve, but honestly I don’t know where the problem is. The race was really difficult and starting on the third row made it even harder and I just planned to try to get a good start and go towards the front.”