KEVIN'S INSIGHTS: Jerez MotoGP Wrap-Up 2017

Pedrosa wins in dominant fashion

Dani Pedrosa shot away first and led every lap to win from Marc Marquez by just over six seconds. Marquez had been second on every lap but L4, when Tech3 rider Johann Zarco briefly displaced him. In third was a delighted Jorge Lorenzo, giving Ducati their first podium finish in six years.

Cal Crutchlow, who slid off turn 11 on lap six, had earlier said, “Dani has the best chance this weekend and one of the best chances all year to win because everyone else will be on the limit with tires and he won't.”

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Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team, Gran Premio de España 2017Courtesy of Repsol Honda

Pedrosa said, “In these…conditions the track was not as grippy as in the practice [Maverick Viñales and Jorge Lorenzo had set identical times at the top of Sunday morning warm-up], maybe because of the temperature, for some reason I felt there was less grip. I was running the hard front same as many riders and…at the beginning I could pull a gap. Later, I could see I was running quite fast so I had to manage my rear because I was on the medium, and then I tried to keep my pace under control.”

He extended or maintained his lead of up to 1.6 seconds for 13 laps then let it dwindle to .976 second four laps from the end. Thoughtful management.

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Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team, Gran Premio de España 2017Courtesy of Repsol Honda

His first lap was decisive to the outcome, as with high initial grip he pulled out seven-tenths of a second while the tires of others were in no condition to follow (remember that tire warmers, while helpful, cannot create the racing temperature distribution). Pedrosa ran a medium rear while teammate Marquez ran a hard. Compare with Valentino Rossi’s first lap: 1:45.899 versus 1:47.806—Pedrosa’s was almost two seconds faster.

Marc Marquez said, “I’m really happy to be here in second place because normally here in Jerez is one of the most difficult tracks for my riding style. For me, the rear tire was working quite well. It took time [to come to operating temperature] on the first two or three laps, but then it was working quite well. My limitation was the front tire…because my riding style is pushing a lot on the braking point.”

Marquez had helped himself to a close look at what Pedrosa was doing, creating an intense moment. “When I start, Marc started with me, so right after the out lap he was following all the time. By the middle of the track, I stopped and then he stopped too. We were alone and obviously he was on pole. I looked to him and it was at this point I didn't know [whether I would improve or] he might improve behind me, but when I looked to him I said, 'Okay, I take this challenge.'"

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Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team, Gran Premio de España 2017Courtesy of Ducati Team

The result put Pedrosa on pole.

Cal Crutchlow is of special value to Honda for the feedback he gives in testing. He also shares a lot with the rest of us, helping us to understand what really goes on in MotoGP.

He described the Honda this way: “Compared to everyone else, we are constantly 'manually' riding the bike. We have to control the thing all the time—the rear brake, front brake, the wheelie, the sliding, the shaking, the wobbling into the corner. Because that's the way it is. You can't change it. You're not going to suddenly turn around the next day and say, 'I found one setting that works.' You've got to manually ride the bike and learn the tricks of the trade."

Notice that he said “the wobbling into the corner.” Cornering instability has been a trouble since Honda could no longer use the special features of their own software to reduce or eliminate it. Remember Stoner’s tube-framed Ducati “pumping” (weaving) visibly in corners during 2008? When you have rows of engineer-software-writers at laptops, you can set them to work on problems like this. The common software may be necessary to prevent the top teams from running away with the series, but in effect, it is like being told you cannot use your own specialized tools to reassemble an engine but must instead use just a single adjustable wrench of standard type.

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Johann Zarco, Monster Yamaha Tech3, Gran Premio de EspañaCourtesy of Monster Yamaha Tech3

Conventional thought views Jerez's two fast rights before the finish as favoring the corner-speed Yamahas and penalizing the stop-and-go Hondas. But there is a complication. Much of what grip there is at Jerez comes from "tooth," coarse pavement texture that engages the tire like a gear. This is why Jack Miller said, "The track definitely has some good wet potential. It has quite an abrasive surface."

Since this kind of grip depends more upon the rubber’s tensile strength, a harder tire wears more slowly and can sometimes work better.

Yet as Miller also noted, Michelin’s latest front tires can be temperature-sensitive. “It has really good edge grip and it has quite good turning. The only thing is, when it comes to temperature it's a little more difficult to get right, easier to crash.”

This situation torpedoed Rossi and other Yamaha men. While the leaders with their hard fronts were able to remain in the minute-forties, Rossi entered the forty-ones early on lap five and thence into the oblivion of forty-twos from lap 15. A year ago he won here, finding wheelspin while upright on the straight late in that race that kept him from using full throttle.

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Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati Team, Gran Premio de España 2017Courtesy of Ducati Team

Today he said, “We tried to…fix the spin and acceleration, but unfortunately for the race we did worse. I was also in trouble with the front.”

Maverick Viñales, who has won two GPs this year, said, “In the warm-up I was feeling maybe I can start and go with Dani and Marc and fight until the end. But in the race I had no feeling on the front [“feeling” means the warning signals that tires give that the limit is near]. This afternoon was totally different and a disaster on the braking points. I was braking 30 meters [almost 100 feet] earlier than this morning” (when with Lorenzo he had topped warm-up).

Johann Zarco, fourth, said, “I almost crashed twice, which allowed Marc to overtake me and from that moment I was wondering what would happen. I could not push anymore on the front because I was really on the limit.”

That’s what Marquez had said about his first year in MotoGP. “Every lap was like qualifying.”

maverick vinales spanish gp race action 2017
Maverick Vinales, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, Gran Premio de España 2017Courtesy of Movistar Yamaha

Lorenzo has now validated the hard work that the Ducati team have done, just as Stirling Moss validated the building of the Tipo 61 Maserati 56 years ago.

He first chided those "unbelievers" who had dismissed him as unable to adapt to the very different Ducati.

Why so fast now? He spoke of “a combination of many things,” including “kilometers and…learning how to stop with the rear brake.”

This is more subtle than it appears. Around 1980 teams in 500 GP and American Superbike alike were furiously experimenting with ways to prevent brake dive—compression damping valves, levers, bearings, joints, and rods. Then someone at Yamaha saw it was all foolishness, and that brake dive is good because by lowering the machine’s center-of-mass it allows harder braking without lifting the rear wheel. All those trick valves and CNC linkages went flying into dumpsters and were seen no more.

Same with the rear brake. When in 1980 Kenny Roberts was recovering from his Japan testing crash, Skip Aksland went to him seeking advice on how to hold off Dale Singleton, who was out-braking him in Daytona practice (braking for turn one and the chicane are the biggies).

Gran Premio de España race action 2017
Gran Premio de España 2017Courtesy of Repsol Honda

Kenny reportedly said, “Did you ever think of going for the rear brake just before braking the front? It pulls the back of the bike down.” (Because, with the caliper bolted to the swingarm, its brake torque compresses the rear suspension, further lowering the center of mass.)

Cal Crutchlow had spoken of the Ducati’s braking ability: “It didn't turn and never had great rear grip. But now it has great rear grip and it's a rocket. The bike is good and it's not shaking [anything] like a Honda. You have to be willing to accept that's the way it's going to be and it's not anywhere near as wild as riding a Honda. The Ducati is sort of halfway between the Yamaha and Honda [to ride]. The Ducati was the best decelerating bike I’ve ridden by far."

Racing is gambling, placing an exceedingly complex spread bet covering tires, suspension, electronics. The rider goes to the start grid not really knowing how all will perform in the conditions of the moment. He does his best, adapting constantly as the fuel load lightens, the tires undergo their mysterious transformations, and the weather glides overhead.

marc marquez, dani pedrosa, jorge lorenzo spanish gp podium
Marc Marquez, Dani Pedrosa, and Jorge Lorenzo, Gran Premio de España 2017Courtesy of Repsol Honda

RACE RESULTS

Pos. Rider Num. Nation Team Time/Gap
1 PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA Repsol Honda Team 45'26.827
2 MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA Repsol Honda Team 6.136
3 LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA Ducati Team 14.767
4 ZARCO Johann 5 FRA Monster Yamaha Tech3 17.601
5 DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA Ducati Team 22.913
6 VIÑALES Maverick 25 SPA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 24.556
7 PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA Octo Pramac Racing 24.959
8 FOLGER Jonas 94 GER Monster Yamaha Tech3 27.721
9 ESPARGARO Aleix 41 SPA Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 31.233
10 ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 38.682
11 REDDING Scott 45 GBR Octo Pramac Racing 40.979
12 BARBERA Hector 8 SPA Reale Avintia Racing 43.199
13 BAZ Loris 76 FRA Reale Avintia Racing 43.211
14 SMITH Bradley 38 GBR Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 47.964
15 ABRAHAM Karel 17 CZE Pull&Bear Aspar Team 51.279
16 LOWES Sam 22 GBR Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 1'08.885
17 TSUDA Takuya 22 JPN Suzuki Test Team 1'27.450
18 IANNONE Andrea 29 ITA Team Suzuki Ecstar 18 (laps)
19 RABAT Tito 53 SPA Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS 18 (laps)
20 CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR LCR Honda 22 (laps)
21 MILLER Jack 43 AUS Team EG 0,0 Marc VDS 22 (laps)
22 BAUTISTA Alvaro 19 SPA Pull&Bear Aspar Team 22 (laps)
23 ESPARGARO Pol 44 SPA Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 22 (laps)

RIDER STANDINGS

Pos. Rider Num. Nation Points Team
1 ROSSI Valentino 46 ITA 62 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
2 VINALES Maverick 25 SPA 60 Movistar Yamaha MotoGP
3 MARQUEZ Marc 93 SPA 58 Repsol Honda Team
4 PEDROSA Dani 26 SPA 52 Repsol Honda Team
5 DOVIZIOSO Andrea 4 ITA 41 Ducati Team
6 ZARCO Johann 5 FRA 35 Monster Yamaha Tech3
7 CRUTCHLOW Cal 35 GBR 29 LCR Honda
8 FOLGER Jonas 94 GER 29 Monster Yamaha Tech3
9 LORENZO Jorge 99 SPA 28 Ducati Team
10 PETRUCCI Danilo 9 ITA 26 Octo Pramac Racing

More Photos From The Gran Premio de España 2017

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Danilo Petrucci, Octo Pramac Racing, Gran Premio de España 2017Courtesy of Octo Pramac Racing
jonas folger spanish gp race action 2017
Jonas Folger, Monster Yamaha Tech3, Gran Premio de España 2017Courtesy of Monster Yamaha Tech3
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Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, Gran Premio de España 2017Courtesy of Aprilia Racing
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Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, Gran Premio de España 2017Courtesy of Movistar Yamaha