In front of an ecstatic, partisan home crowd, Alex Marquez claimed his maiden Grand Prix victory in the intermediate class today, ending the early season domination of his team-mate Franco Morbidelli.
Venue: Circuito de Jerez de la Frontera
Race Distance: 71.5 miles (26 Laps)
Weather: Dry, Sunny.
Starting from pole, the Estrella-Galicia MarcVDS rider was rarely troubled as he produced a near faultless performance at the Spanish Grand Prix. Marquez had looked the faster of the two all weekend, with the circuit seeming to suit his trail-braking riding style perfectly. Despite one mistake, running wide at the sweeping turn 5, he had the measure of Morbidelli. Having briefly lost the lead to his team-mate, Marquez refound his rhythm and homed in on the championship leader.
In contrast, Franco Morbidelli seemed less of his composed self throughout the weekend, which culminated in a very uncharacteristic crash on lap 9, ending his race early. It may have been his first non-finish of the season and, having taken victory in the three previous rounds he still maintains a decent lead in the standings. Nevertheless, the question can now be asked as to whether Morbidelli has the mental strength to keep Marquez at bay for the rest of the championship. Given the performance levels of the MarcVDS machine, it looks increasingly likely that the battle for the World title will be an in-house affair.
Filling the remainder of the podium were Sky-VR|46’s Francesco Bagnaia and KTM’s Miguel Oliveira in second and third places respectively. Both riders continue to impress, particularly Bagnaia, who is in his rookie season in the championship. The 20-year old from Turin, who started from the second row on the grid, looked as if he’d been riding the 600cc prototype machine for years, comfortably fending off numerous attacks from the vastly more experienced Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team). Oliveira once more produced a strong race to support his efforts from qualifying on Saturday. The Portuguese rider was understandably ecstatic post-race and paid tribute to his mechanics for providing him with “the orange-rocket”. Both he and Bagnaia left Jerez quietly confident that it will not be too long before they get their turns to stand on the top step of the podium.
Behind, it was a case of damage limitation for pre-season favourite, Thomas Luthi. The Swiss rider had endured a pretty torrid weekend and started the race in P12 following a disastrous qualifying session. After the opening lap, it looked like it was going to be a completely barren result for the CarXpert-Interwetten rider, having lost touch with the front runners. Luthi needed to call upon all of his experience to bring the bike home in a credible P8. Damage limited but needs a much stronger showing next time out in Le Mans.
Finally, it was an excellent result for AGR’s sole Moto2 entrant, Yonny Hernandez. The former premier class rider has endured a difficult start to life in the intermediate category, and seemed destined for more of the same after qualifying in P22. From there, the Columbian carved his way through the field, passing multiple established competitors (Takaaki Nakagami, Hafiz Syahrin, Lorenzo Balderssarri etc) to finish P9. Just the breakthrough needed to set himself and the team up nicely for the European leg of the season.
Eddie Hocknull @EddieHocknull