Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa has made MotoGP history at Jerez, winning the 3000th Grand Prix race in front of his home crowd with a lights-to-flag masterclass that team—mate Marc Marquez could do nothing about.
Pedrosa jumped away as the lights went out, putting the medium rear Michelin to good use and Marquez, with the hard rear, could only match the laptimes, occasionally exactly, of his HRC stablemate and wasn’t able to reel him in as Pedrosa looked after the rubber to keep grip until the end.
Marquez was never able to get the gap down to less than nine-tenths of a second and realised with four laps to go that discretion was the better part of valour and settled for 20 points. He knocked off his laptimes to such a degree that Pedrosa crossed the line with a six-second lead.
Jorge Lorenzo fended off a challenge from rookie Johann Zarco to bag his first podium for Ducati, using mediums front and rear to end ten seconds behind the leader but it was disaster for championship leader Valentino Rossi who finished in tenth place after his medium front Michelin gave up the ghost at half-distance and he was picked off by all and sundry as his laptimes dropped into the 1’44s compared to Pedrosa’s late 1’40s.
Pedrosa headed almost every session and he gambled with a harder front tyre for this clash. Usually, Pedrosa opts for a compound softer than the rest of the Honda men as he weighs a lot less and his riding style means he doesn’t get a hard-option front up to temperature fast enough. However, with a very high track temperature, Pedrosa felt the hard tyre was the best way forward and didn’t look back as he went into turn one leading and pulled a 0.9s lead in the space of a lap.
Marquez settled into second with Andrea Iannone moving into third. Cal Crutchlow bagged fourth from his front-row start with Maverick Vinales, Zarco and Rossi following on. Zarco again proved he isn’t one to stand on reputation, exchanging passes with Rossi on lap one before making one stick.
The Monster Yamaha man, with medium rubber all round, then set off like a greased camambert, passing Vinales, Crutchlow and Iannone in one lap to occupy third place. Lorenzo also went under auld enemy Rossi which will have, presumably, pleased him no end.
Such was Zarco’s early pace, he was able to catch and pass Marc Marquez after a couple of attempts as Crutchlow, with hard rubber all round, pinched fourth from Iannone. However, Iannone was back past a lap later while Lorenzo cruised past Vinales at turn six.
Lorenzo then caught and went past Lorenzo while Jack Miller and Alvaro Bautista tangled in the gravel. The aggrieved Miller pushed Bautista back into the kitty litter but then apologised in pitlane. The incident is under review by FIM stewards when they have finished their extensive lunch.
On lap six, Marquez found his way back past Zarco for second as Vinales dropped back to ninth after running wide - signalling problems with his front tyre. Crutchlow crashed out at turn 11 with 22 laps left and he was followed into the gravel by KTM’s Pol Espargaro. Iannone was the next to go down at turn 11 as the Ecstar Suzuki man’s nightmare season continued.
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso had quietly made his way from 14th on the grid to the rear of Rossi and went past his compatriot when The Doctor ran wide at turn six. It signified the beginning of the Yamaha’s man woes. Vinales found a second wind and clawed his way back past the two Italians.
Lorenzo caught and passed Zarco for third but the Frenchman wasn’t letting him go and stayed on the former champion’s rear wheel until he too started to lose grip. With 13 left, Rossi’s laptimes plummeted and he was passed first by Danilo Petrucci and then Jonas Folger also finding a space, demoting him to ninth.
Dovizioso made his final move on Vinales for fifth place but Zarco was too far up the road for him to do anything about, so the two-time Moto2 champion took his best result so far. Vinales ended in sixth with Petrucci seventh. Folger stayed in eighth while Espargaro also passed Rossi for ninth place.
Had there been a couple more laps, Scott Redding would have also nipped past Rossi but had to settle for 11th. Hector Barbera was 12th, Loris Baz 12th, Bradley Smith 14th and Karel Abraham 15th. Sam Lowes missed a points score by one place.