MotoGP

MotoGP – Marquez still the king of the ring after another German win

ds50565.gallery_full_top_lg-800x534

Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez has re-written another piece of MotoGP history by storming from a ninth pole in a row at the Sachsenring to take his ninth win in a row across all classes. Championship rival Valentino Rossi took second on the factory Yamaha and maintains his second place in the standings, with the Yamaha team-mate Maveric Viñales taking third.

As the lights went out it was Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo who got the holeshot, moving from third into the lead as Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci slotted into second – with Marquez shuffled back into third. Rossi made a good start from sixth to move into fourth ahead of teammate Viñales, with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso the key man to lose out from fifth.

Once at the front, Lorenzo set about putting the hammer down, making it the sixth race in succession the Mallorcan has led. It didn’t take too long for Marquez to make his way through the pack and catch his compatriot, however, and a game of cat and mouse began at the front as Marquez reeled in Lorenzo.

Meanwhile Rossi attacked Petrucci for third and moved through, with LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow crashing out at Turn 12.

Lorenzo was holding firm at the front, but Marquez then chose his moment and struck to take over the lead, with Lorenzo struggling to turn the Ducati in and dropping back into Lorenzo’s clutches.

Rossi pounced quickly, and once past, the rider from Tavullia put the hammer down in a bid to claw back some time to Marquez, but it wasn’t to be. The number 93 pulled the pin with perfect timing, with enough grip left to see him make a gap and keep it until crossing the line for stunning ninth win in a row at the Sachsenring – and all from pole.

Rossi was then safe in second for another podium finish, but teammate Viñales left it late to complete the rostrum. First Petrucci was the man pushing to pass a Lorenzo struggling with grip, before Viñales arrived on the scene and attacked the Mallorcan and then the Italian to take third and a second successive podium.

Petrucci claimed a well-fought fourth, just ahead of Alvaro Bautista on the Angel Nieto Ducati; Bautista was the fastest man on track for a good number of laps and kept that incredible form to the end, the final man able to muscle past Lorenzo by the flag.

Lorenzo took sixth ahead of a tough day for teammate Andrea Dovizioso, with Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa putting in a solid ride to eighth. Tech 3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco improved from his worst qualifying of the season so far to take ninth despite the difficult weekend, with an incredible ride from KTM’s Bradley Smith putting the Brit in tenth to take KTM’s first top ten of the season.

Tech 3 Yamaha’s Hafizh Syahrin was top rookie in eleventh and takes over at the top of the Rookie of the Year standings, ahead of Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone, who was caught up in an early incident that saw KTM’s Pol Espargaro make contact with Suzuki’s Alex Rins and both riders go down.

Tito Rabat finished thirteenth, ahead of Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller in fourteenth and Aprilia’s Scott Redding in fifteenth.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

MotoGP – Pedrosa to retire at the end of the season

ped03

After weeks of speculation, Honda factory rider Dani Pedrosa has announced that he will end his active racing career at the end of this season, bringing the curtain down on an illustrious career which has seen him win 31 MotoGP races, making him the eighth most successful rider of all time in the premier class.

Pedrosa, just 32, broke the news in a special press conference held ahead of the German round of MotoGP at the Sachsenring. He said: “Next year, I will not compete in the championship, this means I will finish my career this season in MotoGP. This is a decision I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and it’s a very hard decision because this is the sport I love. But despite having good opportunities to keep racing, I feel like I don’t live racing with such an intensity as before and I now have different priorities in my life.

“I would like to express how fortunate I feel to have had this opportunity. It’s been an amazing life to be racing for such an important team and in front of all the fans. So I can say I achieved way more than I expected and I’m very proud of everything I’ve done in the sport. I fulfilled my dream of becoming a racer and this is something I didn’t expect as a kid watching on TV.”

The Spaniard came close to announcing his retirement at Barcelona four weeks ago, but the approach from the Petronas Yamaha Team due to race in MotoGP next year had forced him to consider his choice carefully. He said: “In Barcelona I had the feeling and a more or less clear idea of what would be my decision, but an opportunity showed up, and you never have to close the door to opportunities in that way,” Pedrosa said. “Finally, I considered the options, and with a bit more time, it’s always better to take these decisions with more time and with your people and with your family, and think about it a little bit longer. But finally, the feeling is the feeling.”

“You have to live the races to the limit and I had to give everything that I had. Looking at the project and being realistic this is the direction I have to take. I gave everything I had on the track as well as off it and it’s simply this; I’m a rider that gave my best. Like I said it was something already coming for a long time and the opportunity I had was a great chance and nothing to say about. It’s just my feeling, my way of approaching life and racing and being honest with myself… This was the decision.”

Pedrosa is one of the best racers to have never won the championship, injuries taking their toll on his ability to make a sustained title charge. The Spaniard was never a prolific crasher, but when he did, he nearly always ended up injured, often seriously.

Pedrosa has had 21 injuries during his time at the top, the most serious of which occurred at Motegi in 2010, in yet another crash caused by a mechanical error when a sticking throttle caused him to be thrown into the gravel at Turn 9, badly breaking his left collarbone in the incident. The surgery to plate that collarbone was as successful as it should have been, the plate and screws putting pressure on his subclavian artery, which supplies blood to the arms.

In race conditions the plate was reducing blood flow to the arm leading to Pedrosa feeling he was losing strength in that arm, and unable to grip the handlebars successfully. The Spaniard struggled with that feeling for nearly six months, his doctors unable to pinpoint exactly what the problem was. It left him both physically and mentally drained, Pedrosa giving serious consideration to retiring unless a solution could be found. Once the issue with the plate was identified, he was able to have surgery to solve the problem, and get back to full fitness again.

But the crash had also left him wary of surgery. When he was taken out by Marco Simoncelli at Le Mans the following year, Pedrosa deliberated for a long time before agreeing to surgery to plate the collarbone. It remained an issue for the Spaniard throughout his career, and in the end, pushed him towards retirement.

It is hard to say whether Pedrosa’s diminutive size and weight played a factor in the severity of the injuries he has accumulated over the years, but it was always a question for debate.

Pedrosa’s old team boss Livio Suppo is convinced that Pedrosa’s physical stature held him back, and that if he was just 10cm taller, he would have won the MotoGP crown at least four times. He said: “MotoGP is all about traction. Dani has the talent and riding skill, but if he was just 10cm taller, that would give him all the traction and grip he’d need to dominate the class. Of that I’m absolutely clear.”

This theory is backed up by LCR rider Cal Crutchlow, who is convinced that Pedrosa would have won multiple title had he switched to Yamaha, a bike which is much less physically demanding to ride.

Of course, Pedrosa also has the misfortune to have raced in the golden age of MotoGP, and his team-mates Casey Stoner and Marc Márquez are arguably the two most naturally talented riders to race in the championship with Stoner taking one title with Honda, and Márquez winning four of the five championships he has competed in.

So, Pedrosa has decided to bow out at the top, but his place in GP history is secure; he will be formally inducted as MotoGP Legend at the final race of the 2018 season in Valencia.

Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta said. “I think it’s a small contribution from the championship, for what he has been doing throughout his career. It has been a big pleasure, as Dorna CEO and a friend of Dani, to share with him all these years and I hope he will continue with us, doing other things.

“The decision he has made, and he didn’t say nothing, it’s a very honest and loyal decision. He had – in the last discussions – everything to continue. But being honest with himself, he has decided to retire. Not all people would do the same. I want to tell him again, thank-you and thank-you for the example you have given to us.”

So, the greatest rider never to win a premier class title has decided to hang up his leathers. Here’s to hoping he adds more wins to his impressive haul before the chequered flag drops at the final round in Valencia…

MotoGP– sensational showdown at the Cathedral of Speed sees Marquez take top honours

2018-08-gp-assen-00499

Assen was the venue for a sensational battle royale as eight riders duked it out for the win in one of the most incredible MotoGp races of all time at Assen.

Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez emerged from the melee to take the win on premier racing’s 70th visit to the track, but the headlines were stolen by the close racing as Marquez battled with Yamaha duo Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales, Ducati factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo, Suzuki’s Alex Rins and LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow.

It was Marquez who took the holeshot from pole, with Crutchlow initially on his tail from second on the grid until Lorenzo sliced through from tenth to P2 after another awe-inspiring launch.

The Italian and Catalan GP winner didn’t wait long to strike for the lead either, attacking Marquez with the the two riders locked side-by-side in a war of wills until Lorenzo edged ahead.

Marquez hit back a lap later at Turn 15, before Lorenzo repaid the favour once more. The duel was the first of many; an early taste of what was to come.

Rossi then made his first attack of the race at the final chicane, a first rehearsal, and set off after Lorenzo – with the Spaniard missing a gear soon after and Rossi smashing into the rear of the Ducati, unable to avoid him. Incredibly, both riders stayed on and retaining their track position, with Marquez, Dovizioso, Rins, Crutchlow and Viñales forming a train of riders fighting at the front.

Marquez took Rossi, Viñales took Crutchlow, Dovizioso took Rossi, Dovizioso took Marquez, Marquez struck back, Rins took Rossi and then Dovizioso…but Lorenzo held firm at the front. With eight riders within a second, from Lorenzo down to Johann Zarco on the Tech 3 Yamaha at the back of the train, the touch paper was well and truly lit on an absolute classic.

The war continued before another bout of bigger drama with 15 laps to go as Rins attacked Marquez and the two made contact, with the reigning champion suffering a big moment as he got back on the gas. That dropped him back off the lead, with Lorenzo chased by Rins and Dovizioso.

The Italian fought his teammate for the lead soon after and Lorenzo began to drop back slightly, with Viñales then taking the lead for the first time with just eight laps to go.

Next time around Marquez had sliced back through into the lead, before the next lap saw both almost throw it all away as they both ran wide.

It was then Rossi’s turn to shine with a clinical move at the final chicane, but he couldn’t make it stick and Dovizioso immediately struck back..

A four-way tussle for the front saw no inch given by any of the riders, before Marquez pulled the pin to make his way back into P1…and once past he managed the gap to take a stunning win; his fourth of the season.

The battle behind wasn’t over, however, and Viñales had pushed through to second before a last lap attack from Rins – with the Suzuki rider taking his second ever premier class rostrum. Viñales was forced to settle for third , his first time back on the podium since Texas.

The fight for fourth was equally intense and showed why Rossi had been rehearsing; the ‘Doctor’ left it late but lunged up the inside of Dovizioso into the famous Geert Timmer chicane on the final lap, and he was ahead – but the Ducati pilot took him back on the exit, gaining such good drive that the had almost caught Viñales over the line.

Marquez, Rins, Viñales, Dovizioso and Rossi were followed home by Crutchlow and Lorenzo, with Zarco, Alvaro Bautista (Angel Nieto Team) and Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller completing the top ten in one of the greatest races contested on two wheels.

Speaking after the race, Marquez said: “It was a crazy race, full of adrenaline—this feeling is one of the reasons we do this sport. I was expecting something like this before the race, but nothing like it actually was. We were a wild bunch, everyone fighting against everyone; I think all of us made contact with somebody else at some point. We had to attack and defend, attack and defend. We had so many ‘big moments’ and risked crashing.
“It was crazy out there and impossible to define the best strategy, so eventually I decided to just fight and see what we could do in the end. In the last three laps, I gave it everything, no matter the tyres, no matter the amount of championship points available. I had been trying to reduce the group because when you’re fighting for the title, you just want the fewest riders possible at the front, but it was difficult. Only when I saw I had more than one and a half seconds of advantage before the last lap did I think, Okay, we’ve got it, let’s just finish this lap.
“It was an important win and 25 very important points, but we need to keep going, keep pushing, and keep this same level.”

MotoGP – Lorenzo in, Pedrosa out at Repsol Honda

Lorenzo Honda

Big changes are afoot at the factory Honda squad after it has emerged that Jorge Lorenzo will replace the outgoing Dani Pedrosa, who is leaving the Repsol team after 18 years with HRC and Honda.

Lorenzo has penned a two-year deal which will see the three-time MotoGP world champion join Marc Marquez in the factory Honda team.

In a terse statement after his maiden win on the Ducati at Mugello, Lorenzo accused the Italian factory of not doing enough to give him a bike to win, publicly slating their lack of support and development.

Many paddock insiders saw this as a sign he was heading to a satellite Yamaha effort, but Lorenzo’s leftfield jump to Honda has caused shockwaves in the paddock.

The move means Honda now has its very own dream team; the two riders share a total of 11 Championships, 130 victories and 255 podiums between them, many of which have been fought against each other. The two are also the only riders to have been crowned MotoGP world champion since 2011 – Lorenzo in 2012 and 2015, adding to his first premier class crown taken in 2010, and Marquez in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017.

Lorenzo is now a rider who has two wins for two different manufacturers, and he will be keen to add a win on a third to prove the many doubters who have written him off wrong.

But, how will Honda manage the relationship between Marquez and Lorenzo, both of whom are convinced they are the best rider in the world? The job of handling two of the biggest egos in the paddock will fall to Alberto Puig, a man who is also known his the size of his ego. Expect fireworks to fly…

What is clear is that HRC now has two of the most successful riders of recent times in its factory team. How they get along, or don’t, will determine whether the team continues its stranglehold on the title.

Watch this space…2019 will be explosive….

MotoGP 2019 silly season starts now

motogp-lorenzo-trattative-suzuki-2019-1

So, the silly season is well and truly underway in MotoGP, with many top riders facing the real risk of being left out in the cold for the 2019 season.

With Marc Marquez extending his stay with the Repsol Honda team, Andrea Dovizioso doing the same with Ducati, Alex Rins committing to Suzuki and the KTM and Yamaha factories already agreeing contracts for the rider line-up for next season, there is the real possibility that some of the best riders in the series won ‘t be lining up on the grid in the future.

Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo is arguably the rider who dictates what will happen to the others. With his time at Ducati punctuated by a large number of poor performances, team bosses are becoming increasingly frustrated with Lorenzo’s lack of result, especially considering his large salary. The smart money is on Lorenzo being pushed out in favour of Pramac’s Danilo Petrucci or Jack Miller. But Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone’s recent form has also impressed, and don’t be surprised to see him back in red.

So, where would Lorenzo go? And who would have him? Suzuki seems like the obvious destination. The bike would suit Lorenzo’s smooth riding style, and with the team looking likely to attract Monster as a main sponsor, the funding would be in place to secure Lorenzo’s services.

However, the Japanese manufacturer is also rumoured to be seriously considering making an approach for WSBK three-time champion Jonny Rea. Rea has always had blistering pace, and when he filled in for Casey Stoner on the Repsol Honda, he piloted the bike to a couple of strong finishes.

So, if Rea does sign, where does that leave Lorenzo? There are no other factory bikes available, apart from the Repsol Honda. But would the manufacturer really want Lorenzo alongside Marquez.

And what of Repsol Honda’s long -time servant Dani Pedrosa? The Spaniard has an incredible record in MotoGP, winning a race in every season he has competed. But the word from the paddock is that this season will be his last in the orange and white Repsol colours.

Moto2 sensation Joan Mir is the outside bet to take Pedrosa’s seat, with LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow also mooted for the ride. The Brit looked to be in pole position to make the switch at the start of the season, with Honda bosses impressed with his work ethos and development skills. But a series of crashes in recent races have made bosses think twice abut his ability to be a No2 Factory rider.

So, where would Pedrosa go? He’s a proven winner, and a proven development rider, and would be an attractive option for Suzuki or whichever team runs the satellite Yamahas once the agreement with Tech 3 comes to an end.

Other riders looking for a ride are KTM’s Bradley Smith, who has been forced out after a series of disappointing races stretching back to last season, with Aprilia’s Scott Redding also believed to be under threat after failing to get to grips with the bike since his move from the Pramac Ducati.

The first piece of the jigsaw is expected to fall into place at Mugello, when Jorge Lorenzo announces his intentions. What this space…

MotoGP – masterful Marquez makes it three in a row at Le Mans

IMG_2823

Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez took a record-breaking victory at the Grand Prix de France, which sees the reigning world champion equal Casey Stoner’s 38 premier class wins – and surpass Mike Hailwood’s win record.

Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci was a superb second to take his first podium of the season – and from the front row – with Valentino Rossi on the factory Yamaha returning to the rostrum in third place.

Sadly, however, the French fairytale wasn’t to be for Tech 3’s Johann Zarco as the home hero crashed out at Turn 8 on lap eight after re-passing Marquez for second in the fight at the front.

Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone was another rider to crash, falling out of contention on lap one at la Chapelle after making a good start. In yet more drama for the standings, championship contender Andrea Dovizioso  made a rare error on his Ducati at the same corner four laps later, making Le Mans another pivotal race in the Championship.

At the start, it was Ducatis’ Jorge Lorenzo who got the holeshot from the second row, repeating his incredible launch of the Spanish GP to take off in the lead – and hold onto it. Zarco dropped from pole but then struck back almost immediately into the chicane to take second, with Petrucci, Dovizioso, Marquez and Rossi all close at the front until Iannone crashed out – leaving a gap back to Marquez as the two Ducatis and Zarco stayed close together at the front.

The Frenchman then headed slightly wide and Dovizioso struck, honing in on teammate Lorenzo in the lead and not leaving long before trying an attack. Getting the job done quickly, it seemed the Italian was then going to unleash his pace shown in practice – but he suddenly slid out of the lead and into the gravel, leaving the number 99 of Lorenzo’s Ducati out front.

Zarco and Marquez closed in before the reigning champion shot past the Frenchman for second – but Zarco, in signature style, was quick to respond. The second bolt of drama was about to hit the race, however, as the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider then slid off at Turn 8 – leaving Marquez vs Lorenzo in the lead.

On Lap 10, the number 93 made his move before Petrucci followed the Honda rider through a lap later. Rossi and Miller soon carved their way past the five-time world champion, who started the race on softer rubber, with Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa waiting in the wings.

The gap between Marquez, Petrucci, Rossi and Miller stayed consistent, with all four exchanging quickest laps. That was until Marquez pulled the pin on Lap 16, setting the fastest lap of the race to bridge to gap to a second over the chasing GP18. From there, Marquez was able to stretch the gap tenth by tenth, with Petrucci also keeping Rossi at bay. Pedrosa was later able to pass Lorenzo for fifth, with the Ducati rider having to settle for sixth.

Further down the order, after failing to get the start he was looking for, last year’s winner Maverick Viñales  made his way back up to seventh on the factory Yamaha after being outside the top ten for the first half of the race. Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro had a great ride, holding onto eighth until the last lap but then coming home ninth. Passing him on the last lap was a superhuman Cal Crutchlow, who had a magnificent ride battling his LCR Honda to P8 from 13th on the grid – riding through the pain barrier after a huge highside on Saturday.

Suzuki’s Alex Rins battled with Viñales and Espargaro throughout the race, eventually rounding out the top ten in his first ride at the track in the premier class, having missed the event in 2017 due to injury. KTM’s Pol Espargaro picked up another solid result in P11 for some more good points for KTM, with Bradley Smith adding to the total in P14. Tech 3’s Hafizh Syahrin eventually got the better of Franco Morbidelli on the Marc VDS Honda to finish as top rookie in twelfth, with LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami rounding the points scorers.

Marquez said: “I’m particularly happy with this win here in Le Mans, as it’s one of the most difficult tracks for us. Today I was the only one on a hard rear tyre, and that made my approach to the race a bit different because I knew it would take a little more time to reach the right temperature. But during the warm-up, I had the opportunity to verify that once the tyre was ready, it was very constant, and I was able to keep a very good rhythm.

“To be honest, things were a bit challenging at the beginning of the race: Zarco touched me in the second corner and I went a bit wide, then Iannone crashed and nearly hit me, so I lost some more positions. I decided to cool down for a while.

“When I saw that Dovi and Johann were out, my approach to the race again changed a bit. At a certain point, I had one big moment in turn three, where I had already crashed in FP3, which is why I was being extremely careful there; I think that helped me to avoid a crash in that moment.

“I’m currently experiencing a very ‘sweet’ period with my bike, and when you’ve got that kind of feeling, you also work better; then you ride better, and the bike works better. Things don’t exactly become easier when you get into this zone, but they’re more ‘natural.’ Of course it’s a very long season, and not all the races will be the same, so we’ll just try and keep the momentum.”

MotoGP – Crutchlow declared fit to race after vicious qualifying highside

Screen Shot 2018-05-20 at 08.55.49

LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow has been declared fit to race after suffering a vicious high side crash during Saturday’s qualifying 1 session at the Grand Prix of France in Le Mans.

Exiting Turn Nine while on a fast lap, the British rider was thrown over the top of the bike, before then being hit again by the bike as it slid along the asphalt behind him.

Crutchlow was attended to immediately by the marshals and medical staff at the side of the track, where it became clear that he had not lost consciousness at any moment, but he was complaining of pain in his hip region.

Crutchlow was stretchered off before being transferred to the circuit’s medical centre where he was checked over by medical staff. He was then taken to the hospital Le Mans for further examinations, and he was declared fit to race early on Sunday morning.

Lucio Cecchinello, LCR Honda team principal, said: “The most important thing first of all, is that after examination both the Le Mans circuit medical centre and here at the hospital in Le Mans, Cal has suffered no fractures or major injuries.”

MotoGP – home pole for Zarco at Le Mans

63365c49-8673-44c9-b092-583db694dcf0

Tech 3’s Johann Zarco stormed to a history-making pole position at the Grand Prix de France, smashing the pole record to become the first Frenchman to secure pole on home soil since Christian Sarron at Paul Ricard in 1988.

Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez threatened to spoil the party on his final lap as the reigning champion honed in, but it wasn’t enough and the championship leader starts P2.

Q1 graduate Danilo Petrucci, meanwhile, made his presence felt in Q2 on the Pramac Ducati and will start tomorrow’s race third on the grid.

It was an incredibly tense Q2 session in Le Mans, with all eyes on the number five. The Frenchman, straight out the blocks, didn’t disappoint and topped the timesheets after his first flying lap. But Marquez – as ever – was quick to reply. The reigning champion wasn’t at the summit for long though, as Petrucci put in his fastest lap of the weekend go provisional P1.

Zarco though had other ideas, and on the final lap of his first run, the Frenchman sent a warning sign, going 0.330 seconds quicker than anyone else.

When the riders came back out for their second runs, Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo briefly led the session but Marquez then reset the benchmark, with Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone also leaping up the timesheets and taking second. However, the home hero wasn’t done, again going quickest, this time by 0.130. As all looked set and done, Marquez’ efforts on his final lap sent French nerves into overdrive but Zarco held on.

Behind the explosive front row, Iannone starts from P4 on his Suzuki and was less than a tenth off the front row – another name sure to add fireworks to the fight at the front. The Italian heads the two factory Ducatis of Andrea Dovizioso, who’ll start fifth, and Lorenzo in sixth – both of whom look to have very strong race pace.

Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller was impressive once again in P7 and in the mix throughout the session, making it four Ducatis in the top seven on a track the manufacturer has never won at.

A team who has enjoyed winning at Le Mans recently are the factory Yamaha squad, but Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi will have work to do from P8 and P9 on the grid respectively – over half a second behind fellow Yamaha rider Zarco.

Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team), who came through Q1, will start from tenth on Sunday – but the ‘Little Samurai’ is a previous winner at the track, and came through from outside the top ten to take the podium last season. He was just ahead of Avinita’s Tito Rabat, who was a slender 0.025 behind his compatriot, and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro. The number 41 crashed at Turn 1 on his opening run but was ok and ran back to the pits.

MotoGP – Crutchlow smashes Jerez pole record to take P1

ca5aadb1-6af7-4c56-a98d-5c730fb45d24

LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow smashed the previous pole lap record at the newly-resurfaced Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto, taking pole position for the first time since the 2016 British GP at Silverstone in some style as he topped the session and then went even faster.

Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa – the winner at Jerez in 2017 – also dug deep to put in another stunner to take second despite his ongoing recovery from a broken wrist sustained in Argentina, with Tech 3’s Johann Zarco qualifying in third to make it eight times in a row the Frenchman will be starting the race from the front row.

It was a tense final shootout at the end of the session, and many eyes were on Marquez as the number 93 pushed and consistently lit up the first sectors red – and then just lost out before the line. Unable to improve on his initial fast lap, the six-time World Champion was pushed off the front row and then down to fifth as Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo – the previous pole lap record holder – lit it up to take fourth and head up Row 2 at the venue at which he took his first podium for Ducati.

Suzuki pair Alex Rins Andrea Iannone, after topping FP4 in reverse order, line up sixth and seventh respectively – with the Hamamatsu factory a threat for the front throughout. Rins, who is racing in his first Spanish GP in the premier class after missing the event in 2017 due to injury, was only 0.007 off Marquez and just 0.003 ahead of Iannone.

Championship leader Andrea Dovizioso lines up eighth on the Ducati after he was left heading through – and going fastest in – Q1, but the gap was small once again, with the Italian only 0.042 off his compatriot ahead of him.

Fellow Italian Danilo Petrucci completes the third row on his Pramac Ducati.

It was a more difficult day for the factory Yamaha squad with Valentino Rossi lining up tenth after just edging out his teammate by 0.014, with Maverick Viñales therefore lining up P11.

Jack Miller on the second Pramac Ducati lines up twelfth ahead of Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), who was just left behind in Q1 by 0.040 seconds, with some solid rookie performances from Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Franco Morbidelli (Marc VDS) completing the top fifteen.

MotoGP – Zarco signs for KTM for 2019 and 2020 seasons

FullSizeRender

One of the biggest dominoes of the 2018 MotoGP Silly Season has just fallen into place with the announcement that Johann Zarco has signed a two-year contract to race for KTM.

The move will see the in demand Frenchman switch to the orange machines for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, joining Pol Espargaro who has just announced a contract extension. 

Zarco’s performances on the Tech 3 satellite Yamaha has seen his stock rise since he made his debut in the premier class last year, with many paddock insiders having  him as a shoe-in to replace Dani Pedrosa at Repsol Honda.

The choice essentially boiled down to this – trying to beat Marc Marquez on a bike designed for Marc Marquez, or developing the KTM into a weapon capable of beating the reigning champion.

It seems Zarco has favoured rising to the challenge. 

Speaking in Jerez he said: ”For sure the chance with Honda is quite amazing for a rider, but the way KTM wanted me and also this challenge to be with a European constructor as a European rider gives me a lot of motivation.

“Together with my coach Laurent Fellon that I still have a very close relationship with for motorbikes – he really feels the bike is good and we can do great things. I trust him and that’s why we want to go for that challenge. My coach trusts that I can adapt well and that the things I’ve learnt during two years with the Yamaha and the MotoGP category will help me a lot.

“If we get good results and develop the bike we can have a fantastic future and the way KTM were improving last year made me think something is possible.

“I had the choice and I went there because I want to play with this challenge. My feeling is really good in MotoGP now. I enjoy it so much, the performance is good too and I hope to stay at this level for the next two years.”

The move means Bradley Smith will be looking for a new ride at the end of the season, with WSBK his most likely destination.