2015 Barcelona Sunday MotoGP Round Up: The Stuff Champions Are Made Of

Barcelona was the place the champions emerged. In Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP, riders laid a solid claim to the titles in their respective classes. Danny Kent rode with heart and head, and won the Moto3 race with a plan, extending his lead in the championship to 51 points. Johann Zarco pulled back a big gap and made the right move when it mattered most, extending his lead to 40 points. And Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi demolished all-comers to make it a Yamaha one-two, and to push their lead out to 43 and 44 points respectively, the Movistar Yamaha men separated by a single point between them. A lot can happen in the eleven races which remain, but the chances of the three titles not bearing the names of three of those four men are getting slimmer by the race. The fat lady is still a long way from starting to sing, but you get a sneaking suspicion that you just heard her taxi pull up at the artists' entrance.

While in Moto2 and Moto3, the title favorites have a name, in MotoGP we know only the team likely to lift the trophy in Valencia. To say that the factory Movistar Yamaha team dominated the MotoGP race in Barcelona is an understatement. While Valentino Rossi chased another metronomic performance from Jorge Lorenzo, behind them their rivals were either falling by the wayside or finishing nearly twenty seconds off the pace. Marc Márquez, Andrea Dovizioso and Aleix Espargaro crashed, Dani Pedrosa finished third just under twenty seconds behind the Yamahas, and Andrea Iannone was the first factory Ducati home, with a gap equating to a pace nearly a second a lap slower than that of the Yamahas. Jorge Lorenzo has won the last four races on the trot, Valentino Rossi has picked up two more, and not been off the podium so far this season, leaving only Austin to Marc Márquez. Even then, the Repsol Honda man won that race with a much smaller margin than usual at the track.

Jorge Lorenzo gave yet another demonstration of just how strong his riding is at the moment. The Spaniard grabbed the lead at the first corner – frustratingly so for Aleix Espargaro, who had got off the line well but started to suffer as the Suzuki changed up the gearbox, the lack of a seamless shift meaning he lost eight or nine places in the long run down to the first turn – and proceeded to make the break so many feared he would. Marc Márquez gave chase, but lasted less than three laps, the reigning champion throwing his title chances away at the La Caixa corner. Valentino Rossi rode brilliantly to work his way up to second from the third row of the grid, but left himself with too much work to do to catch Lorenzo. As the laps started ticking down, it looked like he might just manage that, but Lorenzo responded just enough to keep a healthy buffer between himself and his teammate. It wasn't an epic race by any stretch of the imagination, but there was tension and there was interest.

The good news for Rossi was that he and his team once again found the final step of improvement during the warm up on Sunday, and had the pace to match, and perhaps even beat Lorenzo in a head-to-head fight. In the twenty two laps during which Rossi was chasing Lorenzo, the Italian was over half a second faster, or a quarter of a second quicker if you remove the last lap, where Lorenzo slowed briefly in celebration as he crossed the line. The bad news is that Rossi lost around a second and a half in the first three laps, when he was fighting his way forward through the pack. "Valentino is a Sunday rider," Lorenzo said, probably unaware of the other connotations of the phrase. Rossi works through practice, gets caught out by qualifying, then comes good in the race. Rossi is losing the races on Saturday, in qualifying, he acknowledged. "Unfortunately when you have Jorge in this type of shape it’s very difficult try to win from the third row," Rossi told the press conference. He aired his frustration that the Ducatis and Suzukis have the soft tire which they can put to maximum effect during qualifying, while at the same time admitting there is more to it than that. "At the same time, Jorge has my bike and my tires and is able also to put all the bike together between me and him."

Where Yamaha won this race was in finding grip. The Barcelona circuit is bumpy, and greasy, and the usual problem of hot weather and its effect on the rubber laid down by Moto2 which precedes MotoGP raised its head. The track was last surfaced in 2005, and the asphalt is well past its best. Dorna and the Safety Commission try to push circuits to resurface every seven years or so, but that depends on finances. The Circuit de Catalunya, as Danilo Petrucci colorfully put it, has "short arms and deep pockets." Getting money from Barcelona city council seems very unlikely. The new anti-austerity mayor believes that the funds which the circuit would need could put roofs over the heads of a lot of the city's homeless.

Even then, it was only the factory Yamaha squad who managed to find the grip. Bradley Smith was the first (and only) satellite Yamaha home in a very commendable fifth position, but he was nearly 28 seconds slower than the factory men. Where Rossi and Lorenzo were capable of running 1'42s and the occasional 1'43, Smith, along with Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa and factory Ducati rider Andrea Iannone were posting high 1'43s and 1'44s. Lorenzo and Rossi are riding as well as they ever have done at any point in their careers, but they are helped by the factory Yamaha M1 being the best bike on the grid by some margin. "Our bike is working well," Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis admitted, "and the Honda seems to have a problem."

That problem is still the aggressiveness of the Honda RC213V's engine, making the bike hard to handle on corner entry, and leaving it struggling for grip on corner exit. Marc Márquez demonstrated the issue perfectly once again, getting the Honda out of shape as he braked for La Caixa trying to follow Jorge Lorenzo's pace, and ending up running wide and falling in the gravel. The fall was low speed and harmless enough, but damaged Márquez' gear lever, meaning he could not change up, forcing him to abandon. They had improved corner entry a lot, Márquez said, but the problem was still there. During practice and qualifying it was now possible to ride around the problem, losing only a little as he improvised his line to cope when the rear locked up too much. "When you are riding along in practice, I feel that sometimes slide more, less and when you slide more it is difficult to stop the bike," Márquez explained. "But when you are alone you probably can go a little bit wide, come back and only lose one tenth." When that same slide happens when you are racing against another rider, their physical presence on the track means you do not have the same freedom to choose your lines. You are forced somewhere less than ideal, and can easily end up crashing, as Márquez did.

The crash looked scary as observer, and it looked as if Márquez had touched Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo certainly seemed to think so, but Márquez denied he had touched him. The three podium men – Lorenzo, Rossi and Pedrosa – were all asked if they felt that Márquez overriding the bike like that put other riders in danger. Lorenzo shrugged suggestively, Rossi joked about Márquez being the kind of friendly guy that always wants to touch you, and Pedrosa remained studiously noncommittal. Later, Bradley Smith was much more vocal. Was he afraid that Márquez would take someone with him when he crashed? No, said Smith. "He always gathers up his problems. He never takes another rider with him," he said. "When he has his issues he makes sure he avoids everybody and then he has his problems off the race track. It’s the same thing that we were talking about let’s say Jerez in his first year. The fact that he nearly hit in the back of everyone and everyone said, it’s dangerous. Yes, it is dangerous but if you’re not going to hit the other riders then really it’s nothing to complain about."

Why take the risk of crashing, we members of the press wondered. Why not ride more conservatively, try to grab some points, and live to fight another day? Firstly, it is not in his nature, Márquez said. "Sure I can finish the race 20 seconds behind them but you know it is not my style," he told reporters. More importantly, though, he had nothing left to lose. "Yesterday I say that now I am at the point where I need to take risks if I want to win this championship but I cannot lose any race." It is a fiendish dilemma indeed. Márquez is so far behind in the championship that he cannot afford to finish behind the Yamaha men. But finishing ahead of them requires taking a massive amount of risk every lap, and you can only get lucky for so long. Finishing third every race will definitely lose him the championship. Trying to win it but crashing will also lose it. "The thing is that these first two laps I was able to follow [Lorenzo] but always at the limit, always riding really smooth. When you are trying to follow them you need to ride 100% on the limit and then when you do a small mistake, like Mugello and here, you lose the race. But for me my mentality it was the only way to win this championship. I tried." And probably failed. Márquez is now on 69 points, exactly half of Rossi's total. He can no longer rely on his own results to win the championship, he will need both Lorenzo and Rossi to start throwing away points.

Márquez' crash is illustrative of Honda's travails. Dani Pedrosa finished a long way behind Lorenzo and Rossi. Part of that may still be Pedrosa's recovery period from arm pump surgery, but this was getting better every race, and even every day, he told the press conference. Still, Pedrosa's problems were responsible only for a small part of the gap. Even fully fit, Pedrosa would still have been a long way from the Yamaha men. Cal Crutchlow, taken out entirely accidentally by Aleix Espargaro on the first lap, a crash in which he broke the rear brake and was forced to pull into the pits, reckoned he could have a good shot at the podium, but he would have been twelve seconds behind the leaders. Honda can't fix the engines, as they are all sealed, and the development moratorium on electronics comes in at the end of this month. That leaves only the chassis for them to play with, but with at least two different specs of chassis – the stiffer variant favored by Marc Márquez, and one with a bit more flex preferred by the other Honda riders – finding a direction is complicated for HRC. They will get there, though. It is just a small matter of research budgets.

Could the Suzukis have been more competitive? Maybe. They still have a lot of work ahead of them now, as the run to the first corner demonstrated. Aleix Espargaro described what happened. "I started really good with first gear, and once I go inside the bike, everybody started to overtake me, and that moment, I was really angry. I felt that the bike was good today, so I pushed a lot even with the full tank, I overtake a lot of riders, I don't even remember where I overtook everybody. It was a crazy three laps. But then I felt that the front was already in the limit. It was so hot, the track was slippery, and I use a lot in the first five laps, so it was all race a battle between the front tire and me, I tried to follow Pedrosa, but it was almost impossible,. Then I was not pushing so much, but I hit a bump and I lose the front." The GSX-RR had been very strong in the first part of the race, but they had used up the front tire too quickly, and Espargaro crashed out of the race. His brother fared little better on the Tech 3 Yamaha: Pol crashed running wide at Turn 3, trying to hold the bike in the turn but running too wide and losing the front. It was a tough race for both men at their home race - (literally: the pair hail from Granollers, the town besides the circuit).

After the race, Aleix Espargaro was a good deal less complimentary about the engine than he had been all weekend. "With first gear, we have less acceleration, and we don' t have the seamless," he said. "I think with the seamless gearbox, for the engine is a lot more easy, because the RPM does not go down as much as us. It's more easy for the engine."

If it is hard to see past the factory Yamahas for the MotoGP title, Johann Zarco is the red hot favorite for the Moto2 class. The Frenchman had to make up four seconds during to latch onto the leading group. Not only did he do that, he also bided his time until the last lap, to ensure he was in position to strike for the win. He made a perfect block pass on Tito Rabat, leaving Alex Rins and Rabat to duke it out for supremacy. Rins took a brilliant second place, showing a lot more of his rookie promise than expected this early in the season.

In the Moto3 class, it was raw speed versus intelligence and racecraft. Enea Bastianini once again shone, arguably the fastest man on pure speed. But Danny Kent was working to a plan, and then adapting as circumstances changed. Everything went according to plan, Kent making sure he did not enter the main straight on the penultimate lap as first. He knew that the leader at the start of the penultimate lap would be swamped by the slipstreaming onslaught. So he made sure he was last of the small group at the start of the las lap, used the slipstream to get into position to attack, rode round the outside to take second, then passed Vazquez at turn 4 to take the lead. He held off a charge from Bastianini, and went on to take the win, his fourth so far this year. It was an impressive display of thoughtful riding, doing exactly what was needed to secure victory. There is still a long way to go, but Kent must be feeling confident.

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While Marquez 1 struggling, it seems like Marquez 2 start making progress in Moto2. qualify quite well, bumped out at the first lap and then fight his way through the pack from last place to 11th.
is it only because he like this track or he actually making some progress?

Even as I feel sorry for Aleix, I still think that he doesn't get the best out of the bike on race day. Of course he can't run with the Yam, and sure that must be frustrating, but destroying the tires in three laps isn't going to help him. Vinales did a much smarter race in my opinion.

Wonder how much fuel the Suzuki's are using, a couple of extra kilo's of fuel certainly wouldn't have helped on the run to the line.

I believe the weight limit is still the same for everyone. I remember that Honda had to add ballast to their bikes to make the weight limit last year. I don't have access to any data but I would imagine Suzuki wouldn't be too far from the weight limit even with the extra fuel, they're carrying.

The weight limit isn't necessarily relevant to rdc's point since the rule is a designated minimum weight, not a maximum, and rdc's question was whether the extra weight of a higher fuel load is hindering the Suzuki.

The bikes are heavier at the start. The bigger effect is this makes them more wheelie prone, limiting acceleration.

If the soft Bridgestone is much maligned by those that don't have them in qualifying, and the majority feel it is an unfair advantage (especially if it won't be used in the race), why doesn't Dorna implement a system by where whatever time you qualify in Q2 on either of the available option tyres, your grid position is dictated by the tyre you choose to race (lets leave it to the rear only for simplicity). So if Aleix uses his harder option for the race and his Qualy time was 6th on that tyre then he should start 6th. If he managed to Qualify 1st on the soft tyre and chose to race it then that is where he would start.

I believe other categories have done this, whereby teams had to choose the tyre they were going to race on for their qualifying. It obviously means that there would be no last minute changes on the grid if the temperature changes.....

This is the only real solution to stop the complaint, but I seriously doubt riders and teams would be up for this option. So maybe Rossi just has to get his **** together on Saturday. Marquez doesn't seem to have a problem making lost positions up in the first lap when he qualifies badly.....

Rossi said that he cannot ride aggressively when the bike on full tank while Marc and Jorge can just fast straight away...

Ummmm . . . what happens when it's all-dry qualifying, but wet on race day? Or vice-versa?

You need to include the trail braking in that statement, IMO. Straight line braking with the back kicking around might not be where the engine braking is important.

again the need for a review of the qualifying system. The soft tyre does not work in Q, both Suzuki's dropped like a stone in the race-rather embarrassingly for them and their supporters. A true indication of pace is what is needed to determine the grid, and then let the fastest sort it out without having the rolling road blocks in the way.
Suzuki, Ducati and the Satelite teams need to focus on RACE pace-not one off laps to get them up on the grid. The system currently forces teams to waste time to get hot laps in to progress when they should be looking at their race pace-something for which Rossi does do very well-and look at him-not off the podium since Aragon last season!
Yesterdays race pace was 1.5 seconds off Q times, and Suzuki's race pace was closer to 2 seconds a lap off their Q times! Surely no one believes that these factories (with their advantages) are anywhere near competitive just because of qualifying?

I did predict if the medium tyre was the only option Jorge would be unstoppable again (time for a round with other options Bridgestone??)-although this time he looked stoppable-certainly by Rossi anyway. Its a shame Marc couldn't put a move on Jorge in those opening laps, as we could have had a classic battle with the Factory Yams being so similar in race pace. I agree with many, Rossi, Marc and Dani are currently being beaten on Saturday, by bikes and riders with silly advantages operating under a silly system which needs urgent review. I would rather Suzuki and Ducati compete with them in the race....not in qualifying, because as it stands for the past 4 rounds, Dorna's sizzle is much better than its steak.

The winner came from the front row of the grid so what's the problem? If Rossi wants to beat George, he needs to be quick in qualifying, just like George. Rossi said the same thing himself, but you want to change the rules because Rossi is a poor qualifier?

Is that really any different then the last year or two of the special qauly tires, where one of the two tire brands would bring vastly better tires for that session, but was irrelivent come Sunday..

Glad to see others questioning the qualifying tire issue. I see no point in a tire which creates an artificial starting line-up. One-lap wonders only add another puzzle for the riders to solve and muddles up the starting grid. Are these complex machines not going fast enough on race tires already? Isn't sufficient money already being spent on this circus? Do we require the brave riders to push even further into the unknown for our viewing pleasure?
There are solutions - simply tell the manufacturer to bring tires that last longer, or make grid position dependent on the aggregate time for three consecutive laps . . . the latter would also dilute the value of grabbing-a-tow gambit. Too late for this year, but something to think about in the close season.

Maybe fairer to go with average or aggregate times, but not as exciting. I'll take exciting over fair any day. If fair happens to align with exciting, like with spec tires and electronics, great, but I want a good show.

Rossi struggling to get through the pack is part of the show. Like others said, if he can't learn to qualify well, he won't be champion. The level is so high a modern rider really needs to be perfect everywhere.

I really wasn't expecting much for this season, but it's turning out to be a lot better than I thought. Rossi vs. Lorenzo... this should be good.

To me the main point of this, not so exciting, race is the distance to the top 2: over 20 seconds.
We were treated to an astonishing start of the season with fights, overtaking and amazing racing. Slowly we are drifting more towards an already seen experience where after few shenanigans everyone is riding their own section of track.
Of course Michelin can shuffle everything up ... but it would be a pity to have to wait for next year. It's a shame that Esp & Vin loose so much in the first lap after all the hard work of the weekend, I was really hoping for a podium!

Good ride by Scott! And Cal... amazing when he doesn't manager to go out by himself he can find a helping hand ... very sorry for him!

I am sure I was not the only one very excited for the race. There was hope for MM93 to mix it up with JL99 and make for a 3 way lead swap with VR46. DP26 could have found his pistol starts sitting at the bottom of his helmet bag. AE41 could have challenged for a podium spot. A Ducati could have been sharpening the pointy end for part of the race.

Yes,JL99 didn't miss a single marker the whole race. And I still think what came up short was...the track surface.


Valentino is just making excuses. He was past the Suzuki's before the first corner anyway, so all he had to contend with (of those that used soft tires to qual) was Dovizioso. The Ducati's have been on the podium most races this season so he can hardly say they don't have the pace. Dovi had the pace to fight for the podium though not the pace of Lorenzo or Rossi. Even if they didn't have a soft tire advantage the Suzuki's would have likely qualified in front of Rossi anyway. Especially Vinales put some fast laps on the mediums. Rossi just needs to get better at qualifying. He seems to fail to understand that is part of the race. He should be able to match or beat Lorenzo at qualifying. That should be his target.

Yes I think it would be better if everyone had access to the same tires. It likely would have helped Ducati at a couple of races and would change the qualifying round. This problem goes both ways. But Ducati and Suzuki haven't won a race yet so here we are.

I think that Vale's big problem is he doesn't trust the front tyre when it's 'cold', in quali or the race. Since his crash when he broke his leg, he said many times that he can't trust the front tyre. Real or imaginary, he has to get over this to beat Jorge and qualify on the front row. Jorge has no such problem, his problem is rain at Assen and he has already mentioned that he is hoping for dry weather in 2 weeks. Jorge has Vale beat by the end of the first lap with a lap one second faster than Vale plus the distance from 3rd to 7th on the grid. Vale did on lap over 1.43 apart from the first lap, Jorge did 3, plus lap one. Laps 8/9/10 put the real distance into Vale which he never could recover.
How solve the problem? Unless Ducati and Honda can slow him up, Jorge will win every time. They dont have a big enough tyre allocation for Vale to practise hot laps with or without a full tank, so unless he can overcome it mentally, I don't see how Vale can fix this. Maybe Michelin will.

Valentino said himself that he can't afford to let Jorge start at the front and him on the 3rd row... he also said that Jorge is able to do it on the same bike and tyres and that he isn't.
He brought up the Suzuki's and Ducati's because Jorge is able to put them between himself and Rossi - I think you've slightly misinterpreted his words if you consider that whining/excuses.

But yes, your post I agree with, he has to sort his qualifying because he is losing the race before it has even started, but nobody will know this more than the man himself.

very interesting times, who would have thought honda would have to reap what they sow in quite this manner. engine freeze and now a software freeze coming up very soon, perhaps we can expect this to happen every race now? if the chassis is the only thing that can be changed is that likely to solve anything at all? does the chassis have powers that would prevent this rear wheel in the air under braking loading the front tyre issue? i don't think so.

qualifying does appear to be an issue, but at this rate, because of this miss-match of open bikes qualifying high up the grid and then failing during the race, it could be argued this is the main source for any drama, the first few laps now have an incredible amount of action with plenty of overtakes whilst the grid sorts itself out by race pace and not qualifying. so there is at least a silver lining, if it means we watch the factory bikes work their way to the front and the well qualified open bikes work their way back in position.

i was extremely happy for suzuki until the race started, i think aleix deserves to be a factory rider and deserves to win. then he crashes out again and all my hopes for him evaporate. vinales was very impressive so i hope we see him flourish now as well.

i was waiting to hear marquez admit he simply didn't break on time, as opposed to this heroic talk of how on the limit he was.

looking forward to assen, the way i see it, the only thing that can mess jorge up now is a wet race at assen to bring his collar bone injuries back into his head followed by a string of more wet races. i hope this doesn't happen

..on the unusual line up leading to action. On the other hand, our man VR may have lost the race because of it. But that IS racing!

It's a very fine line between being a genius and an idiot. Put your knives away boys and give him some credit for putting it all on the line!

But not a big clash. Had hope for Rossi to catch Lorenzo in the end but he did not. Rossi does seem to be getting closer Lorenzo on race day. But like everyone here has said he needs to start to get up to speed quicker during FPs and Qualifying. Right now HE even says it but has not been able to do it. It would be good to see those two go at it.

Marquez, I like him and have rooted for him in the past. But Race Day I was on the edge of my couch WILLING him to pass Lorenzo. I still think these Honda woes are temporary. They have come back before and they will comeback again. Aleix Espargaro is someone I feel for but his teammate Vinales is very impressive. If Vinales stays on the track he is on, I can see him surpassing his teammate at some point. Maybe even this year.

Moto2 was a good race to me. All the way to the last laps. Zarco earned that win and it is much deserved.

The development freeze is kicking in soon and Honda are in trouble.

You just can wait for Honda turning up the thumbscrews on Dorna to extend the freeze.

David, any update on which moto3 riders are been penalised for their qualifying woes?.. What are their penalties?...

Anyway, watching rossi trying to catch to lorenzo is fantastic... Close to argentina race... Hat off to lorenzo for pervailing in the end... Wish rossi made it though...

Zarco winning jump is a plus...