Results from the first practice session might have made for odd reading without a little context but FP2 appeared to be a more familiar sight – up until the end, that is. One thing was the same though: FP1 leader Alex Marquez took this time to find his way back to the top but a late lap earned him another headline in Jerez.
After the rainy adventures of FP1, team members in shorts probably felt much more comfortable in the 21 degrees of FP2. Timing screens were lighting up like Christmas trees as well, with a lot of red and orange to be found in dry conditions.
The weather might have changed but the Honda bikes seemed to enjoy just as much time at the top, with Marc Marquez, Cal Crutchlow and then Dani Pedrosa all holding the lead, Jack Miller close behind them – a familiar combination for most of the session.
Something resembling sun welcomed us back from the lunch break but still not enough to tempt all the riders out on track. With many teams waiting for the surface to dry, that left the top spot to be disputed by Jakub Kornfeil, Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Albert Arenas or Darryn Binder.
Predictably, times started tumbling as the session progressed and the conditions improved, Philipp Oettl and the Leopard Racing duo exchanging first place, Joan Mir the first lasting leader of FP2. While others have challenged his position, he recovered it once more on his final lap.
Sylvain Guintoli is to replace Alex Rins at Suzuki from the next race at Le Mans onwards, until Rins is fit to return. To help him prepare for his return to MotoGP, Guintoli will test the Suzuki GSX-RR on Monday, at the official test.
It’s a pretty safe bet that Alex Marquez loves Jerez right now. Who would have thought this time last year that today we’d be talking about the younger Marquez dominating a session - and not for the first time this season?
However, the rain in Spain seems to suit him particularly well, the Marc VDS rider taking it one step further by grabbing the top seat right out the garage and building a gap of over one and a half seconds to the challengers, if you can still call them that considering the advantage. Marquez was the only one able to go into the 1:58s, everyone else failing to even drop under the 2-minute barrier for much of the session.
The dark but very photogenic clouds of Moto3 turned lighter for MotoGP, the riders cautiously taking to a damp track. The rain did make an appearance mid-session, the Honda riders making good use of it by staying out and posting orange and even red sector times, while switching places at the top. Jerez-loving Dani Pedrosa had the final laugh, although there were several fast challengers.
Show of hands: who was eager for the “real” racing season to start in Europe? Well, judging by the first practice session of the lightweight class, it looked like Jerez didn’t miss us quite as much. Rain started as the light turned green, there but not quite enough of it for rain tyres.
A full paddock marks the return to some semblance of normality for the MotoGP circus. This is why the riders and teams regard the first European round as the "real" start of the season: the riders sleep in their motorhomes rather than hotels, the teams eat in hospitality units instead of makeshift tents, those hospitality units adding a touch of vibrant color which is missing from overseas rounds. At the rounds outside Europe, the paddock is so obviously a workplace, a temporary spot which is only filled during the day. Inside Europe, the paddock becomes a village again, noise, music, and chatter filling the daytime and the night.
The return to Europe also saw an immediate return to work. Aprilia headed to Mugello, to a wasted private test where cold temperatures and the threat of rain kept Aleix Espargaro and Sam Lowes huddled inside their garages. "Every time we headed out of pit lane, it started spotting with rain," Lowes joked. He was frustrated at not being able to get many laps, but especially because Aprilia had spent money to hire the whole track for two days, and that money had basically been wasted.
Espargaro was exasperated by the sheer amount of testing Aprilia are doing. "We have many days of tests," the Spaniard told us. "Too much, actually. For example after America, I landed on Tuesday, and on Wednesday I jumped on the bike, and it was a disaster because I couldn't sleep, I was super tired." Aprilia are testing almost on a weekly basis until Valencia. "I go two days home and then on Monday I fly to Le Mans, we test here in Jerez, then we have a test in Barcelona... We have many tests."
Previews from the MotoGP teams and Michelin ahead of this weekend's race at Jerez:
MOVISTAR YAMAHA EAGER TO SCORE UPON RETURN TO EUROPE
After a week of rest the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team has arrived at the Circuito de Jerez for the Gran Premio de España on Sunday, May 7th.
Jerez de la Frontera (Spain), 3rd May 2017
Previews of the Jerez round from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
NAVARRO CHARGED UP FOR HOME RACE AT JEREZ
The long European leg of the Moto2 World Championship is about to start at ‘Circuito de Jerez’, the venue hosting the fourth Grand Prix of the 2017 season. Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Team) hopes to well impress in front of his home crowd, after the good signs of improvement shown in Texas two weekends ago.
Danny Kent is to test KTM's Moto3 bike at Jerez on Tuesday, and is to race as a wildcard at Le Mans. Aki Ajo, team manager of the Red Bull KTM team, who knows the 23-year-old Englishman well from his previous stints in the Ajo team, has seized the opportunity to use Kent's experience in Moto3 to help develop the bike, which is struggling against the Honda at the moment.
And so to Europe. Though the three opening races are at remarkable locations, and often throw up fantastic racing and real surprises, it is hard to shake the feeling that Qatar, Argentina, and Austin are appetizers. MotoGP serves up its main course once the circus returns to Europe, and enters the long hard grind through to the summer break.
That is not to denigrate Qatar, Argentina, or Austin. Qatar is a great track which always manages to provide exciting racing, despite its location. Termas de Rio Hondo is an outstanding circuit, fast and flowing, challenging the riders and rewarding courage and skill. Austin is one of the best events of the year, though with an entirely predictable winner each year. But Jerez is where MotoGP gets serious.
Think of it like Texas hold 'em poker. At Qatar, the riders are dealt their hands, but the two cards they have may give them a false sense of how strong their hands really is. Argentina is the flop, the first chance to put a full hand together. Austin is the turn, an extra card which may not change much, but gives a better sense of the balance of power in the game. But at Jerez comes the river: with all the cards out in the open, it is down to the rider to make the difference, to bluff, gamble, and play the hand they have been dealt to the best of their ability.
Rossi’s COTA penalty came from MotoGP’s ever-growing rulebook, so is there a chance that micromanagement could ruin MotoGP?
And so to Jerez, the place where MotoGP’s modern era of gladiatorial combat began at 2.45pm on Sunday, April 10, 2005.
Bumping and barging have been going on ever since people started racing motorcycles, but Valentino Rossi’s last-corner attack on Sete Gibernau at Jerez 2005 was probably the start of the tactics we now know so well.
Assen had been earmarked as a key round for Honda in their search for competitiveness in WorldSBK. It passed with more confirmation that the team's struggles will continue
Nine points were all that Nicky Hayden had to show for himself at the end of a trying weekend at the TT Circuit of Assen. The Honda rider was able to show some signs of improved competitiveness at times during the weekend but overall the same flaws of the Honda Fireblade have been exposed once again.
Reliability and inability to bring competitive upgrades to the table cost Hayden dearly at Assen. The week before the Dutch round the team tested a new engine specification in Portimao and the American came away disappointed with a lack of progress.
Race 2 at Assen didn't have the fireworks of Saturday but rather than the pressure cooker environment of a championship battle flaring up it was a slowly boiled intra-team scrap that was settled on Sunday.
In three years at Kawasaki Jonathan Rea and Tom Sykes have had their differences and tension but overall their relationship has been mostly positive. There was the potential for fall-out in The Netherlands however when Sykes closed dramatically on Rea in the second half of the race.
The 2013 world champion has battled illness in recent weeks, a bacterial infection has forced him to into hospital and laid him up since Thailand, but in the thick of battle he sensed a weakened rival.