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Jorge Lorenzo in command for Spanish GP victory

© David Davies/PA Wire

By Dan Moakes
May 18 2015

Valentino Rossi was at the top of the 2015 FIM MotoGP World Championship standings, with two wins from three races. With varied misfortunes having befallen his most obvious rivals - Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa - was ‘the Doctor’ on course for the title?

Round four of the series was the Spanish Grand Prix at Jeréz, home race for all three of Rossi’s main challengers, although Pedrosa remained absent post-injury. In total, at this track the MotoGP line-up would include seven Spaniards, with the Espargaró brothers also among the top six contenders. Honda’s choice to pilot Dani’s bike remained 33-year-old Hiroshi Aoyama, with all his podium results having been earned in the 250cc class.

Repsol Honda also had a potential problem in the form of Marc Márquez, the reigning champion having sustained a finger injury from bike-related activities outside the GP arena. Following surgery, Marc was still able to take part, and in qualifying he managed to record the second fastest time. Aoyama was back in P16, but the MoviStar Yamaha men were at the right end of the grid: Lorenzo took pole position and Rossi was fifth. The front row was completed by Ducati rider Andrea Iannone, third.

Pol Espargaró was fourth on the customer Tech 3 Yamaha, with Aleix Espargaró sixth on the Ecstar-backed lead Suzuki. Row three was led by Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), then came Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati), Yonny Hernández (Pramac Ducati), Bradley Smith (also Tech 3), Danilo Petrucci (also Pramac) and in twelfth Scott Redding (Marc VDS Honda).

The regular leader in the Open class, Héctor Barberá (Avintia Ducati) was in P13, ahead of Maverick Viñales (Suzuki), Álvaro Bautistá (Gresini Aprilia), Aoyama, Eugene Laverty, Nicky Hayden (both Aspar Honda), Stefan Bradl (Forward Yamaha), Karel Abraham (AB Honda), Loris Baz (Forward), Jack Miller (LCR Honda), Mike di Meglio (Avintia), Alex de Angelis (Ioda ART) and Marco Melandri (Aprilia).

Form guide: GP wins at Jeréz
Rossi 8; Lorenzo 4; P.Espargaró 2; Aoyama, Bautistá, Iannone, Márquez, Smith & Viñales 1

Iannone made a poor start to the race, dropping outside the top ten as Lorenzo led, from Márquez, Pol Espargaró, Rossi, Aleix Espargaró, Crutchlow, Dovizioso and Smith. Iannone followed the Pramac pair, Petrucci first, with Redding in P12, from Barberá, Bradl, Laverty, Miller, Viñales, Hayden, Aoyama, Bautistá and Baz.

Ducati also saw more troubles for team leader Dovizioso, the 29-year-old running wide at the right-handed Curva Dry Sack, at the end of the back straight, although without really losing out. However, not long after this he managed to run into the gravel on the outside at the final left-hander, known as Curva Ducados before it was renamed after Jorge Lorenzo. Dovizioso rejoined the race down at the back of the field and had a lot of recovery work if he was to record a representative result.

Meanwhile, the Espargaró brothers were coming under threat amongst the leading group, with Aleix losing fifth to Crutchlow at the Curva Sito Pons right-hander, and Rossi passing Pol for third further round the lap. Leader Lorenzo had set fastest lap, with Márquez just about matching him as they started to pull clear of the rest. Iannone started to move up, firstly at the expense of the Pramac Ducati duo; and Dovizioso had started his own climb.

Lorenzo led, and there was a gap to Márquez just easing open. Third man Rossi had Pol Espargaró and Crutchlow just about in touch behind, with Aleix Espargaró unable to keep up but under no immediate threat from Smith. Soon Crutchlow got through to fourth, with Pol a bit wide in the Curva Peluqui right-hander; and before long Iannone was past Smith for seventh position. He then chased after a top six placing.

Márquez seemed unable to match Lorenzo, with the Honda sliding in places and a gap growing between the two riders. With ten laps remaining, Jorge had pulled out a four-second lead, with the gap to Rossi in third now reduced below two-seconds. This came down to 1.3s, but was back out to 1.8s with four laps left to run as Marc responded. The podium finishers were these three riders, then, and for Valentino it was his 200th rostrum visit in Grand Prix racing. Lorenzo won with a reduced margin as he eased off towards the finish.

Crutchlow was fourth home, and Pol Espargaró held off the advancing Iannone, who had battled past Aleix and therefore took sixth. Smith did not manage to also get ahead of the Suzuki, so he took eighth ahead of the dramatically recovered Dovizioso. Then it was Hernández, Viñales (after gaining six positions), Petrucci, Redding, Barberá, Bautistá (who’d gained four), Bradl, Hayden, Laverty, Melandri, Miller, de Angelis and di Meglio. Aoyama had crashed at the Sito Pons corner.

Jorge Lorenzo was back at his best, earning his first podium finish of the season and a first win in seven races. With the hitherto consistent Andrea Dovizioso only scoring seven points, the main winner in the overall championship was Valentino Rossi, now with four consecutive podium visits. Lorenzo moved into third place ahead of Marc Márquez, and of course it was the third win of the season for Yamaha - the same number they managed from the whole of 2014. Can Honda hit back in round five?

Standings after four races: Rossi 82; Dovizioso 67; Lorenzo 62; Márquez 56; Iannone 50; Crutchlow 47; Smith 36; A.Espargaró 31; P.Espargaró 26; Viñales 20; Petrucci 19 ·· Open leader: Barberá.
Yamaha 91; Honda 72; Ducati 70; Suzuki 31; Forward Yamaha and Aprilia 2.

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