Dorna press release:
The MotoGP paddock reconvenes in southern Spain for the third round of the 2009 World Championship, the Gran Premio bwin.com de España, just a week on from their second outing of the year. The first European round, and one of the most well-attended events on the calendar, the riders have points to win and points to prove at the Circuito de Jerez.
Like last year, Spanish fans have a local leader of the overall classification to cheer on when May 3rd comes around, in the form of Jorge Lorenzo. Courtesy of a perfect podium record from the opening two races, the Fiat Yamaha rider arrives with a one point advantage over teammate Valentino Rossi and a victory already on the board from the previous round in Japan. Lorenzo took pole and placed third on his home debut at Jerez last year, and won twice at the track during his time in the 250cc class. As if further motivation was needed, the Spaniard also turns twenty-two the day after the race.
Second in the standings, reigning World Champion Rossi has won five times in the premier class in Andalucia and enjoys a level of popularity with the Spanish fans that rivals any of their local favourites. The Italian has never gone more than three races into a season without picking up a victory, and with two gone already his hunger for glory will be reaching breaking point. In previous years Rossi’s celebrations after winning in Jerez have been legendary, but will the 30 year-old provide another memorable moment this Sunday?
Just three points down on series leader Lorenzo, Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner has not had the best of times at Jerez on race weekends. He has yet to place on the podium in seven visits to the track in various classes, but will draw positives from an amazing performance at the recent Official Test held at the track. The Australian was untouchable in a timed session to win a BMW sports car, stating his case for a challenge to those more successful at the circuit in previous years than himself.
After taking fifth at both Qatar and Japan, Andrea Dovizioso is currently fourth in the table, chasing his opening podium of 2009. Such an honour has already gone to Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, who is just a single point off ‘Dovi’s total of twenty-two after claiming third in Japan.
Alongside Lorenzo and Pedrosa, Toni Elías and the returning Sete Gibernau contest their home race this weekend. Gibernau has not ridden at the track in a truly competitive environment since 2006, when he took second on the grid onboard the 990cc Ducati Desmosedici in his first race with the bike.
The 250cc class has traditionally been one of the strongest categories for Spanish riders, and the 2009 lineup sees a home rider at the head of the classification for the Gran Premio bwin.com de España. Álvaro Bautista holds the advantage in the quarter-litre category after victory in Japan, and now heads to the track at which he took his first podium in the series back in 2007.
Bautista last won a race in Jerez en route to the 125cc title in 2006, but came close last year in an epic showdown with Marco Simoncelli. Both riders crashed out after an engine failure for Mapfre Aspar man Bautista, something for which the Spaniard will be keen to make amends this time around.
A Spanish resident, Hiroshi Aoyama follows a home Grand Prix at Motegi with another ‘local’ race. Scot Racing’s Japanese star took second place to Bautista last Sunday, and will look to do what the Spaniard managed –spoiling the home celebrations- as he aims to overcome a deficit of a single point in the standings.
Also in with a chance of leaving Jerez at the head of the leaderboard, Héctor Barberá is a further three points down in the title chase. Another home participant, the Pepe World rider followed up his Qatar win with a problematic race in Japan, but had a strong testing outing at this week’s Grand Prix location last month.
Reigning World Champion Simoncelli is yet to claim his first points of the year, but joins the likes of Gabor Talmacsi, Mattia Pasini and Mike di Meglio as expected aspirants for glory.
With two (or one-and-a-half, depending on viewpoint) victories to his name in the 125cc class from as many races, Andrea Iannone is the early leader of the category in 2009. Just twenty-four laps into the season –four of which constituted a curtailed Qatar opener- the Italian has already eked out a 7.5 point advantage over any other rider in the class. He has, however, never won a race in Europe, a statistic that he will be eager to change this weekend at Jerez.
The Ongetta Team I.S.P.A rider has an immediate rival in his quest for the world title in the smallest cylinder class, in the form of Julián Simón. Bancaja Aspar’s local rider was the fastest man in testing at the Spanish circuit, and has twice finished runner-up to Iannone this season. After double disappointment, Simón is one of the favourites for victory on Sunday.
Spanish fans have another rider shining bright in the 125cc class in the opening stages of the season, namely Derbi teenager Pol Espargaró. He finished on the podium last time out in Japan, and came closest to a home rostrum at the scene of this weekend’s race with fourth place in 2007.
The new breed of German talent have made their mark in the category over the past two races, with Sandro Cortese, Stefan Bradl and rookie Jonas Folger looking to spoil the party in Jerez for the home riders. Just off them in the standings, fast tester at the Spanish track Bradley Smith has his sights set on a first Grand Prix victory.
The Gran Premio bwin.com de España takes place on Sunday, May 3rd, with practice sessions kicking off on the preceding Friday.