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.