Wet conditions at the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix made for a very memorable and crash-filled Jerez MotoGP race Sunday.
Taking his first race-career win in wet conditions was Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo. The reigning MotoGP Champion displayed much patience as the riders ahead and behind crashed, the Spaniard taking victory at his home track by 19.339 seconds.
Lorenzo, who also won at Jerez in 2010 MotoGP, was joined on the podium by fellow countryman Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team).
Although there were many crashes, one topped the news. The MotoGP crash involved Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi and Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner. Rossi started from 11th on the grid, and battled his way up to third by lap 8.
But when the Italian attempted to pass Stoner, he lost the front end of the Ducati GP11, and took out Stoner. Rossi was able to remount, and finish fifth due to other riders hitting the wet Jerez pavement. But Stoner suffered a DNF, which dropped him from first to third in the overall standings.
Here’s what the riders were saying following an intense, accident-filled Jerez MotoGP:
Valentino Rossi (Ducati MotoGP Team GP11) says: “Today in the wet we had a great chance for me to make my first podium with Ducati, or even to get my first win. I felt good, both with the bike and my shoulder, because I could brake where I wanted to rather than where I’m forced to in the dry, since I still don’t have the necessary strength.
“The bike is very fast in the wet. I was advancing really well, and I’m sorry to have made that mistake and thrown away such an opportunity. While braking for the first corner, I entered a bit long, and although I tried to stay to the inside, I lost the front and couldn’t stay up. I’m sorry, because I also took out Stoner, and I certainly didn’t want to do that.
“I apologized to him, and I’m truly sorry; it was a mistake. It’s a shame because we really could have gotten some satisfaction, but we’ll keep trying. We’re still not so fast in the dry, but we’re working hard. Anyway today’s fifth place gave us eleven points that are very important in the championship.”
Nicky Hayden (Ducati MotoGP Team GP11) says: “That wasn’t necessarily a pretty win because my last laps were so slow when the tires were worn, but we’re on the podium, and I’m pretty happy about it! In the beginning, our bike was really good because I had a lot of traction. After a while, it was all about focus, and there was no room for error.
“The track was changing every corner, because there was rain in some parts and no rain in other parts. Also, the tyres and the lines kept changing. It certainly hasn’t been an easy start to the season, so we’ll take success any way we can get it. Big thanks to the team. Hopefully we can try to build on this, and it will be the little shot in the arm to help get us going. I know Ducati’s not sleeping. They’ve got some work to do, but I think our bike is better than we’ve been showing. We’ve just been missing a little bit, but I’m confident we can still recover and have a good season.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1) says: “It has been one of my most patience races. It’s a great victory, which we needed and I feel so good. This is also the first time I have won in wet conditions, the first time ever! Now we are working to improve our bike, taking as much points as possible on the way.
“The King of Spain said to me that he would bring me good luck after our meeting last February in Madrid, he was right! With the competition so high this year I never imagined I would be leader after two races. I am so happy to have won this weekend, especially as my friends from Yamaha Indonesia came all the way here to support us; ‘Semakin di Depan’ means ‘One Step Ahead’ which was true today!”
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1) says: “I don’t think of it as a race today, it was more attrition. Once we moved into fourth behind Nicky I knew I could get past so just waited for the right moment.
“Dani was only a few seconds ahead of me and I thought for sure we could get on the podium. I slowly started to catch him, Jorge was obviously going to win but we could go one two. I put it all out there and caught Dani. As soon as I passed him I knew that we had second place under control, he wouldn’t be able to get back by but I needed to not make any mistakes.
“Every corner after I passed him I slowed down, taking it easy then all of a sudden I was on the floor. Obviously it was my mistake, but looking at the data I was going slower than I had all race. It was one of those things; I think the tyres were the limiting factor today. I think it was a great show for the crowd though!”
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) says: “It’s been a very difficult race. At the start, many riders overtook me and I thought ‘that’s it.’ Anyway, I knew there were 27 laps and the situation was difficult for the tires. I was a little nervous after my bad start, but when I realized that in the first lap I was faster than in the warm up, I calmed down and started to improve. I took a good pace and had to ride at maximum concentration in order not to not make any mistakes, it was very easy to crash.
“Some riders started falling down and it was a matter of resisting there. I tried to catch Lorenzo when I saw that his gap was under 1 second, but at 10 laps to go the tires were almost finished; I couldn’t even open the throttle on the straight because the track was very slippery.
“When Spies crashed, my gap with Nicky was big enough to keep the second place and I crossed the finish line very very happy. It’s been a tough weekend for the arm injury, today I also had numbness and lack of strength, but to ride in wet has helped me because it’s not as aggressive as in dry conditions.
“To leave Jerez with a second place finish, after the third place in Qatar, is amazing. We are 9 points behind the Championship leader and it’s a good gap to resume the Championship again in Estoril. On Friday we considered whether it was worth racing here or better to pull out thinking about the operation. So this second place is amazing.
“We’ve been doing great, but now comes the hard time, the surgery. Nobody likes to undergo surgery, but this time I almost wish for it because I want to end the pain and problems and start competing fully fit.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) says: “I am very disappointed with what happened today. We have to understand exactly the reason why, but I felt the rear tire was not working properly, moreover the set up of the traction control was not perfect for today’s situation and this made things worse. The traction control was too “low”, the bike was spinning a lot and the tires overheated.
“With ten laps to go I felt it was dangerous to go ahead so I entered the pit lane to change tire and finish the race to get some points. It was a real pity because we have always been competitive in the wet and today it could have been a good occasion to achieve a good result. In the warm up everything was fine and I had no issues.”
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V) says: “We made a good start to the race and the bike felt good for the first few laps, then the tires seemed to move a little so we tried to conserve them in case it rained again. I really wanted the chance to fight the Spanish riders here in a dry race, so it was disappointing for me that that it was wet.
“However, we were competitive here in the wet and dry and this is very important for us – at a track that hasn’t been that great for me in the past. After so much hard work I hate to have a race like this because the team did a great job all weekend and now we go home empty handed.
“With the accident, I heard Valentino arriving and I wasn’t worried about anyone passing me at that point in the race so I gave him plenty of room. It was a racing incident and there’s not much we can do, what is more frustrating is the reaction of the stewards and their assistance for Valentino and not for me, it was unbelievable. I want to just get to the next race now in Estoril, where I’m sure we can be competitive again.”
John Hopkins (Rizla Suzuki GSV-R) says: “Well, I finished where I wanted to – I certainly wanted to get into the top-10! That was the goal for the whole weekend, but I did wonder if it was going to be a reality when I started on Friday.
“We pushed right from the start of practice and chipped away little-by-little to bring the lap-time down and just went about the job as professionally as possible. My main target at the start of the race was to try and jump up as many places as possible and get up into the group, because I knew that if I was in there I would be able to follow some guys and do the lap-times.
“We made up some positions early on, although I dropped back a few places and made a few mistakes – including a huge moment in turn three when I lost the rear and hit the paint – the bike was 90º sideways underneath me, when I should have been going forward! I was able to keep it upright and hang on to a group that included a couple of Ducati’s and some other guys in a battle for eighth.
“Then suddenly the tires dropped off a lot, but this was my first time in the wet for a while on a MotoGP bike and I’d never used the Bridgestone wets, so we didn’t have the electronics set completely in the right way and I chewed up the tire way too much at the beginning of the race. I dropped off the pace quite dramatically for the last part of the race and I saw many riders crashing, so I knew I was close to the top-10, but my main aim was to finish and bring the bike home.
“It has been an amazing weekend and I’m so grateful – again – to Rizla Suzuki for giving me this great opportunity, it’s been great and I’ve really enjoyed it, just to see everybody in the GP paddock has been awesome!
“Hopefully in the future you’ll see more of me here, but for now I need to concentrate on the BSB championship and we’ll see what happens. I once again want to say how thankful I am for this chance and it was great to see my ‘away-from-home family’ in the Suzuki garage again!”
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) says: “I am really disappointed! I knew after the first five laps that the tyres were struggling but I managed to hold my advantage over Lorenzo. Unfortunately I lost the front in turn one and the rear came round on me – I tried to get it back under control but I couldn’t manage it.
“It happens in racing and even though I am disappointed I am also happy to have shown again that I am a contender this year. The most frustrating thing about today though was that I got no help at all from the marshals, unlike other riders today. The bike was okay and if I could have had some help I am sure I could have still had a good race. That is not good but as I said before I showed I can run with the best today and that’s the main thing we’ll take away with us. A major result is around the corner.”
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V) says: “The situation was really tricky today but we have taken a solid result from a tough race. A lot of riders went down but I was able to manage the situation at the most critical points.
“I am pleased but not totally satisfied because with a bit more conviction early in the race I could have passed some slower riders and I’m sure that would have put me on the podium. We have to wait until next time but this is a great confidence boost for me and the team, who have done a great job to give me a competitive bike in the wet conditions.”
Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3 M1) says: “I never thought I’d crash in MotoGP and still get a top ten 10! That was an unbelievable race and not one of the easiest I’ve had in my career. The conditions were so unpredictable that it was hard to get any grip and I was having lots of moments with the front and rear tyre, but so was everybody else.
“I could see people were making mistakes but I just tried to keep my head. When I got into fifth I felt pretty comfortable though I wanted it to rain again because the tires were wearing pretty fast. I was gaining on Nicky really quick and he was in fourth, so there’s no doubt the way I was catching him that I was thinking about a podium.
“I’ve nothing to lose so I was pushing and I went down at Turn 9. I actually lost the rear but then pushed the front and I was down. I’m not going to be too hard on myself crashing when I was battling for a podium in MotoGP. I’m happy because before this morning I’d never tried the bike in the rain, so to be where I was is a good sign. I was in the top ten in the wet and dry on a track I’d never seen before Thursday, so I’m making good progress.”
Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tec 3 M1) says: “That’s pretty tough to take because getting a podium in MotoGP is not something you get chance to get every week. The race was unbelievable because it was all about who could keep it on two wheels the longest. I was quite a way back at one stage but just didn’t want to do anything stupid and crash and I just felt more and more confident to push. N icky came back to me really quickly and I knew I’d have no problem passing him because he was in trouble with his tires.
“I didn’t have a lot more grip but I pulled away from him and the podium was right in front of me. The bike didn’t feel great coming out of the last corner to start the last lap and by the time I got to the first corner it just stopped. Obviously I’m disappointed but I can’t change what happened. I wanted that podium for my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 because they are awesome. But we move on and try to bounce back at Estoril.”
Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing Ducati GP11) says: “I see today as a positive day even if I finished so far from the first positions as I had to ride with a a broken spark plug. We could have done better, we understood some things, we will try to put them in practice for Estoril.
“The break arrive at the right time, in fact, I’ll go to Monaco tomorrow for a consultation with the head of the hospital. I hope I will be able to begin soon therapy on the shoulder to face the next race in the best possible way.”
Randy De Puniet (Pramac Racing Ducati GP11) says: “I’m disappointed and angry about what happened. I had a bad start, I was relegated in the last positions. Then I started pushing, I was doing well, until I found major problems with the front wheel.
“I tried to change the mapping, but I was not able to do it. I found it extremely difficult to manage the bike and when I slipped I couldn’t manage to restart the bike. Now I only have to think about doing well at Estoril, because this beginning of the championship hasn’t been good at all.”
Toni Elias (LCR Honda RC212V) says: “Honestly I am not happy about the performance as my feeling on the bike was still bad but the 9th position in these conditions is a positive result for me and the Team.
“I know I have been lucky because many riders crashed out and I was capable to end the race although the tires situation was very difficult for everybody because we just had the warm up session on the wet. However we must continue our good job to improve our future performances….I am aware of this and want to thank my Team for their efforts.”