2017 Jerez MotoGP PreviewTwo weeks following the Grand Prix of the Americas at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, the 2017 MotoGP Championship heads to Europe for the first time of the season.As round four is about to begin at the iconic Circuito de Jerez, which celebrates 30 years on the Grand Prix motorcycle racing calendar, MotoGP fans worldwide are donning yellow due to the man first in points—Valentino Rossi.
The nine-time World Champion is the only rider to finish on the podium at every race so far this season: third in Qatar, and runner-up in Argentina and America. Rossi leads the 2017 MotoGP Championship with 56 points, six ahead of teammate Maverick Vinales, who won the opening two rounds but crashed out of Austin MotoGP.Rossi has an impressive record at Jerez; last season, he claimed his ninth win across all classes at the “Cathedral of Spanish Speed.” All together, he has seven premier-class wins there (2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2016), one in the former 125cc class (1997) and one in the former 250cc class (1999).The 38-year-old has displayed amazing patience throughout the first three rounds, and will likely continue this trend at Jerez, which was built in 1987—a year before joining the Grand Prix series.“I would never have expected to come to Jerez as a leader of the Championship,” Valentino Rossi says. “Im very happy because we managed to solve some of the problems we had encountered during the winter tests and we are doing really good races. We still have to improve the bike a lot, that’s for sure.“The weekend in Jerez will be very important. This is the first European race and its a circuit I really enjoy. We have improved a lot in Austin since the first free practice and now it will be important to improve again in Jerez. We are understanding how to work with this bike and Im sure we will be able to find what we are looking for.”Vinales only has one win at Jerez since joining the Grand Prix Championship in 2011. He won a the short 2.75-mile track in 2013 en route to claiming the Moto3 Championship. Last season while riding for Team Ecstar Suzuki, Vinales claimed sixth.But the energy is high for the Spaniard as he heads home aboard the YZR-M1 and hungry to retake the points lead and please fans.“After the disappointing result in Austin Im happy that I didn’t sustain any injuries,” Maverick Vinales says. “We also proved that we have the potential to fight for the victory at every race and this motivates me to arrive to Jerez even stronger than I was at the last GP.“Jerez is a good track for Yamaha, they’ve always been very fast there, so I know that I can be as strong and fast in Jerez as I was in Austin and as I have been at all the tracks during the start of this season. We just should be focused, find a good set-up for the bike and push until the end of the race. Im extra motivated for the next round.”Ahead of Austin MotoGP, a duel was expected between Vinales and three-time MotoGP Champion Marc Marquez on the Repsol Honda. But Vinales crashed out on the second lap, ending his perfect season.The Spaniard Marquez went on to win at COTA, retaining his perfect record of claiming every MotoGP from pole held at COTA since the Texas Formula One circuit joined the GP calendar in 2013.The five-time World Champion Marquez is third in points with 38, and has finished on the podium at every Jerez round since his 2013 MotoGP rookie year. This includes a single win in 2014.“I’m happy the next round is back in Spain after three flyaway GPs, because racing at home and in front of my fan club is always special,” Marc Marquez says. “Of course our win in Austin gave the whole team more confidence and motivation to keep up the hard work and to try to understand how to further improve our bike’s setup, although Jerez is one of the most difficult and tricky circuits from that point of view.“It’s kind of an ‘old school’ track: very short, very narrow, with heavy acceleration points and strong braking areas. You have to make the bike turn well but you also need good stability under braking, because that’s where you can get good lap times. It’s a circuit where our opponents are always very fast, but anyway, I think we’ll be able to do well if we work well starting on Friday morning.”Marquez’s teammate fought with Rossi at Circuit of the Americas, and had to settle for third. He has three wins at his home circuit of Jerez—two in MotoGP (2013, 2008), and one in the former 250cc class (2005).Pedrosa is sixth in points with 27 after three of 18 rounds, two behind LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow and three behind Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso, the top Desmosedici rider residing in fourth place.As for Dovi’s teammate, Ducati Team newbie Jorge Lorenzo, the three-time MotoGP Champion continues to struggle with the Desmosedici GP17. He is currently 12th in points after finishing 11th in Qatar, crashing out of Argentina, and claiming ninth in Austin.The top rookie is Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Jonas Folger, who claimed two top-fives so far this season.Aprilia’s top rider is the Spaniard Aleix Espargaro, the Team Gresini RSGP pilot in 10th with 10 points. He’s followed by the top Suzuki rider so far this season, Team Ecstar’s Andrea Iannone, who has nine points. As for KTM, Pol Espargaro is the top R16 pilot so far this season; the Red Bull KTM rider is 21st in points with 2 as KTM continues to develop its prototype.Round four of 2017 MotoGP begins with the opening free practices Friday, followed by qualifying Saturday and Sunday’s 27-lap Spanish Grand Prix, which gets underway at 2 p.m. local time.Rossi holds the most MotoGP wins at Jerez with seven; can he make eight, and extend his points lead as he chases a 10th World Title?