Valentino Rossi won his first race of the 2016 MotoGP season with a perfect ride at Jerez, to the delight of the fans who did not mind the Italian beating two Spaniards in Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez one bit.
The victory was Rossi’s seventh around the Jerez circuit, although he last tasted success at the historic circuit way back in 2009 after seeing Lorenzo, Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner all pick up victories since he was last on the top step of the podium
Rossi led from the start, with his Yamaha team-mate Lorenzo threatening to pass the Italian throughout the first lap. The Spaniard dived down the inside of Rossi at turn eleven on the entry to Curva Angel Nieto, only to run wide and leave a gap big enough for Rossi to retake the lead.
Rossi maintained the lead at around two seconds, before pulling away in the final 10 laps to take victory by
Behind, the two Hondas of Marquez and Pedrosa were squabbling away which allowed Rossi to build a gap at the front. Pedrosa initially overtook Marquez on the first lap, but the two-time world champion fought back and soon gapped Pedrosa to take the fight to Lorenzo for second.
His fight would prove to be in vain though as Lorenzo pulled away to make second his own, with championship leader Marquez coming home in third ahead of Pedrosa. Aleix Espargaro clinched the bragging rights in the Suzuki battle as he finished fifth ahead of team-mate Maverick Vinales, who is being tipped as Lorenzo’s successor at Yamaha when he leaves for Ducati at the end of the season.
Andrea Iannone took seventh on the Ducati, with Pol Espargaro eighth.
Northern Ireland’s Eugene Laverty enjoyed a brilliant start as he jumped from 15th to 8th before the end of the first lap, and he profited from Andrea Dovizioso’s retirement when his Ducati suffered an issue with the rear tyre on lap nine. Laverty would finish in ninth, with Hector Barbera rounding out the top 10.
"This was the perfect weekend," said Rossi after celebrating his 113th career victory and 87th in the top flight.
"The bike in the race was fantastic...I had a good pace, a good start, I feel good with the bike from the beginning so I can push. It was a special taste, a win like this."
Lorenzo admitted that he struggled to keep pace with Rossi due to his tyres spinning up as he moved through the gears on the main straight.
"The pace from the beginning was not very fast,” said Lorenzo. "Rossi was a little bit faster than me at the beginning of the race but in the middle I could keep the distance.
"When I was catching him, suddenly the centre of the tyre on the straight when I put third, fourth, fifth and sixth gears was spinning like I had wet tyres," he added.
Marquez reported similar troubles, and admitted that he had to settle for third rather than risking taking no points away from Jerez. "I tried and pushed behind Lorenzo but I nearly crashed one, two, three times," he said. "Then I said 'OK, 16 points for the championship'. These two guys today were faster."
The result means Marquez’s championship lead over Lorenzo is cut to 17 points, with Rossi another seven points adrift.
There was English success to celebrate in Moto2 as Sam Lowes rode the perfect race to claim his first victory of the season. Despite being beaten off the line by Jonas Folger, Lowes soon hit the front and controlled the race before pulling away over the final few laps, with Alex Rins completing the podium.
In Moto3, South Africa’s Brad Binder completed an incredible last-to-first victory after starting 35th due to running non-homologated ECU software in qualifying. The 20-year-old took his first victory in Moto3 by a three-second margin ahead of Nicolo Bulega, with Francesco Bagnaia narrowly missing out on second in a race to the finish line.
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