There is always something very special about Jerez. There are few circuits on earth where fans gather to worship at the altar of motorcycle racing with the same deafening intensity and passion as at the Circuito de Jerez in southern Spain.
Fans of motorcycle racing are a passionate bunch wherever you are in the world, but the fans in Jerez add a spice and temperament which lifts the atmosphere to a higher plane.
Despite Andalusia’s continuing and severe economic recession, crowd numbers for the event were up again from last year, from over 111,000 to 117,001 paying customers on Sunday. Motorcycle racing lives on in Spanish hearts, no matter the state of their wallets.
The first round of the 2014 Endurance World Championship is in the bag, as the 24 hours of the Bol d’Or at Magny-Cours are now in the bag. Taking the top step on the podium was last year’s Bol d’Or winner, SRC Kawasaki, but the win didn’t come easily for the Kawasaki factory team.
“The week got off to a bad start. With Fabien Foret out and the crash for Matthieu, I wouldn’t have fancied us to win,” admitted SRC Kawasaki Team Manager Gilles Stafler. “The best win we ever had in a 24-hour race was our first in Le Mans in 2010. But this one was the toughest. There was also a luck factor in the choice of the tyres and we had the support of really top-notch technical staff.”
Because of Matthieu Lagrive’s crash during the free practice session, this meant that SRC Kawasaki teammate Gregory Leblanc and Nicolas Salchaud had to pretty much split the racing duties for the 24-hour race. At one point, SRC Kawasaki was in the 20th spot, after an early crash, but the team rallied together, and capitalized on the misfortunes of others to bring home another Bol d’Or win.
Finishing five laps down, in second, was the Yamaha France’s factory-supported team: Yamaha Racing GMT 94 Michelin; and in third was the Superstock Class leader, Junior Team LMS Suzuki, which was 11 laps down at the finish.
Noticeably absent from the finishing board were the usual suspects of Honda Racing, Yamaha Austria Racing Team (YART), and the Suzuki Endurance Racing Team (SERT), all of whom had to retire mid-race because of mechanical troubles, but had strong showings prior to their retirements.
Normally it takes bad weather to shake things up in a MotoGP race. For most of the day, it looked like the rain was ready to start at any time, but in the end it stayed pretty much completely dry, bar a quick and meaningless shower just before the Moto2 race started.
Regardless of what the weather decided to do, we still ended up with a bizarre MotoGP race anyway. The weirdness started even before the race had started, and continued pretty much all the way to the very last corner.
Jorge Lorenzo came to Texas knowing he faced an uphill challenge. Last year at the Circuit of the Americas, Marc Marquez had run away with the race, with only Dani Pedrosa able to follow. Lorenzo had put up a valiant struggle, but had been unable to prevent a Repsol Honda whitewash.
In 2014, Lorenzo had come facing an even tougher task, if that were possible. After crashing out at the first race, Lorenzo knew he had to score as many points as he could without taking too many risks.
He would have to find a very fine balance between pushing hard to try to catch – and who knows, maybe even beat – the Repsol Hondas, and ensuring he didn’t risk ending up with a second zero to go with the crash at Qatar.
The extra tension that created may have played a factor in what happened next. Lorenzo came to the grid with more bugs collected on his visor than usual. As he sat waiting for the official holding the red flag to leave the grid, he did something he never normally did while waiting for the start.
To ensure he got the best start possible, Lorenzo decided to remove the first tear-off from his visor, to clear up his vision. While he was pulling the clear plastic strip from his visor, the official hurried off the grid ahead of the start, as the rules dictate. When Lorenzo looked back up, he saw the official gone, and in a moment of confusion, got ready to start.
The start procedure specified in the rulebook states that once the official leaves the grid, the red starting lights will come on for between 2 and 5 seconds.
Once the red lights go out, the race officially starts, and riders are free to chase into Turn 1 as fast as they can. That light change is crucial, the lights imprinted onto the retinas and brains of world championship motorcycle racers around the globe. Once the lights change, you go.