From the first laps of the inaugural Grand Prix at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto in 1987, the Andaluse venue has become synonymous with a busy, passionate, loud and appreciative atmosphere and audience for the elite level of motorcycling. The 13-corner, 4.4km layout is normally blessed with decent weather conditions and the track itself is a popular site for both racing (featuring in feeder series’ like the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and FIM JuniorGP) and for testing and is therefore well known to the teams and riders.
After the travails of trips to Argentina and America in recent weeks, MotoGP returned to a stable paddock set-up and for the start of a European sequence of events that will stretch well into the summer. The LIQUI MOLY Husqvarna Intact GP team confronted the Gran Premio MotoGP™ Guru by Gryfyn de España and the 37th gathering of MotoGP at Jerez hopeful of better fortunes in the Moto3 class after Ayumu Sasaki’s excellent competitiveness with the FR 250 GP but some bad luck at both Termas de Rio Hondo and the Circuit of the Americas. The Japanese classified 6th at the circuit in 2022 and was less than one second from the win.
Saturday started promisingly with Sasaki reaching P2 in Practice 2. Qualifying 2 then saw the #71 bike circulating with intent and finally securing 8th position; just over half a second away from a third consecutive Pole. Sasaki was conservative in the first part of the Grand Prix and set his pace as part of the second group. With less than five laps remaining the posse of six riders became bigger and Sasaki played his cards. He pushed hard for the victory through the final section of right-handed corners and in the final dash to the line was less than a half a second from 1st, finally ranking 4th.
Rookie Collin Veijer set his bike 20th on the grid. The Dutchman was then part of the mid-pack group and eying points for the top fifteen until he slipped off at Turn 6 with five laps to go. Collin remounted to finish in 23rd.
Ayumu Sasaki: “It was a difficult race in the beginning because I had a small issue and I didn’t want to crash again so I took it steady. Halfway through I felt a lot better and I could push and find my way through the pack. I had great pace and could catch the front group. I worked a lot for that. The podium was right there so I am a bit disappointed not to make it but after the last two GPs it was important to finish. We managed things well today because it wasn’t our strongest weekend. So, we will take this P4 and continue to build our championship.”
Collin Veijer: “I started the race quite well but during the race I was missing some traction with the rear end of the bike under braking. I was sliding quite a lot and it was difficult to keep control. Eventually it was the reason for my crash at Turn 6. Overall, I’m happy with how I could ride again at the end of the race but not happy at all with the result. I hope we will be better in the next race and we can make some more progress in the test.”
In Moto2 Husqvarna Motorcycles were able to draft promising 17-year-old Senna Agius into the team at the eleventh hour after Darryn Binder could not pass a late fitness test. The South African was partially optimistic of competing at Jerez only two weeks after sustaining a double fracture to his right hand but ultimately had to shelve his plans for a return and wait for round five. Agius, who is part of the crew’s JuniorGP project and will contest the 2023 European Moto2 series (won by Lukas Tulovic in 2022), accepted the saddle. The young Australian gathered track miles and valuable experience on his run to 21st on Sunday. Tulovic started from 20th place on the grid for the 21 lap Grand Prix. The German fought with Jeremy Alcoba for the final world championship point and won the duel. He crossed the finish line in a decent 15th.
Lukas Tulovic: “I am happy that we were able to finish the weekend like this and take home a point. It's a bit of a shame that things didn't go so smoothly at the start of the race. It took a few laps until I overtook a few riders and was able to ride my rhythm. That cost me a lot of time. Without all that, I might have been able to fight for eleventh or twelfth place. Nevertheless, I am very happy with the race result. I had a strong pace after the first third and we can build on that. Now we'll see if we can find one or two tenths of a second in the test and to make the bike work a bit better in the hot conditions. And then just keep working constantly, try to start further at the front into the races with a better group and then learn more gradually.”
Senna Agius: “To be honest I’m struggling to smile about the race. I didn’t have anything in the beginning and didn’t have much at the end. Not much raw speed but I want to learn from this. Coming into a different championship there was a lot to get used to and I managed as best I could. Maybe when I have more experience I can handle that better and do a better job in this paddock. I’ll take what I learnt here back to CEV next week and want to keep improving. A big thanks to the whole team for allowing me to step in.”
The SHARK Grand Prix de France brings MotoGP to the historic and atmospheric Le Mans circuit in two weeks’ time but first the team will enjoy a one-day test on Tuesday.
Results Moto3 Gran Premio MotoGP™ Guru by Gryfyn de España
1. Ivan Ortola (ESP) KTM 33:57.506, 2. David Alonso (COL) GASGAS +0.034, 3. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda +0.215, CFMOTO +0.558, 4. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna +0.422 23. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna
World championship standings Moto3
1. Daniel Holgado (ESP) KTM, 59 points. 2. Diogo Moreira (BRA) KTM, 55. 3. Ivan Ortola (ESP) KTM, 50. 9. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna, 23. 21. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna, 7.
Results Moto2 Gran Premio MotoGP™ Guru by Gryfyn de España
1. Sam Lowes (GBR) 35:45.107, 2. Pedro Acosta (ESP) +2.841, 3. Alonso Lopez (ESP) +9.618. 15. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna +26.709, 21. Senna Agius (AUS) Husqvarna +36.812
World championship standings Moto2
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP), 74 points, 2. Tony Arbolino (ITA), 74. 3. Aron Canet (ESP), 52. 16. Darryn Binder (RSA) Husqvarna, 10. 21. Lukas Tulovic (GER) Husqvarna 1