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Three stops or two?

Three stops or two?

Marc Marquez appears to have started a trend as a number of riders adopted his three-stop strategy in Q2 at the Circuito de Jerez.

Jorge Lorenzo may have stolen the show with his record-breaking pole lap during Q2, but the post qualifying chat centered on the pit stop strategies the riders had chosen to use.

It all revolves around a tactic that Marc Marquez first shocked the MotoGP paddock with last year in Jerez. The Spaniard used both of his bikes in Qualifying to allow his team to fit three fresh tyres during the fifteen-minute session in a move that had never been seen before in MotoGP™.

Ironically, Marquez did not perform the usual leapfrog between his bikes today as he decided on a two-stop strategy to avoid putting any unnecessary pressure on his broken finger after a crash in FP4.

The reigning MotoGP™ World Champion, riding without the aid of painkillers, explained why: “We had prepared three sets of tyres to use in the qualifying session, however, after the crash, I preferred not to push things and we used just the two.”

This did not stop a number of other riders adopting the strategy, with mixed results. The most prominent of which was Jorge Lorenzo, for whom the tactic paid off when he set a new lap record around the 4.4 km Circuito de Jerez on his first flying lap during his third stint. Lorenzo’s time was the fastest ever set on two wheels at Jerez, and confirmed his return to form, as he became the first rider to break the 1’38 barrier at the track.

The double MotoGP™ World Champion was clearly happy to silence his doubters, but remained humble: “A lot of people said that I had a crisis and I was down, it was one of my worst moments, but just two days later I rode this impressive lap time. That shows that in racing you can‘t say things like “this guy is down, he‘s finished” because the next day he‘s going to be at the front. The opposite is true too, you can‘t say you‘re the best, because the next day you‘re at the back, so we have to be humble and work to take profit of the opportunities.”

While Andrea Iannone and Pol Espargaro, in third and fourth respectively, stuck to a more traditional two-stop strategy, Lorenzo’s teammate Valentino Rossi also went for a “three-stopper”. This would prove to be a master stroke by the Italian, as he suffered with a tyre issue during his middle run in the session, going on to set his best time on his very last lap: “This qualifying was not so bad, because we improved one position in the last stint. I had to decide which front tyre to use and maybe I made a mistake. I continued with the soft, but for the second stint the second rear tyre had an issue on the right, so I think I could have done a little bit better.”

Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro also went quickest during his third stint, as he was another rider to emulate Marquez’s tactic, but admitted not everything went to plan: “Of course sixth place was not my objective, as I expected a better position, but thinking about the race we are in a good place overall. The race will be tough because it is very hot and how it effects this bike is that it moves around a lot. It won’t be easy but we want to try as hard as we can. We still lack a final decision about the tyres for the race; today we tested both and the difference is not so evident, therefore we have to analyse the data and opt for the more-consistent tyre out of the overall choice.”

One rider who did not seem to benefit from adopting the three-stop strategy was CWM LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow as he set his best time during his first stint on track. Although the Brit, starting from seventh on the grid, admits that this may have been down to his choice of tyre rather than his pit stop strategy: “Today went well, although I was disappointed with the qualifying position but I felt we chose the wrong front tyre for these conditions. It was one of those things and we have to look forward to tomorrow because I think our pace is quite good and I’m optimistic about the finishing position.”

Of course if all else fails you can just forget about pit stop tactics and nick a cheeky tow from your bigger brother, as Pol Espargaro did with Aleix, although the tactic backfired for the latter as he ended up losing a place to his younger sibling.

Qualifying strategy aside, Lorenzo looks like he will be very hard to beat in front of his home fans at Jerez tomorrow, after setting a time more almost four-tenths quicker than his rivals. What will be even more alarming to the rest of the paddock is the fact he managed nine laps in a row in the 1’39’s during FP3, a pace that no one else could match.

Check out the full MotoGP™ Qualifying results and grid, and make sure you do not miss any of the action on Sunday, with the race due to start at 14:00 local time.


MotoGP, 2015, GRAN PREMIO bwin DE ESPAÑA, Q2

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