Valentino Rossi has the best seat in the house for the Spanish civil war which is set to break out before a capacity crowd at Jerez.
Tensions are at fever-pitch especially amongst the partisan fans who are reveling in thought of a race with home heroes Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa on the front row.
Marquez (Repsol Honda) will be aiming for a fourth consecutive win this season and his first-ever at Jerez. He says he will try to end the losing streak of pole qualifiers at this race.
The last pole winner in Jerez was Loris Capirossi on a Ducati in 2006.
‘”It is difficult to have an idea on how the race will be, all the times are very close and Valentino is also strong so maybe we can have a race like last year. And we must pay attention to Dani,” Marquez said.
In 2013 Lorenzo was abruptly bumped from first place by Marquez at the final corner, a move that still does not sit easily with the Yamaha rider.
Lorenzo has been giving away little of his deep motivation this weekend and simply says that he “always comes to the track to win” and that, at Jerez, he perhaps has his best chance so far this season.
Rossi will start fourth, his best qualifying of the season, but has no desire to settle into the role of a spectator.
While there will be a frenetic battle amongst the Spanish trio this is a race where Rossi’s age-defying pace – he is 35 – and race craft could pay off for a podium challenge.
Rossi is convinced that he is in form and motivated to repeat his stellar start to the season when he finished a close second to Marquez in Qatar.
In the Austin and Argentina races, Rossi was delayed after strong starts.
“From the beginning of the season to now I am in front of Jorge more times than he is in front of me, and for me this is a great motivation because I think that Lorenzo is one of the best riders in the world and we have same bike,” Rossi said.
“This means that my level is good. Now we have to work to fight with the Hondas and we need help from Yamaha because now the bike is a little bit worse.
“I had the potential to make a podium in Austin and Argentina so at the beginning of the season I always have the potential to arrive on the podium. This is very positive and makes me very strong.”
Rossi believes he paid a heavy price for front tire issues at Austin and then being pushed wide and back into pack by a late braking Stefan Bradl which spoilt his Argentina race.
The Jerez circuit is likely to be a catalyst for a different style of race. The layout does not feature a long, super-fast straight like Qatar, Austin and Argentina and there are highly technical sections of flowing corners.
The final hairpin is the tightest section but, overall, Rossi hopes the Yamaha M1, and the need for careful tire management in warm conditions, will negate the Honda advantage for Marquez and Pedrosa.
A small chassis upgrade from Yamaha for Jerez is to Rossi’s liking and has delivered a marginal improvement in braking stability.
“Braking and entry in the corner is the main Honda advantage and in acceleration the Honda is always very fast but they can brake deeper than us,” Rossi said.
“And Marquez is very good to squeeze the bike and use this advantage to the maximum so they also have a technical advantage.”
“Yamaha have brought something to Jerez to help the braking where we suffer and put the front tire too much under stress. It is a small, small difference but I like it and will use in the race.”
But the question remains: Who will be the first rider to beat Marquez this season, and will it be at Jerez on Sunday?MotoGP, Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing