The MotoGP circus will descend on Catalunya for the seventh Grand Prix of the 2016 season, as Jorge Lorenzo hopes to continue his fast start to the campaign with another win in front of his compatriots on Sunday in Spain.
He cruised to the win in Italy on May 22, narrowly beating Marc Marquez in the Italian Grand Prix to increase his lead in the standings over the Spaniard and Valentino Rossi.
Lorenzo took the win in Barcelona last year and has taken three of the last four grands prix at the Circuit de Catalunya, a track where no rider has taken more wins than Rossi, with nine across four categories.
Here's a look at the schedule for Sunday:
|Catalunya GP Schedule|
|10 a.m./5 a.m.||Moto 3|
|11:20 a.m./6:20 a.m.||Moto 2|
|1 p.m./8 a.m.||MotoGP|
Here are the key riders to keep an eye on.
Current world champion Lorenzo enters Sunday's race as the clear favourite to grab yet another win. He has dominated both the 2016 MotoGP campaign and the Circuit de Catalunya in recent years.
His preparation for this year's race didn't go as smoothly as he would have liked, however. Per MotoGP's official website, he somehow managed to lose his bike in the city of Barcelona.
After tracking the bike down, he told reporters he's still in awe of the amazing battle he had with Marquez in Italy:
I watched Mugello complete race back once, but I watched the last laps a few times! It was one of the more amazing fights that I have had in my MotoGP career. I will remember forever this amazing battle, won in the end by just little centimetres and it was very important for the points of the championship.
The final lap of the race at Mugello is one fans of the sport will watch again and again for many years, and those same fans are likely hoping for a similar battle in Spain. Here's a look at what happened during that final lap in Italy:
Don't expect a repeat performance in Barcelona, however. Lorenzo knows the track better than most, and the long, sweeping bends suit his Yamaha perfectly.
Lorenzo's at his best when he controls the race from the front. Given his track knowledge of the Circuit de Catalunya, he's likely to start the race from the front row.
Marquez's strong start to the season and his solid showing in Italy mean his 13th-placed finish at Le Mans is but a distant memory. Now, just 10 points separate him from the top spot in the standings.
The 23-year-old was born in Cervera, Spain, and has done his fair share of laps at the Circuit de Catalunya, so it's perhaps a bit of a surprise he has registered just one MotoGP win at the track.
In his MotoGP blog for Box Repsol (via MotoGP's official website), he acknowledged the track doesn't suit him, but he urged his fans to travel to Barcelona and support their local hero nonetheless.
A second win at the Circuit de Catalunya would be a major statement from the youngster and may just give him the kind of boost he needs heading into the middle portion of the season. Competition will be fierce, however, and given Lorenzo's strong form, the advantage goes to the current champion.
Rossi continues to defy Father Time and enters the race ranked third in the standings, albeit at a safe distance. The 37-year-old isn't seen as a real challenger for the world title this year—the consistency of the younger riders makes that difficult—but he's always a threat to grab a handful of wins.
He hasn't won in Barcelona since 2009, but his Yamaha appears quicker at this stage of the season than it has in some time. He wasn't losing any time on team-mate Lorenzo until having a mechanical failure in Italy, further proof he's able to hang with the title favourites.
The Circuit de Catalunya is a fast one and provides plenty of space for overtaking—an advantage for Rossi over Lorenzo, who prides himself on sticking to the perfect racing line and is hard to beat once he takes the lead.