Defending Moto GP world champion Jorge Lorenzo had a rough weekend, with machine difficulties during practice and qualifying.
He still managed a front-row start, but was more than half a second behind chief title rival Dani Pedrosa. When the lights changed on race day, however, Lorenzo got a demon start, shouldered past Pedrosa at the first corner, and was never headed in a textbook display of controlling a race.
“It was really difficult physically as it was the hottest race of the year,” said Lorenzo.”I kept pushing 100% all race because any mistake would have been a disaster. I was surprised at the start as I expected to just pass Cal but I passed Dani also.
“I took profit from it and tried to open the gap but it was not enough to go away, Dani was there and we played some games, I was 0.5 ahead then 0.2; I was going then he was recovering me. Finally because I was tough mentally and never gave up I could open in the last five laps a little gap that was enough to win.”
Pedrosa had his own problems in the last few laps; as Lorenzo eased away a 10th at a time Pedrosa’s Repsol Honda team-mate Marc Marquez was all over his tail, looking for a way past. Pedrosa was forced to defend his position, which no doubt contributed to Lorenzo’s easing away in the last few laps.
Marquez’s tactics were wild, he nearly crashed several times and at one point three laps from the end only missed running into the back of Pedrosa with heavy over-braking that threw his bike into severe front-end gyrations. It was amazing he didn’t crash.
“I tried to prepare an attack, but I did it in the wrong place. I thought I was stronger there, but on that lap Dani also braked quite hard. I nearly crashed and lost too much time,” said Marquez. “We didn’t touch but it was very, very close. I already said to him, ‘when you see the video – sorry!’”
In a lonely fourth position came Valentino Rossi, Lorenzo’s team-mate on the factory Yamaha team. He qualified poorly, as usual – although that’s a bit harsh, considering that second through 10th were covered by half a second – and after a tough couple of opening laps settled in running at the pace of the leaders, but unable to close the gap.
He narrowly avoided being binned on the first lap by Alvaro Bautista. for the second race in a row. The Spaniard tried an impossible move and crashed on the first lap, just missing Rossi’s bike as he slid off.
Rossi later said, “In Mugello he did a mistake and f**ked my home grand prix and we could have had big pain [in the accident]. But one mistake can happen. He said he didn’t see me. But doing the same at the next race, another time with me, is very stupid I think. He tried an impossible braking.”
The rest of the top 10 were equally spaced out after some lively mid-race action. Stefan Bradl finished fifth, something the German really needed if he hopes to keep his factory satellite ride in 2014, followed by young Brit Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Monster Yamaha) in by far his best result in his rookie season. Riding with a broken wrist bone and a badly-mangled little finger, Smith’s performance was impressive.
He was followed by top Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso, then Aleix Espargaro and Colin Edwards on CRT machines, with Michele Pirro on the Ducati “test” bike in 10th.
The race was notable for crashes; a third of the field went down (mostly in the fast left-hand T-10), including Nicky Hayden, Cal Crutchlow (who’d started on the front row), Andrea Iannone, Randy de Puniet, Hector Barbera, and Michael Laverty, who went down as a result of Bautista’s first-lap crash.
While not featuring the usual wild-west gunslinger butchery, the Moto 2 race was still pretty entertaining (and like the Moto GP race, a third of the field crashed out, often at T-10) or suffered mechanical issues.
Series leader Scott Redding could only manage a fourth – as at the round in Austin, Texas, the lanky Britisher rode for the points, keeping his healthy lead in the series at the one-third distance alive.
The race was won by Pol Espargaro, second in the championship, followed by Esteve Rabat (third in the series). Takaki Nakagami of Japan, fast all year but seriously prone to crashing, finally finished a race, taking fifth.
Moto 3 – best GP race of the season?
The Moto 3 race was insane; for the first 2/3 of the race there were seven riders slicing and dicing for the lead, and it wasn’t uncommon for a racer to go from first to sixth or the reverse at the end of the long front straight. Behind them, an even madder battle went on from eighth to 14th, with literally all those riders in a bunch and able to grab the top spot in the group. Fantastic racing.
In the last few laps, the three series leaders slowly edged away, with Luis Salom finally taking the flag ahead of Alex Rins and Maverick Vinales (all three riders from Spain, as indeed were the top three in Moto GP and the top two in Moto 2 – great results for the home crowd, a claimed 91,000).
Salom holds a slim five-point lead over Vinales in the series, with Rins 21 points farther back. Realistically, those are the only three likely titlists this year.
Next race, June 29, Assen Circuit, The Netherlands.
Moto GP World Standings after six of 18 races
1. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 123 points
2. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 116
3. Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 93
4. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 71
5. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Yamaha Factory Racing, 60
6. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 59
7. Nicky Hayden, U.S.A., Ducati Team, 45
8. Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honda, 41
9. Alvao Bautista, Spain, Gresini San Carlo Honda, 38
10. Aleix Espargaro, Spain, Power Electronics Aspar ART, 36
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