MISANO WORLD CIRCUIT MARCO SIMONCELLI, Italy – Lucky 13 in the Moto GP series, held near the Adriatic city of Rimini at the classic Misano circuit, saw an unprecedented eighth different winner in the past eight races, something that has never happened since the World Championship started in 1949. Literally, it’s been the most competitive season in memory.
This time it was Spaniard Dani Pedrosa on his Repsol Honda who was clearly the dominant rider of the day, although hometown boy Valentino Rossi – he lives only a few kilometres from the circuit – led most of the way after a brutal but fair pass on his Yamaha team-mate, early leader Jorge Lorenzo. That pass led to an interesting spat in front of the cameras in the post-race press conference, Lorenzo angry about the pass and Rossi amused and lots of words exchanged – they’ll both doubtless be glad when Lorenzo leaves the team for Ducati next season.
Pedrosa’s team-mate and championship leader Marc Marquez was in the mix for the lead early, but fell back after Pedrosa, who started eighth but moved quickly and steadily up the field, put a surgical pass on him. It would appear that Marquez overworked his front tire early on and had to settle for minimizing his points loss.
Pedrosa, who’s had a rough season so far, said, “It’s super-great feeling after so long having troubles. Everybody – friends, family and the team – stayed behind me and it’s in these tough times that you really need the help.”
Pedrosa was a big help to Marquez as well as himself, by pushing Rossi – second to Marquez in the series – back to second and thereby cutting Rossi’s gain on Marquez by five points. The Spaniard’s lead has been reduced to 43 points, still pretty healthy – but certainly not insurmountable with luck – with five races left.
It was pleasant to hear no excuses in parc fermé after the race, both Lorenzo and Rossi acknowledging that they’d simply been out-ridden by Pedrosa. Neither rider looked happy, albeit reluctantly pleased for Pedrosa (who is popular with most of his competitors), Lorenzo seeing his chances of another world title ebbing away, while Rossi as ever was desperate to win in front of his home crowd.
Once again, Rossi had a hilarious new helmet design for this race, this one based on his favourite movie, The Blues Brothers. Rossi and his close friend Alessio “Uccio” Salucci were painted as the Blues Brothers, with the cop car featured as well – and Rossi wore a black fedora to the victory podium.
Behind Marquez came the first Suzuki, ridden by Maverick Vinales — “it was the best we could hope for today” – the Suzuki again suffering from rear grip in hot weather. Sixth was first of the Ducatis with Andrea Dovizioso on board — “this is not the result we looked for today” – followed by Ducati test rider Michele Pirro, subbing for Andrea Iannone, who cracked a vertebrae in a practice session crash and had to sit out the weekend. “Tell Andrea I give him back the bike in the same condition I got it,” quipped the talented Pirro, a multiple Italian superbike champ as well as Ducati’s main test guy for both superbikes and Moto GP machines.
Next up came Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) in eighth, top independent rider after a time penalty for exceeding track limits was rescinded, with Pol Espargaro (Tech 3 Yamaha) next and Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) rounding out the top 10.
The secondary class has had a serious revival this year, at times looking more like a Moto 3 chopping contest than Moto 3 itself – today’s race at Misano was one of those times. The win went to local hero Lorenzo Baldassari, the 19-year-old another talented graduate of Rossi’s VR46 Riding Academy. The 100,000-strong crowd loved having an Italian winner, and it was particularly sweet for Baldassari himself, being his second Grand Prix podium and his first win ever, and in front of a home-town crowd to boot.
Alex Rins’ ride to second was at least as impressive, the young Spaniard racing with a collar bone broken only two weeks ago. He led much of the race in spite of the pain-killing injections – that he said later didn’t really help much – and that he was fighting his Italian competitor until the last lap says a lot for his determination. He’ll be moving to the Suzuki Moto GP team in 2017, and for sure they’ll be delighted to see how hard he’s fighting this season. His result, and the relatively poor finish for defending champion Johann Zarco (fourth) puts Rins only three points behind the Frenchman for the 2016 title.
Thomas Luthi, Sam Lowes, and Johann Folger completed the top five. With Rins, Zarco, Lowes and Folger all moving to Moto GP next year, and several fast Moto 3 guys coming into Moto 2, the competition in the class should sparkle in 2017.
The junior Moto GP class never delivers a boring race, but this one was perhaps a little more processional than most. Once again, championship leader Brad Binder, the fastest South African rider since multiple world champ Kork Ballington, grabbed the win, and once again poor Jorge Navarro, his closest competitor for the title, crashed out. That dropped Navarro behind Italian Enea Bastianini for second in the series and left Binder with a huge 106 point lead at the 2/3 point of the season – it’s pretty hard to imagine him not taking the title.
Bastianini made him work for the win, however, Binder only going ahead for the final time on the last lap of the race. Spaniard Joan Mir probably had the ride of his life, however, going from 16th on the grid to finish third, just pipping VR46 rider Nicolo Bulega, who’s riding far smarter than his 16 years of age would indicate. Watch out for him as a serious threat in 2017 in his second year in the class.
The top five was completed by Czech rider Jakub Kornfeil, the 2009 Red Bull Rookies Cup winner, having one of his best races of the season.
Moto GP Championship Standings after 13 of 18 races
- Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 233 points
- Valentino Rossi, Italy, Movistar Yamaha, 180
- Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Movistar Yamaha, 162
- Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 145
- Maverick Vinales, Spain, Team Suzuki Ecstar, 136
- Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 99
- Andrea Iannone, Italy, Ducati Team, 96
- Cal Crutchlow, U.K., LCR Honda, 93
- Pol Espargaro, Spain, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 89
- Hector Barbera, Spain, Avintia Racing Ducati, 81
Next race September 25, Aragon, Spain