SACHSENRING CIRCUIT, Chemnitz, Germany, July 2 – This classic and difficult circuit in the old East Germany usually provides spectacular racing – in spite of the fact that Honda ace Marc Marquez has now taken eight consecutive poles and victories at the track in 125, Moto 2, and Moto GP classes.
Marquez’ victory this year was hardly a pushover, however, as he was pushed right to the end by an unexpected rival, Tech 3 Yamaha’s Jonas Folger having a brilliant race at his home Grand Prix.
It was Folger’s first Moto GP podium, all the sweeter for being in front of his home crowd. “I don’t really know what to say other than I am so happy!” said the young German, “And I still can’t quite believe what we achieved! I fought with Marc for the victory and we had a great performance. I especially showed that I can get on the podium, which is a super feeling and a big boost for my confidence.”
With his French team-mate Johann Zarco already having run at the front and collected a podium at his own home GP at Magny-Cours, Folger’s result once again shows the talent-spotting genius of Tech 3 Yamaha boss Hervé Poncheral.
After the first few laps Marquez and Folger were slugging it out on their own, with Marquez’s Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa a distant third, albeit well ahead of a Moto 3-style scrap for the following positions. Pedrosa was happy enough with third, saying , “I started to lose grip in the rear tire, but I thought ‘Okay, no problem; it’s going to be a long race and it’s normal to lose some grip.’ But when Jonas passed me, I tried to follow and I couldn’t keep contact. I tried to manage but when I felt the tire was spinning too much I settled for a podium.”
His team-mate, winner Marquez, said, “I’m very, very happy … I wish to dedicate this win to Nicky (Hayden) and his family. I had promised this to myself after his incident because we had some very good moments together and he was a friend. The race was very tight … I was very surprised at the beginning to see Jonas there, and I thought he might stay in between with the other riders, but he actually remained there! He was quite a tough opponent!”
The first trio were followed home by the factory Yamaha riders Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi, both of who were delighted that the race stayed dry, and relieved that they’d managed to get their bikes – the 2017 Yamaha M1 proving difficult to set up – working well enough to finish where they did after relatively poor qualifying performances in the wet.
Next up was the two-year-old Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati ridden by Alvaro Bautista. It was a superb ride for the Spaniard, who climbed up from qualifying 14th. “Today I’ve had some fun going forward,” he said. “We have been consistent throughout the race. This year we have had some bad luck but our true level should always be like in this race.”
Seventh went to Aleix Espargaro after another excellent ride on the Aprilia (which for once had no technical issues), while eighth went to Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, who was leading the championship coming in and left in third. “It’s a pity about my final position. We chose the soft rear tire option for the race but we didn’t have much data because we didn’t do many laps in the dry [in practice], and unfortunately the risk didn’t pay off. Towards the end of the race I struggled because the performance of the tire dropped off suddenly and quite a lot.”
The final top 10 spots were taken by Tech 3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco, who had a good race from a bad qualifying position, and an upset Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda. He had problems with the front tire all race long, and said he’d enjoyed races more where he’d crashed out! Still, he has the consolation of having signed a new contract directly with Honda Racing Corporation to stay at LCR.
At half-way through the season, only 10 points separate the first five riders, and after the last three races, three different riders have topped the standings. After the month-long summer break, the resumed action in Czech Republic will no doubt continue this superb season.
Franco Morbidelli increased his lead in the championship to a heavy 34 points after taking pole and leading nearly the whole race, but it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. His team-mate Alex Marquez and chief rival Tom Luthi both crashed out while scrapping with him, and Miguel Oliveira chased him hard to the line, eventually finishing only a hair-thin 0.066 second behind.
Italy’s Franceso Bagnaia was only another half-second back, with Simone Corsi and Mattia Pasini following, making it an almost all-Italian top five with the exception of Portuguese dentist-in-training Oliveira.
The rest of the field were farther behind, but it looked more like Moto 3 than Moto 2, as literally a dozen bikes were raging in the battle to catch the leaders. One nice result there was to see South African Brad Binder, 2016 Moto 3 champion, apparently now fully-recovered from his early-season badly-broken wrist and coming in a strong seventh.
Spaniard Joan Mir made up for his bad last-lap tactical miscue at Assen a week ago by taking his fifth win of the season and solidifying his strangle-hold on the championship with a 37-point lead going into the summer break. Second went to Italian bad boy Romano Fenati, while Spaniard Marcos Ramirez grabbed his first-ever GP podium.
Unusually for the class, those three broke away by mid-distance and had their own battle while the regular Moto 3 brawl went on behind them for the remainder of the finishing spots. The three riders chopped and changed position so often it was impossible to count, with Fenati using a softer rear tire than the other two. On the last lap Fenati was leading, but his softer rear tire was toast. Mir swooped on the second-last corner, the daunting left after the terrifying downhill run aptly named The Waterfall, and took the win by a 10th of a second, with Ramirez 2/10th farther back.
World Moto GP Championship Standings after nine of 18 races
1. Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 129 points
2. Maverick Viñales, Spain, Movistar Yamaha, 124
3. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 123
4. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Movistar Yamaha, 119
5. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 119
6. Johann Zarco, France, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 84
7. Jonas Folger, Germany, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 71
8. Danillo Petrucci, Italy, Pramac Ducati, 66
9. Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team, 65
10. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., LCR Honda, 64
Next race, August 6, Brno, Czech Republic.