MISANO WORLD CIRCUIT MARCO SIMONCELLI, Rimini, Italy – The weather was a serious factor in all three races here; in fact they were all crash-fests, perhaps setting a record of some sorts. In the Moto 3 race, two riders who crashed out remounted and finished fifth and sixth!
In the Moto GP race, six of 23 entrants crashed out, while three others also crashed but remounted to finish (one of them, Loris Baz, twice). In Moto 2, 15 out of 31 riders crashed out of the race, while six others crashed and continued, Aussie Remy Gardner twice. And in the Moto 3 contest, a full 16 riders DNF’d due to crashes, the remaining 15 collecting championship points – and four of those crashed and restarted.
As I said, quite likely something of a record. Miraculously, no one was injured despite some spectacular highsides.
It was a near-Biblical downpour and local favourite Valentino Rossi stayed at home just seven km away nursing a broken leg from a recent training accident, but 97,000 fans braved the conditions. They saw three very different but equally interesting races. The Moto GP contest was won in the first corner on the last lap, with a Hail Mary pass by Honda’s Marc Marquez on Pramac Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci.
It was heartbreaking for the Italian, who’s never been so close to winning his first Moto GP contest, but he said although he tried, he had nothing for Marquez and after a scary front-end slide he reluctantly eased a bit to take second. “He did an incredible last lap,” said Petrucci. “I am a little bit sad about this second place, but I have no regret because I tried all the race and he did an incredible last lap, and so he deserve this win today.”
Marquez, on the other hand, was over the moon. “This was one of the best races of my career,” he said. “It gave me an amazing feeling because it required incredible concentration to manage the tension the whole time. It was very easy to make a mistake, and that’s why I decided to attack only on the final lap. That lap was amazing: I took many risks, but with such a close season, it was worth trying to get the five extra points for the win.”
Third went to the cerebral Andrea Dovizioso, the factory Ducati rider leading the title chase going into the weekend and coming out tied with Marquez with five races left. “In the end I’m happy with my third place because today I wasn’t able to find a perfect feeling with the bike. I tried to keep up with Marquez and Petrucci and I did for 20 laps, but the track conditions were really difficult. When they began to lower their lap times I would have had to take too many risks to stay in touch, and I preferred to slightly drop my pace to bring home the 16 points for third place, which is very important for the championship.”
Fourth went to the third rider in contention for the title, Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales, who was philosophical about a fourth he had to work for. “I’m happy with the result,” he said. “I tried to get the best result and today that was fourth. We have to continue to work in the same way, because today was a good improvement compared to the wet race at the Sachsenring … We still need a lot of grip on the traction.”
The rest of the top 10 was a scattered group, several of them unlikely. Fifth went to Ducati test rider Michele Pirro, who did a fantastic job in his wild-card entry. He wasn’t actually all that happy with his weekend, saying his crash in qualifying compromised his starting position, and that he felt he’d been too cautious in the early laps on the soaking wet track. “After yesterday’s two crashes, I was keen to finish the race,” he said. “I still have to improve because I’m lacking pace in the early stages of the race, but today I really enjoyed myself.”
Following Pirro in sixth was a happy Jack Miller, the Aussie making up for being penalized in qualifying by jumping from 14th to ninth on the first lap and stayed in contention for the entire race. He was followed into seventh by Scott Redding, the Brit’s best performance in a while. That no doubt impressed his 2018 employers, as he’s leaving Ducati to join the Aprilia team next season.
The top 10 was rounded out by Alex Rins, again doing a great job for Suzuki and easily beating out his more experienced team-mate Andrea Iannone. Iannone retired with what he said was arm pump problems, but Rins had been comfortably ahead the whole race.
The final two spots went to Tech 3 Yamaha’s Jonas Folger and KTM’s Bradley Smith. It was a badly-needed result for Smith, who’s on the bubble with the team for 2018; beating his team-mate Pol Espargaro this weekend will be a positive in his talks for next season.
It’s worth noting the effort Johann Zarco put into his finish. Running in the top 10 most of the race, he crashed just before the finish line, but picked up his bike and pushed it through the final two corners to collect the final championship point for 15th position, collapsing with exhaustion after the flag.
Ducati’s expensive new hire, Jorge Lorenzo, made a lightning start and led the first six laps, but crashed out on his own with a comfortable lead. This time he said it was because he got distracted while trying to change the engine mapping … at least he hasn’t used that excuse before.
The intermediate class suffered the worst weather of the three races, with an absolutely torrential downpour lasting the entire event. The race was definitely a battle for survival, with half the field crashing out, including championship leader Franco Morbidelli. The Italian was running away with the race when the front end suddenly folded under braking while straight up and down – the most common accident of the day – and he was suddenly down and out, with his prime rival Tom Luthi elevated to second by the crash.
Luthi stayed in second until the end, following fellow Swiss rider Domi Aegerter home. It was only Aegerter’s second win in the GP series, his first win – and in fact, his first podium – since 2014. Third went to Hafizh Syahrin, who’s nicknamed “The Fish” for his wet-weather abilities. It was only his second Moto 2 podium, the other being at his home race in Malaysia in similar conditions back in 2012.
Luthi’s 20-point score and Morbidelli’s zero means that there’s only a nine-point difference between the two. Their competition for this year’s championship is particularly piquant since they’ll be team-mates in Moto GP next year.
While there was action aplenty in the smallest Moto GP class, it wasn’t up front. Bad boy Romano Fenati took his Honda by the neck and disappeared into the distance, leaving his rivals gasping for breath and finally finishing with an unbelievable 28-second lead over Joan Mir, who leads the series.
Mir likely wasn’t too upset, glad to stay upright after a couple of close calls and collect 20 points toward the title. Holding a 61-point lead and being metronomically fast, Mir is unlikely to lose his title lead to Fenati. Spanish youngster Aron Canet, third in the chase, pretty much ended his longshot try at winning the title after crashing out with three laps to go.
World Moto GP Championship Standings after 13 of 18 races
- TIE, Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team / Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 199 points
- Maverick Viñales, Spain, Movistar Yamaha, 183
- Valentino Rossi, Italy, Movistar Yamaha, 157
- Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 150
- Johann Zarco, France, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 110
- Danillo Petrucci, Italy, Pramac Ducati, 95
- Cal Crutchlow, U.K., LCR Honda, 92
- Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Ducati Team, 90
- Jonas Folger, Germany, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 84
Next race September 24, Aragon, Spain.