BARCELONA, Spain – Spanish riders were well in control of things at their home race on the Catalunya circuit on the outskirts of this southern Spanish city, where many of them live. First up, Alex Marquez won the Moto 3 race from pole, his first pole position and second GP victory.
He was succeeded by his great friend Tito Rabat who took the Moto 2 race from pole position, and in the Moto GP final, Alex’s older brother Marc continued his unbelievable season by winning his seventh race in seven tries – albeit not from pole this time, and not easily.
It was the first time in the 65 years of GP competition that siblings have won races on the same day, and also marked Honda’s 100th victory in the modern four-stroke GP era. And something to think about for the future – Mark Marquez continues to insist his little brother is faster than he is.
Marquez’s half-second margin of victory in no way described the race. A resurgent Valentino Rossi led most of the contest on his factory Yamaha, giving way only in the last few laps to Marquez, and briefly also to Marquez’s Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa. However, Pedrosa made a mistake on the last lap, actually running into Marquez and going wide, letting Rossi through for another second-place on the podium, while Pedrosa recovered to take third.
Perhaps the highlight of the race was in park fermé after the race, when Rossi walked over to Marquez and grabbed him by the neck as though to throttle him, before both dissolved in laughter. Wonderful to see racers at that level still enjoying the game!
Rossi’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo grabbed the lead with another great start, but was summarily dispatched by Rossi on the third lap, then ditto by Marquez and Pedrosa. The Yamaha twice-world champion was disconsolate after the race, saying “I’m a little bit disappointed … but unfortunately I couldn’t open the gap I wanted in the first lap. When Vale passed me … I couldn’t ride like when I am alone. The bike was working well in braking but in the last two corners where we were very strong last year, we weren’t this year. In acceleration I started losing grip and when I followed Dani it was impossible to stay with him.”
Marquez said, “I am delighted with this win … I missed out on pole for the first time this season and had my first crash of the year. The race was very hard with a battle against Dani, Jorge, and Valentino. I think that the last few corners were especially spectacular, with the moves by Valentino and Dani. I am very happy about taking another 25 points and also to win on the same day as my brother at home in front of all our fans! It’s something very special.”
Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda MotoGP) rode a lonely race to fifth, staying in position despite running wide early on and philosophically saying that it was the best the team could have expected – “best non-factory result!” – in spite of running with the Fab Four early on. Aleix Espargaro (NGM Forward Racing) finished just under two seconds in front of his brother Pol (Monster Yamaha Tech3) in sixth, the brothers living so close to the track they were able to walk home.
The top 10 was completed by Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Andrea Iannone (Pramac Racing Ducati) and Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech3).
Alvaro Bautista (Go&Fun Honda Gresini) and Cal Crutchlow (Ducati Team) both retired due to technical issues, Baustista resigned and Crutchlow furious at his third retirement this year from technical problems. It won’t be any surprise if he exercises his option to terminate his Ducati contract at the end of the season – but with almost all riders out of contract at the end of 2014 (except Marquez, who’s upped with Repsol Honda for another two years) everything is up in the air at the moment in terms of who’s riding where next year.
The Moto 2 race in one sense unexpectedly was a bit dull for the first half; as the riders up front spread out quickly. Local ace Tito Rabat basically grabbed the race by the neck and shook it to death, he and Maverick Vinales quickly clearing off from the rest of the group, the two slowly separating after the half-way point.
But behind them, the race for the third spot on the podium quickly became a madhouse, with at one point nine riders in contention for the spot. That third place eventually went to Frenchman Johann Zarco on his Caterham, the new-for-2014 team’s first podium, to the delirious joy of the entire team in the pit.
Zarco’s collection of the last podium spot came on a wild last lap at the expense of Mika Kallio and Thomas Luthi. Dominic Aegetter and Jordi Torres were also in the mix, until Torres fell and Aegetter performed miracles in avoiding the fallen rider, but lost too much time to recover in the process.
The top five was completed by Mattia Pasini and Richard Cardus, both running for teams also entered in Moto GP (NGM Forward Racing and Tech 3, respectively).
The result leaves Rabat firmly in the cat-bird seat in the championship, with his Marc VDS Racing team-mate Kallio in second place.
In a dramatic departure for Moto 3 races, the eventual winner, pole-sitter Alex Marquez, simply took off from the lights and was never seen again. It was a dramatic and impressive performance from the Estrella Galicia rider.
Behind him, however, it was business as usual, with the next eight or nine riders squabbling over second, and everyone else fighting over 10th; terrific stuff to watch. Second finally fell to Enea Bastianini, the 16-year-old Italian grabbing a GP podium on his Go&Fun KTM after qualifying a spectacular second behind Marquez in only his seventh Grand Prix. Veteran Efren Vasquez pushed, squeaked, and bullied his way through to a well-deserved final podium spot.
Championship leader Jack Miller was mired in eighth to 10th most of the race, but suddenly came alive on the last lap, moving from eighth to fourth on the final race to the flag, while nearest title rival Romano Fenati (Sky Racing Team VR46) grabbed fifth to stay close to Aussie Miller.
World championship standings after seven of 18 races
1. Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 175 points
2. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Yamaha Factory Racing, 117
3. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 112
4. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Yamaha Factory Racing, 78
5. Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati Racing Team, 71
6. Pol Espargaro, Spain, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 58
7. Aleix Espargaro, Spain, NGM Forward Racing Yamaha, 54
8. Stefan Bradl, Germany, LCR Honad, 50
9. Andrea Iannone, Italy, Pramac Racing Ducati, 41
10. Bradley Smith, U.K., Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 40
Next race June 28, Assen Circuit, The Netherlands