Marc Marquez's peerless form at Sachsenring has continued as the Spaniard bagged his eighth straight victory at the German circuit on July 2 – but it only came after a massive battle with an unlikely foe.
Instead of the reigning world champion's regular adversaries sparring with him, this time it was Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) riding out of his skin in front of his home fans to push the Repsol Honda star the whole way in the 30-lapper.
Folger actually led the race for about five laps in the early stages before Marquez, who started from pole position, moved back in front and went onto take a momentous victory and inherit the lead in the 2017 MotoGP™ championship from Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team).
Marquez won by 3.310 seconds from Folger, followed by Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), Movistar Yamaha pair Maverick Vinales and Valentine Rossi, Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Ducati), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Dovizioso.
It was Marquez's 31st MotoGP™ win, which drew him level with four-time world 500 GP champion Eddie Lawson. And he also dedicated the win to another special American.
"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," said Marquez.
"I knew before the weekend that this was an important moment in the championship and that the Sachsenring was an important circuit for us. It was the place to take a risk if necessary and to try to win. So I’m happy we took these 25 points and the lead in the championship before the summer break.
"The race was very tight. Honestly, before the start I thought I would have to battle with Dani. 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 championship is very close with four riders within 10 points and with Dani also not far away. Everything is open, so we’ll keep the same mentality, the same positivity and hard work."
Folger was elated that he was finally able to put together such a towering performance.
"In the past, (my teammate) Johann (Zarco) had a lot of good races whereas I sometimes didn’t because I made some small mistakes, but today I finally feel like I showed my potential," said Folger.
"I don’t really know what to say other than I am so happy and I still can’t quite believe what we achieved! I especially showed that I can get on the podium, which is a super feeling and a big boost for my confidence.
"I think that we have to enjoy this moment and take the positive points that we made here to Brno and into the rest of the season.
While Pedrosa had a lonely race for third once he lost touch with the leaders, Vinales had to pick his way through from 11th on the grid to finish fourth – just enough to remain second in the championship.
Vinales is now on 124pts, behind Marquez (129) and in front of Dovizioso (123), Rossi (119) and Pedrosa (103).
Meanwhile, Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) completed the top 10, with Aussie Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda) taking the last point on offer in 15th position.
“The front tyre was fine for the race distance but the rear was a different matter, it just didn’t work the way I expected it to after practice," said Miller. "The tyre was spinning on both sides from the start and three laps into the race it felt like it had already done the 30-lap race distance.
"And with so many left-hand turns with 10 laps to go I was pretty much out of grip, it was a strange feeling. I was expecting a really strong race here so this is a disappointing result but I go to the summer break determined to return with a strong finish to the season.”
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda, 40m59.525s
Jonas Folger, Monster Yamaha Tech 3, +3.310s
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda +11.546s
15. Jack Miller, EG 0,0 Marc VDS, +37.771s
Pole position: Marquez, 1m27.302s = 151.3km/h
Fastest lap and new record: Folger, 1m21.442s = 162.2km/h
Championship top 3
Marquez 129 • Vinales 124 • Dovizioso 123
Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) took another impressive win – his sixth in nine races – after first being hunted by championship rival Tom Lüthi (CarXpert Interwetten) and then Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo).
Luthi crashed, while Oliveira remained in the hunt until the end – the Portugese rider even moving into the lead at the end of the penultimate lap. Morbidelli hit back though, and managed to keep the door firmly closed around the last lap.
“After this sixth win of the season I am living the dream and don’t want to wake up," said Morbidelli, who will move up to MotoGP™ in 2018.
"It was a very difficult race especially to defend the lead against Miguel who caught me very fast in the middle of the race. But then he did not overtake and if he had done I would have been struggling. I was getting ready for a big battle over the final two laps. It was not easy but I did a very good final lap and that gave me the victory."
Rookie Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) completed the podium ahead of Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) and Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team). Pasini's fifth place was soured somewhat after he also received notification of a technical infringement at the Catalan GP for using an oil outside the FIM Moto2 specifications. He lost all points from that round.
Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), a two-time winner in 2017, also crashed out, while it was an excellent 12th place for Australian Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) – equalling his best ever result in Moto2.
"I think we have made a big jump. The new KYB front forks that we had this weekend really made the difference and I am sure that we can now move even further forward and find the next step," said Gardner.
"I had a strong pace throughout the race, especially in the final third where I caught (Hafizh) Syahrin and passed him twice on the last lap but he just beat me to the line.
"It's great to be able to head into the summer break equaling my best ever Moto2 result and with the confidence that we made a really good step forward with the bike."
- Franco Morbidelli EG 0,0 Marc VDS, 41m05.137s
- Miguel Oliveira, Red Bull KtM Ajo, +0.066s
- Francesco Bagnaia, Sky Racing Team VR46, +0.574s
12. Remy Gardner, Tech 3 Racing, +21.533s
Pole position: Morbidelli, 1m32.159s = 143.3km/h
Fastest lap and new record: Oliveira, 1m24.483s = 156.4km/h
Championship top 3
Morbidelli 173 • Tom Luthi 136 • Oliveira 114
Joan Mir (Leopard Racing Honda) made his move on the final lap to hold it over the line after a tight three-way fight for the win alongside Romano Fenati (Marinelli Rivacold Snipers Honda) and Marcos Ramirez (Platinum Bay Real Estate KTM) – the latter bagging his first world championship podium.
Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46 KTM), Philipp Oettl (Schedl Racing KTM) and Enea Bastianini (EG 0,0 Honda) completed the top six, while those to go down included
polesitter Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0), fast rookie Tony Arbolino (SIC58 Corse Honda), John McPhee (British Talent Team Honda) and Danny Kent (Red Bull KTM Ajo).
Mir now leads the championship by 37pts over new second place man, Fenati.
- Joan Mir, Leopard Racing Honda, 39m34.775s
- Romano Fenati, Marinelli Rivacold Snipers Honda, +0.121s
- Marco Ramirez, Platinum Bay Real Estate KTM, +0.218s
Pole position: Aron Canet, Eg 0,0 Honda, 1m26.688s = 152.4km/h
Fastest lap: Mir, 1m27.340s = 151.3km/h
Championship top 3
Mir 165 • Fenati 128 • Canet 110
Next round: Brno, Czech Repubic, August 4-6