World champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) closed a gap in his MotoGP resume — victory at Misano — in the most frenzied of circumstances on September 13, taking the win ahead of unlikely podium foes Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Scott Redding (EG 0,0 Marc VDS).
Precipitation and then a drying track necessitated two changes of bikes for all competitors, with championship leader Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) completing the 28-lap race in fifth — the first time he has been off the podium all year — while it was bad news for teammate Jorge Lorenzo: he crashed at high speed with seven laps to go.
The end result of all the mayhem is that Rossi has extended his championship lead to 23pts (247 to 224) over Lorenzo with five races still remaining, including Australia's Phillip Island on October 18.
"It's true that the championship is a lot more important that winning this race, it's the main target," said Rossi. "Unfortunately Jorge crashed and I was able to gain another 11pts. This is good for the championship, but it's a shame to miss out on the podium, because I wanted to arrive in the top three in front of all the spectators.
"It was a crazy race and when you have to change the bike, in this case twice, you need luck and rapid thinking to understand the situation. Fifth is still a good result and we're looking forward to the next race in Aragon.
"There are still five races left and unfortunately Lorenzo has the ability to win at every single one and Marquez is also always strong, so there are still a lot of points left to fight for."
The race started off normal enough, with polesitter Lorenzo ahead of Marquez, Rossi, Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) and Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team). Five laps it started to rain and then within a couple of laps all riders had swapped over to their second bikes with full wets. Rossi lost some time in the shuffle but was soon back mixing it with Lorenzo and Marquez.
The trio then remained in close company until Marquez was back in the pits with 10 laps to get back on his slick-shod bike. Lorenzo followed suit two laps later and Rossi three, but Lorenzo didn't last long after crashing at turn 15 when he lost the back end of his factory Yamaha.
After the second round of pit stops, Marquez was in the lead from Smith and Frenchman Loris Baz (Forward Racing), with Aussie Jack Miller (LCR Honda) in seventh. Redding then annexed the final podium spot from Baz in the closing stages, while Miller was hit with electrical problems and dropped back to 12th.
No such problems for Marquez, who played the race to perfection.
"It was a very strange race but I'm happy with the end result," said Marquez. "It is difficult to explain everything that happened during the race but I think the key was the second tyre change –from wets to slicks. That was where we made a difference and, believe it or not, it was not me who decided everything!
"The team informed me of the situation with the pit board and helped me decide when to come in to change bikes, and I have to thank them! Also Honda, because we keep working and doing our best, even though our title chances are slim, so our target to the end of the year remains; the more wins the better!"
Marquez also kept his slim championship hopes alive, moving along to 184pts, 63 behind Rossi. A maximum of 125pts are available in the final five races.
Meantime Redding's first podium in MotoGP was well received. Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing Ducati) was sixth, from Iannone, Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati), Pedrosa and Aleix Espargaro (Suzuki Ecstar).
1. Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda, 48m23.819s
2. Bradley Smith, Monster Yamaha Tech 3, +7.288s
3. Scott Redding, EG 0,0 Marc VDS, +18.793s
12. Jack Miller, CWM LCR Honda, +46.075
Pole position: Jorge Lorenzo, Movistar Yamaha, 1:32.146 = 165.1km/h
Fastest lap and new record: Lorenzo, 1:33.273 = 163.1km/h
Championship top 3
Valentino Rossi 247 • Lorenzo 224 • Marquez 184
Frenchman Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) has one hand on the Moto2 trophy after another dominant victory, this time assisted by a 'clash and crash' between Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) and Dominique Aegerter (Technomag Racing Interwetten).
Zarco then controlled proceedings to win his sixth race of the year, finishing four seconds ahead of reigning world champion Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Racing), with Japan's Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Simone Corsi (Forward Racing) and Julian Simon (QMMF Racing Team) completing the top five. Australia's Anthony West (QMMF Racing) was 15th.
Zarco has now scored three consecutive wins for the first time, and also equals the number of career wins by a French rider with seven, held by Arnaud Vincent, Olivier Jacque and Christian Sarron.
Zarco has a 93pt lead over Rabat, and he could secure the title in Aragon if he finishes the race 100 or more points ahead of the Spaniard. With six wins Zarco would take the title on virtue of more victories even if the pair was tied on points at the end of the season.
“It was an odd race because the conditions changed so much from the rest of the weekend," said Zarco. "This made us doubt which tyres to use. I finally chose the hard rubber, while Aegerter went out with the soft, so it was very easy for him to be strong at the front. The fact that Rins came into the fight with him helped me to concentrate on my riding, until both of them crashed.
"However, I thought Tito (Rabat) could have reached me, because I was not feeling very fast. In the end he didn’t."
1. Johann Zarco, Ajo Motorsport, 42m38.009s
2. Tito Rabat, EG 0,0 Marc VDS, +3.850s
3. Takaaki Nakagami, Idemitsu Honda Team Asia, +5.388s
15. Anthony West, QMMF Racing, +33.312s
Pole position: Zarco, 1:36.754 = 157.2km/h
Fastest lap and new record: Jonas Folger, Team AGR, 1:37.422 = 156.1km/h
Championship top 3
Zarco 274 • Rabat 181 • Rins 164
Seventeen-year-old local rider Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Honda) got the sold-out 90,000 Misano crowd to its feet early on, winning his first GP from race-long combatants Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda).
Other riders in the leading group included Romano Fenati (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who finished in fourth and fifth. Championship leader Danny Kent (Leopard Racing Honda) was at the back of the leading group mid-way through the race but was forced to give up a position after exceeding track limits at turn six a number of times. Unfortunately for the Brit the nearest rider was four seconds back and he had to slow to let them pass, ending any chance he had of a podium as he eventually crossed the line in sixth.
But whether Kent could have beaten Bastianini is another thing, with the Italian elated after his breakthrough win. He said: “It was the greatest thrill of my life! After having missed the win so many times, to get it here in Misano, in front of all these fans, it’s a great feeling, which makes me feel satisfied.
"I dedicate this success to my family and my team. It’s an amazing emotion, and right now I still have to realize well what happened. We are going to celebrate tonight, but not too much because tomorrow we have a day of testing and we want to continue to work hard to try to catch Kent in the championship. This victory probably will make me even more confident: there are still five races and I think that we can recover the gap from Kent. We will fight till the end”.
Australia's Remy Gardner (CIP Mahindra) crashed out with 17 laps to go while in the top 20.
1. Enea Bastianini, Gresini Racing Honda, 39m43.673s
2. Miguel Oliveira, Red Bull KTM Ajo, +0.037s
3. Niccolo Antonelli, Ongetta-Rivacold Honda, +0.345s
DNF. Remy Gardner, CIP, +17 laps
Pole position: Bastianini, 1:42.486 = 148.4km/h
Fastest lap and new record: Antonelli, 1:42.841 = 147.9km/h
Championship top 3
Danny Kent 234 • Bastianini 179 • Romano Fenati 139
Next round: Aragon, Spain September 25-27.
Image courtesy www.motogp.com