Spaniard Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) has extended his lead in the 2016 MotoGP™ world title after claiming a stunning victory at Sachsenring in Germany ahead of Briton Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) and Italian Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team).
The 30-lap race began on a wet track – which had spectacularly claimed the scalp of Marquez in morning warm-up – but with the rain having subsided a dry line started to appear from about mid-race distance with Dovizioso leading the way and Marquez having already run off at turn eight.
With the drying dynamics in play, Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) was the first big gun to enter the pits, swapping to his second intermediate tyre-laden machine, while Marquez followed soon after but returned to the track on slicks.
That proved to be a masterstroke from the Honda factory team as his lap times were immediately four seconds faster than the leading group on wets – which also included Australia's Assen hero, Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) and Crutchlow. Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati) had earlier crashed out of the lead.
Eventually, all the leading group swapped to slick-shod machines, but it was all too late as Marquez's pre-emptive strike saw him carve his way back into the lead and win by nearly 10 seconds. He now remains undefeated in all classes at Sachsenring since 2010, which includes the last four MotoGP™ races.
Meanwhile, it was a disaster for Marquez's two main championship rivals, with world champion Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha) never in the hunt as he finished 15th, while Rossi got pipped in the dying stages of the last lap by Miller to finish eighth.
“At a certain point today, I thought my run at this circuit was going to come to an end, but in the end we succeeded and earned a very good result, especially considering how Valentino [Rossi] and Jorge [Lorenzo] finished the race," said Marquez. "I’m very happy with how we worked with the team today: they did a great job preparing my bike after my crash in the warm-up, and then in the race our strategy proved to be perfect.
"It was a very difficult race, with it being flag-to-flag and the track conditions so delicate. In the first part of the race, in the wet, I found things a little difficult. I had picked the wrong front tyre for my riding style, but I was able to switch to slicks. I was very careful in the opening laps after changing bikes, because the dry line was very narrow and there was still a lot of water on the surface.
"It’s always very difficult to decide when to change bikes, and perhaps we made our switch very early – I think I was the second rider to do so – but I decided to take a chance and it went well. We end the first half of the season with our homework done and off the back of a good race, but we must not forget to prepare well for the second half of the year.”
Marquez now leads the championship by 48pts (170 to 122) over Lorenzo at the halfway mark in the season, with Rossi a further 11pts behind in third. The summer break now kicks in before the title resumes in Austria from August 12-14.
Meanwhile, Crutchlow and Dovizioso finished second and third after passing Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati) in the final stages. It was Crutchlow's first podium finish since Argentina in 2015.
Iannone was fifth from Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), Miller, Rossi, front row starter Hector Barbera (Avintia Racing Ducati) and Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini). Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was the second rider to crash out, while local man Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) didn't start after he had a bad spill in warm-up and suffered concussion.
Miller led the race briefly during the flurry of pit stops, but admitted he stayed out too long on wet tyres.
“It was a really good race and I can be happy with the result, but in all honesty I should have trusted my team more and come in earlier for the bike change," said Miller. "It’s a real shame I stayed out a little bit too long because I am sure I could have been standing on the podium again. It was a tough call to make and there was about seven laps to go and I kept thinking about finishing the race on the wet tyres.
"It was frustrating to see everybody come flying by me and I knew I had to come in and change. As soon as I went back out on slicks I just said ‘why didn’t I do this earlier?’ It was a big lesson for me to take on board but it was my first real flag-to-flag race and it is good experience for me.
"I still had a lot of fun racing at the front with the likes of Valentino and I nearly passed Dani on the last lap to take the top six. When I was out on the slicks at the end my pace was really competitive and that gives me a big boost of confidence for the future.”
- Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda, 47m03.239s
- Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda +9.857s
- Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati Team, +11.613s
Pole position: Marquez, 1m21.160s = 162.8km/h
Fastest lap: Crutchlow 1m25.017s = 155.4km/h
Championship top 3: Marquez 170 • Jorge Lorenzo 122 • Valentino Rossi 111
World champion Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorpsort) is on a high at the moment, wet or dry, and so it was again as the Frenchman won ahead of German Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Julian Simon (QMMF Racing Team).
On a wet track, Folger made a brave lunge up the inside of his soon-to-be 2017 MotoGP™ teammate on the final corner of the race, but ran just a little bit wide allowing Zarco to win the drag to the finish line.
“I'm very happy. It was a very difficult race, especially riding in the rain," said Zarco. "Normally the track dries out as the laps go by, but today it was raining for most of the race, the track was completely wet and that made it very easy to crash.
"I saw that my pace was good and I preferred not to risk things, because I had a couple of scares. At the end, what I wanted was to be at the front and I felt good on the bike. When the team told me Rins was out of the race I relaxed a bit but did not want to stop – I wanted to win.
"On the last corner I tried to shut the door; Folger passed me but he was going too fast and I was able to recover the position. It was nice to win in these conditions and the outcome for the world championship is better than I could have expected. Now it is time to enjoy the summer break.”
Zarco shared co-leadership with Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) heading into Sachsenring, but he's now 25pts clear after Rins crashed out of third place with three laps to go. Another leading championship light, Briton Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini), also fell as did others like Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS pair Franco Morbidelli and Alex Marquez, Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) and polesitter Takaaki Nakagami (Honda Team Asia).
Nakagami finished in 11th position after remounting, while Australia's Remy Gardner (Tasca Racing Scuderia) scored points in 12th position. Gardner said: The race was tough today, it was my first time on a Moto2 bike in the wet and while I wasn't super-fast our mission was to finish the race and we did that."
- Johann Zarco, Ajo Motorsport, 47m18.656s
- Jonas Folger, Dynavolt Intact, +0.059s
- Julian Simon, QMMF Racing Team, +20.433s
Australian: 12. Remy Gardner, Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2, +1:13.865s
Pole position: Takaaki Nakagami, Idemitsu Honda Team Asia, 1m24.274s = 156.8km/h
Fastest lap: Xavier Simeon, QMMF Racing Team, 1m36.619s = 136.7km/h
Championship top 3: Zarco 151 • Alex Rins 126 • Sam Lowes 121
Despite a few nervous moments along the way, Malaysia’s wet-weather demon Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia) cruised to his second win of the year.
By the end of the first lap Pawi had shot from 20th to seventh, and he was in the lead by lap five. As lap 14 began he ran off track, a clear warning sign to ease off. But he didn’t relent, growing his lead with each lap and crossing the line 11.131secs ahead of Andrea Locatelli (Leopard Racing KTM), with polesitter Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Honda) filling the last podium spot.
“Many thanks to my team which is always working hard for me," said Pawi. "This race was hard for me because I made a lot of drama and then I saved the crash. I pushed a little bit and I say 'okay, maybe cool down'. Then I managed the time until the finish. Many thanks to everyone who has supported me and I hope my family and my friends enjoyed!”
Further down the order, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) battled for seventh place, neither wanting to risk as much as the likes of Pawi with a championship on the line. Navarro would win the battle, crossing the line in seventh and gaining one point on Binder, who was eighth.
- Khairul Idham Pawi, Honda Team Asia, 47m07.763s
- Andrea Locatelli, Leopard Racing KTM, +11.131s
- Enea Bastianini, Gresini Racing Honda, KTM +13.359s
Pole position: Bastianini, 1m27.129s = 151.6km/h
Fastest lap: Pawi, 1m42.544s = 128.8km/h
Championship top 3: Brad Binder 159 • Jorge Navarro 112 • Romano Fenati 93
Next round: Red Bull Ring, Austria, August 12-14