The racing Gods have smiled on Valentino Rossi. The Italian clearly didn't have the pace to run with Movistar Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) in the dry at Silverstone — but that was all turned on its head on race day when the heavens opened and the 36-year-old produced a superb rain dance to win the 20-lap race from Ducati pair Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) and Andrea Dovizioso.
It was Rossi's fourth victory of the season and his first at Silverstone. More pointedly, with Marquez crashing out on lap 13 and Lorenzo off the podium in fourth position, the championship momentum has now swung back in favour of Rossi — and ominously the next round is on his doorstep at Misano, were he is always a potent force.
Rossi leads the championship by 12pts (236 to 224) from Lorenzo with six rounds to go, while Marquez (159) has now cooked his goose as far as making it three titles on the trot.
"I'm very happy and proud of this victory," said Rossi. "I think that the last race on the wet that I won was 10 years ago. This morning I woke up feeling good, but my team also did a great job and my bike was fantastic already from the first lap of the warm up.
"I felt great and got more feeling and positive things from the bike, so I knew I could be competitive in the race. I fought a lot with Marc, which was very difficult. I kept trying to break away but he stayed with me. I saw that Marc crashed on the mega screen and I didn't hear noise of his bike, so I already thought that maybe something had happened.
"After he crashed I slowed down, because I thought I had enough of an advantage but in reality Danilo wasn't so far, so I had to recover my concentration and start to push, because if I didn't he would catch me."
The race began with Lorenzo getting the jump before Rossi and Marquez made their way to the front and started pulling away from the pack. Lorenzo dropped back into a big gaggle behind, which included Australian Jack Miller (CWM LCR) after a superb start on his Open class Honda. However, on lap three Miller went too hot into a turn, lost the front end and then took out his teammate Cal Crutchlow.
“I’m happy with the weekend, but of course not happy with the result of the race," said Miller. "I want to say a big sorry to Cal for taking him out, but we were both pushing hard. I didn’t actually mean to overtake him, I was just trying to hold Espargaro off on the brakes and accidently went too deep and touched him.
"It was an accident, but all in all it was a good weekend as we found some settings with the bike we became more comfortable with and I’m looking forward to Misano.
“Misano is a good track for me, I like it a lot. It will be a new surface this year so I look forward to seeing what the grip level is like as last year was quite low, but it should be interesting.”
Miller's indiscretion was heard by Race Direction, which slapped him with a penalty point for "irresponsible riding causing danger to other competitors".
Meantime Petrucci's best MotoGP finish came after he was fast in the wet morning warm-up, and in the race he made steady progress until he took over second spot on lap 14. At one stage he was only 1.6s behind Rossi, but his main concern was trying to keep Dovizioso behind him.
Lorenzo finished in fourth, unable to challenge Dovizioso for third in the final stages when his visor started fogging up.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda), Scott Redding (EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda), Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) completed the top eight. It was a big day for Redding, with the announcement that he was joining Petrucci at Pramac Racing in 2016, with 2014 Moto2 world champion Tito Rabat expected to take his spot at EG 0,0 Marc VDS Honda.
MotoGP Race Results
Iannone (150pts) is fourth in the standings from Dovizioso (120), Smith (115) and Pedrosa (102).
1. Valentino Rossi, Movistar Yamaha, 46m15.617s
2. Danilo Petrucci, Octo Pramac Racing, +3.010s
3. Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati Team, +4.117s
DNF. Jack Miller, CWM LCR Honda, +18 laps
Pole position: Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda, 2:00.234 = 176.6km/h
Fastest lap: Rossi, 2:16.486 = 155.6km/h
Championship top 3
Rossi 236 • Lorenzo 224 • Marquez 159
French flyer Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) cannot do wrong at the moment, and his 11th podium in a row was on the top step of the podium, with Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) and Tito Rabat (EG 0,0 Marc VDS ) completing the podium.
All the riders lined up on the grid with wet tyres, but the rain had stopped and a dry line started to appear almost immediately, which made tyre preservation critical. Zarco proved to be a master in that area while many others struggled.
“It has been a very positive weekend" said Zarco. "I had a crash on Friday and luckily I was not injured, but it taught me that you always have to be careful when you are fighting for the title, because the season is not over yet.
"The goal was to finish the race, but when the track was drying out I felt more comfortable than the other riders. I saw that Rins was sliding a lot, so after eight laps I took the lead, tried to escape and it worked perfectly. Another 25 points is fantastic. I have to thank the team, because the tyres held up well and my feeling was perfect. Let's see if we can continue like this at Misano.”
Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was fourth from Jonas Folger (AGR Team), while Australia's rain master Anthony West (QMMF Racing) was an excellent seventh behind polesitter Alex Lowes (Speed Up Racing).
Zarco's title lead is now 85pts (249 to 164) over new second-placed man Rins, with Rabat (161) slipping back to third.
Moto2 Race Results
1. Johann Zarco, Ajo Motorsport, 41m02.500s
2. Alex Rins, Paginas Amarillas HP40, +3.360s
3. Tito Rabat, EG 0,0 Marc VDS, +5.527s
7. Anthony West, QMMF Racing, +33.902s
Pole position: Sam Lowes, 2:06.345 = 168.1km/h
Fastest lap: Florian Alt, 2:13.742 = 158.8km/h
Championship top 3
Zarco 249 • Rins 164 • Rabat 161
Briton Danny Kent (Leopard Racing Honda) completely dominated proceedings in the wet, delighting the 73,000 spectators in the process. The Moto3 runners copped the worst weather of the day, with Kent taking the lead with 13 laps to go after Isaac Vinales (RBA Racing Team KTM) crashed.
Kent finished ahead of first-time Moto3 podium man Jakub Kornfeil (Drive M7 SIC KTM) and Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda), in a race with massive attrition: 16 out of the 36 riders failed to finish, including polesitter Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda) who didn't get past the first lap.
Kent became the first British rider to win at Silverstone in the lightweight class despite a huge moment in the latter stages as the weather worsened. He now has a 70pt lead over Gresini Racing Team Moto3’s Enea Bastianini after the Italian crashed out of fifth on the penultimate lap.
"It’s an amazing feeling to win your home round in front of this cheering crowd out there, but also my whole family is there and so many friends came to see me winning," said Kent. "The atmosphere was amazing too and it’s the same dream for every rider if you would like to win at any track of the calendar of course it’s your home grand prix which I’ve achieved today. I’m so happy about that.
"The championship is still open even though we won 25pts today, but on the other side we lost 21 points during the last two races. So you can win points as fast you can lose it. We just need to keep working hard until the very last race of the series.”
Australia's Remy Gardner (CIP Mahindra) was 17th. He said: “Today I had a very good opportunity to get a good result but I crashed in the third lap because water was making difficult to see the track in the middle of the group. Track was very slippery and race was like a lottery.
"After my 12th place in a wet warm-up I had good expectations for the race. After the crash, my bike was not in a perfect condition but I managed to finish the race just 2 places behind the points."
Next round: Misano, Italy, September 11-13
Moto3 Race Results
1. Danny Kent, Leopard Racing, 44m13.623s
2. Jakub Kornfeil, Drive M7 SIC, +8.492s
3. Niccolo Antonelli, Ongetta-Rivacold, +13.189s
17. Remy Gardner, CIP, +1:50.488s
Pole position: Jorge Navarro, Estrella Galicia 0,0, 2:12.440 = 160.3km/h
Fastest lap: Kent, 2:33.508 = 138.3km/h
Championship top 3
Kent 224 • Enea Bastianini 154 • Romano Fenati 126