Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) must have thought his 2016 title hopes had been seriously dented when he crashed in training ahead of the British GP and broke his collarbone. With nothing going to script, however, after the end of the race in Brno had seen the gap between Rins and title leader Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) drop to 19 points, an on-track tangle between Zarco and P3 title contender Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) a week later in the UK saw both fail to score. Rins, who qualified in P19 on the grid at Silverstone as he struggled with the injury, crossed the line in P7 after a stunning ride through the pain barrier that saw him prove the only title contender on the day to make a gain. Zarco was penalized for irresponsible riding after making contact with Lowes in the fight for the podium, and was classified in P22 in the final results – with Lowes just ahead in 21st and neither scoring. The championship that seemed destined to be defended by the Frenchman is now wide open once again, with the gap only 10 points at the top as the paddock heads back to Italy.
The pressure is on. With Zarco having clawed back a sizable deficit since the earlier stages of the season to take over at the top, the Frenchman is now firmly in the crosshairs of his rivals once again. Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, which will will host the Gran Premio TIM di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, is a good familiar hunting ground for the reigning intermediate class champion, however. With a podium in 2014 on the third step of the podium, Zarco went two better in his title winning year to take the honours last season from then-champion Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 MarcVDS) – which should be a good memory as he prepares for another tough battle with the grid hot on his heels.
Rins’ memories of Misano in the Moto2™ class will be a little more mixed, after a challenge for the lead gone wrong in 2015 that later saw him black flagged. Despite the error on the day, the Spaniard will know he has the pace in Misano – having taken two wins in a row in the Moto3™ class in the preceding two race weekends at the Italian venue and been challenging at the front upon his graduation to Moto2™. With another few days for the collarbone to heal and his strength to improve, good damage limitation at the very least will be on the cards for the multiple GP winner – with even more motivation being so close to his championship rival once again.
Sam Lowes led every session at Silverstone until the lights went out for the race. The man most needing to cut down the gap as he remains 44 points behind the lead, Lowes was pushed wide by Zarco in the British GP in a move deemed to be the Frenchman’s fault by Race Direction, and lost control of his bike as the two riders headed off the track. Keeping calm and carrying on, the Brit crossed the line near the back in P21 after the incident and failed to score – but Zarco’s penalty classified the reigning champion one position lower. Looking forward, 2013 WorldSSP champion Lowes has taken a pole position and a podium in that championship at Misano, and will be hoping his experience counts as he encounters the venue once again in Moto2™. He has so far taken a P18 in his Moto2™ rookie year before suffering a DNF in 2015 at the Riviera di Rimini circuit, and will be looking further back to judge his form as the next race approaches quickly.
After the drama at Silverstone, another man to gain in the championship was Garage Plus Interwetten rider Tom Luthi. Luthi, who suffered a big crash in qualifying for the Czech GP the event previous and was forced to miss that race, came back in stunning style in Silverstone as the former 125 world champion escaped at the front and let the drama roll behind. Crossing the line with a comfortable lead over P2 man Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), Luthi’s 25 point haul saw him take back P4 in the title chase from Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) – and close to within 6 points of Lowes in P3. Luthi is 50 points down on Zarco at the top, but the landscape can change in an instant in motorcycle racing – and the experienced Swiss rider is more than aware of that. With a top ten finish or much better for Luthi in every Moto2™ visit to the Misano circuit – and a podium – the Interwetten-backed British GP winner will be focused forward as his title campaign relights.
Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) will be on the lookout for another podium at his home track, as will teammate Alex Marquez as he looks for another top 5. Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) was a frontrunner in the British GP too, along with Brno winner Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP), and the Moto2™ race is sure to be another classic as the grid roll back into Italy.
The Gran Premio TIM di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini begins on the 9th September with Free Practice, ahead of race day on Sunday 11th as the final countdown to Valencia starts to loom on the horizon.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko