Was it ever in doubt? Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) became the first rider since the late Daijiro Kato in 2001 to win the opening three races in the intermediate class of the MotoGP world championship, a hugely impressive feat. This shows what a talent the Italian is and you’d have to be a very brave man to bet against him to take the 2017 Moto2 championship. He also became the first Italian to win the opening three races of the year in the intermediate class since Luca Cadalora in 1992 and when you think of the amount of top Italians who have come through that class (Capirossi, Biaggi, Melandri, Rossi, Simoncelli, Pasini and Iannone to name all but a few) then you realise just how incredible he is.
Morbidelli was able to control the race from the front throughout, despite team mate Alex Marquez main title rival Thomas Luthi (CarXpert Interwetten), Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) and Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) challenging the series leader in the opening stages. The 22 year old was able to break the chasing group mid-way through the race, with Luthi remaining his closest challenger. Pasini, on for his best result of the season, then crashed out at turn one leaving the birthday boy Marquez and Nakagami to fight it out for the final position on the podium.
The 30 year old Swiss looked to be reeling Franco in at the front, but the former European Superstock 600 champion upped the pace to consolidate his lead and eventually took the flag by 2.6 seconds. 2nd place Luthi earned his 50th Grand Prix podium, whilst Nakagami was able to fend off Marquez to grab his second podium of the campaign.
Elsewhere in the race, there was a huge shunt at the first corner after Stefano Manzi (Sky Racing Team VR46) clattered into Julian Simon (Tech 3 Racing), taking both riders out of the race before completing a corner. The decision to put Manzi into the VR46 Moto2 team is looking increasingly like a mistake, with the young Italian failing to pick up any points in the opening three rounds. Another crash, this time at the end of the back straight saw Yonny Hernandez (AGR Team) make contact with Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Racing Team) and Jesko Raffin (Garage Plus Interwetten). The Colombian proving just how difficult it is to ride a Moto2 machine and be competitive, despite being used to much quicker MotoGP bikes.
Dominique Aegerter (Kiefer Racing) crossed the line in a brilliant 5th place to get his and Suter’s best finish of the season. Not such good news on the other side of the garage though as Danny Kent announced he was leaving the team due to “irreconcilable differences.” A huge shame for the 2015 Moto3 world champion, the first British rider to win a Grand Prix world championship since Barry Sheene. Kent took to Twitter to express his feelings: “I’m still hungry & determined & believe I can be competitive in Moto2. I wish Kiefer Racing the best for the future.” It is believed that Kent’s management are looking for an alternative ride for the rest of the season, so let’s hope he can jump on a competitive bike and prove that he can mix it in the intermediate class.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) continued his and KTM’s impressive start to the season, bringing home a solid 6th to put the Portuguese star 3rd in the championship to leave him 32 points behind Morbidelli. Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing) claimed seventh on a track that has often been a good one for the Speed Up chassis, with the last non Kalex win coming at COTA in 2015 with Sam Lowes on board. Corsi finished ahead of Marcel Schrötter (Intact Dynavolt GP) whilst Tech 3 Racing’s Xavi Vierge continues to massively impress on the out-of-favour chassis, he now lies 5th in the championship.
The battle for the top 10 saw Luca Marini (Forward Racing Team) beat Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia), with Fabio Quartararo (Pons HP 40) staging an impressive comeback in the latter half of the race into P12, finishing as top rookie once again.
Xavier Simeon (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) led Brad Binder’s injury replacement Ricky Cardus (Red Bull KTM Ajo) home in P13, with Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) completing the point’s scorers after a late mistake saw him drop positions, despite some impressive pace on board Sam Lowes’ old bike.
The field now head to Europe, as the ever popular Circuit de Jerez hosts the fourth round of the Moto2 world championship. Can anyone put a stop Morbidelli’s relentless title surge? For sure the Spaniards will be looking to claw back some of the deficit on home soil as it
promises to be another fascinating weekend of two wheeled racing.
Elliott York @journoyork