Pole position on Saturday put Jorge Martin in prime position to take a sixth win of the season, and with his main title rival Marco Bezzecchi only qualifying sixth, the Spaniard had a good opportunity to reduce the points deficit he faced going into the 2018 Moto3 San Marino Rimini Riviera Grand Prix.
From the start, though, the race did not go entirely that way. It was a tough opening lap for Martin, who dropped to fourth by the end of it, and then to fifth by the end of lap two. He had dropped as far as sixth in the second lap, but passed Jaume Masia in the final corner to reclaim a top five spot.
Martin’s move caused a chain reaction. Masia reacted to Martin’s attack by opening the throttle harder and earlier to try and not lose another position down the straight or in turn one, but he lost the rear and high-sided. Aron Canet and Ayumu Sasaki got caught up with Masia, also falling, and then, with nowhere to go, both Enea Bastianini and Nicolo Bulega collected Canet and Sasaki and fell themselves. Thankfully, everyone involved was largely okay. Bulega and Bastianini both returned to their garages, whilst Canet and Sasaki went to the medical centre. Canet got away with no major injuries, whilst Sasaki came off the worst of everyone from the crash, suffering a broken arm.
This created a big gap between Martin in fifth and Adam Norrodin behind. The group of five which now convincingly led the race consisted of: Bezzecchi, Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Fabio Di Giannantonio, Gabriel Rodrigo and Jorge Martin. The quintet traded places amongst themselves for the remainder of the race, staying as a ten-wheeler almost the whole distance.
For the championship, the word “almost” is quite important. Marco Bezzecchi tipped into turn fifteen on the penultimate lap of the race leading from Jorge Martin, and looked good to win the race, after a strong home GP to that point. However, when he hit the bump in the middle of the corner, he lost the rear, and he fell off the low-side. His race was run, a fantastic ride up to then, but in a twenty-three lap race, you have to complete all twenty-three of them to stand a chance of scoring points, and for one error, Bezzecchi completed only twenty-one.
Jorge Martin contacted Bezzecchi when he fell, and was lucky to stay on himself. Somehow, the Spaniard only dropped to second place after the contact, behind Dalla Porta who led onto the final lap.
Despite all the position changes that had happened up to the final lap of the race, there was little change on the final lap.
Fabio Di Giannantonio, though, he passed Jorge Martin early in the lap to move into second, and made an attempt to pass Dalla Porta in the final corner. The pair ran wide, whilst Martin sat back, and got a good run through T16 to put himself in position to pass them by the line. However, Dalla Porta had enough momentum to fend off the #88, and took his first ever Grand Prix win.
It was the #48’s 48th start, a number chosen by the Italian because his grandmother was born in the year 1948, an aligning of planets that no doubt did not pass the 2016 Moto3 Junior World Champion by, and the numerical links to Shoya Tomizawa have not gone unnoticed, either. And the coincidental numbers did not end there: Dalla Porta won by 0.058 seconds, in the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.
But the biggest thing Dalla Porta will take away from this victory is that he can win in Grand Prix. The way he did it, too, was very impressive, as Dalla Porta did not drop out of the top three between lap two and the end of the race. At the beginning of the weekend, Dalla Porta was announced to be remaining with the Leopard Honda team for 2019, and at the end of it he might have just announced himself as a title contender for next year as well.
After Bezzecchi’s penultimate lap crash, Jorge Martin’s second place is invaluable for his championship. Just one month ago he was going to Austria with the idea that a 28-point deficit in the championship to Bezzecchi would be not so bad, and two races later he is leading the title race by eight points, and with a track coming up next which could suit him and the Honda very well indeed. Not only did Martin out-score Bezzecchi by twenty points this weekend, but he also beat Fabio Di Giannantonio, taking four more points out of the Italian who might be the only rider outside of the top two who continues to have realistic hopes of the championship.
Di Giannantonio’s third place was his second podium in three races. This shows that he can be competitive on many tracks, but the problem for his championship is the twelfth place that lies in the middle. Not only that, but the way he arrived at that twelfth place – by being too aggressive. It’s becoming a characteristic of Di Giannantonio’s riding that he makes some arguably ‘over-the-limit’ moves, such as on Martin in Sachsenring which caused Fabio to crash. He got away with one in Misano, too, when he nearly cleaned out two riders in turn fourteen, although in the end he only cost himself positions.
Bezzecchi’s crash detached Gabriel Rodrigo from the group slightly, and he ended up a little bit adrift in fourth place by the end. However, the race itself of Rodrigo shows the step he has made this year. In the past, he would have lost the pace after five or ten laps, or he would have crashed. Perhaps the secret to this step by Rodrigo is found in his training partners for 2018, who are Jorge Martin and Maverick Vinales, two experts of race management.
Six-and-a-half seconds back of the lead was Jakub Kornfeil in fifth place, who had a pretty lonely race after the lap two crash, building a gap to the riders behind, and never really closing on the leaders.
Dennis Foggia was the first of those riders behind, and it was his best result of the season. He had a good weekend, too, and put himself in the right position to take advantage of the lap two crash. He couldn’t quite go with Kornfeil, especially towards the end when his times fell away which is becoming a bit of a trait of his races. But he kept hold of seventh place from Darryn Binder – who came home in eighth – and perhaps this result will start some momentum for the reigning Moto3 Junior World Champion.
Behind Binder in 9th place was Andrea Migno, who came up through the field well from his grid position of 19th, whilst Niccolo Antonelli completed the top ten.