Injured Fernandez claims fifth victory of 2021

Spain’s Raul Fernandez took the fifth win of his rookie Moto2 season, despite undergoing surgery during the week for a broken bone in his right hand after a training incident.

2021 MVDS team during the 2021 Season of World Motorcycle Championship 2021 race 13 GP of Aragon in Motorland de Aragon, Alcaniz Spain © 2021 mirco lazzari mircolazzari@yahoo.it

Round 13 of the 2021 Moto2 season took us to the Motorland circuit in Aragon, and the weight of expectation sat firmly on the shoulders of Britain’s Sam Lowes. Holder of several Moto2 track records including most wins, most pole starts, best race lap and all time lap record, plus winning here in 2020, history seemed set to repeat itself after he qualified in pole position.

But it wasn’t meant to be. Fernandez, starting from 3rd place on the grid, passed his teammate Remy Gardner on the first lap to move up into 2nd and on lap 2 passed Lowes to take the lead. Doubts lingered over whether Raul would be able to maintain the blistering pace, but he held on to first place for the remainder of the race, with Lowes remaining comfortably in second until crashing out at turn 7 on lap 13. Fernandez crossed the finish line over 7 seconds ahead of 2nd place Gardner.

2021 MVDS team during the 2021 Season of World Motorcycle Championship 2021 race 13 GP of Aragon in Motorland de Aragon, Alcaniz Spain © 2021 mirco lazzari mircolazzari@yahoo.it

Tyre options for the weekend were medium or supersoft, with the vast majority of the field opting for the latter. Tyre preservation was a concern, and potentially a factor in the high rate of attrition, with crashes including Dalla Porta on lap 8, Lowes on lap 13, Bezzecchi on lap 10, Bulega on lap 18 and Chantra on lap 19, all fortunately escaping uninjured.

Gardner found himself in a battle for 3rd with Ai Ogura and Hector Garzo; on lap 5 he managed to gain and hold onto the place, with Garzo crashing out shortly after. Ogura dropped back to 7th place after being passed by Aron Canet and Marco Bezzecchi, and eventually finished 8th, even despite Bezzecchi crashing out on the corkscrew on lap 10.

The fight for third place then raged between Jorge Navarro, Aron Canet & Augusto Fernandez, swapping back and forth, with Augusto finally crossing the line 1.5 seconds behind second place Gardner.

2021 MVDS team during the 2021 Season of World Motorcycle Championship 2021 race 13 GP of Aragon in Motorland de Aragon, Alcaniz Spain © 2021 mirco lazzari mircolazzari@yahoo.it

Next weekend takes us to the San Marino Grand Prix, with Gardner maintaining his lead at the top of the championship with 251 points, 39 points ahead of second place Raul Fernandez. This weekend’s non-finishes for Bezzecchi and Lowes mean that the gap is widening between the Red Bull KTM Ajo teammates and the rest of the championship, but with five rounds still to go, what further surprises lie in store?

First fifteen riders:

1              Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 25 points

2              Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 20

3              Augusto Fernandez SPA – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 16

4              Jorge Navarro SPA – Lightech Speed Up – 13

5              Aron Canet SPA – Aspar Team Moto2 – 11

6              Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 10

7              Fermín Aldeguer SPA – +Ego Speed Up – 9

8              Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 8

9              Tony Arbolino ITA Liqui Moly Intact GP – 7

10           Simone Corsi ITA – MV Agusta Forward Racing – 6

11           Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact GP – 5

12           Marcos Ramirez                SPA – American Racing – 4

13           Joe Roberts USA – Italtrans Racing Team                – 3

14           Cameron Beaubier USA – American Racing – 2

15           Celestino Vietti ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 1

From pole to maiden win!

Qualifying:

Warm weather and good track conditions saw Ducati dominate in Spain.

Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) took an all-time lap record for pole position and Ducati’s 50th pole in the Moto GP class while his team-mate took a sensational second. From Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), who rounded off front row in third.

Ducati one-two in qualifying. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Aragon saw the return of Maverick Vinales, on an Aprilia (his new team for 2022) and last weekends two Brits – Jake Dixon, riding for Petronas Yamaha and Cal Crutchlow, riding for the factory Yamaha.

Race:

Track temperature remained at a high level, reaching 42degrees by lights out. The Ducati’s had been superb in qualifying but Marc Marquez (Honda) was on home-ground with numerous victories already in place at the Aragon circuit. Starting from fourth on the grid, on a track better suited for his injured shoulder, could he perform at his best once again to take two victories this season?

Bagnaia was quick off the line but it was Marquez who soared up to 2nd place, ahead of Jack Miller (Ducati) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia). Unfortunately, luck was not on Alex Marquez’s (Honda) side and he took a tumble on the first lap.

Fabio’s luck didn’t go too well for him either and he went from 3rd to 7th. Could he work his way back through the pack?

Good luck however was on the side of last years race winner Alex Rins (Suzuki), who had risen 5 places from where he started on the grid.

Lap two saw Britain’s Jake Dixon crash in sector 2, bringing an early end to his second Moto GP race.

Soon Quartararo and Brad Binder (KTM) were scrapping for 7th place but while that was happening Bagnaia claimed fastest lap. Putting in a lot of effort to try and break free of Marquez, but Marquez never released him and constantly sat on his rear – watching.

Binder. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

By lap five, Rins had made good progress and was up to 12th place and there were mini battles forming throughout the pack – Miguel Oliveira (KTM) and Johann Zarco (Ducati) fought for 14th place, while Iker Lecuona (KTM) and Brad Binder (KTM) fought for 8th place.

Marquez soon stole fastest lap from Bagnaia, all the while watching and formulating a plan.

Bagnaia leading. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

All the riders, apart from Zarco, had chosen to use hard front Michelin tyres and soft rear. Did Zarco know something the others didn’t? Would we see a change in pace later on in the race?

First and second started to break away from Miller in third and 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th created their own group.

With 12 laps to go Miller went wide and A. Espargaro and Joan Mir (Suzuki) took advantage and passed but Mir went one further and also passed Espargaro for last place spot on the podium.

With all this happening behind them, Bagnaia and Marquez extended their lead even further to 3.405 seconds.

Rookie Enea Bastianini (Ducati) and Quartararo battled it out for 9th place, which brought Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) into the fray. But it resulted in Nakagami passing both Bastianini and Quartararo on lap 14 of 23. The fight then switched between Nakagami and Bastianini, with the Japanese rider winning the place.

The gap between the leading pair extended further still with 4.226 seconds between them and Mir.

Fabio was back up into 8th place after Iker went wide on lap 18.

Predator mode was fully activated for Marquez with four laps until the chequered flag, as he closed down further on Bagnaia, all of his waiting, watching and planning were put into action.

Bagnaia was warned of his proximity and rode defensively, keeping him at bay.

With 3 laps to go:

Marquez passed Bagnaia but the Ducati rider took the position straight back and rode defensive into turn 12.

Marquez passed him again, but again Bagnaia re-took the lead.

2 laps to go:

Marquez tried once again, but once again Bagnaia out-braked Marquez and remained in 1st.

Another pass from Marquez, saw Bagnaia pass right back.

The lead was momentarily Marquez’s for the 5th time but for the 5th time Bagnaia took it back.

Last lap:

Turn one saw Marquez go back into the lead but it was taken straight back by Bagnaia.

Marquez passed again soon after but he went wide and Bagnaia needed no invitation and re-took the lead again.

The final attempt on turn 12 saw Marquez pass again, he got into the lead but went wide and in doing so exceeded track limits. Bagnaia fought a hard but respectful battle and beat Marquez to victory, to claim his maiden win in Moto GP. A healthy 25 points meant he climbed up the championship ladder into second place and he became the 8th different winner for 2021.

It was an even sweeter day for Ducati as it was not only their 50th pole position in Moto GP which accumulated into a win but it was also their 50th anniversary of their first entry into the Moto GP championship (12th September 1971 – Monza).

Podium finishers. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter.

Top Ten Riders:

1

F. Bagnaia

2

M. Marquez

3

J. Mir

4

A. Espargaro

5

J. Miller

6

E. Bastianini

7

B. Binder

8

F. Quartararo

9

J. Martin

10

T. Nakagami

The only Yamaha rider to gain any points during the race had relatively poor finish but it still sees him leading the championship:

Championship top four:

1

F. Quartararo

214 points

2

F. Bagnaia

161 points

3

J. Mir

157 points

4

J. Zarco

137 points

Making history for Ducati and himself, Bagnaia proved he has what it takes to be a Moto GP winner. Will we now see a new championship contender for 2021?

 

 

Featured image. Courtesy of: Ducati Course Twitter.

Round two at Austria – Sensational!

Qualifying:

Jorge Martin (Ducati) and Miguel Oliveira (KTM) made the top ten and went through to FP2.

It looked like Quartararo had secured pole but Martin put in an all-time lap record (1:22.643) and stole pole in the last few seconds. Pushing Fabio to 2nd, Franceso Bagnaia (Ducati) went to 3rd and Johann Zarco (Ducati) 4th.

The big news that was announced was: Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) had been suspended from racing, due to last weekends antics on track. It was discovered that he had tried to blow up his Yamaha M1 engine, possibly causing serious danger to both himself and others. It is believed that he will not compete in any further races this year.

Race:

The weather was hot and humid in Austria, with massive black rain clouds looming above the track. The race was declared dry and would be a flag-to-flag affair. But, if hopes for a repeat of last weekend’s Austria race were anywhere near, they were soon to be dashed.

Martin sat in pole and got a fantastic launch, quickly leading Bagnaia, Zarco and Quartararo. Immediately, as all four riders went into turn one, the white flags started to wave signifying that bikes could then be swapped.

Bagnaia soon took the lead and Martin and Quartararo tussled for 2nd. Marc Marquez (Honda) was also battling at the front, gaining 4th and then 3rd place by lap 3. By lap 4, he had made it into 2nd. He was the only rider to have a soft (rear) tyre.

By lap 6 all top five riders kept swapping positions, none of them wanting to give an inch.

With the black clouds heavy with rain above them, a few rain drops suddenly started to appear and thunder rumbled in the distance. It was then the time for white and red flags to be waved on turn 2, meaning there was rain in that sector.

Rain clouds above. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 8 of 28, saw Quartararo take the lead, but it was quickly taken back by Bagnaia on the start-finish line. Bagnaia took his chance and soon started to gap from the pack. By the half-way point in the race, there were more gaps appearing between the riders.

Meanwhile the black clouds continued to gather and then drama ensued:

The start of the second part of the incredible entertainment came from Enea Bastianini’s Ducati. The fairing suddenly broke free and flew off onto the side of the track, causing him to have to retire.

Bastianini’s side exposed. Courtesy of: BT Sport Moto GP replay.

Zarco then crashed out of the race on turn 9. Marquez and Quartararo continued to fight with each-other for 2nd place, behind Bagnaia and in-front of last weekends winner in 4th. But an unusual mistake from Fabio meant Marquez was suddenly on the back of Pecco. On lap 22 he took the lead with a sensational maneuver, but Bagnaia was quick to respond and re-took first within seconds. That of course brought Quartararo back into play.

7 laps to go, the rain became heavier, causing Oliveira to crash on turn one. Everyone was becoming more and more tentative into the corners. Jack Miller (Ducati) and Alex Rins (Suzuki) decided that was their moment to enter the pits and swap their bikes. Would this prove to be effective, with very little race left?

Racing like they were on ice, all front five riders continued to circulate on slick tyres and not only that, they continued to fight for positions!

Marquez led Quartararo, Bagnaia, Martin and Binder. Incredible passes upon passes continued. Hands were being thrown in the air, regarding the poor weather conditions but the race was not going to be stopped as it was a flag-to-flag event.

Bagnaia leading Martin. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Then with no hesitation all 5 front leading riders went straight into the pits to change to their wet weather bikes, leaving the KTM rider, Brad Binder alone to lead the race from Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia), Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) and Valentino Rossi (Yamaha). Only nine riders remained on slick tyres, on a very wet track.

It was hard to believe that then there was only three laps remaining until the end. Binder was riding an incredibly brave race, skidding and sliding in ever-increasing hazardous conditions.

Marc Marquez crashed out on lap 26, turn 1. He had been riding all-in and unfortunately couldn’t quite pull it off. He managed to get back on the bike and later said “this is my best Sunday of the year”… “it’s only one championship point but I really enjoyed getting it”. Meanwhile, Binder was doing the unthinkable and started to break away from the rest of the riders, with only 2.6miles of track to the line. Could he hold on? Could he bring KTM’s first win at their home track in Moto GP?

The riders behind Binder were racing incredibly slowly – most of them having stayed out on slick tyres. A. Espagaro and Iker Lecuona (KTM) battled for 2nd. Luca Marini (Ducati) passed his brother (46) and Espargaro. But it was the ‘Bagnaia Bullet’ that came from no-where and passed everyone to gain 2nd place! Following close behind were Martin and Mir. Leaving Binder to get his second victory in the premier class. He was given a 3-second penalty for exceeding track limits on the last lap, but he had hardly any control over his bike in the treacherous conditions. The penalty didn’t effect the result though, in the end he managed to gain 12 seconds from his nearest rival, even with Bagania racing through to gain 2nd. Brad’s gamble had indeed paid off!

Podium finishers. Courtesy of: Moto GP (Twitter Account).

The number 33 became the 7th different winner in 2021 and the rookie Martin secured not only his 2nd pole in a row but his 2nd race podium as well.

Top Ten Race Results:

1

Binder

2

Bagnaia

3

Martin

4

Mir

5

Marini

6

Lecuona

7

Quartararo

8

Rossi

9

A. Marquez

10

A. Espargaro

Updated Championship Reults:

1st

Quartararo

181 points

2nd

Bagnaia

134 points

3rd

Mir

134 points

4th

Zarco

132 points

What a race?! The championship hunt is hotting up once again, with Quartararo’s lead now less and Zarco unfortunately dropping to fourth. Bagnaia and Mir are now on equal points. Could we see Mr. Consistency rise in the ranks once again and fight to remain World Number One?

What will we witness next round at Silverstone in two weeks time?

 

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP website).

Rookie reigns in Austria

Qualifying:

With the five week break finally at an end, the qualifying saw Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) snatch pole from Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati), in the closing minutes. Only seconds later to find that he transgressed track limits on turn nine, which resulted in him ending in third.

Marc Marquez (Honda), was on a hot-lap but crashed out and finished in eighth.

But it was the rookie Jorge Martin (Ducati) who claimed pole, for the second time this season. Riding a sensational lap of 1:22.994, bagging pole and a new all-time lap record along with it.

The front row was now: J. Martin, F. Bagnaia and F. Quartararo. The Ducati’s looked dominant in Austria, with all four bikes on the front two rows. Jack Miller (Ducati), Joan Mir (Suzuki) and Johann Zarco (Ducati) rounded off the front.

Grey clouds over-head. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

If fans were getting withdrawal symptoms from bike racing then this race was sure looking like it was going to quench that.

Race One:

All eyes may have been on Jorge Martin, in pole but all hearts were with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) who, on just Thursday, had announced this was going to be his final season racing.

With rain clouds looming large overhead, the Styrian Grand Prix was about to be on its way, after being declared a dry race.

Bagnaia got a great start from Martin, but Martin was quickly leading the race. Marc Marquez (Honda) chose a more aggressive tactic, after having a poor start and trying to gather positions quickly, he made a move past Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia), nudging him in the process, causing him to go wide and also pushed past Quartararo to go into fourth place. This caused an on-track argument between the two Spanish riders later, on track.

The pack. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Mir reacted well and quickly went from fourth to second as Bagnaia re-claimed first. Marquez seemed to be in all-out attack-mode but fell back to sixth place after his fiery start.

The championship leader, Quartararo picked up the pace and soon had fastest lap moments before red flags began to wave.

Flash back to 2020, Franco Morbidelli and Johann Zarco collided, causing their bikes to hurtle through the air, across the track and land cartwheeling in-front of the path of then team-mates Rossi and Vinales, understandably shaking both riders up before they re-started the race, after a red flag.

Since then, the track has been slightly modified. That should have been the only an odd occurrence however, this track seems to entice odd occurrences, only this time, lap 3 of 28 saw the wildcard and ex-Moto GP race winner Dani Pedrosa (KTM) fall leaving his bike stranded in the way of on-coming riders. Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia) rode straight into the KTM, causing both bikes to immediately erupt into flames. The race was red-flagged, signaling an end to proceedings. The marshals were quick to respond and fortunately neither rider nor marshal were hurt.

Just another freak accident in Austria, has made some question the suitability of this track for racing.

All bikes returned to the pits as fire extinguishers, brushes and man-power set about cleaning up the mess caused on track.

Race officials check the track is okay for the re-start. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

As the race was only on lap 3, it was re-started with just one lap being removed. The stewards allowed Pedrosa to start again but unfortunately for Aprilia, Savadori could not re-join.

A quick-start procedure took place during the second attempt, which meant pit lane re-opened for 60 seconds ahead of a sighting lap where all riders took their original grid positions and one mechanic met them at their lines. They then went out for their warm-up lap and the race continued thereafter.

Although, it was a disaster for Maverick Vinales (Yamaha), who stalled prior to the sighting lap on the grid and had to start his race from the pit lane, going from ninth to last.

Race Two:

The dark grey clouds still overhead had refrained from raining and continued to watch alongside the few spectators at trackside for take-two of the Styrian Grand Prix.

It was the Ducati power both times, this time Martin got another great start but Miller soon took the lead.

Quartararo nudged past M. Marquez, who in-turn nudged into none-other than Aleix Espargaro again and again he went wide.

Mir looked like he was on a mission, wanting to break up the Ducati rule. He was soon on the back of Martin and took second place on lap 2.

Mir hunts Martin. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 3 saw Martin re-take second and Bagnaia went backwards into eighth place. The re-start did not go the same way for him.

With 24 laps to go, Martin re-took the lead from Miller, Mir and Quartararo.

Things went from bad to worse for A. Espargaro, on lap 6 he pulled to the side of the track and had to retire due to a mechanical failure.

Miller and Quartararo had a mini battle between themselves. And soon all five front riders took fastest lap within quick succession of each other.

Martin and Mir broke away from the pack as did Quartararo, Miller and Zarco, creating their own group. The gap between the two groups quickly extended to over 3 seconds.

Vinales also couldn’t turn his luck around and ended up getting a long-lap penalty, putting him back to last place again, in 21st, due to exceeding track limits. Track limit warnings were thrown about to all sorts of riders, including the race leader Martin, who was still leading with 11 laps to go.

With 10 laps to go, Miller looked set to strike on Quartararo, closing him down on every corner. But then, he crashed out on turn 7. He returned to the track but had to end his race sooner than expected and pulled into the pits, leaving Fabio in third position, to race alone.

Another long-lap penalty was handed out to the other Espargaro brother – Pol, for also exceeding track limits.

Having led for most of the race, Jorge Martin, the rookie reigned supreme and took victory for the first time for himself and Pramac Ducati in the Moto GP class. Having come from a hospital bed earlier on in the season, due to an accident which left him with numerous broken bones he was now on the top step of the podium. Securing both the pole and the win! He is now the 6th different winner in 2021.

Take a bow – Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Brad Binder (KTM) rode a sensational last lap and finished an incredible fourth place, passing Zarco and Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) on the way to the line.

Bagnaia however was given a 3 second penalty on the last lap, for also exceeding track limits and was demoted out of the top ten, promoting Dani Pedrosa into tenth.

Top ten finishers:

1st

J. Martin

2nd

J. Mir

3rd

F. Quartararo

4th

B. Binder

5th

T. Nakagami

6th

J. Zarco

7th

A. Rins

8th

M. Marquez

9th

A. Marquez

10th

D. Pedrosa

Current Championship Standings:

1st

Quartararo

172 points

2nd

Zarco

132 points

3rd

Mir

121 points

4th

Bagnaia

116 points

Moto GP will be returning to Austria again next weekend, as will British rider Cal Crutchlow (Petronas), who even though didn’t produce a spectacular race result this weekend after stepping in for injured rider Franco Morbidelli, he will do so again for the next two races. Will we see a top ten or podium finish for fan favourite Cal?

 

(Featured image: courtesy of Moto GP website).

Moto GP season update

The massive five week gap is finally at it’s end. Moto GP is soon to return to our TV screens this Friday 6th August, with the qualifying on Saturday 7th and race on Sunday 8th.

Even though racing was on a break, news stories kept on coming in.

Since the fantastic Assen weekend with the two Yamaha teammates finishing first and second, one of them decided to pull out of his contract with Yamaha earlier than expected. Maverick Vinales will be parting ways with the factory team at the end of the 2021 season. Unfortunately, this may not come as much of a surprise as Vinales has been quite open about his feelings within the team recently and has been seen to be dejected many times in interviews. It has been rumoured that he will be joining Aprilia in 2022, as of yet, nothing has been confirmed or denied.

Vinales (courtesy of Moto GP website).

More news from Yamaha, but this time from Petronas Yamaha. It was announced that Franco Morbidelli will not be competing in the next three rounds due to a knee injury, sustained in a training accident, prior to the Assen race. Morbidelli has had knee trouble in the past, hopefully this time the injury can be corrected for good. Wishing him all the best of luck in his recovery.

Morbidelli is not expected to return to racing until September at Aragon

With Morbidelli out for three races, Petronas Yamaha have recruited British racer Cal Crutchlow. Having retired from Moto GP last year in 2020, Cal has been a test rider for Yamaha, so it did seem like the obvious choice. Crutchlow is a massive fan favourite and an all-round good guy and rider. He will be racing in Styria, Austria and his home track at Silverstone. So be sure to show your support for him.

When Franko returns to the paddock there will be some changes to the 2021 calendar:

For the second time in a row Australia and Thailand will not feature in the Moto GP season. Due to the on-going Covid 19 pandemic and travel restrictions, creating difficult decisions to be made. As a result of this the Malaysian Grand Prix has been brought forward a week, Portimao replaces Phillip Island and the Algarve GP has been added in November, for a second year in a row.

Updated 2021 Season Calendar (courtesy of Moto GP website).

This weekend though also sees the return of the Spaniard Dani Pedrosa. After, retiring back in 2018 from Repsol Honda, Dani has been a test rider for KTM ever since. He has been hailed as a massive part of their recent success in 2020 and 2021. He will be stepping in as a wildcard rider for the one-off race. Could this be the first of many appearances from the number 26?

From retirements to returns there has been one consistent in the whole of Moto GP for the past 25 years. The nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi will be celebrating this amazing anniversary.

Young Rossi on the podium in 1996 (courtesy of Gazetta).

Sunday 15th August will be the Austrian GP and in 1996 Rossi took his first ever podium, in third place, competing in the 125 class. His 200th podium is still eluding him though, will we finally witness history being made in the second part of this season?

Reminder of the current championship standings as of the last race weekend at Assen:

First

Quartararo

156 Points

Second

Zarco

122 Points

Third

Bagnaia

109 Points

Fourth

Mir (Current Champion)

101 Points

All information is current and correct on date of publication – 04-08-21

 

Featured imaged (courtesy of Moto GP website).

Battle rages at the Cathedral of Speed

Going into the weekend Remy Gardner leads the Moto2 championship by 36 points from his teammate Raul Fernandez, but the rookie earns his fourth pole of the season, as an eventful race sees him dropping back to ninth then clawing his way back to emerge victorious in the 9th round of Moto2 2021.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Fernandez’s teammate Remy Gardner starts from 2nd place and Sam Lowes completes the front row, ahead of Aron Canet in 4th, Ai Ogura 5th and Jorge Navarro starting 6th.

Off the line it is Canet who gets the best start, forcing Raul out wide into the first bend, causing him to drop back to 4th. Della Porta who started 8th gets caught in the middle of the group into turn 2 – catches the rear wheel of Navarro and is spat off, fortunately avoiding the other machines as his bike is launched into the air from the centre of the pack.

Canet leads, Gardner in second is closely followed by Lowes in third. Tony Arbolino crashes out uninjured shortly after at turn 7, his bike flipping across the gravel.

Lowes moves up past Gardner, then takes Canet to lead at the end of the first lap – Lowes leads briefly before Canet reclaims the lead.

Ai Ogura and Augusto Fernandez pass Raul Fernandez. Raul runs wide through turns 6 & 7 and drops back to ninth as Schrotter passes him.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Gardner passes Lowes out of the chicane, and Lowes gets back past Canet to move back into 2nd

Joe Roberts crashes out at turn 9, meaning that both Italtrans bikes are out of the race.

Augusto Fernandez moves up into 3rd, as Raul battles for 7th, then gradually works himself back up to 6th.

With 20 laps to go Lowes starts to close the gap on Gardner. Approaching the start/finish line Lowes slots past, the two almost swapping paint, but Augusto Fernandez spots his opportunity and passes both of them, taking the lead, making it a 1-2 for Elf Marc VDS Racing Team, Gardner in 3rd and Aron Canet in 4th. Meanwhile Raul Fernandez is back up to 5th, and DiGiannantonio moves up past Ai Ogura into 6th.

On lap 7 Raul passes Canet to move up to 4th, as Lowes, who is all over the back of Augusto, passes him to take the lead. A gap of just over a second separates Gardner in 3rd and Raul in 4th, giving Raul a clear space to push on.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Gardner slots past Augusto into 2nd, and 3 laps later Raul catches Augusto, but Augusto takes Gardner to move back into 2nd.

On lap 14 Augusto Fernandez increases the pressure on Sam Lowes, passing him to take the lead, as Raul gets past his teammate Gardner to move up into 3rd.

Gardner starts to drop back slightly from the top 3, and shortly after Raul takes Lowes to move up into 2nd place. The leading 4 start to spread out as Lowes struggles to match Raul Fernandez’s pace, as DiGiannantonio crashes out at turn 9 from 6th.

Raul pursues Augusto, edging ever closer until he makes the move along the start/finish straight at the end of lap 17, with Augusto unable to come back at him.

Augusto runs wide, giving Lowes the opportunity to move up into 2nd. Raul is starting to stretch out his lead with a 0.8 second lead over Lowes.

Lap 20 sees Aron Canet crashes out of 7th place, sliding into the gravel at turn 3.

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

Raul leads by over a second, breaking away from Lowes, Augusto and Gardner. Into lap 22 at the end of the start/finish straight Augusto gets the drive past Lowes to move up into second. Lowes checks over his left shoulder into turn 1, as Gardner slips past on his right, dropping Lowes down into 4th.

At the end of lap 23 Gardner passes Augusto, who pushes hard but is unable to come back at Gardner.

Raul Fernandez takes his third win of the season, ahead of his teammate Remy Gardner, with Augusto Fernandez claiming the 3rd podium spot.

Gardner’s lead at the top of the championship narrows slightly to 31 points ahead of Raul Fernandez going into the summer break, Fernandez extends his lead over 3rd place Bezzecchi from 11 points to 25, and Lowes holds onto 4th place overall.  With ten rounds still to go can Gardner hold onto the lead or will rookie Raul Fernandez spring yet more surprises?

Image courtesy of KTM/Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)

 

First fifteen riders:

1              Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25 points

2              Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 20

3              Augusto Fernandez SPA –  – 16

4              Sam Lowes BRI – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 13

5              Marco Bezzecchi ITA – Sky Racing Team VR46 – 11

6              Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 10

7              Jorge Navarro SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 9

8              Xavi Vierge SPA – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 8

9              Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact – 7

10           Celestino Vietti ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 6

11           Somkiat Chantra THA – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 5

12           Albert Arenas SPA – Inde Aspar Team – 4

13           Stefano Manzi ITA – Flexbox HP40 – 3

14           Thomas Luthi SWI – Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team – 2

15           Bo Bendsneyer NED – Pertamina SAG – 1

 

Mighty Marc Marquez

Qualifying:

During the qualifying Johann Zarco (Ducati) took pole breaking Fabio Quartararo’s (Yamaha) row of poles. He then took a tumble on turn 4, with just over a minute of qualifying left. Moments later Takaaki Nakagami also fell – turn 1. Both incidents caused the yellow flags to be waved meaning that Zarco clinched pole from Quartararo, Jack Miller (Ducati) and Marc Marquez (Honda).

Clouds looming over the pole sitter. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Race:

Although being hot and humid at the Sachsenring Circuit, there were clouds above which caused concerns that it might turn to rain, but the race was not declared a wet race.

The 30 lap circuit, with it’s mainly left-hander corners, along with the weather conditions could potentially play into Marquez’s hands – but was this too much to ask?

Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) led from the line, getting ahead of Marquez and Zarco. Whilst Marc went forwards, the championship leader went backwards. But it was Brad Binder (KTM) who gained the most places from the grid going up 6 places by lap 2.

M. Marquez soon took the lead from A. Espargaro, but Aleix didn’t want to give up the position easily and fought Marc for it. Meanwhile, Jack Miller (Ducati) and Quartararo had a tussle for 4th behind them.

Leading from the front. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

It was the reigning champion Joan Mir (Suzuki) who quickly got the fastest lap, but it was soon taken by Marquez, who was all to happy to start gaining a lead on Aleix.

It wasn’t long until Miguel Oliveira (KTM) stole fastest lap, twice in a row and also passed Quartararo for 5th place. He was picking up the pace and fast. He knew he couldn’t let Marc get too far ahead, whether or not Marquez was 100% fit or not.

Lap 5, turn 1, during a racing incident, both Alex Marquez (Honda) and Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) fell into the gravel.

On the next lap, it was Lorenzo Savadori’s (Aprilia) turn to end his race early.

Seeing Marquez eek his lead out further Miller decided he needed to make a move on Zarco and passed him with 23 laps to go, into 3rd place.

But then, it seemed the weather had took a turn and the white flags started to be waved, which meant that riders could come into the pits to change their bikes should they wish to – in preparation for rain. However, lap 10 saw the white and red flags being waved, signifying rain. The clouds never picked up momentum though and no rider came into the pits to swap their bikes.

The number 93 knew some riders who saw drops on their visors may slow down and he saw this as his moment to really push forward. The gap between him and Miller soon became 1.417 seconds with 21 laps to the end.

All bikes had medium and hard tyre combinations except Nakagami’s Honda which had a soft rear tyre. It was either going to be a masterstroke or a disaster, it was not the former.

As the rain became a little harder A. Espargaro went from 2nd to 4th and Fabio passed Johann, to take 5th place. It was now Marquez leading Miller, Oliveira and A. Espargaro, going into lap 12.

It wasn’t long into the 12th lap that Oliveira secured 2nd from Miller and went straight into hunting down Marquez. The gap between the two was 1.669 seconds.

Oliveira soon managed to get away from the rest of the pack and secured another two fastest laps in a row, trying to hunt down the King of the Ring, but Marquez responded with another fastest lap and extended his lead to 1.989 seconds, half-way through the race.

Meanwhile, at the other end of group – Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) and Franko Morbidelli (Yamaha) were having an awful weekend, fighting to not be in last place.

Mini battles started to form, mainly between Binder and Zarco for 6th place and Quartararo and A. Espargaro for 4th.

The gap between Marquez and Oliveira slowly declined to 1.411 seconds, with 12 laps to go – could Miguel catch Marc?

Oliveira hunting down Marquez. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Digging deep with 11 laps to go Marquez kept his consistent lap times and still led Oliveira, but Fabio and Jack had swapped positions in 3rd and 4th behind him.

A. Espargaro couldn’t hold onto his 5th place any longer from Binder, who needed to try and aim for a podium finish.

The gap dipped to just under one second between the Honda and the KTM in 1st and 2nd, with 5 laps to the chequered flag. But, Marquez responded in typical Marc-of-old style and found some energy and picked the pace up again and soon extended his lead to 1.095 seconds, which soon became 1.931 seconds with 3 laps to go.

During this time Zarco was passed by Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati), handing Fabio some more precious championship points and Binder passed Miller (whose tyres were starting to show signs of wear) for 4th place.

Last lap of the race and all Moto GP fans, regardless of who they follow or what team they support –  were behind Marc Marquez to just stay on his Repsol Honda and win. And that was just what he did! For the first time in 581 days Marc Marquez passed the finish line in first place! Keeping his winning record at the Sachsenring going, this was his 8th victory in a row in the Premier Class at the German circuit and the 11th win in a row from all classes. Marquez also took his 57th Moto GP victory.

Celebrating with his team. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Holding himself together in the interview after the race he stated that he wanted to try and fight for a podium finish and that he wasn’t sure he could go for the win, saying …”it was really hard to concentrate…”.

Oliveira finished 2nd taking three podiums in a row for KTM. In his post-race interview he said …”I’ll take a second anyday at Sachsenring to him…” and Fabio Quartararo took the last podium position securing important points for his championship lead.

There was nothing but respect for Marc in Parc Ferme from all the riders – they all know and understand what he has gone through and what he has had to do to get back to where he is now.

It is undeniable that Marquez is King Of The Ring!

Race results: Top Ten:

First

M. Marquez

Second

M. Oliveira

Third

F. Quartararo

Fourth

B. Binder

Fifth

F. Bagnaia

Sixth

J. Miller

Seventh

A. Espargaro

Eight

J. Zarco

Ninth

J. Mir

Tenth

P. Espargaro

Championship results: Top Four:

First

F. Quartararo

131 points

Second

J. Zarco

109 points

Third

J. Miller

100 points

Fourth

F. Bagnaia

99 points

The championship is still extremely close and hard to predict. What will happen in the next round at Assen? It is a typically good track for Yamaha, but will the race mirror this?

 

 

Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP

A twist in the tale at Catalunya

Qualifying:

It is a home track for many of the riders but it was a Frenchman that claimed pole.

During Q1 Marc Marquez (Honda) decided to follow and gain a tow from Jack Miller (Ducati). Unfortunately, given his best efforts, this didn’t help Marquez and he couldn’t manage better than 13th  place.

Marquez follows Miller. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Miller on the other-hand made it all the way through and finished on the front row. Even a crash didn’t interfere with his result.

Viewers may have noticed that Alex Rins (Suzuki) wasn’t out on track, this was due to a cycling accident that occurred off-track where he went into a Dorna vehicle and hurt his wrist. He would also not participate in the race.

Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) would start from pole (his fifth pole in a row this year). Miller second and Zarco third – finishing the front row.

Race:

The Catalan circuit always produces some entertaining races and this one was no exception. But there was a twist in the script book, which saw it  be thrown completely out of the window.

Prior to the race, Jorge Martin (Ducati) had an accident and was made to start from the pit-lane, from 15th slot on the grid.

Once the lights turned green it was all go – Miller and Miguel Oliveira (KTM) managed to get past Quartararo on the straight. Knowing they had to make a break for it and disrupt Fabio’s rhythm.

All riders were so close together, quickly creating battles between: Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) and Brad Binder (KTM). Miller and Quartararo. Joan Mir (Suzuki) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia).

Mir got a fantastic start and went from tenth to fourth by turn seven, lap one.

All within the first three laps Quartararo and Miller tussled for second place but Quartararo came out worse and made a mistake causing the other riders to take full advantage, pushing him down to fifth. Mir passed Espargaro. Oliveira got fastest lap. Zarco passed Quartararo. Bagnaia then took fastest lap. Quartararo re-took fourth position back from Zarco and Binder went into the rear of Vinales – both riders remained on the track and un-hurt and finally fastest lap went back to Oliveira.

Quartararo soon gained his composure back and started to hunt down the riders in front. He passed A. Espargaro and Mir was next on the radar. On the same lap, Pol Espargaro (Honda) crashed out of the race, turn 5, lap 5.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

All the riders knew they had to conserve their tyres as much as possible but it was hard to think this was in the fore-front of their minds as all top 6 racers (bar Oliveira) were constantly battling for positions. By lap 7, Quartararo re-gained second place, managed to get fastest lap in the process and was soon hot-on-the-heels of the KTM.

Meanwhile, Danilo Petrucci (KTM) crashed turn 9.

Riding well was Marc Marquez, with 17 laps left in 7th position chasing A. Espargaro and Zarco down. But then disaster struck and he crashed out (for the third time in a row) on the infamous turn 10. With Pol, his team-mate already out, neither factory Honda riders gained any points at their home race.

It went from bad to worse for Honda, with Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) receiving a long lap penalty for taking a shortcut through turns one and two. Alex Marquez (Honda) would take the best finish result for the manufacturer in 11th.

With 15 laps to the chequered flag Oliveira still led Quartararo, Mir, Miller and Zarco.

The next local boy to have a DNF was A. Espargaro, same turn as Marquez a few laps earlier.

Meanwhile at the front of the pack positions were being swapped again. Quartararo passed Oliveira on turn 5, half-way through the race. But the Portuguese rider had other plans and soon re-took the lead. Zarco passed Miller for fourth and Miller and Mir had a mini battle which saw Miller win.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Turn 10 soon took out yet another rider, this time it was the nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) who took to the dirt, with 8 laps until the end.

Iker Lecuona (KTM) then tumbled, turn 13, lap 18.

Six laps until the race finish gapping had started to appear between the racers. Oliveira and Quartararo were out on their own in 1st and 2nd. Zarco, Miller, Mir and Vinales were in another group fighting for the last podium position.

The number 88 (Oliveira) started to pull away from 20 (Quartararo) and Zarco was soon on his rear. Lap 22 Zarco passed his fellow Frenchman on the start-finish straight. Moments later Fabio lost the front of his bike a-little and he went off track but rejoined in-front of Miller. Slotting into third.

Then a very unusual thing happened, Quartararo’s leathers were suddenly open and he had pulled out his chest protector. Both things had become a safety issue but the race officials did not bring out a black flag for the rider. Instead he was allowed to carry on racing. The rules clearly state that “…equipment must be worn, correctly fastened, at all times during on-track activity”. This has caused controversy already. When asked at the end of the race Fabio was hesitant to give an explanation and said that enquiries were already being held on the matter and that the incident wasn’t his fault.

Courtesy of: Moto GP

However, on the last lap he received a three-second penalty for a different rule-break – a shortcut on turns one and two, just like Nakagami earlier on in the race. Meaning that his position in third was given to Miller.

Oliveira went on to win his third ever race in Moto GP, from Zarco and Miller.

Oliveira consistently putting in the laps. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

As there were only 15 riders to finish the race, everyone got at least one point towards their championship positions.

Championship results:

First

Quartararo

121 points

Second

Zarco

101 points

Third

Bagnaia

88 points

Fourth

Miller

87 points

Race results:

First

Oliveira

Second

Zarco

Third

Miller

Fourth

Quartararo

Fifth

Mir

Sixth

Vinales

Seventh

Bagnaia

Eighth

Binder

Ninth

Morbidelli

Tenth

Bastianini

Sachsenring (Germany) is next on the calendar – Sunday 20th June – Marc Marquez has never been beaten there. Will we see a miraculous win from the Spaniard or will there be a new King of the track?

 

 

Wishing all the best to Alex Rins and Suzi Perry in their recovery.

 

 

(Featured image: Celebrating with the fans – Courtesy of Moto GP)

Mugello Masterclass

Qualifying:

What a difference two weekends make! Not very far away from the LeMans track there wasn’t a rain cloud in sight this weekend at the Mugello circuit.

Mugello circuit. Courtesy of: Honda Racing Corporation website

During the qualifying session, the top 5 riders were so close, each within a shout of taking first place but it was Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) who took his fourth consecutive pole of the season from Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati), Johann Zarco (Ducati), Aleix Espagaro (Aprilia) and Jack Miller (Ducati) in fifth place. Upon being interviewed Fabio said that it was “…the best lap I have ever done…”.

Meanwhile Marc Marquez (Honda), who was struggling, used the qualifying session as a tester and only managed to gain eleventh on the grid.

Race:

The magic of Mugello was subdued this weekend with a very sombre cloud, following on from the news of Moto 3 rider Jason Dupasquier, who sadly passed away from injuries sustained during the qualifying session on Saturday. Every rider and fan was saddened to hear of his passing and it was another reminder of just how dangerous this sport, that we love, can be.

A minutes silence was held in his honour prior to the race.

From the very start drama reigned, as the riders were finishing their warm-up lap and lining up on the grid Enea Bastianini (Ducati) ran into the back of Zarco, who was slowing down ready to get into position. After this freak accident, Bastianini was unhurt but was unable to start the race, with no start delay announced. Zarco had minor damage to the back of his Ducati and was able to continue.

Bastianini at the start of the race. Courtesy of: BT Sport – MotoGP

For the first time as well this year, Quartararo’s Yamaha had the holeshot device installed, which Ducati first demonstrated in 2019. It is designed to mechanically lower the rear of the bike to reduce wheelieing off the line and improve acceleration at the start of a race. It seemed to do the trick as Quartararo got a great start with 23 laps to go, however it was Bagnaia that took the lead, at his home Grand Prix, from Quartararo and Miguel Oliveira (KTM).

A. Espargaro, starting in fourth place had a terrible start and managed to drop down five places.

Lap two saw the weekend go from bad to worse for Marc Marquez as he crashed out on turn three, after trying to overtake Brad Binder (KTM), causing Brad’s airbag to deploy which meant he had to race the next couple of laps with it inflated. It also caused Franko Morbidelli (Yamaha) to have to take evasive action to miss Marquez’s Honda, seeing him travel into the gravel, luckily both he and Binder were able to carry on racing.

Moments later on turn nine, Bagnaia, one of the home heroes, also crashed from the lead, after touching the white line at the edge of the track. (The white lines are notorious for being painted slippery edges that can cause riders to slip out of a race). This mistake granted Fabio the lead.

First place wasn’t Quartararo’s for long as the Ducati power of Zarco quickly took the lead on the straight and gained him the fastest lap.

A mini battle broke out between the two Frenchmen and soon on lap three El Diablo regained first.

Quartararo leading the way. Courtesy of: MotoGP

They weren’t the only pair vying for positions though as Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) and Michele Pirro (Ducati) fought for 9th place and the two Suzuki’s (Joan Mir and Alex Rins) tussled for 5th.

The Suzuki riders were also hot-on-the-heels, and gaining on last weekend’s winner, Miller – who had managed to make-up one place since the start in 4th.

The battle at the front fought on between the Yamaha and the Ducati, neither one of the racers wanting to give in. All too quickly though Quartararo managed to gain a slight lead on lap 4, which was just enough for Zarco not to be able to fight back.

Gapping started to appear on lap 5, with Quartararo and Zarco in the first group, Oliveira on his own and Miller, Rins and Mir in a battling group.

With the first rule of Motorsport – beat your teammate – ringing in their ears, the reigning World Champion – Mir and his teammate Rins continued to fight for fifth and sixth. With Miller holding and defending his position but a small mistake which took him slightly wide, on the last corner of lap 8, saw Rins go past. The straight was the Ducati’s time to shine and regained the place back with ease. Rins was still hanging on though and passed Miller again, later on the same lap Mir went through on Miller and Binder followed, leaving Jack back in 7th.

Courtesy of: suzuki-motogp.com/press

All the excitement happening behind him – Quartararo extended his lead – 1.792 seconds from Zarco then became 2.201 seconds by lap 10. Arm pump no longer an issue for the young Frenchman and the pressure he admitted he felt last year now in the past, he began to show just how metronomic his laps could be.

Oliveira had condensed the gap between himself and Zarco and had managed to pass him on lap 16. A 4.128 second gap between him and Quartararo however seemed more of an impossible catch. The Ducati power wasn’t enough and the KTM soon pulled away. Leaving Zarco in the clutches of Mir, who soon was able to pass him too.

It was quickly Rins’s turn to go past Zarco with 6 laps to go, taking fourth place. However, whilst trail-breaking into a corner on worn tyres, Rins had his fourth DNF in a row and crashed out, letting Zarco re-gain the position.

On lap 21, it was unfortunately, Honda’s top rider – Nakagami’s turn to also crash out of the race.

But, it was Fabio Quartararo who took the chequered flag for the third time this year and he dedicated his win to the young Dupasquier.

There was controversy with who was second and third on the podium though. Oliveira crossed the line in second and Mir in third. But, Oliveira was given a penalty and had to give a place away for exceeding track limits meaning Mir got second. Minutes later, it became apparent that Mir had the exact same penalty. The decision was made to let them both keep their original results.

Top 10 race results:

First

Quartararo

Second

Oliveira

Third

Mir

Fourth

Zarco

Fifth

Binder

Sixth

Miller

Seventh

A. Espargaro

Eigth

Vinales

Ninth

Petrucci

Tenth

Rossi

It is worth noting that this is Valentino Rossi’s (Yamaha) first top 10 finish in 2021.

Top 5 championship standings:

First

Quartararo

105 points

Second

Zarco

81 points

Third

Bagnaia

79 points

Fourth

Miller

74 points

Fifth

Mir

65 points

Who will be victorious next round in Spain? We haven’t got long to find out.

 

 

 

Thoughts and prayers go out to Jason Dupasquier’s family and friends.

Taken too young – too soon.

Ride on Ja50n Dupasquier.

2001 – 2021 Courtesy of: MotoGP

 

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of MotoGP)

 

A spectacle in Le Mans

Le Mans Qualifying:

Ever changing track conditions at Le Mans caused for some spectacular qualifying. For a few moments it looked as if Marc Marquez (Honda) was going to grab his first pole since 2019! But local boy – Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) had other ideas and snatched it away. Leading from Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) and Jack Miller (Ducati) on the front row. Marquez started 6th place on the grid.

Courtesy of: Superbike-news

Uncharacteristically, the championship leader – Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) qualified low down the grid in 16th place.

Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha), looked in good form and had a flying lap, which would have taken him to front row, but an almost high-side in the last corner, removed those hopes. He slotted into 9th place.

The unpredictable track conditions had meant that Sunday’s race had been declared a flag-to-flag race. The first one in four years – meaning some of the riders had never experienced this before.

This was going to be interesting:

Race:

Le Mans had it all – rain, sun, bike swaps, crashes, penalties! As the drama unfolded in-front of us, one thing was for sure – Miller gave yet another ‘Thriller’ race!

As the riders lined up on the grid, the dark grey clouds loomed overhead. Weather forecasts predicted the rain wouldn’t emerge during the race. Just in-case though it had been declared a flag-to-flag event, meaning the riders had their spare bikes ready with wet tyres on, should the rain interfere with the proceedings.

Miller got a lighting start and led the pack into lap one, from Vinales and Quartararo. But it was Pol Espargaro (Aprilia), that had a ‘moment’, rejoining in the middle of team-mates Rossi and Frankie Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha), Morbidelli had to take evasive action, leaving him holding his knee in the gravel. Already having hurt it during a freak pit-lane accident in qualifying. (He was able to later rejoin, but finished outside the points).

Miller takes the lead. Courtesy of: Motorsport.com

Vinales soon took first and started to slowly break-away. Were we seeing Maverick finally not letting the weather conditions mess with his head? M. Marquez was fighting for 4th place with Alex Rins (Suzuki) and Takaaki Nakagami (Honda)

All to quickly though, bustling started to happen in the pit lane, as the pit crews started to get the second bikes ready for the inevitable change over. Marshals were waving the red and white flags track-side and the riders now had the option to come in and switch bikes. The rain had come earlier than expected!

Quartararo took full advantage to the change of weather conditions and swept through to first place. Vinales, sadly couldn’t help but react negatively to the wet weather and immediately went backwards.

Jack wasn’t prepared to just let Fabio have first place though and soon they were battling for first.

The rain continued to pour, getting heavier by the second. Miller went into the gravel but saved himself and with 23 laps to go he and all the riders decided to enter the pit lane to swap their bikes. M. Marquez made a swift exit from pit lane securing first place. The reigning champion Joan Mir (Suzuki) however, accidently fell upon entering the pit lane.

Pitlane pandemonium. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Then turn four, saw his team-mate Alex crash. Both Suzuki’s were having a race they would want to forget.

Then seemingly disaster for the Ducati boys! Both Bagnaia and Miller got a double long-lap penalty for exceeding pit-lane speed limits. The speed limit is 60km/h but both were recorded as over it.

With Miller in third place, being led by Quartararo and Marquez, he didn’t want to give up any places, but he took his first long-lap the next lap (lap 9) and then his second on lap 10. Getting them out the way with quick.

Marc Marquez looked like his old self again and even pulled away from Fabio leading with 1.380 seconds and then by 1.973 seconds. He had said that these weather conditions could fall into his hands on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Rins had managed to return to the race with his second bike.

All hearts leapt in unison though as on lap 8, Marquez took a high-side from first position, on the final corner! Launching himself from his bike and rolling through the gravel. He managed to also re-join the race (using the same bike, albeit missing some of its wings).

With Miller taking his second penalty, Quartararo set about extending his lead. Little did he know that he too had collected a penalty. Never having raced a flag-to-flag race he had gone into the pit-lane to swap over his Yamaha’s just to ride into Vinales’s pit box. This was seen as a safety risk which meant he too had to take a long-lap soon. He decided to take it lap 12.

Cutting quickly through the pack, aware that this was his best chance at getting any points this race, Marquez was now the fastest man on track. Ignoring his pain and the rain.

An issue with Lorenzo Savadori’s Aprilia saw him retire from the race. On the same lap Miguel Oliveira (KTM) slid off on the nefarious turn 3. It soon took Rins as well, now his second time seeing the gravel during the race.

Meanwhile Marquez was still slicing through his competitors and with 13 laps to go was in 15th place. His younger brother Alex Marquez (Honda), it is worth noting, was having a brilliant race, from 19th on the grid to 5th by lap 15. By lap 17 M. Marquez had clawed back to 12th place.

Nakagami had his position taken away from him by one of the local boys – Zarco, who was picking up speed – quick. He was now in 3rd place with fellow country-man Quartararo in his sights and the leader – Miller not far away either. Could Le Mans finally have a French winner?

With 11 laps until the end, Aleix Espargaro’s Aprilia malfunctioned, leaving the team with DNF’s for both bikes.

Conditions changed again – the track had dried up and the rain ceased. All riders were on their second bike with wet tyres. They could return to the pits again and swap a second time for slick tyres but none of them wanted to be the first to juggle with fate.

Then absolute heartbreak – Marc Marquez crashed out again – turn 6, lap 18, from 11th place. This time he was unable to pick the bike up and return.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Miller had a 5.475 second lead over Quartararo, who had a 3.763 second gap to Zarco. But this was decreasing quick! Zarco had both medium wet tyres, where Miller and Quartararo had one soft and one medium tyre each. With the track getting drier each lap, the gap between the two Frenchmen rapidly shrunk. On lap 21 of 27 the gap was 0.696 seconds.

Johann passed Fabio with relative ease with 6 laps to go. Could he catch Miller?

Last lap – the track was completely dry – the riders were all still on wet tyres – there were two Frenchmen hunting down the Australian in first. But it was a Thriller performance from Miller who was in complete control, taking back-to-back victories! His first ever time doing this in the premier class and only his 3rd ever win in Moto GP. He is the first Australian to win back-to-back races since Stoner (Ducati) in 2012.

It was like a win for Fabio (who had never finished on the podium in wet conditions before) and Johann who rounded off the podium in France.

Top 10 race results:

First

Miller

Second

Zarco

Third

Quartararo

Fourth

Bagnaia

Fifth

Petrucci

Sixth

A. Marquez

Seventh

Nakagami

Eigth

P. Espargaro

Ninth

Lecuona

Tenth

Vinales

Championship Standings:

First

Quartararo

80 Points

Second

Bagnaia

79 points

Third

Zarco

68 points

Fourth

Miller

64 points

It was a rollercoaster ride for Miller who said “…they’re gonna red flag this for sure…” aren’t we all glad that they didn’t?

Miller and Quartararo in Parc Ferme – Le Mans. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Mugello (30th May) is the next round of the championship and is notably a Ducati track. Can the Dukes keep up this dominating pace? Or will Yamaha fight back and claim the top spot once more?