Championship contender Valentino Rossi took a stunning podium at the British GP despite the track having proved a tough one for the 9-time champion in the past. Taking back 3 points from Marc Marquez’ (Repsol Honda Team) title lead and beating the Spaniard to the rostrum, the duel between the two was a stunner as the Italian made his 250th start in the premier class – and became the first to reach that milestone. Maverick Viñales may have been untouchable at the front in the UK, but Rossi was the only title contender to gain at Silverstone – and the next stop for the MotoGP paddock swaps the difficult newer track for the comforts of home.
Misano is Rossi’s heartland. Although Mugello is the track the Italian considers his spiritual home, the Movistar Yamaha rider’s hometown of Tavullia lies incredibly close to Misano Adriatico and the track that bears the name of his late friend Marco Simoncelli. With the glittering blue of the Adriatic just a stone’s throw from the shores of the circuit, 2015 was a sell out as the yellow smoke rose above the grandstands and MotoGP roared back into town. A classic place to race, the ‘Doctor’ took wins at his closest track to home in 2008 and 2009 in his most recent world championship winning campaigns, and returned to the top step in 2014 as title favourite Marquez made his first mistake of the year. 2016 has had its ups and downs for Rossi – but not in his pace, and he’ll be hoping to make more gains with the home crowd behind him to the end.
Although Misano could sometimes prove synonymous with Valentino Rossi, the Italian track is also a home race for mythical manufacturer Ducati. The British GP may have been more tough than the Borgo Panigale factory expected, with a P6 for Andrea Dovizioso and a crash for Andrea Iannone, but the taste of their Austrian GP victory and 1-2 finish will still be fresh in memory as the paddock touches down on the Riviera di Rimini. The Desmosedici is now a true threat at the front, and the team also count on having recently completed a private test at the track to help them get back in the mix for victory. The home crowd will be behind the Iannone and Dovizioso, as Misano World Circuit is painted both yellow and red.
Marquez, after battling hard with Rossi and then eventual P2 finisher Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), was just off the podium in the UK but is still an incredible 50 points clear of Rossi at the top of the table – and took the most recent premier class win at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. Marquez’ Silverstone was not the smooth ride he’s come to pull off more often than not in 2016, instead proving a tyre-preserving trip through to the last third of the race followed by a signature, spectacular dogfight. With a 53 point lead going into the event, the British GP saw the Repsol Honda rider let loose a little as he fought with Rossi and then Crutchlow, taking more risks than he has often seemed willing to do this season. With one small mistake seeing him miss the podium, the 2013 and 2014 champion nevertheless left the UK showdown with a 50 point lead safe and sound – and only 6 races remain. The rider from Cervera took a P2 in his rookie appearance in Misano in 2013, before falling out of contention with his first error of his record-breaking 2014 campaign. Marquez was on the top step once again in mixed conditions in 2015 however, and with 50 points to cushion the risk will be looking to make a point behind enemy lines. As will compatriot Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP).
Since he moved up to MotoGP in 2008, Lorenzo has kept his name pencilled on the trophy on the Riviera di Rimini. With Silverstone proving a tough race after a setup gamble that didn’t pay off, Lorenzo will want to hit back quickly in Misano as the points gap between him and teammate Rossi grew slightly once again. The ‘Spartan”s record in Italy makes for incredible reading, and Misano is another ‘Lorenzo track’ like Mugello that the Mallorcan will be hoping to conquer. Three P2 finishes in his first three seasons in the premier class prefaced a run of 3 wins at the second Italian venue on the calendar, and the Spaniard took another P2 in 2014 despite a tough start to the season. 2015 saw a blip as a mistake saw him crash out in the wet, but Lorenzo has finished in the top two positions at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli every time he has taken the chequered flag.
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa’s fortunes in the British GP proved a contrast to rival Lorenzo’s. After struggling to find the right direction with the bike and tyres following so many off-season changes in the premier class, Pedrosa had found cooler and wet conditions particularly tough – until Silverstone. Putting in the work on the dry track on Friday, the time on the circuit proved fruitful as the 3-time world champion got back in the battle at the front and showed much improved pace in qualifying and the race, despite the conditions. Pedrosa has five podiums at Misano, too – including a win – and will want to keep refining his progress as he pushes forward to take back P4 in the championship from Silverstone victor Maverick Viñales.
Viñales was spectacular in the British GP. With the cooler conditions helping the Suzuki, the 2013 Moto3 world champion simply took off at the front and never looked back, putting in a performance as close to perfection as his team could have dreamed. The victory was the first for the Japanese manufacturer since 2007 and the first in the dry since 2000, making Silverstone a historic moment for both man and machine. With his first win under his belt, Viñales will now only want more – and knows with increasing certainty exactly how to get it.
There are now six races remaining in 2016 and a maximum of 150 points left on the table. A 50 point advantage leaves Marquez in a great position at the top of the standings, but the battle to catch the championship leader most certainly rages on – with Rossi in hot pursuit as MotoGP heads back behind the yellow curtain.
Kiko Giles @MotoGPKiko