Two weeks ago, a rider was thrown from his machine whilst leading the Americas Grand Prix. He sat, dazed on the painted run-off area, regathering his bearings and wondering how it could have gone wrong. Fast forward to now: Sunday 7th May and that same rider, Aron Canet, is crossing the finish line to take his maiden grand prix victory after a thrilling battle. To make matters sweeter, it’s his home race as well. In his own words: “The best day of my life!”
The Estrella-Galicia rider had been looking strong all weekend in the sessions leading up to the race, qualifying on the front row of the grid in P2. Canet got a good start as the lights went out, surviving the usual shenanigans on the drag down to the first corner, and holding his own in the leading group. The Spaniard was content to sit back in the early stages as fellow protagonists Romano Fenati, Joan Mir, Darryn Binder and Marcos Ramirez diced it out at the front. The latter two of these caught the eyes of spectators and pundits alike as, unlike the other three, were riding privateer KTM bikes as opposed to machines powered by factory outfits.
It was a classic Moto3 race in many respects: the leading group numbered twelve riders, there was slipstreaming galore down the back straight into the Dry Sack hairpin, and up the long main straight out of the final corner. The lead of the race changed hands as frequently as the laps were chalked off. Joan Mir, seeking to increase his hold on the championship, took the lead with 10 laps to go and upped the tempo. The lead group of twelve, suddenly became just five. Mir led the charge going into the final lap, but was beaten up by Ramirez and Fenati and forced out wide on a number of occasions. This ultimately put paid to his hopes of victory, but a last lunge up the inside of the KTM rider secured him a hard fought podium finish.
Having been rejuvenated since his move from the VR|46 team last year, Fenati (Marinello Rivacold Snipers Team) looked the man to beat for much of the race. The Italian was back fighting with everyone who’d dare pass him for the lead. Binder would discover how hard Fenati is prepared to defend his track position, when the two came together at the infamous Turn 13 hairpin. The South African slid out into the gravel, but was able to remount and continue. Replays proved that the incident was caused by aggressive defending and an overly ambitious attempt to overtake from both parties. A racing incident, no more – no less. Both will fight again for victory another day.
It was however a weekend to forget for British Talent Team’s John McPhee. The Scot had struggled to find a setup for the bike which worked around the Jerez circuit. A disastrous qualifying session on Saturday, meant that the Brit had to start the race from way back on the ninth row in P25. The race began more promisingly, with the 22-year old from Oban managed to haul his machine up to thirteenth, leading the chasing pack before losing the front end under braking at turn 1, and crashing out. The non-finish meant McPhee slipped from second to fourth overall in the championship. He now trails the leader, Mir, by 25 points.
But the day undoubtedly belonged to Canet. The victory has been on the cards for a while now. Ever since his points scoring debut at Qatar in 2016, it has been clear that Canet is abundant with talent. A rostrum finish, multiple fourth of fifth places and a pole position from his rookie season provided the strong basis to work on heading into 2017. Now with victory at the Spanish Grand Prix added to his growing CV, Canet and his team will be hoping to press on and challenge for the title.
Eddie Hocknull @EddieHocknull