First win of the year for El Diablo!

Qualifying:

Unpleasant wet conditions for Saturday qualifying in Portugal saw Johann Zarco (Ducati) take pole position from Joan Mir (Suzuki) in 2nd and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) in 3rd. However, a pleasant surprise saw Marco Bezzecchi (Ducati) finish on the second row and teammate Luca Marini in the middle of the third row.

Zarco qualifying in the rain. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The wet weather wasn’t as welcoming for others though – Enea Bastianini and Francesco Bagnaia crashed out, resulting in both riders receiving injuries.

The Home-Hero Miguel Oliveira (KTM) could only manage 11th on the grid. What could he do in the race though?

The wet conditions always manage to shake things up. Would the weather continue into Sunday?

Race:

Sunday: raceday and the black clouds still loomed large above the beautiful Portugal track but, with only 20 minutes of practice in the drier conditions, how would the racers fair?

Mir got a fantastic start from 2nd taking the lead straight away from Quartararo and Jack Miller (Ducati). But an even better start was from the other Suzuki in 23rd place – Rins propelled himself into 11th and soon took 10th place before the first lap was even complete. Up 13 places from lights out!

Mir got away. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 2 saw Zarco pass Miller for 3rd place and the fastest lap quickly went to the best Yamaha rider – Quartararo, who was in 2nd place, but was hunting down first-place man Mir.

Close racing. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

The two World Champions were out in the lead and by lap 4, Fabio had passed Joan, whilst taking fastest lap again. He continued to keep pushing and put in fastest lap after fastest lap, gaining a lead over Mir and Zarco.

Lap 5 – Rins continued to improve on positions and was soon up to 8th place.

Sector 4, lap 6 saw Jorge Martin lose the front of his Ducati, ending his race early.

The two Repsol Honda riders battled for 9th and 10th with 19 laps to go, resulting in Marquez winning the position from P. Espargaro. Meanwhile the brothers of both riders fought further up for 5th place. It was A. Espargaro that won this one over A. Marquez (Honda). However, he soon had to defend his new place from Rins, who had managed to also pass A. Marquez.

Lap 10 – the current championship leader, Bastianini broke up the two Repsol Hondas, taking 10th from P. Espargaro, but going into sector 2 he crashed out of the race.

Crashing out. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Black clouds continued to loom large above but with only 11 laps until the end, they didn’t look like they would disrupt the proceedings.

Back at the front of the ‘rollercoaster’ track, Quartararo continued his pace and took another fastest lap, putting further distance between himself and Mir, who was under pressure by Zarco.

With 14 laps left, Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) crashed out but managed to rejoin, after clipping the back of Brad Binder’s KTM, who later crashed out himself on lap 18.

Fabio was controlling the race from the front with a 3.269 second gap ahead of Mir. But Zarco had other plans and soon passed Mir for 2nd place. The Ducati-man couldn’t make the pass stick though and the Suzuki was straight back in front.

The next lap (lap 9), Zarco tried again. He had learnt from his mistake on the previous lap and managed to remain in front, claiming 2nd place. This resulted in Mir then being under pressure by another Ducati, in the form of Miller who was close behind.

But more surprises were due: disaster struck as seconds later Miller tried to pass Mir for the last podium position, into turn 1, only to take both himself and the Suzuki out of the race, hurling them into the gravel.

The crash from 3rd and 4th meant that Quartararo then lead Zarco, A. Espargaro and Rins, who remember had unbelievably come from 23rd place!

With 6 laps to go, Bagnaia was also up to 9th place, fighting his shoulder injury against the relentless undulating track.

Two laps until the chequered flag and the Marquez brothers were fighting eachother for 6th. Marc managed to get the place from Alex but Alex took it back on the straight, leading into the last lap.

Last lap – Quartararo took his first victory this year and his first victory since August last year (at Silverstone) 5.776 seconds ahead of Zarco and A. Espargaro. Marc managed to take 6th back from Alex over the line as Bagnaia also stole 8th spot from P. Espargaro.

Home-Hero, Oliveira finished a respectable 5th.

Happy faces. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Top ten race finishers:

1st

F. Quartararo

2nd

J. Zarco

3rd

A. Espargaro

4th

A. Rins

5th

M. Oliveira

6th

M. Marquez

7th

A. Marquez

8th

F. Bagnaia

9th

P. Espargaro

10th

M. Vinales

Quartararo is now the fourth different winner of the season, with 5 races already complete, would we see a 5th? Could it be the seemingly illusive first win for the other French rider – Johann Zarco?

Top four Championship:

1st

F. Quartararo

69 Points

2nd

A. Rins

69 Points

3rd

A. Espargaro

66 Points

4th

E. Bastianini

61 Points

Two men are now equal on points for the championship lead and the others are very close behind. It is still anyone’s to take.

With only 1 week to wait, who will be victorious in round 6 of the 2022 season?

 

 

 

Featured image: That winning feeling. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

An unexpected win under Qatar lights

The wait is finally over, the predictions are in – who will win the opening race of the 2022 season?

Qualifying:

There were some interesting results, in less than favourable weather conditions. Jorge Martin (Ducati) took pole and fastest lap. Second was Enea Bastianini (Ducati) and taking last spot on the front row was Marc Marquez (Honda), who was declared fit enough to start the new season. Last year’s championship winner – Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) struggled to get to grips with his bike and qualified 11th with teammate Franco Morbidelli directly behind.

Pole for Martin. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Race:

From pole Martin got an awful start to his race, starting with a wheelie from the line and almost rode into Bastianini, resulting in Martin going down into 8th spot. Pol Espargaro (Honda) on the other hand had a flying start and was quick to take the lead from teammate Marquez and Brad Binder (KTM).

Joan Mir (Suzuki) passed Bastianini for 4th place, while pre-seasons favourite to win, Pecco Bagnaia (Ducati) languished down in 14th place.

Riding on last years Ducati, Bastianini was quick to put in the fastest lap but Mir’s teammate Alex Rins (Suzuki) soon beat it while overtaking Quartararo on the straight to go into 8th on lap 4.

Current champion – Quartararo struggled during the whole weekend. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

At the front P. Espargaro started to break away from the pack as the riders behind battled for positions. Lap 6 of 22 – Bastianini was ready to pounce on Mir and soon took full advantage, taking 4th place.

Binder was next – passing Marquez after Marc made a small mistake and went wide.

Ducati’s rider Jack Miller had to retire from the race on lap 7 and VR46’s racer Marco Bezzacchi crashed out on the last corner on lap 8.

Crashes seemed to come in thick and fast – lap 10, turn 1 Alex Marquez (Honda) ended his weekend. Miguel Oliveria (KTM) fell from 11th place – lap 11, turn 1. Then a shock crash between Bagnaia and Martin, meant both riders went into the gravel due to Bagnaia trying to overtake underneath Martin and losing the front. Three Ducati’s had exited early from the first race of the year.

Under the floodlights of Qatar number 55 (P. Espargaro) slowly increased his gap from Binder and Bastianini. The gap went to 1.063 seconds.

Bastianini had had enough of seeing the rear of the KTM though and soon passed Binder for 2nd place on the straight. He went slightly wide on the first corner but managed to hold his new position. This only let Espargaro’s lead intensify further to 1.406 seconds with only 8 laps to go. Could Bastianini push his Ducati to fight for the win?

It didn’t take him long to take chunks out of the lead and soon the gap had decreased to just 0.856 seconds with 7 laps to go. Then it was 0.500 seconds and Bastianini’s dream of winning his first race was in sight.

Taking fastest lap for the second time in the race Bastianini was pushing hard to get close to Espargaro. Meanwhile his brother Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) managed to pass Marquez for 4th.

Bastianini had chosen to race with a rear medium tyre as apposed to Pol’s soft. Was his tyre fairing better in the closing stages of the race? – it appeared so, as Bastianini blasted past the Repsol Honda on the straight, leaving Pol to make a small mistake and run wide into the first corner, resulting in him re-joining the track, only to be behind Binder.

The 2019 Ducati was soon taking full advantage of being in the top spot and soon had a gap of 1.446 seconds ahead of the KTM and the Honda.

It was down to the final lap and all Bastianini had to do was hold his nerve and take his bike over the finish line to take his maiden victory in only his second year.  As the chequered flag waved there were tears all around, not only for the young Italian but also for the whole Gresini Racing team. Bastianini had proved his dream could come true.

Winning feels good! On the podium with Bastianini and Nadia Padovani. Courtesy of: Moto GP BT Sport Twitter page.

Top ten riders results:

1st

E. Bastianini

2nd

B. Binder

3rd

P. Espargaro

4th

A. Espargaro

5th

M. Marquez

6th

J. Mir

7th

A. Rins

8th

J. Zarco

9th

F. Quartararo

10th

T. Nakagami

2022 is the longest season ever for Moto GP, but what will the second round in Indonesia hold for us on 20th March?

 

#UnitedForPeace

 

 

Featured image – Enea Bastianini. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

A new champion is crowned!

Qualifying:

Poor weather conditions resulted in championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) qualifying in an unusual position of 15th on the grid.

Second-place-man in the championship Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) took another pole. Team-mate Jack Miller was second and it was a surprise last place on the front row, for fellow Ducati rider, Luca Marini getting his best qualifying result.

You can’t miss him! Luca Marini sported a new livery, in honour of his brother who celebrated his last race in Italy. Courtesy of: Sky Racing Team VR46 – Twitter Page.

Race:

If the weather was dramatic in qualifying, it certainly wasn’t for the race. However, the drama was there to stay:

The two factory Ducati’s gained a great start from the front and remained in first and second from Marc Marquez (Honda) who quickly got himself to third. Quartararo however, went backwards from 15th to 17th.

Straight away Miller became the perfect team player and took the defensive line against Marquez, keeping him at bay, to let Bagnaia get away. Bagnaia responded and quickly started to create a gap.

Ducati’s lead from the start. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Meanwhile, down in 17th, Fabio started ticking people from his list and by lap 3 was up to 12th position, on the same lap unfortunately, last years champion Joan Mir (Suzuki) was told he had a jump start and was given a long-lap penalty, but soon after that he crashed out alongside Birthday-Boy Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) on turn 2.

Marquez was pushing himself and soon claimed fastest lap. Could he keep this form up and fight for a podium spot? With his fellow Repsol Honda rider behind him he only had to focus on the two Ducati’s ahead.

But there was drama unfolding on the track and with 24 laps to go the first part played out. Jack Miller crashed from second on turn 15, trying to defend for Pecco – leaving him alone to fight for first.

Marquez took his opportunity and closed up on Bagnaia, piling on the pressure. It appeared he was able to turn his Honda better than the Ducati, his arm problems seemingly a thing of the past. Or was it due to the Michelin tyre choice between the two? Bagnaia chose to race with a hard front and medium rear, while Marquez chose a medium front and soft rear. Which set of tyres were going to prevail?

Also piling on pressure was Fabio, now up to 10th place, passing fellow Frenchman Johann Zarco (Ducati).

Crashing on the same lap however was Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) but he managed to rejoin, albeit in last place.

Continuing his hunt, Fabio was soon up to 9th place behind a group of riders, ready to pick them off one-by-one.

A technical issue resulted in Alex Marquez (Honda) having to retire early on lap 11 and Iker Lecuona (KTM) also retired early due to a crash on turn 1.

The tension meanwhile between first and second continued to build with Marc still looking like he was going to pounce at any moment on Pecco.

Quartararo started to pick off the riders in the pack and soon passed into 8th place, with 14 laps until the end. Whilst Fabio was riding high, disaster struck for another Ducati rider – Jorge Martin, who crashed out turn 1, lap 13.

The group in-front of El Diablo started to have mini battles for positions, bringing him into the fray. He soon passed team-mate Franko Morbidelli and number 10 rider – Marini, taking 7th place. With only 12 laps to go, could he progress any further? Any questions were answered when on lap 18 he also passed Alex Rins (Suzuki) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) for 5th position. He only had KTM rider Miguel Oliveria and Honda rider Pol Espargaro in-front for a podium spot. Could he do it?

Fighting through the pack. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Meanwhile, Bagnaia was responding to Marquez’s pressure and pushed for the fastest lap, trying to break away from the Spaniard.

But, the Ducati drama was not over and with only 5 crucial laps until the end, Bagnaia suddenly slid from first position into the gravel and alongside that his championship hopes. Ducati held their heads in their hands along with multiple fans who couldn’t believe what they had seen. Leaving Marquez to claim first and lead the race all the way to the chequered flag. Quartararo was also granted another position, but Enea Bastianini (Ducati), who had come from 16th place on the grid, had other ideas for Fabio and with only 2 laps until the end, looked like he might fight for 3rd.

The edge-of-your-seat drama continued on the last lap and Bastianini did indeed pass Quartararo for the last spot on the podium.

There was too many things happening all at once – Marquez crossed the line, proving all the doubters wrong with regards to his arm health. Bastianini passed Quartararo on the last lap. Fabio claimed the World Championship and local Hero Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) finished in 10th at his last home race.

Team-mates congratulate each other. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.
Never gets old – Rossi celebrates with fans. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

It was history in the making! Fabio Quartararo became the first Frenchman to ever claim the Moto GP World Championship title and along with it the first championship win for Yamaha since 2015.

It was also the first podium for Pol, racing for his new team and a second podium for rookie Bastianini in the Premier Class.

Fabio celebrated in style, walking down a red carpet to receive a golden helmet, alongside celebrations which included pyrotechnics and a live DJ.

Celebrations! Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Top 10 race results:

1st

M. Marquez

2nd

P. Espargaro

3rd

E. Bastianini

4th

F. Quartararo

5th

J. Zarco

6th

A. Rins

7th

A. Espargaro

8th

M. Vinales

9th

L. Marini

10th

V. Rossi

Top Four Championship results:

1st

F. Quartararo

267 points

2nd

F. Bagnaia

202 points

3rd

J. Mir

175 points

4th

J. Zarco

152 points

With only 2 races left for the season, will there be another new race winner? A third in a row win for Marquez? Or will El Diablo want to go out with an even bigger bang?

 

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP website).

Magnificent Seven for Marquez!

Qualifying:

Moto GP was back in America!

Viewers would have noted that Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) was missing from the Qualifying sessions (and indeed the race) as he took compassionate leave due to the tragic passing of his cousin Dean Berta Vinales, last weekend.

Q2 saw a surprise lap from Luca Marini (Ducati), which took him through to Q1 where he finished 9th on the grid.

But it was a third pole in a row for the other impressive Ducati rider Francesco Bagnaia. Putting in a time of 2:02.781 over Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) in second and Marc Marquez (Honda), who took last place on the front row of the grid.

Race:

It was the first time back on American soil since the pandemic struck. It should have been wonderful news but for many riders it caused some grievances – mainly due to the ever-deteriorating track conditions. It had become even more bumpy and the track surface even poorer, with visible differences in tarmacked sections. Some riders had even gone so far as to say that if the track wasn’t fixed they would not return next year.

Regardless of the track conditions, Marc Marquez was determined to win again at the Austin track. He gave himself the very best of starts, flying straight into first from third. Leading Quartararo and Alex Rins (Suzuki).

Marquez in a lead of his own. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Lap 2 of 20, saw Jorge Martin (Ducati) pass fellow Ducati rider Bagnaia and gain fastest lap in the meantime. At the other end of the pack though Takaaki Nakagami (Honda) took a tumble on turn 12, but managed to continue on into the race, finishing 17th.

Lap 3 saw Jack Miller (Ducati) pass Brad Binder (KTM) and Joan Mir (Suzuki) for a place behind teammate Bagnaia, taking fastest lap from Martin soon after. Would Miller decide to remain behind Bagnaia or try to pass?

Gaps started to appear quite early on in the race with the Spaniard out on his own from Frenchman, Quartararo, then Martin and Rins. Marquez was out to prove that he could still conquer at COTA.

The leading riders had all chosen to use hard front tyres and soft rear tyres, except the Australian Miller, who had opted to ride with two hard tyres. Was there something that Jack knew and the others didn’t? Or was he gambling on his tyres having something extra towards the end?

Lap 5 saw Johann Zarco (Ducati) leave his race early and crash out turn 1. While teammate Martin passed Rins again, after losing an earlier battle between the two. He quickly started to pull away from the Suzuki and put some pressure on Quartararo, who was still in 2nd.

Second to third. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

It was then time for Miller to make his decision and on lap 6 he passed Bagnaia. Could he use his tyres and get near to the top four? Rins was soon in his sights and Miller quickly passed him for fourth place.

With 12 laps remaining the gap grew bigger still between first and second, with Marquez constantly doing metronomic laps from Championship leader Quartararo. The gap became 1.736 seconds.

It was a disastrous weekend for Aprilia rider Aleix Espargaro, after having crashed numerous times over the weekend, he crashed once more- lap 10, turn 13, ending his race early.

Also half-way through the race Bagnaia passed Rins for 5th, knowing he needed to gain some more points on Quartararo for his championship hopes to stay alive. Was it too little too late?

Meanwhile, still leading, Marquez was busy proving all the doubters wrong about his physical abilities and was still gaining a lead over Fabio. Having created a 2.930 second lead. Quartararo stated that “it tastes even better than a victory” to remain in 2nd, knowing that he still had a lead over closest championship rival, Bagnaia.

Lap 13 saw Jack be the ultimate team-player and let Pecco past for 4th place. Having the precious championship points in mind for both Ducati and Bagnaia. Perhaps he was also having tyre issues with his choice of both hard Michelins, as soon after Rins passed him for 5th.

Miller lead Bagnaia before letting him past. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Continuing to put in impressive laps, Marc was stunning audiences with his continuous lead extension, up to 3.499 seconds from Fabio.

Bagnaia had another Ducati rider in front of him by lap 17, in the form of Jorge Martin. Speculation occurred when Martin went wide and soon after Bagnaia passed him to get the last podium position. Was this a purposeful maneuver from Martin? Or just a simple mistake? Whatever the reason Bagnaia went through while Martin received a long-lap penalty for cutting turns 4 and 5.

Last Lap:

Marquez had increased his lead even further and was 4.512 seconds ahead of Quartararo, who was also 4.513 seconds ahead of the two Ducati’s of Bagnaia and Martin. Martin decided to take his long-lap penalty and came back on track behind Rins for 5th place. Becoming the top independent race finisher. Mir nudged past Miller and in doing so Enea Bastianini (Ducati) passed them both to take 6th spot.

Marquez sailed over the finish line for his 7th win at the Circuit Of The Americas and for Honda’s 450th Premier Class podium. Celebrating in style with a tribute to the late Nicky Hayden #69.

Marquez celebrates victory with team. Courtesy of: Moto GP website.

Marquez was certainly back on form and was impressive from lights out.

Race Results (Top Ten):

1st

M. Marquez

2nd

F. Quartararo

3rd

F. Bagnaia

4th

A. Rins

5th

J. Martin

6th

E. Bastianini

7th

J. Miller

8th

J. Mir

9th

B. Binder

10th

P. Espargaro

Even though Mir passed Miller on the last lap, the stewards demoted Mir one place for irresponsible riding (results above include this decision).

Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) also picked up the last point and set fastest lap during the last lap.

Championship Results Update:

1st

F. Quartararo

254 points

2nd

F. Bagnaia

202 points

3rd

J. Mir

176 points

4th

J. Miller

148 points

With only three races left until the end of the season. Could we see Quartararo wrap up his championship next time out? Will Marquez continue to improve? Or will we see another new race winner for the year?

 

(Featured image- Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter page).

 

 

 

Dean Berta Vinales. Courtesy of: Moto GP Twitter.

Always in our thoughts: Dean Berta Vinales. Taken too young. 

Gardner emerges victorious as records tumble

The 12th round of the 2021 Moto2 season took us to Silverstone, on a cloudy and cool Bank Holiday weekend.

It didn’t look like it was going to be Remy Gardner’s day. The Australian started from the second row of the grid in fourth place, behind SKY Racing Team VR46 rider Marco Bezzecchi on pole who had smashed the outright lap record in qualifying. Jorge Navarro was in second and local favourite Sam Lowes in third. Joining Gardner on the second row were teammates Raul Fernandez in fifth place and Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 rider, Fabio DiGiannantonio in sixth.

Remy racing. Courtesy of: RemyGardner.com

In the end Gardner emerged victorious after a hard-fought win over Bezzecchi, who nevertheless managed to hold on to the outright lap record. The fastest race lap changed hands multiple times over the course of the 18 laps – Gardner, then Navarro, then Lowes and Gardner again before being ultimately claimed by Navarro on lap 17.

Bezzecchi was the only one to go with the softer rear tyre option, which had served him well in qualifying, but would it be enough to dominate in the race?

Ai Ogura, the rookie Honda Team Asia rider, who had been impressive in the last two rounds, was back on the 5th row in 14th place after a disappointing qualifying. And before the race even started Marcel Schrotter, starting in 15th, incurred a long lap penalty for ignoring the mechanical failure flag in practice.

Bezzecchi got the best start off the line as Lowes moved up into 2nd on the first bend, and by turn 2 Lowes nipped past Bezzecchi to take the lead as Gardner moved up into 3rd. But after a couple of moments on the opening lap, Gardner was passed by his teammate and dropped down to 5th.

On lap 2, Bezzecchi regained the lead, pushing Lowes back down into 2nd and on lap 4 Lowes was passed by Gardner making up for lost time.

The top 5 started to break away – Bezzecchi, Gardner, Lowes, Navarro and DiGiannantonio stretched out a 1.5 second gap ahead of 6th place Raul Fernandez, whilst Gardner hunted down Bezzecchi to briefly take the lead but was unable to make it stick. Bezzecchi then had a moment in the middle of turn 15, causing Gardner to take evasive action to avoid contact.

The fight on track. Courtesy of: RemyGardner. com

DiGiannantonio moved up into 4th place past Navarro as Lowes held onto 3rd, meanwhile Raul and Augusto Fernandez battled it out for 6th.

For the next few laps, Gardner and Bezzecchi swapped back and forth, with Gardner setting a new race lap record on lap 8. Navarro moved back up into 4th, and Lowes and Navarro closed in on the leading pair.

On lap 12, Gardner retook the lead, with Bezzecchi pushing hard every step of the way. On lap 15 Bezzecchi ran slightly wide, which allowed Gardner a little space to hold onto the front spot and he crossed the line almost half a second ahead of Bezzecchi.

Meanwhile, on lap 14 Navarro edged past Lowes into 3rd place, and Raul Fernandez crashed out at Farm – uninjured but his bike remained on the edge of the track – fortunately not causing a red flag incident.

Augusto Fernandez, who Raul had been battling with, managed to pass DiGiannantonio at the last minute, finishing 5th behind Lowes.

A combination of Gardner’s win and the DNF from Raul Fernandez now stretches out Gardner’s lead at the top of the championship – on 231 points he is 44 ahead of his teammate, with Bezzecchi in 3rd on 179 and Lowes 4th with 127.

But with the next race in Spain, in two weeks time, will we see Raul return to form on his home turf? And after such a hard-fought battle for the lead, can Bezzecchi regain the top step of the podium?

Race results:

1             Remy Gardner (AUS) – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 25 points

2            Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 20

3            Jorge Navarro (SPA) – Lightech Speed Up – 16

4            Sam Lowes (GBR) – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 13

5            Fabio Di Giannantonio (ITA) – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 11

6           Augusto Fernandez (SPA) – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 10

7           Aron Canet (SPA) – Aspar Team Moto2 – 9

8           Xavi Vierge (SPA) – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 8

9           Ai Ogura (JPN) – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 7

10         Joe Roberts (USA) – Italtrans Racing Team  – 6

11          Thomas Luthi (SWI) – Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team – 5

12          Celestino Vietti (ITA) – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 4

13          Marcel Schrotter (GER) – Liqui Moly Intact GP – 3

14          Nicolò Bulega (ITA) – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 2

15          Bo Bendsneyer (NED) – Pertamina SAG – 1

 

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of: Remygardner.com)

 

 

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).

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)

Bologna Bullets take first and second in Spain

Another pole for Fabio in Qualifying:

Everything seemed to be carrying on from the previous race weekend for Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), who managed to gain another pole, this time at Jerez, from his old teammate Franco Morbidelli (Yamaha) who claimed a solid second and Jack Miller (Ducati) clinching third.

During the qualifying Marc Marquez (Honda) however had another big accident on turn 7, ending up in the air barrier at the side of the track, coming out of it seemingly unscathed with a bruised leg and neck. He was cleared to race for Sunday, starting on the grid in 14th place.

Marquez. Courtesy of: Motorsport.com

Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) lead the second row alongside Taka Nakagami (Honda) and Johann Zarco (Honda) taking sixth.

Jerez Moto GP Race:

The Bologna Bullets take first and second in Spain, in the fourth round of the 2021 season.

It is a track not known to favour the Ducati’s, but from the start Miller went straight into the lead, from Morbidelli and teammate Bagnaia. Quartararo went backwards into fourth. But it was Joan Mir (Suzuki) who shot up four places into sixth position. Unfortunately, Alex Marquez (Honda) made a quick exit from his weekend, falling on lap one.

Lap two, turn two, Brad Binder (KTM) found himself in the gravel, but he was soon back on his bike and back in the race.

Taking fastest lap – Quartararo quickly took third place from Bagnaia.

Making it twice in a row for Alex Rins (Suzuki), he made a swift exit on lap three, sliding off the track.

With 22 laps until the chequered flag, Quartararo forced his way into second place and started to hunt down Miller, who couldn’t seem to use the Ducati power to its full advantage and hadn’t managed to break enough away.

Down in ninth place, Zarco had great race pace and took fastest lap from Quartararo.

Fabio took prime position to begin lap 5. The Ducati tried to take it back on the straight but it wasn’t quite enough and slowly had to watch as the number 20 steadily pulled away, quickly taking back fastest lap, getting into his rhythm and pulling further and further from the Australian.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

All the top six riders had picked medium front and rear tyres, creating an equal battlefield out on the track, but it was Bagnaia who seemed faster than Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) in fourth place and on lap 9, took the position from him.

Lap 10, on the flat turn two, Enea Bastianini went into first gear, let the brake off, creating the front to fold and he fell. Meanwhile, the front two riders focused on pulling away from third and fourth. Bagnaia was doing faster laps than fellow countryman Morbidelli, this allowed him to take third place with 11 laps till the end.

Brad Binder crashed for the second time, on turn 13, but this time was unable to carry on.

With 12 laps till the finish line Quartararo led Miller by 1.434 seconds. Miller to Morbidelli gap was 2.705 seconds. On lap 15, the gap suddenly dropped to 0.438 seconds between Quartararo and Miller. Then to 0.205 seconds. Then 0.063 seconds. Miller took the lead, passing Quartararo on turn 1, lap 16. The Australian started to immediately pull away from the Frenchman. With no seemingly physical problems, Quartararo fell towards the clutches of Italian rider – Bagnaia.

The gapping that had started to be created then turned back into a concertina effect, as the group closed up. It wasn’t soon until Bagnaia was on Quartararo’s rear and soon passed him with 8 laps to go. Morbidelli was next in line to pass the Frenchman on lap 18. Claiming the last podium place.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

It was now only a matter of time before the rest of the pack claimed their positions from Quartararo. Who definitely seemed to have a problem, some speculating that he may be suffering from arm pump.

Nakagami was fighting with Aleix Espargaro for 6th place and took it alongside 5th from Quartararo, almost in the same pass. Then it was Mir’s turn to to go up to 5th place from Quartararo and Espargaro. Vinales then took no mercy on his teammate and also claimed a position on lap 19.

Things went from bad to worse for Fabio as another two riders went past him on lap 20. Going from first to tenth in just two laps.

Meanwhile the Dukes eeked further away at the front. The normal racing at Jerez was being thrown-out-the-window, with the Ducati’s finally going good at the track.

Pol Espargaro was the next rider to pass Quartararo, this time for 10th place.

Morbidelli was faster than Bagnaia and was giving it everything he had to try and pass him for second place. Riding on the 2019 Petronas Yamaha however, meant Morbidelli can’t always use his full potential.

Then it was Oliveira’s turn to pass Quartararo to take 12th place, which also saw Fabio’s championship lead taken from him and given to Bagnaia. Another pass from Bradl gave further points to Bagnaia for the championship lead and with 2 laps to go Quartararo had fallen to 13th place, staying just inside the points.

But, it was a masterclass performance from Jack Miller, who gave us a ‘Thriller’ victory. His first in the dry for Moto GP. Claiming “…the last 7/8 laps were the longest of…” his career. Audiences will now be hoping this won’t be his only win of the season. The last time Miller was on the top step of the podium was at the Dutch GP in 2016. This wasn’t the only surprise for Ducati for the weekend though, as Bagnaia stepped onto the second podium spot.

Miller showing all his emotion. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Third place went to Morbidelli who “…gave more than the maximum…” and “… risked a lot and finally…was rewarded with the podium…”.

A brilliant fourth place went to Nakagami (who equalled his best race finish in Moto GP), with Mir in 5th, A. Espargaro in 6th, Vinales 7th, Zarco 8th, another impressive ride for Marquez, who finished 9th and 10th place went to P. Espargaro.

Updated championship:

Position

Rider

Points

First

Bagnaia

66

Second

Quartararo

64

Third

Vinales

50

 

Le Mans (next race) is one of the next three race tracks which are typically good for the Ducati’s. Will we see another Ducati whitewash? Or will someone else step up to the plate?

Thank you to everyone who has taken part in the Social Media black-out this weekend, together we can #DrawTheLine and #StopTheHate.

 

(Featured image, courtesy of: Getty Images)

Back-to-back victories for El Diablo

Controversy reigned in qualifying:

Local boy Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM – 88), took a tumble during the qualifying, which caused the yellow flags to be waved. During this time Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati – 63) was on his fastest lap and had also taken the lap record but it was taken away from him due to Oliveira’s accident, although the yellow flag was out of his peripheral vision at the time, rules state that his lap be removed.

Bagnaia was not the only rider to be unhappy with the qualifying results. Maverick Vinales (Yamaha -12) started in 12th, one position behind Bagnaia. Due to exceeding track limits by having both tyres on the green, although this was only by mere millimetres.

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda – 93), returned this weekend after his explosive crash in July at the start of the 2020 season. He seemed to take a tow from Alex Rins (Suzuki – 42) which gave Marquez a brief third place on the grid. But, his time was not enough to keep him there and he started in 6th place.

Courtesy of: MotoGP website

Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha – 20) – took pole, from Alex Rins (Suzuki – 42) and Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati – 5) who took up the front row. A surprise 8th place for Luca Marini (Sky VR46 10) with reigning Champion Joan Mir (Suzuki – 36) in 9th and regardless of his crash Oliveira rounded up 10th place.

Rookie Jorge Martin had a massive crash which unfortunately resulted in him not being able to race on Sunday.

Portuguese Moto GP race:

Portimao, with it’s undulating bends and tight corners proved to be the place for Frenchman Quartararo to take back-to-back victories, in the third round of the championship.

Courtesy of: MCNews.com

Starting from pole, it seemed it was going to be a straight-forward race for Fabio, but he immediately went backwards to 5th place. Letting Zarco claim 1st into the first corner, leading from Rins and astonishingly Marc Marquez progressed to 3rd place. Mir also went up 6 places from the grid as did Brad Binder gaining 9th place for KTM.

With track temperatures now at 41 degrees the next 25 laps were sure to be sensational.

Quartararo was quick to put in a fastest lap, hoping to gain places back as soon as possible, taking 4th place from Miller. Only to have the fastest lap soon to be taken by Aleix Espargaro on lap three.

Courtesy of: MotoGP website

The battle was heating up already, with riders trying to gain ground with Quartararo soon taking 3rd place on lap 4 and Rins who was hot on the heels of leader Zarco. The Suzuki rider soon secured 1st place but the Ducati power proved too much and on the straight it was taken back.

Lap five saw a mechanical failure for Pol Espargaro (Honda – 41) and sadly he made an early retirement from the race. Rins once again battled for first place, this time brakes won over power and he was able to hold onto it, while Quartararo took 2nd.

Braking too hard however, caused Miller to crash out of the race on turn 3, lap 6.

Sadly for local boy Oliveira turn 14 also saw him crash out on lap 7, but he managed to get back on the bike to finish the race in 16th place.

Hard rear tyres seemed to be the right call for the riders as Bagnaia passed Marquez for 8th place, making his way through the pack and Quartararo was hunting down Rins for 1st. Unfortunately, Yamaha rider Vinales could not do the same and was outside the top 15.

Into the first corner of lap 9, Fabio decided to take 1st place and pushed hard to break-away from Rins. Getting faster and faster sections the further into the laps he went. A brilliant ride from Binder saw him progress from 15th on the grid to 6th place by lap 11. With the two Marquez brothers claiming 9th and 10th.

Lap 13 saw Bagnaia take fastest lap (1:39:728), in 6th place. Closing down on Morbidelli. All the while Rins was putting pressure on Quartararo and trying to catch up enough to pass him.

Bagnaia making his way through the pack. Courtesy of: MotoGP website

Quartararo responded with another fastest lap (1:39:680).

The battle between the Frenchman and the Spaniard continued to escalate and Rins regained fastest lap (1:39:598) on lap 15.

A bump in the circuit caused Rossi to crash out with 11 laps to the finish and track limit warnings were handed out to Morbidelli and Vinales, the latter had already fell fowl to them in qualifying.

Still fighting for 1st place, Rins took fastest lap yet again twice in a row and was pushing himself to his limits trying to catch Quartararo. Sadly, it proved to be to much for the number 41 and he crashed out with only 7 laps to the end. Zarco gained 2nd place with Bagnaia 3rd and Mir 4th. Creating the four riders to break away from the rest of the pack.

Moments after Bagnaia took 2nd place from Zarco, the Frenchman fell, seemingly from another bump in the circuit. Quartararo now lead Bagnaia and reigning champion Mir.

Quartararo seemed to be able to handle the hard rear tyre and use it to his advantage. Slowly gaining a 5.276 second lead ahead of the other two riders who followed behind.

This gap proved to be too big for any of the riders to close down and Quartararo took a very clean victory, with no mistakes, at Portimao. Mir looked to have one last attack in him for 2nd, but Bagnaia gave nothing away. They claimed the last two places on the podium. Morbidelli, with a return to form, just missed out and finished 4th.

Morbidelli back on form. Courtesy of: MotoGP website

Marc Marquez made a herculean effort, even having to change his riding style for race-day and finished a respectable 7th place, remaining ahead of his brother.

Nakagami, who looked like he wasn’t going to be able to even start the race, due to injuries sustained in practice sessions managed to finish the race completing the top 10 riders.

Incredibly six different manufactures finished in the top 7 positions.

The championship standings:

  1. Quartararo (61 points)

  2. Bagnaia (46 points)

  3. Vinales (41 points)

  4. Zarco (40 points)

  5. Mir (38 points)

With two weeks to wait until the fourth round of the championship, will it be enough time for Marc Marquez to heal any further or has this race halted his healing progress? Will it be a third race win in a row for the number 20? Or will we see a new race winner in 2021?

 

Happy Birthday to Fabio Quartararo for Tuesday 20th April.

 

(Featured image: Courtesy of Moto GP website)

Un et Deux – the French reign at Doha

Round two under the Qatar lights found some riders floundering and some soaring. If it was thought to be a repeat of last weekend then audiences were in for a shock.

The qualifying had the biggest surprise which came from the rookie, Jorge Martin who took pole! With a 1.53.106 second lap, snatching it from Vinales, who was confident he had done enough at the flag. Next position went to Martin’s team-mate and Vinales ended up 3rd to round off the front row. The Suzuki’s still seemed to have issues with qualifying and ended up in 8th and 9th. Rossi made changes to his bike which turned out to hinder his chances at getting another 4th in qualifying this time and ended up 21st on the grid.

Martin takes pole on Saturday. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

All riders started Sunday on both rear and front soft tyres again, with the exception of Oliveira, Binder, Lecuona and Petrucci. Perhaps they had thought a different strategy may help them in the closing section of the race. Once again, the wind was blowing and causing sand to go across the track, meaning the tyres would degrade quicker.

The two front Ducati’s got a flying start, with Martin leading Zarco but it was Vinales that went backwards as Aleix Espargaro came through and took 3rd place from the Spaniard, a very surprising Oliveira, who was 12th on the grid, shot into 4th . The next 22 laps were sure to be exciting!

By lap three, Rins had already made the fastest lap, eager to make it to the front early on, now in 3rd place, he started putting pressure on Zarco.

Lap four was Bagnaia’s turn to take fastest lap. But it was the Suzuki’s that were looking menacing as Mir came through to 5th place and Rins took 2nd from Zarco. However, the Ducati took back the position on the straight.

Meanwhile the factory Yamahas were sticking to their plan, which was to conserve tyres and were in 9th and 10th place.

With 17 laps to go Martin was still leading, in only his second Moto GP race, from Rins and Zarco.

Martin leads Rins. Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Performing well in the flowing corners, the Suzuki was putting pressure on the rookie, but the straight, once again was the time for Zarco to pounce, re-gaining 2nd.

Trying to hunt down Martin, Rins took back 2nd place from the Frenchman on turn 10 – lap 8. He knew he had to breakaway from Zarco before the straight. With 13 laps to go Oliveira started to go backwards, unfortunately, the tyre choice didn’t seem to be any better.

The two Petronas riders were struggling as well – not even in the top ten.

The top nine riders however, were starting to breakaway from the rest of the pack and were creating their own race. Martin still lead, now half-way through the 22 laps, whilst Vinales was bringing up the rear. The first six bikes were all four Ducati’s and the two Suzuki’s. Espargaro on the Aprilia, was the only bike not with it’s teammate, out in front of the two factory Yamaha’s.

Mir and Miller were battling for 5th place on lap 13, Mir touched Miller going underneath him to take the position. But, coming onto the straight Miller (43) went wide and and seemed to go straight into Mir, forcing him to go all the way back to 9th. There was an investigation from the stewards but both times were seen as racing incidents.

Things went from bad to worse for Alex Marquez who had a second DNF in a row as he crashed on lap 14.

However, things were looking good for Quartararo (20), who was moving through the front pack and was now 4th, behind the Ducati’s, with 8 laps till the end. Battling for the position alongside Rins, he knew he had to create a chance in order to get on the podium. His teammate was now in 7th with Mir still in 9th place. It seemed the Yamaha’s tactic was paying off.

With six laps till the end, 20 took 3rd place from 43, it was taken straight back on the start-finish line but a mistake going into the first corner from Miller meant Quartararo re-took 3rd once more. The battle for the podium was heating up.

The two Frenchmen then fought for 2nd on lap 18. Zarco tried to defend but Quartararo’s Yamaha had conserved tyres better and was stronger on the corners, meaning he was able to take 1st place as well on turn 14, leading into turn 15, from Martin. The rookie had shocked everyone by leading for most of the race. Martin wasn’t going to give his position away easily and on the straight the Ducati roared past the Yamaha. But, Quartararo re-gained first place soon after.

With four laps to go it was anyone’s call who would win. Quartararo now lead Martin, Zarco and Vinales.

Courtesy of: Moto GP website

Top Gun’ briefly took 3rd place from Zarco, which took Zarco out of the top three for the first time the whole race.

‘El Diablo’ started to pull away from the two satellite Ducati’s and with Vinales putting pressure on Zarco, Zarco decided he needed to try and make a pass on his teammate. Martin went defensive with two laps to go, not wanting to give away his position. Vinales couldn’t keep up with number 5 and Rins took 4th place from him into turn one on the last lap. The penultimate corner of the last lap was Zarco’s last shot at 2nd, after admitting in the post-race interview he was acting as a “… bodyguard for Martin…” he decided to over-take his team-mate to finish 2nd.

It was Quartararo that took the chequered flag, taking his fourth Moto GP victory alongside fellow Frenchman Zarco. The first time in 67 years that two Frenchmen have stood first and second on the podium in the premier class. Martin finished an impressive third to round off the podium. Fourth was Rins, fifth Vinales, sixth and seventh place were the factory Dukes and Mir managed to make up two places since the collision with Miller to finish seventh.

Zarco stood on the podium for the 50th time and now leads the championship with 40 points. Proving to be consistent with two second places in a row.

This thrilling battle was the closest Moto GP race in 73 years. Teams learnt from last weekend and everyone seemed far stronger.

There is now a two week gap until the next event, but the big news is Marc Marquez is said to be making a return in Portugal, which leads into the many European races. Will we see a fit, strong and hungry Marquez? Will the other riders be too far ahead of him? Or will we witness a masterclass performance?

Whatever the outcome, it is sure to be a thrilling ride.

 

Featured image courtesy of: Moto GP website.

©2017 The Pitcrewonline