Marc Marquez, who pulled off his mandatory bike switch to perfection, won the MotoGP contest Sunday by a seven-second margin that kept him well clear of the late-race drama behind him at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit.
And that drama came (again) in the form of Andrea "Crazy Joe" Iannone. A desperate attempt at a pass by Iannone on Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso at the race's final corner ended with both bikes in the gravel and Rossi seizing second. Dani Pedrosa also took advantage of the crash to grab the final podium spot in the race which saw eight riders fail to finish -- including Jorge Lorenzo -- and each remaining rider claim a share of the points.
Eugene Laverty, already having one of his best weekends as a MotoGP racer in both practice and qualifying, took a stunning fourth just in front of Hector Barbera (5th). Pol Espargaro made up for a difficult practice to take sixth. Stefan Bradl (7th) gave Aprilia its best finish in MotoGP since the company returned to motorcycle racing's top class in 2012 as a "claiming rule" team.
Bradley Smith, whe qualified 12th, took eighth, just clear of MotoGP rookie Tito Rabat (9th) who has his best finish of the new season. Alvaro Bautista (10th) gave Aprilia two bikes in the top 10.
At the race start, Lorenzo grabbed the holeshot at Turn 1, a corner that had proved to be a problem for many riders – including the World Champion – all weekend. Within two laps, Lorenzo had been swallowed up by the pack when Dovizioso, Rossi, Marquez, Maverick Vinales and Iannone all pushed past.
Dovizioso led the race. With 18 laps to go, Marquez sliced past Rossi and then Dovizioso to take the lead. Rossi also made quick work of Dovizioso and latched onto Marquez tail, the pair swapping time in the front.
Behind the two, the mid-pack battle heated up. Iannone, Dovizioso and Vinales waged a fierce skirmish for third. Then Lorenzo, who had dropped to sixth at this point, crashed out at Turn 1 with 15 laps to go – the same corner where he had crashed in FP4.
At the front, Rossi and Marquez were running nearly identical lap times. But because of concerns about tire life after a Michelin rear tire disintegrated during practice, the race had been declared a "flag-to-flag" race, meaning that riders must switch to a backup bike with fresh tires mid contest.
With a three-lap window to make the mandatory switch, Rossi and Marquez battled for position to enter the pits in front. Marquez, who was in the lead, entered first, closely followed by Rossi. But while both riders made the bike switch rapidly, they emerged into the racetrack next to Tito Rabat who ended up between the two. Marquez immediately opened a gap.
Rossi began losing time to the race leader.
Near the end of the contest, with Marquez well out in front, Rossi struggled on his backup bike. Vinales closed but then crashed out at Turn 1 while on Rossi’s tail with three laps to go.
Iannone and Dovizioso also jumped right behind Rossi. One lap later, when Iannone pushed Rossi wide on a pass, Dovizioso slipped past both to take second.
On the final lap, it was Marquez out front, followed by Dovizioso, Iannone and then Rossi. Pedrosa was in fifth, 28 seconds back.
Then on the race’s last corner – the same final, Turn 14 spot that ended a Moto3 rider’s podium hopes hours earlier – Iannone made a desperate lunge up the inside of his teammate’s bike. The front end washed out and he collected both bikes into the gravel trap.
Dovizioso, thinking quickly, righted his bike and pushed it across the line to finish 13th and earn four points. It is the second race in a row that Iannone has crashed out of a top position.
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Bike||Time / Diff.|
|29||Andrea IANNONE||Ducati||1 Lap|
|35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||Honda||1 Lap|
|25||Maverick VIÑALES||Suzuki||3 Laps|
|45||Scott REDDING||Ducati||5 Laps|
|76||Loris BAZ||Ducati||8 Laps|
|99||Jorge LORENZO||Yamaha||15 Laps|
|43||Jack MILLER||Honda||17 Laps|
|68||Yonny HERNANDEZ||Ducati||18 Laps|