Remember the wet Saturday that didn’t matter because the forecast promised a gloriously sunny Sunday? Weather apps started trembling when umbrellas opened just as the intermediate class podium was popping cava bottles. The rain fell just enough to tease the riders and half the track so after a half hour delay of safety car drift action, the one-lap-shortened race got underway. Dark clouds were still spectating but the only liquid to hit the surface was the metaphorical tears of Marc Marquez’s rivals as the world champion crossed the line for his 50th premier class victory. It seemed close for a while but then the Spaniard pulled an Alex Marquez and gone he was. Andrea Dovizioso made a return to the podium on an emotional weekend for Ducati and was joined by a delighted Jack Miller, who grabbed third place through nothing but sheer speed.
Marquez was in control from the start, launching off the line with Dovizioso in hot pursuit ahead of Miller and Rins, while front row starter Johann Zarco instantly left the top ten like he was never there. Valentino Rossi was the top Yamaha off the line and in fifth position by the end of lap one, while Fabio Quartararo kept steady in tenth but Maverick Vinales had a nightmare start and had to recover from 15th after the first couple of turns.
It was a steady first few laps as riders got to grips with the conditions but Marquez, Dovizioso, Miller and Rins were already extending one second’s gap to the chasers led by Pol Espargaro and Rossi by lap three. Another second back was a sizable group including Cal Crutchlow, Danilo Petrucci and Quartararo but the LCR rider seemed to have more speed at this stage and quickly caught up with the duo ahead. Meanwhile, Vinales was making no progress and struggling to get past Zarco.
Back at the front, Rins stalked the Ducatis mainly in turn three, pulling a successful move on Miller but Dovizioso proved a bigger challenge. The four-man band was posting similar lap times at the front and by the time Rossi and Crutchlow got past the KTM of Espargaro, the gap to the leaders was standing at over three seconds. The lead four were the only men on track dipping into the 1:56s and their advantage continued to grow. Crutchlow picked up the chase from Rossi in turn three of lap eight but was left with four seconds to recover to have a shot at the podium.
As the race hit the halfway mark, nothing changed at the front, Marquez ahead of Dovizioso and Rins, with Miller starting to drop a tenth here and a tenth there. The Pramac rider was losing touch with the podium but was in no real danger from behind, pal Crutchlow the next man four seconds down the road, another second ahead of Rossi and with significant gaps to Quartararo, Pol Espargaro and Petrucci.
Another lap gone and another victim for Marquez, Rins also appearing to struggle a touch and Dovizioso being put to the test next. Despite relying on his precious right knee to keep him upright – well, just upright enough – at turn ten, Marquez still extended his advantage to nine tenths of a second by the end of that lap. Dovizioso definitively failed the world champion’s test with six laps to go, when the gap ticked over the two seconds mark and second place didn’t look secure either, as the Italian was dropping into Rins’s less aerodynamic claws. That, however, motivated Miller to get ever nearer and Rins’ focus quickly turned from attack to defence mode. Miller first showed a wheel with two laps to go and after a failed first attempt, the Ducati found the inside line at turn five and claimed the final podium spot. Rins was instantly distanced and limped his way home while managing the 1.5 seconds gap to Crutchlow behind.
Marquez started the final lap three and a half seconds ahead and took the checkered flag as alone as he was for the latter part of the race. Dovizioso settled for second, with a jubilant Miller taking a well-deserved and fought out third place. Rins had to make do with fourth, holding off Crutchlow in fifth, with Rossi taking a lonely sixth place. Quartararo, Petrucci, Takaaki Nakagami and Vinales completed the top ten positions.
Another masterful display from another Marquez and the eldest sets off to Austria with a 63 points advantage in the world championship. Dovizioso continues to be the closest challenger, with Petrucci trailing the leader by 81 points. Rins is the only other rider with a tally within 100 points of the championship leader.
|55||Hafizh SYAHRIN||KTM||14 Laps|
|21||Franco MORBIDELLI||Yamaha||0 Lap|
|36||Joan MIR||Suzuki||0 Lap|