The Island ruled that the premier class shall enjoy summer for their 27-lap-long shenanigans, the gloomy downpour of a few hours prior quickly forgotten and action getting underway on a dry track under blue skies. And the crowds were treated to more than excellent weather, riders putting on a great show – from a lightning start to a last lap overtake for victory and ending with a cava-drenched-shoe-throwing competition on the podium. The most important of those achievements went the way of Alex Rins, who returns to the top step of the podium after a fourth row start and a race-long squabble with his fellow podium men, which concluded with him becoming the seventh different winner of the season. Marc Marquez also makes a long-awaited return to the podium, for the 100th time in the premier class, after gambling on a soft rear tyre and putting it to good use in countless overtakes on his way to second place. Pecco Bagnaia had to trade the first place trophy for the third place one on the final lap, but still leaves Australia as the championship leader, after a nightmare Sunday for Fabio Quartararo.
The spotlight was firmly on Jorge Martin once the lights went off, the poleman making a great launch ahead of Marc Marquez, the duo stretching almost a second’s advantage over the opening lap. They were somewhat helped by Aleix Espargaro attacking Bagnaia straight away and the Italian having to retaliate and take control of the chasing pack. Quartararo survived a mistake-laden second lap but eventually had to concede fifth place to a charging Jack Miller, while Alex Marquez was fending off the VR46 and Suzuki duos in the remaining top 10 positions. The notable absences from the limelight in the early laps were Enea Bastianini, who lingered in 17th position and Johann Zarco, who struggled with the start and dropped to 19th.
The gap at the front was short-lived, Martin and Marquez quickly reeled in by the sizeable group led by the two factory Ducatis, but that group no longer included Quartararo by lap four, the Frenchman having a big moment at the newly-baptised Miller Corner and dropping to 22nd position, some six seconds behind the leader. Talking of Miller, the home hero was busy putting pressure on his teammate in the early podium battle, the occasional exchanges giving Martin and Marquez a smidgen of breathing room at the front. But it wasn’t just Miller who was on a charge early on, Rins quickly climbing up to fifth by lap six and attacking the Australian for fourth next time around, in one of many successful moves at the Southern Loop. The Suzuki man pulled a duplicate overtake on Bagnaia one lap later, while Aleix Espargaro saw an opportunity to attack Miller as well, the Australian appearing to lose ground after the fast start. However, it’s hard to say how the race wouldn’t progressed for the home favourite, as Alex Marquez misjudged his braking turn four and barged into an unlucky Miller at his own corner. The incident left Marco Bezzecchi, Brad Binder, Luca Marini, Maverick Viñales and Remy Gardner in the remaining top 10 places, with Bastianini making some progress in 13th and Quartararo re-joining point-scoring positions. However, the Yamaha man didn’t get to enjoy the comeback for long, dramatically crashing out at turn two just one lap later.
While all that was unfolding, Rins had been sniffing around Marquez for a couple of laps and eventually made his move with 18 laps to go – then immediately having a go at Martin but less successfully. A decisive move did eventually come at his favourite turn two with 14 laps remaining, Rins taking control of proceedings, while Bagnaia, Marquez and Bezzecchi profited to demote Martin by the end of that same lap. That was the beginning of a long series of exchanges between the three main protagonists, but while the trio stole the spotlight past the halfway point of proceedings, the likes of Bezzecchi, Martin, Espargaro, Binder, Marini, Zarco and even Bastianini were still within the 10-man leaders’ group.
With Bagnaia back in a familiar position - untroubled at the front - Rins kept Marquez entertained in the battle for second, the Suzuki man getting ahead of his compatriot with 10 laps remaining, as did Martin at turn eight, the poleman returning onto the provisional podium – at least for a couple laps, until Bezzecchi mugged them both at turn one with eight laps remaining.
Rins went on to reclaim the lead that same lap, but it was a tough ask to maintain it with a gaggle of Ducatis on his tail, plus Marquez. Just on cue, both Bagnaia and Bezzecchi got ahead next time into turn one, Marquez following their example a couple corners later, demoting Rins to fourth in the blink of an eye. It was nowhere near the end of that podium story, with 10 men still in contention in the leading group with half a dozen laps left. Marquez had a particularly eventful few laps, peppered with a couple of close encounters with the likes of Rins and Martin, but the Honda man kept finding his way back near the podium. Marini also started to become a factor with five laps remaining, the Italian finally breaking into the top five at the expense of Martin.
Bagnaia and Bezzecchi started the final four laps unchallenged for a good few minutes, but Rins and Marquez still looked like a threat and the Spaniards overhauled the rookie at turn four one lap later and distanced him slightly. The continuous squabble between Marquez and Rins prevented them from making any significant moves on Bagnaia, until Rins attacked decisively at the start of final lap. Marquez smelled blood and immediately got past Bagnaia as well. He then tried his best to find a gap around Rins, forcing his Honda into some pretty alternative lines, but the Suzuki man defended beautifully to secure his team's first victory of the season, while Marquez settled for second and some light crowd surfing at turn 10. Bagnaia resigned to taking third, while Bezzecchi took the title of Rookie of the Year with fourth place. Bastianini’s habitual late race pace helped him take fifth ahead of Marini, while Martin settled for seventh, only eight tenths behind the victor. Aleix Espargaro faded to ninth in the final couple of laps, with Binder rounding out the top 10.
Although he missed out on victory, Bagnaia leaves Australia as the championship leader, but although Quartararo didn’t do himself any favours, Rins and Marquez inadvertently helped him out with their last lap adventures, limiting his deficit to 14 points. Aleix Espargaro is now trailing the Italian by 27 points, while Bastianini is still in mathematical contention with a 42-point deficit.
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