The Jerez circuit turned up the heat to a toasty 40 degrees as the premier class played their cards for the first trophy back at home. If practice and qualifying and the first couple of laps suggested a classic rumble for the win, it quickly turned into a classic masterclass from Marc Marquez, the reigning world champion battling mostly the elements to score his 37th premier class victory and add to his impressive podium tally at the track. Johann Zarco looked less than comfortable on the medium tire and had a lonely and unexpected journey into second position. Equally surprised would have been Andrea Iannone, who scored back to back podiums for Suzuki after dropping back rapidly at the start.
The poleman did not feature heavily in proceedings, Cal Crutchlow losing ground at the lights as Jorge Lorenzo made a trademark start of old by launching into the lead ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Zarco, with Crutchlow fourth, Marquez fifth and the two Suzukis following. Andrea Dovizioso held station at the start, with the Yamahas gaining one position behind him but Viñales was quickly demoted out of the top ten by Franco Morbidelli.
Back at the front, Marquez made his first move into last turn and managed to keep Crutchlow behind him, with another move on Zarco at the end of lap two. Meanwhile, Iannone was going backwards, dropping behind Dovizioso and Rossi and back into ninth.
By lap three, Pedrosa briefly got past the leading Ducati as Lorenzo and his softer front tyre were showing some signs of weakness but Lorenzo struck back right away. Marquez then made a brave move on his teammate in turn 11, with Zarco and Crutchlow hanging on the back of the Repsol Hondas. Dovizioso had taken the lead of the second group in an attempt to bring down the half-second’s gap, dragging Alex Rins, Iannone, Rossi and Petrucci with him.
Crutchlow made a move on Zarco on lap five and the Frenchman started having major struggles, dropping behind Rins and Dovizioso, who were also struggling to catch up with the four leaders. The Suzuki man’s challenge faltered on lap six, as he crashed out for the third race in a row. Teammate Iannone was making up for it already as the Italian started to make up the ground he lost at the start and was up to sixth.
Meanwhile, Marquez was stalking Lorenzo with Pedrosa and Crutchlow in tow. The poleman did not get a chance to place his bid for the lead as he slid out in turn one at the start of lap eight. Marquez finally made a move on Lorenzo in his namesake corner as Dovizioso joined the lead group, leaving Zarco over a second down the road.
Dovizioso was up into third after another move on Pedrosa in the final corner as they were starting lap ten and although the top four was in close proximity, gaps of over a second started popping up behind them between Zarco, Iannone and Petrucci. The Pramac man had company though, in the form of Rossi and Jack Miller. Viñales was in much less familiar company in between Alvaro Bautista and Bradley Smith outside of the top ten.
Despite continuing to set red hot sectors at the front at the midway point of the race, Marquez could not get away from the challengers behind, all with the same medium rear tire. The only one theoretically at a disadvantage was Lorenzo on a softer front and it soon seemed to make a difference as Marquez stretched half a second’s advantage. The next rival for the Honda man was some gravel dragged onto the circuit in turn 11 by Tom Luthi’s fresh crash but the world champion pulled another save out of the bag and carried on.
The scare did not seem to have dented his confidence much – as if it ever does – and the world champion was checking out by a second just a lap later. Dovizioso and Pedrosa were still stuck behind Lorenzo and battling each other as they desperately attempted not to lose touch with the leader. Marquez was not lending any helping hands as he extended his lead to two seconds with 10 laps to go. Lorenzo looked like easy prey behind him but the wolves could not get close enough and the story ended one lap later as the trio tangled in an odd incident which, in a shocking twist, did not involve Marc Marquez. Dovizioso overtook Lorenzo, taking both Ducatis wide and then tangling with Pedrosa as they were getting back on line, filling the litter box with three unhappy riders.
With Marquez six seconds ahead of the remaining pursuers, Zarco found himself on the podium and Petrucci, Iannone, Miller and Rossi were all of a sudden battling for the remaining podium position. Behind them, Viñales got a helping hand into eighth position purely through maths.
Iannone made a brave move on Petrucci in turn five with two laps to go as Rossi got ahead of Miller half a second behind them. The Yamaha man brought that gap down aided by the smell of silverware but the faith of third place was sealed by Iannone, half a second clear of Petrucci at the line. Rossi completed his lap around the world in fifth position, ahead of Miller in sixth. Viñales finally made it past Bautista on the final couple of laps and finished seventh, probably better than he could’ve hoped for 40 minutes earlier, when the tarmac was simmering on the grid. Bautista, Morbidelli and wildcard Mika Kallio all got somewhat lucky but overall very impressive top ten positions.
Besides being the big winner in Jerez, Marquez came out on top in the championship standings as well, 12 points ahead of Zarco. Viñales will be ecstatic to still be in third, 20 points down on his compatriot, as Iannone climbs two positions to fourth. Dovizioso goes from leader to fifth, 24 points down, followed by Rossi and Crutchlow.
|18||17||Karel ABRAHAM||Ducati||1 Lap|
|99||Jorge LORENZO||Ducati||8 Laps|
|4||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||Ducati||8 Laps|
|26||Dani PEDROSA||Honda||8 Laps|
|35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||Honda||9 Laps|
|12||Thomas LUTHI||Honda||14 Laps|
|42||Alex RINS||Suzuki||20 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|41||Aleix ESPARGARO||Aprilia||0 Lap|