The main event at the Cathedral proved to be a wonderful improvised symphony where Honda, Yamaha, Ducati and Suzuki’s musical machines all got a solo of their own until Marc Marquez closed the show. The world champion’s fantastic recital included a race winning overtake on the outside of both Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso, followed by a lap a second faster than the opposition.
Marquez put the cherry on top of a race full of highlight reel moments. Another one of those was Alex Rins’ brave final chicane overtake on Maverick Viñales to decide the remaining podium places between themselves, with a very impressive second place for Rins and a nice anniversary present for Yamaha in the shape of a third place from Viñales.
Marquez might have looked favourite after his staggering pace in practice but while the result was somewhat predictable, the race was anything but. The poleman had made a perfect start but Jorge Lorenzo’s trademark rocket launch eclipsed the Repsol man, Lorenzo cutting short Marquez’s attempt to escape by getting past him on the opening lap. Behind them, Rossi wiggled his way into the top three, ahead of Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow. Only one lap later, Marquez roared past Lorenzo once again in turn 15 to have another go at a getaway and that was only the prelude to what would follow – which was not for the faint of heart.
By lap three, Marquez was trying to make the best of the clear air with some red sectors but the Ducati’s grunt on the straight kept reeling him in. Only two tenths back, Rossi was leading a sizeable group with Dovizioso, Rins, Crutchlow, Andrea Iannone, Viñales and Johann Zarco. One lap later, Lorenzo made another attack on Marquez and the Spaniard was quickly demoted another place by Rossi, the two leaders starting to get a half second’s advantage on Marquez, who was being attacked by Dovizioso. While the two old rivals were swapping paint, Rossi clattered into the back of Lorenzo in an odd incident where Lorenzo looked like he lost the front and surprised the Italian, both bikes luckily surviving more or less unscathed.
By lap seven, Marquez pounced on Rossi and Dovizioso followed him through, dropping Rossi behind Rins. While Marquez and Dovizioso were providing the entertainment, Rins wanted a bite himself and also got past the Italian. All the while Rossi, Viñales, Crutchlow and Zarco were all biding their time at the end of the group. Rins could not hold off Dovizioso for long and the Italian was glued to the world champion’s tail once again by lap ten. But just when you thought Dovizioso was prepared to join his teammate at the front, Rins stuck his nose back in the podium battle, leaving the Ducati in the clutches of the factory Yamahas. Rins went one better in Lorenzo’s aid and ran Marquez a bit too close for comfort, demoting the Spaniard to fourth, behind Dovizioso once again. Viñales made it past Rossi just behind the shenanigans, Zarco and Crutchlow just about keeping in touch with the lead group. If you thought this is getting confusing, just wait.
At the halfway point of the race, Dovizioso finally found his way to his leading teammate, Marquez also getting a bit of revenge on Rins soon after. The Suzuki man was still posting personal best laptimes but he allowed a small gap to form behind the lead trio and invited Viñales to take charge on the pursuit.
With ten laps to go, the top three started to play and last year’s title rivals finally demoted Lorenzo from the lead. That was not Lorenzo’s last word, the Spaniard having another go at his compatriot soon after but that was shorted lived and Lorenzo started going backwards. Meanwhile, Rossi had dragged the second group back into the battle but it was Viñales who made the best of it by getting past Marquez. The leaders did not get much of a breather either, because while the Ducatis were fighting like there was no tomorrow, Marquez and Viñales helped themselves to a piece of the victory pie.
With eight laps remaining, Viñales took a turn at the front as only Marquez, Dovizioso and Rossi were keeping up with the leader, Rins leading Lorenzo a second back. Marquez finally got another shot to escape with seven laps to go but the Yamaha’s youngster retaliated and did not allow the Honda man to get away.
With six laps to go, the Marquez/Viñales battle went off track and allowed Dovizioso and Rossi back into the lead, the young Spaniards having to do the work all over again. The two-way battle turned four-wide in turn six and Marquez went on the outside to retrieve the lead ahead of Dovizioso and the Yamahas led by Rossi, the rodeo ride allowing Rins and Crutchlow back into contention.
With three laps to go, Marquez was pushing hard to extend his lead to over half a second, which quickly turned into a second one lap later. Desperation set in behind the Spaniard, Rossi going for a move on Dovizioso but soon found himself sixth after he was nudged out by his compatriot, both on the losing end and allowing Viñales and Rins into the provisional podium positions.
Marquez pulled the plug and posted his fastest lap on the penultimate lap, starting the final lap with a 1.5 seconds lead. While his team was trying to keep the feisty world champion cool, Rins pounced on the final chicane on Viñales, the Yamaha man having to settle for third. Rossi’s late move on Dovizioso was not as successful and the Ducati pulled back to keep fourth. Crutchlow crossed the line sixth, almost a second behind Rossi, with Lorenzo fading to seventh place and with Zarco, Alvaro Bautista and Jack Miller completing the top ten.
In the heat of a beautiful battle, Rossi came out the losing party in the championship, Marquez extending his lead over the Italian to 41 points going to the Spaniard’s beloved Sachsenring. Viñales stays third, 47 points down, with Zarco fourth with a 59 point deficit.
|9||Danilo PETRUCCI||Ducati||9 Laps|
|10||Xavier SIMEON||Ducati||9 Laps|
|17||Karel ABRAHAM||Ducati||15 Laps|