There were whisperings of rain around the premier class race but no liquid was to be seen until the usual suspects poured cava over the gathered crowd. And Andrea Dovizioso had the most reason to celebrate as the Italian took a tense victory on his 100th race for the Borgo Panigale squad. Jorge Lorenzo did his best to interfere but eventually settled for second, while resisting Marc Marquez’s attacks. The reigning world champion celebrated his 100th start in the class with a third place, ensuring that another couple of precious points went towards this year’s tally.
Poleman Dovizioso did not get to enjoy clear air for long at the start as Valentino Rossi made it first into turn one and the two compatriots continued to trade blows at the front for the first few laps as Lorenzo was harassing Marquez right behind. The Spaniards swapped places by lap two but they lost nearly half a second in the process.
Dovizioso was back in front by lap three and Rossi halted his charge but the challengers were getting nearer. Marquez bided his time to attack Lorenzo, with Danilo Petrucci two tenths back. The rest of the pack was led by Cal Crutchlow, who brought Johann Zarco, Alex Rins, Andrea Iannone and Dani Pedrosa to the party, although they didn’t stick around for long.
On lap five, Marquez pounced on Lorenzo and the pace was slowly starting to heat up after a sluggish – well, considering predicted race pace – start. Besides Tito Rabat, who was hunting down the top ten, the main pack didn’t look to be in much of a hurry to dip into the 1:56s and settled for their positions, playing the waiting game. Lorenzo had a few nibbles at Marquez and made it stick on lap eight, which seemed to encourage Rossi to retake the lead into turn five later that lap.
Marquez fought back one lap later to avoid losing sight of the two Italians ahead and Lorenzo was left into the clutches of another Honda, this time Crutchlow. The LCR man could not attack straight away but he did it on lap ten, allowing the lead trio a gap of half a second. Meanwhile, Marquez was showing intentions with Dovizioso so the Ducati man kicked into gear and nudged his way past Rossi, with Marquez helping himself through soon after. The three main contenders kept within a tenth of each other, with Crutchlow looking threatening behind and with Lorenzo and Petrucci the only men who managed to hang on to the lead group. Zarco was a second down the road, chased by the Suzukis and Pedrosa.
Crutchlow made his move on Rossi in turn 12 with 10 laps to go but the rest of the group kept nerve-rackingly close to each other without showing any intentions and saving their tyres. Lorenzo was the first to show his hand and got past Rossi for fourth position by throwing a red sector time in play. Despite that slight achievement, Lorenzo had half a second to recover on Dovizioso, Marquez and Crutchlow, who were still lingering in the 1:57s. It didn’t take the Spaniard long to join the podium battle but Rossi was not really letting go either. Petrucci was still close to the lead group but not within striking distance.
After holding station for a handful of laps, Crutchlow lost his chance at attacking the leaders with five laps to go, when Lorenzo got revenge to snatch third position away. While the Spaniard went in pursuit of his current and future teammate, the LCR man was being reeled in by Rossi.
It all came down to a four lap shootout as Dovizioso, Marquez and Lorenzo all dipped into the 1:56s. Lorenzo messed with Marquez’s plans as he overtook his rival with three laps left and bravely attempted to get past Dovizioso in the same move. A bit ambitious as Dovizioso cut back in time to keep the lead but a war was declared at Ducati, with Marquez a silent observer as Crutchlow and Rossi fell over a second back.
Dovizioso kept leaving doors open for Lorenzo but undercutting him time and time again in a frustrating game of cat and mouse. The Italian led the way going into the final lap but Marquez was silent no longer and attacked Lorenzo a couple of times, although the Ducati man had no problem to scrap paint with the Honda. Lorenzo bagged fastest lap in the process but had to settle for second over the line, with Marquez showing restraint to score a precious podium.
Rossi had one last attack in him and overtook Crutchlow at the line to grab fourth, pushing his career points tally over the 6000 mark. Petrucci had a lonely race in sixth, with Zarco best of the rest two seconds behind. Pedrosa left it late to get past the Suzukis to grab eighth, taking Alvaro Bautista with him into ninth. Iannone led Rins over the line in the battle for tenth, with Franco Morbidelli top rookie in 13th place.
The podium aids Marquez’s championship charge by three points, Rossi now 49 points back. Dovizioso climbs into third in the standings, courtesy of his win but 68 points down on Marquez. Viñales loses touch further after he got taken out in an incident in turn three on the first lap and ruined his impressive run of point-scoring races. He now sits 72 points back on the leader, four points ahead of Lorenzo.
|53||Tito RABAT||Ducati||13 Laps|
|45||Scott REDDING||Aprilia||16 Laps|
|38||Bradley SMITH||KTM||20 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|25||Maverick VIÑALES||Yamaha||0 Lap|
|6||Stefan BRADL||Honda||0 Lap|