Clear blue skies had returned to Jerez after rain spiced things up in qualifying and the temperatures hotted up in line with the enthusiasm of a sprint race. And there was a bit too much of that enthusiasm, as contact between Alex Marquez and Franco Morbidelli at turn two immediately red flagged the race on the opening lap, to allow for the smoky Ducati of an unlucky Marco Bezzecchi to be removed. The championship leader was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got tangled in the incident but was able to restart the new 11-lap race.
Once again, the factory KTMs were rockets off the line, this time with Brad Binder jumping ahead of Jack Miller, while Jorge Martin kept third and Pecco Bagnaia snuck ahead of poleman Aleix Espargaro, who struggled with both starts. Johann Zarco and Miguel Oliveira got ahead of Dani Pedrosa, but early mistakes from the Frenchman soon dropped him out of the leaders’ group. The Mooney VR46 duo completed the top 10 early on, while Alex Marquez lost one position to 13th and Fabio Quartararo gained one up to 15 – the Yamaha man struggling to replicate his initial start, that saw him immediately joining the top 10.
Back at the front, Binder kept control of proceedings, while Miller got challenged by Martin at turn nine and the exchanges between the two continued on the second lap, allowing Bagnaia to get into the mix for the top three. A few tenths back, Oliveira was keeping Espargaro busy in the battle for fifth, with Pedrosa in tow and Zarco leading the next group one second down the road, including Maverick Viñales, Alex Marquez, Takaaki Nakagami, the Mooney VR46 duo and the two Fabios. However, the group soon lost Marquez at turn two and Nakagami at turn nine, helping Quartararo pick up a couple of positions.
After disposing of Martin, Miller finally attacked his teammate at the final corner to take control of proceedings by the start of lap four and went on to lead a group of seven podium contenders. That group was also reduced slightly when Espargaro crashed out of fifth position a couple of laps later. Meanwhile, Miller and Binder had managed to extend half a second of advantage over Bagnaia and Martin, while brief exchanges between Oliveira and Pedrosa dropped them a second behind the four leaders. It also allowed Zarco to steadily bridge the gap, the Frenchman bringing Viñales with him and dropping Bezzecchi and Marini over two seconds back, in the company of Di Giannantonio and Quartararo.
Friendly fire soon started amongst the lead KTMs but Miller was able to hold onto top spot going into the final three laps, with Binder glued to his rear wheel. The South African gave it another go one lap later at Pedrosa corner and this time held onto the lead, but the squabble brought the Ducatis back into contention.
Binder started the final lap still in the lead, while Miller lost second to Bagnaia after running wide at turn six, but it was too late for the world champion to attack the leader and Binder secured a second sprint victory of the season. Miller held onto the final podium position, while Martin settled for fourth and Oliveira secured fifth. Pedrosa successfully survived his first sprint battle to take sixth, while the late exchanges between Zarco and Viñales halted their progress and saw the Aprilia man finish ahead of the Pramac rider.
Bezzecchi snatched the final point scoring position and held onto the lead in the world championship by three points but with Bagnaia hot on his tail. Quartararo loses further ground, stuck down in 12th for the second half of the race and dropping to 9th in the championship standings, 31 points behind the leader.
|11||49||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Ducati||7.174|