Just a hint of sunshine opened the intermediate class race, an eventful affair that saw the usual contenders fighting for victory only for the podium to be blown wide open again in the final few laps. Thomas Luthi couldn’t have imagined a better comeback after his horrific accident barely two weeks ago in Brno, the Swiss rider taking a commanding victory ahead of Franco Morbidelli and Takaaki Nakagami.
What started like a good day for the home favourite poleman slowly turned into the exact opposite. Jonas Folger stole Sam Lowes’ thunder at the start but the Brit recovered the lead by the end of the first lap. Johann Zarco didn’t take long to join the party, not wanting to leave Lowes to break away at the front. The Frenchman stalked the Brit for the first half of the race, keeping him in sight without attempting anything until Luthi came charging from a fourth row start and went past both of them.
After losing the lead, Lowes slipped back further, Zarco going past and leaving him to fight it off with Morbidelli. Once the Italian was dealt with, the Brit chased back the leaders, leaving Morbidelli to fend off Nakagami, Hafizh Syahrin and Folger, with Estrella Galicia teammate Alex Marquez sliding out of contention early in the race.
Tyre management kicked in and saw the order settle for much of the remaining laps, until Lowes had a few attempts at overtaking Zarco, passing him successfully with four laps to go. Zarco fought back in turn sixteen but the aggressive move forced Lowes off the track, the world championship leader running wide as well and dropping behind the lead group as the incident was being investigated. Despite finishing sixth, Zarco received a thirty-second penalty for irresponsible riding that put him out of the points.
That left Nakagami, Morbidelli and Syahrin to dispute the podium positions while Luthi got some breathing space at the front. The Italian was the final victor, overtaking the Japanese rider on the final lap.
Despite missing out on the podium by a tenth of a second, Syahrin was happy with fourth place, the Malaysian fending off Folger in fifth. Lorenzo Baldassarri had a largely solitary final part of the race to finish sixth.
Alex Rins might have been the luckiest rider on track today, the Spaniard riding cautiously at the start but the painkillers helping him build up some pace to find his way into the points. He quickly disposed of the opposition to climb all the way to tenth, the first rider behind the lead group, but having to make up over five seconds to the leaders. Once Zarco’s penalty was applied, he was bumped up to seventh place, gaining more points that he would’ve dared to hope some eighteen laps before.
That leaves him only ten points behind Zarco in the world championship but with the challenge of another damage limitation race next weekend.
|8||24||Simone CORSI||Speed Up||+8.421|
|13||97||Xavi VIERGE||Tech 3||+16.564|
|14||60||Julian SIMON||Speed Up||+22.155|
|16||19||Xavier SIMEON||Speed Up||+27.892|
|10||Luca MARINI||Kalex||1 Lap|
|44||Miguel OLIVEIRA||Kalex||7 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|32||Isaac VIÑALES||Tech 3||0 Lap|