The sporadic rain that threw chaos into the intermediate class race left the MotoGP boys with plenty of furrowed brows. To add to the confusion, some sunshine seemed to break through before the start with the forecast claiming more rain was on the way.
The bravest soul of the grid was Marc Marquez, the world championship leader gambling on more rain popping down to justify his choice of the frail soft wet rear tyre while everyone else went for the medium. The opposite happened in reality, with more sunshine rapidly drying the track, but the result was the same, the world champion taking yet another stunning flag-to-flag victory.
Teammate Dani Pedrosa joined him on the podium, twelve seconds later and celebrating his 150th Grand Prix podium, with Maverick Viñales saving what looked like an unlikely third place at one point.
Starting from pole, Marquez kept the lead at the start, chaos unfolding behind him as front-row starters Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi were dropping back after the factory Ducatis blasted past. Jorge Lorenzo went all out with a move for the lead on the very first lap, messing up Marquez’s plan of getting away on the softer option and putting almost a second into the reigning world champion.
Rossi was the next to take on the Honda, who appeared to already struggle, soon dropping as low as tenth by lap two. At the rate he was losing places, the only option for Marquez was to pit for slick tyres in the rapidly improving conditions, the Spaniard rejoining twentieth. Jonas Folger, Jack Miller, Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith also followed him in. What seemed like a tyre choice mistake quickly turned into a stroke of brilliance as the rain kept away and the track was getting drier.
The leaders on medium wets took their time making the switch, Lorenzo leading Rossi, Johann Zarco, Andrea Dovizioso and Viñales. The Ducatis were restricted by their second bikes being on a wet setup but everyone else was playing chicken.
At the end of lap four, the pitlane was once again flooded, only Rossi, Zarco and Dovizioso staying out, with Marquez already seven seconds behind them and lapping ten seconds quicker than the trio.
Rossi and Dovizioso pitted at the end of lap five, arguably a few laps too late, leaving Zarco to be picked up by Marquez soon after, the Frenchman also going through the pits the following lap. After the pit stop shuffle, Pedrosa was fifth, Viñales tenth, Rossi and Dovizioso thirteenth and fourteenth.
Marquez’s lead was up to twenty seconds by lap eight and still setting red sectors, with Aleix Espargaro in pursuit, only half a second ahead of Scott Redding – who started the race last – and Karel Abraham another tenth behind.
Pedrosa had a two-second gap to make up if he wanted to join the podium fight and the Honda rider only needed three laps to catch up with Abraham and get past him. Another sector or so and Pedrosa was past Redding and Espargaro to trail his teammate by twenty-two seconds.
That left Espargaro to fend off Redding and Abraham for the final podium position, with Petrucci and Crutchlow catching up fast. Behind them, Viñales was the final rider to tag onto the peloton chasing the Repsol riders.
Meanwhile, Rossi and Dovizioso were setting fast laps but struggled to break into the top ten. The Yamaha man finally achieved it halfway through the race, the two Italians overtaking almost in tandem.
By lap eleven, Petrucci and Espargaro ended up enlivening the proceedings in a battle for third, Crutchlow in tow, waiting to pick up the pieces. The first Yamaha on the road was Viñales in sixth, the Spaniard steadily catching up on the podium battle. With his teammate less than two seconds behind, it looked like the fight was about to turn even hotter.
With seven laps to go, it was clear that the Yamaha was relishing the conditions, Viñales getting the best of Petrucci to steal third place. Crutchlow moved into fourth soon after, relegating the Italian to fifth and into the clutches of Rossi, who was almost a second faster than his compatriot. Despite the speed differential, the Yamaha rider needed a couple of laps to make it past the stubborn Ducati, generously endowed with straight line speed.
Rossi was up into fifth with four laps to go and setting off with Crutchlow in his sights. Tried as he did, with a personal best in the final two laps and some mistakes from the British rider, the Yamaha veteran had to wait until the very last lap to get past the LCR Honda. Rossi finished fourth, two seconds behind the podium, with Crutchlow fifth, half a second back.
Dovizioso also picked up Petrucci on the penultimate lap to place sixth and keep in touch with his title rivals. Aleix Espargaro’s podium challenge was faltering with eight laps remaining, the Spaniard down to seventh when he was notified of having to drop three places for an unsafe release in pitlane, which caused a collision with Andrea Iannone. The Aprilia man still finished eighth, right in front of his brother, Pol Espargaro scoring KTM ninth place. The final top ten spot went to Jonas Folger, the Monster Yamahas quite anonymous throughout the race.
Despite his early stint in the lead, Lorenzo dropped back to fifteenth after pitting before his second bike was fully set up and losing significant time.
The world championship leader extended his advantage to fourteen points ahead of Viñales, Dovizioso now 21 points behind. Rossi stays fourth with a 22 points deficit while Pedrosa caught up with the Italian but trails his teammate by 31 points.
|20||8||Hector BARBERA||Ducati||1 Lap|
|38||Bradley SMITH||KTM||2 Laps|
|76||Loris BAZ||Ducati||7 Laps|
|19||Alvaro BAUTISTA||Ducati||10 Laps|