With cloudy but light skies and a grid significantly lighter in the wallet department after widespread cruising fines, the lightweight class started the action with a majestic display from the world championship leader.
Joan Mir took his seventh win of the season in dominating fashion to celebrate his very first victory one year ago at the same venue. The Spaniard might have briefly regretted not repeating the pole as well but his tenth place start didn’t hold him back in the slightest. The Leopard rider was joined on the podium by almost-homeboy Philipp Oettl and still-convalescent Jorge Martin.
The RBA duo of Gabriel Rodrigo and Juanfran Guevara had made a good start from the front row but the slipstream in turn two meant that several riders from the top positions got ahead to exchange the lead on the first few laps. Bo Bendsneyder was the first one to make it stick at the front and his gap yoyo-ed up and down from half a second. Whatever pain medicine Jorge Martin was taking, it helped him catch up with the Dutchman and steal the lead by lap six.
Meanwhile, Romano Fenati and Joan Mir made no progress at the start from their lowly grid positions - too busy tripping each other up - but an exuberant overtake from the Italian dropped him out of the points on lap three. With Fenati going backwards, the Italian being one of the few riders on the softer rear tyre, Mir was making rapid progress and was up to fifth by lap five and in the lead one lap later.
The Spaniard was pushing hard but finding it difficult to ditch his pursuers. Behind him, Bendsneyder was fending off John McPhee while trying to catch up with the leaders, Philipp Oettl, Martin, Rodrigo, Andrea Migno and Aron Canet also mixing it up behind them. Canet started slipping back slightly, although the second group was only marginally behind, led by Enea Bastianini, Livio Loi and new boy Jaume Masia.
While Mir’s advantage rarely got over half a second, he managed to keep control over the situation, as the tussle for second was getting fierce, the group bunching up again. Martin, Rodrigo, Migno, McPhee and Masia were the main challengers but the youngsters could not settle their argument despite seeing the world championship leader slipping away at the front.
Mir finally made a break on lap fourteen, his gap quickly stretching to over a second. At the next crossing over the line, it was Masia who got the best of his more experienced colleagues to grab second for a lap or so. Rodrigo and Martin fought back but could not shake off the rookie any further than fifth. Their pursuers weren’t too far behind but some headline names put themselves out of contention soon after, Bo Bendsneyder crashing and picking up McPhee with eight laps to go, while Migno crashed out of second position one lap later.
Despite the gap to the leader over four seconds with five laps remaining, the battle for the podium spots was nowhere near to getting settled, over a dozen riders in close proximity. The likes of Fabio Di Giannantonio, Adam Norrodin and Canet made it back into the lead group in the final few laps, with Fenati finally breaking into the top ten with four laps to go.
Minus the leader, the top ten configuration was flipping and changing every other turn, Oettl the most consistent podium contender, followed closely by Martin, Loi and Canet, with Rodrigo, Di Giannantonio, Norrodin and Masia as reserves a few tenths behind.
Oettl managed to build a bit of a gap on the final laps, just enough to keep his second position from being challenged, while Marin only narrowly beat Loi over the line. Canet finished fifth, Di Giannantonio sixth and poleman Rodrigo seventh.
The top ten was completed by Norrodin in eighth position, Masia slipping back to ninth towards the end and Bastianini in tenth. Masia might have not gotten the podium that looked realistic at one point but still leaves the Ring with a memorable performance and the circuit lap record.
After starting sixteenth, Bulega made it up to eleventh, with Fenati ending up celebrating the one-year anniversary of his firing with a disappointing thirteenth place, which does not do much for his championship aspirations.
Although there was not much he could have done with regards to Mir’s pace, the Spaniard extending his lead in the championship to 64 over the Italian, Canet a massive 78 behind and Martin back into fourth place with a 110-point deficit.
|6||21||Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO||Honda||+3.730|
|12||Marco BEZZECCHI||Mahindra||1 Lap|
|75||Albert ARENAS||Mahindra||1 Lap|
|41||Nakarin ATIRATPHUVAPAT||Honda||1 Lap|
|17||John MCPHEE||Honda||7 Laps|
|64||Bo BENDSNEYDER||KTM||8 Laps|
|23||Niccolò ANTONELLI||KTM||9 Laps|
|24||Tatsuki SUZUKI||Honda||9 Laps|
|48||Lorenzo DALLA PORTA||Mahindra||21 Laps|
|18||Gabriel MARTINEZ-ABREGO||KTM||21 Laps|