Standing water and massive spray were the main ingredients in a worrying recipe for the premier class tug-of-war, Danilo Petrucci and Marc Marquez pulling at the ends for the entire length of the twenty-eight laps. The rain might have stopped as the lights went off but the fireworks were only just getting started, the display ending with a last lap overtake from the world champion breaking Italian hearts as he demoted a feisty Petrucci to second. Third place went to a competitive but sensible Andrea Dovizioso, the Italian finally scoring a podium at the home track.
It was a different story at the start, Jorge Lorenzo not only heading the warm-up lap but also jumping into the lead in turn one, going on the inside of Marquez, with Dovizioso and Maverick Viñales close behind them. Another brilliant start came from Jack Miller, who jumped from fourteenth to ninth and fought in the top ten for the remainer of the race. Petrucci also made good progress from eight grid spot to sixth by the end of the lap one.
The world champion kept close to the lead Ducati, the duo stretching a second’s gap to the world championship leader as Petrucci proved confident enough to attack Viñales on the outside and steal his fourth position.
Marquez lost a bit of ground on lap three after a big rear tyre slide, giving away a second to Lorenzo and dropping back towards his main title rival. Lorenzo was the fastest man in the beginning of the race, stretching the gap to two seconds as the title contenders became warry of the conditions behind him. Petrucci was another fast man, joining the podium battle by lap five, leaving Viñales over two seconds down and battling Cal Crutchlow and Jack Miller.
Petrucci got ahead of Dovizioso on lap five and hunted down Marquez one lap later, the Honda man managing to signal his pitwall for slicks to be fitted on his second bike. Meanwhile, Crutchlow slipped out on lap five and leader Lorenzo followed him before we even got to see the Brit's replay, the Spaniard thrown over his Ducati right after posting the fastest time of the race.
The Pramac rider inherited the lead, with Marquez and Dovizioso in close tow, Viñales fourth five seconds down, the only real battle having Miller and Loris Baz as main protagonists for fifth place. Unfortunately the victor was decided on lap ten, when the Frenchman slid out in turn eight.
By lap seven the garages became a hive of activity with Honda triggering a chain reaction - and definitely more action than on track, where some sensible rides were unfolding despite the leaders insisting on posting personal best times. While Marquez kept close to Petrucci, Dovizioso was giving them a bit of space, a second behind the duo. Despite the mechanics’ frantic preparations – minus Dovi’s crew – the track was very slow to dry and spray was still being kicked out halfway thought the race.
With some typical wiggles here and there, Marquez was yoyo-ing between the two Ducatis surrounding him, while Miller and Michele Pirro prepared to cause trouble for Viñales eight seconds behind the leaders. The threat never materialized, the changing conditions seeing Miller drop two seconds to the Yamaha and was soon swallowed by Pirro.
Dovizioso started to look threatening past the halfway mark of the race as Marquez had yet another moment, with tiny dry patches playing mind games with the riders. In the final ten laps, the world champion was the first to drop into the 1:47s since the now-retired Lorenzo did so at the start. The Ducatis joined the festival of fastest laps, orange and red sectors set with eight laps to go, the trio running at hot pace while waiting for the final laps to show their cards.
Dovizioso’s challenge started fading with seven laps remaining, the gap going over two seconds for the first time in the race. No such thoughts from the lead Ducati, Petrucci pushing hard and getting out of his seat with six laps to go, letting Marquez smell an opportunity for the first time. The Spaniard kept steady a few tenths behind the Italian, timing screens finally monochrome in the final handful of laps as tyres were getting used up.
With Dovizioso five seconds behind, Marquez did not look like giving up the fight, much to his team’s nervous leg jiggles. The Spaniard made his move at the last crossing of the line, into turn one, the Italian keeping too close for comfort and losing his footing for a second, enough to give Marquez a few tenths of breathing space. Not that he took it, the Honda man posting the fastest lap of the race on the very last lap, leaving Petrucci a second behind and Dovizioso over ten seconds.
Behind the main contenders, Viñales went for damage limitations in fourth position, ahead of Ducati’s much-treasured test rider, Pirro. Miller settled for sixth, nearly nine seconds in front of Scott Redding and Alex Rins, the Spaniard scoring a great eighth place for Suzuki after Andrea Iannone retired due to arm pump troubles.
Jonas Folger and Bradley Smith completed the top ten, the British rider joined by his teammate Pol Espargaro and Alvaro Bautista in a rather invisible part of the battle. Struggling to get heat into the tyres in the cold conditions, Dani Pedrosa was going backwards from the very first lap, the Spaniard ending up battling Crutchlow after the Brit crashed and rejoined early in the race. The small victory went to the LCR man, with Pedrosa fourteenth. With seventeen finishers, the final point went to Johann Zarco, who crashed on the final lap but pushed his bike over the line ahead of fellow fallers Loris Baz and Karel Abraham.
After that heart-stopping last lap, Marquez slips back into the lead of the championship but equal on points with Dovizioso, in a title battle that seems to be getting closer rather than more settled as the season unfolds. Viñales loses a handful of points but keeps third in the standings, 16 points down on the leading duo, with Valentino Rossi’s training misfortune still leaving him fourth, 42 points down. Pedrosa also loses touch with the title battle, 49 points behind his teammate.
|16||76||Loris BAZ||Ducati||1 Lap|
|17||17||Karel ABRAHAM||Ducati||1 Lap|
|53||Tito RABAT||Honda||9 Laps|
|29||Andrea IANNONE||Suzuki||12 Laps|
|22||Sam LOWES||Aprilia||13 Laps|
|41||Aleix ESPARGARO||Aprilia||15 Laps|
|8||Hector BARBERA||Ducati||17 Laps|
|99||Jorge LORENZO||Ducati||22 Laps|