The intermediate class race unfolded on baking hot tarmac and juggled through different scenarios to stop on perhaps the most poetic one. Alex Marquez looked like a strong contender at the start, then Miguel Oliveira wrote the story of a fantastic comeback through the field but it was the surprising poleman that came through to step on the podium for the first time in three years – and not just anywhere, but the top step of the podium. Fabio Quartararo’s masterful victory made him the second youngest rider to win in the intermediate class after the man he had been touted to follow in the footsteps of: Marc Marquez.
Miguel Oliveira had a brave ride of his own from 17th on the grid to the second podium position, while the youngest Marquez managed to cling on to a home podium after being under severe pressure throughout the race. Marquez had made a great start and immediately picked up the poleman, with Marcel Schrotter and Pecco Bagnaia also demoting the Frenchman. Oliveira had a sensational start from the sixth row, going into fifth position by lap two, ahead of Xavi Vierge, Brad Binder, Lorenzo Baldassarri, Joan Mir and Mattia Pasini.
By the end of lap two, both Quartararo and Oliveira had made it past Bagnaia, the Portuguese rider the marginally fastest of the already pretty rapid top four. Despite minuscule gaps amongst the lead group, no significant moves were made for a couple of laps, until Quartararo’s move on Schrotter also invited Oliveira along. The Red Bull KTM man needed no invitation to also go past the Speed Up machine and instantly reduce a half-second gap to Marquez at the front.
By lap six, Oliveira was attacking for the lead, with Quartararo, Schrotter, Binder and Bagnaia still in the lead group. Xavi Vierge and Mattia Pasini were one second down the road, in the company of Baldassarri, Mir and Romano Fenati. They were soon joined by Schrotter, who went off the track right after posting the fastest lap at that point and dropped to the second group.
With the podium battle reduced to five riders, Oliveira was still finding his way around Marquez and eventually made a move stick in turn ten on lap eight. The Portuguese rider immediately attempted to make an escape at the front, while Marquez appeared to struggle as Quartararo also made it past the Spaniard one lap later. Meanwhile, Vierge had merged with the leaders, with Schrotter and Pasini also trying to bite into that one second gap.
By lap ten, the poleman caught up with the runaway leader and was back into top position, posting the first 1:43 time of the race in the process. Halfway through the race, Marquez started to fade, handing a full second to the two leaders and fighting to keep Binder and Vierge at bay. Bagnaia, Schrotter and Pasini were not too far behind either but they were not making any significant noise, while Mir and Baldassarri had their own battle two seconds down the road.
With ten laps to go, Quartararo had half a second in hand on Oliveira, while the championship leader suddenly found himself at the end of the chasing group, in eighth position. The nearest threat was Mir, nearly two seconds back, but the Spaniard tumbled out at the final corner only one lap later. Pasini also made Bagnaia’s damage limitation race easier as the Italian crashed out ahead of him at turn four, writing himself off from the title battle too.
With six laps to go, Quartararo was two seconds ahead of Oliveira, who appeared to have finally settled for a great serving of championship points. Two seconds behind, Marquez was stoically keeping Vierge, Schrotter and Binder at bay, while Baldassarri was threatening to catch up with flatmate Bagnaia for seventh position.
For the next few laps, the only action was between the Dynavolt teammates, who were fighting for the opportunity to rob Marquez of a home podium. The Marc VDS rider was not too keen on that and posted a few red sectors to safeguard his position and resist Schrotter’s challenge. The German had to settle for fourth, narrowly ahead of teammate Vierge. Binder’s sixth place looked pretty safe until Baldassarri made it past Bagnaia at the start of the last lap and almost caught up with the South African at the line. Binder kept sixth by eighth hundredths of a second from the Pons rider, with the championship leader eighth.
After a fuel pump issue forced Sam Lowes to start last on the grid, the British rider made an impressive comeback into ninth place, with Iker Lecuona completing the top ten. The drama was not exactly over at the checker flag, with Simone Corsi – who had finished 12th – somehow crashing into Oliveira in turn one, as the KTM rider was celebrating his well-deserved podium.
With Bagnaia fading towards the end of the race, the Italian’s lead in the championship took a bit of a hit, Oliveira only one point behind the SKY rider. Marquez climbs into third, 25 points back on the leader, while Baldassarri also took a little nibble into his compatriot’s advantage, another point down on Marquez.
|1||20||Fabio QUARTARARO||Speed Up||38'22.059|
|15||87||Remy GARDNER||Tech 3||+20.409|
|19||89||Khairul Idham PAWI||Kalex||+28.640|
|21||52||Danny KENT||Speed Up||+30.295|
|24||30||Dimas EKKY PRATAMA||Honda||+44.604|
|32||Isaac VIÑALES||Kalex||4 Laps|
|13||Romano FENATI||Kalex||6 Laps|
|54||Mattia PASINI||Kalex||8 Laps|
|36||Joan MIR||Kalex||10 Laps|
|21||Federico FULIGNI||Kalex||10 Laps|
|9||Jorge NAVARRO||Kalex||15 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|64||Bo BENDSNEYDER||Tech 3||0 Lap|
|66||Niki TUULI||Kalex||0 Lap|
|62||Stefano MANZI||Suter||0 Lap|