After wet but reasonably so races for their younger (for the most part) colleagues, premier class riders had to cope with the many questions prompted by heavy rain starting as they lined up on the grid. The packed stands that surrounded the circuit were rewarded for their resilience with a first victory for Ducati in Valencia in a decade, courtesy of Andrea Dovizioso. Alex Rins brought Suzuki’s podium tally to its best ever in the class with another second position, while history was also made by Pol Espargaro, whose third place got KTM their first ever podium despite an early crash for the Spaniard.
Rins had picked up the lead from poleman Maverick Viñales after an excellent start, with Dovizioso, Pol Espargaro and Marc Marquez closely following the two blue bikes. The lead Suzuki was stretching a gap straight away, one and a half seconds up on the pursuers by the end of lap one, Dovizioso soon picking up the task of reeling him in from Viñales. The Yamaha man’s day quickly got a bit worse as both Pol Espargaro and Marquez found their way past him. A bit further back, Valentino Rossi made an excellent start from 16th on the grid and was up to 10th halfway through lap one, while Dani Pedrosa was running 13th in the cool conditions. In only one lap, Rossi was up to seventh and only seven tenths off Viñales, with Danilo Petrucci in between the Yamaha duo.
By lap four, Rins’ lead grew like traffic jams in the rain, up to nearly three seconds from Dovizioso, while Marquez finally found a way past Espargaro into turn one and was trying to recover the one second gap to the Ducati. Petrucci was one second back from the Catalan duo fighting for third position, bringing Jack Miller with him and dropping Viñales into the claws of Rossi to let them settle third in the championship between themselves. Rossi got past his teammate on lap five, just before Miller abandoned the battle at turn three. Petrucci soon joined him in the worryingly growing highside pack on lap seven, leaving Rossi with the task of hunting down the leaders.
Back at the front, Rins was on rails and continued to extend his lead at a fast rate, up to five seconds by lap six but the conditions were deteriorating quickly, Pol Espargaro and Marquez crashing out one lap later in separate and unpleasantly spectacular incidents. That left Rossi on the provisional podium, four seconds down on Dovizioso, who was catching up with Rins, the Suzuki man having to cool down his pace in the tricky conditions. Viñales was within touch of his teammate and appeared to finally warm up and start setting personal best times. Andrea Iannone was next down the road but then he went literally down the road on lap ten.
With Rins, Dovizioso, Rossi and Viñales holding station in the lead battle for survival, Franco Morbidelli was best of the rest in a very lonely fifth, Pedrosa and Johann Zarco engaged in battle three seconds back. The highside curse struck again on lap 12, Viñales having a rapid crash at turn 13, quickly after Morbidelli joined the crash list and all the commotion left Pedrosa in fourth.
Meanwhile, the three survivors in the lead group found themselves within barely a second of each other. Rins was struggling badly and was being hunted down by the two threatening Italians, the Suzuki almost welcoming them past on lap 14. That started war between Dovizioso and Rossi but just as the battle was heating up, the red flag came out due to Poseidon presumably arriving as a celebrity guest. Having stopped barely halfway through proceedings, the race had to wait for lighter skies to be restarted.
Once the wait was over, 16 riders lined up on the grid in the order they crossed the line on lap 13, with Rins on pole position ahead of Dovizioso and Rossi. Some of the late crashers were also allowed in, including Michele Pirro and Bradley Smith, as well as Pol Espargaro, who had rejoined the action after his early tumble. Once the lights went out for the second time, status quo was maintained at the front but Pol Espargaro attacked the Hondas of Takaaki Nakagami and Pedrosa straight away to hunt down the leaders.
The first move at the front came from Dovizioso, who picked up the lead from Rins by the end of lap one but the rain also picked up once again. Rossi bided his time as the lead trio detached decisively from the feisty Pol vs Pedrosa battle, Nakagami leading a third group two seconds down the road. That gap quickly came down once Michele Pirro picked up the task and the Ducati test rider was promptly chasing down Pedrosa.
On lap five, the lead trio was starting to pull some red sectors out of the hat but Dovizioso made the biggest difference, taking his advantage at the front to over a second by lap six. With the Ducati man taking off at the front, Rins and Rossi were left to settle podium positions. Rossi was pushed to make a move one lap later in an attempt to stop Dovizioso’s charge but the gap still grew to two seconds. The rain had turned into more of a drizzle at this point and encouraged some more action, Pirro and Pedrosa trading blows for a while.
With five laps to go, things appeared to have settled, with barely any gaps under a second throughout the field but turn 12 made another victim when Rossi hit the deck from second place. The second heart-breaking race exit in a row for Rossi also meant that the KTM of Pol Espargaro climbed into podium positions.
Dovizioso was in cruise control for the remaining laps, crossing the finish line three seconds before Rins, with Pol making history for KTM in third. Pirro brought it home in fourth place, with Pedrosa ending his farewell appearance in fifth position. Nakagami, Johann Zarco, Bradley Smith, Stefan Bradl and Hafizh Syahrin completed the top ten. Jorge Lorenzo kept a low profile in the difficult conditions to finish 12th in his final race for Ducati.
|19||Alvaro BAUTISTA||Ducati||7 Laps|
|25||Maverick VIÑALES||Yamaha||0 Lap|
|9||Danilo PETRUCCI||Ducati||0 Lap|
|93||Marc MARQUEZ||Honda||0 Lap|
|29||Andrea IANNONE||Suzuki||0 Lap|
|41||Aleix ESPARGARO||Aprilia||0 Lap|
|43||Jack MILLER||Ducati||0 Lap|
|21||Franco MORBIDELLI||Honda||0 Lap|
|12||Thomas LUTHI||Honda||0 Lap|