An emotional Moto3 race followed by some controversial Moto2 shenanigans set the scene for the premier class under a bright hot Misano sky. And MotoGP delivered a tense drumroll ahead of a strategic masterpiece by Marc Marquez. The world champion got his revenge in last lap battles and robbed Fabio Quartararo of victory to settle his status as the fourth most successful rider in grand prix history. The victory was all the sweeter by doing so behind enemy lines in more ways than one. After crossing the line first for 24 consecutive laps, the defeat hurt Quartararo but the youngster was all smiles by the time he collected his second place trophy. Poleman Maverick Vinales could not quite raise to Yamaha’s high hopes but secured a rather lonely third place.
Vinales had made an excellent launch off the line, arriving in turn one ahead of his satellite colleagues, while Marquez, who had started in the middle of the second row, wobbled his way to turn one and still found a way past Pol Espargaro for fourth position. Behind the two Spaniards, Alex Rins got the best of Valentino Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso but the veteran duo were trying to fight back on the Suzuki man. Eager to get where he belonged in terms of race pace, Marquez attacked Franco Morbidelli in turn 8 and took a comfortable seat on Quartararo’s tail. The Frenchman may have lost his wingman but it did not make much of a difference as Vinales and Quartararo were hinting at an early escape anyway.
The Yamahas were testing the opposition and only Marquez seemed able to respond, Morbidelli the next man down the road but already a second behind by the end of lap three. Quartararo was not feeling comfortable behind the factory machine and got good drive out of turn 10 to reach turn 11 first, trying to run away on his own. Vinales soon lost another place to Marquez, the Honda man finding the inside out of turn 9, but while the Spaniards were playing around, Quartararo had found eighth tenths of a second on the pair of them. Marquez got the memo immediately and dropped Vinales by over a second by lap six. Morbidelli was another second back, and leading a feisty group with Pol Espargaro, Rossi, Dovizioso and Rins.
With Marquez immediately on Quartararo’s tail, Vinales surprisingly kept slipping back, two and a half seconds behind the leaders by lap eight. That same gap kept him ahead of the Morbidelli – Rossi battle, while Pol Espargaro and Dovizioso offered us the rare sight of a Ducati struggling to get past a KTM in the fight for sixth place. The Italian made it through on lap ten, leaving the Suzuki of Rins to stumble around the younger Espargaro but the trio had already conceded a second and a half to the Yamahas ahead.
The race was unfolding pretty much as predicted, with the exception of Vinales being lost at sea, even though the Spaniard started to find some pace towards the middle part of the race. As much as he tried, Vinales could not get the gap to the two leaders under two seconds but he had no concerns from behind, Rossi stalking Morbidelli over four seconds down the road. Dovizioso rode in a pretty solitary sixth, while Rins was getting KTM nightmares, finally getting past Pol on lap 15. The joy didn’t last long as the Suzuki man crashed at turn four just as he was getting slapped with a long lap penalty.
Vinales finally reduced the gap to the victory battle to under two seconds for the final 11 laps, hinting at one of his classic late-race comebacks, just as teammate Rossi was getting past Morbidelli at turn 14. The two men at the front were not getting particularly concerned just yet, Marquez keeping quiet behind his young nemesis, the persistent two tenths gap sending the message that he could have a go but won’t just yet.
Quartararo was faultless lap after lap while Marquez was piling on the pressure and whilst the duo were stuck in their own little bubble, Vinales caught up to a second and a half – but with 3 laps to go it still did not seem enough for a real challenge for victory. It wasn’t until the start of the final lap that Marquez saw clear air ahead, attempting an overtake in turn 1 but the Frenchman hit back at turn 4. Marquez retaliated once again in turn 8 and it seemed like the decisive move as Quartararo was distanced by his very first mistake of the day in turn 14.
The two rivals crossed the finish line nine tenths of a second apart but the gap did not do justice to how close it was until the very end. The excitement brought Vinales within seven tenths of a second but too little too late and the Spaniard made do with third. Rossi crossed the line fifth, eleven seconds behind the winner and only slightly ahead of Morbidelli. Dovizioso brought it home in a safe sixth place, six seconds ahead of Pol Espargaro. Joan Mir, Jack Miller and Danilo Petrucci rounded out the top ten.
Marquez’s well celebrated win puts him a prophetic 93 points ahead in the championship, with Dovizioso not losing quite enough points to allow the Spaniard a championship celebration in Aragon. Rins’ DNF loses him more ground in the championship, handing over third place to Petrucci.
|18||30||Takaaki NAKAGAMI||Honda||1 Lap|
|35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||Honda||5 Laps|
|51||Michele PIRRO||Ducati||6 Laps|
|42||Alex RINS||Suzuki||12 Laps|
|63||Francesco BAGNAIA||Ducati||16 Laps|