The second race Sunday in Jerez got underway in extreme conditions, and not just because reigning champion Marc Marquez was missing his first race in the premier class, but because the asphalt was nearing 60 degrees of temperature. One man who flourished in the conditions was quite predictably Fabio Quartararo, who turned a fine pole position into back to back victories in Andalucia. The Frenchman was unstoppable as soon as the lights went off on the grid and left his factory Yamaha colleagues to fight for podium scraps. Although Maverick Vinales looked like a serious threat throughout the weekend, the Spaniard lost some of that spark in a tricky first few laps and found himself spending most of the race trying to find a way past a rejuvenated Valentino Rossi, who made it an all-Yamaha podium.
The battle of the holeshot devices was also won by Yamaha, with Quartararo, Vinales and Rossi making perfect launches off the line, setting up the theme for the rest of the race. A bit further back, Brad Binder tagged Miguel Oliveira at turn 1, flinging him out into the gravel and taking himself out of contention for top spots in a nightmare start for KTM. The Ducatis of Jack Miller and Pecco Bagnaia were left to chase the leading Yamahas, but an impatient Bagnaia had to rely on his cat like reflexes to keep his position in the top five after a mistake on lap three, which lost him eighth tenths on his teammate.
Quartararo was checking out at the front by lap four, leaving the factory Yamaha men to battle it out for podium spots. Even though Vinales had superior pace throughout the weekend, he was struggling to find a way past his teammate and this allowed the gap to Quartararo to grow to nearly three seconds in a handful of laps. All the while, Miller and Bagnaia were joined by Takaaki Nakagami and Franco Morbidelli in the podium hunt and Joan Mir was pushing to add a Suzuki to the mix. A second down the road, the factory Ducatis had joined the top ten but were mostly battling each other in the early stages.
With Quartararo’s advantage growing exponentially, Vinales’ Yamaha was the first victim of the vicious Ducatis, with first Bagnaia and then Miller finding their way past and the Spaniard quickly found himself in sixth place by lap 11. Still, the consequences of his mistakes were smaller than Miller’s, the Pramac rider losing the front at turn 9 just as he was getting a sniff at the podium. That left Bagnaia to chase down his mentor and was aided by a mistake in turn 6 by the Doctor, which allowed Bagnaia to grab second position. Morbidelli was also waiting to pounce on Rossi, while Vinales lost a second on the chasing group and was falling into Nakagami’s clutches. Mir and Dovizioso were not too far back but not making quick progress either.
The harsh slippery conditions were starting to make some serious victims halfway through the race, with the likes of Aleix Espargaro, Danilo Petrucci and Brad Binder joining the crash list, leaving Pol Espargaro as the last man standing for KTM. Morbidelli was next to abandon but it was not down to a crash as his machine cut out on the main straight, in a worryingly familiar sight for Yamaha. All of a sudden, Vinales was back on Rossi’s tail and trying to save a podium out of a race that did not quite go as expected for the Spaniard.
While Quartararo needed no help at the front, the Frenchman having increased his gap to 5 seconds, Bagnaia’s Ducati started pouring out smoke with seven laps left and the Italian got denied a well deserved podium by an inevitable black and orange flag. Rossi and Vinales’ battle was now for second place and the Italian pulled out all the stops to hold off his teammate. Vinales eventually found a way past with two laps remaining, aided by Rossi running wide, and secured second position. Rossi settled for third, although more than he would have expected a week ago, while Nakagami carried the flag for Honda in fourth place. Mir and Dovizioso went under the radar but safely crossed the finish line in fifth and sixth positions, while the sole KTM of Pol Espargaro finished seventh. Top rookie Alex Marquez survived a tough race to grab eighth place, with Johann Zarco and a truly admirable Alex Rins rounding out the top ten.
Quartararo keeps a perfect score at the top of the championship standings, 10 points ahead of Vinales and 24 to Dovizioso, with Takaaki Nakagami and Pol Espargaro 31 points down on the leader.
|13||35||Cal Crutchlow||Honda||1 Lap|
|63||Francesco Bagnaia||Ducati||6 Laps|
|21||Franco Morbidelli||Yamaha||9 Laps|
|33||Brad Binder||KTM||13 Laps|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||Ducati||14 Laps|
|43||Jack Miller||Ducati||15 Laps|
|41||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia||17 Laps|
|27||Iker Lecuona||KTM||20 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|88||Miguel Oliveira||KTM||0 Lap|