A pretty breezy Misano circuit challenged umbrella boys as four Yamahas showed the way to the grid for a hot San Marino GP but no one could have predicted the men spraying the cava an hour or so later. In the end it was a Yamaha lifting the big trophy, after 27 laps of magic from Franco Morbidelli, who took his maiden MotoGP victory in front of his home crowd. It was a fine day for the VR46 Academy and Italy overall, with Pecco Bagnaia also limping his way to the premier class podium for the very first time, but it wasn’t the full fairytale as Joan Mir broke quite a few hearts when he overtook Valentino Rossi on the final lap, for the final podium spot.
There’s no smoke without fire and there was smoke for poleman Maverick Vinales as he was lining up on the grid. It proved to be no cause for concern but still a bad omen as Vinales handed the lead to Morbidelli into turn one. Rossi also got past his teammate soon after, with holeshot expert Jack Miller on a mission and soon trailing the two Academy boys, relegating Vinales and Fabio Quartararo in the process. Rossi was keen to find a way past the apprentice but Morbidelli was a tough proposition from the start. Miller had no trouble keeping up with the Kardashians but Vinales was still warming up his hard rear tyre and holding up Quartararo, Alex Rins and Mir. Another second down the road, Bagnaia was fending off a sizeable group including Andrea Dovizioso, Johann Zarco, Takaaki Nakagami and Pol Espargaro, amongst several others.
Morbidelli could not shake Rossi at the front and while Miller found the pace he’d been missing in practice, he wasn’t quite close enough to attack. The first move in the lead group came from Quartararo at turn 14 of lap seven, when he made it past Vinales but the Frenchman did not make it any further than turn 4 the next time around, a costly mistake for his championship lead. That left the Suzukis to gang up on Vinales, with Bagnaia quickly catching up on them too, but the three leaders had a 1.5 seconds advantage on the group by lap nine.
Morbidelli and Rossi were still holding station on lap 10, but Miller had lost almost a second on the Italian duo and was dropping back towards the feisty pursuers led by a rapid Rins and even more impressive Bagnaia. If that wasn’t enough, Miller got a track limits warning one lap later and had to play nice for the rest of proceedings but with Rins and Bagnaia chasing him down, there was no time to worry about track limits.
At the halfway mark, Morbidelli had stretched almost one second’s gap to Rossi, who in turn had two seconds on the battle for third, where Rins and Bagnaia got past Miller in quick succession. The Australian looked in trouble, as he glanced back and saw Mir waiting to pounce. Meanwhile, Vinales was seventh, another second and a half behind the group and with a steadily reducing gap to Dovizioso.
A consistent Morbidelli continued to extend his gap at the front but Rossi was about to get a headache from Rins and Bagnaia for the final ten laps. The sharks waited a couple of laps to pounce, until Bagnaia made the call with 7 laps remaining and got ahead of Rossi for second place, leaving his mentor to fend off Rins for the final podium spot. Mir could just about dream about the podium as he was catching up with the group, leaving a fading Miller to come under attack from Vinales.
Bagnaia did not have an answer to Morbidelli’s pace and couldn’t quite shake the plucky trio behind him either, even allowing Rossi another short lived sniff at second. With Morbidelli three seconds ahead and untroubled until the checkered flag, four men were fighting for two remaining podium spots for the final couple of laps. Although the gaps between them were minimal, the moves did not come until the final lap, starting with Mir getting past his teammate, which dropped Rins out of contention. Mir followed it up with a brave move on Rossi at turn ten, which ultimately robbed Italy of a podium lockout.
It was a painful fourth place for Rossi at his home race, but the veteran will be getting another shot at it next weekend. Rins settled for fifth, with an anonymous Vinales crossing the line sixth. Both Dovizioso and Nakagami got past Miller in the closing stages of the race, although the Honda man was demoted one position for exceeding track limits on the final lap and dropped back behind Miller. Meanwhile, a subdued Pol Espargaro completed the top ten.
Despite his underwhelming performance, Dovizioso ends the day as the championship leader, six points ahead of Quartararo and 13 ahead of Miller. Mir climbs four positions to be only 16 points behind Dovizioso, with the top ten men only 28 points apart.
|53||Tito Rabat||Ducati||5 Laps|
|20||Fabio Quartararo||Yamaha||9 Laps|