After the skies sparked a surprise in the middle of Moto2 action, all eyes were on the forecast ahead of the 27 laps planned for the premier class race but there was no need to worry because riders’ main enemies were their own mistakes. At the end of a tense affair in Misano, Spain was back with a vengeance and with a podium lockout after a long drought in the premier class and a pretty frustrating wait for Maverick Vinales as well. The Yamaha man silenced the critics and finally got a victory on the scoreboard after his perseverance pushed home favourite Pecco Bagnaia into a late mistake. Joan Mir continues to work miracles on Sunday afternoon, no matter where he starts on the grid and this time around it paid off with second spot on the podium. It looked like there was going to be some late heartbreak for Pol Espargaro but the KTM man stepped back on the final podium place after a naughty Fabio Quartararo served his penalty.
The eventful afternoon started off with Jack Miller predictably getting the holeshot heading into turn 1 but poleman Vinales had none of it and got back ahead at turn 4. Meanwhile, Bagnaia attacked Quartararo and was soon having a go at his teammate, picking up the pursuit of Vinales by lap two. It was a bittersweet first couple of laps for Yamaha as Franco Morbidelli dropped to the back of the field after avoiding Aleix Espargaro's crash and then Valentino Rossi followed it up with a crash of his own at turn 4 next time around. There was more drama to come by the end of lap two, when Brad Binder crashed out of third spot at turn 15.
Once the dust settled on lap three, Bagnaia caught up with Vinales, with Pol Espargaro a second down but pushing to rejoin the victory battle and bringing Quartararo with him. Miller’s podium ambitions seemed done by lap five, the Pramac rider over four seconds off the lead and heading a sizeable group including a quickly recovering Mir, who had started 11th on the grid. Another couple of laps and Miller was surrendering more points to both Mir and Iker Lecuona. It then became clear that he was losing power and eventually retreated to the pits at the end of lap eight. While rookies Lecuona and Alex Marquez were battling for a top five, the likes of Andrea Dovizioso and Alex Rins were barely knocking on the doors of the top ten.
Bagnaia went on to demote Vinales at popular turn 4 on lap six, aided by the Spaniard leaving a gap for him to profit from, and the Italian stretched a one second gap for the next few laps. Pol Espargaro’s charge seemed to be slowing down too, the KTM rider struggling to bring the gap under one second but not really under threat from Quartararo either. Mir was determined to reduce the two and a half second gap to the podium battle, having dropped Lecuona and teammate Miguel Oliveira. Meanwhile, Dovizoso was starting to make progress inside the top ten to reduce the damage in the championship but was taking his sweet time finding a way past Marquez – a familiar position for the Ducati man, just not the Marquez he’s used to.
The calm before the storm set in as the race reached halfway point, with Vinales stringing together red sectors to reduce the gap to Bagnaia but the Italian wasn’t too far off his rival’s lap times and the stubborn gap refused to go under 1.4 seconds. Espargaro was nowhere near the duo and keeping a close eye on Quartararo another second back. It was a sedate few laps for Mir in fifth spot as well, but Oliveira had Lecuona in tow and Alex Marquez was still being hounded by Dovizioso and a resurgent Takaaki Nakagami.
The drama seemed to be slowly starting to simmer for the final seven laps, as Quartararo got glued to Espargaro’s tail in the dispute for the final podium spot and the Spaniard was starting to regret his soft rear tyre choice. While all eyes were on the battling duo, Baganaia skidded across the asphalt at turn 6 and painfully threw away a comfortable home win. Vinales picked up the pieces to lead for the final six laps, with a comfortable gap over the battle for the remaining podium positions, where Quartararo was all over Espargaro and with Mir waiting in the shadows, an amazing late charge bringing him firmly into podium contention for the final four laps.
Vinales was untroubled at the front for the remainder of proceedings, but Quartararo took too long to find a way past Espargaro so Mir made his move on the Frenchman at turn 2 and then demoted the KTM man at turn 1 next time around. Quartararo also pounced on a struggling Espargaro at turn 3, but was soon served with a long lap penalty for repeated track limit infringements. With only one lap left to do, the Frenchman did not do as asked and was given a time penalty instead. That dropped him off the podium once again and down to fourth, ahead of a solid performance from Oliveira. An unfortunate Lecuona gave up the fight with three laps remaining, tumbling out of sixth position, which was inherited by Nakagami. The LCR man’s late charge got him past Alex Marquez, but both Hondas impressed from their lowly grid positions. Benefitting from some late crashes, Dovizioso finished eighth, with last week’s ailing victor, Morbidelli, saving a solid ninth place and Danilo Petrucci rounding out the top ten.
Unbelievably so, circumstances helped Dovizioso cling onto the championship lead by a mere point, with Quartararo and Vinales tied on points behind the Italian. Mir’s Sunday magic brings him within four points of the championship lead, putting the top four men in very close quarters, but even Pol Espargaro in tenth place is only 27 points down on the leader.
|27||Iker Lecuona||KTM||3 Laps|
|63||Francesco Bagnaia||Ducati||7 Laps|
|46||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha||12 Laps|
|53||Tito Rabat||Ducati||15 Laps|
|43||Jack Miller||Ducati||20 Laps|
|33||Brad Binder||KTM||24 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|41||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia||0 Lap|