With sun shining all morning in Valencia, the premier class was looking at a nice dry race, although turn 1 got the paper towel treatment and tyre swaps were in full swing ahead of the 27 lap battle – the choice a shot in the dark for the most part. The lack of dry practice time was looking to put a twist in the tale but it was mostly an opportunity for Suzuki to prove that they have the most adaptable men and machines in the game. The blue bikes dominated the race start to finish and Joan Mir put an end to further talk about winless world champions by claiming his maiden win at Valencia, becoming the fifth brand new winner of 2020. Teammate Alex Rins took second position to strengthen Suzuki’s lead in the teams and manufacturers’ championships, while poleman Pol Espargaro secured his fifth podium in the premier class, in an all-Spanish podium on home soil.
All three men made a fine start from the first and second rows of the grid, Pol Espargaro leading off the line from Rins and with Mir overtaking Takaaki Nakagami for third by turn 6. Miguel Oliveira and Johann Zarco followed, while Jack Miller dropped out of the top 10 after un underwhelming start from the second row. Fabio Quartararo and Andrea Dovizioso joined the top ten after starting just outside it but things didn’t look rosy for much longer for the duo. The Frenchman soon suffered a crash at turn 8, in a synchronised but unrelated incident with Aleix Espargaro before the end of lap 1. Quartararo was able to rejoin but his prospects were not good as he was a good 15 seconds behind Maverick Vinales, who had started from pitlane.
While the replays of the odd incident were still rolling, Rins got past the leading Espargaro brother by lap 3 and teammate Mir was looking to do the same but had Oliveira breathing down his neck. Half a second behind, Nakagami was leading a sizeable group comprising the rest of the top ten. Mir joined his teammate at the front on lap four, leaving the KTMs to contend with the chasers. As if things weren’t bad enough for Yamaha, with Vinales and Quartararo already closing the field, Valentino Rossi’s comeback ended with a retirement for mechanical issues on lap 5. However, crashes from the likes of Lorenzo Savadori, Pecco Bagnaia and Cal Crutchlow allowed Vinales to join the point-scoring positions.
Back at the front, Rins and Mir were in control and keeping Pol Epsargaro and Oliveira at arm’s length, with Nakagami and Zarco close behind, but Franco Morbidelli was dropping back from the leaders by a full second so Miller made his move on lap 8 to try to bring the rest of the group back into contention. Morbidelli seemed to be fading already and was coming under attack from Alex Marquez and Dovizioso but the duo took a couple laps too long finding a way past and lost contact with Miller.
With a long way still to go, Mir was not in a rush to attack his leading teammate and only Pol Espargaro could keep up with the Suzukis, as Oliveira dropped one second back with 15 laps remaining. Nakagami kept the Portuguese rider company, while Zarco was another second back and being reeled in by Miller. Alex Marquez was showing the way to Dovizioso almost three seconds down the road and the duo were quickly dropping Morbidelli. Meanwhile, teammate Quartararo benefitted from a retirement from Tito Rabat to claim one point.
There was not much action at the midway stage of the race, with only Nakagami making a move on Oliveira for fourth but the two second gap to the leaders seemed a step too far. A tense wait ensued for the Suzuki family affair (with a KTM intruder) to unfold and Mir made his move on Rins at turn 11 with 11 laps to go, helped by a mistake from his colleague. The championship leader’s string of red sector times suggested that he was attempting an escape and the championship leader shook off Rins and Espargaro within a couple of laps, although the gap hovered at around half a second.
The Suzukis continued to be the fastest men on track – together with Vinales in 14th, in a painful irony – but Rins did not seem to have a response for his teammate’s charge and dropped over a second behind with six laps to go. Rather than looking ahead at victory, Rins had to keep an eye on Pol Espargaro, who was only four tenths behind. Nakagami and Oliveira enjoyed some clear air in fourth and fifth place, while Miller got some breathing room as well after getting past Zarco. Marquez looked good for eighth place but crashed out with 5 laps remaining, unsettled by an overtake from Dovizioso at turn 1. The Italian quickly caught up with a fading Zarco to claim seventh position heading into the final two laps but Brad Binder had different plans, getting past both Zarco and Dovizioso by the end of that same lap.
Mir started the final lap one second ahead of Rins and took the checkered flag in the same position, putting one hand on the world championship trophy. Rins made it a third consecutive double podium for Suzuki, with Pol Espargaro bringing KTM another trophy in what started like an unlucky weekend for the Austrian factory. Nakagami was best of the rest in fourth, ahead of Oliveira and Miller. Binder did a fine job to claim seventh despite having served a long lap penalty early in the race and got the upper hand in the rookie of the year battle, while the Ducati trio of Dovizioso, Zarco and Danilo Petrucci rounded out the top ten.
In a nightmare couple of days, Yamaha saw all three of their riders’ championship chances nearly evaporate, with Morbidelli 11th, Vinales 13th and Quartararo 14th out of 14 finishers at the checkered flag. Mir’s maiden win came at the right time for the Spaniard, who extends his lead in the championship to a solid 37 points ahead of Quartararo, the despondent Frenchman now equal on points with Rins. Vinales is fourth, still with a mathematical chance but a 41-point deficit looks like a mountain to climb for the Spaniard, much like Morbidelli and Dovizioso’s 45 points gap.
|32||Lorenzo Savadori||Aprilia||2 Laps|
|73||Alex Marquez||Honda||4 Laps|
|53||Tito Rabat||Ducati||14 Laps|
|63||Francesco Bagnaia||Ducati||22 Laps|
|35||Cal Crutchlow||Honda||22 Laps|
|46||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha||23 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|41||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia||0 Lap|