Magnificent Marc Marquez put on a last lap for his career highlight reel in beating a plucky Danilo Petrucci and conservative Andrea Dovizioso to the flag in a wet Tribul Mastercard GP San Marino e Riviera di Rimini. In doing so, he rained on Ducati’s parade, tied series leader Dovizioso for the championship lead heading to Aragon, and reminded those of us who watch racing how exceptionally gifted he truly is.
The weather gods pulled a 180° from Monday’s forecast, when it was supposed to be hot and sunny on Sunday, not Friday. Today’s rain scrambled the results in the morning WUP – witness Loris Baz sitting 3rd at the end of the session. Virtually no one had tested the 2015 racing surface in the rain. Ever. The main event, as they say, would be a lottery. Paging Jack Miller.
The Moto3 and Moto2 tilts were crashfests, half of the qualifiers in each failing to finish, and a number of points scorers having found the kitty litter not once, but twice, our old punching bag and substitute rider Alex de Angelis among them. It was easy to feel apprehensive as the MotoGP race approached
Practice and Qualifying
Marquez, Maverick Viñales and a bunch of Ducatis were making lots of noise on Friday and Saturday morning. Marquez recorded Saturday’s only sub-1:33 lap late in FP3. Hard-nosed Petrucci on a Desmo GP17 led the combined times until that point. Ducati test rider Michele Pirro flogged his GP17 into Q2 along with a determined-looking Jorge Lorenzo, a big fan of this track when he rode in blue. Viñales was up near the top. Aleix Espargaro, happy with a new fairing, put his Aprilia into Q2. Cal Crutchlow, a lurking Dovizioso, Dani Pedrosa and Johann Zarco also passed Go and collected their $200.
Q1 was exciting in itself before the apparent graduates, Jack Miller on the Honda and Jonas Folger on the Tech 3 Yamaha, were both penalized for exceeding the track limit and dropped out of the pole pageant, the trophies going to Ducati pilots Alvaro Bautista and Karel “Don’t Call It a Comeback” Abraham. Q2 gave fans plenty for their money as Viñales, carrying the sole torch for the factory Yamaha delegation, pimped Dovizioso at the close to steal his first pole since Mugello. Despite crashing out on a hot lap late in the session, Marquez managed to hold on to the third grid spot, the top three contenders for the 2017 championship qualified second, third and first, respectively.
Crutchlow, Lorenzo and Zarco filled the second row. The perfect weather conditions of Friday and Saturday were expected to go south, so to speak, on Sunday, with rain in the forecast. Suggesting, as usual, that qualifying doesn’t always end up having much to do with the eventual result, especially when weather conditions change rapidly.
Let The Big Bikes Roll
The wet premier class race started routinely, other than Jorge Lorenzo taking the hole shot from fifth on the grid and leading the first six laps of the race, as if the track were dry as dust. He was followed in quick succession by Marquez, Divizioso, and Viñales, with Petrucci on the fly from his start in the middle of the third row. Once Lorenzo left the premises via a Lap 6 high side on his GP17, it was these four riders who would slug it out for the podium. And Viñales, on the factory Yamaha, never appeared to assert himself, riding in fourth place pretty much all day, still in the title chase, unwilling to let the rain put him in DNFville again.
Petrucci went through the leaders like the proverbial hot knife, sliding past Dovizioso on Lap 5 and Marquez on Lap 6. He then put on a clinic of riding in the rain for 21 laps, his rhythm perfect, virtually wobble-free, with #93 and #04 staying close enough to hit him with a rock. Showing nerves of steel and flogging the Ducati joyfully in front of 97,000 fans, 96,000 of whom were pulling for Rossi, Ducati, Petrucci, Dovi, and/or even Andrea Iannone who, in yet another gruesome weekend, retired on Lap 18 with arm pump. With Rossi out injured, the list grew to include Michele Pirro (who finished 5th on a productive wild card).
We watched intently as the last few laps of the race took shape. Petrucci, seeking his first premier class win ever, with nothing to lose and being a notorious mudder, leading the race after Lorenzo crashed out. Marquez, appearing to struggle to keep up with Petrucci and fend off Dovizioso, and with plenty to lose in the championship chase, left Petrucci in the lead all day without letting him get away. During the penultimate lap, Marquez seemed to mentally flip a coin and decided to try to win the race rather than manage it. In tricky conditions, with worn tires, he hit the front in Turn 1, took advantage of a Petrucci wobble in Turn 4, and gassed his Honda RC213V home by 1.1 seconds over the gutted Petrucci, putting in the fastest lap of the race in the last 1:47.07. Throwing caution to the wind, as it were. In stark contract to Dovizioso, willing to settle for third place, Marquez, with the heart of a champion, decided he was unwilling to settle for second. This is one reason he has three premier class titles and Dovi, as skilled and brave as he is, has none.
Weather Throws a Spanner
Cue the music: “Good Times, Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin.
|Rider||Start Position||Finish Position|
For those of you following our tranching exercise, we alluded last time how Scott Redding and Jorge Lorenzo consistently suffer reversals of fortune. Today, as predicted, was a great day for Redding and another dumpster fire for Lorenzo.
The Big Picture – Then There Were Three
Today also marked the end of yet another premier class season of chasing the dream for Dani Pedrosa, who was never able to get his Repsol Honda’s tires heated up all day, could manage but two points for his 14th place finish and now trails Valentino Rossi, who no longer contends for the title, his leg and title hopes in pieces.
Round 14 in ancient Aragon looms, the last European round before the Pacific flyaway rounds and subsequent return to Valencia for the finale. With Marquez and Dovizioso now tied at 199 points and Viñales at 183, the chances of the 2017 title being undecided approaching the last Sunday of the season appear pretty decent. This was Viñales’ first race from pole with Yamaha where he failed to podium, which probably means nothing in the wet. But it was wet in Aragon in 2015. I’d like to see him close the gap with #93 and #04 before November.
For some of you, those who have a soft spot in their hearts for rookie Johann Zarco, the lasting image from today’s race will be that of him pushing his Tech 3 M1 across the finish line, utterly exhausted, for the sake of a single championship point, which says a lot about what it takes to excel in this sport. Personally, I prefer the backflips.
|2017 MotoGP Misano Race Results|
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||50:41.565|
|2||Danilo Petrucci||Octo Pramac Yaknich Ducati||+1.192|
|3||Andrea Dovizioso||Ducati Corse||+11.706|
|4||Maverick Viñales||Movistar Yamaha||+16.559|
|5||Michele Pirro||Ducati Corse||+19.499|
|6||Jack Miller||Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda||+24.882|
|7||Scott Redding||Octo Pramac Ducati||+33.872|
|8||Alex Rins||Suzuki Ecstar||+34.662|
|9||Jonas Folger||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||+15.661|
|10||Bradley Smith||Red Bull KTM||+57.694|
|11||Pol Espargaro||Red Bull KTM||+1:00.440|
|12||Alvaro Bautista||Pull&Bear Aspar Ducati||+1:17.356|
|13||Cal Crutchlow||LCR Honda||+1:35.588|
|14||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+1:38.857|
|15||Johann Zarco||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||+2:02.212|
|16||Loris Baz||Reale Avintia Ducati||+1 Lap|
|17||Karel Abraham||Pull&Bear Aspar Ducati||+1 Lap|
|DNF||Tito Rabat||Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda||9 Laps|
|DNF||Andrea Iannone||Suzuki Ecstar||12 Laps|
|DNF||Sam Lowes||Aprilia Gresini||13 Laps|
|DNF||Aleix Espargaro||Aprilia Gresini||15 Laps|
|DNF||Hector Barbera||Avintia Racing||17 Laps|
|DNF||Jorge Lorenzo||Ducati Corse||22 Laps|
|2017 MotoGP Top 10 Standings After 13 Rounds|