Catalunya GP: Weekend review
On a weekend that featured tremendous races in all three MotoGP™ classes, it was Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo who stormed to victory in the premier-class at the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya in front of his home crowd ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso.
After a wet morning warm-up, the field got away in dry conditions this afternoon, and it was Repsol Honda Team’s Pedrosa who got the holeshot from the second row, hotly pursued by Yamaha´s Ben Spies, who also had a tremendous start from fourth. Lorenzo pushed his way past Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner into third, as the whole grid was tightly bunched in the first lap.
Within a few corners, Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso muscled his way past Stoner, who subsequently ran wide a lap later, also letting through the Italian’s teammate Cal Crutchlow. With 23 laps left, Spies, who looked to have the superior pace over Pedrosa, made a move on the Spaniard, yet ran wide and dropped his bike in the dirt. This put paid to what had been his most promising start to a race this season.
With 21 laps remaining, the front five of Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Dovizioso, Crutchlow and Stoner started to pull out a gap to the following group, led by San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista. On the same lap, Avintia Blusens’ Yonny Hernandez ran off track, yet managed to avoid the gravel trap.
Two laps later Lorenzo went past Pedrosa on the brakes down the home straight, while Stoner took Crutchlow for fourth shortly after. Further down the field, Ducati Team’s Valentino Rossi passed LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl for seventh, and started pursuing Bautista. Spies, who did manage to remount after his crash, had made his way back to 12th at this point.
Pedrosa made use of superior drive on the straight with 14 laps left, as he passed Lorenzo in the slipstream, yet could not shake him on the ensuing lap. One lap later, Lorenzo was too late on the brakes into the first turn, letting Dovizioso close the gap once more, and making yet more work for himself to catch his compatriot at the front.
Dovizioso had a moment eleven laps before the end, dropping off the pace just briefly, while Crutchlow ran very deep into the first corner in his battle for fourth. Stoner, Pedrosa and Bradl were the only bikes in the top ten with the hard compound rear tyre, yet at the half way point there was no obvious advantage, as Lorenzo, on the softer compound, was slowly closing the gap to the Spanish Repsol Honda rider.
With just six laps remaining, Lorenzo was right on the rear wheel of Pedrosa, as the pair were involved in a nail-biting tussle for the lead. It was the Repsol rider who subsequently made a mistake with a big wheelie, which allowed Lorenzo past in the following corner. Behind the pair, Dovizioso, Stoner and Crutchlow where involved in a battle for third, whilst they were followed further down by Bautista and Rossi fighting it out for sixth.
With three laps to go, Lorenzo started to open up a small advantage, while Crutchlow was on the back of Stoner’s rear wheel, though was struggling to find a way past. The final lap however, saw the Australian drop the Brit and hunt down Dovizioso.
Yet in the end it was Lorenzo who took the chequered flag by over five seconds from Pedrosa, with Dovizioso holding off Stoner to take his first podium this year. The reigning world champion finished fourth, which is the first time he hasn’t stood on the podium since Jerez last year. The top ten were completed by Cal Crutchlow, Álvaro Bautista, Valentino Rossi, Stefan Bradl, Ducati’s Nicky Hayden and Ben Spies. Top CRT honour went to local rider Aleix Espargaró on board his Power Electronics Aspar machine.
Lorenzo now has a 20 point lead in the championship over Stoner, with Pedrosa a further ten points behind.
At the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya it was Andrea Iannone who took his first victory of the season in a thrilling Moto2™ race in front of Tom Lüthi and Marc Márquez.
Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Márquez took the holeshot, as an almighty scrap for second place ensued behind. Turn one already saw S/Master Speed Up’s Mike di Meglio, Blusens Avintia’s Julián Simón, Federal Oil Gresini’s Gino Rea and Italtrans Racing’s Claudio Corti involved in a crash, with only Corti making it back out on track. None of the riders were hurt.
Márquez’s good jump from the line was short lived as Speed Master’s Iannone took advantage of the Spaniard running wide. He led the initial stages from Technomag-CIP’s Dominique Aegerter and Mapfre Aspar Team’s Toni Elías, in front of Márquez and Interwetten-Paddock’s Lüthi. Elías soon took second with a bold move, though was immediately taken by Márquez, who hunted down Iannone.
With 18 laps to go, Lüthi had made it into third, and a group with Iannone, Márquez and the Swiss rider soon started pulling out a led. On the same lap, Technomag-CIP’s Roberto Rolfo received a ride through penalty after a jump-start.
The scrap at the front was getting fierce with 18 laps left as Márquez passed Iannone down the straight, though the Italian stuck to the Spaniards rear wheel and took him back two laps later. Lüthi took advantage of this and put in a brave move on Márquez to take second. The scrap did however let Pons 40 HP Tuenti’s championship leader Pol Espargaró catch up to the back, making it a four way battle 11 laps from the end.
One lap later, Márquez retook Lüthi on the home straight to hunt down the Italian at the front. The pursuing group was being led by Espargaró’s teammate Esteve Rabat ahead of Aegerter, Elías, Came IodaRacing Project’s Simone Corsi and the Marc VDS Racing Team pair of Scott Redding and Mika Kallio.
Back at the front with nine laps to go Márquez got past Iannone on the straight, yet the Italian fought straight back and re-took him three corners later. Yet with seven laps to go Iannone ran wide, letting the Spaniard through once more. This was again short lived as the Italian fought back and re-took the lead. On the same lap, Elías crashed out of sixth place, yet walked away unscathed.
With five laps left, Espargaró started his charge through the pack, as he went past Lüthi to take third. However, with three laps remaining Lüthi overtook the local down the strait, as the four at the front were involved in an engrossing battle at the front.
With three laps left there was huge drama for the home crowd, as Lüthi went past Márquez, who subsequently almost lost the front of his bike. As he saved a near crash, he pulled back in front of Espargaró who was thrown off his bike in a violent fashion. He fortunately escaped any serious injury, though was visibly upset at loosing out in front of his home fans.
The last lap was equally as tense, as Lüthi, who had passed Iannone for the lead, was re-taken by the Italian in a brave move into turn one. The pair tussled fairing-to-fairing in the last lap, yet it was Iannone who held his nerve to take the win ahead of the Swiss rider and Marc Márquez. The top ten were completed by Esteve Rabat, Simone Corsi, Italtrans’ Takaaki Nakagami, Dominique Aegerter, GP Team Switzerland’s Randy Krummenacher, Mika Kallio and Scott Redding.
The crash involving Espargaró and Márquez was subsequently investigated by Race Direction, which issued Márquez with 60-second penalty, relegating him to 23th spot. His team however appealed the penalty with the FIM Stewards, who did not confirm the decision, meaning it was consequently overturned. This leaves Márquez in second place in the championship, two points behind Lüthi. Protocol dictates that an appeal may be lodged with the FIM CDI.
Blusens Avintia’s Maverick Viñales won his home race from pole position at the Moto3™ round of the Gran Premi Aperol de Catalunya in dominant fashion, in front of Sandro Cortese and Miguel Oliveira.
Having started in dry conditions, it was AirAsia-SIC-Ajo’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin who got the holeshot, yet it was Racing Team Germany’s Louis Rossi who bravely pushed his way to the front in turn two, to lead the opening stages. Pole-sitter Viñales did not get a great start, as he was passed down to fourth by Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Sandro Cortese.
RW Racing GP’s Luis Salóm also struggled at the start as he dropped to 11th place, while Bankia Aspar Team’s Hector Faubel was making his way up to the front group. An initial tussle ensued between Rossi, Cortese, Viñales, as well as Khairuddin, which was soon joined by JHK T-Shirt Laglisse’s Efrén Vázquez, who had a tremendous start.
Khairuddin led for a lap, yet was passed on the home straight by Viñales and Rossi. The Malaysian rider soon appeared to be struggling, as more riders passed him after running wide. With 18 laps to go, Viñales, Rossi and Vázquez started to pull out a small lead, ahead of the following group led by Cortese.
With 13 laps to go the leading group had grown to seven riders fighting it out, with Viñales leading from Rossi, Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Alex Márquez, Vázquez, Márquez’s teammate Miguel Oliveira, Cortese and Faubel. Viñales soon put the hammer down and was starting to pull away slightly, as he left the pursuing six to fight it out, with Cortese and Rossi passing aggressively going into turn one.
With 11 laps left, Team Italia FMI’s Alessandro Tonucci crashed out of the race, putting an end to his bid for points. A few laps later, Khairuddin, who came onto the straight in eighth place, pulled a stunning move into turn one to take second, though was pushed back to third a lap later by Rossi.
There was drama seven laps from the end as Vázquez crashed out of the fight for second, while Oliveira’s teammate Alex Rins also crashed out of his home race. Caretta Technology’s Alexis Masbou had joined the group and was making a bid for second place five laps before the end, although positions kept swapping frequently throughout. A lap before it was misery for Mahindra Racing Team, as Danny Webb crashed out and Marcel Schrotter retired with a mechanical issue.
With three laps remaining, the fight for final podium positions was fierce, with none of the Moto3 chargers wishing to budge. Adding yet another twist, Rossi’s exhaust was dangling off his bike, while early-season sensation, Team Italia FMI’s Romano Fenati, caught up to the back of the group.
After a thrilling last lap, during which eight riders were scrapping it out for the final two podium spots, it was Viñales who took the chequered flag by over seven seconds ahead of Cortese and Oliveira, who recorded his first ever top three spot. They were closely followed by Louis Rossi, Alexis Masbou, Alex Márquez, Hector Faubel, Zulfahmi Khairuddin, Romano Fenati, with Luis Salóm completing the top ten.
With his victory, Viñales has now closed the gap to championship leader Cortese to seven points.