The last race before the summer break, the weekend had already thrown up a few surprises before we even made Sunday.
Danny Kent did Danny Kent things in qualifying, taking pole by half a second - despite crashing halfway through the session. He was joined on the front row by Karel Hanika and Fabio Quartararo, with Efren Vasquez and Enea Bastianini (demoted due to being sluggish and hanging on for a tow) starting behind them on row two. Ana Carrasco finally put a Saturday performance in, qualifying in 24th (but starting a row back due to the qualifying coasting) - four places ahead of Maria Herrera (who was also punished).
Wondering why I haven't mentioned my pick for the race yet? Miguel Oliveira had a huge highside on Friday, breaking a bone in his left hand and going back to Portugal for surgery.
Kent got away well, but Hanika and Vasquez started better, the KTM leading early on. Quartararo had a terrible starting, dropping to eighth. Hiroki Ono dropped out at turn three. Kent reclaimed the lead going down the hill into turn 12 later on that lap. Bastianini then barged his way to the front at the start of lap two, Brad Binder moving up to third. Kent made the same move again on lap two, but Binder followed him through and took the lead on the last corner - Kent and Bastianini reclaiming their places back at the start of lap three.
Kent then seemed to find his rhythm - at least for a lap. He nearly came out of his seat, at the same time as Vasquez took second from Bastianini, Kent just managing to hold on to the lead, and then again started to open up another small advantage. Hanika took third soon after, but the two Leopards were pulling away. Quartararo crashed out of eighth, limping away from the crash, with Francesco Bagnaia crashing out shortly afterwards. John McPhee, another punished by going slow in qualifying, up to 16th from 23rd.
Niccolo Antonelli joined the party, giving the KTMs of Binder and Hanika a hard time as Bastianini moved back into third. Later in the lap, both Binder and Hanika cut inside Bastianini at turn 12. By turn one of the next lap, Bastianini was back in third. Kent had gapped Vasquez - half a second ahead of his team mate. Vasquez had two seconds on the chasing pack, though. The real entertainment was the battle for third. Bastianini went from third to seventh, with Antonelli following the KTMs through and past them to third. Jorge Martin, on the Mahindra, was still hanging onto the pack in eighth, keeping Jorge Navarro honest in seventh.
As if enough wasn't happening in the battle for third, Romano Fenati, Philipp Oettl, Andrea Locatelli and Niklas Ajo then joined the party. 11 bikes all with an interest in third place. Meanwhile, Kent had a four second advantage at the front, with Vasquez a distant second - but still four seconds ahead of the battle for third. Alexis Masbou went past Navarro for sixth, with Fenati moving up to eighth and looking dangerous. Bastianini and Antonelli were swapping third, while Navarro and Fenati had an elbows-out battle for seventh. All of this, while Kent was seven seconds ahead.
With seven laps Masbou made a great move down the inside of Antonelli and Bastianini down the hill, but dropped back down to seventh by turn three of the next lap. Tatsuki Suzuki crashed at the bottom of the hill, falling from 15th. Fenati made his way to fourth, honing down on Antonelli. Fenati took third with three laps left, with Bastianini and Binder following him through, and Navarro later on. The group was catching Vasquez - the gap dropping to 2.8 seconds. Ana Carrasco and Maria Herrera crashed with each other at turn 13, Herrera clipping Carrasco and falling, with the RBA lady collected by Herrera herself.
On the last lap, everyone went inside each other, as Moto3 riders do. Bastianini just took third at the line ahead of Fenati, with Antonelli in fifth and Navarro in sixth. Martin and Hanika somehow managed to drop back to 12th and 13th, nine seconds back from the group they were battling with. All of which completely ignores the winner - Kent winning by 7.5 seconds.
|1||Danny Kent||Leopard Honda||39:29.359||25|
|2||Efren Vasquez||Leopard Honda||+7.554||20|
|3||Enea Bastianini||Honda Gresini||+9.603||16|
|4||Romano Fenati||Sky VR46 KTM||+9.629||13|
|6||Jorge Navarro||Estrella Galicia||+9.807||10|
|7||Brad Binder||Red Bull KTM||+9.837||9|
|8||Alexis Masbou||RTG Saxoprint||+10.266||8|
|9||Andrea Locatelli||Honda Gresini||+10.352||7|
|10||Niklas Ajo||RBA Racing||+11.558||6|
|11||Philipp Oettl||Schedl GP||+11.777||5|
|12||Jorge Martin||Mapfre Mahindra||+18.416||4|
|13||Karel Hanika||Red Bull KTM||+18.426||3|
|14||Jakub Kornfeil||Drive M7 SIC||+28.782||2|
Kent's fifth win of the year sees him extend his lead in the championship to 66 points. He can't quite take three races off yet, but with each race he always seems to extend his lead. Oliveira retains third despite not racing, and the summer holiday has probably come at a good time for him - he might be healed come Indianapolis.
|Moto3 Championship Top 5|
|1||Danny Kent||Leopard Honda||190||25|
|2||Enea Bastianini||Gresini Honda||124||16|
|3||Miguel Oliveira||Red Bull KTM||102||25|
|4||Romano Fenati||Sky VR46 KTM||99||13|
|5||Efren Vasquez||Leopard Honda||96||20|
Another pole for Johann Zarco in the 600s, going 0.09s faster than Xavier Simeon. They were joined on the front row by Franco Morbidelli, with Thomas Luthi, Simone Corsi and Tito Rabat - broken collarbone and all - on row two. Sam Lowes started ninth, joining the two Germans Sandro Cortese and Jonas Folger on row three. Alex Rins started in 12th, one place ahead of last year's winner Dominique Aegerter.
Zarco got bogged down off the grid, with Morbidelli taking the lead into turn one, Simeon retaining second. Corsi took fourth, with Lowes losing a place off the grid to Mika Kallio. Rabat had a worse start - dropping to ninth in the first lap. Simeon took the lead down the hill on lap two, but Morbidelli would retake the lead at turn one, with Corsi taking third from Zarco at the same corner.
Simeon made the same move on lap three, but again lost it at turn one. The top four all led at one point at turn one, Zarco claiming the lead with the right line. Kallio was making good ground - up to sixth by the end of lap four, with Rins also making in-roads up to eighth. Anthony West crashed out, although he wasn't making any impression on the race. At the front, Zarco's early pace was matched by Morbidelli, not managing to escape from the Italian. Azlan Shah and Marcel Schrotter collected each other on lap seven.
While Morbidelli was closing on Zarco, Simeon also joined the party, the Belgian managing to keep a good pace. Corsi was holding up Kallio and Rabat while defending well in fourth, while Luthi had falled down to ninth. Rins was also moving up, taking sixth from Kallio a couple of laps later. Luthi, Lowes, Cortese and Kallio were involved in a scrap for seventh, Kallio's early challenge falling away, with the other three taking chunks out of each other.
At the front, the top three were maintaining pace. Nobody was making a mistake, meaning there was no movement. All looked comfortable on their bikes, and so they were all following each other. Corsi was still holding fourth well, with Rabat and Rins close behind him - Rabat making a move down the hill on lap 16, and Rins eventually following half a lap later. Rabat had a wobble soon afterwards but managed to hold onto fourth.
With nine laps left, Zarco seemed to have a bit of distance ahead of Morbidelli. The Italian dropped into the clutches of Simeon, with the Belgian taking second down the hill. Takaaki Nakagami finally came into consideration, moving up to ninth, around the same time Lowes took seventh from Luthi. Rabat was closing on Morbidelli, while Simeon was closing the gap to Zarco. It began to look like Zarco was holding Simeon up - especially as Morbidelli was coming back into it.
Simeon made the move with four laps to go, opening up a 0.2 second gap. He couldn't escape though, and Zarco looked very interested on the last lap. He was on the back of Simeon going through the left hand section, but Simeon had the run down the hill, and had enough to take the win. Morbidelli fell on the last turn, collecting Rabat on his way into the gravel trap. It was a huge hit for Rabat, and he held the injured shoulder for a long time. Rins took advantage to claim third, with Corsi taking fourth. Lowes rescued an awful weekend by coming fifth.
|1||Xavier Simeon||Federal Oil Gresini||41:09.295||25|
|3||Alex Rins||Paginas Amarillas HP40||+1.646||16|
|4||Simone Corsi||Athina Forward||+6.386||13|
|5||Sam Lowes||Speed Up||+9.284||11|
|8||Lorenzo Baldassarri||Athina Forward||+12.518||8|
|11||Sandro Cortese||Dynavolt Intact||+17.529||5|
|13||Randy Krummenacher||JIR Racing||+21.849||3|
Zarco's lead extends to a big 65 points, due to Rabat's late crash. Lowes retains third, just seven points behind Rabat, while Rins leapfrogs Luthi into fourth, four points behind Lowes. Zarco has been showing a Kent-like dominance of Moto2, and now has the advantage to show for it.
Simeon's first win, the first Belgian to win a race since 1983, lifts him to sixth in the championship.
|Moto2 Championship Top 5|
|2||Tito Rabat||Estrella Galicia Marc VDS||114||20|
|3||Sam Lowes||Speed Up||107||11|
|4||Alex Rins||Paginas Amarillas HP40||103||16|
Marc Marquez is back. He headed up every session, and took pole by 0.3 seconds from his Repsol team mate Dani Pedrosa. Jorge Lorenzo completed the front row, with championship leader Valentino Rossi starting in sixth. He was joined on the second row by two Ducatis - the factory bike of Andrea Iannone starting in fourth, with the satellite Pramac rider Yonny Hernandez a very impressive fifth. Bradley Smith's superb practice pace could only equate to ninth on the grid, one place ahead of Cal Crutchlow, with Andrea Dovizioso only putting his factory Ducati in 11th. Hector Barbera headed up the open class bikes in 13th, with the Laverty brothers ended up 0.25 seconds apart, Eugene starting one place ahead of Michael in 23rd.
Just before the race, news broke that the Hondas broke the trend of the other factory bikes, using a front hard tyre rather than the asymmetric front that the other factory bikes were using. For an explanation of asymmetric tyres, google it. I could be here all day.
Pedrosa got the best start, taking the lead into turn one before Lorenzo went round the outside to hit the front. Marquez took second from Lorenzo at turn two, with Rossi moving past Hernandez into fifth, then taking fourth from Iannone. Smith also got a good start, moving up to seventh while Scott Redding crashed at turn 13. Hernandez got into a battle with Iannone for fifth, with Crutchlow behind Smith in eighth. Rossi had a moment, nearly losing the back end going down the hill at turn 12, still keeping close to the back of Pedrosa.
Iannone managed to lose Hernandez by lap five, with the Pramac bike falling back into the clutches of Smith. Rossi took third down the hill, and a turn later Marquez took the lead from Lorenzo. Hiro Aoyama had yet another crash - how he keeps getting work I don't know. Marquez managed to open up a gap - 0.6 seconds in one lap. At the end of that lap, Rossi went inside Lorenzo down the hill, but couldn't make it stick. That allowed Marquez to open the gap up to a second. Smith was up to sixth, taking the place from Hernandez. Aleix Espargaro - having a poor weekend at a track he was expected to go well at - was tenth, ahead of his brother Pol.
Rossi would make second stick a lap later, opening up a gap between himself and Lorenzo, but unable to make inroads on Marquez, who was 1.7 seconds ahead. Crutchlow and Dovizioso got past Hernandez, with the Pramac down to ninth. Pedrosa also went past Lorenzo, the Honda just looking quicker than Lorenzo's Yamaha. Marquez was away, though, with the gap up to 2.3 seconds. Further back in the field, Danilo Petrucci was up to tenth, past the Espargaros, Pol passing Aleix just before Dovizioso crashed out of eighth.
Pedrosa went past Rossi with 13 laps remaining, having looked quicker for a few laps. Smith was making minor in-roads on Iannone, with Crutchlow also keeping him honest. Pol was ninth, back ahead of Petrucci, with Aleix leading his team mate Maverick Viñales in 11th. In a rather unsung manner, Alvaro Bautista was working wonders on the Aprilia, riding 14th. Marquez, though, was a country mile ahead at the front. Lorenzo had dropped off the back of Rossi, seemingly settling for fourth.
Rossi was keeping Pedrosa honest at the front, while Pol went up to eighth. Viñales, having despatched Aleix, also went past Hernandez into tenth. Bautista was up to 13th before losing it back to Barbera. Pedrosa finally saw off Rossi, opening up a 1.4 second gap, while closing the gap to Marquez - albeit too little too late. Marquez was completely dominant from lap two onwards, and took the flag at a canter and with a wheelie. Pedrosa came home second ahead of Rossi, who was comfortably ahead of Lorenzo in fourth. Iannone managed his times well in fifth, followed by Smith and Crutchlow. Aleix just pipped Viñales at the line, with Jack Miller completing the point scoring finishers in 15th.
In summary, the Honda gamble paid off.
|1||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||41:01.087||25|
|2||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+2.226||20|
|3||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||+5.608||16|
|4||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||+9.928||13|
|6||Bradley Smith||Tech 3 Yamaha||+23.215||10|
|7||Cal Crutchlow||CWM LCR Honda||+29.881||9|
|8||Pol Espargaro||Tech 3 Yamaha||+34.953||8|
|9||Danilo Petrucci||Pramac Ducati||+35.875||7|
|10||Aleix Espargaro||Suzuki Ecstar||+37.253||6|
|11||Maverick Viñales||Suzuki Ecstar||+37.274||5|
|12||Yonny Hernandez||Pramac Ducati||+42.081||4|
|13||Hector Barbera||Avintia Racing||+48.611||3|
|14||Alvaro Bautista||Aprilia Gresini||+50.687||2|
|15||Jack Miller||CWM LCR Honda||+53.769||1|
Rossi opens up the gap up to 13 points from Lorenzo, just slowly opening up the gap. Marquez closes the gap to Iannone in third, but remains 65 points back from Rossi. It's not impossible, but it does involve the Doctor having a couple of DNFs. Smith's 6th place, coupled with Dovizioso's retirement, sees the Brit draw level with the Italian in fifth.
|MotoGP Championship Top 5|
|1||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||179||16|
|2||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||166||13|
|4||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||114||25|
Tech 3 Yamaha
Ride Of The Day
Xavier Simeon rode really well, keeping up with then dispatching Zarco in Moto2. Marquez struggled early on, but then made the GP race his own, winning comfortably. What more can we say about Danny Kent though? He was a little bogged down off the line, but then showed his class to hit the front and leave everyone else, including his team mate on the exact same bike, in the dust. It's going to take something catastrophic to stop him now.
Next Time Out
It's the MotoGP summer holiday! Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith are off to the Suzuka 8 Hours, others are going to put their feet up, others will do some training, while others will probably have doctors' appointments and some surgery planned.
We have three weeks off now, with the race in Indianapolis taking place on the second weekend of August. We'll be covering that, but in the meantime we'll have some things to keep you occupied, including a look at the new regulations for next year, and where some riders may end up.
Thanks for reading so far, and I hope you join us again after the break.