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Moto3 qualifying was somewhat overshadowed by news of Pramac Ducati offering Danny Kent a MotoGP ride for the next three years, although there's no news if he'll take up the offer yet.
On track, it was as chaotic and ridiculous as we've come to expect Moto3 qualifying to be. Niccolo Antonelli was the one to take advantage of all the slipstreaming and bunching up, pipping Kent by 0.002 seconds. Jorge Navarro completed the front row, with Alexis Masbou impressive in qualifying fifth, and team mate John McPhee following up his second place in Indianapolis with a 10th place start. Enea Bastianini could only manage 15th, and Livio Loi, the winner at Indy, started a dire 29th.
Johann Zarco continues to lead the way in the mid-class, taking another pole position ahead of Tito Rabat and Alex Rins. Sandro Cortese took an unexpected fourth, alongside Tom Luthi and Domi Aegerter. Sam Lowes suffered from suspension problems and could only qualify in 13th, but was still the only Speed Up bike in the top 20.
Jorge Lorenzo was absolutely dominant in qualifying, setting fast lap after fast lap to take pole. Marc Marquez got close, but not close enough, while Valentino Rossi put his qualifying demons aside to claim third. Bradley Smith split the Ducati'd Andreas in the middle of row two (Iannone ahead of Dovizioso). Pol Espargaro and Cal Crutchlow had to come through Q1, the Spaniard in eighth ahead of the Brit in 10th, while Dani Pedrosa could only manage ninth after injuring himself in free practice. Hector Barbera found some great pace in practice, making it straight through to Q2 on the Avintia Ducati, eventually qualifying 11th.
Rain that was forecast for the morning appeared to be holding off. Track temperature wasn't too high, but for the rider's sakes anyway, at least it wasn't wet but drying.
The front three all made a good start, with Navarro pushing ahead to take the lead. Antonelli and Efren Vasquez pushed ahead by turn three, but Kent fell all the way back to eighth, one place behind Bastianini. Behind all this, a big collision saw several bikes out at turn one, including Niklas Ajo, Louis Rossi and Philipp Oettl. Later in the lap, another crash involved Andrea Locatelli, Hiroki Ono, Lorenzo Dalla Porta and Gabriel Rodrigo. The race was red flagged. With less than a lap completed, the race would restart as on the grid, running for only 12 laps. Rodrigo was taken to the medical centre for examination - much better news than going to hospital.
A much better start from Kent at the restart, but Navarro led from Vasquez until a couple of turns later. McPhee made it up to fifth! Kent sat in third, moving up past Navarro and Vasquez in one turn. Brad Binder went from fourth to second. Great, clean racing.
Bastianini made another great move up the field jumping from 11th to sixth in one turn. Alexis Masbou remained competitive in seventh, while McPhee sat ahead of Romano Fenati. Isaac Viñales, Karel Hanika, Fabio Quartararo and Jules Danilo took each other out on lap two, both riders okay. Miguel Oliveira joined the party around the same time as Vasquez displaced Kent for the lead, the Brit dropping to fifth. Oliveira then hit the front, Binder behind him in second until slipstreaming past him - but Vasquez made the most of it to reclaim the lead, at least for two turns until Antonelli threw it down the inside to take first.
Binder would retake the lead two laps later, while everyone behind him juggled positions - Kent falling from fourth to seventh,, then back up to fifth before going back to seventh. Oliveira then made a daunting move, going from fifth to first. Antonelli nearly became the meat of a KTM sandwich, while Bastianini looked his usual interested self getting up to third at one stage. Kent was dawdling down in ninth, McPhee still running very well in 11th. Binder then hit the front again, Oliveira dropping to third before reclaiming second. Further back, the three MAPFRE Mahindras led the chasing pack, Francesco Bagnaia ahead of Juanfran Guevara and Jorge Martin.
Masbou's good ride ended early, crashing out with four laps left. Fenati then decided it was his turn to shove into a corner where he didn't belong, moving from fifth to second in two turns. Suddenly Kent was then interested again, moving back up to fifth. Antonelli reclaimed the lead at turn one with two laps left, managing to find some rhythm and having something comparable to a gap. Binder went around the inside of an S to take second from Fenati. Basitanini went inside Fenati to take third, and Navarro took fourth. Bastianini then went inside of Binder into second and tried to catch Antonelli, but was just unable.
Antonelli took the flag, jumping in his seat as he crossed the line. Bastianini was second ahead of Binder. Vasquez nipped ahead of Navarro on the line for fourth, and Fenati stayed ahead of Kent for sixth. McPhee took a very impressive tenth, while Oettl recovered from his initial crash to take the last point. Great race.
Post-race, it was announced that Rodrigo had been taken to hospital, but was conscious and stable.
|2||Enea Bastianini||Honda Gresini||+0.152||20|
|3||Brad Binder||Red Bull KTM||+0.376||16|
|4||Efren Vasquez||Leopard Honda||+0.540||13|
|5||Jorge Navarro||Estrella Galicia||+0.560||11|
|6||Romano Fenati||Sky VR46 KTM||+0.821||10|
|7||Danny Kent||Leopard Honda||+1.179||9|
|8||Miguel Oliveira||Red Bull KTM||+1.188||8|
|9||Jakub Kornfeil||Drive M7 SIC||+1.420||7|
|10||John McPhee||Saxoprint RTG||+3.385||6|
|11||Jorge Martin||Mapfre Mahindra||+5.751||5|
|12||Francesco Bagnaia||Mapfre Mahindra||+5.846||4|
|13||Andrea Migno||Sky VR46 KTM||+5.910||3|
|14||Juanfran Guevara||Mapfre Mahindra||+6.173||2|
|15||Philipp Oettl||Schedl GP||+6.268||1|
Rabat made a great start, storming ahead. Luthi made a good start too, moving past Zarco then Rabat into the lead. Zarco reclaimed second from Rabat, with Aegerter in fourth, ahead of Rins. Franco Morbidelli sat sixth, ahead of Jonas Folger and Alex Marques. Cortese was down to ninth by the end of lap one, closely followed by Simone Corsi. Zarco went past Luthi at turn one of lap two, and instantly started to gap the field.
Rabat took second from Luthi on lap three, around the same time as Marquez took seventh from Folger. Lowes was making slow inroads, up to 11th from his starting place of 13th. Both Rabat and Rins had a wobble, with the defending champion going from second to fourth, then back up to fourth. Morbidelli went around the outside of Aegerter and Rins, dropping back again by turn one. Marquez took the opportunity, leapfrogging up to fourth ahead of Rins. Meanwhile, Zarco opened up a gap, over a second ahead of Rabat by the end of lap four. Robin Mulhauser crashed out.
Rins and Marquez were having a good little scrap for fourth, while Morbidelli was fending off the challenge of Folger. Lowes had moved up to ninth, and showing some great pace chasing down Aegerter. Rabat was making inroads into Zarco's lead, but was still 0.8 seconds back. However, he had dropped Luthi, who was falling into the clutches of Rins and Marquez, with the PA rider past the Swiss for third. Lowes went past Aegerter for eighth, and was closing fast on Folger. Marquez then made the most of an error from Luthi to move into fourth. Folger took sixth from Morbidelli just as Lowes caught them, with Lowes taking seventh. The next lap, Lowes finally got Folger and moved into sixth.
While the race at the front was fairly processional, Lowes was looking the most animated. He quickly closed up to Luthi and took fifth. Folger followed Lowes up too, putting a lovely move on Luthi to take sixth. The gap to Marquez in fourth was around 1.8 seconds, but the Brit looked very very fast. At the front though, Zarco had managed the gap well and seemed to have the race well covered.
Zarco took the flag with ease. Rins came back towards Rabat but couldn't make a move. Marquez completed a very mature race in fourth. Lowes' pace eventually dropped off, with Folger beginning to look interested in fifth place, but Lowes had enough to stay fifth. Luthi took seventh, with Aegerter falling back badly in finishing 13th. Mika Kallio took the last point.
|2||Tito Rabat||Estrella Galicia Marc VDS||+1.421||20|
|3||Alex Rins||Paginas Amarillas HP40||+1.785||16|
|4||Alex Marquez||Estrella Galicia Marc VDS||+4.393||13|
|5||Sam Lowes||Speed Up||+7.844||11|
|8||Sandro Cortese||Dynavolt Intact||+10.074||8|
|9||Luis Salom||Paginas Amarillas HP40||+11.921||7|
|11||Simone Corsi||Forward Racing||+17.694||5|
|14||Hafizh Syahrin||Petronas Raceline||+18.522||2|
A beautiful start from Jorge Lorenzo saw him ahead at turn one, with Bradley Smith like lightning into third. Andrea Dovizioso moved past both Rossi and Smith into third, with Rossi moving past the Brit back into fourth. Iannone then went past Smith. Rossi was struggling for pace though - keeping up with the Ducati of Dovizioso, but well off the pace of Lorenzo and Marquez in front.
Rossi and Dovi started trading third - Rossi moving ahead but running wide and letting Dovi back in. This let Iannone catch up to them, but Rossi went under Dovi to take third just before Iannone almost cleaned out Dovi going into the last corner on lap two. He still had a gap of two seconds ahead of him though, with Lorenzo starting to open up a bit of tarmac between himself and Marquez. Smith remained sixth, ahead of Pol Espargaro, who had Dani Pedrosa and Maverick Viñales on his tail. Alex De Angelis retired on lap four.
At the front, Lorenzo was into his time trial smooth style, looking impenetrable ahead of Marquez, who looked shaky trying to keep up with the Italian. Pedrosa dispatched Pol for seventh, as Cal Crutchlow moved up to tenth. Eugene Laverty crashed out at turn one. Rossi had a noticeable gap ahead of the Ducatis, but wasn't losing them by any means. Iannone was keeping Dovi honest, and Dovi was pushing hard to keep ahead. Pedrosa moved past Smith to sixth, as Aleix Espargaro finally came to play and moved up to 11th. Iannone finally put a move on Dovi to take fourth, as Lorenzo opened up a half-second gap on Marquez.
Everything went a bit pedestrian from here, until Cal Crutchlow dropped the bike, crashing from tenth - which will do his hopes of a new contract no good. He was soon followed by Maverick Viñales, crashing at the same turn a lap later. The Aprilias were running well, Stefan Bradl in 13th, with team mate Alvaro Bautista behind him. Hector Barbera was running a still-impressive 15th, but was under pressure from Nicky Hayden, the supposedly-superbike-bound world champion taking 15th from the Avintia rider.
With three laps left, the only remaining interesting spot was Pedrosa's chase of Dovizioso. The injured Spaniard was getting very close to the Ducati, but Dovi kept shutting the door on him. Pedrosa finally made the move halfway through the last lap, but Dovi didn't give up, chopping inside and briefly holding fifth.
Lorenzo, though, took the flag comfortably ahead of Marquez, with Rossi a distant third. Iannone brought it home in fourth, Pedrosa just keeping Dovizioso at bay for fifth. Smith beat team mate Pol for seventh, as Aleix and Danilo Petrucci rounded out the top ten. Loris Baz took the last points place, a big result for the much-troubled Athina Forward team.
|1||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||42:53.042||25|
|2||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||+4.462||20|
|3||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||+10.397||16|
|5||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||+15.650||11|
|7||Bradley Smith||Tech 3 Yamaha||+21.821||9|
|8||Pol Espargaro||Tech 3 Yamaha||+23.240||8|
|9||Aleix Espargaro||Suzuki Ecstar||+43.784||7|
|10||Danilo Petrucci||Pramac Ducati||+45.261||6|
|11||Yonny Hernandez||Pramac Ducati||+49.973||5|
|12||Scott Redding||Estrella Galicia Marc VDS||+50.174||4|
|13||Alvaro Bautista||Aspar Aprilia||+54.437||3|
|14||Stefan Bradl||Aspar Aprilia||+54.624||2|
|15||Loris Baz||Athina Forward Yamaha||+1:00.316||1|
The gap now sits at 44 points, after Bastianini made up another 12 points on Kent. The rest of the group is starting to bunch up a bit, 11 points separating fourth and sixth. It's still Kent's to lose, but he needs to get some momentum back. Luckily, he's going to have a stand dedicated to cheering him home at Silverstone.
|Moto3 Championship Top 5|
|#||Rider||Team||Ov. Pts||Pts Today|
|1||Danny Kent||Leopard Honda||198||8|
|2||Enea Bastianini||Gresini Honda||154||20|
|3||Romano Fenati||Sky VR46 KTM||122||10|
|4||Miguel Oliveira||Red Bull KTM||110||7|
|5||Efren Vasquez||Leopard Honda||109||13|
A 79 point lead for Zarco now after another dominant win. Rabat displaces Rins for second by a point, with Lowes pulling level with Luthi in fourth. Surely, SURELY, there's no stopping Zarco now.
|Moto2 Championship Top 5|
|#||Rider||Team||Ov. Pts||Pts Today|
|2||Tito Rabat||Estrella Galicia Marc VDS||145||20|
|3||Alex Rins||Paginas Amarillas HP40||144||16|
|6||Xavier Simeon||Federal Oil Gresini||92||0|
You can barely fit a sheet of paper between Lorenzo and Rossi now - Lorenzo would win the title if the season ended now due to having won more races this year, his victory today being the fifth of the season. Marquez closes up slightly but still trails by 52 points. It's not impossible, but it's much more likely that he'll be playing the role of spoiler while Rossi and Lorenzo gun it out for the title.
|MotoGP Championship Top 5|
|#||Rider||Team||Ov. Pts||Pts Today|
|1||Valentino Rossi||Movistar Yamaha||211||16|
|2||Jorge Lorenzo||Movistar Yamaha||211||25|
|3||Marc Marquez||Repsol Honda||159||20|
|5||Bradley Smith||Tech 3 Yamaha||106||19|
Ride Of The Day
Jorge Lorenzo was absolutely dominant in GP. He got in his rhythm early and nobody had an answer. Johann Zarco again had the class to recover from a poor start and dominate the Moto2 race. However, race of the day again goes to Moto3, and Niccolo Antonelli. In a shortened race, where things were so tight the front eight could have wiped each other out, he recovered several times from faster bikes going past him, he remained in touch, battled hard, and fully deserved his win. A good ride from another very young man.
Next Time Out
In two weeks time we head to Silverstone, for the British Grand Prix. Unless I win a competition I won't be going, so expect the usual raceday coverage.