Let’s get to know it.
In a fiercely contested opening lap, Suzuki Ecstar rider Maverick Vinales barged into the lead to be first across the line to end lap 1. Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez led lap 2, but made a mistake and ran off track briefly. Vinales held the lead for the next several laps.
Movistar Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi took over the point on lap 9, and Vinales faded further back over the next few laps. Marquez, who had fallen back to fifth spot after his off-track excursion, steadily made his way through the field and stalked Rossi for a couple of laps before passing for the lead.
From there Marquez opened up his advantage, eventually finishing 2.7 seconds ahead of Movistar Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo, who had also passed Rossi on lap 19 of 23. “I said yesterday that something can always happen in a race, and it was a miracle that I didn’t crash today when I almost lost it in turn 7. That was when I decided to relax a little and go back to my mentality from practice of riding precisely and braking in the right places. All this made for a more entertaining race, with many overtaking moves at the start, and a second part in which I was able to open a gap to Valentino, which was important.”
Lorenzo suffered a crash in the morning warm-up session but ran in the top three during the opening laps, and was able to charge in the closing stages of the race to pass his teammate for second. The Spaniard credited a last-second tire change before the race with his good performance: “Sometimes a bad situation or a bad thing brings you a good thing and that’s what happened when I crashed. This made me do two warming up laps, one with the hard tire and one on the soft tire. Finally on these two laps the hard tire suddenly gave me a good confidence, even if I was warming up and very slow, so my instinct told me that I needed to change my race tire to the hard one and this crash and bit of instinct for sure gave me the possibility to do this race the way I was riding it.”
While Rossi led the middle part of the race, his rear tire lost performance and he could not hold off Marquez or Lorenzo in the closing stages of the race. The Yamaha rider tried a late-race pass on his teammate, but ran wide and lost touch. “I wanted to arrive as the first of the Yamahas and in front of Lorenzo, but unfortunately in the second half of the race he was faster than me. It’s a shame, because I had some cards up my sleeve for the last laps, because I was there, but I made a mistake. I decided to go straight because else it would have been very dangerous for both of us.”
After leading the early stages of the race, Vinales faded to fourth at the checkered flag. “When the grip was supporting me I could do a really good pace. I felt really confident and the lap-times came quickly and easily. Then suddenly the rear tire lost performance due to the consumption and that is when I had to give it up a little. I couldn’t feel confident with hard braking and also in acceleration, and trying to force the pace I made some mistakes that warned me to be more conservative in my riding.”
LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow finished as top independent rider in fifth position, fighting back from eighth in the opening laps. “I struggled at the start to get the rear tire to work. This has been a problem over the weekend, some hard tires work immediately, and others not. Then I got held up behind Dani, Dovi and Aleix, and with the speed of our bike we had no chance. I tried to be able to fight with them in the early laps and get past, but Dani was just accelerating off the corner a little better than me and I never got the run on him.”
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa struggled the entire race with grip – note the severe condition of his front tire in this photo – and finished sixth. “I didn’t have grip since the beginning of the race; I couldn’t exit the corners with good speed, and that turned out to be my biggest problem in the opening laps. I couldn’t open the throttle out of the corner and I lost ground on the front guys. I tried to manage in the best way possible, but a few laps later I started to have an issue with front tyre as well. I started feeling a vibration, and when I finished the race it was clear there was some problem there.”
Vinales’ Suzuki Ecstar teammate Aleix Espargaro was in the leading pack for much of the race and running as high as fifth, and eventually finished seventh after being passed by Pedrosa on the last lap. “I still struggle to find a good feeling with the front. I’m not able to interpret the front tyre and exploit its potential. We made a lot of attempts and changes but I can’t adapt my riding style and so I cannot be as fast as I would like to be.”
Aleix’s brother Pol, on the Tech 3 Yamaha, had a poor start from the fourth row of the grid and was running in 12 at the end of the first lap, but made his way back to eighth place at the checkered flag. “I was truly comfortable on the Yamaha today and I was confident about my chances, but unfortunately, I made a mistake at the beginning of the race and went wide at the end of the back straight and this is where I lost contact to the group in front of me. Without this slip-up, I would have probably been able to finish in front of Dani and my brother.”
Continuing their steady improvement, both Aprilia riders finished in the top 10 for the first time, with Alvaro Bautista in ninth. “In FP4, when I had a consistent pace even with used tires, I realized that we could do well in the race. I battled with (Yonny) Hernandez and with Dovi (Andrea Dovizioso), managing to overtake them, and I fell in behind Pol whose times were very similar to mine. We maintained a good pace and I saw that we continued to make up ground on the group that was battling for fifth place, but toward the end of the race I lost a bit of feeling with the rear tire.”
Stefan Bradl, on the second Aprilia, rounded out the top 10 in the race. “We took a step forward in terms of settings from the Misano race, especially improving in the braking phase and giving me a better feeling with the front tire. We were able to further perfect things here, finding a good base straight away on Friday and then working to sort the details. Obviously, there is still room for improvement, for example in taking better advantage of the rear tire to be faster with new tires.”