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Latest News By September 14, 2020

Masterclass! Morbidelli takes magical maiden win at Misano

Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT), take a bow! On home soil, the Italian produced 27 inch-perfect laps to secure his maiden MotoGP™ victory in a dramatic Gran Premio Lenovo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini. Morbidelli took the chequered flag 2.217 ahead of compatriot Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing), who celebrates his first premier class podium, with Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) getting the better of home hero Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) on the last lap to claim his second podium finish. Meanwhile, now former Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) crashed out – twice – at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.

From the middle of the front row, Morbidelli out-dragged both Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Quartararo off the line and headed into Turn 1 leading, with fourth place Rossi getting a superb start to slot into second ahead of the equally fast starting Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) from the second row. Viñales slipped to P4, with Quartararo slotting into P5 as Morbidelli and Rossi sent the Italian fans into raptures on the opening lap.

Rossi got a good run down into Turn 8 on Lap 1 and showed a wheel to Morbidelli, but the latter was late on the brakes and closed the door. The numbers 21 and 46 then started to create a bit of a gap to third place Miller, with Viñales holding off both Quartararo and the two Team Suzuki Ecstar machines of Alex Rins and Joan Mir. Viñales was the only rider on the grid to select the hard Michelin rear tyre, and the lap record holder seemed to be taking his time to get it up to speed – with Quartararo looking impatient behind.

The riders then settled into their rhythm, with Miller hauling in the leading duo to sit a couple of tenths behind them and Viñales and co just over half a second back from the Australian. Meanwhile, Miller’s teammate Bagnaia was setting fastest lap after fastest lap, and the injured Italian had soon latched himself onto the back of the Viñales-Quartararo-Rins-Mir train. On Lap 7, Quartararo then made his move past Viñales at Turn 14 – and his eyes were firmly set on the podium trio just a stone’s throw up the road.

However, the Frenchman’s progress took a swift dive only moments later as he went in a little hot at Turn 4, and it would prove costly as the Championship leader tucked the front and crashed out of fourth place in another 2020 MotoGP™ title twist. Quartararo remounted but was down in P20, over 15 seconds down on Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team). The number 20 would later enter pitlane, suffer a tip off and then retire from the race.

Back up front meanwhile, Morbidelli was still easing round in the lead, although Rossi was able to keep his protégé close – for the time being. Miller was also holding firm in P3 but Pecco was on the move and the Italian was through on Viñales down the back straight into Turn 11, that Ducati grunt being put to good use.

Bit-by-bit, Morbidelli was starting to pull away from ‘The Doctor’. By Lap 12 the gap was creeping up towards a second as Bagnaia and Rins continued to make formidable progress further back, and Miller was clearly starting to struggle. Rins produced the classic Turn 2 Misano move to grab 4th from the number 43 and then, heading down into Turn 8, Pecco was through on the Aussie too. Now, Rins and Pecco had Rossi 1.8 seconds up the road, with ‘The Doctor’, in turn, losing touch with Morbidelli. The gap between the Italians was 1.1 seconds – and rising – but it was Mir who was now the fastest man on track…

With 11 laps to go, the gap was down to below a second as the podium scrap started to bubble up in the San Marino sun, and a lap later Rins and Pecco were just half a second down on the nine-time World Champion. The podium battle was well and truly game on.

Into the last 10 laps the riders went, and Mir had got the better of Miller. The sophomore was 1.9 seconds back from the podium scrap, with Rins and Pecco now right on the back of Rossi. The first move was Pecco slicing underneath Rins into the scintillatingly quick Turn 11 and on the next lap, Bagnaia was at it again. This time his good friend Rossi felt the wrath of the Ducati power and Pecco – who fractured his leg just over a month ago – was up into second and on the way to a maiden podium.

By this point, Mir had closed the gap to the trio ahead of him and was doing so at a significant rate of knots. The gap was 1.4 to his teammate, and it seemed the fight for the podium was going to heat up even more. The fight for victory, however, was between Morbidelli and only Morbidelli. A dream debut premier class win was in sight as the number 21 was 2.8 seconds up the road, and Bagnaia was creeping clear of Rossi. With six to go at Turn 8, things got even closer between Rins and he number 46 too, as the Suzuki rider got the run down the straight and showed a wheel up the inside. Rossi closed the door – no way through for Rins, but Mir was then just one second back.

With five to go, Rossi was still holding strong in third place as he continued to ride an impressive defensive display – especially at Turn 2, where Rins looked superb but couldn’t make it happen. With three to go, Rossi was then suddenly 0.4 faster than Bagnaia too – and what looked like a guaranteed second for the former Moto2™ World Champion now became a proper dog fight for second and third.

Coming around the final sector on the penultimate lap, Rins was out the saddle on the exit of Turn 15 and then ran slightly wide at Turn 16, allowing Mir to get the run on him down into Turn 1. Mir was then on a mission as a second podium of the season stood right in front of him… on the last lap, against Rossi, at Misano. Rossi himself was aiming to grab P2 back from Pecco though and it was as you were heading out of Turn 8…

Suddenly, Mir then mugged Rossi. The Spaniard produced an absolutely sublime move up the inside at Turn 10 to climb into third, with the Italian trying to set up a move coming into the Turn 14 hairpin but heading slightly wide at Turn 13… ending his hopes of a dream 200th podium in his backyard.

At the front though, it was pure magic for Morbidelli. The Italian simply didn’t put a foot wrong at Misano and led from start to finish to propel himself right into the 2020 title fight after two disastrous couple of weekends at the Red Bull Ring. In addition, the Italian becomes the fourth rider in six races to win their first MotoGP™ race this year – how’s that for excitement and unpredictability?

Bagnaia’s return from injury couldn’t have gone much better, the sophomore by far and away the fastest Ducati rider at Misano to claim his first MotoGP™ podium, going some way to making up for a lost rostrum after a mechanical at Jerez. Mir, meanwhile, produced an astonishing second half of the race to outfox Rossi on the last lap at Misano – and not many riders can say that. With Bagnaia on the rostrum, that’s 12 different podium finishers in the six 2020 races!

For Rossi, there is bound to be some disappointment for missing out on a home Grand Prix podium by just three tenths. Nevertheless, it was a magnificent performance from the 41-year-old, who will now be as determined as ever to pick up his 200th GP podium in seven days’ time. On a positive not though, Rossi is just 18 points from new Championship leader Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team)…

Rins’ error on the penultimate lap cost him a chance of a podium that looked nailed on for much of the second half of the race, but P5 is a solid job to put him just 36 points from top spot. After looking so strong throughout Free Practice and qualifying, Viñales’ race just didn’t materialise. The Spaniard eventually found his rhythm at the end of the race on the hard rear tyre and was searing around, but it was far too late and he had to settle for a disappointing P6.

Seventh went the way of Dovizioso who, despite having more muted weekend, now leads the Championship after Quartararo’s misfortunes. The Italian got the better of Miller in the closing stages to take some crucial points from the first or two Misano races, but there’s work to do. Miller’s early pace didn’t last and the Aussie slipped down the order to cross the line in ninth, but Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was handed a one-place penalty for exceeding track limits on the final lap so it’s P8 for Miller, P9 and the leading Honda accolade for Nakagami, and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) winning the KTM battle for P10. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3), Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini), Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) rounded out the points.

Another little chunk of history made at Misano underlines the stunning unpredictable 2020 season so far, and the Championship has taken another almighty twist. Quartararo’s DNF is his first since the 2019 Australian GP and he loses the title lead for the first time in 2020 after crashing twice on Sunday in a a day to forget for the Frenchman. Dovizioso now takes charge, but it’s so close: 28 points separate the top 10 riders, with Bagnaia’s second place seeing him 47 points off in P14.

Now much of the MotoGP™ field will be out for a test on Tuesday, and then we go again at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli next weekend. Bring it on!

MotoGP™ Podium
  1. Franco Morbidelli* – Petronas Yamaha SRT – Yamaha – 42:02.272
  2. Francesco Bagnaia* – Pramac Racing – Ducati – +2.217
  3. Joan Mir – Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – +2.290
    *Independent Team riders

Franco Morbidelli: “It feels… it don’t know how it feels, I’m still trying to process everything. Definitely it’s good and a good feeling! I’m very happy, I’m enjoying the moment. The only thing I can say is thanks to my team, thanks to my people and all the people who’ve been working with and helping me. On the last laps I was thinking a lot and about how seven years ago I was here racing in the Italian Championship, Superstock, winning that race… this felt just the same but MUCH MORE! So I’m just overwhelmed at the moment, the only thing I can say is thank you to everyone!”

Moto2™: Marini fights off Bezzecchi and Bastianini as the home heroes storm Misano

Add three Italians, a racetrack on the Rimini Riviera and a close Championship battle and what do you get? One fabulous race!

Sky Racing Team VR46 put on one hell of a show at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, with teammates Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi duelling it out to give the home fans a rollercoaster of a Moto2™ race. In the end though, it was Marini who came out on top as he managed to edge clear in the last few laps, taking his second victory of 2020 and extending his Championship lead. Bezzecchi was forced to settle for – and defend – second place, with second in the standings Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) less than a tenth behind him over the line.

Marini would start the race from pole position after Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) was forced out of the race after fracturing both his left hand and foot in a monster Warm Up highside, and when the lights went out Marini took full profit with the holeshot. Teammate Bezzecchi calmly settled in behind him but behind them, Bastianini wasn’t having the same privilege as a determined Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) edging through to third in the early stages.

There was already a gap starting to form from the rear wheel of Bezzecchi to the front wheel of Schrötter, and Bastianini’s chances at a third win of the year were slipping away before a handful of laps had even been completed. The title challenger obviously knew that too though, diving under Schrötter to reclaim third and setting his sights on the Italian duo ahead.

At the front, Marini was starting to flex his muscles as he slowly but surely moved half a second clear of his teammate. A fastest lap of the race, with five then completed, allowed the Championship leader to move over six tenths clear at the front with Bezzecchi unable to conjure up any type of response at that stage.

Meanwhile, an almighty scrap for the top five was starting to take shape. Schrötter, who had by this time dropped off the back of Bastianini and had Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) burst past him, had teammate Tom Lüthi, Fabio Di Giannantonio (+EGO Speed Up) and Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) for close company, with nobody wanting to let up.

Marini’s push towards home glory took another firm step forwards soon after when he was able to open out the gap to over a second on Lap 9, and a small Bezzecchi error in sector one allowed the number 10 to extend his comfort buffer even further…

In the fight for fifth, Schrötter was able to eek out an advantage over Di Giannantonio, who had momentarily got the better of Swiss veteran Lüthi. Jorge Navarro’s (+EGO Speed Up) miserable 2020 run then continued as the Spaniard crashed out, his fifth crash in six races, and in a lap to forget for the factory Speed Up squad, Di Giannantonio then took the car park route through Turn 14 and through went both Lüthi and Fernandez.

Bezzecchi, however, wasn’t throwing the towel in and just as we saw in Styria three weeks ago, the Italian was starting to chip away at Marini’s lead. Further back, Bastianini’s title chances flashed before his eyes as he pulled of a quite remarkable save at Turn 8. The front end folded and in true Marc Marquez style, the 22-year-old picked it up on his knee and held on to the podium place.

Suddenly drama struck and the fight was on with seven laps to go. Marini hit a false neutral into Turn 14, forcing him wide, and his eight-tenth advantage was gone. Bezzecchi swooped through, took the lead and it was role reversal at the front of his intermediate class scrap. A couple of laps later Marini hit back as he smoothly went past under the brakes into Turn 8., but Bezzecchi was having none of it, diving straight back past…

Four to go and Marini tried again through the opening corners but Bezzecchi hit straight back as the pair’s fight really started to heat up, Marini next getting the job done through the ultra-fast Turn 11. All of their squabbling was allowing Bastianini to suddenly creep into contention though, something team boss Pablo Nieto knew too well as he clambered over pit wall to point out the looming 33 to his riders.

Just two laps were remaining with a top three covered by 1.1 seconds, and it really was anyone’s game. Were we going to be treated to an incredible sprint finish? Marini had other ideas and he put together a perfect penultimate lap, before his cause was aided by Bezzecchi incredibly hitting a false neutral of his own at Turn 14. That saw Bastianini move to within four tenths of his compatriot, and it seemed Marini’s to lose.

The number 10 stood firm on the final lap and the victory was his, with teammate Bezzecchi just doing enough to fight off the charging Bastianini by less than a single tenth. That puts Marini19 points clear of Bastianini, with Bezzecchi a further ten back in third.

Vierge came across the line in fourth after having the best seat in Misano throughout the final laps, and Fernandez held off both Lüthi and Di Giannantonio to take the final top five place. They were ahead of arguably one of the rides of the day courtesy of Sam Lowes. The EG 0,0 Marc VDS rider will walk away from Misano with eight points despite starting from pitlane and will no doubt be delighted that the intermediate class is back in just seven days’ time. Completing the top ten were Aron Canet (Oceanica Aspar Team) and Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing).

Victory went the way of Marini on a day to remember for Italy as three flags glistened on the Moto2™ podium in the San Marino sun . However, all three will be wary of an incredibly determined Brit who could be back with a vengeance next weekend… come back for more then!

Moto2™ Podium
  1. Luca Marini – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex 40:41.774
  2. Marco Bezzecchi – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex +0.799
  3. Enea Bastianini – Italtrans Racing Team – Kalex +0.897

Luca Marini: “This is a big one. I think my best race, because I wasn’t as fact as I expected, every time on track in the race it’s different and the track is slower, I couldn’t do it like in practice. But I tried to manage the gap with Bez until I hit a neutral, lost a second, Bez ovetook me, we started to fight… but I was a bit faster so I could overtake him again. When I was at the front I pushed for the last three laps, I had something more for the end. This is great team work, and with my crew, the bike was perfect from the beginning. Now we enjoy this win, a party tonight but not with a lot of people – my house with my girlfriend and maybe some close friends! And then focus on the next one, because this year the first race I’m fast every time and can achieve a good result, but then in the second race at the track track I struggle a bit. The other guys make a big step and me, I stay the same on race pace. So we need to work a bit on this, but let’s enjoy this win and great job to Marco and to Bestia. It’s a great Championship this year with a lot of battles.”

Moto3™: McPhee crafts comeback coup at Misano

The Scot slices through from P17 to narrowly beat Ogura as Championship leader Albert Arenas crashes out.

John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) crafted a masterpiece on Sunday at the Gran Premio Lenovo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, slicing through from P17 on the grid to take back to the top step and beat fellow Championship contender Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) to the line in the 150th Moto3™ race. The 1-2 for the men second and third overall in the standings is even bigger news at Misano too, as Championship leader Albert Arenas (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) crashed out. There was no such drama for 2019 winner Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse), however, as he completed the podium to give Paolo Simoncelli’s Moto3™ outfit some more hometown glory.

Ogura got the launch he would have been looking for from pole position but Suzuki was clean and aggressive from the start, taking the lead at Turn 2 after starting third. There was big drama from the off in the Moto3™ race moments later though as three riders hit the deck at Turn 4: Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) tucked the front and took out Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo), with Styrian GP winner Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) unable to avoid crashing either as three contenders were out on Lap 1.

Back at the front, Suzuki was holding firm but Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) was making moves in the early stages, the Argentinian taking the lead into Turn 13 and Ogura following him through. Suzuki bit straight back on the polesitter and we had a freight train as ever, with squabbles up and down the field.

Meanwhile, CIP Green Power’s Darryn Binder, having started P19, was producing the goods on race day again. The South African was up the inside of Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) at Turn 4 on Lap 5, and Binder was soon fourth later round the lap. But this was a proper group fight, with three seconds covering the leading 21 riders and the positions changing constantly at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli.

Binder was again getting busy and there was slight contact at Turn 2 with Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) as the Italian tried a move,; just enough to see Arbolino lose a couple of places. Binder then led but Rodrigo, looking mighty in Misano, didn’t let the South African have the baton for long, with the two Leopard Racing machines on Dennis Foggia and Jaume Masia getting the better of Suzuki who felt the wrath of Binder at Turn 5.

After starting from a season’s worst qualifying in P13, Arenas was now rising to the fore. The Championship leader was up to third with nine laps to go…

There was a shot of drama soon after as Binder went down at the exit of Turn 6, but some of the key Championship frontrunners were starting to strut their stuff after quieter races. Arenas, Ogura and McPhee – who started P17 – were into the top six with seven laps to go, although the gaggle of riders that were line astern was still 19, down to Barry Baltus (CarXpert PrüstelGP). Suzuki vs Rodrigo continued at the front.

With five to go though, McPhee was making his move. Squabbling his way to near the front McPhee, made a great move at the final corner to lead – just three laps left on the clock.

Thought you’d seen enough drama in one race? Well, more was about to unfold – and it was the biggest of them all. After being run wide by Arbolino at Turn 2, Arenas crashed at Turn 3… unhurt, but scoring another 0 as second and third in the standings – McPhee and Ogura – marched on at the front.

It was Masia who led onto the last lap, closely followed by McPhee, but Rodrigo was up to second at Turn 2. Suzuki then tried his luck around the outside of McPhee at Turn 4 and 5 – and it worked. Heading down the back straight though, it was elbows out – it couldn’t get much closer. There was contact between Masia and Rodrigo, with McPhee getting a clean run and taking the lead into Turn 8 and Ogura profitting up the inside. The Japanese rider, on the wide line, was then passed by Suzuki heading onto the back straight, with McPhee led the way.

The number 17 held his advantage down the back straight and coming around the last sector, and McPhee made no mistake and despite the best efforts of Ogura, crossing the line in P1 for the first time since Le Mans 2019. Ogura was just 0.037 off as the two title contenders took full advantage of Arenas’ misfortunes, however, as Suzuki takes a SIC58 podium on the track named after the late, great SIC58 – Marco Simoncelli. Ogura and Suzuki also make it two Japanese riders on the lightweight podium together for the first time since Welkom 2001!

Rookie Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) earned his best result of the season with a fantastic P4 result at Misano, getting the better of teammate Rodrigo on the last lap as the Argentinian got shuffled back. Arbolino took a valuable top six on home soil, with Masia having to settle for P7 after getting a little bit beaten up on the last lap. Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) picks up his best result of the season in P8, just ahead of Foggia and Migno, who complete the top 10.

Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and Alonso Lopez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) crashed out together at Turn 8 in the lead group – riders ok.

After another Moto3™ stunner, the title race takes another titanic twist. Ogura is now just five points behind Arenas in the standings, with McPhee only 14 adrift – is that exciting enough? You bet! The lightweight class riders return to Misano next weekend, so can Arenas bounce back?

Moto3™ Podium
  1. John McPhee – Petronas Sprinta Racing – Honda 39:48.952
  2. Ai Ogura – Honda Team Asia – Honda +0.037
  3. Tatsuki Suzuki – SIC58 Squadra Corse – Honda +0.232

John McPhee: “It was a crazy race, I’m a bit lost for words I’m so so happy! To come from 17th! I knew I had the pace all weekend and I’ve been trying to do as much as a I can on my own so I knew where I was at on the bike, massive thanks to the team because it worked so well today and I was able to have a proper fight! I got shuffled back to 11th or 12th with about eight laps to go and I thought ok, I’m not settling for 12th, I have to just put the hammer down here and charge forward, and it paid off.”

Words and photos courtesy of www.motogp.com

 

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