Another race, another chapter written into the history books: Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) is now a MotoGP™ race winner. The Suzuki rider was pitch perfect in the Gran Premio de Europa to make his first visit to the top step in the premier class, putting one hand on the crown in the process as he stretches his advantage in the Championship to 37 points. Mir is also the ninth different premier class winner of the year, seeing 2020 equal the record of most winners in a season, and the number 36 sets a new record as the fifth different maiden winner this year. With teammate Alex Rins following him home in second, the day also marked the first Suzuki 1-2 since 1982 and the Hamamatsu factory now lead in the fight for the riders’, constructors’ and teams’ Championships. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) kept Rins honest as the number 44 took third though, back on the podium at the scene of both his and KTM’s first premier class rostrum finish in 2018.
It was close as the premier class riders roared away from the line, with both Rins and Pol Espargaro getting away well from the front row but the KTM ultimately taking the holeshot. Mir got away well from fifth too and was up to P4, just behind Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu). But not long after that, eyes would turn to some serious Lap 1 Championship drama.
Heading into Turn 8 at the end of the back straight, Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was suddenly down and out of contention, the Frenchman reacting to Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) alongside him as the two both slid into the gravel. No contact was made and pure bad luck reigned, but it was monumental for the Championship. Luckily for Quartararo, he was able to pick the bike up and get running again but El Diablo re-joined behind Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), who had started from pitlane due to exceeding his engine allocation. Early doors, it was advantage Mir near the front as some of his key rivals scrabbled to make up lost ground.
Pol Espargaro led the first one and a half laps but it didn’t take long for Rins to pounce at Turn 11, the Suzuki slotting through to take the lead and a couple of laps later, Mir – who had passed Nakagami on the opening lap – copy and pasted his teammate’s move on KTM as the Hamamatsu factory made it formation flying at the front. Oliveira was now also past Nakagami as two KTMs chased the Suzukis, before more drama hit further back – once again for Yamaha.
On Lap 5, the returning Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) was shown stopped on track at Turn 5, the Doctor’s comeback from Covid-19 sadly over after just a handful of laps. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) then crashed unhurt not long after, bumping Viñales up to 15th and Quartararo on the verge of the points. How much more progress could they make?
Meanwhile, the front group remained in a tense as-you-were. An intriguing game of chess was beginning as Rins led teammate Mir, with Pol Espargaro and Oliveira not far off and Nakagami and Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) still in fairly close pursuit to boot. After a slow start, Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) was regrouping and chasing Zarco down as well, with Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) going the opposite way as the Italian was shuffled back.
With 15 to go, there remained nothing to choose between the two Suzukis in the lead. Lap after lap, Rins and Mir were exchanging 1:32.1s. A few laps later, Mir was visibly closer and homing in, but a move wasn’t coming yet as the gameplan seemed to hint towards patience. But that was assuming it would all come down to tactics, and instead it was about to come down to a small but costly mistake for the man in the lead.
Rins, heading through Turn 11 with 11 to go, was ever-so-slightly wide – and a door ajar will soon become a door opened in MotoGP™. Mir needed no second invitation, sweeping through to take over at the front and face down 10 laps with a lot at stake. Next time around, the Mayorcan set the fastest lap. By seven to go, his lead had crept to over half a second.
Two laps later, Mir was over a second clear it that made it clear: a mistake was likely the only thing that was going to stop the Mayorcan finally taking to that top step. Rins was still getting hounded by an impressive Pol Espargaro, and Nakagami was lurking just behind with some great late race pace as well. Suzuki Team Manager Davide Brivio could barely watch, but it all came down to this: one more lap.
With 1.4 seconds in his pocket, just 4km stood between Mir and a historic maiden MotoGP™ win, as well as a whole load of Championship advantage. And the number 36 held firm, keeping everything calm and collected to the line to finally make it a reality: his first premier class win, taken in some style. Monkey off back, one hand on crown and debate silenced, all he needs next time out is a podium – regardless of anyone else’s results.
Rins held off Espargaro by six tenths in the end, enough to create that milestone Suzuki 1-2 and moving himself into third overall – equal on points with Quartararo. Another impressive podium for KTM was also Pol Espargaro’s fourth rostrum of 2020, putting him just nine points down on Dovizioso in the Championship.
Nakagami banished the Aragon demons with a great ride to P4, less than a second away from a first premier class podium and top Independent Team rider to earn a trip to parc ferme. Oliveira slipped back into the grasp of Miller but the Portuguese rider just got the better of the Australian for P5, relegating the Queenslander to sixth.
Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), meanwhile, took a superb P7 despite a long-lap penalty served for his Aragon mistake, and the South African regains a points advantage in the battle for Rookie of the Year after Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) crashed out. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) lost more ground in the title race after a P8 finish, but the Italian beat fellow Ducati rider Zarco by 0.7 seconds after the Frenchman’s pace dropped off in the latter stages. Ducati Team’s Danilo Petrucci completed the top ten, the Italian gaining an impressive eight places.
Morbidelli’s Sunday was a contrasting one to Teruel. A difficult day and P11 for the Italian sees him drop to 45 points behind Mir in the title race after a tough weekend on the whole for Yamaha. Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team) crossed the line 12th after another good ride from the HRC test rider, just ahead of Viñales who, despite his pitlane start, was just over a second behind the German.
Quartararo took the flag in P14, his opening lap crash putting a serious dent in his title chances. He remains second overall, however, and looking to hit back against Rins too. There are still 50 points in play…
Tito Rabat (Esponsorama Racing), Lorenzo Savadori (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) crashed out, riders ok.
And so the curtains come down for another week, with another chapter safely filed in the annals of history. Valencia will host again as the paddock returns to action next weekend, and everything will now be on the line as the first match point appears on the horizon. Nine winners, five first timers, and one of them on the roll of his life. Can Mir make it a coronation? With a 37-point safety net, all he needs is a podium.
- Joan Mir -Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki 41:37.297
- Alex Rins -Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki +0.651
- Pol Espargaro -Red Bull KTM Factory Racing – KTM +1.203
Joan Mir: “It’s amazing. I don’t have words to describe the moment, it’s amazing that the victory came at the perfect moment. Obviously I would have liked to win in Austria too but it wasn’t the day. Today was the day! I’m happy but I was already happy before the race because we did a super good weekend. On Friday we worked on the bike, on Saturday I found something good in the rain to have a good qualifying in those conditions. It was pretty good, I made an improvement, and then in Warm Up we worked so well and the pace was not bad! That was the key to the victory today, I had something more than the others and I could show it. I’m also especially happy for the team, Suzuki, first and second is amazing. I have no words.”
Moto2™: Bezzecchi wins, Lowes crashes as Moto2™ takes another twist in Valencia
The Italian bounces back in style ahead of Martin and Gardner as more Championship shockwaves hit the intermediate class.
Sky Racing Team VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi bounced back in style after a double DNF at MotorLand Aragon by taking a second career Moto2™ victory at the Gran Premio de Europa. It was a race filled with drama, with Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) locking out the podium but many a headline focused on the title fight: Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) now leads the World Championship once again, the Italian fighting through to fourth as former points leader Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) crashed out.
Petronas Sprinta Racing’s Xavi Vierge made a dream start from pole position but immediately had Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing) attacking him at Turn 4. The Tennor American Racing rider went wide on the exit, the Spaniard taking him back at Turn 5. It didn’t stay that way for long, however, with Roberts storming back through moments later to hold the lead at the close of Lap 1. But then disaster struck, Roberts suddenly sliding out at Turn 2 and the Californian unable to re-join.
That allowed Marco Bezzecchi to take the lead, but the Italian was under severe pressure from Gardner. Sam Lowes, meanwhile, avoided some early drama with a vital save at Turn 4, as Bastianini got well stuck in battling from 15th on the grid – up to sixth in five laps.
It was a few more laps before Lowes decided to pounce on Gardner for second, but it didn’t last long with the Aussie finding an immediate reply. The World Championship leader hit back only a few seconds later though, this time making it stick.
The knock on effect of that saw Bastianini push on again, taking fifth place from Vierge with ten to go. There was a change in the fight for third too as Martin managed to squeeze through on Gardner, demoting the Australian off the podium for the moment.
And then came the shockwave. Suddenly, Lowes’ weekend was over as the Brit crashed out at Turn 6, his title lead going up in smoke as Bastianini swooped through into fourth and consequently the lead of the World Championship.
The FlexBox HP 40 duo of Lorenzo Baldassarri and Hector Garzo began to put Bastianini under pressure though, Baldassarri making a move on his compatriot and a vital couple of points at stake for the ‘Beast’. That was motivation enough if any was needed, and the number 33 hit back to reclaim fourth.
At the front though, it was all about Bezzecchi. The Italian was back on the top step in style after stamping some real authority on Sunday, also keeping himself in title contention after starting the weekend 48 points down – and ending it 29 off. Martin made it two podiums in three races as he backed up his third place finish in the Aragon Grand Prix with second in Valencia and Gardner collected his third podium finish of the year after a fifth top five finish in six races.
Bastianini was able to hold off Baldassarri for what could be a pivotal fourth place finish, putting the ‘Beast’ six points clear of Lowes in the World Championship with only two rounds left of 2020. Sky Racing Team VR46’s Luca Marini took sixth for a solid result, proving he is far from out of the title chase too. His was a last lap move on Garzo moving him to within 19 points of the top of the Championship. Garzo’s seventh nevertheless equalled his best so far.
Federal Oil Gresini Moto2’s Nicolo Bulega clinched eighth after getting the better of poleman Vierge, who eventually drifted back to ninth, before HDR Heidrun Speed Up’s Jorge Navarro rounded out the top ten.
Another seismic shift hits Moto2™, with Bastianini now back on top and six points ahead. Can Lowes bounce back next time out? Time will tell, but not much of it as we get back on track on Friday.
- Marco Bezzecchi – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex 40:06.441
- Jorge Martin – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex +1.941
- Remy Gardner – ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team – Kalex +3.553
Marco Bezzecchi: “It was a difficult race, very long, but also wonderful. I started well, even if Gardner and Lowes were closing the line, in the middle I could overtake outside in the first corner. I risked a bit because it was still wet but I tried. Fortunately I was there. Then I passed Vierge on the straight and in braking, and when Roberts was in front I saw he was risking a lot and I thought I had to stay calm because I thought I could ride cleaner. Then unfortunately he made a mistake, I was in front and I was very focused to try to make my rhythm, so I started to ride as clean as I could, and I was gaining a bit; not much, losing a little bit; not much, there was a short distance between me and second. Then on the last three laps when I had a quite good advantage I started to feel something wrong on the bike, a problem I also had on Friday in Free Practice. In acceleration there was no power in second gear, I don’t know why, so I was scared but I started to speak to the bike and said please don’t give up now… fortunately she made it to the end! Very good, the team did an incredible job and this is for them and my family.”
Moto3™: Flawless Fernandez takes his first win as chaos reigns for key title contenders
Vietti crashes, McPhee crashes and Arenas ends the day with a 0 – as Ogura gains big with a return to the podium.
Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) put in a stunner to take the lead early in the Gran Premio de Europa and then pull away, staying calm and collected to take to the top step for the first time in Grand Prix racing. Behind him a three-way battle royale raged on the final lap, with 2019 Valencia GP winner Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) coming out on top to take second ahead of Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia). The podium for Ogura boosts him up to within three points of the Championship lead as huge drama ripped through the standings for the majority of the other key contenders.
Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) took the holeshot from the front row as poelsitter John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) lost out, and early doors there was a group of four heading away… but the drama was quick to hit. First off, a crash for Vietti saw Alonso Lopez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) unable to avoid and get tangled up, both going down in the first Championship shockwave as the Italian lost serious ground. The incident also scattered the pack and left Fernandez out front after the Spaniard had taken the lead just before the crash.
The incident also caught Albert Arenas (Valresa Aspar Team Moto3) just enough to cause some damage, which then became apparent as the number 75 was upright but going backwards. Arenas eventually pulled into pitlane at the end of the lap, blowing the title fight wide open once again. And although he did manage to get back out, it was with a significant gap to the front and one that would haunt the Spaniard later.
And so Fernandez led, gassing it to over two seconds clear as the second group battled it out. And then even more drama hit. McPhee crashed out at Turn 1, likely ending his charge for the crown, and only a few laps later, Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) took a tumble too. That left Arbolino – the man leading the chase to catch Fernandez – and Ogura as the two key challengers near the top, joined by Garcia. And the gap to Fernandez was coming down ever so slightly…
Arbolino, Garcia and Ogura pushed on to catch the Red Bull KTM Ajo machine in the lead, but soon they would have even more to contend with than just the two-second gap to the front as well. Arenas was back out on track and soon the second group were on the scene, creating another little. Things got close and the number 75 was shown the black flag not long after, having got a little too into the battle despite being laps down.
That left Arbolino and Ogura as the two key men with something big to gain. With six to go, Arbolino had got the gap to Fernandez more than just a little below two seconds as Garcia and Ogura duelled just behind the Italian. The countdown was on for Fernandez, although the Spaniard looked solid. could he hang on? He could. Despite some late nerves about a possible bike problem, the Red Bull KTM Ajo rider kept it clean to complete his impeccable day at the office in style: on the top step.
The battle behind went down to the final lap, as ever in Moto3™. Arbolino had a twitch at Turn 1 and Garcia was up the inside of the Italian and into P2. Then Ogura picked Arbolino’s pocket at Turn 6 and the Italian, after a fair bit of leg work to lead the trio throughout, was now off the podium.
Garcia had broken the two title contenders and kept a little breathing space to the line to take his first first podium of the season, bouncing back from some tougher outings. Behind him, the duel stayed close but Ogura kept the door slammed shut at the final corner to get back on the podium for the first time since the Emilia Romagna GP. That cuts the gap in the Championship to just three points, with Arenas’ margin seriously cut.
Arbolino was forced to settle for fourth and remains 23 points down on Arenas, although he did gain, with Vietti’s 0 leaving him only three points ahead of Arbolino. Darryn Binder (CIP – Green Power) had another solid ride to a top finish as the South African came home in fifth, unable to quite get back the ground lost earlier in the race but taking more solid points. Carlos Tatay (Reale Avintia Moto3) duelled the number 40 late on, but was forced to settle for sixth.
The next group up was led over the line by Stefano Nepa (Valresa Aspar Team) as he charged up to seventh, beating Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) and Filip Salač (Rivacold Snipers Team). Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) was next up after storming through from P26 on the grid, with Riccardo Rossi (BOE Skull Rider Facile Energy), Andrea Migno (Sky Racing Team VR46) and Romano Fenati (Sterilharda Max Racing Team) completed that group down to P13 – Fenati having had to take two long laps for track limits. Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) wasn’t too far back either, with Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) – another who did a Long Lap – completing the points scorers.
A huge day for the Championship comes to a close with the margin back at just three points, and it’s everything on the line once again. Don’t miss the Valencia GP next time out – more drama awaits!
- Raul Fernandez – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM 38:29.140
- Sergio Garcia – Estrella Galicia 0,0 – Honda +0.703
- Ai Ogura – Honda Team Asia – Honda +1.005
Raul Fernandez: “It’s the first time victory and I’ll never forget it here in Valencia. I remember in 2016 I got my first victory here in the Junior World Championship, maybe it’s the track! I like MotorLand and Valencia, they’re my bets tracks. I want to thank my family one year ago was a difficult moment, a difficult family situation, and in those moments you know who your family and friends are. The people who help you in the difficult moments. I want to say thanks to my family and my team, it was difficult at the start of the season I had a lot of pressure and Aki helped me, especially with pressure, now I don’t have pressure and I enjoy it more and I want to say thanks because he helped me in every aspect, as a rider and person and I want to say thanks. I have no words, I want to enjoy this victory with my family and team.”
Words and photos courtesy of www.motogp.com