Quartararo comes out on top as Catalonia rocks the Championship

2020-09-30 06:24
The Frenchman holds off Mir to win, with Rins giving Suzuki a milestone in third as Dovizioso and Viñales lose big ground in the standings
Sunday, 27 September 2020
Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) bounced back in serious style in the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, the Frenchman picking his way to the front to pull away initially before just holding off a charge from Team Suzuki Ecstar's Joan Mir. Mir took yet another podium though, and his Team Suzuki Ecstar teammate Alex Rins sliced through from P13 to third to make it two Suzukis on the podium for the first time since 2007. That was as drama ripped through the title fight just behind, with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) down and out early on after he got collected by Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) in a domino effect Turn 1 shuffle, and Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) dropping down to P15 before recovering to ninth.

Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was lightning off the line and grabbed the holeshot, with Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) propelling himself from fourth to second as Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Quartararo dropped a couple of places. The huge drama then hit early doors at Turn 2: Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) almost went down - and pulled off an amazing save - but it was just in front of Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing). Petrux clipped Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). and, reacting, Zarco tucked the front. On the outside of the dominoes lay Dovizioso, and the (former) Championship leader and Zarco were down and out.

Back up at the front it was a little less dramatic as Rossi got the better of first Quartararo and then Miller, before the Australian was then wide to allow Quartararo through too, making it a Yamaha 1-2-3 at the end of the opening lap. Mir was holding off teammate Rins for P5 as both Suzukis had made good starts, Rins especially so, whereas Viñales got an awful start and shuffle at Turn 1, down in P15.

It didn't take long for the top five to start pulling clear of the chasing pack, with Pol Espargaro getting the better of Rins for P6 and Mir then last man half in touch with the front in the early stages. The gap to the number 36 was a second on Lap 3 and up to two a couple of laps later though, with the top five all equally split on the road. Quartararo had Rossi firmly in his sights, however, and the 21-year-old homed in on the 'Doctor', making a pass stick at Turn 1 to make it a Petronas 1-2. Miller was sticking with the three Yamahas in fourth as Mir dropped back slightly, but it was early, early doors... and much was yet to come.

By Lap 8, Quartararo was hounding teammate and race leader Morbidelli, with Rossi and Miller waiting in the wings. 'El Diablo' then snatched the lead into Turn 1 at the beginning of Lap 9, and a fastest lap of the race came in for the number 20. Morbidelli and Rossi were keeping him honest though and then set slightly quicker lap times on Lap 10, with nothing to choose between the YZR-M1 trio. Miller was 0.7 seconds off the podium at that point, with Mir 1.2 behind Miller.

With 14 to go, there was just 0.8 covering the leading three, but Morbidelli was then nearly down at Turn 1 a lap later. The Italian was out of shape into the braking zone and ran wide, then nearly tucking the front, just saving it. Rossi was through on his protégé with the number 21 slotting back into third, and Miller now also seeming to struggle in the fight to keep Mir at bay. Quartararo was just 0.7 ahead of the number 46 up front too, although that then went up to 0.9s on the 15th lap of 24, with the tension palpable in Barcelona.

On Lap 16, that tension broke with more drama at Turn 2. On for his second podium of the season and 200th premier class rostrum on his 350th premier class start, Rossi slid out of contention as he tipped into the left-hander. Rider ok, but a big chance gone. That left Quartararo with a three-second lead over his teammate, which seemed like some solid breathing pace. But after a Turn 10 mistake from Miller, Mir was up to third and smelt blood as that now foreboding late-race pace for the Suzuki man was coming to the fore again. With seven to go, Mir was just half a second off Morbidelli.

Suzuki late race pace was coming on strong for Rins, too. With five to go, the number 42 was all over the back of Miller in the fight for fourth, with Mir unable to get within striking distance of Morbidelli for the time being. Quartararo seemed safe in P1, his lead up to 3.3, but Rins then pounced on Miller at Turn 10; the two Suzukis on a charge.

Quartararo’s lead was 2.8 with four to go and at the end of Lap 21, the gap was down to just 2.5 – Mir seven tenths quicker than the race leader, and the lead Suzuki man now right on Morbidelli. Onto the penultimate lap, Mir struck for second, and that wasn’t the last of Morbidelli’s worries as Rins homed in as well. The Suzukis were swarming and Mir was immediately off into the distance from the number 21 Petronas Yamaha, with Rins then up the inside of Morbidelli at Turn 10 as well, making it two Suzukis in the top three for the first time since Misano 2007.

Was that all she wrote? Quartararo’s lead was 1.8, but Mir was flying. Halfway round the last lap the Mayorcan was just 1.4 off, and the tenths kept evaporating from Quartararo's advantage. In the final sector, it was almost equidistant from the Frenchman to Mir to Rins, and the number 20 seemed to almost be looking over his shoulder. Having pushed so hard so early, there wasn't enough grip left for pushing late to make up much ground...

Round the final corner though, the Frenchman stood firm. An emotional victory ultimately just a second ahead of Mir sees him take back the Championship lead, and get back on the top step for the first time since Jerez. Mir taking yet another rostrum, however, moves him up to second overall - just eight points back and the man on consistent form, Jaws music and all. What would one more lap have meant between the two now at the top? Rins, meanwhile, gained an impressive ten places to take third and his first podium since his stunning win at Silverstone last year, making it a real milestone day for Suzuki with both Hamamatsu machines on the podium for the first time in 13 years.

Morbidelli slipped to P4 after the Suzuki late charge, but he's now just seven behind Dovizioso on the standings. Miller managed to hold off teammate Bagnaia on the last lap to claim a top five, making it strong rides for both Pramac Racing riders in Barcelona after Ducati looked to be on the back foot on Friday. Nakagami was just a tenth behind the two as the Japanese rider keeps up his run of finishing in the top 10 in every race this season - the only rider to do so - with Petrucci eighth for his second best result of 2020.

Viñales' difficult day at the office after the ground lost at Turn 1 saw the number 12 only able to push back through to ninth, although that is some points at least. The Yamaha rider is now 18 adrift of Quartararo heading to the French GP though, and he'll want to hit back quickly at a venue he's reigned before. Battered and bruised Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) gritted his teeth for a great top 10 ride, the Brit less than a second away from Viñales.

Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was the top Austrian machine in P11 for some more solid points towards Rookie of the Year. Teammate Pol Espargaro crashed out, as did Red Bull KTM Tech 3's Miguel Oliveira. Oliveira's teammate Iker Lecuona was P14, behind Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and an unexpectedly tough race for Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) as the rookie took P13. Tito Rabat (Esponsorama Racing) completed the points.

That's it for a dramatic, pivotal and, at times, chaotic Catalan GP. It's advantage Quartararo as we head for his home turf at Le Mans, and the Sarthe venue has hosted plenty of Yamaha glory before. Will we see more in two weeks? Mir will be keen to make sure we don't, still hunting for that first win, as Viñales and Dovizioso now face an uphill battle to get back up there. Come back for more spectacular MotoGP™ in two weeks!
MotoGP™ podium
1 Fabio Quartararo* - Petronas Yamaha SRT - Yamaha 40:33.176
2 Joan Mir - Team Suzuki Ecstar - Suzuki - +0.928
3 Alex Rins - Team Suzuki Ecstar - Suzuki - +1.898
*Independent Team rider
Fabio Quartararo: "Honestly it was a difficult race, I made a great start then I was fourth, Jack made a mistake and I knew that was the perfect time to overtake! When I took the lead, and Franco stayed some laps behind, our pace was really fast and I think at that moment it was way too fast to keep the tyre fresh to the end. At the end I was three seconds slower but it's not because I was in control! I was pushing at my maximum, and unfortunately it's difficult to understand because the two guys here were much faster than me at the end but I think it was so important to make the first half of the race in the best conditions. We can be happy with our job today after five races of tough times. We learned many things but today it's good to be back on the podium!"
MotoGP™ podium L-R: Mir, Quartararo and Rins
Marini fends off Lowes to extend his Championship lead
The Italian comes out on top in a two-man Moto2™ tug-of-war at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with Di Giannantonio completing the podium
Sky Racing Team VR46's Luca Marini produced some Montmelo magic to see off the hard-charging Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) in the closing stages of the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, taking what could turn out to be a vital victory in his quest to be crowned Moto2™ World Champion in 2020. Lowes was forced to settle for second, with the podium completed by Fabio Di Giannantonio (HDR Heidrun Speed Up) as the Italian was back on the rostrum for the first time this year,

Marini would take the holeshot from pole position, with Di Giannantonio diving past his teammate Jorge Navarro (HDR Heidrun Speed Up) to take second into the opening corner. Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team), meanwhile, was already inside the top five and trying to help his own Championship cause after starting from tenth on the grid, left with some Sunday work to do.

At the end of Lap 1, Lowes attacked Bastianini to take fifth, with the Italian slipping further back four corners later when Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing) found a way through as well. At the front, meanwhile, the leading trio were already showing that they had the pace to break away with a gap starting to form from Navarro back to Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) in fourth.

A lap later Lowes was aggressive again as he lunged past Bezzecchi, but he couldn’t get the bike stopped and allowed the Italian back through. The Brit got the job done moments later though, putting in the fastest lap of the race as he started to close in on the three men ahead. It didn’t take long for the six-wheeler at the front to become an eight-wheeler, and once on the scene Lowes caught and then passed Navarro in one fell swoop to take third.

The front trio were locked together, but Marini seemed a threat to breakaway and Lowes was next looking for a way through on 'Diggia'. The Brit then got totally out of shape into Turn 10 trying to get past, keeping it together but sending the pair of them wide. Was this the chance for Marini to bolt at the front? The Italian had just over a second in hand as they came across the line to complete Lap 8, but Lowes was unperturbed and he then dispatched the Speed Up ahead before setting another fastest lap. That put him within a second, but Marini remained in his rhythm...

Lowes was too though. Churning through the deficit to tag back onto the Sky Racing Team VR46 machine in the lead, the Brit looking threatening as he hovered in Marini's shadow. By seven to go, Lowes decided the time was now as an inch-perfect attack into the opening corner saw him take the lead. Marini wouldn’t allow him to escape, however, and as the laps ticked by, the Italian continued to apply the pressure.

Marini waited for the penultimate lap to pounce, and pounce he did. A carbon copy of the move that saw him lose the lead then saw the Italian regain it at Turn 1 as he sliced back through, hammer down immediately as the last few kilometers ticked on. Lowes tried to stay with him, but the Brit was then too hot into Turn 6 and lost ground, left watching Marini escape just enough to secure the win.

That third win of the year for Marini could prove to be his most pivotal yet, as his World Championship lead stretches out to twenty points. Lowes' four-year wait for an intermediate class win continues, but another podium finish made for some solid points to gain ground on Bezzecchi in the title fight. Di Giannantonio, meanwhile, managed to keep himself in some clear air to take his first podium of the season after what's been a difficult start to the year.

The good news continued for HDR Heidrun Speed Up in fourth. After a near race-long battle with Joe Roberts, Navarro finally got the better of the American on the final lap to take fourth place. Roberts completed the top five, with Bastianini forced to settle for sixth as his Championship hopes got a slight dent, and the same could be said for Bezzecchi as he came across the line in seventh, ending a run of three podium finishes.

Inde Aspar Team Moto2's Aron Canet was up there challenging for one before a late mistake saw him drop back to eighth, with Marcos Ramirez (Tennor American Racing) and Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) rounding out the top ten.

Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) crashed out of contention for a solid finish, as did Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS). Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing) was also forced out of the top six fight with a mechanical problem, the Brit on song but short on luck in Barcelona, as was the returning Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) as he retired from the race.

Now it's on to Le Mans and another reset. Can Marini do it again, or will the 'Beast' Bastianini strike back? We'll find out in a couple of weeks!
Moto2™ podium
1 Luca Marini - Sky Racing Team VR46 - Kalex 38:11.103
2 Sam Lowes - EG 0,0 Marc VDS - Kalex +0.981
3 Fabio Di Giannantonio - HDR Heidrun Speed Up - Speed Up +4.399

Source: Dorna Sports

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