Moto2: Magic Marquez makes it three in a row

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Alex Marquez took a third magnificent win in a row in the Catalan Grand, moving through from sixth on the grid to unleash his pace at the front and pull clear in another dominant performance. It’s the first time the number 73 has ever taken three successive victories and after a crash in Barcelona for former points leader Lorenzo Baldassarri as well, Marquez now heads the standings by seven points. The man trailing him is Tom Lüthi, who took another podium and valuable 20 points to move back into second in the Championship, with Jorge Navarro back on the podium in third.

Lüthi took the holeshot as the veteran screamed away from the line, with Marquez almost running into trouble in the early stages and remaining sixth. Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team), Fabio Di Giannanontio, Sam Lowes, polesitter Augusto Fernandez and Lüthi were the men in between him and the lead, and in the first few laps at least, Lüthi and Fernandez were pushing hard to make a gap at the front.

First the number 73 took Bastianini, then Di Giannantonio, and then Lowes as Diggia followed him through as well. Next up was the task of cutting down the gap to the front, and the 2014 Moto3 Champion set about doing that. Fernandez then attacked Lüthi for the lead, and that brought Marquez right into play in the front trio.

More from the Catalan Grand Prix

Lüthi took it back soon as he attacked into turn one and the three stayed close, but it wasn’t long after that that drama hit further back as Baldassarri binned it at turn 10, making the fight for the win the fight for the Championship lead. Lüthi tried to pull away, but Marquez then saw the Swiss rider struggling and made his move.

Once past, the Spaniard wasn’t able to immediately pull away but little by little he was able to extend the gap and make it his race to lose. Pitch perfect from then on, Marquez made zero mistakes and heads home with a seven-point lead. Lüthi was his trademark consistent self to take 20 more points and move back into second overall, staying out the clutches of Navarro.

After a tougher round at Mugello, Speed Up rider Navarro was back on top form in Catalunya, unleashing more of his now-trademark late race pace as he was able to get past Fernandez. But the polesitter nevertheless impressed with his P4, making a good dent in the frontrunners once again.

Enea Bastianini was top rookie once again in P5, another race to remember for the Italian. Compatriot Di Giannantonio, after his early pace, crashed out. Behind Bastianini’s rather lonely ride, Luca Marini won a battle royal to take P6, ahead of Marcel Schrotter, Xavi Vierge and Sam Lowes in P9. Tetsuta Nagashima had a top finish a little further back in P10.

Brad Binder beat Andrea Locatelli to the line by hundredths, with Nicolo Bulega, Simone Corsi and Jorge Martin completing the points.

Debut pole for Fernandez, Lowes on front row

Augusto Fernandez has been impressive so far in 2019 and qualifying for the Catalan Grand Prix was no exception. The Spaniard took his first ever pole position from veteran intermediate class campaigner Tom Lüthi in Barcelona by just 0.021, with the front row covered by just 0.029 in total as Sam Lowes took third.

The close battle at the top didn’t end there, with all three riders on the second row qualifying within a tenth of the top. Jorge Navarro took P4, edging out an impressing performance from rookie teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio, with Alex Marquez sixth fastest. Marquez has won the last two races, and is exactly a tenth off pole.

Marquez’ key title rival Lorenzo Baldassarri spearheads the third row of the grid in seventh – the Italian improving on his final flying lap to get into the top ten – ahead of rookie Nicolo Bulega, with Andrea Locatelli completing an all-Italian row three. His teammate, Enea Bastianini, was just half a tenth in arrears to take P10.

Remy Gardner crashed during Q2, rider ok, but the Australian will line up 11th, ahead of Mugello polesitter Marcel Schrötter and Italian GP podium finisher Luca Marini just behind.

Luthi makes it two from two in free practice

FP1 pacesetter Tom Lüthi kept Moto2 day one honours at the Catalan Grand Prix after his 1:44.673 went unbeaten in the afternoon, with Alex Marquez and HDR Heidrun Speed Up’s Jorge Navarro completing the top three and just 0.067 between them. The afternoon’s quickest man was Augusto Fernandez and he took fourth overall as one of only three men in the top ten to go faster in FP2.

Enea Bastianini continued his impressive season in fifth, with the rookie just 0.068 off Fernandez on Friday and ahead of veteran Xavi Vierge. Second rookie honours went to Nicolo Bulega, with the Italian taking P7 as well as putting in a miracle save in the afternoon.

Remy Gardner took P8 despite a crash in the afternoon, with Championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarri down in ninth. He, along with tenth-placed Luca Marini, joined Fernandez in the afternoon improvers’ club. Brad Binder was P11, ahead of rookie Fabio Di Giannantonio, Andrea Locatelli and Simone Corsi.

There were a few key incidents on Friday, one of which was a crash for Navarro as he lost the front at Turn 5, and an off for 15th quickest Marcel Schrötter, who’s left as the first of those needing to improve in FP3 to head straight through to Q2. Sam Lowes and Philipp Öttl also crashed.

Marquez out to continue his turnaround at home

Le Mans was an impressive victory for Alex Marquez but a few weeks and a follow up demolition job at Mugello later it’s time to ask whether it was a little more than simply a first win of the season. Was Le Mans the point at which Marquez’ full hand was played, and Mugello proof he’s the new man to beat?

If we rewind to Jerez and play a little game of what if with what seemed like bad luck at the time, the Championship could look pretty different. Marquez has form in Spain and destroyed the opposition in 2017, and what we’ve seen since Jerez this season has been more than mere ‘form’. That’s enough to merit some questions about the standings: Marquez is two points off the top as it stands, and a win or podium at Jerez would have put him 14 to 23 points clear. And, if one Marquez looking imperious wasn’t enough, the last time Alex Marquez took back to back wins was in 2014 and they came at Catalunya and Assen – the next two tracks on the calendar. Barcelona and home turf will be a test for the EG 0,0 Marc VDS rider, but expect him to come out swinging.

Championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarriwill be the first of those aiming to stand in his way. After a ‘win or bin’ beginning to the season, he’s hanging on to the top and Mugello was a big positive despite the number 7 not taking a podium at home – he didn’t crash out and rode back from P15 on the grid to an impressive P4. Those points were valuable, as a single position lower would see him equal on points with Marquez. And then there’s Tom Lüthi, who is only four points off the top and the third of the three men to have shared the wins so far this year. The Swiss veteran didn’t have the pace at Mugello for the win but he kept it on the podium and consistency is key. After a tricky Le Mans, that’s a good sign and he will surely be a threat again at Catalunya.

Jorge Navarro, meanwhile, remains a threat as well. Mugello saw his podium run come to an end, but let’s not forget that next up is the venue Speed Up dominated last year with Fabio Quartararo. And then Marcel Schrötter is another who, like Navarro, has hit the ground running this season – and he took pole in Italy. Unfortunately the German is also recovering from having injured his foot in training, but every day that passes means that progresses. And Luca Marini took his first podium last time out, citing a much better feeling – the same he had when he went on a podium spree and took his first win last season.

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer