Moto3: Ramirez the twelfth winner in a row

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Marcos Ramirez made sure more history was made in the Catalan Grand Prix, with the Spaniard escaping from a dramatic and chaotic fight to win his first race and make it 12 different winners in a row. It’s also therefore seven different winners in a row this season, and the first time that’s ever happened in the first seven races of the lightweight class. Aron Canet took a valuable second place to extend his Championship lead, with impressive rookie Celestino Vietti taking some tips from the boss to secure third with a stunning, Rossi-esque final corner move.

Tony Arbolino took the holeshot from third on the grid, but fast-starting Canet shot through from fifth on the grid to attack quickly for the lead – and Lorenzo Dalla Porta soon followed suit. Polesitter Gabriel Rodrigo dropped to seventh as the field shuffled through the first lap, and the first man to lose out in what would go on to be a race of attrition was Tatsuki Suzuki as the Japanese rider went down early.

The race was a classic Moto3 melee, but in the early stages it was Dalla Porta in charge at the front of the big group. The Italian looked like a serious threat until heartbreak suddenly hit with 18 laps to go as the number 48 suffered a mechanical problem around turn 13, forced to pull off and losing some serious ground in the Championship.

More from the Catalan Grand Prix

Marcos Ramirez was the new man in the lead, but there was more drama just around the corner. Can Öncü triggered a multiple-rider incident at turn four, with Albert Arenas, teammate Raul Fernandez, Sergio Garcia, Vicente Perez and Filip Salac all caught up in it and out of the race.

There had been a group of seven riders in the lead group with 15 laps to go, but the group got bigger over the next few laps until the top 15 were back in a freight train. And it soon lost another member, with Arbolino, incredibly, also suffering a mechanical problem and the Mugello winner dropping back and then heading back into pitlane. The top 18 were within an awesome 2.7 seconds as the last laps appeared on the horizon, but there was more drama to come. Next it was Jaume Masia crashing out with eight laps to go, and then it was polesitter Rodrigo a few laps later – with Darryn Binder going down with him.

That left Kaito Toba (leading the battle for supremacy, with the Qatar Grand Prix winner having put in a stunner to slice through the chaos from P24 on the grid. He managed to stay there too, and was the man with the target on his back heading onto the last lap. Canet and Lopez made for close company however, and as Canet then went for a move to attack at turn ten, Toba suddenly slid out in another bout of heartbreaking drama.

Canet went a little wide, Lopez did the same, and Ramirez took his opportunity almost immediately. Cutting past into the lead, the Spaniard just had a few corners to go to win his first ever Grand Prix. Into the final corner though it looked like Canet was going to try and recreate the famous Valentino Rossi move from a decade ago, but he thought better of it and slotted back in behind Ramirez. Just behind them, however, Vietti went for it.

As Ramirez blasted clear of Canet towards his first win, the Sky Racing Team VR46 rider just behind them kept it pinned on the inside and managed to pull it off with serious style, taking his third podium and second of the season…from 21st on the grid!

Behind Lopez, Dennis Foggia completed the top five, ahead of Ai Ogura taking his best ever finish in sixth after his stellar qualifying. Romano Fenati finished seventh, with Ayumu Sasaki heading compatriot Ryusei Yamanaka just behind. Jakub Kornfeil completed the top ten.

Niccolo Antonelli scored some valuable points in 11th after starting near the back following a penalty, and the Italian had even fought for the lead before running wide with a few laps to go. Wildcard Carlos Tatay took points in 12th, just ahead of John McPhee.

The Scot fought at the front throughout and in the podium battle until turn ten on the final lap, when he suffered a highside…and then a miracle save. Somehow staying on, it was an incredible sight and feat. Tom Booth-Amos scored his first points in P14, ahead of teammate Darryn Binder after the South African rejoined.

Rodrigo makes it seven polesitters in a row

Another day, another record broken in Moto3: Gabriel Rodrigo became the seventh different polesitter in the opening seven races of the season at the Catalan Grand Prix, taking his fourth career pole position by just 0.021 ahead of a stunning session for Japanese rookie Ai Ogura.

It’s the first time since the introduction of the category in 2012 that the first seven pole positions have all been taken by different riders, and if Rodrigo can win on Sunday he would become the 12th different winner in a row, as well as the seventh different winner this year. And if he is the magnificent seventh different winner? It’ll be the first time it’s happened in the lightweight class since 1988.

Tony Arbolino completes the front row and he’ll be the first aiming to stand in Rodrigo’s way and become the first repeat winner of the year, but the second row has some serious threats to contend with too. Tatsuki Suzuki has been on both the pace and the podium this season, but he’s yet to visit to top step – something not true of Aron Canet, who lines up alongside him. The championship leader will be aiming to win his second race of the season. Albert Arenas completes the second row, a Grand Prix winner already last year but another potential addition to the record-breaking roll in 2019.

Friday’s fastest Alonso Lopez heads up row three ahead of Lorenzo Dalla after a crash for the man second in the standings, with John McPhee starting ninth. Marcos Ramirez completes the top ten.

Jaume Masia was eighth quickest but is the first of seven riders to have received grid penalties. Six have 12-place penalties: Masia, championship contender Niccolo Antonelli, Dennis Foggia, Kazuki Masaki, Andrea Migno and Filip Salač. Vicente Perez has a six-place penalty.

Estrella Galicia one-two at home in Barcelona

Alonso Lopez led rookie teammate Sergio Garcia to an Estrella Galicia 0,0 1-2 on day one at the Catalan Grand Prix, with the two Spaniards having topped FP1 and no one able to overturn them in the afternoon. FP2’s quickest man was Lorenzo Dalla Porta, and he slots into third on the combined timesheets as he chases the Championship lead this weekend.

Brief spots of rain affected FP2 but the weather was largely fine on Friday, although conditions didn’t see everyone improve in the latter session. So it’s a mix of FP1 and FP2 best efforts that decides the Friday combined timesheets, with the top three followed by Gabriel Rodrigo from his FP1 time and Tatsuki Suzuki from his FP2 time.

Next up it was a solid opening day for Darryn Binder in sixth, ahead of rookie Can Öncü in a much improved performance for the Turk. Romano Fenati was P8, with Albert Arenas and Niccolo Antonelli completing the top ten.

Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia), Kazuki Masaki, Marcos Ramirez and Makar Yurchenko complete the fastest fourteen, denying Jaume Masia and John McPhee provisional graduation to Q2. Lopez was one crasher, down in FP2, and Toba and Dennis Foggia suffered falls in the morning.

Home favourite Canet the man to beat?

Championship leader Aron Canet isn’t on the roll of form that saw key rival Lorenzo Dalla Porta move within three points of the top at Mugello, but he’s been a consistent points-scorer this season and already has one win to his name. Now it’s his home turf, he’ll be gunning to make that two and put Dalla Porta back on the back foot. Can Canet pull the pin now it’s his home turf?

So far Moto3 has been anything but predictable though, and that’s borne out in 11 different winners in a row stretching back into the latter half of last season. So will it even be Canet and Dalla Porta warring over the win? Or Tony Arbolino, John McPhee, Niccolo Antonelli, Jaume Masia or Kaito Toba? Or will it be another name entirely on the top step once again this season?

If it is, two big candidates are Gabriel Rodrigo, a man with both podium form at Catalunya and pace in 2019, and Tatsuki Suzuki, who so far has remained the bridesmaid. But there are plenty of fast riders in the lightweight class, and plenty of riders who could mix it up in that classic Moto3 freight train at the front. But Catalunya has also been a track where a rider has managed to escape the melee and take a commanding 25 points – so there’s always a chance at that if someone can pull the pin.

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Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer