MotoGP: Marquez takes victory as carnage rages behind
Marc Marquez took an impressive win in the Catalan Grand Prix on an expensive day for his key championship rivals, with a dramatic multiple-rider crash near the start of the race creating some serious chaos. Marquez escaped that and in the aftermath it was Fabio Quartararo who emerged as his closest challenger, with the polesitter and French rookie cutting down the gap in the latter laps as he seared away from those on the chase. His second place makes him the second-youngest podium finisher in the MotoGP era, behind only Marquez, and he managed to pull two seconds clear of Mugello winner Danilo Petrucci to do it.
It was Andrea Dovizioso who took the holeshot with another stunning start, this time from the second row, with Marquez pushed back into second and Quartararo then trying to send it around the outside of the reigning Champion. But he couldn't quite make that stick and Maverick Viñales capitalised to sweep through soon after. The number 12 then attacked Marquez to take over in second, with Jorge Lorenzo making some serious ground up into fourth to fight for the podium.
Marquez hit back against Viñales on lap two and it was shaping up to be a serious fight at the front, but that's when the drama hit. Lorenzo went to attack Viñales just as Marquez attacked Dovizioso, and the number 99 then lost the front as the space ahead diminished. That set off a huge incident as the number 99 took down Dovizioso, then Viñales, and then Valentino Rossi got caught too – with all four out the race. Marquez was clear of it, with Petrucci the man left in second, escaping the drama after having been passed by Rossi at the best time for one of them and the worst for the other.
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Marquez was then able to pull the pin and extend the gap but the fight behind was on fire: Petrucci vs Alex Rins vs Quartararo. First it was a duel behind the Italian before Rins then started looking for a way past Petrucci, attacking into turn one and the Ducati defending to perfection in turn two. A couple of laps later it was a Rins and repeat, but the Suzuki man couldn't make it stick.
He kept trying, but the next attempt was costlier. Running on and left heading over the Long Lap Penalty after dropping anchor to avoid Petrucci in turn one, the number 42 lost out and rejoined in sixth, behind his rookie teammate Joan Mir. That left him fighting to try and get back through, and left Quartararo with only one man in between himself and Marquez' trail.
It didn't take long; the Frenchman sliding up the inside of the Ducati to take over in second soon after. And then, he was in the same position as his fateful race in Jerez and wishing for more luck. Barcelona brought just that, with the number 20 then able to unleash his pace and push on after Marquez, immediately starting to cut the gap.
In the end, there weren't enough laps left for a charge at the win, but the Frenchman made a little history regardless and a first rostrum finish is good payback for his incredible pace so far. Petrucci was around two seconds behind him but scored big for Ducati once again, with Rins taking fourth after managing to pass first Mir and then Jack Miller.
Miller was only two tenths behind him over the line, however, and the Australian's P5 puts him back in the lead of the independent standings. Behind them? Another small gap back to Joan Mir, who took sixth and his best rookie result yet, two better than his season opening P8 in Qatar.
Pol Espargaro continues his consistency in seventh and took more solid points, ahead of Takaaki Nakagami. Tito Rabat took P9 and his best of 2019 so far, as Johann Zarco did the same and completed the top ten.
Andrea Iannone, Miguel Oliveira and Suzuki test rider Sylvain Guintoli were the remaining finishers in a serious race of attrition, with fallers outside the huge incident near the start including Cal Crutchlow, Franco Morbidelli, Francesco Bagnaia and Bradley Smith, who made contact with Aleix Espargaro on lap one and both crashed out.
Fabio Quartararo has done it again. The French rookie followed up going fastest on Friday by taking his second pole position in the premier class despite still recovering from arm pump surgery, and that despite suffering his first ever crash in MotoGP during FP3. It was close between the two men at the top in qualifying, however, and the number 20 only just beat reigning Champion Marc Marquez to pole by 0.015. Maverick Viñales was third fastest as Saturday proved a top day for Yamaha, but the number 12 subsequently received a three-place grid penalty and will be bumped back to the second row.
An infinitesimal 0.001 advantage for Viñales means Franco Morbidelli just missed out on a place in the fastest trio, but the Italian was impressive and will start from the front row after the Spaniard's penalty. A huge crash in the morning prefaced a trip through Q1, but the number 21 bounced back in qualifying and just got the better of compatriot Valentino Rossi in Q2, who was the fifth fastest but now heads the second row. Rossi’s 1:39.753 was the lap that meant all four Yamahas were inside the fastest five in qualifying for the first time since Brno 2012 after a phenomenal showing from the Iwata marque.
Andrea Dovizioso continues the Italian invasion near the front as he was sixth quickest and now starts fifth after improving on his second run and gaining a place as Viñales takes his penalty. Dovi was the fastest Ducati in qualifying, and although teammate Danilo Petrucci wasn't far behind, Viñales will now split the two on the grid. Petrucci suffered a crash in Q2, as did the man just behind him: Alex Rins.
Rins was on a hot lap when he went down and with only two minutes left on the clock, the Spaniard didn't have chance to improve. So it's P8 for him and he needs another stellar first few laps like Mugello, where he picked his way through to perfection from 13th on the grid. Cal Crutchlow starts alongside the Suzuki rider, but a few tenths in arrears.
Jorge Lorenzo finished just 0.048 off Crutchlow to line up tenth for his home Grand Prix, with the five-time World Champion having gone straight through to Q2. Q1 graduate and rookie Joan Mir took 11th place, with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Espargaro launching from P12 at a true home race for the rider born only kilometres from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
They say you can't keep a good man down and on Friday at the Catalan Grand Prix that proved very true for rookie sensation Fabio Quartararo as the Frenchman came straight out the blocks from arm pump surgery to lead the way. Quick in FP1 and his fastest in FP2 enough to take over at the top, he ends Friday clear of the competition by almost three tenths. That competition made it an impressive four factories in the top four, however, with Andrea Dovizioso in second, Takaaki Nakagami third and Pol Espargaro in fourth – with all three within 0.033 on the chase.
The morning session was a fairly quiet one by MotoGP standards, with a bit of a hairy entrance into Turn 10 for Jack Miller and a little snap at the same place for Marquez two of the stand outs. But it would nevertheless prove a crucial session for the reigning Champion as he was the only rider in the top ten who didn't improve his laptime in the afternoon. He didn't fit a new soft tyre but was able to stay in ninth, so the extra tyre on Saturday could prove a masterstroke.Marquez also ran with the Ducatis in the afternoon – much to their mild chagrin – as Dovizioso and teammate Danilo Petrucci had headed out in tandem. They kept the advantage on the combined timesheets though, with Dovi in second and Petrux taking P8, just ahead of the number 93.
So behind the four-factory fight at the top and those standout performances from the likes of Nakagami and Pol Espargaro, who impressed next? Second rookie Francesco Bagnaia put his Ducati in fifth and would doubtless have been the rookie talking point of the day if not for the Frenchman at the top, and Franco Morbidelli took sixth to again make it both the Independent Team Yamahas ahead of the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP bikes. It wasn't by much at Catalunya, however, with Valentino Rossi an infinitesimal 0.003 behind compatriot and VR46 Riders Academy member Morbidelli. After a tougher run of late, especially on Friday and Saturday, it was a big step forward for the Doctor at a venue he's reigned more than anyone.
Cal Crutchlow, meanwhile, completes the top ten to slot in behind Petrucci and Marquez. The Brit was only 0.010 behind Marquez, too, with those two Hondas trailing Nakagami's best lap by a couple of tenths. But then the number 93, as aforementioned, didn't pop in a fresh soft tyre. And neither did Alex Rins, who finishes Friday in P11 and therefore outside the automatic graduation zone to Q2. The Suzuki rider also suffered a crash, but the weather forecast is fine for the weekend and Saturday is another day, so both he and Marquez will be gunning for a hot lap in FP3.
The likes of Jorge Lorenzo in P14 and Maverick Viñales in P15 will be rushing to join them too, with Viñales one who, along with Jack Miller, dropped down the timesheets in the afternoon.
A four-way fight on the final lap, a freight train battle of the ages before that…Mugello showcased the best of MotoGP. And when all was said and done, Danilo Petrucci may have been the man making the history, but Marc Marquez was the man making the gains. A second for the points leader, ahead of closest rival Andrea despite the defeat, means he’s 12 points clear heading into the Catalan Grand Prix and however much a win in enemy territory means, a win on home turf is something different. The number 93 will be gunning for glory and revenge all at the same time at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and on a very special occasion: the 70th anniversary of the championship.
The good news for the competition is Ducati were back on the top step in Mugello and last year a win in Tuscany preceded one next time out. In addition, Catalunya isn’t a track where the number 93 has been imperious to the point of competitors needing to start the Jaws music. Even more good news is that some serious smart racing in the front group at Mugello – with Alex Rins and Jack Miller in the mix – made it hard work for Marquez at the front and gave him no chance to escape. Can the likes of Miller, Rins, Dovizioso, Petrucci take on the reigning champion once again this weekend? Rins and Dovizioso in particular will be focused on better grid positions to try and do just that.
The man who made the most famous move in the history of the circuit in Montmelò, meanwhile, has a top record at the track and he’ll need to add to it. For Valentino Rossi it was a nightmare home weekend, but the Doctor has been a master of the comeback on many given Sundays and he’s now the one with that extra incentive of winning in ‘enemy’ territory. Teammate Maverick Viñales has that home venue extra motivation, however, and so the battle between the two should be a highlight. And, as always, there will likely be Iwata marque Independent Team runners Fabio Quartararo and teammate Franco Morbidelli to contend with. Quartararo may have had surgery for arm pump before Barcelona, but he’s also a record-breaker despite being a rookie and has form at the track.
Speaking of form, Pol Espargaro is another man of the moment. Impressive in Italy – as ever – and taking the fight forward for the Austrian factory, Pol Espargaro – along with brother Aleix Espargaro – is a true home hero. The two are from just up the road and that adds something extra special to the Catalan Grand Prix. Add to that the battle between KTM and Aprilia in the standings and it’s a fight with a lot on the line.
For Jorge Lorenzo that’s also true as the number 99 continues to struggle on the Honda, but with injuries now playing much less of a role in his races and his record in Barcelona a shining one, a turning point could be just around the corner. Cal Crutchlow also wants a turnaround of sorts after a tougher run, and he’ll want to hit back against sophomore teammate Takaaki Nakagami after the Japanese rider was top independent rider at Mugello and took his best premier class finish yet in fifth.
So many questions remain ahead of Barcelona. Can Marquez strike back? Did Petrucci begin to turn the tide? Can Dovi capitalise in the title fight? Will Rins be an even bigger threat if he gets a better Saturday under his belt? Can Quartararo last the distance? And can Rossi and Viñales, two of the fastest men in the world, come out swinging in Catalunya?