Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Undefeated: Quartararo bolts to victory ahead of Viñales and Rossi

Jul 27. 2020
Fabio Quartararo
Fabio Quartararo
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By THE NATION

The Frenchman's reign continues as Yamaha lock out the podium for the first time since the 2014 Australian GP

For the first time since Phillip Island 2014, Yamaha locked out the podium in a 1-2-3, but it was Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) who once again scorched to victory on Sunday at the Gran Premio Red Bull de Andalucia. Maverick Viñales and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP teammate Valentino Rossi had a memorable fight for the rostrum in which the number 12 came out on top for second – but nevertheless it was The Doctor’s first podium since the 2019 Americas GP as he took P3.

Quartararo got the best launch and from pole, with Rossi also getting away well from P4, but drama unfolded behind as fifth place Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) crashed in a Turn 1 melee that also then involved Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Bradley Smith (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini). The Portuguese rider was down and out of the race, with Binder running off circuit and dropping to the back and Smith’s race compromised too.

There was a three-way Yamaha scrap at the front though, and it was Quartararo leading Viñales and Rossi, who had a slight gap to the two Pramac Racing riders of the quick starting Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia just behind. Quartararo was getting down to business quickly though with the hammer well and truly down, and Viñales went wide at the final corner trying to pounce. Instead, that let The Doctor through into second, with Quartararo starting to escape and Viñales having lost out some significant ground. Just behind, Bagnaia went for P4 underneath Miller as well but was also wide, before making a miraculous save to keep his GP20 upright.

Quartararo’s lead on Lap 4 was up to 1.5 seconds, and Viñales couldn’t find a way through on Rossi to try and give chase. The Pramac Racing duo were also breathing down the YZR-M1 rider’s neck as the number 20 Petronas Yamaha SRT started to clear off into the distance, and Rossi couldn’t do anything about Quartararo’s pace either. By Lap 6 the Frenchman’s lead was nearly three seconds.

With 10 laps down that lead was looking unassailable, with Bagnaia making progress to get through on Miller and Viñales, as the Italian locked his radar onto the boss’ rear wheel. The race in Jerez was quickly starting to become a race of attrition in the blistering Andalusian heat, however – with some parts of the track over 63 degrees. Then Miller slid out of contention at Turn 9 having made his way through on Viñales at the beginning of the lap, and teammate Bagnaia pounced Rossi for second place.

Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) had made steady progress and was the fastest man on track as he got in the hunt for that illustrious first MotoGP™ podium, but drama was just around the corner in a cruel end to the Italian’s race as he encountered engine troubles with nine laps to go. Heartbreak for Morbidelli, and there would be more incoming for his compatriot Pecco Bagnaia. Safely in P2 ahead of Rossi, smoke started to stream out of his GP20 and onto the back straight, just six laps away from spraying the Prosecco, Bagnaia was out of contention.

This saw Rossi back up into second, with Viñales back in the podium places just behind. El Diablo’s lead was up to nearly nine seconds and the win – barring any mistakes or reliability issues – was surely his. Viñales was clambering all over the back of the number 46, but Rossi was a demon on the brakes and it was really looking like Viñales just wouldn’t be able to find a way through. Then though, after not having put a wheel wrong the whole race, Rossi was slightly wide at Turn 9 – and Top Gun pounced. Viñales was up to second and was able to immediately get some bike lengths on the veteran Italian, although the Doctor couldn’t relax with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) just eight tenths down the road...

At the front though it was all about one man. Quartararo made no mistakes in the brutal conditions to take his second consecutive victory, cementing his lead in the Championship over second place Viñales. The Spaniard salvaged 20 points which could be crucial in the long run, but he had no answer for his 2021 teammate in Jerez. Rossi’s return to the rostrum was more than welcomed for the 41-year-old, the number 46 putting in a mesmerising ride to notch up his 199th MotoGP™ podium, and his 235th across all classes.

Nakagami’s P4 was the Japanese rider’s best ride in the premier class as he finished just 6.113 off the win and half a second from the podium, putting the Japanese rider 4th in the Championship heading to Brno. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) banished the demons from the Spanish GP to finish 5th seven days later too – his equal-best in MotoGP™. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), meanwhile, recovered from a P14 starting slot to take sixth in Jerez after a third place finish last weekend, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in P7 the only KTM to finish in a tough day for the Austrian factory with Oliveira, Binder and Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech3) all crashing out.

Just 1.8 seconds behind Pol Espargaro was Repsol Honda Team’s Alex Marquez, the reigning Moto2™ World Champion producing an impressive ride in just his second MotoGP™ race, in the toughest of conditions, to take the chequered flag in P8. The lone Repsol Honda managed to beat Johann Zarco (Hublot Reale Avintia) as the Frenchman took P9, with the remarkable Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) defying the odds to complete the race and take 10th. An unbelievable and super-human effort from the Spaniard after suffering a dislocation-fracture to his shoulder eight days ago. Tito Rabat (Hublot Reale Avintia), Smith and the second injured rider on the grid, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), were the final finishers – a sterling effort from the latter to complete the laps.

Binder once again showed his cracking pace after dropping back in the Turn 1 incident, but the South African rookie then sadly crashed out unhurt at Turn 13. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) also crashed – riders ok.

50 from 50: Quartararo has had a perfect couple of weekends in Jerez and will head to Brno as the points leader, with Viñales taking home two second places – far from a disaster – and looking to build on a successful weekend. Also expected in Czechia is the return of reigning World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) to the MotoGP™ arena... and we can't wait for more.

MotoGP™ podium

Fabio Quartararo Petronas Yamaha SRT - Yamaha - 41:22.666

Maverick Viñales Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - +4.495

Valentino Rossi Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - +5.546

Fabio Quartararo: "Oh my god! That one was tough. Actually we normally start with a new tyre on the grid, and today we decided with Yamaha to make the warm up lap three laps to see if the tyre was ok, everything... I'm so happy we had amazing pace from the beginning to make the gap, so fast, I was so happy because I made my pace. It was really tough, when I got to two seconds, to make it four was so difficult. An amazing feeling! What can I say? Just thanks to my team, they did an amazing job, worked a lot during the races, and to my family at home... for sure they're starting to get drunk already now to celebrate! But honestly, this feels so good to win back-to-back here in Jerez."

MotoGP™ podium L-R: Viñales, Quartararo and Rossi
 
Bastianini blasts to first Moto2™ win
The Italtrans Racing Team rider takes his first intermediate class win and leads an Italian 1-2-3 as Sky Racing Team VR46 complete the podium

Italtrans Racing Team's Enea Bastianini is back on top of a Grand Prix podium for the first time in two years after the Italian clinched a debut Moto2™ victory at the Gran Premio Red Bull de Andalucia. 'The Beast' had some familiar company on the podium in the form of Sky Racing Team VR46's Luca Marini, with Marini's sophomore teammate Marco Bezzecchi taking his first Moto2™ rostrum finish in third. That made it an all-Italian top three in the intermediate class, for the first time since Imola 1998.

Bezzecchi took the holeshot from pole position but the only held the lead for half a lap, with Bastianini making a brave dive up the inside at Turn 6 to steal it. Bezzecchi then soon also lost out on second after teammate Marini squeezed through just three turns later, the veteran seeming eager to try and stop Bastianini escaping early on. The Italtrans Racing Team man had eked out a comfortable advantage of about three or four tenths already, and the clock was ticking...

Further back, Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) lunged up the inside of Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) at Turn 6 for fifth place, but the Spaniard ran wide and allowed last week’s podium finisher back through. Thanks to the Spaniards squabbling over fifth place, second, third and fourth in the running, Marini, Bezzecchi and EG 0,0 Marc VDS' Sam Lowes, were then able to open out a second and could focus on cementing a podium place.

Navarro then got through on Martin, again at Turn 6, but yellow flags were waving due to  an earlier crash for Kasma Daniel (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team). As a result, the Speed Up man was forced to hand a place back but did so in a pretty smooth manner, running wide at Turn 13 on purpose before then squeezing back in behind Aron Canet (Openbank Aspar Team Moto2), who had battled his way through to fifth.

Back at the front, Bastianini’s gap was at 0.8 with 17 to go, but last week’s race winner Marini had found his groove, halving that advantage in just a lap. The Sky Racing Team VR46 rider then sat in behind his compatriot with 15 laps remaining, looking like a lion ready to pounce on its prey. In that battle for a top five finish, Navarro then suddenly  crashed out at Turn 9.

As the laps ticked away, the pressure built on Bastianini and it looked like he'd cracked after running ever so slightly wide at Turn 8, with Marini suddenly glued to his rear wheel. With 12 to go Marini had his biggest look up the inside of the number 33, showing his front wheel, but not managing to squeeze through.

At seven to go, Bastianini pulled the pin. Suddenly moving a second clear, and then 1.5 a lap later, he eventually came across the line 2.1 seconds ahead of Marini to take his first win in the intermediate class. And for the first time since 1998, in a race won by Valentino Rossi, Italy had a podium lock-out as Bezzecchi held off Lowes to joined his compatriots on the box.

The Brit was less than a second in further arrears as they came across the line and again took fourth place, as he did seven days ago. The final place inside the top five went to rookie Canet, again impressing many with his performance, ahead of Martin in sixth. Liqui Moly Intact GP's Tom Lüthi took seventh.

The fight for eighth went right down to the wire, with Championship leader Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo) the man to lose out at the final corner after running wide. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) emerged out of that gaggle of riders at the front, before Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) and Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) clinched the final top ten spots. Nagahima's 11th place finish moved him onto 50 points in the World Championship though, and it's enough to hold onto the lead heading into Brno.

That's only a week and a half away, with engines on soon in the Czech Republic and Moto2™ ready to battle it out again.

Moto2™ podium

Enea Bastianini Italtrans Racing Team - Kalex 39:23.922

Luca Marini Sky Racing Team VR46 - Kalex +2.153

Marco Bezzecchi - Sky Racing Team VR46 - Kalex +3.243

Enea Bastianini: "I'm really happy because also this morning I was fast, and this afternoon in the race, I thought inside me I could win because I'm fast and after pushing from the first laps, the last ten laps I kept a bit of a gap to Marini and it's a brilliant race. The bike was really incredible, thanks to my team! I dedicate this victory to Livio, my great friend, who is no longer here with us."

Moto2™ podium L-R: Marini, Bastianini and Bezzecchi
 
Suzuki sublime to stay ahead of the game in Jerez
Japanese rider takes his first win of the year and becomes the first rider to win at Jerez in Moto3™ from pole

Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) is the first man to convert pole position in the Moto3™ class at Jerez into a win, taking victory in the Gran Premio Red Bull de Andalucia as he held off John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) in another fabulous final corner decider. There was drama in the World Championship standings too, with points leader Albert Arenas (Soliunion Aspar Team Moto3) and previously second-placed Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) crashing out.

Suzuki got the launch he would have been looking for from pole position as the Japanese rider grabbed the holeshot into Turn 1, with Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) and Ogura exchanging P2 and P3 at Turn 1 and Turn 2 as the riders safely negotiated Lap 1 in Andalucia. A rider who was negotiating the pack efficiently was Darryn Binder on the CIP Green Power KTM, too, as the South African was up to the point-scoring positions on Lap 2 - from 25th on the grid and setting two fastest laps in a row to boot...

Suzuki was eager to stay at the forefront of the fight, and the Japanese rider kept himself in or near the lead throughout. Rodrigo and Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) had a look at the 24 on a few occasions and despite getting by, Suzuki would then simply bite straight back at the first opportunity. The came the first Championship contender drama as Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) took out Ogura at Turn 9, tucking the front.

At the front of the race though, it remained a lead group of 10 with 10 laps left. Suzuki remained at the head of the train, with Rodrigo having another pop, but the Japanese rider was again back at the front a few corners later. McPhee had slowly picked off his rivals too and was up to third and then second at Turn 5 with nine laps to go, but it seemed it was set to be another classic scrap for the win and podium places between the top 10.

The second big bout of drama for the Championship then hit. With eight laps to go, Arenas had been looking comfortable in the lead group but the Spaniard was suddenly down at the fast Turn 11 right-hander, taking a heavy tumble and heading to the medical centre for a check-up - rider ok. With the previous top two riders in the title race out, it was suddenly a big opportunity for the likes of McPhee and Suzuki to capitalise...

Ultimately, it would end up as a six-way scrap for victory in the latter laps as Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) dropped off the pace, as did Fernandez, with birthday boy Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3) also then crashing from the group at Turn 5.

Could anyone get the better of Suzuki? Ultimately not, with the shuffle at the final corner free of drama this time around and the Japanese rider able to keep ahead to the line. McPhee avoided the bad luck of his Spanish GP and was only half a tenth off in the end, with Vietti a similarly tiny gap back in third. 

Binder completed the fairtyale comeback this weekend as he took an amazing fourth place - up 21 positions from where he started - with Rodrigo completing the top five. Fernandez took sixth, ahead of a P7 for Jeremy Alcoba (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) after the rookie was awarded a three-second penalty for not complying with a Long Lap penalty. He crossed the line fourth.

Eighth went to Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) as he took some solid points, ahead of an impressive first top ten finish for his teammate, rookie Ryusei Yamanaka. Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team) completed the top ten.

That's it until Brno, with Arenas still leading the way but Suzuki now up into second... and McPhee lurking not far off. What will Moto3™ serve up in Czechia? Find out soon!

Moto3™ podium

Tatsuki Suzuki SIC58 Squadra Corse - Honda 39:18.861

John McPhee Petronas Sprinta Racing - Honda +0.064

Celestino Vietti - Sky Racing Team VR46 - KTM +0.134

Tatsuki Suzuki: "I'm very happy, more than let's say Misano, because in this race I was always in front, leading the group, and I didn't care when I got pushed behind, I was aggressive and tried to stay at the front. This makes a huge difference! Last weekend I was very disappointed with my race, but today I'm the happiest!"

Moto3™ podium L-R: McPhee, Suzuki and Vietti
 
The first time a manufacturer has locked out the podium since 2014: a Yamaha 1-2-3
That sweet winning feeling...
Another weekend, another record...
Undefeated: it's fifty points from fifty for Fabio
Viñales took another hard-earned 20 points
Rossi was back on the podium for the first time since COTA 2019
Two for two! Quartararo with his two trophies
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP celebrate their double podium
 

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