A crash, a burst air bag and a chaotic restart resulted in a thrilling sprint for glory in Italy.
Britain’s Sam Lowes began the race for the 500cc bikes from pole position, and following a clean start broke clear with a group containing the likes of Thomas Luthi, and championship leader, Alex Rins. For all intents and purposes, the race appeared set to be decided between this front group. However, a heavy collision between Alex Marquez and Luca Marini, which saw the former’s bike break through an air-bag safety barrier, brought out the red flag.
What followed, was perhaps the most chaotic attempted restart, anyone in racing can probably remember. In an attempt to speed up the procedure and therefore not only limit the number of laps the race could be reduced to, the rules state that riders would have one minute to leave the pits and circulate to the grid, when a restart was declared. Unfortunately, this didn’t appear to be well known amongst the teams. Consequently, almost half of the field missed this cut-off time. The offending bikes were ordered to start from the pitlane, only for the whole procedure to be aborted, and restarted moments later.
When racing finally resumed, the starting grid was taken from the standings after the third completed lap, prior to the red flag. Lowes again found himself on pole position, but was unable to secure a clean start this time – perhaps due to running contrary tyres to his rivals – and found himself swamped by the field on the run down to turn 1. Swiss rider, Thomas Luthi took the early lead before being caught by Italian home favourite, Lorenzo Baldessarri. He and Johann Zarco soon broke clear of the field, and a battle-royal ensued, with both riders constantly trading the lead on the track. Eventually, it was the reigning champion, Zarco, who led the Italian over the finish line , by the smallest of margins, after an engrossing 10 lap sprint.
Lowes, who struggled much throughout on harder worn tyres, managed to recover enough to finish in third place. In doing so, he retakes the championship lead from Alex Rins, who had a race to forget. Having failed to make the grid in time at the first restart, the Spaniard was forced to take the second from the back of the grid, and had to make do with finishing in seventh.
1: Johann Zarco – Ajo Motorsport – 18:59.391
2: Lorenzo Baldessarri – Forward Team – +0.030
3: Sam Lowes – Gresini Team – +1.096
4: Thomas Luthi – GaragePlus-Interwetten – +1.215
5: Hafizh Syahrin – Raceline Malaysia – +1.653
Full results available at http://www.motogp.com