For the second consecutive race weekend, MotoGP riders thrilled us in appalling weather conditions. For Spaniard, Marc Marquez, today was a tour de force as he firmly moved himself into the position of Championship favourite…
It could have been a different story for the double World Champion as he was initially pushed down to third place at the start behind a resurgent Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci. On a saturated track, the Factory and Satellite Ducati bikes had much more grip than the other machines, and quickly pulled clear at the front. However, as in Assen three weeks ago, the volatility of the Ducati struck, and Petrucci’s race ended being thrown into the gravel trap at the bottom of turn 3.
With track conditions continuously improving, riders were having to deal with rapidly degrading tyres. Due to limited wet weather testing, Michelin brought two different compound ‘wet’ tyres – soft and extra-soft – to this weekend’s race. As such, those riding with the extra-soft compound began to struggle for grip, emphasised by Marquez’ excursion into the gravel at turn 8. This prompted the Spaniard to dive into the pitlane at the end of the lap (17), and took the gamble on the drying circuit to switch to full slick tyres – ignoring the ‘intermediate’ option.
It proved to be a truly inspired decision, as Honda’s lead man began circulating as much as seven seconds a lap faster than the front runners. Despite this clear indication that full wets were no longer the optimum tyres to be on, the leading group – led by Dovizioso and Rossi – continued to race without pitting, in the hope of more rain which ultimately never came. As such, by the time the lead group did pit for their ‘dry’ bikes, Marquez had recovered all of the lost time and took the lead. It was a faultless display of bike control in very demanding conditions, judging the conditions to perfection, whilst also producing a recovery ride of the highest quality.
It was a terrific afternoon for British rider, Cal Crutchlow, who managed to secure second place and his ninth podium finish in his Grand-Prix career. To say that Crutchlow’s LCR-Honda machine this year has been a struggle to ride would be a gross understatement. Indeed, to such extent was the problem of the satellite machine that LCR effectively rebuilt it during the recent mid-season test in Spain. Repeated problems due to engine kick-back had understandably led to the bike being nicknamed ‘The Chainsaw’. However, LCR’s decision has been rewarded with consistent pace throughout the weekend. Despite having to start on the fifth row today, Crutchlow demonstrated both what he and the bike are fully capable of in race trim. Overtaking through the field with ease, and once the slick tyres were on, a series of fastest race laps served to hammer home just how much of a step forward this team has made over the last month.
There were hugely emotional scenes for both factory and satellite Honda riders in parc ferme. Marquez goes into the summer break with a commanding 48-point lead in the Championship. For Crutchlow, unbridled joy and sheer relief after all the hard work the LCR team has had to put in with this troublesome machine.
1: Marc Marquez (Honda) 47:03.239
2: Cal Crutchlow (Honda*) + 9.857
3: Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) + 11.613
* Satellite Bike
Full results are available at: http://www.motogp.com