After an eventful weekend already so far, filled with many an embarrassing moment for certain riders, the MotoGP class took to the Circuit de Barcelona, in Catalunya, Spain for the warm-up ahead of the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya on a modified track.
First anniversary of the death of Luis Salom
Remembering the late Luis Salom, who lost his life just over a year previous at the circuit when a rider error saw him crash into the barrier at turn 12, who later lost his life in hospital despite his best efforts, the elite class returned to what was now a modified circuit as a result of the incident.
Instead of resorting to the Formula 1 layout as they had done the year before when the race continued in Luis’ honour after consulting with the Spanish rider’s family, modifications were made to bypass turn 12, and chicanes were added to try and increase the amount and size of run off areas and gravel traps, and in an attempt to slow the riders and make the final sector safer.
A safety commission meeting then saw them resort back to the old Formula 1 layout which was thought to be safer. Our thoughts remain with Luis’ family, friends and fans.
Marquez trips up
Early on in the warm-up session, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) who had four crashes on day two of the seventh round in Spain, added to the embarrassing moments for the MotoGP riders in Catalunya.
After Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) had gotten lost, completing several laps on the wrong layout during Free Practice, and Alvaro Bautista (Pull & Bear Aspar Team) crashed when recovering his bike, Marquez then added to the little moments, when he returned to swap bikes, and after deciding to walk round to the other side of the spare bike to get on on the left side, he tripped over his rollers that lay on the floor and tumbled in the pit lane.
Fifth crash of the weekend during the warm-up for Marquez
His morning, and weekend, was to remain unfortunate as he crashed when he approached the chicane of turn 14 and 15; the front tucked once again and he slid into the painted run off area. He was able to recover his bike and return to the pits, but this made it crash number five (not including his stumble) and must have been so frustrating for the Spaniard; especially on home turf.
Smith ruled out
A highside for British rider, Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) at turn five during Free Practice 4 the day before saw him crawling to the side of the track as he had picked up a wound to the little finger on his left hand that meant he was declared unfit for the race. He had scraped the skin off his little finger from the knuckle up and the team did not want him to risk infection as he may need a skin graft.
Sylvain Guintoli (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was missing during Qualifying as he was feeling unwell after he took painkillers and unusually reacted to them; as he had taken to them before but had not reacted to them. The morning warm-up session was vital for him to complete the track time he missed out on previously.
Most Yamahas struggling in Catalunya
The Yamahas were struggling in Catalunya, previously none of them had made it through to Q2 automatically after they all finished outside the top 10 during FP3. Jonas Folger (Monster Yamaha Tech3) topped Q1 and went on to qualify in eight on the grid.
The troubles continued for the rest of the riders however as championship leader, Maverick Vinales (Movistar Yamaha) was forced to run wide at turn one by his teammate Valentino Rossi; the Spaniard shook his head in disappointment as once again Rossi didn’t turn around.
Folger tops the morning session
It was rookie, Folger that finished the warm-up session on top of the timesheets with the fastest time of 1:45.004 in the cooler setting. British rider, Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Racing) was second quickest ahead of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) who completed the top three as he continued with a strong weekend for the Italian manufacturer at the rider’s local track.
Pedrosa on pole in Catalunya
Pedrosa had stormed to pole position on the grid during Qualifying the day before, his fastest time of 1:43.870 was the only rider under the 1:44 minute barrier as second place on the grid, Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) was over 0.3 seconds slower.
They were joined on the front row by Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing), the Italian who got his first dry podium in Mugello the previous round continued on with his success by gaining his first front row start in Barcelona. The 2016 MotoGP champion, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda), Aleix Espargaro and Hector Barbera (Reale Avintia Racing), completed row two.
Pedrosa uses pole to his advantage
Determined to make the most of his pole position in Catalunya, Pedrosa shot away from the front of the grid when the 25 lap race got underway. There were serious doubts about the life span of the asymmetric tyres that they had been provided with by French supplier, Michelin.
Behind Pedrosa, when the lights went out, Petrucci went from right to left on the track trying to take an outside line into turn one, but he collided with Marquez almost forcing the Spaniard off track sideways. An investigation was started by race control regarding the incident.
Lorenzo takes the lead
Lorenzo soon forced his way to the front when he passed Pedrosa to take the lead. Marquez was initially in third, but soon passed his teammate to take second on the first lap, as Aleix Espargaro continued behind.
Dovizioso was in fourth ahead of Alvaro Bautista (Pull & Bear Aspar Team), Folger, Petrucci, Miller, Hector Barbera (Reale Avintia Racing) and Rossi. Zarco overtook Rossi on lap two to take 12th as behind Crutchlow in 14th, Vinales passed Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) to take 15th.
Folger on the move in Barcelona
It was not long before Folger returned to his strong pace seen throughout the weekend as he passed Bautista to take sixth. Bautista then lost another position to Petrucci as further back Miller was passed by Barbera to take ninth from the Australian.
Towards the front of the pack however, Dovizioso began his surge. Using the acceleration of the Ducati on start-finish straight, he shot past Aleix Espargaro to place himself fourth. The local lad then lost another place to the top Yamaha, Folger. Soon he found himself under pressure from Petrucci; as soon as the Italian attacked, Aleix bit back but unfortunately he missed out as the bike is still under development.
Espargaro’s engine blows
Not long after he found himself under pressure from Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), and he lost another position, things got worse… his engine blew. Not long after receiving an upgrade that was well received and performed well for his Aprilia, and after valiant efforts and a strong performance, his race came to an end on the eighth lap and he quickly pulled to the side to avoid spilling any fluids.
Marquez overcoming crashes and looking to lead
Despite struggling with the front end, and experiencing five crashes (and a stumble in the pits) prior to the race, Marquez was looking strong on the Repsol Honda. The Spaniard was stalking Lorenzo, by the sixth lap and despite the Honda bouncing and squirming, and the rear end lifting he was able to squeeze past race leader, Lorenzo at Turn 10.
In doing so, he made enough room for his teammate, Pedrosa to slot through too sending Lorenzo down to third in once chicane, the spoilt momentum saw the Spaniard’s Italian teammate, Dovizioso bypass him at turn 14. He lost three positions in several corners and was now under huge pressure from Folger who soon passed him with ease dropping the former leader to fifth on the next lap.
Petrucci had the podium in his sights
Petrucci was determined to be on the podium once again after his success in the dry in Mugello. Petrucci was fixated on his new target, Lorenzo on the same machinery as him, the Desmosedici GP17. By the end of lap seven, Petrucci had bypassed him, and Lorenzo found himself in sixth hoping not to miss more.
With the Ducati out of the way, it was time for the Repsol Honda teammates to begin their dual. The two were side-by-side passing round their home track, and Pedrosa was able to once again take the lead. Behind, Dovizioso followed ahead of Folger who ran wide at turn one of the eighth lap; he was able to recover quick and slotted back in his is current position, however Petrucci was able to catch him.
Lorenzo continues to lose positions
By the end of the eighth lap, Marquez lost not only one but two positions as Dovizioso got past him to take second. Lorenzo nce again fell victim to Bautista who took sixth as Aleix’s blown engine allowed them to gain a position. Lorenzo was going backwards down the field as along came Zarco who had just passed Rossi to take eighth after the Italian went wide at turn one on the 10th lap.
Zarco was able to focus his attention on the Spanish Ducati rider. The two rookies were doing well considering all the Yamaha riders ad struggled throughout the weekend in Catalunya. Further down the field, Vinales had managed to gain a position from Redding in 13th when Redding also ran wide at turn one of the 12th lap. Redding then lost another position to Loris Baz (Reale Avinita Racing).
Dovizioso leads in Catalunya
Back at the front, Dovizioso took to the front of the pack at turn one of the 17th lap, as he out-accelerated the Hondas and was finally unable to out-brake Pedrosa who was incredibly strong into the first turn despite the known problems of the Honda. Aware that Dovizioso was capable of pulling away, Marquez then passed Pedrosa and began chasing the Italian to stop him from eking away.
Around the 18th lap, a battle broke out between Bautista and Zarco who were contending for sixth position at that time. Zarco passed Bautista, but Bautista retaliated immediately, sliding back past the Frenchman. But then on the entry to the chicane, Zarco again made an attempt that proved successful.
Lorenzo caught out at turn one
On the 19th lap, Lorenzo became the latest rider to be caught out at turn one of the track but re-joined without having to compensate for any lost positions. Bautista was continuing to try and pass Zarco, and then Lorenzo joined in when he regained momentum and at one point it was three into the chicane but the order remained the same.
Folger found himself under pressure from Petrucci on the 20th lap, and the Italian was able to catch him even more due to the Ducati’s acceleration, when he travelled down the start-finish straight. Petrucci decided to try up the inside of a left hand turn, taking fourth from the German rider that stuck.
Lorenzo begins his recovery in Catalunya
Lorenzo began to recover positions after he saw Petrucci progressing ahead of him. He first passed Bautista, despite the Spaniard being strong on his Ducati since returning to the manufacturer at the start fo the season. Lorenzo then moved onto Zarco, and passed him heading into turn one of the 21st lao. He was soon on the tail of Folger, who he forced wide and passed on the following lap, before he went on to overtake Petrucci to regain fourth.
Further down the field, Crutchlow who was in 11th ran wide and succeeded the position to Vinales who was unusually so far down the ranks. Vinales, keen to protect his championship lead went on to catch and pass Barbera and forced his way past with three laps remaining to place himself 10th.
Eventful penultimate lap
Bautista, now in eighth, ran wide on the penultimate lap once again at turn one; the turn that had caught many out during the race. A disappointing end to another strong race for Petrucci saw him crash out of fifth position at turn five, another corner that had proved notorious. He slid when the front end folded and his bike ended up in the gravel; he was up to his feet but unable to recover the bike.
The penultimate lap proved eventful throughout the field, because as all riders behind Petrucci gained a position, Vinales lost the one he had just earned from Bautista when the Spaniard overtook him.
Battle of the Yams
It seemed the top four positions were decided as the race drew to a close. However, the top Yamaha spot was still to be determined and the two rookies were the ones fighting it out. Zarco was all over the back of Folger, who was in fifth approximately four seconds behind fourth place man, Lorenzo.
Zarco searched for a way past his teammate, any which way that he could do it. He made his move, it stuck and he retained the position until the end of the race. Both independent team Yamahas were to finish ahead of the factory ones.
Dovizioso does the double
After winning the previous round on home turf in Mugello, despite being under the weather with food poisoning that round, Dovizioso showcased what he is capable of when he won the following round in Catalunya; doing the double with his second consecutive win. He was in control of the pace, and won with a comfortable 3.544 second lead and picked up 25 points towards his championship.
Marquez was second in Catalunya, he also finished comfortably ahead of his teammate, Pedrosa in third who completed the podium; making it two Spaniards there to represent the host circuit. Lorenzo was almost three seconds behind Pedrosa and was probably happy to settle for fourth; once again proving he has settled more on the Italian machinery.
Zarco pipping his teammate to the line meant he finished fifth and as the top rookie and independent team rider once again, with a gap of just 0.083 seconds between he and Folger in sixth. Bautista was seventh ahead of nine times world champion, Rossi in eighth.
250 Grand Prix appearances for Barbera
On his 250th grand prix appearance, Barbera was ninth, as his late move on Vinales meant that the Yamaha rider had to settle for 10th. Crutchlow was 11th ahead of Baz, Redding, Karel Abraham (Pull & Bear Aspar Team), and Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) who once again finished I the points, collecting the last one available.
Just outside of the points were temporary Team Suzuki Ecstar teammates, Iannone and Sylvain Guintoli. Guintoli is standing in for injured rookie rider, Alex Rins, who is expected to return at the following round in Assen. Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) brought the KTM home in 18th, and rookie Sam Lowes, (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) who feels more settled with his machinery completed the list of finishers in 19th.
Vinales still just about leading the championship
Dovizioso’s second consecutive win meant that he managed to close the gap significantly between him and top man in the championship, Vinales. Vinales only collected six points, whereas Dovizioso picked up 25, and so where Vinales remains on top now with 111 points, Dovizioso is now just seven points behind in second on 104 points.
Rossi’s poor result means that he dropped two more positions in the championship after dropping towo the previous round. Marquez is on 88 points in third ahead of Pedrosa in fourth on 83. Rossi is trailing the Spaniard by one point, in fifth on 83 points.
Sixth in the championship, is the top rookie and independent rider, Zarco who lags the factory Yamaha rider by just eighth points as he is now on 75. Lorenzo is seventh with 59 points ahead of Folger, Crutchlow and Petrucci who complete the top 10 seven rounds in.