Zarco wins chaotic sixth Moto2 round at Mugello

An incident on track meant the race had to be stopped at the sixth round of the Moto2 season at Mugello, Italy due to safety conditions. Drama, chaos and confusion followed when the race had to be restarted twice due to a mix up with new restart procedures, Zarco eventually went on to win.

Zarco wins chaotic sixth Moto2 round at Mugello
Zarco celebrates his win | Photo: Ajo Motorsport

The 2015 Moto2 Champion Johan Zarco set out to recover from his disappointing result at his home GP in Le Mans at the sixth round of the season at Mugello, Italy.

Drama in the early stages meant the Moto2 race had to be restarted completey altering things on track, and the Frenchman won at Mugello which left him ‘head over heels’ as he completed his somersault celebration in front of the Italian fans.

Luthi made a fantastic start

Despite a damp start to the weekend for the Moto2 class it came to race day and conditions were perfect. Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Racing Team) had his third pole position of the season and was hoping to regain his lead at the top of the championship with a decent result in Italy. However it was Thomas Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) who bumped his way to the front after he shoved Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) out of his way.

Photo | Ajo Motorsport
Photo | Ajo Motorsport

Baldassarri wanted to win at his home GP

By the end of the first lap Takaaki Nakagami (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) forced his way through the field with Lowes in tow. Eventually Lowes managed to overtake the Japanese and regained his lead from the front of the grid. Nakagami then lost another place to Baldassarri who looked comfortable at his home GP forcing the Japanese rider back to third position after two laps.

Luthi soon set his fastest lap of the race so far and as the Moto2 riders got to the end of the start-finish straight and entered turn one, the German rider managed to gain two places where he found himself second. Baldassarri and Nakagami continued to battle for third behind him.

First incident of the race

The first crash of the race came from Luca Marini (Forward Team) and Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS). Both riders fell at turn three on the third lap but fortunately they were both unhurt. Marquez was able to remount and had begun to continue on the race which would benefit him later on.

Luthi’s challenge continued and again at turn one of the track on lap four of the race he stole the lead from ‘Sideways Sam’. Lowes soon became victim to Baldassarri who went wide and lost the place. The riders began lap five with Luthi leading ahead of Nakagami and Lowes who benefited from the slipdown the start-finish straight and attacked Luthi. Lowes overtook to regain the lead and Nakagami also managed to slip through pushing Luthi back to third on one corner. Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) and Axel Pons (AGR Team) both looked strong and were making their way up through the field also.

Photo | AFP
Photo | AFP

More disappointment for Folger, or was it?

Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) was hoping for a more successful round after crashing several times at the fifth round in Le Mans. Despite being on the pace he fell off many times which meant that both he and his team were left with a lot of work to do. Things were not looking good again and on the fifth lap he was forced to retire. However it was not race over for him just yet.

Vierge the cause of the drama to follow

Xavi Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) crashed out at turn 11 of the circuit. He lost the front of the bike which sent him tumbling and the bike flying into the inflatable tyre wall. Upon impact, the tyre wall popped and this meant that the race had to be red-flagged “Due to safety conditions.” This is when the ‘fun’ began.

New race restart procedures were underway

The race was originally meant to be restarted for 11 laps, and the grid positions were to be determined dependent on the results from lap three. This meant that Folger who had retired could swap or fix his bike and restart with the others, and Marquez who had crashed out but was still circulating could swap or fix his bike and return to the track in a better condition. However Marini and Vierge could not restart because of their crashes.

Concerns automatically went to tyres. With such a dramatic reduction in laps the softer tyre would benefit riders more as they would not have to worry about making it last for the duration of a full length race. However the likes of Lowes was more comfortable with the feeling he got from the hard rear and so the riders were left with difficult conditions, whether to risk losing sensation or confidence in a different tyre.

Major mix-up on the grid ahead of the restart

Under the new start procedures, riders had one minute to return to track to complete a sighting lap when the pit lane was reopened for them.

One crew member made their way to the grid position allocated to the riders to follow grid formalities. Here the riders were met by officials who would expel riders from track if they had not made it out onto track before the one minute deadline was up. There was so much confusion due to mix-ups in grid positions and riders having to make their way off the track that the formalities had to be banished as the rider’s tyres would have gone too cold for the start of the race, so all riders were sent back to the pits ready to start the new procedures again.

More drama as the race was restarted again

The race was reduced again as a result of this and riders including Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing), Edgar Pons (Paginas Amarillas HP 40), Rins, Ratthapark Wilairot (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia) and Nakagami were to start from the back of the grid (pit lane) after missing the sighting lap. The drama continued Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing) crashed on the third sighting lap for the class on the day when they made their way to the grid from the pits after  it was opened for the second time after the restart. Simeon’s bike was just left spinning in the centre of the track and riders had to avoid it, but there was no time for Simeon to return to the pits again for his other bike.

The second part of the race was finally underway

The Moto2 class finally got round to a warm-up lap ahead of the restarted race, it was Lowes in pole ahead of Luthi, Nakagamai, Baldassarri, Rins, Pons. Luthi got an amazing start but unfortunately for the British rider Lowes, he had a sluggish start and was swallowed up by the pack. Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) also had an amazing start, and Marcel Schrotter (AGR Team) and Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) also got passed Lowes pushing him down to sixth position from pole. He definitely had his work cut out if he was to reach the podium.

Photo | Páginas Amarillas HP 40
Photo | Páginas Amarillas HP 40

Luthi did not lead for long though as Baldassarri managed to over take him on the first lap. Axel Pons looked to be on the move. Unfortunately for Schrotter he lost two places to Zarco and Lowes on the second lap; Lowes was in hot pursuit of Zarco and was not wanting him to get too far ahead of him, and he set the fastest lap so far on the second lap. Pons then also made his way past Schrotter within the same lap forcing him down to sixth.

Crash for the Italian

Another crash occurred, this time it was Mattia Pasini (Italtrancs Racing Team). The Italian, also competing at his home round of the Moto2 season, crashed out at turn four of the second lap of the restarted race. Fortunately for him he appeared unhurt.

Once again, Luthi used his ‘signature’ move and after using the slipdown the start-finish straight, managed to out-brake Baldassarri at turn one. The Italian looked to fight back as appeared to be all over the back of Luthi. It appeared to be the start-finish straight were the most manoeuvres were made and as they entered the fourth lap, Baldassarri and Zarco were able to use the slipto again gain an advantage and both were able to overtake those in front with Baldassarri overtaking Luthi again and Zarco gaining third. Within a few more corners Zarco found himself in second. Schrotter’s bad luck continued as he ran wide.

Zarco took the lead

Just five laps remained and Zarco’s form continued as he was able to take the lead for the first time on lap six again at turn one. Lowes found himself under pressure from Syharin and Pons, this was after Lowes had got past Syharin to take fourth but made contact with the Malaysian in the process when he overtook him on the inside.

The Italian, Baldassarri was determined to win at home though and as they entered the seventh lap of 10 he took the lead from Zarco heading into turn one. Zarco bit back straight away though but then Baldassarri retaliated and he continued to lead. Behind them Syharin had managed to regain fourth from Lowes however he remained determined and managed to reclaim the position.

Baldassarri was not giving up

The battle continued between Baldassarri and Zarco for the lead as they changed positions near enough every corner. Zarco led on the penultimate lap but again as they entered turn one Baldassarri hit.

The two continued to fight it out on track right up until the end of the race and they crossed the finish line with Zarco claiming the win and the 25 championship points just 0.030 seconds ahead of Baldassarri in second. Lowes had managed to get past Luthi in the final stages and claimed the last place on the podium and 16 points.

Fastest lap set by Luthi

Luthi finished in fourth ahead of Syharin and Axel Pons. The German rider completed the fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:52.718, it was just 0,2 seconds slower than the official circuit record lap set during the race, but was over  1.2 seconds slower than the fastest ever time here set by Sam Lowes in 2015 of 1:51.514.

Rins was in 13th on lap 14 but finished seventh overall ahead of Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and Nakagami in ninth. Dominique Aegerter (Car Xpert Interwetten), was 11th ahead of Corsi as the fastest Speed Up rider and Sandro Cortese (Dynavolt Intact GP) finished 12th. The Leopard Racing Team (who are a rookie team in the Moto2 championship) with Miguel Oliveira and Danny Kent finished 13th and 14th ahead of Folger who claimed the final championship point available in 15th.

Marquez who re-joined finished in 16th ahead of Simon who also managed to re-join the race, Schrotter finished down in 18th ahead of Ricard Cardus (JP Moto Malaysia) who is standing in for injured Efren Vazquez on the only Suter in the field. The Italian wildcard Federico Mulhauser (Team Ciatti) made another appearance in front of his home crowd this time in Mugello and managed to finish 20th. The highest placed Tech 3 rider was Isaac Vinales (Tech 3 Racing) who finshed 24th out of 26 finishers.

Enough to put Lowes back at the top

Lowes third place finish was enough for him to reclaim the championship lead after six rounds; he is on 98 points, just two ahead of Rins in second. Luthi (82) is currently third just one point ahead of Zarco (81) whose win at Mugello has helped him up to fourth position in the championship so far with a 29 point lead ahead of Aegerter (52).