Rossi wins in Catalan after a dramatic and eventful race

After a tough weekend, Rossi went on to win his first GP at the modified Circuit de Barcelona since 2009 after a hot battle on track with rival Marc Marquez... but is the feud now over? Emotional end to a weekend hit with tragedy.

Rossi wins in Catalan after a dramatic and eventful race
Rossi wins Catalan GP for the first time since 2009. (Photo: The Guardian)

Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) was fastest in the warm-up ahead of the seventh round of the MotoGP season at the Circuit de Barcelona following track changes and a storm the previous day. After a bad start, he battled on to make his way through to the start where he fought with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) for a few laps before going on to claim the win.

Track layout modified following Safety Commission Meeting -
Track layout modified following Safety Commission Meeting. Photo: Getty)

Lorenzo led into the first corner of the race

Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha) led into the first corner and immediately pulled away ahead of Marquez, Andrea Iannone (Ducati) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) but Maverick Vinales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) was muscling his way through after making a strong start and throwing it up the inside of turn one. Soon Pedrosa overtook Iannone and Rossi, who was swallowed up during the start by three Ducatis and a Suzuki , and he looked to attack his future teammate Vinales for fifth. Iannone was holding everyone up, Vinales had to wait until after the start-finish straight to attack the Ducati rider, as they approached turn one Rossi went up the inside and Vinales around the outside and out-braked the Italian, Rossi was fourth, Vinales fifth, Iannone now sixth ahead of teammate Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)

Vinales soon made a move on Rossi and almost messed things up completely and had to go wide almost giving Iannone the opportunity to stick. Rossi continued to pursue the Hondas and his teammate who led and set the fastest lap during lap two.

Things settled but not for long

Twenty-three laps remained and things appeared to settle. A lead group of five had broken away with Lorenzo leading but just over half a second. Rossi overtook Pedrosa and made it stick to claim third, then Vinales tried but went wide and Pedrosa slipped back through. The two continued to battle closely and Pedrosa crossed the start-finish line to start the fourth lap in fourth. Vinales was not giving up easily and he continued to attack Pedrosa, hopefully his tyres were not going to pay the price later on in the race. He made another attempt to overtake and went wide again in the third sector and he lost a lot of time which meant a gap appeared between the Suzuki and the Honda as Vinales found himself just in front of Iannone who had dropped back.

Rossi's attack continued

Rossi was still attacking, the two Spaniards Lorenzo and Marquez were in his sights and he set another new record (as the riders have not raced on this track layout previously as it was changed following the death of Moto2 rider Luis Salom) as he closed the gap ahead of him. The crowds roared as on the fifth lap he shot past Marquez to easily take second from his rival. Rossi was now on the tail of Lorenzo but Marquez was remained in pursuit of the factory Yamaha riders.

Turn one of lap six and at the end of the start-finish straight Rossi overtook his teammate after out-braking him. However, Lorenzo did not want to give up the lead easily and tried to stay side by side his teammate as he rode round the outside of the corner; but then things got worse for Lorenzo as Marquez took advantage and overtook the 2015 MotoGP champion a few corners later. Smith was the first to retire from the race after a tough weekend aboard his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha.

Things got worse for Lorenzo

Seventeen laps to go and as they braked into turn one Lorenzo lost yet another place this time to Pedrosa. He was now fourth and being chased by Vinales who recently confirmed he would be replacing the Spaniard when he moves to Ducati. Vinales had caught right up to Pedrosa before he overtook Lorenzo, and now the young Spaniard had become his problem. On turn one of the next lap at the end of the straight he overtook Lorenzo but went wide and Lorenzo snapped back (probably thinking "Too soon to claim my seat Vinales”). Vinales made more attempts and on the same lap but went wide again and Lorenzo remained fourth.

Fantastic battle between Rossi and Marquez continued

Back at the front after ten laps Marquez was right behind Rossi who led, Pedrosa was out on his own while Vinales was all over the back of Lorenzo. With fourteen laps remaining he cleanly got past him and this time was able to make it stick. Lorenzo had to ease up slightly as they made their way round turn four as Vinales missed the apex but still made the turn and made the overtake count.

Hernandez penalised

Word came through that Yonny Hernandez (Aspar Team MotoGP) had to give fourteenth to British rider Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati) behind him as a penalty for overuse of the track, which he did with thirteen laps remaining as LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow overtook Dovizioso to gain eighth position. Crutchlow looked determined as he ‘threw his bike around’ in a very aggressive ride at the Circuit de Barcelona. Hernandez received another penalty again a few laps later due to continued overuse of the track, he had to enter the pits. Aleix Espargaro (Team Suzuki Ecstar) entered at the same time but unfortunately the Spaniard had to retire.

Braking issues continued for Marquez

Marquez looked to be struggling to stop the Honda, a problem that has been witnessed throughout the race weekend in Spain. He was taking completely different lines to Rossi as he seemed to be losing control as he pursued the Italian.

'The Maniac' strikes again

Nine laps remained as Iannone was now on Lorenzo’s tail as he looked to claim sixth spot from the Spaniard. As they approached turn ten Lorenzo who was struggling with the front Michelin tyre which had deteriorated was brought off by ‘The Maniac’ who claimed his third victim this season. Iannone approached the turn way too quickly and could not stop, he hit the rear tyre of Lorenzo’s M1 scooping him off and throwing them both into the gravel. Lorenzo went over his bike ad had hurt his foot; he was able to get up but limped away. He was fuming with Iannone.

The Italian tried to go over and discuss the incident with Lorenzo, whether he wanted to explain what had happened or to apologise but Lorenzo was not having any of it. He refused to speak to the Italian and as soon as possible after the race he made his way to the Race Control to report the incident. This is the third time that Iannone has took out another rider on track, the Ducati team seemed angry with him when he was back in the pits as this is not the first time he has caused such damage due as he did the same to his teammate earlier on in the season.

Ducati rider Andrea Iannone is in trouble -
Ducati rider Andrea Iannone is in trouble. (Photo:

Marquez retaliated

Five laps to go and Marquez made a move on Rossi, but he went wide and Rossi went straight back past. Was it a repeat of Sepang? A lot needed to be settled and this was the chance. As they got to the end of the start-finish straight to start the twenty-first lap Marquez initially got ahead but Rossi out-braked him and entered turn one first and reclaimed the lead. Rossi pulled away slightly as Marquez continued to struggle to brake into the corners but still he caught up.

Along the straight at the next lap Marquez used the slipstream again to get ahead, he had the outside line going into the corner and managed to hit the apex and make his overtake. Rossi tried to slot back past straight away as he had the inside line of the next corner but Marquez had the line, he remained in front until the next time they hit the straight when Rossi this time used the slipstream to overtake and make it stick heading into turn one. This time though Rossi’s late braking meant he had created a small gap, then later on in the penultimate lap Marquez messed up and went wide allowing Rossi to extend his lead to almost one second.

Rossi wins for the first time in Barcelona since 2009

Last lap of the race and all Rossi had to do was bring it home… he did it, the Italian won with a lead of 2.652 seconds at a track dominated by the Spanish. Despite struggling since the changes were made to the track due to the death of Moto2 rider Luis Salom, Rossi managed to make it work and won on the new track layout.

Rossi won, ahead of Marquez and his teammate Pedrosa claimed the last step of the podium at his home GP. Vinales finished in fourth but seemed angry when he crossed the finish line as Hernandez overtook him to finish ahad of the Spanish Suzuki rider who had just lapped him. Vinales now holds the lap official record for this new track layout with his time from lap five of 1:45.971 being the fastest set, although it was almost 2.5 seconds slower than the best lap on this layout set by Marquez to gain him pole position during qualifying of 1:43.589.

Pol Espargaro finished in fifth as the top independent rider ahead of the fastest Brit Crutchlow in sixth. The top Ducati was Dovizioso down in seventh ahead of Aprilia Racing Team Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista in eighth. Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Yakhnich Ducati) finished in ninth as the second highest placed Ducati ahead of Hector Barbera (Avintia Ducati) who finished tenth after qualifying as the highest placed Ducati on the grid in fourth.

Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) finished in eleventh ahead of Stefan Badly (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) in twelfth, Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team MotoGP) who celebrated his 30th birthday with a thirteenth place finish ahead of injured Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) in fourteenth and Michele Pirro who is standing in for injured Loris Baz aboard the Avintia Ducati collected the last available championship point in fifteenth.  British rider Redding finished in sixteenth, and after receving two penalties Hernandez completed the list of finishers in seventeenth.

Then began the emotional tributes to Salom

That is when things became emotional, as the riders completed their touring lap all sporting their own unique tributes to Moto2 rider #39 Luis Salom who died during Free Practice 2 after falling at turn twelve from his SAG Team Kalex. Among some of the tributes was Marquez who swapped his numbers around, the number ‘93’ became ‘39’ in tribute, Vinales grabbed a huge Luis Salom flag, Pol Espagaro (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha) grabbed a black board that had the number ‘39’ printed on it in white and proudly held it in front of his chest and pointed to it as he returned to the pits. All the riders on the podium dedicated their race to the late Luis Salom.

Moment's silence on grid previous to day's racing for late Luis Salom #LS39 RIP. (Photo: MotoGP)
Moment's silence on grid previous to day's racing for late Luis Salom #LS39 RIP. (Photo: MotoGP)

Feud over?

Much to the surprise of the crowds, whilst in parc ferme Rossi and Marquez were seen shaking hands to congratulate each other on the fantastic and clean race they had both just been victorious in. The camera angle just caught the gesture which started a huge roar and round of applause as it has been long awaited, but it was not clear whether it was mutual or whether one rider acted before the other. Rossi then stood on the seat of the bike and waved to the fans in jubilation as they cheered for him.  Is that the feud over and done with?

Rossi, Marquez and Pedrosa then made their way to the podium wearing the black t-shirts over their leathers with tributes to Luis Salom; the t-shirt’s displayed the message “Always in our hearts” as well as the logos of the fallen rider who sadly lost his life. Rest in Peace Luis Salom.