Jorge Lorenzo extended his lead in the overall standings at the weekend as he won his second consecutive race, the Catalunya Grand Prix.
Yamaha's 2010 World champion came home clear of compatriot Dani Pedrosa on a Honda while Andrea Dovizioso, on a Yamaha, edged world champion Casey Stoner for third.
Lorenzo, 25, has won his third race of the season and 20th MotoGP, having taken the opener in Qatar and then adding the French race, and holds a 20-point lead over Stoner heading into the British MotoGp in a fortnight.
“It was a very tough race, very complicated,” said Lorenzo, who stopped off halfway through his victory lap and let off a bizarre puffball-type explosion out of a pot of paint.
“Dani and Ben Spies were so close and it would have been very easy to hit them and crash.
“However, later I just waited for Dani to make a mistake and he duly coughed one up.”
Pedrosa was disappointed at missing out on victory, which would have been his first of the campaign.
“I had some issues at the end of the race,” he said. “I wanted to give Lorenzo a real fight but in the end he was just too fast. I am disappointed because I really wanted to win this race.”
Dovizioso, for his part, was thrilled to take his first podium spot for Yamaha, having largely been out-performed by team mate Cal Crutchlow this season.
The 26-year-old Italian said: “The end was really difficult, I had absolutely no grip. I am really happy with the result. The bike was as fast as the leading riders’ ones. All we need is a bit of fine-tuning to compete with them regularly.”
Pedrosa got a terrific start, bursting past those in front of him on the grid including Crutchlow and the two riders on the front row, Lorenzo and Stoner.
Pedrosa was closely followed by Ben Spies on a Yamaha as Lorenzo dropped back to third and Stoner in fifth.
Spies looked to have rediscovered some of his great form from last year as he pressured Pedrosa going into a corner on the second lap and the American duly passed the Spaniard but disaster struck as he went too wide and slid into the gravel.
It will have done nothing to advance the American’s case with Yamaha where he has come under increasing pressure after a series of poor results this campaign.
Pedrosa carried on in front until Lorenzo swooped with 19 laps remaining to pass him and unlike his Yamaha teammate did not make an error on taking the lead.
Stoner along with his Honda teammate had been the only riders to opt for hard tyres, but unlike Pedrosa he was struggling and was trailing in fourth.
Stoner was two seconds adrift of the front three – Dovizioso was in third – with 17 laps remaining but making no inroads into their lead.
Pedrosa and Lorenzo were having a thrilling battle up front with the lead changing hands on several occasions, the former moving back into the lead with 14 laps to go.
Lorenzo had a wobbly moment going into the following lap as going wide into the first corner his bike slid. The Spaniard was at pains to correct it and get going again, but lost valuable time on his compatriot.
Lorenzo, though, rediscovered his rhythm and within five laps had regained all the ground he had lost on Pedrosa and was right up on the Honda rider’s shoulder.
Lorenzo was probing the whole time at his rival and was repelled on several occasions before he finally got the better of him with six laps remaining and from then on he cruised to victory as Pedrosa eased off.
Among the also-rans, nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi finished a respectable seventh on his Ducati while Spies did get into the points after fighting his way back to 10th spot.
Andrea Iannone (Speed Up) took his first win of the season from Suter riders Tom Lüthi and Marc Márquez. Márquez took the hole shot, as an almighty scrap for second place ensued behind him. Turn 1 already saw Speed Up rider Mike di Meglio, the Suters of Julian Simón’s and Gino Rea, and Claudio Corti (Kalex) in a multiple pile-up.
None of the riders were hurt but only Corti made it back out on track. Márquez’s good start was short-lived as Iannone took advantage when Márquez ran wide. He led the initial stages from Suter riders Dominique Aegerter and Toni Elías, in front of Márquez and Lüthi.
Elías soon took second with a bold move, though was immediately taken by Márquez, who hunted down Iannone. With 18 laps to go, Lüthi had made it into third, and a group with Iannone, Márquez and Lüthi soon started pulling out a led.
Then Márquez passed Iannone down the straight, but Iannone stuck to Márquez’ rear wheel and took him back two laps later. Lüthi took advantage of this and put in a brave move on Márquez to take second, as championship leader Pol Espargaró (Kalex) reeled tham in to make it a four-way battle.
With 10 laps to go Márquez retook Lüthi on the home straight to hunt Iannone. The pursuing group was being led by Espargaró’s team mate Esteve Rabat ahead of Aegerter, Elías, Simone Corsi (FTR) and Kalex team mates Scott Redding and Mika Kallio.
Back at the front with nine laps to go Márquez got past Iannone on the straight, yet the Italian fought straight back and re-took him three corners later. Yet with seven laps to go Iannone ran wide, letting the Spaniard through once more.
This was again short lived as the Italian fought back and re-took the lead.On the same lap, Elías crashed out of sixth place, but walked away unscathed. With five laps left, Espargaró started his charge through the pack, as he went past Lüthi to take third.
However, with three laps remaining Lüthi overtook the local down the straight With three laps left there was huge drama for the home crowd, as Lüthi went past Márquez, who almost lost the front wheel. As he saved a near crash, he pulled back in front of Espargaró who was spat off. He fortunately escaped any serious injury, although he was visibly upset at crashing out in front of his home fans.
The last lap was just as tense - Lüthi, who had passed Iannone for the lead, was re-taken by the Italian in a brave move into Turn 1. The pair were bashing fairings on the last lap but Iannone who held his nerve to take the win ahead of Lüthi and Márquez. Esteve Rabat (Kalex), Corsi, Takaaki Nakagami (Kalex), Aegerter, Randy Krummenacher (Kalex), Kallio and Redding rounded out the top 10.
The crash involving Espargaró and Márquez was subsequently investigated by race direction, which handed Márquez a 60-second penalty, relegating him to 23th. His team, however, appealed the penalty, and it was subsequently overturned. That left Márquez second in the championship, two points behind Lüthi.
Maverick Viñales (FTR Honda) won his home race from pole position in dominant fashion, from KTM rider Sandro Cortese and Miguel Oliveira on a Suter Honda.
Zulfahmi Khairuddin (KTM) got the hole shot, only to have Louis Rossi (FTR Honda) push his way to the front in Turn 2. Pole-sitter Viñales did not get a great start, as he was pushed down to fourth by Cortese.
Luis Salóm (Kalex KTM) also struggled at the start as he dropped to 11th, while similarly-mounted Hector Faubel was making his way up join to the leading group. An early battle ensued between Rossi, Cortese, Viñales and Khairuddin, who were soon joined by FTR Honda rider Efrén Vázquez, who’d pulled a tremendous start.
Khairuddin led for a lap, only to be passed on the main straight by Viñales and Rossi. The Malaysian rider soon appeared to be struggling, as more riders passed him after running wide.
With 18 laps to go, Viñales, Rossi and Vázquez started to pull out a small lead, ahead of the following group led by Cortese. With 13 laps to go the leading group had grown to seven riders fighting it out, with Viñales leading from Rossi, Alex Márquez (Suter Honda), Vázquez, Márquez’s team mate Miguel Oliveira, Cortese and Faubel.
Viñales soon put the hammer down and began to pull away, as he left the pursuing six to fight it out, with Cortese and Rossi passing aggressively going into Turn 1.
With 11 laps left, Team Italia FMI’s Alessandro Tonucci crashed out of the race, putting an end to his bid for points. A few laps later, Khairuddin, who came onto the straight in eighth place, pulled a stunning move into turn one to take second, though was pushed back to third a lap later by Rossi.
Seven laps from the end Vázquez crashed out of the fight for second, as Alexis Masbou (Honda) joined the group and began making a bid for second, with places changing on every corner.
With three laps remaining, the fight for podium positions was fierce, with none of the Moto3 chargers willing to back off; Rossi’s exhaust was dangling off his bike, while early-season sensation, Romano Fenati (FTR Honda) caught up to the back of the group.
Viñales took the chequered flag by more than seven seconds ahead of Cortese and Oliveira after a thrilling last lap, during which eight riders were scrapping it out for the final two podium spots.
They were closely followed by Rossi, Masbou, Márquez, Faubel, Khairuddin and Fenati, with Salóm completing the top 10. With this win Viñales closed the gap to championship leader Cortese to seven points.
RESULTS – MOTOGP
1 Jorge Lorenzo (Spain) Yamaha – 43min07.681
2 Dani Pedrosa (Spain) Honda +5.003sec
3 Andrea Dovizioso (Italy) Yamaha +9.361
4 Casey Stoner (Australia) Honda +9.544
5 Cal Crutchlow (Britain) Yamaha +12.506
6 Alvaro Bautista (Spain) Honda +13.948
7 Valentino Rossi (Italy) Ducati +17.555
8 Stefan Bradl (Germany) Honda +23.478
9 Nicky Hayden (US) Ducati +30.410
10 Ben Spies (US) Yamaha +32.897
11 Hector Barbera (Spain) Ducati +36.144
12 Karel Abraham (Czech Republic) Ducati +56.229
13 Aleix Espargaro (Spain) ART +1min08.054
14 Michele Pirro (Italy) FTR +1min08.775
15 Randy de Puniet (France) ART +1min10.483
16 James Ellison (Britain) ART +1min13.090
17 Mattia Pasini (Italy) ART +1min20.903
18 Yonny Hernandez (Colombia) BQR +1min21.235
19 Danilo Petrucci (Italy) Ioda +1min41.207
20 Ivan Silva (Spain) BQR +1min41.888
1 Andrea Iannone (Italy) Speed Up – 41min16.852
2 Thomas Luthi (Switzerland) Suter +0.083sec
3 Marc Marquez (Spain) Suter +1.137
4 Esteve Rabat (Spain) Kalex +12.516
5 Simone Corsi (Italy) FTR +14.226
6 Takaaki Nakagami (Japan) Kalex +15.072
7 Dominique Aegerter (Switzerland) Suter +16.255
8 Randy Krummenacher (Switzerland) Kalex +16.354
9 Mika Kallio (Finland) Kalex +16.606
10 Scott Redding (Britain) Kalex +16.793
1 Maverick Vinales (Spain) FTR Honda – 41min50.965
2 Sandro Cortese (Germany) KTM +7.752sec
3 Miguel Oliveira (Portugal) Suter Honda +7.853
4 Louis Rossi (France) FTR Honda +8.007
5 Alexis Masbou (France) Honda +8.075
6 Alex Marquez (Spain) Suter Honda +8.267
7 Hector Faubel (Spain) Kalex KTM +8.355
8 Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Malaysia) KTM +8.480
9 Romano Fenati (Italy) FTR Honda +8.600
10 Luis Salom (Spain) Kalex KTM +16.023