Montmelo, Spain – After battling with the admittedly unwieldy Ducati for two seasons, suddenly Jorge Lorenzo could do no wrong as he swept to a second consecutive MotoGP victory from pole at the Catalan Motorcycle Grand Prix, pulling away at the end to win by more than four seconds from Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi.
South African riders suffered mixed fortunes at Montmelo as Brad Binder took a hard-fought sixth in Moto2 while Steven Odendaal battled battled home 17th and Darryn Binder crashed out on the very first corner of the Moto3 race.
Lorenzo didn’t get the perfect launch from pole position, with Marquez out-dragging the Ducati into the first corner. Andrea Iannone (Suzuki) also made a great start, slotting into second on the opening laps, with Lorenzo close behind in third. He wasn’t there for long though, diving past Iannone and Marquez to lead into Turn 1 on the second lap and from there, it was hammer time.
By now, Andrea Dovizioso on the second Ducati Team machine was tucked in behind Marquez in third, before he crashed out at Turn 5 on lap 9, for his third DNF of the season and another huge dent in his title aspirations.
Meanwhile Lorenzo and Marquez had pulled the pin, with Rossi picking up third position, 3.2 seconds back. The gap between the two Spaniards at the front stayed at just under a second, with Lorenzo looking imperious as he circulated at a steady 1m40s, lap after lap. In the end, the championship leader had no answer, and eventually finished 4.479 seconds adrift of Lorenzo – who moved up to joint seventh with team-mate Dovizioso in the overall standings.
Rossi was a lonely third at the chequered flag, with Honda privateer Cal Crutchlow enjoying a fantastic ride to finish as top independent rider in fourth. Crutchlow was locked in battle with factory Honda team rider Dani Pedrosa in the latter stages of the race before getting the better of him down into Turn 4; Pedrosa rounded out the top five.
Yamaha rookie Maverick Viñales’ first-lap problems continued as he finished the opening lap down 10th after starting fourth, but he managed to salvage sixth at the flag, holding off Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco after a race-long dice. Ducati privateer Danilo Petrucci crossed the line eighth, with fellow Ducati rider Alvaro Bautista seven seconds further back in ninth and Iannone rounding out the top 10, having slipped right back after a fantastic start.
Fabio Quartararo (Speed Up) stormed to a stunning maiden Grand Prix – and his first podium since Assen in 2015 – finishing 2.492s ahead of KTM works rider Miguel Oliveira who came through from 17th on the grid, with local hero and 2017 race winner Alex Marquez third.
It wasn’t the start Quartararo (who, despite his Italian first name and Spanish surname, is actually French) would have wanted from pole position, dropping down to fourth on the opening lap as Marquez grabbed the hole shot going down into Turn 1, with Marcel Schroetter and Francesco Bagnaia slotting in behind. Oliveira again produced a lightning start to get into the top six on the first lap after starting 17th, and by lap 6 he was shadowing Marquez in second.
Oliviera hit the front a lap later, but Quartararo was on the move, passing Marquez into Turn 10, setting his sights on Oliveira and making his move at Turn 4 on lap 9 after the KTM rider ran slightly wide.
From there, it was an exhibition job for the 19-year-old. Quartararo was consistently the only rider circulating in less than 1m44, setting new lap records lap after lap to create a 2.2 second gap to Oliveira by lap 18. Oliviera, meanwhile, had pulled away from Marquez, who was holding off the chasing Xavi Vierge and recovering team-mate Schroetter, who ran wide at Turn 1 on lap 6 after setting the fastest lap of the race.
Quartararo took the chequered flag 2.492 seconds clear of Oliviera, while Marquez held off Schroetter to earn a home turf podium. Oliviera was then involved in a scary looking incident with Simone Corsi going into Turn 1 on the cool down lap; luckily neither was hurt.
Vierge was a solid fifth at his home GP, with Binder on the second works KTM holding off a late charge from Lorenzo Baldassarri to finish sixth by just 0.087s. Championship leader Bagnaia had a disappointing day in eighth, which cut his overall standings lead to just one point over Oliveira.
Sam Lowes (KTM) had a phenomenal ride to ninth after being forced to start from the back of the grid with a fuel pump issue, with team-mate Iker Lecuona rounding out the top 10.
Honda privateer Enea Bastianini took his first win since Motegi 2016 with KTM riders Marco Bezzecchi and Gabriel Rodirigo second and third respectively, just 0.003s apart,for Rodrigo’s first podium and the first for Argentina since Sebastian Porto in 2005.
Title contender Jrge Martin (Honda) crashed out of the lead on lap 9 at Turn 9, with championship rival Aron Canet, also on a Honda, involved in a huge crash at Turn 5 on lap 16 with KTM duo Albert Arenas and Nicolo Bulega that ended with Canet being stretchered away. Then, on lap 18 of 21, there was more drama as Jaume Masia (KTM) collided with Andrea Migno (KTM under braking into Turn 1; both were taken to the medical centre for a check-up.
Martin pulled a perfect start, immediately breaking away with Tatsuki Suzuki (Honda) the only rider able to say with him; the gap was consistent at two seconds, but after Martin went down Bastianini and the leading pack closed in on Suzuki to create a leading group of 11 riders.
A huge battle for the lead developed, with John McPhee (KTM) Bastianini, Bezzecchi, Rodrigo and Suzuki the five riders still in the hunt after the two huge crashes. McPhee held the advantage going into the final lap, but Bastianini expertly slipstreamed his way to the front, with Rodrigo and Bezzecchi also getting past McPhee. Bastianini rode a flawless last lap to take the win as championship leader Bezzecchi pipped Rodrigo on the line to grab second, and McPhee had to settle for fourth, his best result of the season do far.
Suzuki came home an excellent fifth, with reigning Junior Moto3 world champion Alonso Lopez (Honda) sixth, 5.961s adrift of the top five. Kaito Toba (Honda) was seventh, with Fabio Di Giannantonio (Honda) picking up what looked like an impossible top 10 ten finish in eighth, after running wide in Turn 5 on lap four and dropping back to 26th. Dennis Foggia (KTM) posted his best result of the season in ninth, with wild card Raul Fernandez (KTM) getting a fantastic top 10 finish.