San Marino GP, Misano – weekend preview: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
Championship contender Valentino Rossi took a stunning podium at the British GP despite the track having proved a tough one for the 9-time champion in the past. Taking back 3 points from Marc Marquez’ (Repsol Honda Team) title lead and beating the Spaniard to the rostrum, the duel between the two was a stunner as the Italian made his 250th start in the premier class – and became the first to reach that milestone. Maverick Viñales may have been untouchable at the front in the UK, but Rossi was the only title contender to gain at Silverstone – and the next stop for the MotoGP™ paddock swaps the difficult newer track for the comforts of home.
Misano is Rossi’s heartland. Although Mugello is the track the Italian considers his spiritual home, the Movistar Yamaha rider’s hometown of Tavullia lies incredibly close to Misano Adriatico and the track that bears the name of his late friend Marco Simoncelli. With the glittering blue of the Adriatic just a
stone’s throw from the shores of the circuit, 2015 was a sell out as the yellow smoke rose above the grandstands and MotoGP™ roared back into town. A classic place to race, the ‘Doctor’ took wins at his closest track to home in 2008 and 2009 in his most recent world championship winning campaigns, and returned to the top step in 2014 as title favourite Marquez made his first mistake of the year. 2016 has had its ups and downs for Rossi – but not in his pace, and he’ll be hoping to make more gains with the home crowd behind him to the end.
Although Misano could sometimes prove synonymous with Valentino Rossi, the Italian track is also a home race for mythical manufacturer Ducati. The British GP may have been more tough than the Borgo Panigale factory expected, with a P6 for Andrea Dovizioso and a crash for Andrea Iannone, but the taste of their Austrian GP victory and 1-2 finish will still be fresh in memory as the paddock touches down on the Riviera di Rimini. The Desmosedici is now a true threat at the front, and the team also count on having recently completed a private test at the track to help them get back in the mix for victory. The home crowd will be behind the Iannone and Dovizioso, as Misano World Circuit is painted both yellow and red.
Marquez, after battling hard with Rossi and then eventual P2 finisher Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda), was just off the podium in the UK but is still an incredible 50 points clear of Rossi at the top of the table – and took the most recent premier class win at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli. Marquez’ Silverstone was not the smooth ride he’s come to pull off more often than not in 2016, instead proving a tyre-preserving trip through to the last third of the race followed by a signature, spectacular dogfight. With a 53 point lead going into the event, the British GP saw the Repsol Honda rider let loose a little as he fought with Rossi and then Crutchlow, taking more risks than he has often seemed willing to do this season. With one small mistake seeing him miss the podium, the 2013 and 2014 champion nevertheless left the UK showdown with a 50 point lead safe and sound – and only 6 races remain. The rider from Cervera took a P2 in his rookie appearance in Misano in 2013, before falling out of contention with his first error of his record-breaking 2014 campaign. Marquez was on the top step once again in mixed conditions in 2015 however, and with 50 points to cushion the risk will be looking to make a point behind enemy lines. As will compatriot Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP).
Since he moved up to MotoGP™ in 2008, Lorenzo has kept his name pencilled on the trophy on the Riviera di Rimini. With Silverstone proving a tough race after a setup gamble that didn’t pay off, Lorenzo will want to hit back quickly in Misano as the points gap between him and teammate Rossi grew slightly once again. The ‘Spartan”s record in Italy makes for incredible reading, and Misano is another ‘Lorenzo track’ like Mugello that the Mallorcan will be hoping to conquer. Three P2 finishes in his first three seasons in the premier class prefaced a run of 3 wins at the second Italian venue on the calendar, and the Spaniard took another P2 in 2014 despite a tough start to the season. 2015 saw a blip as a mistake saw him crash out in the wet, but Lorenzo has finished in the top two positions at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli every time he has taken the chequered flag.
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa’s fortunes in the British GP proved a contrast to rival Lorenzo’s. After struggling to find the right direction with the bike and tyres following so many off-season changes in the premier class, Pedrosa had found cooler and wet conditions particularly tough – until Silverstone. Putting in the work on the dry track on Friday, the time on the circuit proved fruitful as the 3-time world champion got back in the battle at the front and showed much improved pace in qualifying and the race, despite the conditions. Pedrosa has five podiums at Misano, too – including a win – and will want to keep refining his progress as he pushes forward to take back P4 in the championship from Silverstone victor Maverick Viñales.
Viñales was spectacular in the British GP. With the cooler conditions helping the Suzuki, the 2013 Moto3™ world champion simply took off at the front and never looked back, putting in a performance as close to perfection as his team could have dreamed. The victory was the first for the Japanese manufacturer since 2007 and the first in the dry since 2000, making Silverstone a historic moment for both man and machine. With his first win under his belt, Viñales will now only want more – and knows with increasing certainty exactly how to get it.
There are now six races remaining in 2016 and a maximum of 150 points left on the table. A 50 point advantage leaves Marquez in a great position at the top of the standings, but the battle to catch the championship leader most certainly rages on – with Rossi in hot pursuit as MotoGP™ heads back behind the yellow curtain.
Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) must have thought his 2016 title hopes had been seriously dented when he crashed in training ahead of the British GP and broke his collarbone. With nothing going to script, however, after the end of the race in Brno had seen the gap between Rins and title leader Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport) drop to 19 points, an on-track tangle between Zarco and P3 title contender Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) a week later in the UK saw both fail to score. Rins, who qualified in P19 on the grid at Silverstone as he struggled with the injury, crossed the line in P7 after a stunning ride through the pain barrier that saw him prove the only title contender on the day to make a gain. Zarco was penalized for irresponsible riding after making contact with Lowes in the fight for the podium, and was classified in P22 in the final results – with Lowes just ahead in 21st and neither scoring. The championship that seemed destined to be defended by the Frenchman is now wide open once again, with the gap only 10 points at the top as the paddock heads back to Italy.
The pressure is on. With Zarco having clawed back a sizable deficit since the earlier stages of the season to take over at the top, the Frenchman is now firmly in the crosshairs of his rivals once again. Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, which will will host the Gran Premio TIM di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, is a good familiar hunting ground for the reigning intermediate class champion, however. With a podium in 2014 on the third step of the podium, Zarco went two better in his title winning year to take the honours last season from then-champion Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 MarcVDS) – which should be a good memory as he prepares for another tough battle with the grid hot on his heels.
Rins’ memories of Misano in the Moto2™ class will be a little more mixed, after a challenge for the lead gone wrong in 2015 that later saw him black flagged. Despite the error on the day, the Spaniard will know he has the pace in Misano – having taken two wins in a row in the Moto3™ class in the preceding two race weekends at the Italian venue and been challenging at the front upon his graduation to Moto2™. With another few days for the collarbone to heal and his strength to improve, good damage limitation at the very least will be on the cards for the multiple GP winner – with even more motivation being so close to his championship rival once again.
Sam Lowes led every session at Silverstone until the lights went out for the race. The man most needing to cut down the gap as he remains 44 points behind the lead, Lowes was pushed wide by Zarco in the British GP in a move deemed to be the Frenchman’s fault by Race Direction, and lost control of his bike as the two riders headed off the track. Keeping calm and carrying on, the Brit crossed the line near the back in P21 after the incident and failed to score – but Zarco’s penalty classified the reigning champion one position lower. Looking forward, 2013 WorldSSP champion Lowes has taken a pole position and a podium in that championship at Misano, and will be hoping his experience counts as he encounters the venue once again in Moto2™. He has so far taken a P18 in his Moto2™ rookie year before suffering a DNF in 2015 at the Riviera di Rimini circuit, and will be looking further back to judge his form as the next race approaches quickly.
After the drama at Silverstone, another man to gain in the championship was Garage Plus Interwetten rider Tom Luthi. Luthi, who suffered a big crash in qualifying for the Czech GP the event previous and was forced to miss that race, came back in stunning style in Silverstone as the former 125 world champion escaped at the front and let the drama roll behind. Crossing the line with a comfortable lead over P2 man Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), Luthi’s 25 point haul saw him take back P4 in the title chase from Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) – and close to within 6 points of Lowes in P3. Luthi is 50 points down on Zarco at the top, but the landscape can change in an instant in motorcycle racing – and the experienced Swiss rider is more than aware of that. With a top ten finish or much better for Luthi in every Moto2™ visit to the
Misano circuit – and a podium – the Interwetten-backed British GP winner will be focused forward as his title campaign relights.
Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) will be on the lookout for another podium at his home track, as will teammate Alex Marquez as he looks for another top 5. Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) was a frontrunner in the British GP too, along with Brno winner Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP), and the Moto2™ race is sure to be another classic as the grid roll back into Italy.
The Gran Premio TIM di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini begins on the 9th September with Free Practice, ahead of race day on Sunday 11th as the final countdown to Valencia starts to loom on the horizon.
The Moto3™ world championship in 2016 has seen Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) streak away at the front, with key rivals Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3) both suffering with some bad luck and tough races. With Romano Fenati sidelined and Navarro having suffered an incident in Silverstone that saw him DNF, the championship lead for Binder at the top of the table is now more than three race victories’ worth of points. Another key move at the top of the points standings in England saw Francesco Bagnaia (PULL&BEAR Aspar Mahindra) take a P2 from pole to move ahead of compatriot Enea Bastianini into P3. The ‘Beast’, however, took his first Moto3™victory at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli one year ago, and will be looking to push himself back up the order to do it again.
Binder has had an incredible run in 2016. Consistent at the start of the year until he hit another gear with his stunning win from the back in Jerez at the Spanish GP, Binder has since kept himself at the front or on the top step as his rivals have faltered or fallen. Misano has seen the South African get some good points hauls even before his arrival to the top of the table, and the stage is set for the class leader to make a decision: defend, or attack. With a cushion big enough to afford to do either, all eyes will be on Binder as the pressure starts to ramp up in the final third of the season.
Jorge Navarro’s luck was once again tough at Silverstone. After breaking his leg following his first win at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the title contender has had a tough run despite having showed some incredible pace and judgment. With time running out, the Spaniard will be hoping to bounce back quickly and haul in some points. The GP winner has only had one race at Misano in the world championship after sitting the event out through injury in 2015, but Navarro did score points in his debut at the Riviera di Rimini track in 2014.
The Italian duel for P3 in the title saw Bagnaia overtake Bastianini at Silverstone, with absent compatriot Fenati now beginning to fall down the order. Bagnaia, after a first win in Assen, then took his first pole in the UK and followed it up with a skillful P2 finish behind Binder – his confidence will be high and his future is already secure as he prepares to step up to Moto2™. Bastianini has had a more difficult season so far in 2016 than his 2015 exploits, but the ‘Beast’ comes into his second home race of the year at Misano with the
best memories of anyone on the grid; taking an incredible win last season in a classic Moto3™ fight at the front. Bastianini will also be looking to stamp some authority on rookie teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio as the new kid on the Gresini Racing Moto3 block continues to impress.
Moto3™ lead the charge on Friday 9th September as they head out for FP1 at 9am local time (GMT+1). 86 points, 6 races and one of the most exciting race weekends of the year on the horizon – will Binder attack, or defend?