Monday, 27 July 2020 11:41

Quartararo bolts for victory ahead of Viñales and Rossi

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The Frenchman's reign continues as Yamaha lock out the podium for the first time since the 2014 Australian GP

For the first time since Phillip Island 2014, Yamaha locked out the podium in a 1-2-3, but it was Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) who once again scorched to victory on Sunday at the Gran Premio Red Bull de Andalucia. Maverick Viñales and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP teammate Valentino Rossi had a memorable fight for the rostrum in which the number 12 came out on top for second – but nevertheless it was The Doctor’s first podium since the 2019 Americas GP as he took P3.

Quartararo got the best launch and from pole, with Rossi also getting away well from P4, but drama unfolded behind as fifth place Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3) crashed in a Turn 1 melee that also then involved Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Bradley Smith (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini). The Portuguese rider was down and out of the race, with Binder running off circuit and dropping to the back and Smith’s race compromised too.

There was a three-way Yamaha scrap at the front though, and it was Quartararo leading Viñales and Rossi, who had a slight gap to the two Pramac Racing riders of the quick starting Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia just behind. Quartararo was getting down to business quickly though with the hammer well and truly down, and Viñales went wide at the final corner trying to pounce. Instead, that let The Doctor through into second, with Quartararo starting to escape and Viñales having lost out some significant ground. Just behind, Bagnaia went for P4 underneath Miller as well but was also wide, before making a miraculous save to keep his GP20 upright.

Quartararo’s lead on Lap 4 was up to 1.5 seconds, and Viñales couldn’t find a way through on Rossi to try and give chase. The Pramac Racing duo were also breathing down the YZR-M1 rider’s neck as the number 20 Petronas Yamaha SRT started to clear off into the distance, and Rossi couldn’t do anything about Quartararo’s pace either. By Lap 6 the Frenchman’s lead was nearly three seconds.

With 10 laps down that lead was looking unassailable, with Bagnaia making progress to get through on Miller and Viñales, as the Italian locked his radar onto the boss’ rear wheel. The race in Jerez was quickly starting to become a race of attrition in the blistering Andalusian heat, however – with some parts of the track over 63 degrees. Then Miller slid out of contention at Turn 9 having made his way through on Viñales at the beginning of the lap, and teammate Bagnaia pounced Rossi for second place.

Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) had made steady progress and was the fastest man on track as he got in the hunt for that illustrious first MotoGP™ podium, but drama was just around the corner in a cruel end to the Italian’s race as he encountered engine troubles with nine laps to go. Heartbreak for Morbidelli, and there would be more incoming for his compatriot Pecco Bagnaia. Safely in P2 ahead of Rossi, smoke started to stream out of his GP20 and onto the back straight, just six laps away from spraying the Prosecco, Bagnaia was out of contention.

This saw Rossi back up into second, with Viñales back in the podium places just behind. El Diablo’s lead was up to nearly nine seconds and the win – barring any mistakes or reliability issues – was surely his. Viñales was clambering all over the back of the number 46, but Rossi was a demon on the brakes and it was really looking like Viñales just wouldn’t be able to find a way through. Then though, after not having put a wheel wrong the whole race, Rossi was slightly wide at Turn 9 – and Top Gun pounced. Viñales was up to second and was able to immediately get some bike lengths on the veteran Italian, although the Doctor couldn’t relax with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) just eight tenths down the road...

At the front though it was all about one man. Quartararo made no mistakes in the brutal conditions to take his second consecutive victory, cementing his lead in the Championship over second place Viñales. The Spaniard salvaged 20 points which could be crucial in the long run, but he had no answer for his 2021 teammate in Jerez. Rossi’s return to the rostrum was more than welcomed for the 41-year-old, the number 46 putting in a mesmerising ride to notch up his 199th MotoGP™ podium, and his 235th across all classes.

Nakagami’s P4 was the Japanese rider’s best ride in the premier class as he finished just 6.113 off the win and half a second from the podium, putting the Japanese rider 4th in the Championship heading to Brno. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) banished the demons from the Spanish GP to finish 5th seven days later too – his equal-best in MotoGP™. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), meanwhile, recovered from a P14 starting slot to take sixth in Jerez after a third place finish last weekend, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in P7 the only KTM to finish in a tough day for the Austrian factory with Oliveira, Binder and Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech3) all crashing out.

Just 1.8 seconds behind Pol Espargaro was Repsol Honda Team’s Alex Marquez, the reigning Moto2™ World Champion producing an impressive ride in just his second MotoGP™ race, in the toughest of conditions, to take the chequered flag in P8. The lone Repsol Honda managed to beat Johann Zarco (Hublot Reale Avintia) as the Frenchman took P9, with the remarkable Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) defying the odds to complete the race and take 10th. An unbelievable and super-human effort from the Spaniard after suffering a dislocation-fracture to his shoulder eight days ago. Tito Rabat (Hublot Reale Avintia), Smith and the second injured rider on the grid, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol), were the final finishers – a sterling effort from the latter to complete the laps.

Binder once again showed his cracking pace after dropping back in the Turn 1 incident, but the South African rookie then sadly crashed out unhurt at Turn 13. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) also crashed – riders ok.

50 from 50: Quartararo has had a perfect couple of weekends in Jerez and will head to Brno as the points leader, with Viñales taking home two second places – far from a disaster – and looking to build on a successful weekend. Also expected in Czechia is the return of reigning World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) to the MotoGP™ arena... and we can't wait for more.

MotoGP™ podium

1 Fabio Quartararo - Petronas Yamaha SRT - Yamaha - 41:22.666

2 Maverick Viñales - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - +4.495

2 Valentino Rossi - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - +5.546 ...

Fabio Quartararo: "Oh my god! That one was tough. Actually we normally start with a new tyre on the grid, and today we decided with Yamaha to make the warm up lap three laps to see if the tyre was ok, everything... I'm so happy we had amazing pace from the beginning to make the gap, so fast, I was so happy because I made my pace. It was really tough, when I got to two seconds, to make it four was so difficult. An amazing feeling! What can I say? Just thanks to my team, they did an amazing job, worked a lot during the races, and to my family at home... for sure they're starting to get drunk already now to celebrate! But honestly, this feels so good to win back-to-back here in Jerez."

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