Sunday, 24 October 2021 17:49

Marquez leads Repsol Honda 1-2 at dramatic Misano

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Pecco crashes and Quartararo secures the crown

The number 93 wins, Pol Espargaro takes his first podium with Honda, Pecco crashes from the lead and Bastianini pips Quartararo to third with a last lap lunge

Where do we start? First, the race winner. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was back on top in the Gran Premio Nolan del Made in Italy e dell'Emilia Romagna, backing up his stunner at COTA with victory at a clockwise circuit for the first time this season. He was followed home by teammate Pol Espargaro in the first Repsol Honda 1-2 since 2017 and the number 44's first podium with Honda, with Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) putting in another beast of a ride to complete the rostrum on home turf – after a last lap lunge on a newly-crowned World Champion, no less.

Meanwhile, Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) escaped in the lead as he went all-in, searing around Misano in his bid to stop Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) taking the crown. But it was a push too far and Pecco slid out, rider ok but title hopes over as Quartararo's 52 point advantage guaranteed him the crown – backed up by a fourth place in the race too.

Bagnaia didn't get the best start but retained the holeshot as teammate Jack Miller declined to engage in any friendly fire from second, with Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) therefore briefly passing the Australian but Miller hitting back soon after to tag back onto the tail of his teammate. For Quartararo, the start wasn't the best either as the Frenchman went from 15th to 17th, but he was soon back up three places to one ahead of where he started.

After only a couple of laps, there was a breakaway trio of Pecco, Miller and Marc Marquez, and some drama elsewhere: former reigning Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) jumped the start and was given the requisite Double Long Lap, but then the number 36 was out anyway, coming together with Danilo Petrucci (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing). No further action was taken, although it was investigated.

The Bagnaia-Miller-Marquez train had almost a couple of seconds in hand by then, but Miller was starting to come under some serious pressure from Marquez. And then, even more drama - Miller crashed out. Rider ok but leaving his teammate in the lead and Marquez on the charge behind him - with Pol Espargaro in third with company from Oliveira, Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini).

By 20 to go, Bagnaia and Marquez were nearly three seconds clear, Pol Espargaro vs Oliveira was the fight for third and Quartararo was still down in 10th, behind Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar). Soon after though the Suzuki and the Yamaha managed to pass the Pramac machine, the tension still hanging in the air as Pecco led Marquez and Quartararo made his moves.

On Lap 13, Martin crashed at Turn 1 and Quartararo was then embroiled in a five-rider battle – with fifth to ninth split by less than a second. But the Frenchman, keeping calm, picked his way past teammate Franco Morbidelli and then front-row starter Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia) to climb to P7 on Lap 15, although Pecco continuing to hold the relentless Marc Marquez at bay.

With 10 to go, Quartararo sliced his way past Rins for P6, with Aleix Espargaro then next on El Diablo’s radar. And sure enough, with nine to go, Quartararo was ahead of the Aprilia RS-GP and now in fifth. Barring a disaster from Oliveira, that was as good as it was going to get for Quartararo, with the KTM star eight seconds up the road. Or so we thought....

Meanwhile, 17 seconds ahead of Quartararo, Bagnaia was holding up his end of the bargain. All Pecco could do on home soil was win, but he had an eight-time World Champion hanging onto his coattails. Looking incredibly strong, the Italian was starting to pull clear though... before Lap 23 of the Emilia-Romagna GP became the title-deciding lap of 2021. At Turn 15, where Miller crashed earlier in the race, Bagnaia suddenly slid out. Giving it all he had but just dancing over the limit with pace Marquez would later describe as 'unreal', it was over. Straight back up on his feet, Pecco knew. Ducati knew. Yamaha knew. Quartararo knew: a new MotoGP™ World Champion was about to be crowned.

Pecco’s crash, closely followed by an Oliveira crash right after, left Marc Marquez P1, Pol Espargaro P2 and Quartararo, the new World Champion, holding a sensational third place from P15 on the grid. But Bastianini had other ideas, the Beast on an electric charge in the latter stages. He wasn’t going to allow Quartararo to have an easy cruise home to the podium, and he was homing in.

Up ahead, the chequered flag came out and Marc Marquez won his second race in a row, his third of the season, and first on a clockwise track in 2021... much more difficult turf. Pol Espargaro came home second to hand Repsol Honda a fantastic 1-2, their first since 2017, and returned to the rostrum for the first time in 2021 and first time with the Japanese marque.

Meanwhile Bastianini, with a move at Turn 14, got the better of Quartararo on the last lap, cementing another stunning rostrum to take the lead in the Rookie of the Year fight. And then came the the 2021 MotoGP™ World Champion: Fabio Quartararo. Jubilation erupted for the Frenchman and Yamaha after a phenomenal season.

Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) crossed the line in fifth to beat sixth place Rins by 1.2s, with Aleix Espargaro taking P7. P8 went the way of Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) who claims his best result in Aprilia colours, and Marini secured his goal with a second top 10 of the season in P9 in his special Grazie Vale colour scheme.

Speaking of, Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) crossed the line in 10th in his final MotoGP™ race on Italian soil: a fitting send-off to the nine-time World Champion in front of his adoring fans after a tougher start to the race, and now two races remain in Portugal and Valencia to enjoy The Doctor doing what he loves best – racing motorcycles.

Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) had an eventful day. The South African crashed on the sighting lap, started from the back of the grid and ended up finishing P11 after another impressive charge. Michele Pirro (Ducati Lenovo Team), Andrea Dovizioso (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Morbidelli and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) – the latter despite a crash – were the final points scorers at Misano.

And so the sun sets on the premier class Championship fight and a dramatic day in Emilia-Romagna. An emotional one too, as Quartararo won, Rossi bid farewell to his home crowd and Bagnaia was forced to cede. But the Ducati man came out in pitlane to congratulate Quartararo, as did Miller, and will surely be a force to be reckoned with in next year's battle too...

Now we head back to Portugal for the Algarve GP, and the title fight may be over but the racing will remain as exciting as ever. Join us next time out for the penultimate race weekend of the season and felicitations, Fabio!!!!

RESULTS
MotoGP™ podium
1 Marc Marquez - Repsol Honda Team - Honda - 41'52.830
2 Pol Espargaro - Repsol Honda Team - Honda - +4.859
3 Enea Bastianini* - Avintia Esponsorama - Ducati - +12.013  (*Independent Team rider)

...

MotoGP™ podium L-R: Pol Espargaro, Marquez, Bastianini

Marc Marquez: "For me this is the most important win of the year. Winning at a right-handed circuit, with the corners where I struggled a lot this year, I’m still struggling a bit but it’s progress and evolution, something special. It’s something that will give me a lot of confidence for these last two races but especially in winter time, to be calmer and more patient. With time everything is going a good way and that’s the most important. Toay the pace was unreal, Pecco was riding super fast. When I saw the 32 low, 32 low, I mean.. I don’t know how I was able to say there! But on the lap where I gave up, because I saw he was so fast on that lap, he crashed. I was putting pressure on him but Pecco was the fastest rider on the track today. And aside from that, today is not my day, it’s Fabio’s day and I want to congratulate him. He deserves it, he did an incredible season and job, so congrats to him and the Yamaha team… we’ll try and make it difficult next year for him!”

Rossi took to the grid after the race - his last on home turf - and was presented with quite a keepsake by dignitaries including FIM President Jorge Viegas, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi di Maio, Emilia-Romagna President Stefano Bonaccini, FMI President Giovanni Copioli and Undersecretary of Sport to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers Valentina Vezzali

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