MotoGP Misano Round-up: The day of Italians, qualifying sprints and brake lever pulling

 

Story: Harry Fisher
What a mad day of racing! First there was that awful crash in Moto3 that looked horrific but, thankfully, everyone walked away. Then Bezzechi crashed out of the lead at the end of the penultimate lap, leaving Della Porta to win his first ever Moto3 race.

Then there was the Moto2 race which saw the unbelievable spectacle of Romano Fenati grab the front brake lever of Stefano Manzi, in apparent retaliation for an earlier incident between the two riders. What a complete muppet; not only was it fantastically dangerous, but he did it to someone who is riding for the team to whom Fenati has signed to ride for next season. And Manzi will be his team mate! Words almost fail me! Quite rightly he has been banned from the next two races but Cal Crutchlow gave the opinion that he should be banned for life and it would be hard to argue against such a sanction. It has since panned out that Fenati’s current team have relieved him of duties for the rest of the year and his team for next year, the Forward Racing Team riding the new MV Agusta Moto2 machine, have done the same.

Romano Fenati Misano 2018 brake lever

After all that, the MotoGP race was a largely uneventful affair, although there was a great fight between Marquez and Lorenzo.

Qualifying was fantastic; Lorenzo blitzing the outright track record; Miller second on the grid; Marquez trying valiantly but failing to save a slide into the gravel trap, then sprinting/hitching a lift back to the pits to leap straight back onto a bike a mere 2m15s after the crash! I mean, who does that? As Marquez said, that’s almost faster than an in-lap! Despite that, he lined up fifth on the grid, behind Vinales and Dovizioso.

At the start, Lorenzo shot into the lead, followed by Miller, Marquez and Dovizioso. Vinales went from third to fifth and Rossi from seventh to eighth.

Dovizioso soon despatched Marquez and Miller but Lorenzo was looking dangerous up front while Marquez made a hard but fair pass on Miller. Dovi caught up with Lorenzo and the two of them were pulling away from Marquez. Vinales was holding up the following train, with Rins and Crutchlow snapping at his heels and, sure enough, they were both through in short order, while Rossi lost a place to Pedrosa.

By now, five laps in, Marquez was catching the leading pair of Ducatis and Dovizioso got past Lorenzo. Crutchlow got past Rins, who had started on the soft rear tyre that everyone expected to wilt under the strain of the pace, whereas he actually managed to keep good pace and finish fourth.

MotoGP Misano 2018 Valentino Rossi

Dovi was pulling clear at the front, but Marquez wasn’t getting past Lorenzo, at least until lap 13 and when he did, Dovi was 1.7s ahead. Lorenzo had clearly made a mistake that let Marquez by, for he was not dropping away from the Honda, as he would were his tyres dropping off. As if to confirm this, Lorenzo used the power and acceleration of the Ducati to set up a move into turn eight and hold the inside line into turn nine, only to run it a little wide and leave the door open for Marquez to make a block pass. They really were at it hammer and tongs and, again, into turn eight, Lorenzo made the pass, only to run it wide again and let Marquez through. But still Lorenzo wasn’t giving up and through the fast sequence of right handers at the end of the back straight, Lorenzo was mighty, feinting a pass a couple of laps in a row before shoving it inside Marquez with eight laps to go; it is one of the fastest corners on the calendar and to make a pass there takes really big balls. Of course, all this was letting Dovizioso stretch his lead even further.

Meanwhile, Crutchlow was flying in fourth, with a clear track ahead of him and was definitely catching Marquez and Lorenzo, as they scrapped between themselves.

Five laps to go and Dovi was looking comfortable at the front, while Lorenzo and Marquez looked to be in a stalemate as well. Crutchlow seemed to have run out of steam in fourth. Having said all that, Lorenzo and Marquez were starting to close the gap to Dovizioso, or was Dovizioso merely easing off and managing the gap?

Yes, he was! He opened out the gap again but had given Lorenzo a sniff that he could catch his team mate and then, all of a sudden, Lorenzo lost it at turn eight and was down and sliding off the track. He re-mounted but was way down and would finish in seventeenth. Lorenzo just doesn’t make those sort of mistakes.

And so the race ran out, Dovizioso taking Ducati’s first race win at Misano in eight years, Marquez consolidating his championship lead with second and Crutchlow moving to sixth in the championship with a fortunate third.

Six races to go and a lead in the championship of 67 points for Marquez; can anyone prevent him winning? I’ve no idea but it’s going to be fun watching. Personally, I rather wish that Lorenzo wasn’t going to Honda next year as it’s good to see two different makes of bikes fighting at the front for the win; a one-manufacturer train always loses a little in the spectacle. That is, always assuming Lorenzo can win on the Honda!

Andrea Dovizioso Misano 2018 podium

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