Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi returned to the top rostrum after a brilliant performance at the Circuito de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain the last weekend, celebrating his second victory of the season. Team-mate Jorge Lorenzo suffered from a premature ending to the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya after a race incident caused by Ducati’s Andrea Iannone.
Lorenzo also set a strong pace over the first stages of the race, but was unable to hold his lead because of front tire grip issues. Riding in fifth place, he was looking to take home vital points for the championship, until Andrea Iannone clipped him and caused a DNF (did not finish) result for both of them.
Starting from fifth on the grid Rossi had his work cut out for him as he dropped back to eighth when exiting the first corner. The Doctor immediately put his nimble YZR-M1 to work and carved his way through the pack like a knife through butter. By the end of the first lap, he had overtaken Hector Barbera and Andrea Dovizioso. Riding in sixth place as he crossed the line for the first time, Rossi moved on to his next targets, Maverick Viñales and Andrea Iannone. He overtook the both of them with a great maneuver and quickly passed Dani Pedrosa to earn a spot in the top three with still 22 laps remaining to reel in the front riders.
As he pursued Marc Marquez, the Italian quickened his pace setting a fastest lap of the race so far. He soon reached the back of his rival’s bike and smoothly passed the Spaniard on lap six and swiftly moved on to pass his teammate to take over the lead on the very next lap. Now with a clear track in front of him, he put the hammer down, but he was unable to shake off Marquez, who was riding in second place.
The end of the race saw a brilliant fight between the two key protagonists. The local rider made a move in turn five, but Rossi was quick to respond with a brilliant move in turn two a lap later. Marquez used the slipstream to find a way through again, but Rossi fought back. With two laps to go the Italian was in Marquez’ slipstream and needed no second invitation when the Spaniard left a gap on the penultimate lap in turn seven, allowing Rossi to make the race-winning pass. Marquez was unable to make up the lost time, while Rossi rode towards his second victory of the season, holding a 2.652-second margin over the finish line.
Fast start for Lorenzo
Lorenzo had a lightning fast start from second on the grid to take the holeshot. He rode the early stages of the race exactly as he had planned, increasing his lead to over 0.7 second by lap two, whilst the 20 riders behind him tried to sort out their order.
The Mallorcan rider pushed hard, but was unable to completely break away from Marquez in second place and his fast approaching Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team-mate. He was forced to let the pair go past with 19 laps to go as he struggled to find grip on the harder front tire. Lorenzo tried to make his Yamaha as wide as possible, yet Pedrosa also found his way past. He was then put under pressure by Viñales. A hot battle followed, with multiple overtakes from both riders, but in the end Lorenzo was unable to stick with his compatriot as the grip-level of his tire also deteriorated. The Spaniard then cleverly focused on collecting as many points as possible and was determined to keep Andrea Iannone at bay, but then disaster struck. Nine laps before the end Iannone ran into the back of Lorenzo’s bike whilst entering turn ten, thus ending the race for both riders.
Ecstatic with the win, Rossi said after the race, “I think it was a perfect Sunday, because this morning we improved the setting of the bike a lot and after the warm-up I felt more confident about the race. The race was great! Though the start was not fantastic, I was strong enough to come back, do some good overtaking and arrive in front. From that moment I tried to push at 100 percent to go away alone, but unfortunately I wasn’t fast enough to pull away from Marquez. I tried to stay quiet and ride well, because I felt I had a good pace and felt good with the bike. At the end I was ready for the battle, which was a good one, with a lot of overtaking and I was ready to give it a try.”
“You can’t wish for a better race, I think. This is one of my favorite tracks and it was from 2009 that I didn’t win here, and that wasn’t great for me. For this reason I’m more happy today and the battle with Marquez we can put on the same level as the battle with Lorenzo. What happened in Mugello was very sad because I was ready to fight for the victory there, which was fantastic. Over the last week I just thought I had to try do the same, to arrive ready for the race. Together with my team we did a great job and I think this is the best way to forget about the zero points in Mugello,” he added.
Rossi’s first place earns him 25 points. This result keeps him in third place in the championship standings on 103 points, now just 12 points behind Lorenzo in second position.
Yamaha MotoGP Team Director Massimo Meregalli for his part said, “Until the start of the race it had been a very strange weekend because we faced many issues, first with the front tire wear, then with the new track layout and finally with the tire choice. The decision on the tires was never a question because there was only one option for us, but when we tested the hard tire in FP4, the riders’ feelings were not good at all, so we did not know what to expect from the race.”
“Our crew reacted in a magnificent way because they drastically revised the set up of both bikes, especially to make them suitable for T4, which was our weakest sector.”
“The race was another bittersweet one after Mugello. I’m almost speechless in front of Valentino’s supremacy on track today. I believe he’s written a new page in the history of this sport, winning at Montmelò seven years after his last victory here. He’s been able to recover from a less than perfect start that moved him back to the eighth place, and then he’s given the race a rhythm that was unmatchable for his rivals,” he said.