Veteran Yamaha Movistar rider Valentino Rossi redeemed himself after the unfortunate events at Mugello to win the Catalunya MotoGP from Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez. It was a classic battle that saw the seasoned Italian through as Honda riders Marquez and Dani Pedrosa finished second and third. In an unfortunate 17th lap crash, Rossi’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo lost his championship lead after colliding with Ducati’s Andrea Iannone. The race was instantly over for Lorenzo and Iannone at that point. Despite finishing second, Marquez emerged as the new championship leader. Rossi, popularly nicknamed as the Doctor in MotoGP circuits, had a bad start but pulled himself through by taking an aggressive stance. By lap 7, Rossi had come to the front with Marquez and the two riders broke away from the pack, and barring some changes in between, stayed in top podium contention for the remainder of the race. A costly mistake in the penultimate lap by Marquez ensured the top spot for Rossi.
The weekend at Catalunya racing circuit began on a solemn note. In Friday’s second Moto2 practice session, 24-year-old Spanish rider Luis Salom lost control of his bike on turn 12 and collided at full speed with airbags at the edge of the circuit. The impact caused a cardiac arrest and Salom was immediately transported in an ambulance to a Barcelona hospital but his life could not be saved. The practice sessions were shifted to a track layout used by Formula 1. That change eliminated the corner, where Salom had lost control of his machine. Salom’s tragic death brought a pall of gloom and Catalunya winner Rossi dedicated his win to Salom.
In the qualifying, Marquez took the pole ahead of Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo and teammate Dani Pedrosa. Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera was fourth; Rossi fifth; Suzuki Ecstar rider Maverick Vinales sixth; LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow seventh; Ducati’s Andrea Iannone eighth, Octo Pramac’s Danilo Petrucci ninth and the other Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso finished tenth. As the main event got underway on Sunday, Marquez couldn’t hold on to his top pole position as Lorenzo blasted away to pass Marquez at Turn 1. He held the lead as the entire field completed the first lap. Meanwhile, Rossi dropped from the fifth to the seventh position in the opening melee. However in the second lap, Rossi and Suzuki Ecstar rider Maverick Vinales made an incredible pass on Ducati’s Andrea Iannone, who dropped to the sixth place. Pedrosa had kept his third position intact but the Doctor came charging on his tail.
On Turn 10 of the third lap, Rossi passed Pedrosa and by lap seven, he went into the lead by passing Marquez and Lorenzo. Marquez lost another place as Dani Pedrosa passed him as well after lap seven. It was now Rossi, Lorenzo, Pedrosa, Marquez and Vinales as the top five. However, Marquez soon regained the third spot. On lap seventeen, an unbelievable incident took place. Andrea Iannone could not brake in time at Turn 10 and smashed his bike into the back of Lorenzo. The collision brought both riders down and their race ended at that point. Lorenzo was furious with Iannone, who attempted an apology but the Yamaha rider and 2016 championship leader was too distraught. Iannone was penalized to start the next race at Assen from last place but that wouldn’t help Lorenzo in any way.
Marquez came back at Rossi in the last five laps and it was a battle as fierce as any seen on the MotoGP circuit. Marquez did his best in trying to pass Rossi, succeeded on a few occasions but lost the lead again to the Doctor. Marquez still had a chance on Turn 7 of the penultimate lap but he ran wide. That error cost Marquez many precious seconds and Rossi did not fail to capitalize by completing the last two laps in lead.
With Marquez taking the second place, he moved at the top on championship leaderboard. The best things to happen in the end were the warm handshakes between Rossi and Marquez and it looked as if all the hard feelings were buried that had lingered since their tussle in Sepang last year. Pedrosa kept his third position on the grid to take the third podium place, followed by Maverick Vinales. Monster Yamaha rider Pol Espargaro was fifth; LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow sixth; Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso seventh; Alvaro Bautista of Aprilia eighth; Octo Pramac’s Danilo Petrucci was ninth and Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera finished tenth. All podium winners came up wearing shirts to honor the memory of the late Luis Salom and Valentino Rossi dedicated his victory to the departed soul.
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