Viñales Ends Suzuki’s Long Wait
Ten years after Suzuki won its first MotoGP race, Maverick Viñales won the company’s second, running away out front and leaving the pursuing pack to entertain the 75,000 fans
CAL CRUTCHLOW, Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and Andrea Iannone used Silverstone’s wide, open spaces to slug it out for much of the race, while Jorge Lorenzo endured yet another nightmare. Viñales’ victory made some more history — he was the seventh different premier-class winner in seven races; the first time that’s happened since the dawn of Grand Prix racing in 1949. The main reasons behind this thrilling unpredictability are MotoGP’s new unified software, new Michelin tyres and a run of inconsistent weather.
This was one of those great races where no one had a clue who would win: rainaffected practice and qualifying had prevented everyone from doing long runs to fully assess tyre wear. And that turned out to be a big plus for Suzuki, who always struggle when the more experienced teams have time to get 100 per cent dialled in.
When the lights went out, Viñales shot straight into the lead, but moments later the red flags came out following a huge smash involving Pol Espargaro (Monster Yamaha) and Loris Baz (Avintia Ducati). The restart was pretty much a carbon copy — Viñales swept past Crutchlow to take the lead on the first lap and pulled off a kind of magic disappearing act: by lap two he was ninetenths ahead, by lap five 2.2, by lap ten 3.7, and by lap 13 of 19, 5.1; then he eased off to finish thee seconds ahead.
“The bike was perfect; I could use the front more and had great corner speed,” said the 21-year-old, who quits Suzuki in November. “I couldn’t believe it, to escape like that with so many great riders behind me. Finally, I won a MotoGP race! The front-row start was the key, and now I want more! This win is so great, especially for the team and the factory who deserve it for all their work.”
While Viñales continued his regal progress, all hell was breaking loose behind, with Crutchlow, Rossi, Marquez and Iannone locking horns. Silverstone is wide, open and fast, so it creates similar kinds of races to Phillip Island: lots of room for riders to choose different lines and run crazy close to one another.
The battle swung this way and that. At first Marquez seemed to have the upper hand in battle but he soon realised he had made a mistake on tyre choice — he chose the soft front and he soon found he was struggling with stability into corners. And he also had rear-end pumping issues, losing places to Crutchlow and then Iannone and he fought to keep his RCV on the straight and narrow.
All that allowed Rossi to get the better of the skirmish and move into second at one-third distance. It seemed as if he would then set off in pursuit of Viñales, but he had neither the pace to chase the Suzuki nor the speed to escape the clutches of Marquez and the rest.
By half-distance the man on the move was Iannone, who was scything through the pack. Sixth for the first half of the race, hanging around at the back of the group, he suddenly seemed to find some extra speed that took him past Pedrosa and Crutchlow in a couple of laps. Then he attacked Rossi, making a rough pass on the nine-time champ as they exited Copse, waving an apology to his friend as they sped towards the Maggots/ Becketts section.
Rossi soon had him back, getting a better drive on to the main Hangar straight and re-passing the Ducati. Then he got stuck into a vicious duel with Marquez. The pair made contact at least once, reawakening memories of Sepang 2015. “But this was different,” said Rossi later. “Because this time both of us had the same target.”
Iannone’s race ended when he lost the front at the Brooklands righthander, with six laps to go. “I had arm pump in my right arm for the first time in years,” he explained. “I was basically riding with my left arm only; when I hit a bump, the front folded.”
When Iannone fell he left Crutchlow in second, the Brit having forced his way past both Rossi and Marquez. But Marquez, no matter that he had a world title at stake, still wasn’t finished. He retook Rossi and then went after Crutchlow. On the penultimate lap they swapped positions several times until they appeared to touch at the end of the 200mph (322 km/h) Hangar straight. Marquez didn’t have enough front grip
to dare entering the corner, so he ran on to the asphalt run-off, which dropped him behind Crutchlow, Rossi and Pedrosa. By the finish he could only manage to overcome his team-mate.
Ahead of him Crutchlow kept his head down to finish half a second ahead of Rossi, who was 1.9 seconds ahead of Marquez, who bettered Pedrosa by four-tenths.
While Viñales had ploughed a lonely furrow out front, the next four all knew they had laid on some major entertainment for the fans. “It was great to be a part of that battle,” said Crutchlow after his third podium in three races. “I had a great battle with Marc and Valentino, and I gave as good as got. My congratulations to Maverick for the win.”
Rossi had reduced Marquez’s championship advantage from 53 points to 50. “But three points is not so much,” he admitted. “The good thing is to be on the podium and to be in an exciting battle like that. My battle with Marc was strong but fair, even though I know he has a special treatment for me!”
Marquez missed the podium for only the third time this year but was happy enough. “I tried to manage the race with Valentino because he is my main championship rival, so the positive was we lose only three points,” said the 2013/2014 champ. “Five laps from the end I started to attack and, maybe, I took many risks to try and finish second. After the first four laps I felt the soft front was a mistake because it was moving too much
and the bike [was] slow to turn, so was using my elbows all the time trying to manage the front.”
Pedrosa was also happy after one of his strongest showings on Michelins. Dovizioso led the next group, six seconds further back, taking sixth place, comfortably ahead of Aleix Espargaro and Lorenzo, who had yet another nightmare. And this time in the dry! “We made a gamble with the setting, but it didn’t work,” said the reigning champ, now a distant third on points.
Danilo Petrucci (Pramac Ducati) and Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia) completed the top 10. Alex Lowes, subbing for the injured Bradley Smith at Monster Yamaha, had an impressive MotoGP début, finishing 13th, just behind Laverty and in front of Hector Barbera (Avintia Ducati). Redding finished last after two tumbles: he had changed his rear tyre before the restart and the tyre kept pushing the front.
HOME HERO SAM LOWES (Federal Oil Kalex) was firm favourite for a British GP win after dominating practice and qualifying. But it was not to be — the young Briton was chasing leader Tom Luthi (Interwetten Kalex) when he was wiped out by series leader Johann Zarco (Ajo Kalex).
The pair were just behind Luthi — who had missed the previous race due to a head injury — when Zarco dived across the inside kerb to collide with Lowes. Zarco stayed on but was given a 10-second penalty which dropped him to 22nd. The incident was a nightmare for Lowes, who was going all out for a home win, but it may also play a major part in the outcome of the world championship. After the Austrian GP Zarco led closes-trival Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas Kalex) by 34 points; after this race his advantage had been reduced to just 10 points.
BRAD BINDER (RED BULL KTM) scored his fourth win of the year to move 86 points clear in the Moto3 title chase, but this was possibly the South African’s toughest
Mahindra rider Bagnaia (21) was simply superb in Silverstone however, he could only managed to get P2 win so far. For much of the race the leading group comprised a dozen or more riders, positions changing every corner, with plenty of bumping and barging along the way.
The only potential winner who ended up on the floor was Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia Honda), who had charged through from 18th on the grid, only to be wiped out by another rider with two laps to go.
That incident split the huge lead pack, leaving Binder to fight for the win with team-mate Bo Bendsneyder and Francesco Bagnaia (Northgate Mahindra). Binder crossed the line 0.183 seconds ahead of Bagnaia, with first-time podium finisher Bendsneyder a further 0.336 seconds back. The top eight were separated by one second.
Marc and Rossi had quite a few hairy moments, fortunately no one crashed
There he goes, Maverick Viñales got the lead early on in the race and he converted that into a win
The young Spaniard (Viñales) leads the way with veterans like Rossi following
Crutchlow too was at his best at Silverstone bagging P2
Luthi, Morbidelli and Nakagami on the podium at Silverstone