The Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli was a sea of yellow as thousands of fans cheered on local hero, Valentino Rossi, to take fifth in a drama-filled ‘Gran Premio di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini’.
Weather played a crucial part in the race, which saw Rossi put one hand on his 10th championship as total rival and teammate Jorge Lorenzo crashed out on cold tyres after pitting for slicks.
The race started well for the Yamaha duo, with Lorenzo and Rossi enjoying strong starts, the Doctor flying off the line at the start of the 28-lap sprint and held third position going into the first corner behind Marquez and Lorenzo.
Lorenzo put the hammer down and as he tried to shake off rival Marquez and teammate Rossi and built up nearly a second’s gap until the rain flags started to be waved on lap six.
The rain clearly played into the hands of Rossi who dived into the pits with Marquez and Lorenzo on lap seven, rejoining the race in seventh place. By the time all the grid had pitted for wet tyres Rossi had been restored top third place, and he began hunting down Marquez and Lorenzo for the lead.
Lapping more than a second quicker he used all his experience in tricky conditions and with 17 laps to go was right on their rear tyres. He overtook Marquez on the next lap, while a dry line started to form. On lap 15 the Doctor decided to make his move on Lorenzo and had the fans jumping to their feet when he led the race for the first time, but there was more drama on its way.
The track had dried up and several riders started to switch back to a bike with a dry set up. The Italian hero decided to stay out as long as possible and pushed to the maximum to create a margin between him and his teammate. He was the last rider to come in for a second bike swap after 20 laps and rejoined the track in fifth place.
Lorenzo pitted a lap before as large chunks of rubber were flying off the his wet tyres as the track dried, and he reentered the track in fourth place. However, he pushed too hard, too quickly on cold tyres and suffered a fast off in Turn 15.
Marquez won the race, ahead of Smith and Redding, who both excelled in the difficult conditions and were worthy of their podium places. Rossi managed to hold off Petrucci but was unable to close down Baz and finished the race in fifth place, increasing his championship lead over Lorenzo to 23 points.
Speaking after the race, Rossi said: “It’s true that the championship is a lot more important that winning this race, it’s the main target. Unfortunately Jorge crashed and I was able to gain another 11-points. This is good for the championship, but it’s a shame to miss out on the podium, because I wanted to arrive in the top three in front of all the spectators.
“It was a crazy race and when you have to change the bike, in this case twice, you need luck and rapid thinking to understand the situation. Fifth is still a good result and we’re looking forward to the next race in Aragon. There are still five races left and unfortunately Lorenzo has the ability to win at every single one and Marquez is also always strong, so there are still a lot of points left to fight for. Aragon is always a difficult track, but we did some tests there and my lap times weren’t so bad, so we have to try to do a good race and arrive on the podium.
A disconsolate Jorge Lorenzo said: “Two races with bad luck in a row, because the circumstances were wet and abnormal. In Silverstone I didn’t have the confidence and here I didn’t have the pace to warm up the tyre well, so I entered the corner with slicks that were still cold and lost the rear. I think I’ve been unlucky this year in general, but especially these last two races, because I could have won both or finished second, but that’s racing. In previous years, my rivals in the championship crashed and this year it’s me who’s unlucky, but all is not lost. If I win all the coming races I can still become the World Champion and it wouldn’t matter in what position Valentino would finish in.”