British Grand Prix produces one of the closest finishes in MotoGP history
For the second race in a row, the dominant Marc Marquez got his nose wiped in the final corner. The wiper this time was compatriot Alex Rins on the Ecstar Suzuki, who had hounded the Repsol Honda for the full race distance over 20 complicated laps and 118 km of the longest track of the year. It was a second win of the year for Rins, but his first in a straight fight with Marquez.
A sun-baked and resurfaced Silverstone made up for last year’s flood-cancelled debacle for some 50,000 fans, with a race full of tension, although depleted by a first-corner crash that took out two important players.
Star-studded rookie Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha), leading the second row of the grid, was bamboozled by the lack of traction control when tackling the usually third-gear first corner in second after the start. He lost the rear and his bike slid straight under the wheels of third-row starter Andrea Dovizioso, whose Mission Winnow Ducati looped spectacularly and caught fire as the riders tumbled through the run-off. Both were lucky to escape serious injury.
Last-corner drama sealed off the battle of Britain. Marquez had led throughout, but for a brief spell, when his race-long shadow Rins was ahead for two corners. On the last lap, he was clearly on the limit as he continued to hold him at bay.
The crucial attack came in the last right-hander, when the Suzuki’s conspicuously better corner grip allowed Rins to edge through on the inside, half a bike’s length ahead over the line for a photo finish.
Rins was victorious by just 0.013 of a second, the fourth-closest in the premier class in more than 70 years.
“I was so close to a big mistake,” the jubilant winner said. “Two laps from the end I thought it was the last lap, so I passed Marc … but he got me back. But I knew I was faster in the last corner.”
Marquez’s consolation was a new lap record, and a massive 78-point lead in the championship, over non-scorer Dovizioso. “To lose on the last corner is not a good feeling, but I am happy about the championship. I kept pushing because I was afraid the Yamaha riders might catch us, and take away important points.” Before the weekend, talking about his narrow defeat in Austria a fortnight ago, he had said: “To win the war you have to lose some battles.”
Their battle allowed third-placed Maverick Vinales to edge up to within just over half-a-second, after passing Monster Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi who had qualified on the front row of the grid. Rossi was losing ground at the end, but stayed fourth, ahead of top independent-team rider Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha).
LCR Castrol Honda rider Cal Crutchlow eventually triumphed in a long to-and-fro battle with Jack Miller (Pramac Ducati), the third front-row starter. Crutchlow also had grip issues with a sub-prime tyre. Suffering similar tyre problems to Crutchlow, Miller was unable to defend seventh from slow-starting Danilo Petrucci’s factory Ducati.
Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM) was ninth, clear by the end of what had been a big mid-field battle. Andrea Iannone was now adrift in tenth; Aprilia team-mate Aleix Espargaro had been a late retirement with a blown engine, while fellow KTM riders Johann Zarco and Miguel Oliveira crashed out after Zarco made an ill-judged overtaking move, for which he was punished by three grid positions at the next race.
Words Michael Scott