Lorenzo Baldassarri took a dominant win at Jerez, Spain in our first return to Europe this season.
All of the pre-race talk was about the KTM’s having the ability to come good later in the race, as the track heated up they were supposedly able to look after the tyres much better. They would need this as they started lower than usual, with the top KTM being Brad Binder in fifth.
Alex Marquez took the holeshot from second on the grid, with pole man Lorenzo Baldassarri going to third. Fourth place man Jorge Navarro went down at turn 6 with Luca Marini following suit, Marini being the one at fault after tagging the back of the unfortunate Navarro, who was totally innocent. Eric Granado on the Forward Suter would also not survive the first lap. The other front row starter Francesco Bagnaia dropped to fourth behind Binder. On the second lap Baldassarri reset the status quo and re-passed Marquez into turn 6. Marquez would get shuffled further back when Binder put a hard move on him by the end of the second lap. British hopes were not high at this point, with Sam Lowes being tenth and Danny Kent being 15th.
As the race settled into a rhythm, the top contenders were Baldassarri, Miguel Olivera and Bagnaia. Romano Fenati was sent down the road by Mattia Pasini with 16 laps to go, having just passed Pasini for seventh. Olivera had qualified lowly, and was 14th at one point early on, but he had methodically worked his way up to the front impressively quickly. Stefano Manzi followed Granado’s lead and followed his team mate in falling, there would be no points for the lone Suter chassis’. Bagnaia would settle into a rhythm in fourth place, doing the same lap times as the front three, but making up no ground.
With 13 laps to go, drama! The pace finally got to Alex Marquez, and he ended up losing the front end going into the challenging turn two, he seemed to unload the front as he fed in the throttle and the Kalex chassis did not agree with this. He would not rejoin. This would promote our championship leader Bagnaia to third place. The now fourth and fifth place riders, Xavi Vierge and Pasini, were having very lonely races ahead of the train now being led by Lowes, having worked his way up to seventh. Kent would unfortunately crash his Speed Up with 10 laps remaining at turn 5, having been chasing this battle. Kent’s team mate Fabio Quartararo would mug Joan Mir for 9th, sending him wide and relegating Mir to 12th place.
With seven laps to go, Baldassarri pulled the pin, in an attempt to break Olivera. It seemed the speculation about KTM being kinder on the tyres at the end of the race would not come to fruition. Vierge was catching Bagnaia hand over fist, it wouldn’t be very long before ‘Pecco’ would have a fight on his hands. However there was a small mistake from Vierge which reset his progress, he would have to catch the Red Bull KTM all over again. Pasini and Binder were doing similar lap times behind them, and then next up was Marcel Schrotter, who had a storming ride from a very lowly 20th position start to pass Lowes for seventh. The gap at the front with only three laps remaining was over two seconds, Baldassarri was controlling the pace very well, and it seemed Olivera had settled for second.
The battle for the podium was hotting up between Vierge and Bagnaia, Vierge having recovered admirably to attach himself to the rear wheel of the Sky VR46 bike with only the final lap remaining. The final two positions seemed to be sewn up and there was no movement anywhere down the field. The only changes in the last three laps had been both Joe Roberts and Steven Odendaal having separate crashes on their NTS chassis’, and Hector Barbara passing Andrea Locatelli for 15th. The replacement riders battle for bragging rights was won by Luka Tulovic, coming home 20th with Hector Garzo coming home 23rd. The sole wildcard Xavi Cardelus came home 22nd.
With Baldassarri winning, he moved up to second place in the championship, and within eight points of the leader Bagnaia. Marquez’s nightmare was compounded by the fact that he dropped out of the top 4 of the championship. We now have a clearer picture of who the title contenders are, and who we expect to be competing at the next round of the championship in two weeks time at Le Mans, for the French Grand Prix. Find out who wins that here on Overtake Motorsport.
Full results can be found here.
Championship standings can be found here.