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GP Week : Issue 162
28 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Cal Crutchlow MOTO2: SAME STROKES, DIFFERENT FOLKS MOTO3: YOUTH WINS THE DAY The familiar monotonous shriek of 33 identical engines signalled yet another ultra-close battle. But the finishing order was slightly less familiar. Andrea Iannone came through at the end to snitch victory from pole starter Pol Espargaro; while a little way behind Thomas Luthi managed to fend of Bradley Smith. And Marquez? It wasn’t exactly a disaster. He did lead the next group and did retain the title lead. But it was an unusually downbeat day, when we are used to see him fighting for the win. The CatalunyaCaixa Suter rider did lead the first three laps, as the usual suspects battled it out inches behind and inches apart. Luthi (Inter wetten Suter) was the first to take over, then Takaaki Nakagami (Italtrans Kalex) for a short spell. By half distance Luthi was leading again, with pole starter Pol Espargaro (40HP Kalex) about to take second as Nakagami dropped back. Iannone (Speed Up) had been well up with a lead group, now six-strong, all the way, and on lap 14 he was third. Now Espargaro embarked on his run, and it looked good. Two laps later he was almost 1.5 seconds clear, but now Iannone was second and had the bit between his teeth. Espargaro was knocked about from a heavy crash the day before, but importantly “my tyres were going down” . Gradually Iannone closed the gap, and passed him firmly at the start of the last lap, to win by less than a tenth. Luthi lost his chance a lap before, missing his braking and running wide into the first corner. This left him with his hands full with an on-form Smith (Tech 3), and he beat him by inches. Soon after losing the lead Marquez had a major moment, and later blamed it all on failing to find the right set-up.”We’ve been making saves all weekend. I almost crashed twice, then I thought about the title and decided 11 points were better than none.” He narrowly beat Scott Redding (Marc VDS Kalex) and Nakagami; Dominique Aegerter (Technomag Suter) dropped back for a safe eighth; Johann Zarco (JiR Motobi) had qualified on the front row but started 18th after a penalty, but had moved through to tenth behind Claudio Corti (Italtrans Kalex), in a big group. Marquez left with a comfortable 163 points, Espargaro and Iannone are equal on 129, then Luthi (123) and Redding (96). Rising Spaniard Maverick Vinales claimed victory by inches at the slipstreaming climax of a thrilling first race of the day at Mugello. On the other side of the track rookie Romano Fenati was second by a barely imaginable two thousandths of a second, while Sandro Cortese was on Vinales’s back wheel for third. Vinales is 17, Fenati just 16; making 22-year-old German Cortese the old man of a trio that had broken away from a lead group of eight only after half distance. Both teenagers were on FTR Hondas; Cortese on the Red Bull KTM, and for once the Austrian bike didn’t have the straight-line speed to win. But Cortese retained the championship lead, in spite of only two wins to Vinales’s five. The first race of the day had a swarm of riders up front until lap 14, typical of smaller classes at this fast circuit with a long lap. Zulfahmi Khairuddin (KTM) led for the first three laps, then Fenati, Alex Rins (Suter Honda), Vinales, Efren Vazquez (FTR Honda) and then Fenati again. That was only over the line. Elsewhere Danny Kent (KTM) had a brief run; while Miguel Oliveira (Suter Honda) had a go early on before crashing out. The leaders got clear on lap 14, each setting fastest lap so far in turn to take a second out of Vazquez and the pursuit. Fastest lap went to Cortese five laps later, but there was nothing in it over the final lap, with Cortese taking the lead into the first corner and Fenati pushing past both through the iconic Casanova-Savelli corner set halfway round. Vinales took over one corner later, and clung on to the end. Rookie Niccolo Antonelli (FTR Honda) led the next four over the line, from Vazquez, Kent and Rins; Jakub Kornfeil (FTR Honda) took ninth ahead of early leader Khairuddin and Hector Faubel (Kalex KTM). Cortese leads overall on 164 points to Vinales on 155. Luis Salom, who crashed out today, has 104, with Fenati moving past Masbou, 85 to 75. MOTOGP >>> MUGELLO