Silverstone drips with motorsport history but Cal Crutchlow’s bid to keep altering the MotoGP record books in terms of British achievement stretched on at the twelfth round of the FIM World Championship today as Maverick Viñales dashed away to snare his maiden success at the highest level. Fans well accustomed to the UK climate and propensity for surprises, took a chance on cloudy skies and packed the stands of the largely flat but fast English course as MotoGP reconvened after the recent trip to Brno….And were served with another phenomenal slice of theatre.
Crutchlow’s name has frequently been read in the same line as ‘Sheene’ since his milestone victory in the Czech Republic two weeks ago and in the damp of Silverstone the Honda man was again aligned with the iconic former world champion as his Pole position on UK soil was the first by a native since Sheene managed the feat in 1977.
The LCR Honda man was part of the cast list in a fantastic MotoGP sprint for second position as Viñales made a breakaway at the head of the pack. Movistar Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Ducati’s Iannone (until the Italian crashed out) along with Crutchlow somehow found centimetres to share around the sweeping curves and curbs of the track that first hosted a motorcycle Grand Prix in ’77.
Fairing rubbing, mistakes and a wave of unpredictability meant that the laps counted down quickly while the vast majority of viewers wanted the action to last and last. As the nineteen laps dwindled on Sunday afternoon the decisive moments came in the later stages of the race and as Marquez made a mistake and dropped from second to fifth and Crutchlow and Rossi powered through to occupy second and third positions respectively. Viñales’ success meant the seventh different winner in MotoGP this year and represents the most ‘open’ season since 2006 where there were also seven athletes on the top of the box. In a sterling campaign the sight of ‘CC35’ spraying champagne at his home fixture gave the British fans good value for their buck and showed that the 30 year old had no qualms of handling the pressure and expectation on his shoulders.
“Honestly it is a dream come true to stand on the podium at your home Grand Prix. I’m pleased for my team, they really deserve it,” said Crutchlow whose previous best result on home asphalt had been a sixth position and he now has three trophies for the year. “Sure I wanted to win but I’m happy with a podium; no doubt about that. We had a superb battle and that's what it’s all about: entertaining the crowd.”
“It was a great race and a great battle,” said Rossi after his sixth podium of the year (and 250 career starts in MotoGP) that allowed him to reduce the points deficit in the championship standings to 50 behind Marquez. “I enjoyed it a lot and I am happy with this podium because I had to fight a lot from the first corner to the last. We were not so strong and we know we suffer with the tyres in the second part of the race. It was good! I tried my maximum. It was a good, hard but fair fight [with Marquez].”
Silverstone meant the sixth race without a win for Jorge Lorenzo (in 8th) while the Grand Prix initially had to be re-started due to a red flag waved on the first lap for a crash by Pol Espargaro. The Catalan was later released from the medical centre with the all-clear. Monster Yamaha Tech3 teammate Bradley Smith missed the race due to a knee injury sustained at the final round of the Endurance World Championship and his spot was filled by Pata Yamaha World Superbike racer Alex Lowes who grabbed 13th on his MotoGP debut and in the wake of a recent test with the French satellite crew.
Alex may have been exhilarated by his Silverstone experience but his brother Sam was left distraught in the Moto2 class. The other Lowes had used his Federal Oil Gresini Kalex to set the pace through most of practice and qualification in mixed conditions and was tussling with Johann Zarco and Thomas Luthi for the lead in a typically tense Moto2 contest but a collision between the luckless Brit and the French World Champ with two laps to go put Lowes down and Zarco was also out of the running. Luthi went on to win from the increasingly more confident Franco Morbidelli by less than a second. Moto3 saw Brad Binder get back to winning ways as Pecco Bagnaia again made the top three with a strong second position ahead of Bo Bendsneyder who became the first Dutchman to podium in Grand Prix in over two decades.
MotoGP is in a hurry. The Gran Premio TIM de San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini takes place next weekend at the Misano World Circuit Simoncelli on the west coast of Italy; the closest Valentino Rossi has to a home fixture and for the rest of the vaunted VR46 Academy.