Masterclass from Morbidelli as Mir gravitates towards MotoGP title

·3 min read
Franco Morbidelli (left) and Alex Rins in the Teruel MotoGP
Franco Morbidelli (left) and Alex Rins in the Teruel MotoGP

Franco Morbidelli streaked home to win the Teruel Grand Prix on Sunday as Joan Mir took third to extend his lead in the MotoGP world championship with only three races to go.

Morbidelli started from second on the grid behind pole sitter Takaaki Nakagami whose dream weekend turned into a nightmare when he parted company with his LCR-Honda at turn five on lap one.

With the Japanese rider cruelly out of the picture, Morbidelli was left with clear air in front of him, and the Yamaha-SRT rider made the most of his good fortune.

Unchallenged, he crossed the line well over two seconds up on Alex Rins, last week's winner at the Motorland Aragon circuit, with Mir taking third from 12th on the grid.

Mir, who unusually has never won a MotoGP race, is now emerging as the unexpected favourite to assume the crown left vacant by Marc Marquez, the six-time champion sidelined by the fractured arm he suffered in his first race fall.

Suzuki rider Mir leads the coronavirus-disrupted 2020 season on 137 points, 14 clear of Fabio Quartararo, who finished eighth.

"Another podium is a result from 12th on the grid. So for today, a podium is like a win," said the rider displaying a keen memory as his last victory dates back to 2017.

"I couldn't have given much more out there," he added. "The guys in front were a little bit too far ahead at the start."

Maverick Vinales is placed third on 118 points, six clear of Morbidelli who, reflecting on his second win of the season, said: "Amazing!

"I knew I had to make an aggressive race, when I saw clean air in front of me I decided to give everything I could for every lap."

"The 23 laps went away like this," he smiled, clicking his finger.

The serenity surrounding Morbidelli's success was at odds with the dramatic scenes filling his wing mirror.

Before Nakagami's exit the race had already lost Jack Miller, who was tailgated by Brad Binder in turn two on the opening lap, both riders sliding into the gravel.

With around 11 laps left it was Alex Marquez's turn to hit the deck, the Honda rookie becoming another victim of turn two.

Morbidelli's 'Motorland masterclass' earned him the distinction of becoming the first non-Spanish winner at the Aragon circuit since Australian Casey Stoner in 2011.

The most exciting MotoGP title run-in for years with only 32 points covering the top six riders takes a breather next weekend before returning for two races in Valencia and the season finale in Portugal.

And one man happy to be leaving Aragon is Quartararo, who forecast: "The next three races will be great for us".

With Europe imposing ever tighter restrictions to battle Covid-19 with cases rising sharply, MotoGP organisers Dorna allayed fears the season may have to end prematurely.

"For the moment nothing's changed. The level of alert in Spain in particular doesn't have an impact on our situation," said Dorna's managing director Carmelo Ezpeleta.

In Moto3, Honda rider Jaume Masia followed up last weekend's win, with fourth-placed Albert Arenas moving 19 points clear in the championship from Ai Ogura.

And the concluding Moto2 race saw Briton Sam Lowes win for the third straight race to put him atop the championship standings.

The Kalex rider holds a seven-point advantage over Italian Enea Bastianini, third on the day, with Luca Marini sitting third.

Lowes's hat-trick was the first by a British Moto2 rider since Phil Read in 1971.

nr/jc