Pol Espargaro fought hard for a 3rd place finish and his second trophy of 2020 MotoGP after 27 demanding laps in San Marino. Miguel Oliveira scored his second top five finish of the campaign in what was the seventh event of the season.
MotoGP ended a 2020 stint in Italy and the second race in a week at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli with the Gran Premio TISSOT dell'Emilia Romagna e della Riviera di Rimini. The fixture represented the seventh round of the season and the second of three in a row, with the series due to move swiftly to Barcelona during the following days.
Pol Espargaro and Brad Binder increased the RPM on their KTM RC16s from the second row of the starting grid and into a race played out under warm San Marino sunshine. Espargaro decided to use a soft rear tire and quickly latched into the battle for 3rd place, which eventually became a dispute for 2nd after Francesco Bagnaia’s crash while leading. The close action between the KTM man, Joan Mir and Fabio Quartararo was ultimately decided on the last lap when Quartararo ignored a long lap punishment for repeatedly exceeding track limits. He was given a three-second penalty and dropped to 4th behind Espargaro who was less than a second away at the finish line.
Espargaro gratefully accepted the 16 points and his second podium appearance after last entering the top three at the Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring last month. He improved his speed and competitiveness from a result of 10th the previous Sunday.
Binder, his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammate, made a lively start in the opening laps of the race but crashed out of the running with Espargaro (and therefore podium contention) at Turn 13. He then fell again at Turn 1 to register a DNF. The same fate befell Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Iker Lecuona. The 20-year old rookie (the youngest rider in MotoGP) showed excellent speed to fight with Styrian GP winner Miguel Oliveira and hold a slot into the top six until his mistake late into the 27-laps. Oliveira’s 5th position represented his second-best of 2020 and his fledgling MotoGP career. The Portuguese is 8th in the championship standings. KTM hold 3rd in the Constructors standings.
Pol Espargaro: “We knew we were taking a gamble with the rear tire but I wanted to really enjoy the race. I also knew we’d have to deal with some drop-off in performance but that came much earlier than we expected. I was very fast at the beginning - with a bike I love - and I kept pushing and keeping Maverick close for some time. In the end I wanted to keep the others behind me and defend my position: that big effort paid off. With Fabio’s penalty we were able can do it…that’s why I never give up.”
Miguel Oliveira: “I’m happy about the race. We started far behind and we could manage to gain a few positions and also benefit from a couple of crashes. Our potential was there, we had a very good pace, I felt good with the bike and I made no mistakes, so I kept concentrated all the race. We managed to come out with a top 5, which was our goal from the beginning, plus scoring important points for the championship and now we go to Barcelona, can clean our minds now and have fun also there. I think we can have another good weekend!”
Brad Binder: “I felt really, really good today. I made a decent start but then lost the front into Turn 11 and had a big head shake of the bike. I was thinking ‘that was close’ but then tucked the front going into Turn 13. I was a little bit wild. I tried to restart but then crashed again. So, not a great race but I’m happy because I had such a good feeling with the bike, and we’ve worked hard to get to that. Unfortunately we go home with nothing today but we’ll try again in Barcelona. We’ll need to learn quickly there and if I take one thing from this weekend then it’s that a good qualification makes life so much easier! We’ll try for that again next weekend.”
Iker Lecuona: “I need to say sorry to the team. I finally had a very good Qualifying and a very strong pace in the race. I overtook some riders and had the speed to fight for the top 6, following Miguel was great. I didn’t make any mistakes until three laps to go but finally did a big one and lost the front. I was three seconds ahead of the guys behind me. It’s frustrating for me because I could have taken my best position. Sorry to the team, let’s move on to the next race.”
Mike Leitner, Red Bull KTM Race Manager: “In general we’re super-happy with the results because a podium was hard to achieve here and especially with the competitiveness of the MotoGP class. We had a really good test on Tuesday and found some technical solutions for the Grand Prix but we had some hard sessions in practice with a few crashes and a front tire that was on the limit. It was important to improve our grid position and it was great to get up to 4th and 6th. Pol did a great race with the soft tire and deserved that 3rd place. We were sorry for Brad: he had been great all weekend but it was a rookie mistake and he’ll learn from that. Both Miguel and Iker did really well also, just a shame Iker could not confirm that 6th place but he again showed his potential. Now we’ll go to Barcelona and focus for the next GP.”
Moto2 & Moto3
SKY Racing Team VR46’s Celestino Vietti finished 2nd in the first race of the day with his KTM RC4. The Italian was jostling for Moto3 victory and crossed the finish line only three hundredths of a second behind Romano Fenati. Moto3 championship leader Albert Arenas was also in the vast group pushing for the checkered flag and maintains his status at the top of the standings thanks to finishing 4th. Pole Position holder Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Raul Fernandez was 6th and less than half a second from the win. The Spaniard classified just ahead of Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Deniz Öncü; the Turk made an impressive comeback from mid-pack to score 7th.
In Moto2 Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Tetsuta Nagashima was walking wounded after a heavy warm-up crash. The Japanese completed a shortened race in 23rd after the Moto2 affair was interrupted due to a brief shower. Jorge Martin’s substitute, Mattia Pasini, raced to 16th.
The Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya will take place on September 27th in Spain.
Gran Premio TISSOT dell'Emilia Romagna e della Riviera di Rimini MotoGP photos can be downloaded HERE
Results MotoGP Gran Premio TISSOT dell'Emilia Romagna e della Riviera di Rimini 2020
1. Maverick Viñales (ESP) Yamaha 41:55.846
2. Joan Mir (ESP), Suzuki +2.425
3. Pol Espargaro (ESP), Red Bull KTM +4.528
4. Fabio Quartararo (FRA), Yamaha +6.419
5. Miguel Oliveira (POR), Red Bull KTM Tech3 +7.368
DNF. Brad Binder (RSA), Red Bull KTM
DNF. Iker Lecuona (ESP), Red Bull KTM Tech3
Results Moto2 Gran Premio TISSOT dell'Emilia Romagna e della Riviera di Rimini 2020
1. Enea Bastianini (ITA) 16:11.977
2. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) +0.720
3. Sam Lowes (GBR)+1.124
16. Mattia Pasini (ITA) Red Bull KTM Ajo +12.935
23. Tetsuta Nagashima (JPN) Red Bull KTM Ajo +18.079
Results Moto3 Gran Premio TISSOT dell'Emilia Romagna e della Riviera di Rimini 2020
1. Romano Fenati (ITA) Husqvarna 39:30.124
2. Celestino Vietti (ITA) KTM +0.036
3. Ai Ogura (JPN) Honda +0.121
4. Albert Arenas (ESP) KTM +0.199
6. Raul Fernandez (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo +4.265
7. Deniz Öncü (TUR) Red Bull KTM Tech3