Round 12 – Silverstone
Alex Rins put in a surprise performance at the newly resurfaced 5,900m Silverstone circuit, where beautiful weather was a consistent feature all weekend, culminating with an air temperature of 31°C on Sunday, making this the hottest race-day of the year so far. The action was heating up on track too, with Rins timing a last corner manoeuvre to perfection, to beat Marc Marquez to the line by just 0.013-seconds, the second time this has happened to Marquez in as many races.
A duel from almost the first to last, the race is the equal fourth closest premier class finish – and one very much written straight into the history books. Maverick Viñales completed the podium and closed in in the latter stages, but the battle remained Marquez vs Rins to the line.
Marquez got a storming start from pole, streaking away from the line as Valentino Rossi slotted into second but some huge drama hit just behind. A crash for Fabio Quartararo saw the rookie slide out and unfortunately for the man behind him, Andrea Dovizioso, the stricken bike was unavoidable. The Italian hit the Yamaha and both machines and men slid out into the run off, out of the British GP.
That left Marquez, Rossi and Rins at the head of the race, and the number 42 wasted no time attacking the ‘Doctor’ for second, tagging right on to the rear of Marquez as soon as he was past. From there the two began to pull away, and Rossi was left with teammate Viñales to contend with as the number 12 plowed past Franco Morbidelli and started to cut down the gap.
Then Rins ran wide and Viñales did just behind, leaving both men with a little more work to do. Heads back down though, they both set about getting back into the tow of the machines ahead. Rins got back on terms with Marquez, and with 14 to go Viñales was pulling alongside Rossi. Move made and cleanly past, the gap to the two ahead was now the key focus for ‘Top Gun’.
Not long after, Rins attacked. Around the outside, the Suzuki rider swept past in a stunning move for the lead, and breath was held around the track. Was this a deciding moment? Ultimately it didn’t last long, however, and Rins even specified: “I let him back past, I didn’t want him to see my weaknesses.”
And so it came down to a duel to the end, and what a duel it was. The two remained tagged together as the laps ticked down and everything was set up to perfection for a final lap showdown, although the Suzuki rider had a wobble at Turn 9 after a look behind to check on the approaching Viñales. Regrouping quickly, Rins then took another nibble on the penultimate lap, getting past Marquez for just about a corner before the reigning Champion struck back…and then came a dress rehearsal of sorts.
Coming around the final corner to start the final lap, the Suzuki swept around the outside and was alongside Marquez as the two went elbow to elbow, but Rins ended up on the green stuff and Marquez held firm. The number 42 also lost a few metres with the move, and the pressure was on for the remaining five kilometers of the race. Was there time to catch and pass the man in such charge of the Championship?
Through Maggots and Becketts, the Yamaha of Viñales was almost as close to Rins as Rins was to race leader Marquez, with the number 12 on the limit to try and get in the fight. As the corners passed, however, the Honda and Suzuki edged away – and Rins was more than simply hanging in there. With three corners left the Suzuki was Marquez’ shadow, but was there time? The dress rehearsal from a lap before gave us a clue of what was in store: it was going to go down to the final corner.
Rins had showed some incredible speed there throughout the race, and the number 42 credited that as a big part of his being able to stay with Marquez. That was now his ace, and as the Honda rider tried to defend, the Suzuki unleashed its awesome corner speed as Rins ran wider and then cut back, barrelling alongside Marquez towards the line. And, by hundredths, coming out on top.
The win was the fourth closest in premier class history, Rins’ second of the season and the first time the gloves have come off for the number 42 in a last lap fight for a premier class victory. 40 years since Sheene vs Roberts was split by 0.030, Rins beat Marquez by just 0.013. For the reigning Champion, it was also a second final corner defeat in a row.
Viñales, then, was forced to spectate around the final sector, but the 2016 Silverstone winner said he got the maximum from the machine for his 60th podium in third. Teammate Valentino Rossi took fourth and the top Yamaha results continued as Morbidelli completed the top five. The number 21 was also the top Independent Team rider.
He stole that honour from home hero Cal Crutchlow as the Brit took P6, crossing the line half a second ahead of Danilo Petrucci, with Jack Miller and Pol Espargaro not too far behind either as they took P8 and P9 respectively. Andrea Iannone completed the top ten after a solid Sunday showing from the Italian.
Francesco Bagnaia, Sylvain Guintoli, Hafizh Syahrin, Jorge Lorenzo and Karel Abraham completed the points.
Johann Zarco didn’t finish after he came into contact with Miguel Oliveira and they both went down, the Frenchman subsequently penalised with three grid positions at his next race. Takaaki Nakagami and Tito Rabat crashed but rejoined, Aleix Espargaro suffered an issue and, of course, neither Quartararo nor Dovizioso saw the flag.
Dovizioso, after examination, was given the all clear and returns home from the UK as normal, although he and Quartararo will need to be declared fit in Misano having suffered concussion.
Alex Rins – P1
“Unbelievable, unbelievable! I’ve beaten two legends: Valentino in Texas, Marquez here in Silverstone. It was so crazy. I beat him today but now I need to continue; I know it will be difficult. I made some mistakes, I nearly crashed at the first corner – I had a big moment. Two laps to the end I crossed the line very close to Marc and I thought the race was over but then I saw one lap remaining and thought: ‘wow, Alex, come on you need to keep pushing’. I was able to cut a lot of time in the first and second sectors and then in the last sector Marc was much stronger than me. Into Turn 16 he was able to brake really hard. The last lap was unique though and it was possible for me to overtake. I have a lot of confidence with my Suzuki right now. We work so hard during the practices to get the feeling right and I was able to play with my bike to brake harder.”
Marc Marquez – P2
“I am happy with the result for the championship but not the result for the race as to lose out in the final moment after leading is not the best feeling. Spending the whole race in front is difficult here because you use more of everything. I tried to go slow for one lap to see if Rins would lead, but he didn’t and I knew Viñales was behind us so I kept pushing. My target wasn’t the race, it was the championship and if the Yamaha riders arrived maybe we could have finished lower. In the last turn I had a moment on the front and had to close the gas which let Rins through but we are happy because we leave with 78 points over second but I hope Dovi is OK after a big crash like that, I hope he can recover well and return because it is always better when you earn the points fighting.”
Maverick Viñales – P3
“I don‘t know if I would have been able to make a move if I had been closer to the front-runners, because it‘s always difficult. I was closing the gap lap by lap, just a little, one or two tenths, but I couldn‘t close the big gap in just one lap. I tried my best and I think we got the maximum and maybe even more from our bike today. There are long straights here and at this track it‘s really about the engine, so we’re happy with third. We missed a bit of traction and top speed. In many corners I was much faster, but in others I was surviving the best I could. I think we improved the bike quite a lot during the weekend and that‘s the most important. At the test in Misano we’ll work on improving the grip. We‘re going to be very focused, do a good test, then we‘ll race some more, and we‘ll see what we can do.”
That’s it from Silverstone, with six different winners in the last six races at the track made a reality by Alex Rins after a truly history-making stunner of a showdown. Next it’s Misano and Marquez’ advantage has increased once again, but it’s twice in a row the reigning Champion has been pipped to the post on race day. Will it continue on the Riviera di Rimini? Find out in three weeks time.