Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) scored a fantastic second-place finish in the race of the year so far at sun-blessed Mugello today. The result gives the reigning World Champion his fifth podium from six races and will take him to his home race at Barcelona-Catalunya with an increased advantage in the title chase.
Today’s race was historic for Honda, since it took place one day short of the 60th anniversary of the company’s first World Championship race, the Isle of Man Ultra-Lightweight TT, staged on June 3, 1959. On that day Naomi Taniguchi’s scored Honda’s first World Championship point aboard an RC142 125cc twin. Honda’s Grand Prix victory record now stands at more than 750 wins.
Mugello has never been an easy circuit for the 26-year-old Spaniard who with his crew revised the set-up of his RC213V to cope with the demands of this uniquely complex racetrack. Yesterday he proved the performance of his 2019 RC213V, as well as his own riding and tactical prowess, by grabbing pole position in spectacular style.
Today he played his part in an unforgettable battle for victory, spending the entire 23 laps fighting back and forth with Danilo Petrucci, Andrea Dovizioso and Alex Rins. They all took their turns in the lead.
Marquez gave it all and attacked wherever he could, often squeezing past Petrucci and Dovizioso through the corners and sometimes drafting past them on Mugello’s start/finish straight, where the fastest bikes exceed 350kmh/217mph. The speed of his RC213V on MotoGP’s fastest straight underlined the sterling development work undertaken by HRC engineers in their preparation for the 2019 season.
Of course, all four riders knew the race would come down to a frantic last-lap shootout. At the start of the last lap Marquez braked super-late for the first corner to retake the lead, but he ran slightly wide, which allowed Dovizioso to attack him on the inside. However, they tangled and Petrucci grabbed his chance, sweeping back into the lead and holding his advantage to the chequered flag to take his first Grand Prix victory in front of the ecstatic Italian crowd.
Marquez was right behind the local hero as they flashed past the chequered flag – only 0.043 seconds between them – with Dovizioso a further 0.295 seconds behind. Thus the podium trio was covered by 0.338 seconds. Rins took fourth, just behind Dovizioso.
Twenty points to add to the three victories and the one second-place finish achieved so far this season made Marquez a happy man as he works towards winning a sixth MotoGP crown in seven years.
Honda’s next finisher was every bit as delighted as Marquez. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) did a stunning job on his 2018 RC213V, finishing in fifth place, after qualifying tenth quickest. This was the best-ever MotoGP result for the 27-year-old from Chiba, who graduated to the premier class last season, after winning two Moto2 races during the previous few seasons.
Nakagami charged through the pack after the start, moving up to sixth at the end of the first lap, but then he lost several positions, which the regained when two rivals slid off and when he overtook team-mate Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V). in the final laps Nakagami did everything in his power to hold off factory rider Maverick Vinales and he just managed it. this result was further proof of the youngster’s huge potential.
Crutchlow rode with the lead group during the early stages and seemed capable of running the same pace. But from half-distance he was unable to maintain the leaders’ pace and he slipped back to eighth place, struggling with rear tyre wear issues.
Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) scored points again, maintaining a run of five points-scoring rides from the first six races of the year. However, the 32-year-old didn’t finish where he wanted to finish. He took the flag in 13th position, just a fraction of a second behind Aleix Espargaro and Joan Mir.
Lorenzo is still working with his crew to adapt his RC213V to his particular riding technique. He tried some new parts here and has more coming for upcoming races. Once he feels fully at home he is sure he will once again be able to race at the front.