Marc Marquez did his faint hopes of winning the 2015 MotoGP world championship some good by winning the San Marino Grand Prix at Misano on Sunday thanks to a perfect tactical call from his Honda team.
Starting second, Marquez spent the opening stages of the race duelling with Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi before rain forced all three to dive into the pits and switch bikes.
A mistake caused Marquez to slip behind Rossi and Lorenzo, who slowly pulled away from the Honda rider as the race passed half distance.
However, as conditions improved once again and a drying line began to appear, teams turned their attention to Tech 3 rider Bradley Smith, who had stayed out on slick tires in the rain.
Once his lap times became the benchmark, a number of teams opted to pit their riders and move back onto their dry compound tires. Marquez pitted from third at the end of lap 17.
Yamaha opted to stick it out at the front with Rossi leading from Lorenzo, but as the track continued to dry, the decision backfired spectacularly. By the time Lorenzo pitted, Marquez had already jumped ahead, whilst Rossi fell back one lap later when he stopped for a change.
With Marquez now alone at the front, Yamaha’s focus turned to damage limitation as Lorenzo led from Rossi. However, the Spaniard pushed too hard on his cold tires and slid off the track at turn four, leaving him in the gravel and out of the race.
Marquez eased his bike home to claim his fourth win of the season by 7.2 seconds from Bradley Smith, whose brave strategy call allowed him to soar all the way from the back of the field to second place.
The Briton was joined on the podium by compatriot Scott Redding, who made the most of the changeable conditions to edge out Loris Baz in the closing stages of the race and finish third. Baz was left to finish fourth as the leading ‘open’ rider.
Rossi recovered from Yamaha’s strategy faux pas to finish fifth and extend his championship lead over Lorenzo to 23 points with five rounds of the season remaining. Silverstone hero Danilo Petrucci starred again to finish sixth ahead of Ducati riders Andrea Iannone and Andrea Dovizioso.
The 2015 MotoGP season resumes in two weeks’ time at Motorland Aragon in Spain.