Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi fought back from a poor start that left him running as low as seventh to win Sunday’s Catalan Grand Prix in Barcelona for Yamaha.
Rossi started fifth at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, but slipped back after a poor getaway from the grid.
Pole-sitter Marc Marquez also failed to get a clean getaway, allowing Rossi’s teammate Jorge Lorenzo to assume the lead of the race in the early stages.
Lorenzo was unable to open up a gap to the chasing pack, while Rossi managed to fight his way back up to third in just three laps, leaving him to dice with Marquez for position.
After seeing off Marquez, Rossi then made light work of Lorenzo to take the lead of the race on lap seven. Marquez followed him through as Lorenzo struggled for pace, causing him to drop down the order.
As Rossi and Marquez battled at the front, Lorenzo’s race came to an early end after Ducati’s Andrea Iannone crashed into him when attempting an overtake. Lorenzo was furious with the Italian rider, but had to accept that his championship lead was lost.
Marquez tried to keep up with Rossi, but a mistake on the penultimate lap caused him to lose ground and ended his hopes of a home victory. Rossi was able to ease to the line, enjoying an advantage of 2.6 seconds at the checkered flag.
After the race, Rossi and Marquez put aside their long-running rivalry to shake hands in parc ferme before donning t-shirts paying tribute to Moto2 rider Luis Salom, who died in practice on Friday. Rossi also dedicated his victory to Salom.
Dani Pedrosa followed Honda teammate Marquez home in third place, while Maverick Vinales finished fourth for Suzuki. Pol Espargaro ended the race fifth for Tech3 ahead of LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow and the sole factory Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso in sixth and seventh respectively.
Alvaro Bautista finished eighth ahead of Danilo Petrucci and Hector Barbera, the latter unable to maintain his good qualifying result as he fell from P4 on the grid to P10 at the flag.
The next MotoGP race takes place in Assen on June 25.
Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.
Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.
On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.
One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.
After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.
The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.
Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.
“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”
Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.
“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”
But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.
“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.
“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”
Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.
“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.
“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”
The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.