SKY Racing Team VR46's Luca Marini further helped his Moto2™ World Championship aspirations after coming out on top of a fierce fight with teammate Marco Bezzecchi to take victory at the Lenovo San Marino and Rimini Riviera Grand Prix. The 23-year-old was comfortable out front until a false neutral allowed Bezzecchi into the game, with the latter forced to hold off Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) on the final lap to take second.
Marini would start the race from pole position after Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) was forced out of the race after fracturing both his left hand and foot in a monster Warm Up highside. The lights went out and Marini took full profit from pole by taking the holeshot, with teammate Bezzecchi calmly settling in behind him. Behind them, Bastianini wasn't having the same privilege with a determined Marcel Schrötter edging through to third in the early stages.
There was already a gap starting to form from the rear wheel of Bezzecchi to the front wheel of Schrötter and Bastianini’s chances at a third win of the year were slipping away before a handful of laps had even been completed. The title challenger knew that too and dived under Schrötter to reclaim third and set his sights on the Italian duo ahead.
At the front, Marini was starting to flex his muscles as he slowly but surely moved half a second clear of his teammate. A fastest lap of the race, with now five laps completed, allowed the Championship leader to move over six tenths clear at the front with Bezzecchi unable to conjure up any type of response.
Meanwhile, an almighty scrap for the final place inside the top five was starting to take shape. Schrötter, who had by this time dropped off the back of Bastianini and saw Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) burst past him, had teammate Tom Lüthi, Fabio Di Giannantonio (+EGO Speed Up) and Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) were all nose to tail behind him, with nobody wanting to let up.
Marini’s push towards home glory took another firm step forwards when he was able to open out the gap to over a second on Lap 9. A small Bezzecchi error in sector one allowed the number 10 to pounce and extend his comfort buffer even further.
In the fight for fifth, Schrötter was able to eek out an advantage over Di Giannantonio, who had momentarily got the better of Swiss veteran Lüthi. Jorge Navarro’s (+EGO Speed Up) miserable 2020 run then continued as the Spaniard crashed out, his fifth crash in six races. The man touted as title contender ahead of the year stomped away in fury as his year continues to go from bad to worse. In a lap to forget for the factory Speed Up squad, Di Giannantonio then took the car park route through Turn 14 and through went both Lüthi and Fernandez.
Bezzecchi, however, wasn’t throwing the towel in and just as we saw in Styria three weeks ago, the Italian was starting to chip away at Marini’s lead. Further back, Bastianini’s title chances flashed before his eyes as he pulled of a quite remarkable save at Turn 8. The front end folded and in true Marc Marquez style, the 22-year-old picked it up on his knee and held on to the podium place.
Suddenly drama struck and the fight was on with seven laps to go. Marini hit a false neutral into Turn 14, forcing him wide and his eight tenth advantage was gone. Bezzecchi swooped through, took the lead and it was role reversal at the front of his intermediate class scrap. Five laps remaining and Marini hit back as he smoothly went past under the brakes into Turn 8. Bezzecchi, however, was having none of it, diving straight back past.
Four to go and Marini tried something inventive through the opening corners but Bezzecchi read it and retook the lead. The term 'teammates' was being used in the loosest sense as the pair’s fight really started to heat up, signified by Marini getting the job done through the ultra-fast Turn 11. All of their squabbling was allowing Bastianini to suddenly creep into contention, something team boss Pablo Nieto knew too well as he clambered over pit wall to point out the looming Italian to his riders.
Just two laps were remaining and the top three were covered by 1.1 seconds, it really was anyone’s game. From a fairly flat encounter, were we going to be treated to an incredible sprint finish? Marini had other ideas as he put together a perfect penultimate lap before his cause was aided by a Bezzecchi incredibly hitting a false neutral of his own at Turn 14 that saw Bastianini move to within four tenths of his compatriot.
Marini stood firm on the final lap and the victory was his, with teammate Bezzecchi just doing enough to fight off the charging Bastianini. A second win of 2020 and more importantly for the Italian, now a 19 point title lead over Bastianini with Bezzecchi a further ten back in third.
Vierge came across the line in fourth after having the best seat in Misano throughout the final laps. Fernandez held off both Lüthi and Di Giannantonio to take the final top five place, ahead of arguably the ride of the day courtesy of Sam Lowes. The EG 0,0 Marc VDS rider will walk away from Misano with eight points after starting from pitlane and will no doubt be delighted that the intermediate class is back in just seven days' time. Completing the top ten were Aron Canet (Oceanica Aspar Team) and Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing).
So victory went the way of Marini on a day to remember for Italy as three flags drenched in green, white and red glistened in the San Marino sun. However, all three will be wary of an incredibly determined Brit who will be right in the mix now his pitlane penalty is out of the way.
1. Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46)
2. Marco Bezzecchi (SKY Racing Team VR46) + 0.799
3. Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) + 0.897
4. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) + 2.177
5. Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) + 8.307
6. Tom Lüthi (Liqui Moly Intact GP) + 9.046
7. Fabio Di Giannantonio (+Ego Speed Up) + 9.971
8. Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) + 16.485
9. Aron Canet (Oceanica Aspar Team Moto2) + 17.036
10. Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing) + 17.209
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