Álex Rins Wins Final-Corner MotoGP Shocker At Silverstone

Championship point leader Marc Márquez beaten—again!—in last-lap pass.

Álex Rins
Marc Márquez (93) and Álex Rins (42) battled for 20 laps at Silverstone, leading to one of the closer finishes in MotoGP history. The Suzuki star led just two laps—the final two. “I was so close to a big mistake,” he admitted. “Two laps to the end, I was thinking it was the last lap. The last corner for me was unbelievable; I was much faster than Marc.”Dorna

Álex Rins' last-lap, last-corner win over Marc Márquez on Sunday at Silverstone reveals that what can be sauce for the goose may also be sauce for the gander. Márquez's much-improved Honda RC213V may now be the "roundest" of MotoGP bikes—normally, Silverstone is difficult for Honda riders—but this, plus Austria two weeks ago, makes two last-lap losses for Márquez.

Before this year’s improvements to the Honda’s acceleration and top speed, Márquez’s usual strategy was to hang in the leader’s draft, wait for his tire to drop, and then push past at the very end; victory through tire management. Now that the Honda’s new qualities have allowed Márquez to push from the start, two other riders—Andrea Dovizioso in Spielberg and Rins this past weekend—have turned the tables to do the same to him.

Not quite the same because, in both cases, the winning riders did not so much pursue and pounce as they did stay in touch, sense an opening, and make a crazy push through it to win.

Rookie sensation Fabio Quartararo topped the first three free practices and warm-up. Márquez, as so often, demonstrated consistent, enduring race pace in FP4, lap after lap, rather than the single quick ones that other riders erratically squeeze out. Silverstone is a track of longer corners and suspension-taxing bumps that has in the past been better handled by the corner-speed Yamahas and Suzukis. But after last year’s race cancellation over standing water, the entire circuit was repaved, very much to the satisfaction of all the riders who spoke of it.

Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales
Factory Yamaha teammates Valentino Rossi (46) and Maverick Viñales (12) qualified one row apart in second and sixth. Their positions were ultimately reversed, with Viñales third and Rossi fourth. When he passed Rossi on lap 7, Viñales was 2.8 seconds behind race leader Márquez. He cut that difference to 0.6 at the finish. “I tried my best,” he said. “I thought I could catch them.”Dorna

Márquez said, “There are bumps but nothing out of the ordinary. Not like last year when it was more like an MX track.” Quartararo added, “There’s good grip, and they’ve done an excellent job. The final turn is the worst in terms of bumps.”

Through practice, it seemed that Márquez had taken the measure of the improved grip and had found a way to the top, setting pole 0.428 second ahead of Valentino Rossi, Jack Miller, Quartararo, and Rins. As earlier this year, he had revealed his race pace in challenging style, laying down five consecutive 1-minute, 59-second laps on his second FP4 exit and topping the session. That looked like Márquez had everything in hand.

Where was principal championship rival Dovizioso? At first riding the track as he had done in the past and being slow, he reviewed the data, corrected his lines in certain corners to take advantage of the new grip, and recovered from 14th in FP3 to fifth in FP4 and qualify seventh. Such adjustments are not easy! I remember Eddie Lawson saying in 1984, "The more I think about it, the slower I go." But to change your routine, you must think about it.

Rossi, qualifying second, was clearly enjoying riding a well-set-up Yamaha in its best conditions of good grip. Just forget the success model that says races are won by the young and hungry, bringing down the old and satisfied. Imagine yourself an anxious passenger on an airliner making the difficult heart-attack approach to land at Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak International Airport. Which would you prefer in the left-hand seat? Young and hot? Or a pilot informed by hundreds of previous landings here?

Rossi said, “It’s normal that, at my age, if I make three very bad races, people start to say he’s old and it’s time to stay at home.”

Fabio Quartararo and Andrea Dovizioso in a crash
Sunday’s race ended almost immediately for Fabio Quartararo (20) and title-contender Andrea Dovizioso (04). “Rins had a small slide in front of me, and I shut the throttle to avoid him and then high-sided,” Quartararo said. The Petronas Yamaha rider topped three of four practices, plus morning warm-up, and qualified fourth. Neither rider suffered serious injuries.Ducati

In the past, riders couldn’t reach Rossi’s 40 years because cumulative injuries from their crashes pounded them out of the sport, usually as a result of some candid surgeon saying, “I’ve fixed you up, but do this again and you won’t be walking.” Rossi’s continued motivation and competitiveness show that rider safety has been greatly improved.

At the start, Márquez led away from Rossi and Rins, but Rins’ hard rear, far from operating temperature, kicked out. Quartararo was right behind him. “We opened at the same time as Rins,” he said. “He lost the rear a lot, and I shut the throttle quite aggressively to not go into him. I also made a big slide but, unfortunately, I had a highside.”

Dovizioso was presented with Quartararo’s bike lying on its side. His Ducati vaulted over it, carrying man and machine up into the air. Dovizioso hit hard and was disoriented for some time. His bike caught fire. He was later reported okay.

Bikes don’t rail around corners in MotoGP, they slide. When you have to close the throttle in this condition, the rear tire immediately grips hard.

Márquez leading the pack
Márquez (93) headed qualifying, earning his 60th premier-class pole position. He was shadowed throughout the race by Rins (42). “Losing in the last straight is not the best feeling,” Márquez said. “I was afraid of the Yamaha riders, so I kept pushing because my target was not the race; it was to take a lot of points. [Álex] is very far in the championship. We leave Silverstone 78 in front.”Dorna

Márquez’s strategy: “I had a very precise idea, which was to create some margin in the first five laps and try to break away. My strategy [changed] when I saw that Dovi and Fabio were out. Rins then got close. I tried to set the pace, but I couldn’t do it.” He also said, “I feel really bad for Andrea,” but then observed, “To avoid this type of accident, you always have to be up front.”

In other words, qualify on the front row and get a strong start so you won’t be stuck back in the honk-honk, beep-beep of traffic as everyone madly jockeys for position on cold tires.

Márquez felt a pinch. He couldn’t get away from Rins yet his tire was fading and his bike was marginal on fuel; his engine quit on the cool-off lap for the first time in his memory.

Rins revealed the limited number of Kai Tak landings he has made by thinking the riders were on the last lap when there was one more to run. Knowing the grip advantage he by now had over Márquez, Rins passed the hard way—on the outside—and led across the finish line. “I thought it was the last lap and tried to overtake him on the outside,” he said. “When I saw him [still] going full gas, I said, ‘Álex, one lap remaining.’ ”

Franco Morbidelli
Franco Morbidelli (21) replicated his best MotoGP finish, fifth. “My feeling improved as the race went on,” he said. Cal Crutchlow (35) received an updated aerodynamics package for Sunday’s race. “I felt a lack of grip immediately, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to battle with the other guys,” he said. “But to finish 19 seconds behind the winner is not acceptable.”Petronas Yamaha

What is significant in all this is the apparent ease with which Rins and his Suzuki could make up lost distance when necessary.

Late in the race, Viñales, 1.6 seconds back on lap 18 of the scheduled 20, was able to make up a full second to be almost within reach of the lead pair.

On the true last lap, Rins ran his wide Suzuki line and arrived just as Márquez’s bike had hit a bump and stepped out slightly. With this help from fate, Rins was able to slip under the Honda and win the dash to the finish.

Rins had really won the race twice, through two quite different winning plays. The Suzuki may lack power but its strength in turning and tire conservation made those plays work. Just as in Austria, Márquez was second because he lacked the last-laps tire grip to evade these attacks.

Johann Zarco
KTM factory rider Johann Zarco collided with KTM Tech3’s Miguel Oliviera (shown) while they were battling for 12th. “It was a realistic opportunity to finish inside the top 10 again,” Oliviera said. Zarco will receive a three-position grid penalty for “irresponsible riding” at the next round in Misano. Pol Espargaró was the top-placing KTM rider in ninth.Dorna

Viñales had earlier passed teammate Rossi—“I suffered more today, especially with the rear tire,” Rossi said. That made the finish order Rins, Márquez, Viñales, 0.620 second out of first, and Rossi, 11.4 seconds back. Franco Morbidelli on a third Yamaha was fifth. Viñales commented, “There are long straights here and, at this track, it’s really about the engine.”

Márquez left Silverstone with a crushing three-race lead of 78 points but upset with himself for not managing to win. “If I lose in the PlayStation, I will be angry,” he said. “So, of course, I’m angry to lose in the last corner.”

Talented people know their own capabilities and are naturally disappointed when they fall short. The Suzukis and Yamahas were greatly helped by Silverstone’s new smoothness and grip, so this can’t be taken as proof of fresh strength. The Honda, formerly at serious disadvantage here, has become strong enough to be there at the finish. The Ducatis benefited as well, but their turning handicap remains.

Rins and Márquez
Rins and Márquez exchange post-race pleasantries. Regarding his strategy for the race, Márquez said, “This was my main target: I will lead the race. I will push, push, push to try and have a small group in the front. And that is what I did. In the end, it was me and Rins.” The first 11 finishers selected hard-compound front and hard-compound rear Michelin slick tires.Dorna

This brings us to an obvious question: Does Ducati neglect turning deliberately because to develop it would weaken braking or some other aspect of performance? Do Yamaha and Suzuki deliberately give up engine qualities to gain chassis strengths? Or do these one-sided designs suffer their shortfalls because their makers either can’t afford to correct them or lack the inventiveness to correct them?

The next round in mid-September at Misano—and the test on Wednesday of this week at the Italian racetrack—will provide fresh data points.