Italtrans Racing Team's Enea Bastianini is back on top of a Grand Prix podium for the first time in two years after the Italian clinched a debut Moto2™ victory at the Gran Premio Red Bull de Andalucia. 'The Beast' had some familiar company on the podium in the form of Sky Racing Team VR46's Luca Marini, with Marini's sophomore teammate Marco Bezzecchi taking his first Moto2™ rostrum finish in third. That made it an all-Italian top three in the intermediate class, for the first time since Imola 1998.
Bezzecchi took the holeshot from pole position but the only held the lead for half a lap, with Bastianini making a brave dive up the inside at Turn 6 to steal it. Bezzecchi then soon also lost out on second after teammate Marini squeezed through just three turns later, the veteran seeming eager to try and stop Bastianini escaping early on. The Italtrans Racing Team man had eked out a comfortable advantage of about three or four tenths already, and the clock was ticking...
Further back, Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) lunged up the inside of Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) at Turn 6 for fifth place, but the Spaniard ran wide and allowed last week’s podium finisher back through. Thanks to the Spaniards squabbling over fifth place, second, third and fourth in the running, Marini, Bezzecchi and EG 0,0 Marc VDS' Sam Lowes, were then able to open out a second and could focus on cementing a podium place.
Navarro then got through on Martin, again at Turn 6, but yellow flags were waving due to an earlier crash for Kasma Daniel (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team). As a result, the Speed Up man was forced to hand a place back but did so in a pretty smooth manner, running wide at Turn 13 on purpose before then squeezing back in behind Aron Canet (Openbank Aspar Team Moto2), who had battled his way through to fifth.
Back at the front, Bastianini’s gap was at 0.8 with 17 to go, but last week’s race winner Marini had found his groove, halving that advantage in just a lap. The Sky Racing Team VR46 rider then sat in behind his compatriot with 15 laps remaining, looking like a lion ready to pounce on its prey. In that battle for a top five finish, Navarro then suddenly crashed out at Turn 9.
As the laps ticked away, the pressure built on Bastianini and it looked like he'd cracked after running ever so slightly wide at Turn 8, with Marini suddenly glued to his rear wheel. With 12 to go Marini had his biggest look up the inside of the number 33, showing his front wheel, but not managing to squeeze through.
At seven to go, Bastianini pulled the pin. Suddenly moving a second clear, and then 1.5 a lap later, he eventually came across the line 2.1 seconds ahead of Marini to take his first win in the intermediate class. And for the first time since 1998, in a race won by Valentino Rossi, Italy had a podium lock-out as Bezzecchi held off Lowes to joined his compatriots on the box.
The Brit was less than a second in further arrears as they came across the line and again took fourth place, as he did seven days ago. The final place inside the top five went to rookie Canet, again impressing many with his performance, ahead of Martin in sixth. Liqui Moly Intact GP's Tom Lüthi took seventh.
The fight for eighth went right down to the wire, with Championship leader Tetsuta Nagashima (Red Bull KTM Ajo) the man to lose out at the final corner after running wide. Xavi Vierge (Petronas Sprinta Racing) emerged out of that gaggle of riders at the front, before Stefano Manzi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) and Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) clinched the final top ten spots. Nagahima's 11th place finish moved him onto 50 points in the World Championship though, and it's enough to hold onto the lead heading into Brno.
That's only a week and a half away, with engines on soon in the Czech Republic and Moto2™ ready to battle it out again.
1 Enea Bastianini - Italtrans Racing Team - Kalex 39:23.922
2 Luca Marini - Sky Racing Team VR46 - Kalex +2.153
3 Marco Bezzecchi - Sky Racing Team VR46 - Kalex +3.243
Enea Bastianini: "I'm really happy because also this morning I was fast, and this afternoon in the race, I thought inside me I could win because I'm fast and after pushing from the first laps, the last ten laps I kept a bit of a gap to Marini and it's a brilliant race. The bike was really incredible, thanks to my team! I dedicate this victory to Livio, my great friend, who is no longer here with us."