Close to falling at the very first corner of the British GP, Spain’s Alex Rins went on to snatch a dream victory from reigning MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez at the last corner of the weekend’s race at Silverstone.
“Unbelievable!” beamed Rins. “This race was crazy for me. I did some mistakes and in the first corner I was so close to a crash,” he said after winning this 12th round of 19 for the season.
Starting fifth on the grid, Rins slotted into third at turn one, but narrowly avoided disaster when the rear of his Suzuki kicked out as he applied power on the exit.
“I don’t know if it was because of a cold tyre or what, but anyway I was able to recover,” Rins added.
A similar incident just behind sent Fabio Quartararo into a highside that also wiped out title contender Andrea Dovizioso.
Having kept control, Rins passed Valentino Rossi for second, behind Marquez, on the following lap and the leading pair remained locked together until the end of the race.
Rins’ Suzuki GSX-RR lacked the top speed to draft past the Honda but was able to hold station on the straights with the aid of a slipstream and was visibly quicker in most of the corners.
There was also the undercurrent of a recent spat between the pair at Brno, where Rins had accused Marquez of “having no respect for other riders” after they tangled in qualifying.
At one stage in the Silverstone race, Marquez invited Rins to take the lead, an offer Rins soon returned.
“We started to play a little bit. Marc closed the throttle and I was riding one lap in front of him, but very quickly I let him past because he was faster than me in the last sector and I didn’t want to show my weak points,” Rins said.
“I was stronger than him in all the fast corners and the chicanes. But in the last sector, he was much faster than me on acceleration out of the three slow corners before the last corner.
“But luckily I could gain a lot of metres back from him through the last corner. Otherwise, he would escape.”
The Repsol Honda rider, seeking his seventh win of the season, was credited with leading across the line for all but the last two laps.
That’s because Rins passed Marquez through the final corner and beat him to the finish line not once, but twice in a row on Sunday.
The first pass was arguably the bravest, around the outside and resulting in Rins being squeezed across the kerb on the exit. The reason for launching such a risky move only became clear afterwards; Rins wrongly thought they were already on the final lap!
“I did a very big mistake two laps to the end. I thought it was the last lap and tried to overtake him on the outside,” said Rins. “When I saw him going full gas [after the finish line] I said, ‘Alex, one lap remaining…’.”
Rins duly slotted back behind Marquez after running over the kerb but the official lap chart shows Rins was in first place as the last lap began, meaning his audacious outside pass had technically been a success.
But now Rins had to do it all over again.
And this time Marquez – already stung by Dovizioso at the final corner of the previous Red Bull Ring race – would be expecting such a move.
Ultimately, the earlier pass might have worked in Rins’ favour as it put extra pressure on Marquez to push as hard as he dared through the corner next time around.
And when the Honda began to slide, Rins – who, the TV telemetry showed, had been slightly slower into the corner – cut across to the sliver of space on the inside and then maximised his traction to pull a peak of 7mph more speed than Marquez on the exit and win by just 0.013s, glancing at the world champion as they crossed the line.
It was the closest MotoGP victory margin since Estoril 2006 and, although Rins won at Austin this year, the first time he has beaten Marquez on track for victory.
“I think the two victories, Texas and this one, were difficult for sure. Sincerely, I didn’t think I could win this race because Marc and Fabio had a little more potential than us. But I was feeling very comfortable behind Marc, riding in a good way and then I just had one chance to win on the last corner.”
Rins admitted he was “very proud” to take victory in such a spectacular fashion but even more pleased for Suzuki, which has now claimed three wins since returning to MotoGP in 2015.
“This race is so important for me, but more for Suzuki. They were working very hard. I was close during a lot of races after Texas, but winning this race is unbelievable,” he said.
“This one means that our bike is competitive. Now we need to keep working, keep improving and developing the bike to the maximum level.
“I will try to finish in the top three positions from here until the end of the championship.”
Rins’ victory means he is back up to third in the world championship, four points ahead of Danilo Petrucci and 23 points behind Dovizioso.
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RESULTS & STANDINGS:
- Alex Rins SPA Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 40m 12.799s
- Marc Marquez SPA Repsol Honda (RC213V) +0.013s
- Maverick Viñales SPA Monster Yamaha (YZR-M1) +0.620s
- Valentino Rossi ITA Monster Yamaha (YZR-M1) +11.439s
- Franco Morbidelli ITA Petronas Yamaha (YZR-M1) +13.109s
- Cal Crutchlow GBR LCR Honda (RC213V) +19.169s
- Danilo Petrucci ITA Mission Winnow Ducati (GP19) +19.682s
- Jack Miller AUS Pramac Ducati (GP19) +20.318s
- Pol Espargaro SPA Red Bull KTM Factory (RC16) +21.079s
- Andrea Iannone ITA Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) +25.144s
- Francesco Bagnaia ITA Pramac Ducati (GP18) +40.317s
- Sylvain Guintoli FRA Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) +45.478s
- Hafizh Syahrin MAL Red Bull KTM Tech3 (RC16) +54.783s
- Jorge Lorenzo SPA Repsol Honda (RC213V) +56.651s
- Karel Abraham CZE Reale Avintia Ducati (GP18) +89.282s
- Tito Rabat SPA Reale Avintia Ducati (GP18) +91.716s
- Takaaki Nakagami JPN LCR Honda (RC213V) +100.420s
Aleix Espargaro SPA Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) DNF
Miguel Oliveira POR Red Bull KTM Tech3 (RC16) DNF
Johann Zarco FRA Red Bull KTM Factory (RC16) DNF
Fabio Quartararo FRA Petronas Yamaha (YZR-M1) DNF
Andrea Dovizioso ITA Mission Winnow Ducati (GP19) DNF
CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS (after round 12 of 19):
- Marc Marquez SPA Repsol Honda (RC213V) 250 points
- Andrea Dovizioso ITA Mission Winnow Ducati (GP19) 172 (-78)
- Alex Rins SPA Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 149 (-101)
- Danilo Petrucci ITA Mission Winnow Ducati (GP19) 145 (-105)
- Maverick Viñales SPA Monster Yamaha (YZR-M1) 118 (-132)
- Valentino Rossi ITA Monster Yamaha (YZR-M1) 116 (-134)
- Jack Miller AUS Pramac Ducati (GP19) 94 (-156)
- Fabio Quartararo FRA Petronas Yamaha (YZR-M1) 92 (-158)
- Cal Crutchlow GBR LCR Honda (RC213V) 88 (-162)
- Franco Morbidelli ITA Petronas Yamaha (YZR-M1) 69 (-181)
- Pol Espargaro SPA Red Bull KTM Factory (RC16) 68 (-182)
- Takaaki Nakagami JPN LCR Honda (RC213V) 62 (-188)
- Joan Mir SPA Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 39 (-211)
- Aleix Espargaro SPA Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 33 (-217)
- Francesco Bagnaia ITA Pramac Ducati (GP18) 29 (-221)
- Andrea Iannone ITA Factory Aprilia Gresini (RS-GP) 27 (-223)
- Miguel Oliveira POR Red Bull KTM Tech3 (RC16) 26 (-224)
- Johann Zarco FRA Red Bull KTM Factory (RC16) 22 (-228)
- Jorge Lorenzo SPA Repsol Honda (RC213V) 21 (-229)
- Stefan Bradl GER Repsol Honda (RC213V) 16 (-234)
- Tito Rabat SPA Reale Avintia Ducati (GP18) 14 (-236)
- Michele Pirro ITA Mission Winnow Ducati (GP19) 9 (-241)
- Sylvain Guintoli FRA Suzuki Ecstar (GSX-RR) 7 (-243)
- Hafizh Syahrin MAL Red Bull KTM Tech3 (RC16) 6 (-244)
- Karel Abraham CZE Reale Avintia Ducati (GP18) 5 (-245)