Franco Morbidelli has become the fifth different winner of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship with a terrific lights-to-flag victory in the San Marino MotoGP at Misano, but it was disaster for his erstwhile championship leading team-mate Fabio Quartararo who crashed twice before retiring.

Another wholly unexpected outcome to the sixth MotoGP race of the season in what is becoming an almost entirely unpredictable season, Morbidelli’s win makes him the fourth first-time race winner of 2020 alone.

While the result may not have been anticipated, it doesn’t take away the quality of the Italian’s performance, who made the most of a superb getaway from second on the grid to get the hole-shot before protecting his advantage right to the flag.

 

 

Coming only three races after scoring his maiden podium at Brno, Morbidelli’s success on home soil provides some joy for Yamaha on a day when the manufacturer came nowhere near to maximising its opportunities from 1-2-3-4 on the grid.

Indeed, Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales - the only rider to start on a hard rear tyre - fluffed their chances at the start when they allowed Ducati’s Jack Miller between themselves and Morbidelli, plus Valentino Rossi out front.

With Vinales taking time to get his tyres up to performance, Quartararo became bottled up behind him initially but having finally passed his stablemate on seven, dropped his Petronas SRT Yamaha when he ran wide at Turn 4. The crestfallen Frenchman soon pitted and returned to track, only to fall again almost straight away on cold tyres on a veritable day to forget for the title contender.

Up front, Rossi tracked Morbidelli during the initial laps, but a new lap record from the 2017 Moto2 champion allowed him to put the air he needed to start pushing on.

By contrast, Rossi found himself being swallowed by Alex Rins and Pecco Bagnaia behind, the pair having relieved Vinales earlier before quickly catching and dispatching a fading Miller ahead of them. 

However, a steely Rossi wouldn’t give up second place without a fight, the fairly evenly matched Yamaha and Suzuki riders line astern but never looking that likely to swap positions. As such, Bagnaia - in his first race back since breaking his leg at Brno - would wait no longer as he streamed up the inside of Rins at the fast Turn 11 to move into third with eight laps remaining.

Unlike the more hesitant Rins, Bagnaia wasted no time in getting the better of Rossi - his VR46 rider academy mentor - repeating the same move at Turn 11 on the very next lap to nose the Pramac Racing Ducati into second position.

Their feuding would allow Morbidelli - at times 3secs clear of the pack - the opportunity to ease off in the closing stages, crossing the line to take an emotional maiden victory in his third season of MotoGP competition. 

He joins team-mate Quartararo, Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira in notching up maiden wins in just the six races of the 2020 MotoGP season alone.

Behind them, Bagnaia visibly faded as fatigue no doubt set in but did just enough to collect second place for his first MotoGP podium, in so doing likely guaranteeing his promotion to the factory Ducati team in 2021.

Just adrift of him on the line though was a brilliant Joan Mir, who after losing time trying to overtake Miller, managed to catch the podium-contesting group before planting a superb pass on Rins into the first corner of the final lap.

With momentum on his side, Mir did was Rins couldn’t by slicing up the inside of Rossi at Turn 5 in one of the moves of the season to snatch a brilliant third place. As a result, Rossi had to make do with fourth, just denied the chance of a 200th grand prix podium at his home race.

Rins was left fifth, no doubt frustrated at not taking his opportunities, while a perplexed Vinales was left down in sixth, his hard tyre only coming into strength late on as he set his fastest time in the closing laps.

With Quartararo down and out, bizarrely it means Andrea Dovizioso is the new 2020 MotoGP World Championship leader despite barely featuring in the race and finishing well down in seventh but notching up useful points towards what is becoming an unconventional title bid.

Takaaki Nakagami maintained his record as the only rider to finish every race this season inside the top ten with a charging ride from 14th to ninth, just behind a fading Miller in eiighth and ahead of Pol Espargaro, the best KTM in tenth.

Fellow KTM riders Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder trailed in 11th and 12th, while Aleix Espargaro, Iker Lecuona and Johann Zarco completed the points’ paying positions.
 

 

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