Franco Morbidelli has collected his third victory of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship season after prevailing in a thrilling last lap tussle with Jack Miller, while Joan Mir’s steady run to seventh place saw him clinch the 2020 title.

A race that steadily built in momentum prior to a crescendo of a final lap as a charging Miller took the fight to Morbidelli right up the to the finish line, victory means the Italian is now equal with team-mate Fabio Quartararo in terms of victories this year (six in total for Petronas SRT Yamaha) and has ascended to second in the standings.

However, while it was Morbidelli’s race, the day otherwise belonged to Mir and Suzuki, the Spaniard holding his nerve to safely bring the GSX-RR home in seventh position. While he needed a podium to guarantee the title regardless of where his rivals finished, with Alex Rins only fourth and Fabio Quartararo crashing out, the maths still worked in his favour.

 

 

Starting from pole position for the second time this season, Morbidelli kept his cool as fellow front row starter Miller swept past into turn one, only for the Aussie to run wide and allow his Yamaha rival back in front.

From here Morbidelli eked out his advantage with a series of almost identical lap times, even if Miller never allowed the margin in front to get far beyond a single second. However, with just under ten laps of the race remaining, a telling fastest lap from Miller announced the start of the Pramac Ducati rider’s fight back.

Latching onto the tail of the M1 just as they began the final lap, Miller duly got the slipstream he needed to send the GP20 up the inside into Turn 1, but a cool Morbidelli would simply switch it back to nose in front into Turn 2. 

Undeterred, Miller - looking to become the tenth different race winner in 13 races - pounced again into Turn 3 with an inch-perfect move, only for Morbidelli to return the favour with a beautifully executed retort into Turn 4.

From here Morbidelli would keep the Ducati man in check, tactically pausing on the apex to prevent Miller from getting the drive out of the bends needed to set up a pass into the next one.

With a relatively short run out of the final corner to the finish line, Morbidelli held on to claim a victory that, while largely lights-to-flag like his previous two successes in Misano and Catalunya, was certainly harder fought.

Completing the podium for the fifth time this season - and for a second weekend in a row - was Pol Espargaro, the KTM man making a strong start that briefly had him up to second on the opening lap to complete another lucrative weekend for the Austrian marque.

Even so, he had some fortune come his way after Takaaki Nakagami’s bid to secure an elusive maiden MotoGP podium came unstuck as the pair tussled. Recovering from a difficult opening few laps, Nakagami began to make headway as the race tipped over into its second-half with pace that would have likely seen him catch Morbidelli and Miller before the chequered flag.

However, after crashing out of the lead in Aragon earlier in the month, it was to be more heartache for Japanese rider after losing the front-end of the Honda on the bumps at the final corner while overtaking Espargaro.

His retirement, together with that of Johann Zarco from sixth on lap four, ultimately played into the hands of Mir, who after leaving himself on the back foot by qualifying 12th, tentatively navigated his way through the frantic opening exchanges to settle just inside the top ten.

Even so, Mir’s cause had already been assisted by a dismal conclusion to Quartararo’s title dreams, beginning with a wide moment at Turn 2 on the opening lap - the result of getting his braking wrong and very nearly wiping out Maverick Vinales - before then crashing out altogether on lap nine. The leader of the standings as recently as the first Aragon race (Round 10), Quartararo has scored just 17 points from the last five races.

It meant Mir’s team-mate Rins was the only rider now with a realistic shot of keeping the title fight alive to the Portimao finale, but was always going to be limited by starting 14th. In the end, Rins made strong headway up the order to collect fourth, but it meant Mir in seventh couldn’t be denied.

Brad Binder scored his best result since Austria with a meticulous run to fifth place, getting the better of stablemate Miguel Oliveira, who in turn ensured KTM got all three of its RC16s into the top six.

Behind Mir, Andrea Dovizioso made a solid rise to eighth from 17th for Ducati and Aleix Espargaro secured Aprilia’s best finish of the season in ninth place, while Yamaha’s race day slump in form - at least with the 2020 machine - left Maverick Vinales a modest tenth.

Pecco Bagnaia picked up 11th after running wide at Turn 1 on lap two, ahead of Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow, while Stefan Bradl and Danilo Petrucci notched up the final points’ paying positions in 14th and 15th.

While Mir cannot be caught for the title, it is otherwise all change just behind him as the closely-bunched riders from second to eighth swapped around again.

Victory means Morbidelli holds a provisional runners-up spot coming into the final round, which in turn affords him top Yamaha status for the first time in his career, while Rins is third four points adrift of the Italian.

Vinales holds onto fourth, rising past Quartararo who drops from second to fifth, while Dovizioso and Espargaro sit fifth and sixth. With only next weekend’s Portuguese MotoGP remaining, 20 points covers second down to sixth still.

 

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