Franco Morbidelli led from start to finish to claim a maiden premier class victory in a pulsating San Marino Grand Prix.
The Petronas Yamaha SRT rider was in a league of his own in the 27-lap thriller, which featured two falls for team-mate Fabio Quartararo, who conceded the championship lead for the first time this season.
Morbidelli became the fifth different winner in six races in 2020, and the fourth first-time winner alongside Quartararo (Jerez), KTM’s Brad Binder (Czech Republic) and Tech3’s Miguel Oliveira (Styria).
The Italian was untroubled from lights-out after jumping pole sitter Maverick Vinales, with Valentino Rossi also clearing his Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team-mate.
Vinales, who encountered dramas with his bike on the grid, struggled to get his front medium and rear hard combination to work and was also cleared by Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller before the field had completed the opening lap.
Morbidelli led a group of seven bikes covered by just over two seconds in the early laps before Quartararo pounced on Vinales for fourth on Lap 7.
However, just one lap later, Quartararo made an uncharacteristic error and fell at Turn 4. The Frenchman rejoined the race, albeit in last position, before falling a second time into retirement at Turn 6 on Lap 19.
At the front, Morbidelli began to gap Rossi as Team Suzuki Ecstar team-mates Alex Rins and Joan Mir closed on an ailing Vinales. Rins was next to pass the pole man, but an error on Lap 10 for Rins saw Bagnaia soar into sixth.
Bagnaia used the supreme straightline speed of his Ducati to fly past Vinales shortly after, with Morbidelli leaving Rossi behind all the time. On Lap 15 alone, Morbidelli was half a second faster than Rossi.
As the race wore on, Miller’s third place began to look up for grabs, with the Australian cleared by Rins and Bagnaia on Lap 14.
Rossi’s second place suddenly became a mission of defence, with the racy pack of Rins, Bagnaia and Mir closing at a rate of knots.
Bagnaia, who was chasing a maiden podium and nursing a leg fracture suffered in Brno practice five weeks ago, was the man on the burst, making a daring pass on Rins at the high-speed Turn 11 before repeating the dosage on Rossi at the same corner a lap later to climb into second.
Miller continued to drop down, with Vinales and Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso both moving through to leave the Aussie eighth by race’s end.
With Morbidelli comfortable in the lead, the focus turned to the fight for the minor placings. Bagnaia fell back towards Rossi, who was already under the blowtorch from the Suzuki duo.
Mir managed to pass Rins and set off after Rossi, before completing a final-lap overtake on the nine-time world champion at Turn 10 to kill Rossi’s hopes of achieving a 200th premier class podium on home soil.
“I don’t know how it feels, I still have to process everything,” an elated Morbidelli said after the race.
“Definitely it’s a good feeling, I’m very happy. I’m enjoying the moment now.
“The only thing I can say is thank you to my team, thanks to all my people who have been working with me and have been helping me.
“During the last laps, I was thinking a lot about seven years ago when I was racing here.
“I was winning that race and this felt much the same, but much more.
“I’m just overwhelmed at the moment.”
Dovizioso moved into the lead of the championship on 76 points, six ahead of Quartararo, with Miller a further seven adrift in third.
The 2020 season will remain in Misano for the second of a double-header at the circuit next weekend.
Race results: San Marino MotoGP
|1||21||Franco MORBIDELLI||ITA||Petronas Yamaha SRT||Yamaha||42:02.272|
|2||63||Francesco BAGNAIA||ITA||Pramac Racing||Ducati||+2.217|
|3||36||Joan MIR||ESP||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||Suzuki||+2.290|
|4||46||Valentino ROSSI||ITA||Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||+2.643|
|5||42||Alex RINS||ESP||Team SUZUKI ECSTAR||Suzuki||+4.044|
|6||12||Maverick VIÑALES||ESP||Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP||Yamaha||+5.383|
|7||04||Andrea DOVIZIOSO||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||+10.358|
|8||43||Jack MILLER||AUS||Pramac Racing||Ducati||+11.155|
|9||30||Takaaki NAKAGAMI||JPN||LCR Honda IDEMITSU||Honda||+10.839|
|10||44||Pol ESPARGARO||ESP||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM||+12.030|
|11||88||Miguel OLIVEIRA||POR||Red Bull KTM Tech 3||KTM||+12.376|
|12||33||Brad BINDER||RSA||Red Bull KTM Factory Racing||KTM||+12.405|
|13||41||Aleix ESPARGARO||ESP||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||+15.142|
|14||27||Iker LECUONA||ESP||Red Bull KTM Tech 3||KTM||+19.914|
|15||5||Johann ZARCO||FRA||Esponsorama Racing||Ducati||+20.152|
|16||9||Danilo PETRUCCI||ITA||Ducati Team||Ducati||+22.094|
|17||73||Alex MARQUEZ||ESP||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||+22.473|
|18||6||Stefan BRADL||GER||Repsol Honda Team||Honda||+37.856|
|19||38||Bradley SMITH||GBR||Aprilia Racing Team Gresini||Aprilia||+1:18.831|
|DNF||53||Tito RABAT||ESP||Esponsorama Racing||Ducati||5 Laps|
|DNF||20||Fabio QUARTARARO||FRA||Petronas Yamaha SRT||Yamaha||9 Laps|
Race winner: 27 laps