Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) silenced all critics by shocking the two-wheeled world and taking an unlikely win at the Red Bull Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday. The Australian was the ultimate opportunist as he pounced all over a serious problem that saw Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) fall from a comfortable two-second lead to outside the top ten in just a handful of laps. Joining Miller on the podium was new MotoGP World Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia, making it the first Ducati 1-2 in three years, and Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Franco Morbidelli.
Starting from the outside of the front row, Miller grabbed the holeshot as poleman Quartararo went backward off the line. The Frenchman was swamped into the first corner and found himself down in fourth, just ahead of Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro who had a strong start to find himself in fifth. Down the back straight for the first time then and it was Miller who led the way from Morbidelli and Bagnaia.
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LCR Castrol Honda’s Alex Marquez crashed out on the opening lap to make it three DNFs in the first four races of 2021 for the HRC man. He was joined in the Jerez gravel by Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Brad Binder, who crashed out at the start of Lap 2. At the front, Bagnaia and Quartararo began to swap places time and time again over third. First, the Frenchman moved up the inside in the opening sector before the Bologna bullet of Bagnaia motored back past down to Turn 6. Then, for a second time, Quartararo got in front of Bagnaia, this time at the final corner before going defensive into the first corner to make sure it stayed like that.
On Lap 3 we had faller three of the Spanish GP as Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) made it a fortnight to forget with a second consecutive crash. The Suzuki man was wide at Turn 6 and the front-end washed away to end his Jerez hopes. Further forward, Quartararo dived up the inside of former teammate Morbidelli for second, with Aleix Espargaro finding a way through on Bagnaia for fourth at the same time.
Five laps of a remarkable Spanish Grand Prix were remaining and Quartararo was pushed outside of the top ten by Pol Espargaro; a statement that was unthinkable just ten minutes earlier. A couple more laps ticked by and surely there wasn’t going to be yet more drama as Miller’s lead was cut down to just a second by teammate Bagnaia. Could the Thriller hold on for a first Ducati victory? They were a nervy final few laps but the number 43 held on and, for the first time since the 2016 Dutch TT, Miller took the chequered flag of a MotoGP race – Ducati’s first in Jerez for 15 years.
There were huge grins on Ducati’s three wise men of Dall’Igna, Tardozzi and Ciabatti when Bagnaia came across the line in second too. A first 1-2 for Ducati in just under three years and the first they’ve ever had at Jerez. There was huge delight for Morbidelli in third as well – another man to silence some doubters. The Italian thumped his chest with joy and declared it “as good as a victory” in Parc Ferme afterwards. There was yet more Jerez delight for Takaaki Nakagami as the LCR Honda Idemitsu man matched his career-best MotoGP result with fourth place. The Japanese rider saw off a late charge from World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), who was forced to settle for fifth.
Aprilia finished the closest they have ever been to a MotoGP race winner but it’s hard not to think it was a missed opportunity for Aleix Espargaro. The Spaniard coming home in sixth place, only 5.164 seconds adrift of Miller. Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales clinched seventh place, ahead of Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco in the eighth. Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez bounced back from his Warm Up crash to take a commendable ninth place. The final place inside the top ten went to the eight-time World Champion’s teammate Pol Espargaro.
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