Maverick Vinales took an utterly dominant victory in the Catalunya Grand Prix after escaping a ten-man fight at the front of the field, leaving the rest to fight in out in a chaotic battle for the podium positions.
The mayhem ensued right from the moment the lights went out as Louis Rossi and Zulfahmi Khairuddin dived past Vinales into turn one. That corner would see a lot of action as the race unfolded and the next change of lead came there on lap three, Khairuddin and Vinales demoting Rossi back to third. A lap later, the lead switched once again as Vinales slipstreamed past the KTM, bringing Rossi and Efren Vazquez through with him as Khairuddin discovered first-hand the effect of a tow down the long pit straight. Matters got even worse for the Malaysian shortly afterwards when a mistake dropped him to eighth.
The leading group of three settled into a pace being dictated by Vinales but a chasing pack of seven were gaining fast despite regular position swapping. Sandro Cortese was at the front of it when they got on terms with the leaders but a posse of youngsters were pushing him hard. Estrella Galicia teammates Miguel Oliveira, Alex Marquez and Alex Rins were fifth, sixth and eighth respectively, sandwiching Hector Faubel, while Alexis Masbou and the recovering Khairuddin were also in contention.
The gloves came off in the fight for second as Marquez launched an attack on lap ten. The wildcard rider, younger brother of Moto2 star Marc Marquez, was sensing a historic victory and dived past Vazquez into third at turn one before repeating the move on Rossi at the end of the back straight into turn ten. In the laps that followed, Rossi, Cortese and Vazquez all took turns in second as the slipstreaming contest continued. None of them could make a decisive move and the upshot of it all was the escape of Vinales, who romped into a six second lead, an advantage that proved enough for victory.
The identity of the two men either side of him on the podium was still up in the air as the chaotic battle showed no signs of ending. The eight riders involved were all searching for that vital slipstream and Khairuddin certainly found the sweet spot on the penultimate lap to leap from eighth to second in one fell swoop.
With the last lap approaching, Cortese put the hammer down and grabbed second from his fellow KTM rider, outbraking him into turn ten, but Alexis Masbou's Caretta Technology Honda latched onto the German and moved through into third. The Frenchman looked on course for a maiden Grand Prix podium but three corners from home, Miguel Oliveira dived inside him to claim that honour for himself. Masbou also lost fourth to compatriot Louis Rossi on the run to the line but still equalled his career-best finish of fifth.
Alex Marquez took a sensational sixth on the second Estrella Galicia Suter ahead of Faubel and Khairuddin with Romano Fenati putting in a late surge to finish ninth, a mere 0.848s behind second-placed Cortese. Ahead of the mayhem, Vinales’ margin of victory was 7.7s but that didn’t come close to reflecting his level of dominance.
John McPhee narrowly missed out on points after a bright start. The Scotsman was up in the top ten early on but faded to nineteenth. Danny Kent's was ruined by a problem on the opening lap, restricting him to 20th, while Danny Webb was let down by the unreliable Mahindra yet again.