Luis Salom held off Sandro Cortese to claim his first ever Grand Prix victory at Indianapolis in a dramatic conclusion which saw Maverick Vinales crash out of the fight for the lead two corners from home. The Avintia Blusens rider was unable to re-join, handing Cortese a significant edge in the title race.
Following early spells in the lead for Danny Kent, Alex Rins and Zulfahmi Khairuddin, the fight for victory started to take shape ten laps in. Vinales, responding to a ‘GO’ sign on his pit board, scythed past Khairuddin into turn one and set about opening a half second lead. Cortese was keen to go with him and latched onto the back of the AirAsia-Sic-Ajo KTM before passing him himself two laps later. Only a few corners had passed before Salom was through too.
Vinales’ escape act hadn’t proved as successful as it had at other races this season and Cortese quickly reeled him in. The championship leader wasn’t content to follow Vinales though with Salom shadowing him so took the opportunity to pass the FTR-Honda at the start of lap fifteen. Maverick returned the favour three laps later as the two proved tough to separate and they would be nose-to-tail as they came round to start the final lap.
It was here that Cortese bolted, using the power of his factory KTM to great effect, but Vinales kept himself in touch and lined himself up for a move at turn ten. Maverick’s mind was clearly made up to brake later than his rival, wherever that happened to be, but both would drift slightly wide allowing the canny Salom to sneak through on the inside. Instead of gaining a place, Vinales ended up losing one as Cortese barged his way back into second.
Vinales’ only hope now was to outdrag the two leaders on the run to the finish line but in his attempts to get a good run onto the final straight, the 17 year old lost the front end of his FTR at the penultimate bend, throwing sixteen valuable points into the grass. Cortese was untroubled and ducked into the slipstream of Salom but the RW Racing rider hung on to break his victory duck.
The pack behind had been scrapping over fourth with Miguel Oliveira leading Jonas Folger and Romano Fenati. Folger, racing for the Aspar team for the first time since leaving Ioda, managed to edge past Oliveira on the penultimate lap and Vinales’ late slip-up would hand him a scarcely believable podium from fifteenth on the grid. Oliveira was a tenth of a second behind in fourth with Fenati pushed back into fifth.
Khairuddin and Rins couldn’t maintain their strong early pace and were left to scrap over sixth. The Malaysian would prevail by inches in the drag race to the finish line, pipping the Estrella Galicia Suter by 0.034s. Jakub Kornfeil took eighth ahead of Alberto Moncayo and Alexis Masbou while Danny Kent plummeted to twelfth after leading on lap one. Fellow Briton Danny Webb was unable to take the start after injuries sustained in qualifying.