Marc Marquez resisted a spirited challenge from Cal Crutchlow to win a tense German Grand Prix, taking him into the lead of the world championship. After Jorge Lorenzo’s withdrawal on Friday, Dani Pedrosa was also declared unfit on Sunday morning after his practice crash, handing Marquez the opportunity to leapfrog both in the title race.
In Pedrosa’s absence, Marquez led away from pole position on the sole Repsol Honda but he was quickly swamped from both sides as Stefan Bradl powered around the outside. The home crowd were made to wait for the moment their local hero led the race though as Valentino Rossi dived up the inside to grab the holeshot. Cheered on by thousands of his fellow countrymen, Bradl stalked Rossi as they descended from the ‘waterfall’ corner on lap one and surged up the inside of the Yamaha to rapturous cheers.
Behind the squabble for the lead, Aleix Espargaro had risen to third on the Aspar CRT machine, putting some manners on Marquez in the process, but as soon as the race settled down he was punted down the order as Marquez and Crutchlow took their places in a four man leading group.
Bradl maintained his lead despite pressure from Rossi and it was clear that the threat was coming from Marquez who pushed past Rossi for second at the Queckenberg corner on lap five and it only took the Spaniard one more lap to do the same to Bradl, ending the German’s leadership of the German Grand Prix.
Try as he might, Stefan couldn’t keep pace with the Repsol Honda once it had motored past and he fell into the clutches of the pursuing Yamahas with first Rossi, and then Crutchlow easing past to deny him a place on the podium. The upshot of those battles was a two second lead for Marquez which seemed to have put victory beyond the reach of the Yamaha pair.
However, Crutchlow had other ideas and swarmed all over the back of the no.46, desperate for a way past. The Briton’s charge brought a reward on lap sixteen after a quicker run down the waterfall and the stage was set for a rousing finale as he chased down Marquez. At one point, a maiden victory looked on as the gap shrunk to just 1.4 seconds but the reigning Moto2 champion found a response when needed and preserved his advantage to the chequered flag.
Rossi wound up a disappointing third given his exploits at Assen. The position won’t have worried him but the eight second deficit to the Tech 3 Yamaha of Crutchlow will have been source for some disgruntlement. Stefan Bradl’s fourth place may have also been bittersweet having come so close to a podium on home soil but Alvaro Bautista and Bradley Smith were justifiably delighted with fifth and sixth respectively. Andrea Dovizioso salvaged seventh for Ducati as Aleix Espargaro was demoted to eighth with Nicky Hayden and Michele Pirro completing the top ten.