Valentino Rossi sealed victory in the British MotoGP at a sodden Silverstone to enhance his chances of clinching a 10th MotoGP crown.
The 36-year-old Italian began Sunday level on points with his Movistar Yamaha team-mate and three-time Silverstone winner Jorge Lorenzo, but Rossi mastered the difficult conditions to win in Britain for the first time in a decade and move 12 points clear at the top of the standings.
Northern Ireland’s Eugene Laverty narrowly missed out on a points finish as he crossed the line in 17th place on the Power Electronics Aspar Honda. His team-mate, Nicky Hayden, was the top Open class finisher in 12th place.
It was an all-Italian podium as Pramac Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci and Andrea Dovizioso on the factory Ducati finished second and third ahead of Lorenzo, while reigning champion Marc Marquez crashed out in the 13th lap to leave the Repsol Honda rider further adrift in the standings and 77 points behind Rossi with six races to go.
Marquez began the race on pole but had ceded first place to Lorenzo by the opening corner before Rossi moved to the head of the pack with 19 laps remaining.
The slick conditions in Northamptonshire were affecting the riders and Lorenzo was fortunate not to be unseated when Pol Espargaro shunted him, and Marquez’s afternoon was ended when he lost control at Copse Corner in pursuit of Rossi, who eased off to ensure a mistake-free ride in the closing stages.
There was no home cheer for Britain’s Cal Crutchlow, though, as a collision with his LCR Honda team-mate Jack Miller led to both men’s retirements.
Speaking after the race, Rossi admitted he was mindful of making an error after seeing Marquez come off.
“When I saw Marc crash I slowed down a little bit because I think I have more advantage,” Rossi said.
“But, in the end, this is MotoGP, you can’t relax. Everybody wants to beat you. My bike was great, I enjoyed it very much and I just have to ride through the corners.”
Marquez admitted the race for the title is now likely to be a two-horse race between Rossi and Lorenzo.
“We can say maybe now that the championship will be too difficult,” said the reigning champion.