Valentino Rossi won MotoGP’s Catalan Grand Prix on Sunday, dedicating the victory to Luis Salom, the Moto2 rider who died in a crash in practice on Friday.
Rossi made his way to the front after starting fifth and held off a late charge by pole-sitter Marc Marquez to secure his second win of the season. The Italian finished 2.6 seconds in front of Marquez and 6.3 seconds ahead of third place Dani Pedrosa.
All three riders arrived at the podium wearing T-shirts honoring Salom, the 24-year-old Spaniard who died after colliding with a protective barrier at the Barcelona track.
The result allowed Marquez to take the championship lead from Jorge Lorenzo, who was taken out of the race after an aggressive overtaking attempt by Andrea Iannone with nine laps to go. Lorenzo took the lead at the start but gradually fell back through the field. He was fifth when Iannone crashed into him. MotoGP officials said Iannone will have to start the next race from the back for causing Sunday’s accident.
“It was one of the best victories of my career and I dedicate it to Luis Salom and to all of his family,” Rossi said.
Rossi dropped from fifth to sixth after the start but quickly made his way to the front and was leading by the seventh lap at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit. Marquez tried to pass him a few times near the end but couldn’t get it done.
“I didn’t have enough so I decided not to risk it too much,” Marquez said.
Rossi was coming off a disappointing race in Mugello, when he had to retire with mechanical problems while in second place.
Rossi and Marquez had been at odds since an incident on the track last year but made amends after the race in Barcelona.
“It was important that we shook hands, motorcycling deserved it,” Marquez said. “We had a great battle in a weekend in which we were reminded that we are all humans. We have to respect each other, we don’t know what’s going to happen to us.”
Johann Zarco of France won the Moto2 race, which was marked by a series of events to honor Salom. There was a minute of silence before the race started, and Salom’s bike was put on the grid near the finish line as riders from all three categories stood by it. A large photo of the rider and a pit-lane sign with a message honoring him were placed by the bike. Members of Salom’s team wore a jersey that read “Always in our hearts.”
The top-three finishers in the race also wore jerseys honoring Salom on the podium. Second-place finisher Alex Rins carried a flag with Salom’s number and initials.
“All riders were thinking about him,” Zarco said.
Because of Salom’s crash, the race took place at the Formula One track layout, which forces cars to go through a slow chicane just before the fast right-handed turn where Salom crashed on Friday.