(Adds details, quotes)
Sept 27 (Reuters) – Petronas Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo won his third race of the season at the Catalunya Grand Prix in Barcelona on Sunday to reclaim the lead in the MotoGP world championship standings.
Frenchman Quartararo took the chequered flag for the first time since his back-to-back triumphs at Jerez in July, finishing ahead of Suzuki duo Joan Mir and Alex Rins, who started eighth and 13th on the grid respectively.
Both Suzuki riders overtook pole sitter Franco Morbidelli in the final stages of the race and nearly caught up with the leader but ran out of time as a relieved Quartararo returned to the podium for the first time in six races.
“My tyre was nearly destroyed,” Quartararo said after Mir closed the gap to less than a second at the finish. “We know Suzuki is so fast with their grip.
“I didn’t have a good start but the first braking (going into turn one) was really good and I had a clean overtake on the straight. That’s the positive of having three Yamahas in the front row.”
Quartararo now leads the championship with 108 points — eight ahead of Mir and 18 clear of Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales, who had a poor start and finished ninth.
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, who led Quartararo by a point before the race, crashed out in the first turn on the opening lap after he started 17th on the grid. The Italian has now dropped to fourth in the standings, 24 points back.
Yamaha looked set for a podium sweep when Morbidelli led his Italian compatriot Valentino Rossi and Quartararo in the early stages before the Frenchman took the lead with a perfect slipstream overtake with 16 laps to go.
Rossi, who was chasing his 200th podium on his 350th start, capitalised on Morbidelli’s lack of pace to move into second place before he crashed for the second time in as many races after losing control on turn two.
The next race is the French Grand Prix on Oct. 11. (Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)