MOTORLAND ARAGON, Alcañiz, Spain – Perhaps the closest Moto GP race in the last half-dozen years saw local favourite Marc Marquez back on top of the victory podium, pushing him back into the lead of the world championship.
“Racing at one of my favourite tracks, close to my home and in front of my fans, gave me extra motivation,” said Marquez after the race. “I pushed hard and in some corners I just clicked the off-button in my head.”
Still, the story of the weekend had to be the ever-green, ever-young, 38-year-old Valentino Rossi. After breaking his right leg in three places only three weeks ago, the nine-time world champion came within a hair of taking pole position, and after chasing hard for the lead, eventually settled for a well-fought fifth. Considering the doctors had suggested/recommended a 30-40 day recuperation period before even riding a bike, his performance and result was unbelievable.
“I‘m quite proud, because a week ago I didn’t know if I would be able to race,” said The Doctor. “Achieving a start from the first row yesterday was already great, I was very happy. I knew I had to suffer in the second half of the race … After this we have Motegi, which is going to be very important, but we also have three races in a row. This will be very difficult for my leg, so I want to try to arrive in Motegi, maybe not at 100 per cent, but quite fit.”
By and large, it was a weekend for Honda to celebrate, with Marquez getting back on top of the world title chase, and his team-mate Dani Pedrosa making a late-race charge to collect second. It was a great race and result for Pedrosa, who’s had a bit of an up and down season, in large part due to his light weight and difficulty in coming to grips with the Michelin control tires. The hot and dry race weather at Aragon (after the damp Friday practice) suited him and his talents brilliantly, and he made the best of things. A couple more laps and he might even have challenged his team-mate for the win – but racing is built on “might have beens.”
Third went to Jorge Lorenzo, who seems to be finally getting to grips with the Ducati. The hideous new fairing on the bike apparently adds considerable downforce to the front tire, which seems to have given the Spaniard the confidence he’s been lacking on the bike. Although he’s been out-qualified, out-raced, and out-foxed by his much-lower-paid team-mate Andrea Dovizioso most of the year, he seems to be finally in his comfort zone, and the idea of a win before the year ends no longer seems like a bad joke.
Fourth went to Rossi’s team-mate Maverick Viňales, who took a long time to translate his pole position into a decent race pace, but eventually caught and passed Rossi. He’s still third in the championship, but he’s going to have to settle down and have more consistent results if he’s still got any serious hopes of taking his first Moto GP title.
Behind Rossi was a great sixth for Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia, equalling the team’s best Moto GP result to date. Chassis and engine improvements have left Espargaro smiling, and it’s not out of the question that podiums may not be that far away.
Seventh was Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso, suffering his worst result in several races. His choice of the soft rear-tire compound went very wrong, and even his legendary tire management skills weren’t enough to cope. After a strong first half of the race, he steadily drifted back, and was indeed lucky not to fall prey to Alvaro Bautista on the satellite Avintia Ducati at the finish.
Johann Zarco (Tech 3 satellite Yamaha) and Pol Espargaro (KTM) completed the top 10, and the 11th place rider also deserves a mention. KTM test rider Mika Kallio – who’s raced in Moto GP and Moto 2 before – is making no secret of his desire to return to full-time racing, and his recent wild card performances have made it obvious he’d be well deserving of a ride. That’s leaving Bradley Smith on the bubble: the Brit’s race performances have been well below par recently, and in fact his development skills are highly rated. Don’t be surprised if the two swap seats in 2018 – or even before.
Championship leader Franco Morbidelli had a comfortable lead for much of the race, but at the end had to struggle hard to beat friend and fellow Italian Mattia Pasini. Not far behind was the cool and calculating Miguel Oliveira on the KTM bike, who hung on to convert his pole position – his first – into an eventual third place finish.
Swiss Tom Luthi – who’ll be partnering Morbidelli in Moto GP in 2018 – managed to collect a fourth but fell further behind Morbidelli in this year’s title chase. Still, he’s only 21 points back, and with 25 points for a win, any big mistake by Morbidelli combined with a bit of luck from Luthi could even things up pretty quickly.
South African Brad Binder once again proved he’s back from his early-season wrist injury with a good fifth place. The 2016 Moto 3 champ has had a tough go with his injuries this year, but recent results have proven he’s certainly well deserving of his ride in the Moto 2 world.
A shortened race due to a foggy morning proved no handicap for “Miracle” Joan Mir, the series leader making a typically brilliant tactical race to collect the lead and victory on the last lap. This further increases his lead in the title chase to 80 points – more than three race wins – over Italian Roman Fenati.
With only a 10th place in Aragon, Fenati has pretty much given up any hope of catching Mir for the championship.
It was a typically mad Moto 3 race, with whacks of drafting passes and the like, but as usual Mir managed to stay in the lead group, grabbing the lead on the last lap and profiting from the battle among the rest trying to catch him up.
World Moto GP Championship Standings after 14 of 18 races
- Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 224 points
- Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 208
- Maverick Viñales, Spain, Movistar Yamaha, 195
- Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 170
- Valentino Rossi, Italy, Movistar Yamaha, 168
- Johann Zarco, France, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 117
- Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Ducati Team, 106
- Danillo Petrucci, Italy, Pramac Ducati, 95
- Cal Crutchlow, U.K., LCR Honda, 92
- Jonas Folger, Germany, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 84
Next race October 15, Motegi, Japan