2014 Aragon MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Fast Hondas, Yamaha's Defective Tires, Surprising Ducatis, And Unstable Weather
Is Marc Marquez's season going downhill? You might be tempted to say so, if you judged it by the last three races alone. After utterly dominating the first half of the season, Marquez has won only a single race in the last three outings, finishing a distant fourth in Brno, and crashing out of second place at Misano, before remounting to score a single solitary point. Look at practice and qualifying at Aragon, however, and Marquez appears to have seized the initiative once again. He had to suffer a Ducati ahead of him on Friday, but on Saturday, he was back to crushing the opposition. Fastest in both sessions of free practice, then smashing the pole record twice. This is a man on a mission. He may not be able to wrap up the title here, but he can at least win.
The way Marquez secured pole was majestic, supremely confident, capable and willing to hang it all out when he needed. He set a new pole record on his first run of the 15 minute session, waited in the garage until the last few minutes, then went out. He shook off Andrea Iannone, who was trying to get a tow, then when he saw Dani Pedrosa had taken over pole from him, went all out. Despite making a bit of a mess of the final sector, he still took nearly four tenths off his own best lap, demoting Pedrosa to second.
It wasn't just his pole time which was impressive. The race pace he showed in FP4 was fast, a string of high 1'48s and a couple of low 1'49s. The only rider to get anywhere near him was his teammate, Pedrosa knocking out a sequence of 1'49.0s, followed by a handful of high 1'48s. Pedrosa still has a score to settle, and though Marc Marquez is grabbing the headlines, he could find himself with quite a fight on his hands.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after qualifying at Aragon:
Press releases from the Moto3 and Moto2 teams after qualifying at the Motorland Aragon circuit:
Qualifying ended with twenty-one riders within a second of pole position.
The first qualifying session was all about whether or not Valentino Rossi would get through to the final session and if he'd have a tyre left to do anything if he got there.
Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso recorded the quickest times in this untimed session as the factory Yamahas continued to struggle.
Qualifying Results follow.
Maverick Vinales took provisional pole after beating Tito Rabat's incrementally quicker laps twenty-two minutes in. Johann Zarco put in a closing lap that was just over a tenth off Vinales's fast lap and two thousandths off Rabat's best time from yesterday.
John McPhee is to remain with the Saxoprint RTG team for another season in Moto3. The Racing Steps Foundation, which supports young British talent, issued the following press release on McPhee's contract:
McPHEE TO STICK WITH SAXOPRINT-RTG AND HONDA FOR 2015 MOTO3 SEASON
RSF reaches agreement for Brit to complete a third season in the 250cc lightweight class
The Racing Steps Foundation has reached agreement at Motorland Aragon today (Saturday) for its Moto3 rider John McPhee (Oban, Argyll, Scotland) to continue with the Honda-powered SaxoPrint-RTG squad in the World Championship next year.
It will be McPhee's third full season in the class with the team.
The Brit - who has secured five top 10 places with the German outfit in the 250cc lightweight class so far this year - has been tasked with delivering regular podium finishes in 2015.
The 20 years-old Racing Steps Foundation protégé said: "I'm delighted to be continuing with the team and Honda next year thanks to continued backing and support from the Foundation.
Marc Marquez sits in provisional pole as the factory Yamahas find grip hard to find. Andrea Dovizioso was fourth quickest, but his time from yesterday on a soft tyre guaranteed him second place in the second qualifying session. Andrea Iannone continues his recent qualifying form, quickest in the kilometre straight sector again, with the second fastest time of the day, third overall.
Pol Espagaro was quickest Yamaha by far, as Jorge Lorenzo struggled in eigth place and Valentino Rossi missed out on automatically qualifying for the final qualifying session.
Juanfran Guevara set the fastest ever lap around Aragon on a Moto3 bike, with a record of 1'57.930, seven tenths quicker than Alex Rins, Alex Marquez and Jack Miller.
2014 Aragon MotoGP Friday Round Up - Honda vs Yamaha Explained, The Slimmer GP14.2, And Hayden's First Day Back On The Bike
Is the Motorland Aragon circuit a Honda track or a Yamaha track? On the evidence of Friday, it is first and foremost a Marc Marquez track. The reigning world champion may not have topped the timesheets – the two de facto factory Ducati riders, Andreas Dovizioso and Iannone did that – but he set a scorching race pace that only his Repsol Honda teammate could get close to, though Dani Pedrosa was still a couple of tenths off the pace of Marquez.
"This is one of my favorite tracks," Marquez said afterwards, adding that he was happy with his rhythm and he had really enjoyed his day. The Spaniard may have lost any chance of wrapping up the title at Aragon with a win, but that didn't make him any less determined to take victory here. The crash at Misano made no difference to his attitude. Was he afraid of crashing? "No. You can't race and be afraid of crashing." Marquez was pushing to the limit once again, laying down a marker for others to follow.
If the mood in Marquez' garage was elated, things were different in the Yamaha camp. Though the gap to Marquez in terms of pace was not huge, it was still significant. Jorge Lorenzo was concerned. "We are slower than last year," he told the media, "we are slower than at the test [in June]." They had started the weekend using the set up which had worked well enough over the last four races for Lorenzo to finish second, but it simply was not working at Aragon. The plan was to revert to the set up used before Indianapolis, he said.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams after the first day of practice at the Motorland Aragon circuit:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice for the Motorland Aragon GP:
Ten minutes into the day's closing session, Esteve Rabat took the top spot back from Thomas Luthi and spent the rest of the session consolidating his lead, setting the quickest lap seven more times. As the only rider of the weekend with a 1'53 lap, he shared the provisional front row with Johann Zarco and Mika Kallio. In spite of Rabat's comfortable quarter-second lead, the entire top thirteen were within a second of his pace.