Motorcycle racing is the cruelest form of addiction. What racers need to feed their habit is to win, but winning is hard, one of the hardest things of all. To do so, you have to go beyond yourself, push beyond your limits, exceed what you thought was possible.
That creates a paradox: if you want to win a championship, sometimes you have to accept you can't win a race. Too much of that servility, though, and ambition will chafe at the bit. The temptation to have a go is hard to resist, with the risk of ending in gravelly ignominy.
That has been the fate of Marc Márquez so far this season. Wins have been few this season, just three in thirteen races. Even podiums have eluded him, Márquez ending off the box in three of the last four races. There is only so much a young man bursting with ambition can take.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class at Aragon:
Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class in Aragon:
The world championship leader is on a mission this weekend, Marc Marquez pushing strong from the start of the session, nearly breaking into the 1:47s on his first laps, before lapping comfortably in the mid 1:48s for the rest of the session, most of his laps faster than the nearest rival.
Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa were the closest challengers when it came to race pace, seven tenths down on the fastest lap and running in the low 1:49s. Aleix Espargaro split the duo in the timesheets, the three within a tenth of each other.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class in Aragon:
It started off as a great morning for the Estrella Galicia garage, with both their riders leading early on, one of them sticking around the top of the timesheets at the end as well. This time around it was Alex Marquez out to give the home audience something to cheer about, the Spaniard leading by over two tenths as his teammate Franco Morbidelli slipped down to sixth, four tenths off.
After an underwhelming Friday by his own standards, Johann Zarco found his feet mid-FP3 to lead the session for a considerable amount of time before being pushed back by Marquez. Sam Lowes started the morning with a long race simulation putting full race distance into the tyres before going for a quali run that bumped him into third position.
A predictable name at the top yet an unpredictable script to the session. Marc Marquez started off on the medium rear tyre and didn’t take long to improve the best time of the weekend, being the first and only rider into the 1:47s, the rest of the grid struggling to get within a second of his time for much of the session.
Although things didn’t go quite as smoothly for the rest of the session, the world championship leader involved in an unusual incident with fifteen minutes to go. Nicky Hayden slid out in turn fourteen, Marquez crashing behind him soon after, the Honda collecting an unlucky Pol Espargaro as Hayden and the marshals narrowly avoided the incoming bikes, the trio miraculously uninjured. Marquez remounted with a sore shoulder but failed to improve in the final part of the session.
Besides the extra rays of sunshine opening the proceedings on Saturday morning, it looked like the recent contract announcement helped Fabio Quartararo find some more focus on track, the Frenchman in good form to keep it within track limits and top the session by a slender margin ahead of Brad Binder.
Within a tenth of a second of the two was also Jorge Navarro, followed closely by Juanfran Guevara in fourth position. While these names were highly predictable at the top of the standings after the first day of practice, a surprise came from Nicolo Bulega, the Italian finding over a second to jump some fifteen places from Friday. His teammates also had a good morning, Lorenzo Dalla Porta in seventh and Andrea Migno ninth.
Could there be a ninth winner in nine MotoGP races? On Thursday, the massed ranks of MotoGP riders had elected Andrea Dovizioso for the role. "I'm happy they said my name," Dovizioso told us journalists on Friday, "but they have put a lot of pressure on me. Because I have to win this race, and today wasn't the best day for me to try to think about winning..."
The Ducati rider had struggled with a lack of grip on the track, adding to the fact that this is not a great track for Dovizioso. "This track doesn't have the best characteristic for my style," he said. Dovizioso's strength lies in hard braking and quick turning, and there is not enough of that to suit the Italian. Add low grip to that, and he faces an uphill struggle.
Dovizioso also faces Aragon with a new teammate. Andrea Iannone has once again been forced to withdraw, the T3 vertebra he injured at Misano causing him too much pain to continue. He could manage three or four laps, before needing to return to the pits and get some rest. With 22 laps coming up on Sunday, Iannone quickly understood that would be too much. Michele Pirro was already on standby, and once FP1 made it clear that Iannone would not be able to ride, Ducati's test rider was put on the bike.