Aragon was a busy time for the riders and managers in all three Grand Prix classes. Wrapping up contract negotiations before the circus heads east for the Pacific Ocean flyaways was high on the list of priorities, though not everything ended up getting sorted before the teams packed up at Aragon. Plenty of agreements were reached, however, as we shall see below.
Though most of the loose ends have been tied up in MotoGP, a few question marks remain. The Aspar team was one of those question marks, which came much closer to a conclusion at Aragon. The original plan was to have Jack Miller join the team, bringing his crew with him, and covering most of the cost of riding, but various obstacles prevented that from happening. Money was a major factor, in part the amount Aspar were willing to pay to have Miller in their team, but perhaps a bigger factor was being left with Hondas.
The Open class Hondas have both been a huge disappointment for all of the teams which have run them. The 2014 RCV1000R was massively underpowered, and was getting blown away by the factory bikes along the straight. To remedy that situation, Honda offered the RC213V-RS, a cheaper version of the factory RC213V, but without the seamless transmission and using the spec electronics. That bike has also not been competitive, perhaps in part because it is a stripped down version of the original. "This bike was designed to use a seamless gearbox," Nicky Hayden explained last weekend. "You can't get the best out of it without one."
While the world of motorcycle racing is still buzzing with the outcome of the MotoGP race at Aragon, it is easy to overlook a couple of exciting and important races in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes. In both cases, the championship leaders came to Aragon with the chance to put one hand on the title, and in both cases, they leave Europe empty handed, having failed to capitalize on the opportunities which presented themselves. The races also provided a couple of extremely deserving winners capping great battles in both classes.
The Moto3 race turned out to be the thriller everyone expected. A modest (by Moto3 standards) group made the break, Miguel Oliveira taking the initiative and the lead. He was joined naturally enough by the two rivals for the title, Enea Bastianini trying to push forward as much as possible, Danny Kent keeping a wary eye on Bastianini. Brad Binder tagged along at the back, while a strong start from Romano Fenati took him from his usual poor qualifying position to the fight at the front. Efren Vazquez was in the fray, as were Niccolo Antonelli and Jorge Navarro, both looking very strong. Jorge Martin impressed in the group, putting the Mahindra right in among the leaders.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after Sunday's races at Aragon:
Any track with a long straight and a sweeping corner to the line is going to make for close Moto3 racing.
The last two races have followed a familiar pattern. On Friday and Saturday, Jorge Lorenzo has laid down a scorching pace, which his rivals – and more importantly, his teammate and rival for the 2015 MotoGP title, Valentino Rossi – have been unable to follow. Lorenzo's name was penciled onto the winner's trophy, and his grip on the MotoGP class looked secure.
Then on Sunday, everything changed. The weather gods intervened, rain lashed down at Silverstone, then started and stopped at Misano, throwing the race into disarray. Both times, Valentino Rossi handled the conditions better than Lorenzo, gaining big points in both races. At Silverstone, Rossi won comfortably, while Jorge Lorenzo struggled home in fourth. At Misano, Rossi rode a tactically poor race, but still managed to come home in fifth. Lorenzo got caught out by the pace of Scott Redding, failing to understand that the Marc VDS rider had already been out for several laps and had his tires up to temperature and his brain up to speed. The Movistar Yamaha rider tried to stay with Redding, and paid the price when he turned left after a long series of rights, crashing out and scoring zero points.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
This weekend sees a spate of rider announcements in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes, and the news that Fabio Quartararo has signed for the Leopard Racing team for 2016 is one of the most important. The announcement had been widely expected, after the first news that Quartararo had decided to leave the Estrella Galicia Marc VDS team emerged at Indianapolis. Quartararo had expressed a desire to work with Christian Lundberg again, the engineer he worked with in the CEV championship.
Quartararo will line up alongside Joan Mir, who moves up from the CEV for 2016, with a third rider also expected to be announced soon. That, according to GPOne.com, will be Andrea Locatelli, though that is yet to be confirmed. Leopard Racing will also be moving up to Moto2, with an announcement expected this weekend of who will join Miguel Oliveira as their second rider. It seems almost certain that Danny Kent will remain with the squad which has seen him lead the championship, though Kent has remained firmly silent on the matter.
The press release appears below:
LEOPARD RACING SIGNS FABIO QUARTARARO FOR THEIR 2016 MOTO3 CAMPAIGN
Leopard Racing is proud to announce a two-year contract with rising-star Fabio Quartararo to ride the team’s Moto3 machine in 2016.
Moto3 FP3 started in gentlemanly fashion, but by the halfway mark riders were already looking around for a tow as the long back straight without a tow will cost you at least three tenths of a second.
Efren Vazquez leads the Saturday morning session of free practice for the Moto3 rider at Aragon. The Leopard Racing rider put in a late charge to depose Niccolo Antonelli from the top spot, pulling out an advantage of over a quarter of a second over the Italian. Miguel Oliveira ended the session in 3rd, just behind Antonelli, while championship leader Danny Kent took 4th spot, apparently having found a solution for the lack of front-end feel he was complaining about on Friday. Brad Binder grabbed 5th, two tenths slower than Kent, and another two tenths faster than Roman Fenati. Enea Bastianini, winner last time out at Misano and on a charge to close the gap to Kent, ended the session in 7th, but suffered a technical problem that left him sidelined at the end of FP3.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
Enea Bastianini has ended the second session of free practice for the Moto3 class on top of the timesheets once again. Bastianini was fast throughout the session, and seized back the lead at the end after having been knocked off the top in the final minutes as times dropped. The Italian ended the session covered gravel rather than glory, after coming together with Hiroki Ono and crashing.
Miguel Oliveira took 2nd, just a couple of hundredths behind Bastianini, while Jorge Navarro was one thousandth of a second slower than Oliveira, finishing ahead of Jorge Martin. Danny Kent had to put in a late charge to finish in 6th, just under four tenths off the pace of Bastianini.
Press release previews from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams:
From the coast to the high plains. From the hubbub of a string of seaside resorts along the Adriatic Riviera to the vast unspoiled mountains and hills of Baja Aragon. From the green and fertile Po basin to the arid olive groves and vineyards of the Maestrazgo. Contrasts don't get much greater than between Misano in Italy and Motorland Aragon in Spain.
The tracks, too, are very different. Misano is fairly slow, with a lot of tight first gear corners. Aragon is much faster, with some tighter sections, but a couple of seriously fast and flowing corners. Misano is pretty much flat as a pancake, where Aragon has its own version of Laguna Seca's Corkscrew, though not quite so precipitous, and a long, fast downhill back straight leading to a long double-apex left hander and a climb uphill to the finish.
The scenery may change, but the storyline in MotoGP remains the same. The championship remains a head-to-head battle between the Movistar Yamaha men, much as it has been since Le Mans. After Misano, the ball is very much back in Valentino Rossi's court, having extended his lead over Jorge Lorenzo to 23 points. He will need that cushion, as the championship now arrives at Aragon, a circuit where Lorenzo arrives as clear favorite, having had some strong results here in the past. Rossi, meanwhile, is at one of his worst tracks, Aragon being one of just two tracks where the Italian has never won, Austin being the other.