Aragon MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Real Marc Marquez, Perfect Pecco, The Mahindra Mob, And Fabio Saves His Bacon

In the week before the Aragon MotoGP round, I confidently predicted that Marc Marquez would win his second race of the season. The race proved me wrong: Pecco Bagnaia took a stunning victory at the Spanish track, Ducati's first since Casey Stoner in 2010. But the race also showed that the confidence I had in Marc Marquez was justified.

For 15 laps, Marquez sat patiently behind Bagnaia, as the pair set a pace which no one else could follow. Then, the Repsol Honda rider started to inch closer to the Italian, nipping at the heels of the Ducati, putting Bagnaia under more and more pressure. And with three laps to go, he unleashed an all out attack, diving under Bagnaia at Turn 5, Turn 1, Turn 15. Bagnaia countered perfectly each time, finally clinching the win when the Spaniard ran wide in a last, desperate attempt to get past at Turn 12.

Pecco Bagnaia won the Grand Prix of Aragon. But Marc Marquez didn't lose it. He was simply beaten by the better rider on the day.

But the Aragon MotoGP race did offer a glimpse into the future of the sport. Into the rise of a new generation, the Mahindra Mob, a group of riders who learned their trade on an underpowered but decent handling Moto3 bike, and had to ride around the limitations of their machine. Into what the 2021 version of Marc Marquez is capable of, and whether the 2022 version will be substantially different to 2021. And into where the championship stands as of now.

In these notes:

  • The last three blistering laps of Marquez vs Bagnaia
  • What Marc Marquez can and cannot do
  • Will a weakened Marquez produce a better Honda?
  • Perfect Pecco's impeccable victory
  • The Mahindra Moto3 talent factory
  • Quartararo draws the short Michelin straw
  • A look at the championship
  • Bastianini and Lecuona, late bloomers

Let's start with those last three laps. It wasn't the first time a Ducati and a Honda had faced off at the Aragon circuit. In 2018, Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso duked it out for the win, with Suzuki's Andrea Iannone hot on their heels. Then, it was Marquez who came out on top.

Battle joined

This year, it was different. In several different aspects. But first and foremost, because Pecco Bagnaia has more tools to counter Marc Marquez than Dovizioso had. The Ducati Desmosedici GP21 – a bike which Dovizioso arguably had a massive hand in the development of – is a much better bike than the GP18 the Italian veteran used to chase Marquez in 2018. (The counterpoint to that, of course, is that Marquez' 2018 bike was a worse machine than the current iteration of the Honda RC213V.)

But Bagnaia can also do things on the Ducati which Dovizioso could never manage. "I fought many times against Dovizioso, but Pecco was the same as Dovizioso but with more corner speed," Marquez reflected in the press conference after the race. "I tried to analyze where he was fast and where were his weak points, but there were not any weak points. In all the racetrack, he was fast. So I said, okay, where can I overtake? I didn’t find the place to overtake, because he was braking later than me and stopping the bike better and accelerating better."

In short, Marc Marquez couldn't pass Pecco Bagnaia because Pecco Bagnaia was riding better than Marc Marquez. At Aragon, a track where Marquez has dominated in the past. But not on Sunday. What changed?

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Source: 
year: 
2021
round_number: 
13

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Comments

A wide-ranging and deep dive into the aftermath of a classic race. Whilst totally accepting not everything can always be covered-particularly with this level of detail-I was mildly surprised to see that Alex and the Aprilia didn't merit a few lines. Maybe after the growing performance, culminating in his superb podium it's not a surprise, but I still salute the Aprilia factory, especially when you look at who and what finished behind them. 
I'm probably asking for too much (as usual!), but I well remember the superb in-depth article on the evolution of the Ducati; I really hope a similar feature can be done on the modern day evolution of the Aprilia, especially as the new Vinales chapter has now began.

If I was Petronas I'd be all over Lecuona, he's young and has experience in MotoGP. I've nothing against either Dixon or Binder but he'd be way quicker then either of them next season. He & Dovi would make a great team.

It always seems to be a neverending cycle of being desperate for fresh blood in GP nowadays.

On a seperate note, what a great job the VR46 academy is doing of not only producing fast racers but also throughly decent people.

Thanks David.

Great to see Marquez having a go, Bangnaia knowing and always being ready to counter on the exit. Nice clean racing, I wonder what they will say now. Last race he couldn't race anymore because he will never be the same Marc...was the same Marc and never could race...was the same Marc and a dangerous rider...was/was not the same Marc but we hate his Dad anyway etc. I'm really happy he's back on track because we get to see races ending in this way again.

Fabio made the best of it. It will take a whole lot more than that to put his points lead under pressure.

Marquez definitely did exceed limits at the exit of T1 on the final lap and I am happy as a pig in s*** that the stewards chose to ignore it because it made absolutely zero difference to the outcome. He gets both tyres over the line slightly and then the back wags out further as he guns it. Just looked again, after the finish they show a replay and even slow it down so you can see. Sport wins this time.

... on the track limits in T-1, you can see the rear tire actually falling off the curb in the film from the outside of the turn shown after the race was done. Also agreed that it's great the stewards ignored it. Excellent contest by all concerned.

At one point both tyres are completely on the green...hmm maybe you could say the rear at that point is also touching the white. It's a small error, while racing, Bagnaia retook the lead, Marc had to do it all over again and it made zero difference. I don't mean Marc finished behind Bagnaia, I mean that move, that corner nothing gained. The part that I hate is imagining if the great battle ended with Marc winning and then they swap the places because of that. If that was always the case and Marc knew he had touched green then racing over, tag along 1 second behind Bagnaia, no point fighting for a demotion.

Good job stewards.

Only thing that can mess that type of clear headed judgement up is a team complaining after the race, you know,  KRT style 🤫.
(Wouldn'tbe possible in this case, but you catch my drift)

Thanks for the article, David.

It will be interesting to see how Espargaro and Aprilia get on at Misano. Aleix's record there is underwhelming. In fifteen visits, his best result was a 10th place and seven times he did not finish the race. Does he not like the track layout? I would enjoy seeing another strong ride this weekend. The guy is on course for the best points total of his motogp career.  

I wrote off Lecuona as a crasher last year, and it is enjoyable to be proven wrong by his current form. Sure, Lecuona and Dovizioso at Petronas(?) next year makes some sense. Even a Lecuona and Razgatlioglu pairing is an interesting thought. But the fact remains that Lecuona is gelling with the bike and his team right now. Bummer that it won't continue next year. Continuing to put up strong results will do him good come 2023 when the teams do the rider shuffle.   

Miguel Oliveira has been quiet for a while. There was an injury he is recovering from, not much said about. The KTM started in it's back foot this season, and made a chassis step fwd but is still not strong on these tires this yr. But he just said this:

"Was a really tough race for me. Since the beginning - apart from not having a good rear grip I just struggled with the front tyre the whole race. 

"I was having huge slides on the front end without having much braking. I’ve been having this type of feeling for some races now and we just need to think of something different, some solution to be able to have my natural riding. 

"Now I’m not riding as I want to and we are paying the price. We are not competitive enough. This is the reality. Our rivals are doing much better than us."

On a different note re Orange riders...There are only 24 seats. Gardner for Iker? Easy move, all day long. Wishing him luck at Honda, that bike could come good next generation. My view is that we have been holding onto back markers too long. Watching them re sign was groaning disappointment and yearning for a Remy, Raul, Toptak, et al. Hell, Morbidelli got left on an A Spec rookie cheapo too long via poor matriculation. It was cruel having poor Rabat here last season and 2019. The poor kid was visibly shaken the whole of 2020 like he was on a whipping post. He could have done much better for his career and wellbeing to have gotten on his next bike in another series after 2018. 

Ok, but put me in for "never."

;)

Sincerely, looking fwd to Misano and steps fwd. Black isn't Blue. He and Aleix are going to take that conventionally ridden good handling V4 somewhere together! Mav will adapt to this bike, catch Aleix, Black is ecstatic, and all is copacetic (crystal ball). How far forward? Approx Suzuki fwd. In the game but not atop it. Some podiums. But this is a big deal for wee ex Backmarker Noale! Honda spends that much on spare parts and bonuses. 

I agree. It's well worth looking at a few of the riders in close company on the fastest lap chart. Marc Marquez had the fastest lap of the race with a 1'48.139.

Maverick +1.079

Pol + 0.997

Zarco +0.933

Pol had pole and a great race last time out and Zarco is on and off but we know can be as fast as the best. Pol is on the difficult Honda but he has been on it all year. Maverick's 1st race, 1 second, 18th fastest lap.

^ Right? Decent company, not off the pace. On Aleix's set up, no shape shifter yet, and doing "kind of" inline 4/250GP lines. 

He is inclined to over ride bikes (Yamaha no no). Blue brass overtly struggled with him over an under performing/over promised bike. For yrs. If they didn't have The Fabio, the narrative would be different. I haven't forgotten the "we the engineering team publicly apologize to our riders for (shitting in their bento box)" thing. It was horrible for years there pre Quarty, the 2019 was the only good bike for a bit, and preferable in 2020 to have the old Aqua bike. ONE season out of the gutter. Ouch! And the old Suzuki came and grabbed the Cup just to really rub salt in the wound. Tough go there. 

If Vinales and Morbidelli battle next season, it may carry some extra attention. Yamaha has moved in an Italian direction on the whole while Aprilia has their best lineup ever in two Spanish friends. Interesting.

 

Off the pace ?...yes. Pol and Zarco also off the pace. I should have expressed better. These days when most riders have a bad day it's late teens. Not too long ago it was 3rd row. One second off for Pol is awful, a very bad day. Zarco also, 17th ??? There was a lot of team tales in this race. Zarco 17th, Martin 9th (10 sec). MM 2nd, Pol 13th (19 sec). Marini 20th, Bastianini 6th (25 sec). Binder 7th, Oli 14th (9 sec). Aleix 4th, Maverick 18th (18 sec). This was definitely not a race for the 'top ten closest whatever'. Top 5 -> 12 seconds, top 10 -> 17 seconds, top 15 -> 25 seconds, top 20 -> 39 seconds. He is new to the bike, it was a race NOT to be even slightly off.

 

... are 54-times world champions.  #justsayin  :D :D

Sure, different tech, different times, but Aprilia have serious pedigree in racing that has been all but erased in people's consciousness.

Agreed!! Outside of the top catagory. They are coming back and up and forward. Their lower class 2 Stroke program has been brilliant. 

1994 to 2000 w a Twin 2 Stroke they had 5 podiums, no wins. 2002 to 2004 was the Cube, that I remember well (ouch). Then we all just watched their march from 2015 through a first podium 2 weeks ago. They sincerely impressed with their CRT effort with a more production base. How far they have come!

... when we're noting pedigree, where did the Great Silver Monobrow of Gigi Dal'Igna come from but Aprilia?  Fair enough, the guy is obviously a legend engineer and stands in his own right, but he was fostered and cut his teeth in Noale, starting there directly from his uni degree in 92.  Like Aprilia's many minor class championships, it's easy to forget he embodied Aprilia and seeing him in red for the first time was as much of a shock to the system as it was seeing Lorenzo wearing Repsol or recently Vinales in black.

His move to Ducati was no doubt influenced not only by a very large cheque, but also the promise of a race department with a much more bottomless chequebook.  His departure removed a central figure from Aprilia Racing and it took them quite some time to recover, but obviously Albesiano and the rest of the team have found their feet. (Thank God they removed Albesiano from management, brilliant engineers generally make for TERRIBLE managers!)  Here's hoping their giant-killing performances and recent high profile signing attract some more sponsorship and that leads to yet more success.

GREAT time to be a MotoGP fan!!

The Mahindra thing reminds me that Earl Haden, who certainly knows a thing about training young racers, has the philosophy that young riders often gain more development by not riding the best bike on the grid. 

Era: aero, ride height = V4

If the current era centers upon aero and ride height, what does that mean for which bikes get a leg up? Aero? More outright power can be utilized. Ride height shape shifter device? More outright power can be utilized.

Advantage V4's x2, late big braking, huge drive out with torque. It is a tough time for Yamaha and Suzuki with Inline 4's and sweeping high corner speed. They just don't have outright power on tap to unleash via current development gains. Honda unfortunately is under functioning entirely upon a wooden front end ever tossing off into gravel. KTM on brief reorientation pause that should come w a new 2022 F tire. But Aprilia? Forward. Ducati? Forward! Aero and ride height are their boon. 

 

Worth noting :D

Inline 4's have won 15 of the last 27 races 56%. Not too shabby.

However, that drops to 41% (19 of the last 46...a special number for inline 4's) because we have MM in 2019 on the Honda. Then again where would the inline 4's be these days without Fabio and Franco ?

I4 and V4 still appear pretty balanced over a season I'd say, but haven't delved into the statistics. We've had aliens/top performers on both that skew statistics anyway. You can see where V4 Honda and KTM ended up when things didn't go their way.

Also worth noting there are only 6 I4s in the field vs V4.

That said, can't wait for Franco to prove me right smiley

Since getting a duff tire insures an entire race of poor performance, I'm surprised no one has tried 2 hard laps on the sighting lap to determine if the tire is duff. Better to suffer for 2 laps at the end of the race than all race long. Since most  recipients of duff tires say they knew from the start, this could make a difference.

... that duff tyres only seem to occur on a Sunday?

Riders seem particularly keen to grasp this straw, rather than conceive of the possibility of making a mistake. (including being baffled about a 900km ride on a 40 year-old Ducati not being ideal preparation for a race weekend)

Additionally, Sunday is the first time they ride on a track coated in M2 Dunlop rubber, isn't it? 

You do hear them complain about the tyres on Friday and Saturday also. Especially you can hear the complaints about the tyres between different runs in qually.

I think it's genuine. I think the level of 'duffness' is exaggerated in relation to how close the times are.

My rear tyre was awful. I won by 5 seconds but it should have been a minute...no.

My rear tyre was ok but not perfect so although i started on pole i finished 12th...also no.

I lost 1 tenth per lap and finished 12th ! The tyre was a complete sack of s*** !...yes

"My team put too much air in the tyre, because I'd practiced alone all weekend, so when I got in a battle, it got too hot, and the pressure rose too high."