It seems like everybody wants to win a race in 2020, but nobody wants to win the championship. The Aragon round of MotoGP produced another new winner, and shook up the championship once again. The result you might have expected after qualifying never materialized. Yamahas finished top in all four free practice sessions, and there were three Yamahas in the first four slots on the grid after qualifying, Cal Crutchlow in third the only non-Yamaha on the front row.
What happened? Well, the temperature went up, and that persuaded riders to gamble on the medium front with little or no data on the tire. Racing and practice turned out to be two very different things – who would have thought? Tire wear, especially the way tires wear, became a factor. And riders who love the track found a little bit extra.
With his convincing victory, Alex Rins became the eighth winner of the season, and the eighth winner in as many races. Starting at Brno, we have had victories for Brad Binder, in Austria we had Andrea Dovizioso and Miguel Oliveira, at Misano there was Franco Morbidelli and Maverick Viñales, Fabio Quartararo in Barcelona, and then Danilo Petrucci at Le Mans.
The last time that happened was in 2016, in Michelin's first year in MotoGP. In the eight-race stretch between Mugello and Misano, from May to September, Jorge Lorenzo, Valentino Rossi, Jack Miller, Marc Márquez, Andrea Iannone, Cal Crutchlow, Maverick Viñales, and Dani Pedrosa all took victory. By the end of 2016, Andrea Dovizioso had made it nine winners overall. You wouldn't want to bet against a ninth, maybe even a tenth winner emerging from the four races remaining in the 2020 MotoGP season.
There is a difference between the 2016 and 2020 seasons, however. The switch to Michelins had a big impact on 2016. The teams and factories were still trying to adapt their bikes and their setups to the Michelin rubber, after years perfecting their bikes for the Bridgestones. A lot of races were decided by riders and teams getting it right on Sunday, while others didn't. The weather was a factor too: of the eight races between Mugello and Misano, three of them - Assen, Sachsenring, Brno – were wet.
There's a new rear Michelin in MotoGP for 2020, but that hasn't had anywhere near the impact of a complete switch of tire brands. And though the weather has been a factor, with races being held at tracks at very different times than usual (Jerez in July, Barcelona in September, Le Mans in October), there has been only a single properly wet race.
The biggest difference in 2020 is the closeness of the field. There are now four Yamahas, two Suzukis, four Ducatis, three KTMs, and after Aragon, two, maybe three Hondas which either have won races or have looked capable of winning. Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki, and KTM have all won races, Yamaha, Ducati, KTM, Honda, and Suzuki have all had podiums. There have been 15 different riders on the podium.
That happens because the differences between the bikes are small. That is reflected in the race as well. Neil Morrison, with a little help from Thomas Morsellino, pointed out on Twitter that the Aragon round of MotoGP was the second closest top ten in history, with just 9.6 seconds between the winner, Alex Rins, and Johann Zarco in tenth. It was also the second closest top fifteen in history. And so far, the ten MotoGP races of 2020 have produced the second and fifth closest top tens in history, and the second, fourth, and eighth closest top fifteens.
There is once again much to talk about, too much perhaps for a single article, so these subscriber notes will be split over two parts. In part 1, we will talk about the podium, and how the winners came from so far behind on the grid, outclassing the Yamahas who had been so fast in qualifying:
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