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.
The order in the cloudy afternoon session for the intermediate class was decided in the final minutes of FP2, Takaaki Nakagami finding his way back to the top after an average start to the session, the Japanese rider leading the timesheets by less than a tenth of a second from FP1 leader Sam Lowes.
Thomas Luthi also kept within a tenth, the Swiss rider finishing third, Lorenzo Baldassarri picking up the pace after an anonymous FP1, the Italian finding almost a second between the practice sessions.
A cloudy afternoon saw a slightly surprising name at the top of the timesheets, Dani Pedrosa clearly determined to keep his name on the top position. Despite the overcast conditions, the Misano victor led for much of the session, setting the best time of the weekend on his last lap.
Morning leader Marc Marquez started off the afternoon in the midfield on used tyres but a late run put him straight to the top, before getting pushed back by his teammate, the Honda duo being the first riders in the 1:48s. A handful of other riders followed their lead, including Cal Crutchlow, the LCR rider within a tenth of the factory Honda boys and posting that time on the asymmetric harder option front tyre.
Neither the several hours of track action nor the lunch break did much to change track conditions for the small class, the youngsters struggling to get faster than the morning session.
Brad Binder was the first to beat the FP1 benchmark early in the session and shaved off another half a second in his final laps. Perhaps surprisingly, Andrea Migno was his closest challenger in the end, the Italian nowhere in sight during the morning session but a late lap behind the championship leader helped him find about two and a half seconds.
What looked to be a chance for Johann Zarco to leave a mark on his title rival’s homeland, turned into a laptime war between Sam Lowes and Jonas Folger, the two exchanging the lead countless times in the final half of the session. The Brit came out on top, narrowly leading by five hundredths of a second.
Takaaki Nakagami tried to challenge the duo and got as close as nine thousandths of a second but had to settle for third. After leading the session briefly, fourth-placed Simone Corsi was the only rider to get within half a second of the leader, Sandro Cortese in fifth over six tenths down.
With the track heating up nicely, Marc Marquez was quick to get within a second of the race record on his fifth lap, the field almost a second away and playing catch-up for the rest of the session. The championship leader was the first and only rider to drop into the 1:48s, the closest challenger proving to be Valentino Rossi, the Italian sneaking into the top positions on the last lap, almost two tenths off Marquez.
Maverick Viñales was another tenth down, another late charger, tied on fastest lap time with the Ducati of Andrea Dovizioso but leaving the Italian fourth. Jorge Lorenzo had a tricky start to the day, the world champion suspecting a faulty tyre on his first run and delaying his mid-session coffee break to catch up with his usual rivals. The Yamaha rider did not put in a new tyre at the end of FP1 and slipped down to fifth in the order.