In warm but cloudy and tyre-choice-doubtful conditions, expectations were high for the local boy, Marc Marquez looking to even the win/crash balance in Aragon. The mythical ninth consecutive winner never came but Marquez offered us an interesting mix of close scraps in the first part of the race and utter domination in the second part. His second win in Aragon and fifty-fourth overall saw him become the sixth most successful rider, an honour shared with Mick Doohan.
A rather inhospitable podium was shared with the feisty Yamaha duo, Jorge Lorenzo doing his best shark impersonation to bite his teammate out of second place.
A promising start saw Lorenzo and Maverick Viñales roughing up Marquez in the first turns, the Suzuki rider taking the lead by the end of lap one. Valentino Rossi had a decent start to be right behind the front row action but taking his time with the attack.
Marquez let his fellow Spaniard get his time in the sun, but took back the lead on lap two. Despite setting fastest laps, the Honda couldn’t shake him off and a massive save of a front end washout saw him drop down to fifth place, leaving Viñales to lead from Lorenzo, Rossi and Andrea Dovizioso. Behind them, only Aleix Espargaro, Dani Pedrosa and Cal Crutchlow kept up with the lead group.
After the scare, Marquez settled a little behind the Ducati, waiting for his hard tyres to find some heat, while Viñales built a bit of a gap from the fighting Yamahas. The straights made Marquez’s fight with Dovizioso pretty hard but he eventually grabbed fourth by lap six. Meanwhile, Rossi overtook Lorenzo to try and catch up with Viñales, the top four riders getting a one-second gap from the group led by Espargaro.
As Rossi caught up with Viñales, Marquez was hunting Lorenzo for third. The world championship leader made it stick on the reigning world champion on lap seven, having to recover a second on the two leaders once he dealt with the first Yamaha.
With fifteen laps to go, Rossi aggressively made his way past the Suzuki leader, Marquez closing down quickly and gapping Lorenzo. The Honda had an easy time when Viñales went wide a lap later, dropping into Lorenzo’s claws, the Yamaha taking his chance soon after.
The top three started setting red sectors, Marquez soon on his archenemy’s tail. Turn fifteen was his choice of battlefield all race long and so it was with Rossi as well, with ten laps to go. But overtaking Rossi and shaking him off was not the same thing, the Italian keeping close on the softer front tyre. On the hard tyre combination, the Honda tried to set the fierce rhythm of FP4 but Rossi wouldn’t give up the fight that quickly. It wasn’t to be though, the gap going over half a second with nine laps to go, Marquez pushing hard with a fastest lap and several personal bests, finding over a second on Rossi in just one lap.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo was having a handful of Viñales on his case but the Suzuki rider once again made a mistake and lost two seconds on the Yamaha. Lorenzo was quickly starting to catch up with Rossi, the shark attacking his teammate with five laps to go. Things looked settled but the grudge match wasn’t over for the podium positions, Rossi back in attack mode in the final two laps but a last-gasp attempt saw him run extremely wide and getting him off Lorenzo’s back.
Behind the podium positions, Viñales rode home in a comfortable but probably disappointing fourth, Cal Crutchlow winning the fight in the second group to finish fifth. Dani Pedrosa made his way past Aleix Espargaro on the last lap, the other Espargaro following them home in eighth position. A fantastic race was had by Aprilia as well, Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl completing the top ten, ahead of a fast fading Andrea Dovizioso. In another last fun fact, luxury guest Nicky Hayden was greeted with a point on his brief MotoGP comeback.
Predictably, it proved to be an important race in the title battle, Marquez finally adding some more points to his tally against Rossi and stalling his charge, now back to 52 in front of the Italian. Lorenzo’s crucial overtake also got him closer to his teammate, now 14 points behind him.
|53||Tito RABAT||Honda||7 Laps|