Between a hot Aragon, little setup time, the chaser in the title battle on the front row and threateningly fast men lining up behind him, it was hard to pick what would be the biggest talking point throughout the race. And the 900th Grand Prix of the world championship did not disappoint. World champion Marc Marquez not only provided the hairy moments of the race but ultimately maintained Honda’s dominance at the Spanish track by taking the Japanese factory’s fifth MotoGP victory and his 99th career podium.
Teammate Dani Pedrosa competed a dream day for Honda, with a fought out second place, while Jorge Lorenzo was the only front row starter to keep on the podium. The Ducati man led much of the race to keep his podium run going, Lorenzo never off the cava on Sundays in Aragon since 2011.
Predictably, Lorenzo pulled his favourite move and immediately shot into the lead as the lights went off, trying to extend a bit of a gap on the soft rear tyre, with most of his rivals on mediums or hards.
Running third after the start, Valentino Rossi got past his teammate halfway through the first lap and chased Lorenzo, who was eight tenths ahead.
Starting seventh, Andrea Dovizioso made it past Marquez at the start, the Spaniard cautious on the first few laps. Maverick Viñales went wide ahead of them soon after and dropped behind his championship rivals, just ahead of Pedrosa, who had gotten past Cal Crutchlow.
While chasing his former teammate, Rossi was the fastest man on track on the hard rear and medium front, all the while his teammate on the same combination had already lost over a second to Dovizioso and Marquez by the end of lap two.
On lap three, Lorenzo and Rossi were only split by two tenths of a second, Dovizioso and Marquez another four tenths down. The world championship leaders took opposite approaches on tyres, the Ducati choosing Medium-Soft while the Honda went for Hard-Hard and bided his time in warming up the harder option. Nearly two seconds down the road by lap six, Viñales finally picked up the pace that held up the two Hondas behind him.
Marquez got past Dovizioso at the end of lap six and immediately bridged the small gap to the leaders, the four-man group over a second and a half ahead of the pursuers led by Viñales. Two laps later, Marquez lost patience and went for a daring move on both Rossi and Lorenzo. The momentum ran him wide and back to the end of the group. Marquez found the inside of Dovizioso through turn sixteen soon after and status quo returned. While Dovizioso was sniffing around his main title rival, Lorenzo was managing the situation perfectly, never letting Rossi within striking distance.
At the halfway point, Rossi had lost half a second to Lorenzo and got hunted down by Marquez, the Honda picking up the pursuit of the lead Ducati. Meanwhile, Pedrosa pounced on Viñales after several personal best laps and finally brought the gap to the leaders to under a second.
With ten laps to go, Marquez still had four tenths of a second to make up on Lorenzo, doing so while on the ragged edge as usual, while Rossi dropped over a second behind the two. Dovizioso was only half a second back but had to contend with the immediate threat of a rampaging Pedrosa. The Italian’s soft rear looked in trouble as the light Spaniard got proper heat into his mediums. Pedrosa made his move with nine laps to go and also got past Rossi only one lap later.
The final eight laps saw Marquez finally on Lorenzo’s tail, the Spaniard not biding his time this weekend and leading after a brave move in turn 12. The Ducati fought back through sheer speed on the straights but the world champion would not let that pass, putting over half a second into Lorenzo on the next lap. Another second down the road, Pedrosa had broken away from Rossi, the Italian dealing with Dovizioso and Viñales within a tenth behind him.
With six laps to go, the half second gap at the front kept steady but Pedrosa was getting closer and closer to Lorenzo. Meanwhile, Viñales finally got a taste at overtaking and got past Dovizioso for fifth, looking menacing to his convalescent teammate. The Yamaha duo teased each other for a bit but the battle concluded with four laps remaining, Viñales finally getting ahead. The live championship standings changed further as Aleix Espargaro made it past Dovizioso with two laps to go.
In the final laps, Pedrosa was the fastest man on track and after catching up with Lorenzo, he left himself with fewer than three laps to reach his teammate. The Honda veteran brought the gap down to eight tenths of a second but the race was a couple of laps too short for a Honda battle royale. Lorenzo came home in a secure third, with Viñales the best of the rest in fourth. Despite fading slightly towards the end of the race, Rossi scored a remarkable fifth place, ahead of Aleix Epargaro, who equalled Aprilia’s best result.
Dovizioso might rue his tyre choice in seventh place, the Italian holding off Alvaro Bautista in the closing stages of the race. Johann Zarco finished ninth, five seconds down the road, with Pol Espargaro completing the top ten, crossing the line 14 seconds after Marquez, the closest the KTM has been to the winner this season.
Dovizioso paid for his bad afternoon at the office and the tie at the top of the world championship standings was broken, Marquez heading to Japan with a 16-point advantage. Viñales lost a little bit more ground, 28 points down, while Pedrosa got ahead of Rossi and into fourth place, 54 points behind his teammate.
|35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||Honda||7 Laps|
|17||Karel ABRAHAM||Ducati||13 Laps|