Even the clouds turned up to watch Marc Marquez’s 200th Grand Prix start, raising some eyebrows despite no rain being forecast, lowering track temperature and changing a few tyre choices. But none of it mattered in the end, the world champion sightseeing around Motorland Aragon more comfortably than in practice and fishing out a predictable runaway victory on home soil. The home advantage was five seconds over the rest of the podium men, which looked like Yamaha on paper but turned red after 23 laps under the (occasional) Spanish sun. Andrea Dovizioso turned a lowly 10th place on the grid into a 99th career podium after a much more exciting afternoon than Marquez’s, while Jack Miller inflicted further pain onto Yamaha to snatch the final trophy on offer on the last lap.
Marquez wrote the script of his victory when he made a dream start off the line and we barely got a sighting of him since. Right behind the Honda missile, Miller’s holeshot button turned Vinales into Ducati’s first victim in turn one, before hunting Fabio Quartararo by sector three. Miller started lap two as Marquez’s lead pursuer but the world champion was over a second ahead already. A bit further back, Franco Morbidelli did not see the end of lap one, crashing out at turn 12 as a result of a late and overly optimistic lunge from Alex Rins. The Spaniard kept on board but dropped to 19th position, after making good progress into the top 10 early on, and awaited his inevitable long lap penalty.
By lap five, Marquez was over two seconds ahead of Miller, while Vinales was pushing hard to get past Quartararo in the early battle for third. Once the factory man got the best of his satellite colleague, Vinales almost immediately caught up with Miller, which was a more difficult proposition top-speed-wise. Over a second back on the duo, Valentino Rossi and Dovizioso faced the rare challenge of struggling to get past Aleix Espargaro, who was running an excellent race in the early laps. Dovizioso was victorious at the end of lap five through outright speed on the back straight and had a second to find on the podium battle ahead.
Marquez stated lap eight nearly five seconds in the lead, this time with Vinales as the lead chaser once the Yamaha bravely got past the Ducati of Miller at the final turn. Miller quickly lost half a second on the Spaniard and was coming under attack from Dovizioso, who had disposed of Quartararo in Ducati’s favourite spot, the back straight. The Frenchman seemed to run out of steam and was falling back into Aleix Espargaro and Cal Crutchlow’s reach, while Rossi was in a lonely eight position almost three seconds back. There was quite a bit of entertainment seven seconds behind the Italian, where Danilo Petrucci and Rins were fighting directly for third in the championship but also getting poked by Andrea Iannone and Miguel Oliveira occasionally.
At the halfway point of the race, the waiting game started, Marquez keeping Vinales a safe five seconds behind, with Miller awaiting Dovizioso’s attack another second down the road. The Italian had some difficulty finding a way past a nearly identical machine but found a gap in turn one, with nine laps remaining. It took a couple of laps for Dovizioso to close on Vinales so the Italian left himself with only three laps to find a way past. That proved enough, yet another rocket launch into turn 16 placing him ahead and into second position with two laps left. Even more worrying for Vinales was the other Ducati of Miller tagging along for the ride and waiting for his turn to attack. His battle spot of choice was turn one, at the start of the final lap, a painful blow to the Yamaha that led the fruitless pursuit of Marquez for most of the race. Vinales was glued to the back of Miller for the final lap but had nothing to bring to the fight against the Ducati and had to make do with fourth.
Quartararo came home into a lonely fifth place, with Crutchlow sixth. Credit to Aleix Espargaro, Crutchlow only managed to get past him with seven laps left and the Aprilia man kept close to the LCR machine to the end of the race. Rossi, Rins and Nakagami rounded out the top ten positions.
Dovizioso’s impressive comeback limited the damage in the championship standings but Marquez still extended a gap as comfortable as today’s win, 98 points on the Italian heading into the flyaways.
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