No one’s going to publish an entire book covering each and every race of the 18-round MotoGP championship. Aragon, however, was a special weekend. Not everyone was surprised when Valentino Rossi decided to travel to the Spanish circuit, 100 miles inland f
Lorenzo may not have won a race with Ducati yet, but his storming speed in the early laps of races is still a hallmark. Once again the Spaniard got the holeshot and led into the first corner. And this time the former champion and his GP17 stayed there for longer than ever before; 15 of 23 laps, to be precise.
Viñales was his first pursuer, then Rossi, who moved into second near the end of the first lap. Many expected him to fade as pain and lack of strength took their toll, but no. After half a dozen laps he had cut Lorenzo’s advantage from eighth-tenths to one-tenth and was even looking for a way past.
He wasn’t the only one. Marquez, perhaps chastened by his two Saturday crashes, didn’t make his usual charge towards the front, but held station behind Dovizioso for the first few laps, no doubt learning and logging important info about the Ducati.
By one-third distance it was Lorenzo, Rossi, Marquez and Dovizioso, covered by less than a second, with Viñales a few seconds further back, struggling with tyres and chased hard by Pedrosa, Crutchlow (who later fell),
Aleix Espargaro and Alvaro Bautista (Aspar Ducati).
On lap nine, Marquez grabbed the lead at Turn 12, where he had fallen 24 hours earlier. But he didn’t mean to. He was alongside Rossi and had to take avoiding action, which had him hurtling into the corner way too fast and inside
lorenzo, only to run way wide and drop back to fourth. It took him another two laps to work his way past Dovizioso and rossi once more, making an astonishing move on rossi, riding underneath him through the high-speed final turn.
But by then lorenzo had rebuilt an impressive lead, pushing hard to gain more than half a second over marquez. lorenzo has learned to be gentler on the throttle to help the Ducati look after its rear tyre but he hasn’t perfected the trick yet. as the race entered its final quarter his rapid pace told, so he started running short of rear grip. But marquez was also struggling, very nearly losing the front in the chicane. “I had a few scary moments,” he admitted later.
the reigning champion made his winning move on lap 16, again at turn 12 and again without really planning it. he was shadowing lorenzo, who seemed to hesitate as he tipped into the corner and marquez didn’t need a written invitation, nipping through on the inside and only just keeping lorenzo behind him as they attacked the next sequence of corners.
and that was that. “the race wasn’t easy at all; I was fighting the bike all the time,” said marquez, who, like everyone else, hadn’t had enough time to perfect bike setup and tyre choice. “I took many risks and nearly crashed many times. I think my style made the difference today because I like left-handers.” marquez’s aragon win continued his monopoly of anti-clockwise victories: Cota, sachsenring and aragon.
lorenzo’s rear grip issues soon had him in trouble with marquez’s teammate. Pedrosa spent half the race trying to get past fifth-placed Viñales; then once he had a clear track ahead of him, he quickly caught and passed Dovizioso, then rossi and, finally, lorenzo, with three laps to go. “maybe, if I could have overtaken maverick a little bit earlier I would have had a better chance to fight for the win, but I’m still very happy,” said Pedrosa, who bettered his misano result by 12 positions.
lorenzo admitted he still needs to be even smoother with the throttle. “also, I need more grip in the middle of the corner. so I can use more corner speed,” he added.
the podium finishers proved what a lottery tyre choice had been: marquez used a hard rear, Pedrosa a medium and lorenzo a soft.
Viñales followed Pedrosa through to take Dovizioso and then engage in quite a duel for fourth place with his teammate. rossi never gave up the fight, crossing the line just six-tenths behind. Dovizioso’s pace really suffered in the final laps, allowing the hard-charging espargaro to snatch sixth place four laps from the flag.
Dovizioso had ridden the third fastest lap of the race, on lap three, but that didn’t do him much good when it really mattered. “everyone was riding to save the rear tyre,” he said. “then after 10 laps Jorge started pushing more, then marc overtook me, so I had to use the rear tyre to stay with them and I used the tyre too much, so I couldn’t be fast at the end.”
the Italian was lucky in the final laps that the next man on his tail was another Ducati rider. It looked like Bautista could easily have got past, but no doubt the spaniard decided that Ducati would look after him better if he didn’t steal more points away from the factory’s title hopeful.
this was a crucial result for the title duellists: Dovizioso’s second worst result of the year and marquez’s second consecutive victory, which moved him 16 points ahead with four races to go.
marquez, Pedrosa, rossi, and espargaro all rode great races, but the red Bull Ktm pairing of Pol espargaro and test-rider mika Kallio were also stars of the day, the rookie factory’s best showing by far. that result did nothing to dispel the incessant paddock rumour — and it is only a rumour — that longtime red Bull rider marquez will soon join Ktm.
A top-five finish for the Doctor, merely three weeks after breaking his leg