motogP: Aragon

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

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