Dominant Marquez strengthens title grip with commanding victory at Aragon
Marc Marquez extended his lead in the MotoGP World Championship as he survived an early scare to win in commanding style at Motorland Aragon in Spain.
The Repsol Honda rider, so dominant throughout practice and qualifying, had to dig deep on the opening laps as he became embroiled in a dogfight for the lead and narrowly averted disaster when he lost the front on lap three, dropping from first place to fifth.
However, the 23-year-old fought his way through to re-take the lead on lap 11, making a clean pass on Movistar Yamaha rider and title rival Valentino Rossi before pulling away to win in the end by 2.7 seconds.
Jorge Lorenzo mounted a late challenge and picked off teammate Rossi for second place, with the Italian running off the track on the penultimate lap as he attempted a last-ditch pass.
Rossi finished third, but has now fallen 52 points behind in the championship title race as Marquez strengthened his grip on a third premier class crown with a deserved victory on home soil in Spain – his first at Aragon since 2013 and his first MotoGP win since Sachsenring in Germany in July.
Early leader Maverick Vinales claimed fourth on the Ecstar Suzuki after also running off the track as he attempted to keep pace with Lorenzo in the closing stages of the race.
Britain's Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) finished ahead of Misano winner Dani Pedrosa on the factory Repsol Honda as the pair completed the top six.
Marquez and Lorenzo went head-to-head into Turn 1 and almost touched through the first turns as they staked their claim for the lead, although it was Vinales who swooped through on the Suzuki to take up the running as Lorenzo squeezed into second place ahead of Marquez. Rossi was right in touch in fourth place followed by Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso.
Marquez put a hard move on Lorenzo at Turn 15 on the opening lap to snatch second place and made a hand gesture to apologise to the Yamaha rider as they blasted down the back straight.
The Spaniard then pounced at the same place on the next lap to hit the front from Vinales, but disaster almost struck on the third lap when Marquez appeared to tuck the front, standing his Honda upright as he dropped to fifth place, allowing Vinales, Lorenzo, Rossi and Dovizioso to flash past.
Silverstone race winner Vinales had opened a lead of 0.6 seconds on the GSX-RR but Rossi, who overtook Lorenzo with a clinical pass into Turn 1 at the beginning of lap six, was on a charge after setting the fastest lap of the race at that point of 1m 48.729s.
The nine-time world champion was closing in rapidly on his 2017 Yamaha team-mate and made his move for the lead on lap nine.
Marquez, meanwhile, had regrouped, passing Dovizioso for fourth before diving under Lorenzo at Turn 15 on lap seven to go third.
The Honda rider then settled into a rhythm and was reducing the deficit to Vinales in second when the young Suzuki star ran off the track at Turn 1, gifting Marquez second place with Lorenzo also capitalising on the mistake to inherit third.
Rossi was setting a high pace at the front but it soon became clear that Marquez had more in hand and the double MotoGP world champion relentlessly hunted down the 37-year-old with a succession of fastest laps, eventually taking over at the front with his now trademark pass on the brakes at Turn 15.
Marquez broke clear to open a cushion, but Rossi's second place was now under threat as Lorenzo and Vinales began to close in.
Marc Marquez spraying champagne on the podium yesterday
Honda's rider Marc Marquez, of Spain, waves to his fans at the end of yesterday’s GP Photo: AP