Three factories, three riders, a dash of controversy and one of the most incredible moments of the year – that was the Gran Premio Movistar de Aragon. In the end it was a masterclass from Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) as the reigning Champion and Championship leader fought off old foe Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) to emerge victorious, with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) completing the podium, but the headlines weren’t all written in the battle: a first-corner crash for Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) saw him highside out after starting from pole.
Lorenzo was imperious on Saturday but it was Marquez who got a great launch from P3 and dived up the inside to grab the holeshot on Sunday, before both he and Lorenzo headed wide. That’s when the ‘Spartan’ crashed, suffering a dislocated toe in the process. Opinions on the incident differed between the two men but it did leave Dovizioso in the driving seat as he capitalised on the scruffy start for his two biggest rivals, taking the lead as Marquez slotted back into second.
Behind the drama, Iannone and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) bolted out the blocks to move forward into the fight, with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro hot on their heels. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) was also in that tousle in the early stages, but the Brit crashed out five laps in.
So began the battle for Aragon. Rins was looking menacing behind Marquez, feinting numerous overtaking attempts into the first corner as both Suzukis kept tabs on the leading duo and by lap 11, Dovi, Marquez, Rins and Iannone had edged out two-second gap to Pedrosa and Espargaro. The stage was set.
As if someone had flicked a switch and turned it up to 11, ‘DesmoDovi’ made his move and posted the fastest lap of the race a lap later – a 1:48.3. Marquez responded to stay with the Italian and the two looked to have broken clear of the Suzukis on the chase, but not so as the gloves came off between the leading duo. The number 93 carved past at Turn 12, but on Lap 16 Dovizioso got the drive up the hill to attack Marquez back at Turn 4. Never one to refuse a challenge, the Repsol Honda rider immediately responded up the inside at Turn 5, with the Italian then biting straight back at Turn 7. Stunning it was, but it also allowed Iannone to close the gap…
A number of laps later Marquez pounced again at Turn 12 and set off another flurry of dueling. This time, however, Iannone was able to get involved and as Dovizioso took the inside at Turn 15, Iannone took the outside and it made for a stunning sight as Marquez was briefly swamped by both. The Ducati and Honda were back in the lead soon after, but Marquez was about to play his ace.
The race-defining move finally came from the number 93 at Turn 5, and the reigning World Champion held firm until the chequered flag to take a third straight win in Aragon, equaling Mike Hailwood’s win tally of 41 for Honda. Dovi was forced to settle for second but equaled Casey Stoner’s Grand Prix podium count, with Iannone earning his third podium of the year and Suzuki’s first at MotorLand. The rostrum was also enough to mean the Hamamatsu factory will now lose concessions.
Fourth was local hero Rins as he took a second consecutive P4, with Pedrosa securing his first top five since the Catalan GP at his penultimate home Grand Prix. Espargaro excelled in sixth to pick up the Aprilia’s best result of the season and their best result so far, with the Spaniard beating Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) to top Independent rider as the Italian came home seventh.
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), meanwhile, was another headline act as ‘The Doctor’ sliced through the field from P17 on the grid to take eighth, ahead of Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) after the two battled in the latter stages. Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) rounded out the top ten.
Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) won the battle of the rookies in P11, with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) 12th. Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) had a solid race to take 13th, ahead of a tough day for Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in 14th and a points finish for Karel Abraham (Angel Nieto Team) in 15th.
A monumental Marquez victory on home soil leaves the Honda rider with one hand on the title as the premier class head to Thailand for the first time. Will it be another Marquez vs Ducati contest? Will the Championship get closer once again? Or can a last chance saloon for Dovizioso deny the six-time World Champion? In two weeks, all will be revealed at Chang International Circuit…
Starting from a maiden intermediate class pole position, Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Brad Binder produced a brilliant performance at the Gran Premio Movistar de Aragon to take his second win of the season and second Moto2™ win. Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) was beaten into second but claimed a fourth straight podium finish on his 100th Grand Prix start and increased his points lead, with compatriot Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40) standing on the rostrum for the first time since Mugello, taking third.
Binder got off to a great start and led the opening exchanges ahead of Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) after the Spaniard was able to get himself up to second from P4 on the grid, with Bagnaia slotting into fourth before overtaking P2 starter Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP). Marquez was then able to slice his way through to the lead at home GP as the front trio started to break away from the chasing Baldassarri and Schrötter.
Baldassarri was reeling in the leading three as Marquez’ pace at the front started to dip, however, and heading into Turn 16 on Lap 13, Binder ran slightly wide. Bagnaia held the tighter racing line as the South African started to cut back and the two just tagged each other for a heart in the mouth moment, but both stayed on and Binder stayed ahead. The 2016 Moto3™ World Champion then continued to lock horns with his 2014 counterpart Marquez and after two failed attempts, Binder made a move stick into Turn 12 on lap 15 – with the two coming into contact on the exit. But from there, Binder couldn’t be stopped and he went on to claim his second intermediate class win.
Behind, Bagnaia recovered and made his way past Baldassarri after the latter went wide and was then able to get the better of Marquez – making it P2 for the Championship leader who now has a 19-point lead in the title race. Baldassarri and Marquez then found themselves in a dog fight on the penultimate lap, with the former emerging victorious.
Behind Marquez was Schrötter in a slightly more difficult race after the German showed great pace throughout the weekend, with Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) securing sixth after starting P15 – a great ride from the reigning Moto3™ World Champion. Seventh was Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo), who also produced another comeback ride after starting 18th. The Portuguese rider lost valuable ground in the Championship, but gained some serious positions in the race.
Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) was able to come out on top in the battle with Fabio Quartararo (MB Conveyors – Speed Up) as they took eighth and ninth respectively, with Jorge Navarro (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) recovering from a bad start to round out the top ten – from P3 on the grid. Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46) was 11th, two seconds ahead of compatriot Simone Corsi (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) who finished 12th as Augusto Fernandez (Pons HP40), Iker Lecuona (Swiss Innovative Investors) and Tetsuta Nagashima (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) completed the points scorers.
A ninth podium of 2018 sees Bagnaia increase his lead in the Championship over Oliveira as the intermediate class enter the final five rounds of the season. Can the Portuguese rider bounce back in Thailand?
Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) took a stunning win at Gran Premio Movistar de Aragon to extend his points advantage over Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP), with the Spaniard starting from a pole position that saw him equal the number of poles of his Team Manager Fausto Gresini and not looking back. Bezzecchi did some incredible damage limitation in the standings and took second after riding through the field, with Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) mounting a similar comeback to complete the podium after both Italians were given 12-place grid penalties. The podium for the number 33 sees him draw level with Alex Rins and Romano Fenati with the most Moto3™ rostrums – 23.
Martin took the holeshot from pole as Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) dropped back a little from his front row start and Fabio Di Giannantonio charged forward, with the Championship leader putting the hammer down immediately as he began to gap the chasing pack. ‘Diggia’ headed up the train behind, battling Marcos Ramirez (Bester Capital Dubai) at the front of a long group. Championship contender Bezzecchi, meanwhile, immediately moved up through that group and into the top ten after his grid penalty, with Bastianini following suit not long after.
The fight throughout the front half of the field was a Moto3™ classic, but Martin was more than free of the fracas and taking advantage of the clear track. With Bezzecchi blasting into the head of the train behind, however, the pace hotted up for those on the chase – and the Italian had already made up 16 places.
It had seemed as though Bezzecchi and fellow charger Bastianini could have the pace to get into clearer air but it remained a group fighting for second, with Gabriel Rodrigo (RBA BOE Skull Rider), Ramirez, Albert Arenas (Angel Nieto Team), Di Giannantonio and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) for close company. Rodrigo then crashed out after an incident with Arenas, leaving five riders fighting to complete the podium behind Martin.
Martin crossed the line ahead for a serene show of dominance, and after a tousle around the final lap it was Bezzecchi who kept just ahead to take second – some incredible damage limitation after his grid penalty. Bastianini clawed back some ground on a few in the title fight to complete the rostrum after his own awesome ride through the pack, and he moves up to fourth in the standings after a DNF for Canet.
‘Diggia’ was just behind compatriot Bastianini and took fourth, with Ramirez completing the top five. Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse) was only a tenth further back with an impressive race to take sixth, with Arenas the final member of that front group over the line and still close.
Adam Norrodin (Petronas Sprinta Racing) took eighth and achieved his target of a top ten after a solid race to beat off Jaume Masia (Bester Capital Dubai) by less than half a tenth, with John McPhee (CIP – Green Power) completing the top ten in the tight second group as he crossed the line just ahead of Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PruestelGP).
There’s more to come as Moto3™ encounter Thailand for the first time next time, with Martin leading but the Championship having already taken an incredible number of twists and turns. Is there another waiting in the wings? Find out from the 5th to 7th October.
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