The dramatic and exciting Aragon MotoGP race.
The MotoGP teams, riders and pit crews arrived in Spain for the Aragon GP, round 13 of the championship.
With Valentino Rossi back, only three weeks after breaking his right leg. He wasn't sure if he'd be able to race, said he'll see after practise and assess the situation. He passed the obligatory medical on Thursday, declared fit to race.
Friday was wet, he limped onto his Yamaha and did lots of laps on the M1. He said he felt alright, some pain in the leg but able to concentrate alright. Also, as it was wet, it didn't put too much pressure on it.
Saturday free practise was delayed after fog held up the proceedings.
Qualifying was another battle royal, with Dani Pedrosa, Marc Márquez, Honda, and Maverick Viñales, Yamaha and Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati, all fighting for the top spot. Then in the last five minutes, amazingly, Valentino Rossi topped the time sheets! Only to be surpassed by his team mate, Vinales in the last minute. Marquez went on an absolute flyer, surely to take pole, but slid off. Lorenzo put in a great lap to take 2nd pushing Rossi to third.
Sunday was perfect conditions for the race.
With only five races remaining to decide the championship. A large crowd had come to witness an amazing race and see their heroes Marc Márquez and Valentine Rossi, who broke his leg in an enduro accident, breaking his right tibia and fibula, on August 31, but, after missing his home round at Misano, he managed to return to MotoGP action just 22 days following his crash on Friday at Aragon circuit. The 38-year-old Italian stunned the paddock when he qualified on the front row on Saturday.
Maverick Viñales, from pole, was slow off the line, while fast starting Lorenzo shot into the lead.
Vinales led the chasing group before Rossi got by him and set off after Lorenzo on the Ducati in the lead. Rossi capitalised on Vinales woes, to take second. A few laps later Vinales went wide letting both Dovizioso and Marquez get past - and the front four were able to pull away. Vinales, in the early laps, was having troubles getting his tyres up to temperature. He dropped out of the top five. Rossi was running second behind Jorge Lorenzo after the start for 11 laps, and Maverick Viñales said at that point he even expected his Yamaha team mate to go on and take a sensational comeback win.
With Lorenzo out in front, Rossi, Dovizioso and Marquez began to close in on him. Vinales was leading the second group and being stalked by Pedrosa. But it was Honda's Marc Márquez who was on the move, starting in fifth, he soon got past his main title rival Andrea Dovizioso. Eventually he managed to pass Rossi, after a failed attempt. Marquez tried an impossible overtake, too fast for the next turn, he dived up the inside of Rossi and Lorenzo briefly only to run off. Marquez recovered and took Rossi on inside of the final corner, and pursued after Lorenzo. Marquez decided he was going for the win. Lorenzo was being hunted down by the Honda rider. Lorenzo battled hard to keep Marquez behind him. But eventually, as had been the case with Vinales, Dovizioso and Rossi, Marquez decisively passed Ducati's Jorge Lorenzo to hit the front on lap 16 of 23.
Now Dani Pedrosa was on the move, from sixth. Honda's Pedrosa got by Vinales at Turn 1. Pedrosa with his fast pace, despite his second row start, caught and passed Rossi for third position and went after Lorenzo with the laps counting down.
A few laps later he was on him, and made a clever pass on the fellow Spaniard Lorenzo with three laps to go. The race moved into the final stages, the Honda duo, Marquez and Pedrosa, looked most in control on the track.
At the end, there wasn't enough time for Pedrosa to challenge his team-mate for the race win. Lorenzo was in a comfortable third ahead of Vinales. Nevertheless, at just 2. 036s from victory, it was Lorenzo's best race finish as a Ducati rider.
The Movistar Yamaha pair fought it out for fourth. Hard racing against Rossi, but eventually Vinales was able to push his way past for damage limitation in the championship.
Valentino Rossi, surprised everyone by getting third on the grid, after holding second for many laps he bravely he held third for two-thirds of the race. He finished only half-a-second behind his Yamaha team-mate Vinales. Finishing fifth in the race, just under six seconds behind the race winner.
Just behind Rossi, sixth went to Aleix Espargaró, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini, as the Spaniard kept Andrea Dovizioso behind in the closing stages in seventh from Alvaro Bautista, Pull&Bear Aspar Team. Frenchman, Johann Zarco, Monster Yamaha Tech 3, took ninth after a more difficult weekend including a trip through Q1, ahead of Pol Espargaró, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, and getting tenth, for the Austrian factory, who are making good progress with another impressive result. Remarkable also was team mate, Finish Mika Kallio, after going straight through to Q2 on Saturday who finished eleventh, with his third wildcard ride.
Italian, Andrea Iannone, Suzuki, plus Marc VDS Honda team-mates Australian, Jack Miller and Tito Rabat completed the point scorers on a day when only Cal Crutchlow and Karel Abraham failed to finish, due to them both crashing out.
This is what Marc Márquez had to say after the race.
"I'm very very happy with this victory because it was a tough race. Yesterday I wasn't feeling totally comfortable with the bike, and today I was struggling again except in the warm-up; I don't really know why. Anyway, racing at one of my favourite tracks, close to my home and in front of my fans, gave me extra motivation. I pushed hard and in some corners I just clicked the off-button in my head, even if I crashed twice yesterday. I saw that Vinales and Dovi were struggling a bit and knew it was the moment to push, so I did. There were a few scary moments, once when I was trying to overtake Valentino; he was tighter in that corner than I was expecting, and to avoid a clash I released the brakes, only to realize that Lorenzo was right there! So I went off the track, and at that moment I cooled down a bit, even if I continued to try and close the gap. Once I passed Lorenzo, I had to keep going as I saw that Dani was coming very fast. Anyway, that's the Marquez style! Of course it's important to think of the Championship, but the situation now requires that we give it everything. So we'll try to continue with the same motivation and mentality race by race, giving our 100 per cent. "
Marquez, who passed Rossi mid-race, said he was very impressed by Rossi finishing right behind team mate Vinales.
"Already incredible to be here after this kind of fracture, I think nobody did [expect it], " said the championship leader. "His talent makes the difference.
"Also incredible that he finished only five tenths behind Vinales with the same bike, because he is still injured. "
Second place Dani Pedrosa said
"Maybe if I could have overtaken Maverick a little bit earlier I would have had a better chance to fight for the win, but well, I'm still very happy with my race today! The goal was try and fight for the podium or the win, and we achieved that. So yes, I have some small regrets, but at the same time I couldn't have done any better in the beginning as I was on the medium rear like Maverick and wasn't able to pass him for a while. I also had to manage the tyre wear in order to be fast at the end, which I was. I wasn't sure why we suddenly had some gap to recover to the front, as the others had more or less the same pace. Anyway, when I finally passed him, the gap was there, so I started pushing hard, made some good passes and a good recovery, and had a very strong race. I put a lot of passion into it, and this is good for me and the team. "
In Third Ducati's Jorge Lorenzo had this to say
"It was a very tough race but we were able to manage it well, and in the end we scored an important podium finish. This third place has a much better flavour than the one at Jerez because we finished very close to the winner and we fought right until the very end. It's a pity I wasn't able to keep the same pace in the last seven laps, but to be competitive in the race we had no other choice but use the soft rear tyre even though we knew that in the last few laps the performance was going to drop. In any case it's important to see that we're continuing to make progress and that I'm getting better every race and so I'm sure my first win will come soon. "
Jorge Lorenzo also added the rate of Rossi's recovery at the age of 38 was "impressive". The Ducati rider said: "Valentino has been impressive all the weekend. The way he qualified, but especially the way he recovered.
"It's not the same, the body of a 38-year-old and the body of a 15-year-old, that all the recovery's much quicker. And it's impressive, no? I think he felt better day-by-day.
"And like Marc said, just some tenths from Vinales, who has perfect, in a track that's not one of his favourites, very impressive. "
Yamaha's Maverick Viñales in fourth told us
"The hard tyre was working really badly for us, especially on the first laps, but then it was working quite well at the end. Not so much in terms of grip, but it was improving lap by lap, but anyway it wasn't enough. Folger used the medium tyre and said he had no grip, so it was really difficult to understand which tyre we could use. For other races it was quite clear, because we were able to do many laps on the tyres so we knew which way to go, but here it was very difficult. I tried to use the same tyre as the opponents. Normally Valentino has a good feeling with the tyres and pushes on the hard option. For the next races we will have to work even harder on the Friday. It's important to keep pushing and working and keep our motivation high. We have to work even harder, though it's difficult, and we'll go to Japan to improve and we'll try to be stronger. "
Valiant Valentino Rossi returning from injury said
"I'm quite proud, because a week ago I didn't know if I would be able to race. Achieving a start from the first row yesterday was already great, I was very happy. I knew I had to suffer in the second half of the race. I had some pain and we also suffered from the degradation of the tyre. The work continues after this race. The calendar works out well for me, I have two full weeks to train and improve my leg's condition. After this we have Motegi, which is going to be very important, but we also have three races in a row. This will be very difficult for my leg, so I want to try to arrive in Motegi - maybe not at 100% - but quite fit. "
Marc Márquez on the factory Repsol Honda Team bike, took his fifth win of the season at his home circuit, MotorLand Aragon, as title contenders Andrea Dovizioso, Ducati, and Maverick Viñales, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, both finished off the podium. Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team, sliced through to second, and Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team, his second podium for Ducati, made it an all Spanish trio on the podium.
GRAN PREMIO MOVISTAR DE ARAGON
MotoGP Race Classification 2017
Alcaniz, Sunday, September 24, 2017
Marc Márquez is now leading the MotoGP World Championship, by 16 points from Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso. After Dovizioso only getting nine points. Vinales has dropped 28 points back, while Rossi has lost fourth to Pedrosa by only two points.
MotoGP World Standing as at 24 September 2017
Qualifying, Race results and Championship standing courtesy of motogp. com
- Roland Potter