After the raucous seaside of the Riviera di Rimini, it’s now time to head for the unique backdrop of MotorLand Aragon. The technically challenging track is an oasis of speed nestled in the stunning scenery of the area, an outpost of racing excellence in a region where competition has serious history – and more of it is made year on year. This season, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) arrives with an aptly numbered 93-point lead, but the last three races have more than shown that the reigning Champion doesn’t always get his own way…so how will it play out on home turf?
Maquez’ speed at the circuit is something to seriously respect. The number 93 has won four times in the premier class at MotorLand, including the last three in a row, and has four pole positions to undoubtedly make him the man to beat at the track. Can he do it again this season to extend his lead even further? If he can, there’s a chance he’ll tee himself up with a chance to win the title in Thailand…
It’s never an easy ask though – even when the track has a corner named after you. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) seems a good bet as someone who will be aiming to derail Marquez’ assault on Aragon, and coming from two podiums in a row he’s on good form. He’s never won at MotorLand in the premier class, but there’s no time like the present to start creating some momentum. His teammate Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) will also be aiming for the podium, and plenty of eyes will once again be on Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT).
The rookie had a stunning race in Misano, taking the reigning Champion to the wire and putting up a fight on the last lap. In the end it was another podium and not a maiden win, but it’s the closest the fast Frenchman has come to the top step so far – and in some serious style. Can he do it again this weekend? If he does it, Rookie of the Year will start to look less like a probability and more like a formality.
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), meanwhile, is looking for a comeback. The number 42 hails from mere kilometers away from MotorLand to make it a true home venue for the Suzuki rider. After defeating Marquez with his stunning move at Silverstone, Rins faltered at Misano and crashed out – so motivation will be higher than ever. He also slipped to fourth in the standings with the mistake on the Riviera di Rimini, so Aragon is a chance to get back into that top three and stake his claim on another podium at least.
The man who moved above Rins at Misano was Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) who, despite a tougher few rounds of late, has kept raking in the points to put himself back behind teammate Andrea Dovizioso in the standings. Misano was also tougher weekend than many expected for the Borgo Panigale factory though, so can they bounce back at MotorLand? Traditionally a tougher track for Ducati than some, a good few eyes will be on the two Italians in red and Dovizioso will be aiming to repeat his impressive performance from last year.
In the fight for top Independent Team rider, it’s also close, although Quartararo’s Misano masterpiece put him back above Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), and gave him some breathing space ahead of Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) for now. Is another twist coming in Round 14? Crutchlow certainly will want to score big and bounce back from a crash on the Riviera di Rimini and Miller made good progress forward on Sunday in San Marino.
Making life increasingly difficult for the riders who started the season bothering the top five, top eight and top ten is Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), however. A stunning performance from the Spaniard in qualifying at Misano gave KTM their second front row of the season, and the number 44 brought it home in seventh at the flag, battling the likes of Rins and the Ducatis. Espargaro has impressed more than a few times this season, and home turf at Aragon will see him pushing to do the same. And there’s news on the other side of the KTM garage: after announcing in the summer that Johann Zarco would be parting ways with the Austrian factory for 2020, the switch has come early and it’s test rider Mika Kallio who takes over for the remaining races of this season. How will Kallio fare in a full-time seat? And can KTM profit even more from the Finn’s feedback as they continue their huge development push?
At Aprilia, meanwhile, it’s also home turf for Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and he’s been on the podium at the track before – his only rostrum in the premier class. Teammate Andrea Iannone was forced to sit Misano out after hurting his shoulder and could find it tougher going, although Noale factory test rider Bradley Smith will be out on track too, with the goal for all good points.
Misano is unique and MotorLand the same – in a completely different way. Can Marquez extend his lead in the final race before the flyaways? Or will the likes of Viñales, Quartararo and Rins fight back? The outpost of speed fires up for MotoGP™ on Friday 20th September, with the premier class race at the slightly earlier time of 13:00 (GMT +2) on Sunday 22nd.
1 – Marc Marquez (SPA – Honda) – 275
2 – Andrea Dovizioso (ITA – Ducati) – 182
3 – Danilo Petrucci (ITA – Ducati) – 151
4 – Alex Rins (SPA – Suzuki) – 149
5 – Maverick Viñales (SPA – Yamaha) – 134
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