Aragon in Spain hosted the last of the European MotoGP races, before the four fly-away rounds, last weekend and it marked a return to winning ways for Marc Marquez with the Spaniard coming out on top after a race long battle with Andrea Dovizioso.
It increased his championship lead to 72 points and although there are still five rounds to go and 125 points available, few would bet against him winning his fifth premier-class title in seven years.
Marquez makes his Marc
Perhaps surprisingly, it was the Repsol Honda rider’s first win since Germany in July with Ducati having been in the ascendancy in the intervening period. But he’s never been far from the victory, continually racking up the points, and he served up a masterclass of riding in the Spanish sun, making the soft Michelin tyres work when the majority of the field were on the medium compound option.
It didn’t come without a bit of controversy though with Jorge Lorenzo blaming his fellow countryman for his first corner, first lap crash although that wouldn’t have phased Marquez who’s ever cheerful nature belies the tough and clinical exterior that lies beneath. He may not be everyone’s favourite but his mercurial talent knows no bounds and he should wrap up the title with ample rounds to spare.
Mixed fortunes for Ducati pairing
Since announcing he was leaving Ducati to, ironically, partner Marquez at Repsol Honda, Lorenzo has been a consistent front runner claiming pole positions and winning races aplenty. He should have had two more podiums, at least, at the last two rounds but two crashes have brought his charge up the table to an abrupt halt, at least for the time being.
Having finally got the Ducati set-up to his liking, it’s been refreshing to see Lorenzo back at the front where he belongs although the two crashes have gone against his usual effortless style and perhaps show he’s still riding closer to the limit than he’d like.
Whilst Lorenzo has faltered somewhat, the opposite has happened to team-mate Dovizioso with his fortunes taking a turn for the better at the last four rounds. He himself went through a crashing phase earlier in the season but two more wins and two additional podiums from the last four races have seen him return to the season-long form he showed in 2017. He’ll expect to challenge Marquez at each of the last five rounds even if he’s publicly stated the title is already in the hands of Marquez.
Suzuki’s shine in Spanish sun
Suzuki’s fortunes continue to ebb and flow in MotoGP – one weekend they’re running at the front, the next they’re down in tenth – but Aragon was a circuit where both riders shone with Andrea Iannone taking third and Alex Rins close behind in fourth.
The Suzuki GSX-RR is clearly a machine which works better at some circuits than others but between them, Iannone and Rins have taken five podiums this season with the latter taking back-to-back fourth place finishes. Currently ninth and tenth respectively in the championship standings, sixth place is very much still a possibility, for either rider, and whilst top speed remains an issue, both riders will now be expecting to finish the season strongly.
Yamaha’s troubles continue
The ongoing woes of Yamaha continued at Aragon with Valentino Rossi qualifying in a disastrous 17th place and although he salvaged eighth place in the race, it extended Yamaha’s winless streak to 23 races, the last coming in Assen in 2017.
Even more tellingly, it marked the longest spell in Yamaha history without victory in not only MotoGP, but also the premier class, the run of 23 races longer than the previous record from 1996-98.
Rossi tried to remain positive but team-mate Maverick Vinales, who finished two places further back in tenth, branded the race as the worst in his time at Yamaha stating afterwards ‘there was not one area of the bike that was working OK’. The Spaniard was exasperated with his race adding that no matter what changes he made, nothing worked.
Last year saw Yamaha suffer a similar dip in form but then they were ‘bailed out’ by the performances of the satellite Yamaha of Johann Zarco be he was back in 14th at Aragon and hasn’t finished in the top six of a race since Jerez in May. Clearly, a major overhaul of the M1 is required.
Ray of light for Aprilia
After a terribly disappointing season, Aleix Espargaro finally gave Aprilia something to smile about as he claimed sixth place at Aragon to give the Italian manufacturer their first top six finish of 2018.
Indeed, between Espargaro and team-mate Scott Redding, whose woes and frustrations have been well-documented, they’ve only managed a total of 41 points and they’re firmly at the bottom of the manufacturer’s standings.
Their troubles are from far over though and it was more the spirit and determination of Espargaro that gave them the result as opposed to a turnaround in the bike’s performance but it at least gives them a platform to build upon for the remainder of the season.
Dixon to move to Moto2 in 2019
There was some good news from Aragon as far as the UK was concerned with the announcement that British Superbike title contender Jake Dixon will move to the Moto2 World Championship in 2019 after signing a deal with the Angel Nieto Aspar Moto2 team.
Currently lying second overall in the BSB series, Dixon, who has ridden as a replacement twice in the middleweight class, should adapt well to the new Triumph-engined bike as, after an early development test, he believes his Superbike style will suit it well.
Still only 22, Dixon has emerged as the UK’s brightest talent in recent seasons and having matched consistency to his raw talent and speed, his progress will be eagerly watched. The announcement does, however, more than likely end fellow Brit Redding’s hopes of a return to the Moto2 class after a ride in the Dynavolt Intact team was snatched from under his nose by Tom Luthi.
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.