MotoGP: Can Marquez take centre stage at Aragon?
There’s plenty to talk about after the British GP, and the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship now saddles up to head back south to Spain and the stunning MotorLand Aragon. The modern classic nestles like an outpost of speed in an otherwise rural, striking and arid landscape, inviting riders to make their mark.
The eight-time World Champion didn’t cover himself with glory at Silverstone after an early crash that collected Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing), but there was no harm done for either party and the number 93 was quick to apologise. But momentum didn’t mean much for Marc Marquez when the paddock arrived in Germany, another anti-clockwise venue he’s made absolutely his own, with the Honda rider putting his foot down to take that history-making win and get back on the top step regardless. He’s traditionally the fastest man at MotorLand and the progress keeps coming in speed at least… so can he pull another stunner out of the bag despite a slightly tougher run of late than likely expected?
Check out the race report from Silverstone here…
The good news – to add to his record there – is also the form seen from his fellow Honda riders at Silverstone. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) was ill on race day but teammate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) had one of his best Sundays of the year so far, and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) most definitely had his best weekend on the whole since joining Honda. Starting from pole, leading for a good while and then coming home in fifth, it was a big step forward for the number 44. And at Aragon? More good reading: Alex Marquez also took his first dry weather podium – and second overall, as a rookie – at MotorLand last season, and Nakagami took a pole, so Honda will be feeling optimistic of a high-scoring weekend in Aragon.
That’s also true of Aprilia. After a season of knocking on the door week-in, week-out, Silverstone finally saw that milestone reached: a first MotoGP™ era podium. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) has impressed for much of the year but his British GP – and last lap battle to hold off Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) – were another impressive performance to underline some serious progress. He also took his previous premier class podium at Aragon, as well as more top finishes as the number 41 always seems to shine at the venue. And this weekend, there’s a headline in the other side of the garage too: Maverick Viñales.
After a rollercoaster few weeks, the Spaniard returns in black and red to take on a new challenge on the RS-GP, debuting early after already having signed for the Noale factory to race there in 2022. And on his test debut at Misano, the laptimes made for very exciting reading. Viñales already has podiums with two manufacturers, and wins… can he start adding more with Aprilia? And where will he slot back into the pack on his RS-GP debut?
Yamaha, meanwhile, remain on the front foot in the title fight. A stunning race from Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) at Silverstone as issues hit for his closest rivals sees him coming into the weekend a whopping 65 points clear, although the Alcañiz venue has never been the best for Yamaha. That may change who stands on the top step, but it can’t change who leads the standings. Quartararo could sit out the next two weekends and still lead the Championship by a minimum of 15 points, so he has some room to ride clever and focus on damage limitation if he needs to. That said, he himself pointed out the huge step forward taken by the Iwata marque in Austria, another track that’s traditionally tougher, so can he flip the form book? Former teammate Franco Morbidelli did do that on one visit to MotorLand last year too…
Cal Crutchlow returns to partner Quartararo at Monster Energy Yamaha and will be looking to keep making progress and taking data, and Jake Dixon will also get another ride out on the Petronas Yamaha SRT machine. After a solid debut at Silverstone, can he build on that? His teammate, Valentino Rossi, also made a good start and after having gone straight to Q2 at Silverstone before late race grip issues saw him drop down the order. Can the Doctor keep that form rolling on his last visit to MotorLand?
Similar happened for Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) at Suzuki, as the reigning World Champion ran out of steam – for steam, read grip – later in the British GP and came home in ninth, staying ahead of Danilo Petrucci (Tech3 Factory Racing) by a whisker. But with Quartararo winning, ninth is what’s left him 65 down on the top – and he’ll be gunning hard to take the opportunity at MotorLand to hit back.
Teammate Alex Rins, meanwhile, had no such trouble. The 2019 winner couldn’t quite stage a repeat but he did take his first podium of the season at Silverstone in second, and guess who won last year on our first visit to MotorLand? The number 42 was sublime and he’ll be heading in on that injection of confidence. In fact, Suzuki will likely be feeling pretty confident all round at Aragon, as they’re the only ones who were on the podium in both visits to the track last season.
And what of Ducati? At Silverstone it was a more muted run for the Borgo Panigale factory. Miller fought for the podium, Martin fell victim to Marc Marquez’ crash, and both Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) had a tougher race to fade to outside the top ten. Bagnaia conceded it made a chance of the crown an even longer shot too, but until grip trouble hit he’d been fast as ever. And Miller got back in the mix. Can they do so again at a track that’s been traditionally tougher hunting ground? And can Zarco move forward to the postcode he was in for much of the first half of the season?
Last year, we saw KTM have a more difficult first weekend at Aragon followed by a big step forward – with the top Austrian machine beating the top Ducati too, so there’s reason to expect them to fight for more top finishes. At Silverstone Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) put on another stunning Sunday charge to go from 12th to 6th too – and complete the statistic of six factories in the top six for the first time since 1972 – and there were also standouts from Iker Lecuona (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) and Petrucci as both stormed into the top ten. Will experience from last season help to maintain that now? Binder and Lecuona have now raced at MotorLand twice in MotoGP™, which is something that couldn’t be said of Silverstone.
Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) will be looking for a lot more from MotorLand too. The Portuguese rider was on an absolute charge earlier this season, but since Assen he’s not scored points. With proven talent, speed and smarts, the Portuguese rider will more definitely reappear at the front, but will it be sooner rather than a little later?
This time it’s one assault on Aragon for MotoGP™, and there’s plenty to watch out for. Can Marc Marquez make a stand on home turf? Will Suzuki be the team to beat? Or can Yamaha keep that form book flipped in 2021? Tune in at 14:00 (GMT +2) on Sunday as the lights go out for the Gran Premio TISSOT de Aragon!
MotoGP™ Championship top three (Full Standings Here)
1 Fabio Quartararo – Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha – 206
2 Joan Mir – Team Suzuki Ecstar – Suzuki – 141
3 Johann Zarco* – Pramac Racing – Ducati – 137
After another statement win at Silverstone – this one from Championship leader Remy Gardner – there’s plenty to talk about heading into the Gran Premio TISSOT de Aragon. Gardner’s lead is now 44 points after teammate and closest challenger Raul Fernandez crashed out at Silverstone, but we’re back on the Spaniard’s home turf.
Gardner has a solid recent record at MotorLand though, and with similar positions at the track last year to the form he showed at the 2020 British GP… which turned out pretty well as 2021 Gardner took it on. Raul Fernandez will be fired up to hit back though, and on previous occasions where that’s been true, the rookie sensation has been sensational. When the chips are down, the number 25 finds a way to reply. And he’ll have to start doing so soon given his deficit to the top.
Both Red Bull KTM Ajo riders may, however, have a lot on their plates from Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team). The Brit was the headline act at Aragon last year, taking both wins. It was no flash in the pan either, with another win at MotorLand on his CV from 2016 and a podium in 2015. The Brit has been on solid form lately, and although not quite getting back to his dominant start of the season, Aragon would seem a good place to stage a comeback to the top step.
Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46), meanwhile, bounced back well at Silverstone from a disappointing Austrian GP, up at the front and pushing Gardner all the way. On paper he’s not got the best record at Aragon, with one Moto3™ podium, but last year he did nearly add a victory until a heartbreaker of a late crash. Late meaning final lap late. That will be a bad memory, but his speed prior to it a definite positive one… will he have similar in the locker this season?
Just behind the top four, it’s tighter than ever in the fight for fifth. Aron Canet (Kipin Energy Aspar Team) holds it for now, but only on finishing positions as Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) is equal on points. Canet missed the events last year through injury but took a Moto3™ win the year before, and the Boscoscuro chassis has a good record at MotorLand. Augusto Fernandez will want a step forward from his record at the track though. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) took a podium last year and is only 1 point behind the two, too… can he leapfrog back into the top five?
Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) is also now a serious threat to the top five. The Japanese rookie continues impressing and he has good memories of MotorLand from his first Grand Prix podium in 2019 in Moto3™. And he’s only five points off Canet…
There will also be a debut to watch out for too. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) will make his first appearance in Moto2™ at the Aragon GP, moving up to replace Jake Dixon as Dixon remains on the MotoGP™ machine. What can McPhee do on a bigger bike?
Moto2™ leaves us guessing ahead of Aragon, but answering those questions will be another thrill around of one the most technical tracks of the year. Who’ll come out on top? We’ll find out on Sunday at 12:20 (GMT +2)!
Moto2™ Championship top three (Full Standings Here)
1 Remy Gardner – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 231
2 Raul Fernandez – Red Bull KTM Ajo – Kalex – 187
3 Marco Bezzecchi – Sky Racing Team VR46 – Kalex – 179
The British Grand Prix belonged to one rider in Moto3™: Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team). The Italian topped every single session, took a second pole in as many weekends and then pulled clear by the finish line to make a serious statement on a tough weekend for the two riders head of him in standings: Championship leader Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Sergio Garcia (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team).
Silverstone seemed a venue likely to prove tougher for rookie sensation Acosta, and so it was. But now we head to MotorLand and his rivals will be especially happy to return to a track where the number 37 has already been on the top step – twice – in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup last season. And having taken some points after an almighty duel with Garcia at Silverstone, the pressure still remains off for Acosta as his lead actually grew to 46 points.
Garcia will be gunning for some revenge after said duel. The number 11 suffered a late shuffle back to just outside the points at Silverstone, and the more familiar turf of Aragon will see him back on his mission to win, win and keep winning… or at least cut the gap as a minimum. Can he showcase the same step forward at Aragon as he has at most venues this season? His teammate could be one to watch too…
After qualifying for the FIM Moto3™ Junior World Championship races at the track last season, Izan Guevara (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) found himself outside the top twenty on the grid despite fighting for the title – and as a rookie in the class too. But once the lights went out, the Spaniard fought through the field not once, not twice, but three times in a row to take a goosebumps-inducing three victories from three. Coming into MotorLand off the back of his best Moto3™ finish so far with a fourth at Silverstone, and two fastest laps in a row – new records no less – Guevara will likely be thinking big for Aragon.
The same can probably be said of the rider who just denied Guevara’s rookie podium aspirations last time out, although in a different way: Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing). The Italian was the top Honda once again, and on the rostrum once again, taking some solid points. And with his Leopard machine always impressing on top speed, he’ll be rubbing his hands to take on that long, long back straight at MotorLand and try and take some points back from Fenati as his compatriot pulls clear in the fight for third overall. Fenati is in serious form though, and took a fourth last year.
The fast faces from last season will be gunning for glory too. Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) took two wins and will be looking to get back in the fight for the podium, and Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing), Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3) and Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) all stood on the box at Aragon last year.
Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia VR46 Academy) will be an interesting presence too, with the Italian saying his incredible escape with Fenati at Silverstone helped him fight through the pain barrier. Can he do that again? The likes of Deniz Öncü (Red Bull TKM Tech3), who took eighth on new turf at Silverstone, and Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse), back in the top five in the British GP, will want to play a key role at Aragon too.
There’s also Syarifuddin Azman (Petronas Sprinta Racing) making his Moto3™ debut to keep an eye on, the Malaysian already a race winner in the 2021 FIM Moto3™ Junior World Championship. He’s in for John McPhee, who in turn heads for Moto2™. Moto3™ will definitely be an interesting one at MotorLand, with the long back straight and plenty to play for. On paper, it’s a venue that should see the likes of Acosta and Garcia bounce back… but Fenati and Foggia will be pushing hard to make it not so.
Moto3™ Championship top three (Full Standings Here)
1 Pedro Acosta – Red Bull KTM Ajo – KTM – 201
2 Sergio Garcia – Gaviota GASGAS Aspar – GASGAS – 155
3 Romano Fenati – Sterilgarda Max Racing Team – Husqvarna – 132