Can MotorLand give us a magic number eight?

2020-10-14 05:49
After seven winners, we arrive at Aragon with an empty throne. A new winner at the track is a guarantee, but could it be the eighth this year?
Wednesday, 14 October 2020
After a dramatic, at times chaotic but always entertaining French GP, it’s time for the paddock to saddle up and head for the very different MotorLand Aragon. An outpost of speed in rural Teruel, the backdrop is a very different one to that of Le Mans – and so is the track. With Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner the only riders to have won at the venue, we’ll have a new rider on the top step. But will it be a new winner in 2020? Or a first timer? We’re about to find out…

First though, the Championship battle: in a rain-soaked French GP, the top three going in ultimately fought it out for ninth, but Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) remains the man on top. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) lost some ground to the Frenchman but gained ever-so-slightly on Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) right behind him on track, but it was Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) who made the big gains. Fighting for the win before being forced to settle for fourth, it was a welcome chunk of points after his DNF – through no fault of his own – in Barcelona. He’s now third overall, 18 off the top and ahead of Viñales by a single point.

And so we arrive at MotorLand, with the title fight finely poised and a lot on the line. The stats and the form book though, without reigning Champion Marc Marquez in the mix, make predictions difficult. The Honda rider has won at the track five times in MotoGP™, and taken five poles. Last year and the year before, however, Dovizioso took second, with Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) also on the podium in 2019. That makes good reading for the Borgo Panigale factory, as does Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) arriving as the most recent winner. With a little more luck, Miller – or teammate Francesco Bagnaia – could be two real candidates to be the eighth winner of the season.

Quartararo, however, will be feeling fairly optimistic heading in. Yamaha have won twice at the track – although one was in the wet – both courtesy of Lorenzo. But the one man who was usually the key challenge is on the sidelines. Maverick Viñales will also have his eye on that – the Spaniard one who, along with Mir, was sent wide early on in France and forced right to the back before recovering to the top ten – and it would be a good time for the number 12 to pull a Misano and remind the field how fast he is. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) will want to bounce back from a crash in Le Mans too, and he’s now lost out on fifth overall in the Championship as well. But how will Yamaha fare down the long back straight? Will it matter by the time they arrive there?

We must also, of course, mention Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP). The number 46 has been on the podium at MotorLand – his 2015 battle against now-retired MotoGP™ Legend Dani Pedrosa is stuff of legend in itself – but it’s been a tougher weekend at times since. This season though, Yamaha are on a roll – and Rossi wants in. The number 46 has had an uncharacteristic three crashes in a row and he’s looking to bounce back, also a candidate to be winner number eight…

And then there are Suzuki. The Hamamatsu factory also have podium form at the track, but last year was a tougher weekend. Their other hurdle remains qualifying too, although Mir and teammate Alex Rins have been doing a stellar job of gaining back on Sunday ground lost on Saturday. For Rins it’s home turf too – about as close as you can get to racing in your own back garden – and for Mir it is too. The number 36 has an interesting record at MotorLand: he’s either won from a good grid position or sliced through the field to a top five or six, although his rookie race in MotoGP™ was the outlier. This season the sophomore has been a threat everywhere, however, and the bike looks to work everywhere – so can he finally take that first win? He’s seemed on the verge so long, he’s a serious threat to be the eighth different man to win, as is Rins. Mir says that’s a bigger focus than the title, too…

For Honda, MotorLand has always been a good stomping ground. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) will be eyeing that and knowing he can show good form once again, with the Japanese rider the only man to have scored in every race – and in the top ten. That consistency sees him move up to fifth overall, but it’s not just the maths as Nakagami has also had some impressive speed. And speaking of impressive speed, Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) had that in spades at Le Mans. The rookie – after one practice session in the wet – took a stunning maiden podium from an almost unbelievable P18 on the grid. Will that boost of confidence and almost-winning feeling translate in the dry? He has a good record at MotorLand, and it’s home turf. And what can Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) do? The Brit was fast in both conditions in France, despite his ongoing injury struggles.

And what about KTM? 2020 is already – after only nine races – their best season in terms of points, and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was on the podium once again in France, with Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) only just off it. So what can they do? And can rookies Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) bounce back from a tough first race in the wet? The Austrian factory’s best result at MotorLand so far is a 10th, but the times they have-a-changed this season. Pol Espargaro and Brad Binder also have two wins each in the smaller categories at the track...

For Aprilia too, MotorLand has good memories – and especially for Aleix Espargaro. The number 41 took his MotoGP™ podium in Aragon, although before he rode for the Noale factory, but since he’s impressed at the venue and equalled the marque’s best results ever at this very track. Will that remain true in 2020 with the new RS-GP? Aprilia’s improvement is more than it seems looking solely at position, and it continues.

Technical, challenging and more than the sum of its parts, MotorLand promises another two stunning weekends of racing. And we’ll have a new face on the top step at the venue, with Marc Marquez sidelined and Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Stoner the only others to have taken victory at the track. As well as that, Petrucci was winner number seven in France, so can MotorLand give us number eight? Find out on Sunday the 18th of October at 14:00 (GMT +2).
MotoGP™ Championship Standings
1 Fabio Quartararo* - Petronas Yamaha SRT - Yamaha - 115
2 Joan Mir - Team Suzuki Ecstar - Suzuki - 105
3 Andrea Dovizioso - Ducati Team - Ducati - 97
4 Maverick Viñales - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP - Yamaha - 96
5 Takaaki Nakagami* - LCR Honda Idemitsu - Honda - 81
*Independent Team riders
Can Lowes keep the momentum at MotorLand?
The Brit just won for the first time since 2016, when he last did it at… you guessed it! Aragon. And now he’s only an apt 22 points off the top
Since the season re-started in Jerez, it’s been a bit of an Italian invasion in the Moto2™ class. And, despite a tougher race last time out, it remains Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) on top in the standings – with Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) now just 15 points down and Marco Bezzecchi (Sky Racing Team VR46) only a further five. But the man with the momentum and the winner last time out, Sam Lowes (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), now arrives at a venue that’s treated him well – and he’s looking to continue his roll.

There was heartbreak for Jake Dixon (Petronas Sprinta Racing Team) that played into Lowes' win late on in France, with the gap behind the duo monumental by then, but it’s not just one win that makes the number 22 suddenly headline-worthy. Lowes has now taken three podiums in a row for the first time since 2016, and one was a victory for the first time since the same year – when he rather aptly did it at MotorLand. He’s the only rider on the grid to have taken to the top step at the venue in Moto2™, as well as one of only four who’ve ever been on the podium there, which he’s done in addition to that victory. All that, plus a now much-reduced 22-point gap to the top of the Championship, makes ominous reading for his rivals.

So what can the Italian trio ahead of the Brit do to hit back? Marini, certainly, will be hoping to feel a few less effects from his monster highside at Le Mans which left him on the back foot for race day, and Bastianini will want cut his gap to the top even more, having had a more muted weekend in France but still having gained some ground. Bezzecchi was the only one of the Championship top three to fight it out for the rostrum at Le Mans though, and he’s on his own roll – equalling the podium count of both Marini and Bastianini in 2020 with his third place.

In fifth overall, meanwhile, lurks Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo). It’s been a tough return since he was forced to sit out some races, but the Spaniard will be on home turf and said ahead of Le Mans that he has nothing to lose, with a 2021 MotoGP™ seat already his. Now quite a way off the top in the standings too, he’s gunning for the win every weekend so he can’t be counted out. And what about Joe Roberts (Tennor American Racing)? The American lost out on starting from the pole he’d taken on Saturday in France, but from the back of the grid Roberts was riding through the competition like they were standing still. He made it all the way back to sixth, and he’ll be gunning to prove a point at Aragon to back that up.

Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) could be a threat again as he impressed with his speed in France and took his second podium too, and Augusto Fernandez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was in the battle for the rostrum until late on as well. Can he keep that improved form going? And was France a turning point for Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40), another of the handful of riders who has been on the podium at MotorLand in Moto2™? And what about Dixon, who was on fire in France before his crash and is a man on form?

Jorge Navarro (HDR Heidrun Speed Up) has also taken a podium at Aragon. He’ll want to bounce back after Misano and Barcelona had been a key upturn in fortunes for Speed Up, and he’s racing on home turf to boot. Teammate Fabio Di Giannantonio took a solid seventh in Le Mans despite riding through the pain barrier too, so he’ll want to move forward again with a few more days to rest up…

Technical, unique and ready to roll for two race weekends in a row, MotorLand welcomes Moto2™ back with Lowes the man on a mission. Can the Brit win two in a row? Or will the competition hit back? Find out on Sunday the 18th of October at 12:20 (GMT +2).
Moto2™ Championship Standings
1 Luca Marini - Sky Racing Team VR46 - Kalex - 150
2 Enea Bastianini - Italtrans Racing Team - Kalex - 135
3 Marco Bezzecchi - Sky Racing Team VR46 - Kalex - 130
4 Sam Lowes - EG0,0 Marc VDS - Kalex - 128
5 Jorge Martin - Red Bull KTM Ajo - Kalex - 79
Vietti and Arbolino aim to gain more ground on Arenas in Aragon
The Moto3™ title fight now sees four riders in 20 points... and another 25 in play at MotorLand
Another race, another Moto3™ rollercoaster and another throw of the dice in Le Mans sees the Moto3™ Championship heading into the Gran Premio Michelin® de Aragon looking a little spicier than it did just a week ago. For one, home hero Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team Moto3) is back on top after a podium saw him hit back against Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia), and for two... the three men behind them all had another shuffle.

For some time, the standings have seemed like a three horse race, but no longer. John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing) is actually now fifth after he suffered another DNF, and it's Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) who's leapt up to third with another impressive victory. On his tail is Tony Arbolino (Rivacold Snipers Team), who's gaining ground by virtue of some consistent podiums, but hasn't yet stood on the top step. So who's the favourite at MotorLand?

It's hard to tell, but Arenas is on home turf and good form, having lost out before Le Mans by no fault of his own to boot. He'll be pushing hard to take another win and stamp some authority back on the standings, but there are some serious motivations fuelling those on the chase. For McPhee it's becoming a now or never, but those now just ahead of him are so close to the top they can almost taste it. For Arbolino it's a win drought he wants to end, and for Vietti it's just 16 points between him and the top. If they can strike again so soon, the Championship could look very different again...

But what about Ogura? Since Barcelona the Japanese rider's trademark consistency has has gone slightly MIA, although he's salvaged two solid points finishes from two difficult qualifying positions. Can he turn it around at MotorLand? There are some good memories at the track for the number 79 at least – it's where he took his first podium. Can the sophomore use that as a springboard to get back in the game? He's had podiums, he's now had a pole position... he's just missing that first win.

Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing), meanwhile, has a first win, and he looked on for a second until the last two laps in France. He can be expected in the fight at MotorLand – it's also home turf for him – as can compatriot Raul Fernandez as the oft-pacesetting Red Bull KTM Ajo rider hasn't quite yet got to grips with the final battle to take a podium just yet. And then there's Darryn Binder (CIP - Green Power), who did just that at Barcelona for his first victory and then had a mechanical at Le Mans. He'll be on a charge... although when is he not?

And there's more. Ayumu Sasaki's (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) bad luck finally came to an end in France, with the Japanese rider going from best qualifying of the year to best race result, and no one ruining his day. Can he keep that frontrunning form and mix it with the front group, along with the likes of the only rider who's already won at the track in the class, Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team)? He was the new victim of the bad luck at Le Mans. And what about Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3), who is getting back into the mix, and Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing)? Foggia, like Ogura, took his first podium at MotorLand...

It's heating up in the standings and hopefully in the weather as Moto3™ head for Aragon. Can Vietti and Arbolino gain more ground? Will Arenas strike back? Or can the others tussling in the front group stamp their name on the podium? Find out on Sunday at 11:00 (GMT +2) as Moto3™ slipstream MotorLand.

Source: Dorna Sports

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