Can MotorLand give us a magic number eight?
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