Casey Stoner (top) arrives at Aragon the favorite, but the Aussie’s Repsol Honda teammate, Dani Pedrosa (bottom), beat him at Misano and will be riding at home.
MotoGP racing heads back to Spanish soil for Round 14 of the 2011 championship. The Motorland Aragon circuit hosts its second-ever Grand Prix, with Casey Stoner looking to hold his 35-point title lead over reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo. The third of four Spanish GP’s this season, Aragon was a replacement fill-in for the defunct Hungarian GP in 2010. This year the circuit, located north of Barcelona, marks the second to last European round, as GP prepares to embark on its Far East junket to Motegi, Phillip Island and Sepang.
The points-leading Stoner arrives at Aragon the obvious favorite, the Aussie riding an 11-straight podiums tear. The Repsol ace holds the distinction of being Aragon’s inaugural GP winner, his first victory of 2010 while campaigning the Marlboro Ducati. Stoner will face his usual ‘alien’ rivals, Spaniards Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa, who relegated the 2007 champ to third at Misano. Stoner would blame fatigue for the third-place result.
Bolstered by his Misano victory, his third of the season, Yamaha’s Lorenzo will be keen to trim the point deficit further this weekend. Aragon is the only Spanish circuit where the Mallorcan is winless, and was one of only two rounds where Lorenzo did not find the steps during his dominating 2010 campaign.
Third in the points, Andrea Dovizioso remains winless aboard the Repsol Honda in 2011. The Italian has been consistent, however, only finishing out of the top six once this season. The odd man out on the Repsol team, Dovi has five more chances to make the most of his factory Honda.
Repsol’s Pedrosa seeks his third win of the season on Sunday. The Spaniard placed second at Jerez and missed his home Catalunya GP courtesy of a broken collarbone. Since returning to action, Pedrosa has four podiums, including consecutive second-place finishes in his latest performances. Without the title to worry over, perhaps Pedrobot can go into all-or-nothing mode as the season winds down.
Jorge Lorenzo needs to gain ground on Stoner, the Factory Yamaha pilot riding the momentum of his Misano win.
Ben Spies is one of three riders, along with Dovizioso and Marco Simoncelli, seemingly on the brink of cracking into the MotoGP elite. After his breakthrough victory at Assen earlier this year, the factory Yamaha pilot has been a virtual lock for the top five every Sunday. At Misano the Texan was edged out by Simoncelli and Dovizioso for the five spot, so expect the trio to deliver good racing at Aragon, too. Spies may have the edge, however, as it’s a circuit where the second-year GP pilot is on equal footing experience-wise.
Valentino Rossi’s sixth-place result at Aragon in 2010, aboard the Fiat Yamaha, was his worst finish of the year. In 2010 a sixth-place result is a small victory for the beleaguered factory Ducati effort. It’s an indicator of the struggles in the Ducati garage. And Rossi hasn’t even sniffed at the podium since his fourth-place finish at Assen in June. Since then, The Doctor’s best result has been… sixth. Coincidentally, Rossi is sixth in the points as well.
Rossi’s American teammate, Nicky Hayden, podiumed at Aragon last year, his only rostrum appearance of 2010. The Kentucky Kid is struggling this season, with his last top-five way back in Assen – just like his teammate. Seems like another hard weekend is on tap for the Desmo crew.
Marco Simoncelli (58) got the drop on rival Andrea Dovizioso (4) in San Marino. Alvaro Bautista (19) is one of five Spaniards looking to impress the home crowd.
The wildly inconsistent Simoncelli sits eighth in the points. At Misano the Italian finally bested his countryman and rival Dovizioso for the first time in 2011, scoring a fourth-place finish. The Gresini Honda rider got his first MotoGP podium out of the way earlier this year, at Brno, now the question is when he’ll manage that first career victory in the premier class.
Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards and Gresini Honda’s Hiroshi Aoyama, a respective ninth and tenth overall, have proven reliable point scorers this season. Neither stood out at Aragon in 2010, though both have surprised in 2011 – Aoyama with a solid fourth on a previous Spanish visit (Jerez), while the Texas Tornado nabbed a podium at Silverstone.
A bevy of Spaniards make up the GP grid, and if there’s a dark horse looking to make the most of a homefield advantage it’s Alvaro Bautista. The second-year rider has piloted respectable solo runs on the hapless Suzuki. Other Spanish riders include Hector Barbera, who, more often than not, finishes the fastest non-factory Ducati. As for Toni Elias, the Moto2 champ’s LCR Honda campaign hasn’t lived up to expectations, but we’ve never forgotten his fierce 2006 victory at Estoril. Iberian soil boosts Elias mojo, and it’s not surprising that one of his best ’11 results was a ninth-place finish at Jerez. Just sayin…
One plotline to watch in the backmarker ranks is the battle for rookie of the year honors. AB Cardion’s Karel Abraham leads Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow for the position. Abraham has struggled of late, with a trio of seventh-place finishes his best results of the season, but posted a 12th at Misano and a DNF at Brno and Indy. Crutchlow’s struggling too, the British rider unable to crack into the single-digits since a seventh-place finish during Round 5 at Catalunya.
The Pramac Ducati duo of Loris Capirossi and Randy de Puniet mark some significant milestones this weekend. Aragon will be the 100th MotoGP round for De Puniet, the most ever for a French rider. As for Capirex, the Spanish circuit will be the 43rd of his long career. The irony is Capirossi, far and away the most experienced rider in the paddock, will be on equal footing with rookie Crutchlow in facing the Aragon track for the first time.