Competitive tension between the top three riders in this year’s MotoGP World Championship
is already high and it promises to be even more pronounced during the upcoming round at Motorland Aragon. Serving as the third of four home races on schedule for Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa, as well as title defender Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha Factory Racing, Aragon hosts Round 14 of the now dwindling season with rookie Marquez leading the series by 34 points. Lorenzo sits second thanks to his win record (now at five) but the Mallorcan is mathematically tied with Pedrosa.
Lorenzo and Pedrosa need to find a way to relegate the young upstart to at least third-place in order to put any significant dent in his advantage, which may be a tall order considering Marquez has consistently finished in first or second-place the past seven rounds. Granted, five of those instances came while Pedrosa and Lorenzo were recovering from shoulder injuries, but Marquez has shown no shortage of fight with the two competitors back to full health. The battle between Lorenzo and Marquez at Silverstone
was one of the most thrilling race conclusions of the year and but for a paltry 0.081 seconds could have been Marquez’s sixth win. In the following stop at Misano
Marquez recovered after an early error to push past Lorenzo’s teammate, Valentino Rossi, close a gap on Pedrosa and in the latter stages move past #26 into the runner-up position.
What may be more disheartening than anything for Pedrosa and Lorenzo is that Marquez still has room to grow. The Repsol rookie has suffered a number of crashes during practice and qualifying sessions this year; he crashed out at Mugello and has been unacquainted with most of the circuits on schedule aboard a GP machine. Aragon is different since the Repsol Team conducted testing there in June
where Marquez posted the second-fastest lap time, which was also better than the current standing lap record held by Casey Stoner. Lorenzo was quicker than Marquez in the June test, but Lorenzo has also never won a GP at Aragon. Pedrosa came out on top at the Spanish circuit in 2012, and did so by a commanding six-plus second margin over the Yamaha ace. Taken together, the cards appear to favor a strong performance by Honda at the upcoming round.
Yamaha's new seamless gearbox appeared to work well at Misano, with Jorge Lorenzo taking a commanding victory and Valentino Rossi notching another fourth-place finish.
Yamaha made a big mechanical stride at Misano with the introduction of its seamless gearbox, however, and if that helps Lorenzo gain a few more tenths then Marquez and Pedrosa will have to be flawless in order to keep pace. When he’s on Lorenzo is smooth, fluid and almost unbeatable. The problem for Lorenzo is that even if he takes wins in the remaining five races, should Marquez match with five second-place finishes he’d still take the championship by nine points. This is a very real possibility since Pedrosa has been battling grip issues that have made it almost impossible for him to keep pace during the final stages of the race and Pedrosa is one of the only riders consistently able to challenge for podium position.
Rossi has no shortage of desire to take another top-three finish this year but persistent braking issues have meant he’s unable to hold steady with the front runners over the race distance, resulting in a string of fourth-place results over the past four rounds. If he’s able to put in a consistent weekend, qualify well and dial his bike in for the race, the Doctor could still throw a wrench in the title battle.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow will try to build on the positive momentum he generated during the recent test at Misano. The British rider has been on a rollercoaster of late, taking pole position at Brno and then losing the front during the race. He was able to remount and finish, though it was in 17th place. During his home round at Silverstone Crutchlow endured two high-speed crashes during Saturday’s sessions, resulting in injuries to his right arm that made the race particularly difficult. He was able to manage a seventh-place result at Silverstone, but the injury and loss of confidence persisted through to Misano; “I am struggling everywhere,” said Crutchlow after the initial sessions in Italy. Taking a second-row position on the grid, Crutchlow managed to finish sixth at Misano, falling from fifth behind LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl in the final lap. The Tech 3 rider has secured four podiums this year and finished fourth at Aragon in 2012.
Bradl has been a mid-top-10 rider all year, and it’s likely he’ll finish there again at Aragon. He’s not been particularly successful at the Spanish circuit in the past, with his best result coming in 2011 in Moto2 when he finished eighth. In 2012 Bradl did have a glimmer of hope for a career best result at the circuit after battling for third-place early on with Crutchlow, Andrea Dovizioso and Ben Spies. That hope was short-lived though because on Lap 4 the German rider went down and was unable to return to the race.
Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista is another consistent top-10 rider, but one who’s unlikely to make an impact at the head of the pack. Ducati’s Nicky Hayden and Dovizioso will forge ahead aboard the Desmosedici GP13 and work to find a set-up suitable for the Spanish circuit. During testing at Misano Hayden and Dovizioso weren’t able to find any major areas to improve so will continue to search for those extra, crucial, seconds during the early sessions at Aragon.
Yonny Hernandez will make his race debut with Ignite Pramac Racing at Aragon, replacing Ben Spies while the American rider recovers from his injuries. Hernandez got a chance to test the Ducati at Misano, but still has plenty of work to do to acclimate to the more powerful machine. Damian Cudlin replaces Hernandez on the Paul Bird Motorsport CRT team, rejoining the MotoGP grid for the first time since his single race appearance with Pramac Racing at Motegi in 2011. Italian rider Luca Scassa will also be on the grid as a replacement rider, filling in for Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham while the Czech rider recovers from a shoulder injury.
Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro will fight to be the top CRT finisher in front of his home crowd. Though Espargaro has earned placements among the prototypes in a handful of races this year, he’s not optimistic about his chances to do so at Aragon due to the layout of the circuit. NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards will fight to keep Espargaro from the top of the CRT pack.