2017 Aragon MotoGP Race Round Up: One Step Closer To The Championship

When they come to write the history of the 2017 MotoGP season, one of the largest chapters is going to bear the title "Weather". The weather continues to play an inordinately large role in the 2017 championship. Not always on race day, perhaps, but the amount of time wasted during practice because conditions were so utterly different to Sunday has made a significant difference to the course of the championship.

Aragon was a case in point. Wet conditions on Friday meant one less day of practice for the teams. For some, that meant never finding a solution to problems which would come to plague them on race day. For others, their first guesses at setup were pretty much spot on, the benefit of years of experience allowing for an educated guess. For the race winner, failing to find a decent setup leading to a lack of feeling was no obstacle to success. Sometimes, the will to win can overcome remarkable odds.

This lack of setup time may be the bane of the teams' lives, but it is a boon for fans. It adds an element of unpredictability, helping to shake up the field and make the races and the championship more interesting. The championship ain't over till it's over: there has been too much weirdness this year to take anything on trust.

Talent will out

Yet the cream still manages to rise to the top. The winners of the three races at the Motorland Aragon circuit on Sunday are in all likelihood the three riders who will be picking up their championship trophies at the MotoGP awards ceremony in Valencia. And the way they took their wins was a reflection of the way they have become favorites for the title. Joan Mir outfoxed the Moto3 field to lead all the way to the line. Franco Morbidelli managed his tires in Moto2 then held off a challenge by Mattia Pasini. And Marc Márquez simply overrode an unwilling Honda RC213V to get a win the bike wasn't really in any shape to secure.

Joan Mir is closest to actually wrapping up the title, an 80 point lead over Romano Fenati meaning that second place at Motegi is sufficient to put the title chase beyond doubt. Failing that, ceding five points or less to Fenati will be enough to take the Moto3 crown.

Franco Morbidelli faces a greater challenge, with a lead of just 21 points over Tom Luthi with four races (and 100 points) still to go. But Morbidelli wins much more than the Swiss rider, and his bad days are neither as bad nor as frequent as Luthi's. If Luthi wins the remaining four races, finishing second in each of them will be sufficient for Morbidelli. On the evidence of this year, though, Morbidelli can do better than that. The Italian has eight wins so far to Luthi's single victory. It is hard not to see this title race being settled before the circus heads back to Valencia.

The margins are much tighter in MotoGP, with Márquez leading Andrea Dovizioso by 16 points. The Repsol Honda rider has fewer points than second-place Moto2 man Luthi, a sign of just how close and complicated the 2017 MotoGP championship is. The lead has changed hands six times between four riders this year, with drama and surprise to be found at every turn. Given the events of this season, there is every reason to expect the title chase to go all the way down to Valencia.

Turning point?

It is hard to shake the feeling that Aragon will prove to be a pivotal point in the championship, though. It may not have been the most scintillating race of the season, though it entertained and thrilled in equal measure. Yet this is the race which we will probably look back on and say, here is where Marc Márquez turned the championship in his favor.

Why Aragon? Above all, because of the way Márquez won. In Austin, Márquez was simply superior. At the Sachsenring, he managed the race better, and at Brno the strategy he and his team selected meant he had won the race before it was even three laps old. In Misano, Márquez showed he was willing to take a risk for a handful of extra points, pushing past Danilo Petrucci on the last lap to take the win. But at Aragon, Márquez took a bike which wasn't really good enough to win, and won anyway. It was a masterclass in bike control and risk management, in saving crash after crash and still keeping it upright all the way home.

"During the race from the first lap I felt not so good," Márquez commented afterwards. "I was fighting against the bike all the race. I nearly crashed many times, but the fact to be racing in one of my favorite circuits at home give me this extra motivation to keep pushing all the race." It was reminiscent of Casey Stoner on the Ducati, Márquez obviously wrestling an unwilling bike around the track, but bending it to his will by sheer talent alone.

Despite, not because of

The lack of practice time meant that he and his team, like so many others, hadn't been able to find a setup he was comfortable with. "Since yesterday I didn’t feel like I expect with the bike. It was a hard physical condition, because the bike was moving, was shaking everywhere. Physically it was very demanding because, like I said, in left corners I was feeling good. Right corners I was feeling really critical with the front and nearly crashed a few times."

With no feeling from the bike, Márquez had been forced to throw caution to the wind. "I take a lot of risk," Márquez explained. "Every race you take a risk, but for example at Misano you can manage a little bit a few laps and then attack just in the end. But today the problem is that the feeling was not there."

The Motorland Aragon circuit had not left him much choice. A good variation of corners and a long downhill straight where even a MotoGP bike can grab a slipstream helps keep the bikes close together. Márquez had started the race just trying to stay calm and bring home as many points as possible. But around lap five, while he sat in fourth position, he realized that trying to play it safe was not a viable option. "On lap five, I was thinking that I didn’t feel good, but I looked up at the big TV and I saw maybe ten riders behind me. It was a big group. Then I say, okay, push. If you don't push, you can lose many, many points."

Use the tools you have

Márquez' forward charge was as scrappy as it was brilliant. He tried lap after lap to get past Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi ahead of him, but each attack ended with him running wide. On lap 9, he tried to attack Rossi and Lorenzo at the same time, passing the two former world champions on the way into Turn 12. It was extravagantly optimistic, Márquez running completely off track in the attempt and giving up the places he had gained and ground to the riders he had tried to pass.

Eventually, though, he found a way past, picking off the riders ahead of him one by one. Dovizioso was the first domino to fall, Márquez holding a better line through Turn 16. Rossi was next, though the Movistar Yamaha rider held Márquez off at Turn 16. His defense would last just a single turn, Márquez using the Honda's agility to get past Rossi in the final corner. He finally took the lead from Jorge Lorenzo at Turn 12, despite a valiant counterattack in the final couple of corners that lap.

Once in the lead, he could barely escape, but he eked enough of a gap to drop Lorenzo, then held off a late charge from Dani Pedrosa. It had been a physically draining experience. But the thought of a win at a track he loves, his second home circuit along with Barcelona, was enough to push him to victory.

Shifting momentum

It is hard to overstate the importance of this win. Sure, Márquez got a little lucky, able to bring it home while his main rivals for the titles struggled badly. Andrea Dovizioso could manage only seventh, the Ducati man going from being level on points to trailing by 16. Maverick Viñales' issues with rear grip saw him cross the line in fourth, dropping him from 16 to 28 points behind Márquez. Márquez is very much in the driving seat, perhaps more in control than a 16 point lead would suggest.

A glance at the results gives a clearer sense of just how good Marc Márquez has been recently. With the exception of Silverstone, where his engine blew up through no fault of his own, Márquez has been on the podium in every race since Barcelona. He has won four of the last six races, and finished second in another. DNFs aside, his worst result is sixth at Mugello.

Contrast that with Márquez' rivals. Andrea Dovizioso's worst results include two sixths, a seventh, and an eighth so far this year. Maverick Viñales has two sixths and a tenth, as well as a couple of DNFs. Leave Márquez' DNFs to one side, and the championship takes on a very different complexion.

But perhaps the real reason Márquez is so much closer to the title is not so much the races which have been, but the races which are to come. Looking to the next four races, you would say that Dovizioso has a good chance of victory at Motegi and Sepang. Viñales could easily win at Phillip Island and Valencia. But given his history, and the current competitiveness of the Honda RC213V, Marc Márquez could quite easily win at all four race tracks. "Every condition, every circuit try to be in the top three," Márquez gave as his goal. "This is the key."

A lucky escape?

Márquez may have been delighted to win, but he was lucky that his Repsol Honda teammate got off to such a poor start. Dani Pedrosa had had a mediocre qualifying, ending up sixth on the grid. His start had not been great, the Spaniard getting stuck behind Maverick Viñales. That had ended up costing him dearly, with Viñales just losing touch with the group of four who took off from the start.

While Lorenzo, Rossi, Dovizioso, and Márquez pulled away, Viñales couldn't follow, a gap of over two seconds opening up by lap six. Though Viñales was obviously slower than the leaders, he was proving to be an impossible man to pass. "I tried to pass Maverick but he was very fast in the straight line and very fast into the corners," Pedrosa said. "Then I couldn’t find any room to make a pass. He was not really making mistakes, until one time I forced him to make a mistake."

By then, Pedrosa had left himself with a big hill to climb. The battle at the front had helped a little, as Márquez had made his way past Dovizioso and Rossi and was closing in on Lorenzo. But Pedrosa still had two and a half seconds and three riders between himself and the lead. The Repsol Honda rider was unleashed, easily the fastest rider on track, often by a significant margin.

Threading the needle

Catching riders was one thing, passing them another. Dovizioso proved to be the easiest prey, Pedrosa holding a tighter line through the final corner, a place where the factory Ducati man was struggling. Passing Rossi proved a little tougher, especially when the Italian drifted left down the back straight closing in on the line Pedrosa was taken.

The Spaniard was not amused. "When I was on the bike I think it was very close," Pedrosa told the press conference, after criticizing Rossi in Parc Fermé. "I cannot judge what he sees, but obviously you know, you feel you are getting overtaken. For sure, at the beginning he didn’t see me, but once you get next to someone, you just try to give room. But I was on the line. The handlebars were like this and we were at 300 km/h. I don’t think you need to force the issue that much because the risk at this speed, the margin for error is very small."

Rossi dismissed the criticism from Pedrosa. "If he’s not happy Pedrosa have to race alone, I think," Rossi joked. "This is what I think because everyone make the same to me when they want to overtake especially on the last lap. But sincerely I exit from turn 14 you always go to the left. Maybe this was one meter more. I don’t know. Maybe these riders think that they own the track!"

Was Pedrosa right to criticize Rossi? Watching both the overhead camera shot from the helicopter and the onboard footage from Pedrosa's bike, it was clear Rossi drifted left. But that is a common thing to do at that point on the track, as the bikes exit Turn 15 and head down the back straight. If he did it intentionally – entirely plausible – he certainly left Pedrosa enough room. Just. As if daring Pedrosa to thread the needle to pass him. From Pedrosa's perspective, there really wasn't much room. At 300 km/h, it would be terrifying. But Pedrosa made it through nonetheless.

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts

The Repsol Honda rider was still on a charge, but it took him longer to catch and then pass Jorge Lorenzo. He eventually got past with three laps to go, and a gap of a second to try to bridge. Márquez had been watching Pedrosa coming, following his teammate's progress on the big screens that surround the circuit, and had to push to maintain the gap. "When I caught Lorenzo again I said, okay, now is time to push, time to keep my pace, because I saw that Dani was coming faster and faster," Márquez said. "Inside of me one thing is the feeling is not good, we need to finish the race, but another thing was like burning inside me. At your home race, you must try. You must attack, and we did."

That push was enough for Márquez to maintain his lead over Pedrosa and take victory. But Pedrosa had been in better shape throughout the race, his team finding a better setup for the RC213V on Saturday. Pedrosa finished the race less than nine tenths of a second behind Marc Márquez. But on lap 5, he had been over three seconds behind his teammate. This was a race which Pedrosa could potentially have won, had it not been for qualifying. Starting from sixth, on the inside of the track, Pedrosa found himself cut off going into Turn 1, then stuck behind the group in Turn 2. That was what cost him the race.

Lorenzo getting closer

For a long time, it looked like Jorge Lorenzo had a shot at his first win on the Ducati. He got a rocket start and led into the first corner. From there, he tried to push, though he could never really open a real gap over the riders behind him. He led the race for fifteen laps, or two thirds distance, before Marc Márquez finally got past him. But in the end, he demanded just a fraction too much of the soft rear tire he had selected for the race.

That was not because the soft rear was the wrong choice, Lorenzo said. "At the end, it was the soft rear tire, so finally 23 laps was a lot. The last seven laps as I expected was very difficult to keep in the 49’s and to keep the pace from that guys. I couldn’t do so much more." The medium rear had not been an option, he explained. "Michelin normally in the last seven tracks bring three tires that were very similar, but this time they bring three tires that were so much different."

"I didn’t try the hard one, but from the medium to the soft one was a huge difference this time, especially for me," Lorenzo said. "I couldn’t race with the medium. I tried the first practice on the Friday and it was very slow. When I put the soft one I was almost two seconds faster. So for this time was my only chance to be competitive." Perhaps, if Friday had been completely dry, Lorenzo and his team could have tried to find a way to make the medium tire work. But there was no way it was going to be competitive on the Ducati at Aragon.

Cracking the code

Still, it was remarkable that Lorenzo had come this far. He finished just two seconds behind the winner, his closest finish yet on the Ducati. Aragon, too, had been a bad track for the Desmosedici, the bike's only success at the track coming in 2010, when Casey Stoner won and Nicky Hayden finished third. Since then, Aragon has not been kind to the Italian factory.

Lorenzo is making real progress in riding the bike, learning its subtleties and how to get the best out of it. "The important thing is that we are progressing," Lorenzo said, "especially for my side knowing more the bike, knowing the way to get the maximum, especially during the race for the Ducati. The team is giving me always some little details that give my life more easy. We are progressing very quickly." The biggest step has been in learning to be more subtle and smooth with the throttle, the Ducati's surfeit of horses otherwise prone to eating tires. The Desmosedici's strength is its ability to make the softer tires last race distance, but that requires a gentle hand on the throttle.

Lorenzo is clearly getting closer to his first win on the Ducati. This was only his second podium, but the gap to the front is falling, and he is leading races for longer. Only Marc Márquez, Maverick Viñales and Dani Pedrosa have led more laps during races, and they all have victories this season. Since Ducati gave him the aerodynamic package to help keep the front wheel planted firmly on the ground in the middle of the corners, Lorenzo has become something of his old self again.

Could Lorenzo have won at Aragon, if he hadn't pushed so hard at the beginning of the race? Like Marc Márquez and Valentino Rossi, the chasing pack hadn't given him much choice. "If I don’t use my pace [at the start of the race], I was in tenth position. I lose nine positions because the group was huge."

Better, but not best

The riders who finished just off the podium were the ones who most keenly felt the loss of Friday practice to the weather. The two Movistar Yamaha riders suffered a similar problem: they couldn't quite make the rear tire last to the end of the race, despite the fact that both Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi chose the harder rear tire. The new chassis and new electronics updates have been a big step forward for the Yamaha men, but there is still work to do.

"For sure losing Friday hurt us," Viñales explained, "because if we had practiced on Friday for sure I would have known not to use the harder tire and I'd have used the soft. I'd have been able to work on the bike and make the soft tire last longer." Given the data they had, the hard tire was the best choice they could make. "With the medium tire we had no grip," he said. "I think that this hard tire was the right choice because we didn't have a lot of experience and our opponents, except Dovi, all went with the hard tire."

The problem for Viñales was traction on corner exit, which was what cost him so much ground at the start of the race. "For sure it was frustrating," he said. "I woke up this morning with the target to win, but when you see your opponents starting to open a gap, and even when you are riding at 200% you can't close the gap. I was lucky that I could manage the tires until the end and it was lucky that some other riders also had a bit tire drop at the end. For the championship it will now be be really difficult because we have to improve the bike. In the traction area we are losing a lot but the front of the bike is working really well. We need to improve the rear."

Tough nut

His teammate could have used the ready-made excuse of his recent injury to explain his flagging at the end. To his credit, Valentino Rossi said the leg he broke only played a small part in the result. "I did a good start and in the first laps I was strong," Rossi commented. "I can fight for the victory with Lorenzo and Marquez. In the second half of the race I know that I have to suffer. I was more tired than normal and I feel some pain. Also we suffer a bit with the degradation of the rear tire. Anyway it was a good fight and to arrive in the top five is sincerely a result that I don’t expect, I don’t think I am able to achieve. It was very good."

Though much of the focus had been on his broken leg, he had barely mentioned it to his team, and it had not been a focus for them. The recovering leg was a given, and they had to work around it, pain in other areas where he was forced to compensate being more of an issue. The biggest problem was simply fitness: losing a couple of weeks of training made a circuit as physically demanding as Aragon a very tough experience. That was also Rossi's main focus for the coming weeks before the flyaways, getting into shape ready for the three back-to-back races starting at Motegi, he said.

Rossi's comments, and the comments from his rivals – all impressed at his tenacity and competitiveness – did provide an insight into how they viewed his broken leg. The fans, and especially the media, made a big deal about the fact that he was riding with a recently pinned tibia. But Rossi put the injury in context on Sunday. His 2010 injury had been an open fracture, the bone puncturing the skin and causing infection. That had made the use of a hyperbaric chamber imperative, to help reduce infection and speed healing. As this injury had not broken the skin, there had been no infection, and no need for a hyperbaric chamber. Once pinned, he could focus fully on getting back into shape to race.

Not the pain, the motivation

This commitment, this determination, was what most impressed his rivals. Not racing with the pain of a broken bone – every racer knows this all too intimately, and none shirk the challenge – but rather Rossi's drive to get fit enough to even attempt to race at Aragon.

"Incredible to recover that fast from that kind of injury," Dani Pedrosa, an expert in recovering from serious injury, told the press conference. "Obviously, every injury as I know is different, even though it’s the same one, but sometimes you heal much slower and you don’t know why. Sometimes you heal way faster. So, this is like it is. But for sure, his determination to be here was very important."

"All the weekend is impressive," Jorge Lorenzo added, no stranger to impossible feats of physical heroism himself. "The way he did qualifying yesterday is impressive, but especially the way he recovers. It’s not the same body at 38 years old like when you are 15 years old. Then, all the recovery is much quicker."

All in the mind

For Andrea Dovizioso, it was Rossi's mental strength which was the most remarkable. "I'm not impressed about the speed he had, because if you don't have a lot of pain the speed doesn't change," the Ducati man explained. "But to be able to risk, in the fighting and with the grip we had today, it was so easy to make a mistake, I'm impressed about that."

That, perhaps, is the key to Valentino Rossi's longevity. His drive, his ambition, and his willingness to sacrifice is what keeps him racing at the age of 38. The motivation to push as hard as possible to shorten his recovery is remarkable. But the mental strength to put the danger, the risk of injury out of his mind while racing on a still vulnerable leg is what impresses most.

That drive was evident in the final laps. As he began to tire and as the pain started to grow, Rossi feared he would start to fade. One look at a big screen was enough to convince him to push, however. "In the last seven or eight laps I suffer a bit," he said. "I try to not give up because on unfortunately on my board and also on the screen I see that I have four people behind. I say, ‘***, if I give up now I arrive tenth.’ I try the maximum for the best result. At the end I was tired but sincerely, I never think that I can arrive in the top five. And I feel quite good."

New players getting closer

The closeness of the finish illustrates the robust health of the MotoGP championship in another way. Aleix Espargaro finished an outstanding sixth place, equaling his and Aprilia's best finish in MotoGP at Qatar this year. But he also closed the gap, finishing less than seven seconds behind the winner, Marc Márquez. Espargaro's sixth place meant four different manufacturers finished in the top six, and signs of real progress for the Aprilia RS-GP.

Espargaro was full of praise for the bike after the race. "Sincerely I have to say today was one of my best races ever," he said." I enjoy it a lot. I don't know if the RS-GP frame is one of the best on the grid, but at least it's the best I ever ride. It suits a lot my riding style, going into the corner I can carry unbelievable speed. Super fast. I have a lot of feeling with the front tire and this is the best thing for me."

But he acknowledged that the engine is the bike's biggest weakness, both in terms of top end but especially the way it delivers power off the bottom. "We need to improve the engine," Espargaro said. "The engineers know. The bike needs to lose some weight and improve the engine, because Aprilia and myself have a great opportunity to fight for very important things next season." For this year, the bike is still strong despite its failings. Good enough to fight for the top eight, and capable of capitalizing when the Hondas, Yamahas, Ducatis are struggling.

Orange crush

Aleix wasn't the only Espargaro to be happy. His brother Pol put the KTM RC16 into the top ten, finishing just fourteen seconds behind the winner. The KTM in tenth meant there were five different manufacturers in the top ten, but more importantly, the gap between the different manufacturers was small. At the first race of the season at Qatar, the KTMs finished 33 seconds behind the winner. At Aragon, they had more than cut that gap in half.

Espargaro's tenth place, and test rider Mika Kallio in eleventh, is a sign of just how rapidly the KTM MotoGP project is making progress. A new frame had helped with turning and tire life, allowing the riders to pick up the bike earlier and get it onto the fatter part of the tire. "It gives overall a little bit more grip and a little bit more turning," Espargaro explained. "And when you turn earlier, you can pick up the bike earlier, you catch the grip earlier, you accelerate earlier. It translates into more speed at the end of the straight, more acceleration, and a little bit of everything."

The progress was as a result of the effort and working processes of the factory. Those processes inspire confidence in the riders, and provide extra motivation. "As a rider, this is the best feeling ever," Espargaro said, "because every time we finish a race, I sit with Sebastian [Risse] the project leader, and Sebastian asks me, 'What do you want to improve? What do we need to do to improve the bike?' These words I like! It's like a dream for a rider! You are getting what you are asking for."

But Espargaro's joy was in stark contrast with teammate Bradley Smith. While Pol Espargaro finished in tenth, Smith struggled to nineteenth place, 36 seconds behind the winner. Smith chose the wrong tire, and wasn't competitive, but results like these continue to raise question marks over his future. Over the weekend, KTM staff had been positive about Smith's position as a factory rider next season, hinting that the question had been settled. But with test rider Kallio finishing 16 seconds ahead, and Pol Espargaro 19 seconds ahead, the case for keeping Smith is looking flimsier.

Paying the price of practice

If Motorland Aragon is to have played a major role in the 2017 MotoGP championship, then its foremost victim will have been Andrea Dovizioso. The Italian came into the weekend level on points with Marc Márquez, but he leaves Spain now 16 points behind. Once again, it was the weather which may have cost him dearly, the loss of Friday practice not allowing his team to fix the issues he had at three different spots around the circuit.

"In the race I had especially three corners where I lose a lot and that created a problem," Dovizioso said. "Because in the race nobody was able to push, everybody had to save the tire, or make a lap time and not use 100% the rear tire. But after ten laps Jorge started to push even more and Marc overtook me I had to use the rear tire to try to stay with them. And that was too early for the tires."

Dovizioso had three different problems in three different corners, he explained. "In turn 10 it was turning, I lose a lot. Turn 15 it was acceleration, I believe it was especially the wheelie. And also the last corner, I lose a lot. It was too much." Trying to compensate for those three weaknesses was what had cost him a shot at a good result, and he hadn't had a chance to fix it. "I think we struggled in the race because maybe we suffer more because we didn’t ride Friday. Because we arrived too late – we didn't start with a good speed, so we needed more time to work on the bike and in those three corners we lose too much. In the race you can't lose too much in one part. You can lose and gain a little bit but not like this. So that's why I believe we didn’t make a perfect race. And that's why we finished the tire."

Dovizioso's struggles are in part related to Ducati's history at the track. "For sure we expected struggle in this track, for two reasons; first is the bike and also my riding style," Dovizioso said. Those issues meant that he started the weekend on the back foot, and losing track time meant he never had a chance to recover. Was it the Ducati or the track which meant it took so much longer to find the right setting for the bike? "I think it's always related to the speed you start with. So if the track is not the best for you and the bike it takes more time to fix everything, so I think it was more related to the track."

With both Andrea Dovizioso and Maverick Viñales struggling, Marc Márquez was able to maximize his advantage at Aragon, despite problems of his own. Heading to the overseas triple header gives him a big advantage: he can afford to lose four points a race to Dovizioso, and seven points a race to Viñales. Under normal circumstances, that is a situation he can manage.

It ain't over till it's over

Yet Dovizioso still sees a ray of hope for the title. The very unpredictability of 2017 means that everything is still open going into the last our races. "If we will have some cards to play, we will understand only during the races," Dovizioso reflected. "It is difficult to know before the weekend and also during the weekend. The good thing with this championship is in any moment you can change the reality. That is nice. Sometimes it's negative, sometimes it's positive. So I think we have a chance to fight for sure."

It is hard to see the 2017 MotoGP championship getting any less unpredictable when the circus lands in Japan. The Motegi race takes place at the tail end of typhoon season, with cold and wet conditions a constant possibility. Phillip Island is, well, Phillip Island, a place where you have four seasons in the place a single practice session. Monsoon rains are always a possibility in Malaysia, and if the rain doesn't get you, then the withering humidity surely will. And of course Valencia, on the cusp of Spanish winter, can always throw a curve ball.

If I were a betting man, the safe bet is Marc Márquez becoming 2017 MotoGP champion. But I would want to be betting with other people's money, rather than my own. The championship is still a very long way from being over.

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I've been waiting all day for this David! and you almost ruined my morning coffee, when i started frantically refreshing the page and still no sign of your article.... post-race Monday breakfast without you is not the same! :)

thank you for the write up. I tend to slightly disagree on some of your observations (just slightly!):

I think that the main chapter is not weather, but tires. Again and again. Always. Yes, the teams missed a day, still the mere fact that they need to test every single tire, and not having the faintest clue of what it's gonna be like from one race to the other... well that's a bigger problem than weather conditions. 

Also, i would curb a little bit the enthusiasm over MM victory. First Dani cutting through the field at an amazing speed - making the race fastest lap almost at the end ! - indicates that maybe, just maybe, the Honda was not in such a bad shape. Also, MM charge : "brilliant" is maybe too much? He was faster, like Dani was. I think that when you talk about the attack in lap 9 is the spanish and the italian, Dovi was behind him. Extravagantly optimistic yes. Also it's becoming like a signature thing for him, he attempts these overconfident moves where he can just run off and regain his initial position without losing any time... If there were more gravel around in those circuits I bet we would see far less "brilliant" moves of the sort. I write this in a very neutral way, i'm not saying it's fair or unfair. It's just an observation. 

It's clear now that he will win the championship. Well deserved. I'm just a bit disappointed that what promised to be a spectacular end of season... will not be! Yamaha still struggling with saving that rear tire (what happened to their engineers ???) and Ducati..., well, Dovi i'm losing faith in him... it's as if something switched off and he's not believing in himself.... I hope i'm wrong. In the meantime Lorenzo made it on the podium. Getting closer to its higher step : I'm curious to see him in Motegi.

Aprilia and KTM performances were good. still I see it as a confirmation that with lesser time to work on the electronics and understand those boloody tires, we were given a more levelled field.

Great to see Morbidelli fight until the end with Pasini, great battle. Great friends. Amazing that the guy with 8 wins has a lead of just 21 points on his closer opponent... who only won one race. 

One question : what's your take on Mir's penalty ? as the "weaving" was intentional and considered dangerous by race direction ... shouldn't he be penalised on that specific race ? and not the next one? Weren't the rules changed since the unfortunate sepangate? :)

thank you as usual for your great write up


I would just like to say with regards to your Marquez overconfident moves comment, I agree but to a point. Marquez at least to me appears to try and find the absolute limit for everything - grip, lines, bike capability, etc during the weekend and then puts it all together and produces the results he does in the race. He crashes a lot during the weekends during practice because he's trying to find the limit. To a layman it appears he is lucky because he just bounces right back from his crashes etc. To me most of the time it's calculated. He just is willing to go that bit further than anyone else. I think all that leads to him making crazy moves during race day to beat his opponents. If the track did not have asphalt runoff areas then he would adjust his moves accordingly. Of course that is not to say that his moves are not dangerous or at the limit for some. 

In fact in my opinion the happy riding off the tarmac is a separate matter. And many others do it. It's just that in his case it's by now almost a feature of his riding. And soon the others too will probably do it more often given that the reward trumps the loss.
More generally I don't think I ever underlined or stressed that MM is just lucky. (Well, he does defy the laws of probability given the number of crashes he sustained which I think is a perfect combination of training luck and above all genetic lottery - just think of poor Dani or Lorenzo: they never fell as much but how many injuries?)
The way he rides is as crazy as impressive as amazing ! But where I beg to differ is that in my view the impression that he is over the limit over the edge... well no. That's his style. He slaps that bike and seems down but he is not because that's the way he does it. Which is mighty impressive of course. But it does not mean that he miraculously made it to the finish line taming an untamable beast. In fact not later than 2 days ago a guy with the same bike using a totally opposite style finished less than a second behind him.
So in a nutshell: lets not confuse his awesome style I repeat awesome! with the concept that he would want to ride à la Lorenzo but his bike is bad and he needs to do amazing moves to save it at every corner.
It's his style. His nature I dare say. And entertaining to watch.

Most of Márquez's crashes have been low-side falls, while the crashes where Pedrosa and Lorenzo has sustained serious injury have generally been high-side falls. Having personal experience of both, I would take the choice of ten low-side falls over a single high-side fall, due to the lesser potential of injury and major bike damage.

I made some comments earlier about how it had to be either drive/ambition and/or ego in some measure that motivates Rossi. Mea Culpa's on my part are meaningless (as is my opinion) on this. Why I need to stop thinking I know, is that Rossi lives and breathes motorcycle roadracing. For many (like myself) no matter how addicting, it was simply an avocation. For him there is simply no other choice, it is his life, and since when is life, life-threatening? Ah, to be in a position where such valor is demonstrable.

Has Rossi finished in front of Vinales in a straight fight this season? I realize he is recovering from injury, but in this race the results were similar to the previous races -- Rossi towards the pointy end and looking strong, but by the latter portion of the race here comes Vinales to pip him. Of course, they had the great race for the win in Le Mans, but even there Rossi made a mistake to let Vinales by and crashed trying to get back at him. The only time Rossi finishes in front is when Vinales crashes (Austin and Assen). That's got to irk Rossi to no end. Time to review his race strategy?
I am a Rossi fan, so I hope he comes out on top in the remaining races.

*If* (and it's a big if) Lorenzo can now finally win a race or two, then that doesn't bode well for Dovi's championship hopes. I imagine that would suit Lorenzo just fine, as I doubt very much he would be happy to see the team's 'journeyman' take the title over the 'superstar'*

*rankings assigned owing to relative salaries :)

It opens up to a very ethical v. pragmatical question.
On the one hand this is not supposed to be a team race. On the other hand Ducati has been after this title for so long that it has the feel of a messianic journey.
You are absolutely right IF Lorenzo is in front of Dovi for the win and Dovi desperately needs those extra points for the WC what will he do? Go for the win? It's his nature. It's the very nature of every guy lining up on the grid. Winning. Still I cannot believe that the bosses will just let the chips fall as they may. C'mon they can't afford to lose a championship just because the guy out of the competition did not step down. And this should start already next race.
And from a PR point of view how would it look? Would fans be upset? Would this demeanish the accomplishment?
It would be interesting to have a real debate about it....
Will Ducati clearly ask JL to help Dovi or they will accept to stand down without deploying every possible strategy ?

Didn't Haga lose the WSBK Championship when his Ducati team mate (who was out of the championship running) was allowed to beat him towards the end of the year ?
Wasn't this the year Spies won ?
Help, anyone...?

Just used the interweb..
2009 WSBK
Round 12 of 14, Imola      Race 2; Fabrizio 1st - Haga 2nd
Round 14 of 14, Portimao  Race 2; Fabrizio 1st - Haga 2nd
Haga lost 10 points to Fabrizio in those 2 races and lost the Championship by 6 points.
I believe Ducati said it didn't want to use team orders..?
Have they changed their minds since ?

What goes missing in the whole "Haga only lost by 6 points" is that Ben was circulating around the track, just managing the points gap.  He said himself that he knew, it being the last race of the season, that many guys were going to go all out.  He didn't want to get caught up in another riders thirst for glory and get taken out, so he maintained a position that would keep him ahead in the points.  Therefore, the "6 point gap" doesn't tell the story of the final weekend, as the gap could easily have been more than 10 points if Ben had decided to give it 100% in the final weekend.  Conversely, he could have gotten caught up in a fight for the win and taken out. . . .

I get that....but the point being Ducati didn't even try to help Haga by asking Fabrizio to give Haga room to get by once he was mathematically out of the championship. Ducati could have put a lot more pressure on Spies in the last race if they had.
Haga didn't help himself by crashing out of the first race of the last round too.
Purely speculation given the situation with Dovi and Lorenzo..

While Dovi's star is definately rising (and massive congrats to him for that) I'm pretty sure Lorenzo is still a superstar, regardless of salary. I haven't forgotten his 3 winning world championships yet just because it's a little less than 2 years since the last one. Has he earned his superstar status riding a Ducati?  That's debatable.  

Also, your statement isn't a hypothetical. Lorenzo has already cost Dovi points.  Lorenzo winning a race doesn't necessarily cost Dovi any more or fewer points.  Dovi's points wouldn't have changed last weekend if Lorenzo had won or come in 4th.  

not really good enough to win?  Realistically he was there or thereabouts all weekend, wet or dry.  He lead FP3 by a handy 0.3s, was only about 0.1s away in FP4 and but for a crash in quali you can put your house on him being at least front row if not battling for pole....as per usual.

Which has always been the issue for Dovi: if he finishes, a bad race for Marquez is 4th; where a bad finish for Dovi is uncomfortably close to double digits.

I disagree with MGM, in that I'm sure there is belief in the Dovi/Ducati camp, but the fact Lorenzo was so competitive almost guarantees that Dovi would struggle.  The Duc is hugely improved but still so finicky it would defy logic that such completely different styles could both get the thing around Aragon in competive fashion.  Petrucci's miserable weekend would seem to confirm this?  He started from 16th, dragged it up to 15th then drifted back to 20th behind Smith, poor bugger.

For all the conjecture of Dani's weight not warming the tyres there are also opportunities like this where others have to conserve their tyres while he doesn't have the same issue: swings and roundabouts.

Speaking of Smith, it's worth pointing out he comprehensively outpointed Pol (and Crutchlow) just a couple of seasons ago, on similarly equal machinery, finishing 6th in the Championship behind only the 4 "aliens" and Iannone.  He's between a rock and hard place at the moment but at this stage in their development I think KTM would be best not to respond to quickly to the nerve stimulus in their knee.



I agree with David. Marquez's bike looked wild and unsettled all race long, whether he was pushing or not. Him not crashing was already a huge feat and then winning, well, I don't think anyone else on the grid could have won with a bike like that. So yeah, brilliant. And pushing the envelop is exactly what the best riders do. That includes knowing how to use the tarmac run off to recover from a failed move and lose as little time as possible. These small things are what puts the riders apart.

And assuming Marquez remains with his run of podium finishes, Motegi is definiely a must win race for Dovi and he'll need all the help he can get, including from Lorenzo.

You say that you don't think that anyone else on the grid could have won on a bike like that, but the man who came second was riding the same bike.  Actually, the man who came second was significantly faster for much of the race.

Great write-up David. Thks for all your work.

I can't agree more on the weather. I definitely think it's a key point of the whole season so far. Wasted FPs means Imperfect set-ups which tend to tighten the differences between teams and riders and create more imprevisibility. Aragon is maybe the worst we've seen ( Sunday morning's fog was the cherry on the cake) but from what I remember all Week-end have been more or less affected by some rain.  With so many Tyres choices and so much need to carefully adapt settings to the tyres, a wasted FP is a huge lost. 

About the Race. Seems it's the end for Dovi. MM93 is a faster, stronger rider and Honda improved the bike before the second half of the season. And JL99 is coming..Slowly but surely. I still hope to see the Italian fight until the end. What he showed so far this year was really heartwarming for the Dovi & Ducati fan I am. MM93 is out of this world though and is doing things no riders can with a very special ability to ride on the edge and beyond. Definitely the best rider on the grid. 

Specifically about KTM. 14 sec between Pol and the win... definitely impressive but still a bit too beautiful to be really accurate. They had private testing here and surely it helped a lot considering a lot of riders had barely an hour and a half to prepare the race. That said, KTM will be now a force to reckon with. I'm eagerly waiting who they'll try to sign for 2019! They'll definitely need a top rider soon. 

Rossi... Finally understood why he came to Aragon..that was more simple that I thought.  He was just convinced he could win! And he tried and wasn't that far to achieve his goal. That's all.  Really impressive... Really aggressive with his teammate who is fighting is the championship... Seems Rossi was also there to show who is the boss in Yamaha garage... 

Last word for my fellow frenchman. Apparently a kinda disappointing race from #JZ5 but again, with 2 complete lost FP and a fall in FP3,  11th on the grid and 10th ( 13s behind the winner) is not that bad in my opinion and far better than other rookies. I was waiting better from Rins for his home race for example. 

I have become a MM fan (didn't like him in Moto2) but I'm concerned about his "charge straight at them & they better get out of my way" occasional overtake style - it could end in more than tears. So far both AD (last corner charge) + VR & JL (Aragon) had the skill & presence to avoid MM but it won't always happen.

I really don't know what's happened to Bradley Smith, but he's really doing himself no favours of late. It's almost like the problem is he has no confidence in being able to push or extract the maximum out of the bike. Sure, he builds up slowly over a weekend, compared to Pol who is fast out of the blocks. But since Brno onwards he's just being eaten alive, especially more so with Kallio's wildcards.

If you take Misano out of the equation with the wet weather masking his dry weather difficulties, then I think Aragon would've been absolute curtains of his chances of riding next season. After all, this was meant to be billed as a showdown between Brad and Mika, and Mika comprehensively out shone him. I was quite amusing reading some comments on the net, about Kallio getting the new bits and Bradley not so, being the main reason for difference in pace, but even Bradley admitted the new parts doesn't equate to the time difference, he knows the big gap is more on finding more pace from himself.

I've previously mentioned how much I want Kallio back racing full time, but honestly, I haven't seen much evidence from Bradley in the last 5/6 meetings of any true improvement. The 10th at Misano was a good ride, don't get me wrong, he handled the conditions very well. But most races are going to be dry, and it's no good if you're langishing too often outside the top 20 while your team mates are consistently battling top 10 all the time now. KTM Brad's changed crew chief at Silverstone and doesn't appear to have changed much so far. My hunch is KTM will probably give Bradley one more chance at the fly aways. He'll have the same package I suspect as Pol for the next one. So if Bradley is still struggling then I honestly don't see the point in keeping his race ride. 

Kallio has worked his butt off and it's been pleasantly encouraging to see the support fans have to want to see him comeback fulltime now. He's done an excellent job in all his three wildcards this season. KTM have nothing to lose imo by taking a risk and swaping him and Brad around for next season. Mika's proven his worth. Forget about age. All KTM want is results. And Mika looks more likely to do that than Bradley on the evidence of this season.

Folks often appear more adhered to their own frame of reference and narrative than reality. That is what ends up in "fanboy vs fanboy" drivel. Skipping trying to reason with you.

So then, interesting race on a number of points. Fun to see that an openly acknowledged strength of the Ducati is making soft tires last since they were at the opposite end of that dynamic pre Gigi. Much is different!

Jorge coming to grips with this Ducati is quite an unlikely and compelling story. The Ducati getting the front end feel it has offered him is much the same. A bit of a miracle. Dovi's corner by corner account of this race in his commentary illuminates how valuable he has been in developing this bike. Iannone can jump on a bike and take it to a limit right away, but then he offers blunt simple reflection. We haven't been privy to all that Dovi's garage has re this and I wish we could hear more. Pirro of course has been a heap of help too.

Lorenzo as we all know had been as much of a front end 250 style rider as any we know. His only MotoGP experience being the Yamaha that afforded such a bias, then developed even a step further that way. The wheels in line 250 lines era was his. The Ducati had been as diametrically opposed to that as any bike on the grid. Front end feel was low and it would suddenly give up on traction there on a whim. And it just plain would not turn in. On the front anyway...you know who rode the rear like a speedway machine and powered it around corners - front end be damned. Lorenzo really HAS been intently grinding away at becoming fast on this Ducati. Bit by methodical and hard earned bit. Just this one story is enough for a good read. Even though I will wince and roll my eyes at the celebration Jorge forces out in parc ferme I will be happy to see a first win.

KTM and Smith - he showed to be a slow rise in adapting w Herve and surprised with a late ascension. KTM bosses did just step away from talk of Kallio getting his seat, yes. But this deliberation is far from over. Smith must not languish in the company of Lowes if he is to keep his spot. Plenty of fast youngsters are in the Orange pipeline. The model of having two older riders like P.Espargaro and Smith isn't one to stick with long. One rider shines and stays, a second young up and comer joins. Smith is sucking, creating a vacuum naturally pulling his replacement in. Kallio is just faster. By a lot. And so is a younger rider eager to wring the snot out of this bike just as it is. Which is improving btw. Bradley is running out of time.

Aprilia too is stepping forward. This track is a good measuring stick. Suzuki is...eh...uhm. Hmm. Wishing they had their concessions? Or last year's rider? I feel badly for them. Please don't allow passion to smolder!

Marquez did well riding around the poor set up. It is cool to be able to see just how it was hindered. I love seeing him out of his comfort zone but staying within limits to remain on the bike. Another kind of performance to appreciate.

Valentino on that bike with that leg? Legend. Literally.

Off to Japan ...

Speaking of changing strenghts, the RC213V of late has been known for poor traction out of the corners, yet MM93 was out-accelerating both Dovi and JLo.

Would love to know much of a squeaky wheel Márquez is behind closed doors with the HRC engineers - seems a repeat of 2016 where the bike was significantly better after the summer break.

So much for the Maverick versus Marc Marquez showdown. bit of a shame DesmoDovi sipped 16 points behind. Still anything can happen. Who can predict what antics VR46 & mm93 might get up to at SIC or at any of the other 3 Gps this season. Dani Pedrosa showed at Aragon he will be in the mix, DP 26 could do well in the remaining rounds. Dani should be strong at P.I. as he was the lap record holder. HRC team orders ? Ducati corse team orders ? Will Maverick find his Mojo ? Mav is not that far behind. All to play for even at this late stage of the championship. It's not over yet Brunhilde!

"Aragon, too, had been a bad track for the Desmosedici, the bike's only success at the track coming in 2010, when Casey Stoner won and Nicky Hayden finished third. Since then, Aragon has not been kind to the Italian factory." - DE

Cal Crutchlow finished 3rd in 2014, but that was a race where it started to rain, and both MM93 (a mistake not since repeated) and DP26 stayed out too long on slicks and crashed while running 1-2.

"Brilliant" is what Marq is. probably the most talented racer in the Motogp history. Considering the amount of talent that is on the motogp grid today and the level of competitveness between the manufacturers make his achievement even more impressive. Maybe even more than Rossi's early motogp years, when competition wasn't as strong (I mean Gibernau, Capiorossi, Biaggi - 0 motogp/500cc titles) and he was winning almost every race without even pushing 100%.

to compare 500 two-strokes to current motogp? you do know that feisty MM on one of those beasts would spend more time in Clinica Mobile than on track...  and you do know that Aragon race was decided more on electronics-saving-tires rather than utter racing genius...

Whenever someone is making a comparison between Marquez and Valentino, one thing i keep hearing is Valentino is superior because he rode the 500s. Yet was the NSR valentino was riding same as the monsters of Doohan, Rainey or Gardner's? Then why aren't they considered better? Doohan won more races/titles than Rossi on board the NSR, didnt he?

Considering Marquez's talent, i don't think the two strokes would have been a problem for him, he would have adjusted automatically. His breaking records literally every month, If Valentino can win against the likes of Biaggi or Capiorossi in a two stroke, you can bet Marquez would beaten them too.

Steller ride! No wonder Aprilia has advanced so much, just look at how far Suzuki came with Aleix. People seem to ignore just how good of a development rider he really is. Suzuki sacked him for his incredible services and look who laughs last!

I'm pretty certain we'll see Aprilia on the podium next year.

So just how good are the KTM and the Aprilia?

Aleix is virtually matching his best results when on the Suzuki and Pol is closing in on his best results when on the Yamaha. This would suggest the KTM and Aprilia are now very close to being competitive with the big three. Thoughts?

As for Suzuki. Well I don't think we can really know. Aleix was doing a great job on the Suzuki and would have been appluded by all if not being outgunned by Maverick. Alex Rins cannot be a guide since his injury woes and being a rookie. And as for Iannone... I am not sure he is really trying all that hard. I think he still has the pip from Ducati dropping him. 

Nice write up, I enjoyed it a lot.

One thing I thought I heard during the race weekend is that Kallio and Pol Espargaro were riding with an updated frame and Smith wasn't, is that true? If so, is Smith generally getting less updates? Than it's also not really fair to judge their relative results.

Maybe not as similar as Aleix Esparago and Sam Lowes, but still.

I could easily see the KTM dustup between Smith and Kallio as a fabrication of the factory just to generate press. Given Ross's treatment of Pedrosa at Aragon, it seems Rossi hasn't forgotten Pedrosa racing him hard back in '15. Elephantine memory there, payback is a medi-vac. If I was Marquez, I'd be looking out for that opportunity where Rossi could play spoiler. Seems Lorenzo is learning how to ride the Ducati, but I can't help but hope that he begins to drag the bike into having some high corner speed capabilities. I must admit, I loathe the shoot and squirt riding style that I saw in droves at Aragon, and that the Ducati and the Honda excel at. Ok, I get it, computer have figured out that beating your opponents into the corner is better than high corner speed. Unfortunately, I long for those days where a 250 style was viable. All these motorcross style block passes are lame.


So you really enjoyed the 250 style where one rider would lead from start to finish and the entire race would be processional? Those races usually turned into a race to see who could get to the front and then manage a gap...although I could appreciate watching the rider battle the machine, those races were fairly boring compared to what we have now. I'll take this over processions any day of my life.

Marquez has done brilliantly this season yet again. Nothing seems to phase him. This dramatic 2017 season is not over yet. As noted, the weather has contributed as much as Michelin has to the sheer unpredicatability of the season. No wonder Rossi forced a brilliant return upon himself. The way this season has gone to date, he and Pedrosa are are also not out of it. As our scribe said he would bet on Marquez right now...witth other peoples money. The weather may well throw the one curved ball missing this season at either Motegi or Sepang in the form of a race abandoned after 10 laps due to circuit flooding, bad light and the lead rider calling it resulting in half points being awarded. Should that transpire, the fans will have a field day lambasting one or another rider for calling a halt and collusion re- the title a-la PI 2015.Smart teams and riders will be factoring in these permutations right now I'm sure. They cannot predict but they can plan ahead for any eventuality. Ducati will not have team orders and Dovi openly expressed no interest in them. Ditto HRC and Yamaha. Other geographical and geopolitical nonsense can also be disruptive. I see a volcano getting ready to spew its guts in Bali. Volcanic ash saw MGP disruption re flights some years back. Then we have Kimmy and Donny posturing to go one better than Fukushima's nuclear catastrophe some years ago.. PI can have 4 seasons in a day but the weather is not as treacherous as it can be in Japan and Malaysia at its worst. Everything to play for and nothing cast in stone. Motegi will be the tipping point. If Marquez beats Dovi and Maverick to the line at that venue, its game over and Champion T-shirt i handed out in Sepang as it so often has been in the past. I for one would love to see #04 take it to Valencia and lift the crown like #69 did in 2006. KTM have been superb this season in Moto2 and GP. They seem to have lost ground to Honda in Moto3 though. I still wish Ducati would enter the Moto3 fray as KTM joined the MotoGP fray. 

I too must disagree with blackmamba. You really can't compare today's MotoGP riders with the 500cc two stroke stars of yesteryear. The modern MotoGP bike with all of its programmable electronic rider aids has to be much easier and safer to ride than the old lightswitch power band 500s. Think about the risk of injury too. Highside crashes were all to commonplace for guys like Schwantz, Rainey, Gardner, Doohan, etc. Many of these superstars were eventually forced to retire due to carreer ending injuries. It's a pretty rare occassion today to see a highside crash during a MotoGP race and thus we have a lot less serious injuries, etc. I think this is at least one of the main reasons Rossi has been able to enjoy such a long career compared to the 500cc stars that preceeded him. There is little doubt that Marquez is the most naturally gifted rider in today's arena, but put him on a 500 back in the 80s/90s and he might end up on the floor with stunning regularity. On a side note... I think one of the biggest motivating factors or inspiration for Rossi coming back so soon from his injury was the 500cc riders that I've previously mentioned. Many of them rode after suffering serious injury. I can still picture Mick Doohan being helped to his bike during the final round(s) of the 92 500cc GP season. He could barely walk and probably shouldn't have been out of a bed, but he raced! These guys were Rossi's heroes and he is a good student of motorcycle racing history. One day in the not too distant future another great rider will defy the odds and come back from a terrible injury sooner than predicted to race in a GP. They will have been inspired by the likes of Valentino Rossi.

There is a lot going on and there are many riders at the top of the current game in GP that have world titles hearkening back to 2 stroke era. Rossi, Lorenzo, Dovi, Marquez, Pedrosa, Vinales. It is not strange to me that they are the chief protaganists in the game right now. I wonder if  Vinales remembers his early days in Paris Hilton's team. Rossi negotiated all formats with aplomb on tarmac from 500 2 stroke to 990 4 stroke. I think the initial transition from 500 L4 2 stroke to 990 L5 4 stroke was pretty seamless for him back then. It was a big bang transition for many of the rest back then like Capirossi/Biaggi/Gibernau/Barros/Roberts Jnr/Edwards(big bang fire cube) etc. 2 stroke was brutal and brilliant. However this is 2017 and the season from the couch has been super thus far. I mentioned Roberts Jnr. What is going on at Suzuki? Iannone was never in the same league as Dovi as a teamster at Ducati hence his axing. At this rate many a rider will be looking to find a ride with Aprilia or KTM future hence. I'm not going to rate the Italian nor Austrian team above one another. The Austrian outfit have the financial clout and the Noale factory have to chip away with limited resources. For sure, the KTM is the prettiest bike on the grid. Always was a sucker for ergonomics. I just love that pipe frame layout like Ducati used during there very succesfull GP years....2003 through 2008.

I think he would have adapted to a 500. The kid is freakishly talented. Yes he would have high-sided a 500 GP bike, more than once. But I think he would have figured it out.

If you read what David wrote, he didn't claim that Honda was a bad bike or Mar. He said that Marc didn't find a setup to suit him. That was apparent from the moment he stepped on the bike. Marc can and will ride smooth. The bike will still move around but it is more controlled. Look at any of his victories in Austin. Aragon last year, Motegi last year. The commentators pointed out that he could be mistaken for Dani. This year in sachsenring, and to a lesser extend Austria. It is very distinguishable when marc is moving around and comfortable and when he is moving around and not comfortable. Silverstone last year would be another example. 

This Grand Prix, he certainly wasn't comfortable. Struggled to find the setup possibly because he made that change in bike balance recently. Dani was definitely faster. But marc latched on to the first group a lot quicker than Dani. Even though he started only one position in front of him. Again he didn't say Honda was not ready to win. But Marc's honda wasn't. 

Really happy to see Aleix with a result like this, especially in Spain. Must have felt really special.  I hope someday he can break through the threshold and get a dry race podium. 

Great racing, such a close field.