The scene was set for the now familiar Marquez against the Ducatis play and the décor was a hot Motorland Aragon with flags covering the hills like a red ant army. And the actual ant engraved in the monument at turn ten was an accurate premonition for the way the premier class race would eventually unfold. Marc Marquez fired up the crowd with a gamble on the soft rear, a close hunt of his main rival and a last lap masterclass to take a trophy he is fairly familiar with after three consecutive wins in Aragon. Andrea Dovizioso led the way for much of the afternoon but had to settle for second and be thankful he survived a Marquez-Iannone sandwich. With the Italian’s excellent race, Suzuki got their best result at Aragon, Andrea Iannone crossing the line only six tenths of a second off the title contenders.
The top men held station at the launch off the line but the poleman’s luck turned quickly, Jorge Lorenzo going off line and highsiding in turn one as he came under attack from Marquez. But the ultimate winner of lap one was Dovizioso, who got the inside into turn two and picked up the lead from the Spaniard. In another surprising turn of events, the Suzukis found themselves in third and fourth, the lively Italian ahead of the likeable Spaniard. Dani Pedrosa was also in the mix, with Aleix Espargaro another pleasant surprise in fifth, ahead of Cal Crutchlow, who had to take avoiding action in Lorenzo’s incident and dropped a few positions. In the Yamaha camp, they went for a Freaky Friday move, Valentino Rossi climbing into 11th by lap three, while Maverick Viñales was going backwards to 18th.
With Marquez calmly chasing Dovizioso, the two Suzukis behind were swapping identical paint just a tenth off the two leaders and with Pedrosa smelling an opportunity close behind. Espargaro, Crutchlow and Danilo Petrucci were not too far either, Jack Miller falling almost a second behind his teammate. Crutchlow was the first to give up the fight in turn one on lap five, reducing the lead group to seven riders.
For the next couple of laps, the lead Ducati was in a league of its own on the straights, so the Repsol Hondas had to mingle with the Suzukis, Rins looking keen to attack Marquez while Pedrosa was not having an easy time getting past feisty Iannone. The Yamahas were making some progress too, Rossi up to ninth and Viñales 15th. While the Spaniard had a handful of riders within striking distance ahead, Rossi had almost two seconds to find to see Miller’s rear wheel.
With tyre wear in mind given the hot weather, the lead pack saw no action for the mid part of the race, Pedrosa losing a few tenths a lap on the four men ahead and Petrucci losing a second at the tail of the group. Espargaro’s Aprilia was still holding strong only two seconds off the lead, running smoothly behind Pedrosa.
At the halfway point of proceedings, some red sectors started to make an appearance amongst the leading trio as Dovizioso set the fastest lap of the race and forced Marquez and Rins to raise their game. Nonetheless, Marquez struggled to get within half a second of his Italian rival while Rins quickly lost a second on the duo ahead and was easy prey for Iannone.
With ten laps left, Marquez made a swift comeback and was all caution-to-the-wind ready-to-pounce straight away, taking the lead in turn 12. Dovizioso would not let go just yet and both had a bit of a buffer for their shenanigans, one second ahead of Iannone. The Spaniard was working hard to get an advantage on the Ducati before it turned into a rocket on the straight but the mission was a hard one and Dovizioso decided to rub elbows with his rival for a bit. The quick exchanges were eye-candy for Iannone, who glued his Suzuki to the victory battle, Rins not far behind. Behind the lead pack, Pedrosa was running a lonely fifth, one second ahead of Espargaro, who in turn had over a second on Petrucci. Rossi was stagnating two seconds behind Miller in ninth, with Viñales four seconds down the road from his teammate.
Marquez was like a dog with a bone and attacked once again but with Dovizioso striking back straight away, this allowed Iannone a sniff at the lead, the fantastic three-way tango ending with the status quo reinstated. Meanwhile, Rins was keeping a close eye on the crazy kids ahead. Marquez made what turned out to be a decisive move into turn one with three laps to go, followed by another close exchange with Dovizioso and as much as Marquez was pushing to get away and break the tow, the Ducati would not give up and prepared for another last lap showdown.
The Suzukis could only watch and learn as the homeland master got to work and distanced Dovizioso on the final lap. Iannone took his turn to climb on the podium for Suzuki, with Rins an ultimately lonely fourth. Pedrosa came home in fifth, his best finish in quite a bit, with Aleix Espargaro a valiant and determined sixth position, equalling the best result for Aprilia. Petrucci had another lonely ride to seventh place but took charge of the Independent Riders classification, while Rossi caught up with Miller for eighth position with two laps left. Miller and Viñales completed the top ten.
Marquez’s hard fought win not only halted Ducati’s domination of late but also extended his championship lead to a comfortable 72 points on Dovizioso. Rossi’s comeback ride consolidated his third position ahead of the unlucky Lorenzo but also broke the dreaded record of consecutive races without a win for Yamaha, bringing the number up to 23.
|35||Cal CRUTCHLOW||Honda||19 Laps|
|19||Alvaro BAUTISTA||Ducati||22 Laps|
|Not Finished 1st Lap|
|99||Jorge LORENZO||Ducati||0 Lap|