Rider insight: Aragon MotoGPby Freddie Spencer on 26th September 2017
Marc Márquez takes a 16-point lead in the title chase with victory, Rossi returns just weeks after breaking his leg, and Dovi drops back
I never raced at Aragon, and have actually never been. It’s one of the tracks I would look forward to riding someday, and there are a couple of reasons why. I like where it’s located, it’s in a part of Spain that is very open and the track reminds me of those in the eastern part of southern California and in Las Vegas. It also looks like it’s pretty challenging for the riders because of the speed and the reverse corkscrew, which is similar to that at Laguna Seca.
Before the MotoGP, the Moto3 race was incredible and there was an incident late on when Mir took the lead with a lap to go. He then weaved as he was going down the straight, and the way the track is laid out the line coming onto the back straight is to move all the way to the outside to break the tow. What got him in trouble was the weaving, and with the riders right on top of him it could have hurt someone if a rider had pulled out as he was weaving. He’s been penalised six grid positions at the next race and I agree with that. I think the blocking is one thing, going all the way to the edge is borderline, but the weaving has to be stopped. You don’t want that to become standard because the riders, especially in that class where drafting is so critical, might take advantage and they can’t push it so far someone gets hurt.
It was certainly challenging this weekend with the rain on Friday, the track was slippery and it caught a lot of people off guard. It didn’t really seem to improve as the weekend went on and it seemed everybody was struggling with tyre choice. Some of the riders who chose the hard tyre on Sunday after running in the morning warm-up, like Viñales, rued that choice and wished they ran the soft, like Lorenzo. But Dovizioso seemed to struggle with the soft. The tyre choice seemed to be limited, the grip didn’t seem to be there.
In qualifying, Marc wasn’t able to get a fifth pole in a row at Aragon, it was Viñales. We’ve been waiting for Maverick and Marc to finally have a race, and wondered whether this was going to be the weekend. Marc crashed in qualifying so wasn’t able to have a last-chance run at pole but he had the fastest time at that point. He crashed a few times, but it doesn’t seem to hurt him. He pushes to the edge and he mentioned this weekend that he was never really comfortable on the bike, which we’ve seen before. But, sign of a great champion, he was able to work around those problems, and was able to perform when he needed to. I understand that mindset – he’s able to push and crash but then pull it in on a Sunday to that edge because he knows exactly where it is. Or he works at what caused that crash.
The front row had Viñales, Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. It could have been the day that Lorenzo was going to win the race, and no one expected Rossi to line up for the weekend, much less on the front row. Lorenzo got a great start and it looked like he was going along pretty good, he had a smart tyre choice and he always seems pretty comfortable. But how long would he last into the race? The conditions were the hottest they had been all weekend, so the soft tyre choice might have been in trouble. Lorenzo had a great pace but it wasn’t that quick: the times show that two years ago they qualified more than a second quicker, that was the last year of the Bridgestones.
Up and down for Maverick and Marc
Marc seemed to really be pushing hard and he looked uncomfortable, we know he makes mistakes and one time when went by Rossi for second and his momentum took him past him and Lorenzo. Fortunately Lorenzo didn’t turn in and they didn’t collide. That was a huge misjudgement from Marc. As the race went on you could see he was able to get back up front, even with those mistakes. Marc did what he needed to do, he felt that this was the deciding race and he’s now got a 16-point lead.
The surprise was Maverick. But he was having trouble with grip early in the race waiting for his hard tyre to come in. Dani Pedrosa, who didn’t qualify that well, moved up and was there with Maverick for a long time. Dani was able to ease away and he got by Valentino and ended up in second place. There was a bit of controversy on that pass, Dani was going to draft by but Valentino pushed him all the way to the edge and Dani wasn’t too happy. I can understand that, I also understand Valentino protecting his position. The only issue I have is when the rider in front pushes so far at that speed that it could push you off the track and cause a collision. I understand Dani’s frustration, and I understand Valentino’s point that that is the normal blocking line. Riders use their own judgement, and mine has always been: would I want someone doing that to me? That’s my frame of reference.
It was a great performance from Rossi. There’s no doubt that medical technology means it’s much less invasive and that is a lot of the pain you suffer. I had this myself, but they can do such small work and repair it again now, that certainly had an effect on his recovery. So did his drive and determination, which is the key that separates the top athletes, or anyone that is able to move beyond. That mindset helps you in recovery. Valentino, as we know, has an incredible will and determination and this is a perfect example of that. It also shows how he could work around it and change his riding style, I know what that takes: I won the Spanish Grand Prix after crashing in practice and breaking my hand and ankle.
It was a good ride for Lorenzo, a strong third position and he didn’t tend to fade that much. We’ll see what happens in the final four races.
I don’t want to forget Dovizioso, he certainly struggled in seventh place. He started tied and chose the soft tyre, which didn’t go his way but he could easily have been up with Lorenzo. He struggled at the start and overworked the tyre a little bit, but I still wouldn’t count him out. As he said after the race there are so many things that can happen, we know the tyres, riders and bikes work on a particular weekend and can decide whether things go your way or not. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all works out.