MotoGP: Marquez vs Dovizioso vs Iannone MotorLand delivers a close three-factory fight
Three factories, three riders, a dash of controversy and one of the most incredible moments of the year – that was the Gran Premio Movistar de Aragon. In the end it was a masterclass from Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) as the reigning Champion and Championship leader fought off old foe Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) to emerge victorious, with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) completing the podium, but the headlines weren’t all written in the battle: a first-corner crash for Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) saw him highside out after starting from pole.
Lorenzo was imperious on Saturday but it was Marquez who got a great launch from P3 and dived up the inside to grab the holeshot on Sunday, before both he and Lorenzo headed wide. That’s when the ‘Spartan’ crashed, suffering a dislocated toe in the process. Opinions on the incident differed between the two men but it did leave Dovizioso in the driving seat as he capitalised on the scruffy start for his two biggest rivals, taking the lead as Marquez slotted back into second.
Behind the drama, Iannone and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) bolted out the blocks to move forward into the fight, with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro hot on their heels. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) was also in that tousle in the early stages, but the Brit crashed out five laps in.
So began the battle for Aragon. Rins was looking menacing behind Marquez, feinting numerous overtaking attempts into the first corner as both Suzukis kept tabs on the leading duo and by lap 11, Dovi, Marquez, Rins and Iannone had edged out two-second gap to Pedrosa and Espargaro. The stage was set.
As if someone had flicked a switch and turned it up to 11, ‘DesmoDovi’ made his move and posted the fastest lap of the race a lap later – a 1:48.3. Marquez responded to stay with the Italian and the two looked to have broken clear of the Suzukis on the chase, but not so as the gloves came off between the leading duo. The number 93 carved past at Turn 12, but on Lap 16 Dovizioso got the drive up the hill to attack Marquez back at Turn 4. Never one to refuse a challenge, the Repsol Honda rider immediately responded up the inside at Turn 5, with the Italian then biting straight back at Turn 7. Stunning it was, but it also allowed Iannone to close the gap…
A number of laps later Marquez pounced again at Turn 12 and set off another flurry of dueling. This time, however, Iannone was able to get involved and as Dovizioso took the inside at Turn 15, Iannone took the outside and it made for a stunning sight as Marquez was briefly swamped by both. The Ducati and Honda were back in the lead soon after, but Marquez was about to play his ace.
The race-defining move finally came from the number 93 at Turn 5, and the reigning World Champion held firm until the chequered flag to take a third straight win in Aragon, equaling Mike Hailwood’s win tally of 41 for Honda. Dovi was forced to settle for second but equaled Casey Stoner’s Grand Prix podium count, with Iannone earning his third podium of the year and Suzuki’s first at MotorLand. The rostrum was also enough to mean the Hamamatsu factory will now lose concessions.
Fourth was local hero Rins as he took a second consecutive P4, with Pedrosa securing his first top five since the Catalan GP at his penultimate home Grand Prix. Espargaro excelled in sixth to pick up the Aprilia’s best result of the season and their best result so far, with the Spaniard beating Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing) to top Independent rider as the Italian came home seventh.
Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), meanwhile, was another headline act as ‘The Doctor’ sliced through the field from P17 on the grid to take eighth, ahead of Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) after the two battled in the latter stages. Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) rounded out the top ten.
Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) won the battle of the rookies in P11, with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) 12th. Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) had a solid race to take 13th, ahead of a tough day for Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in 14th and a points finish for Karel Abraham (Angel Nieto Team) in 15th.
A monumental Marquez victory on home soil leaves the Honda rider with one hand on the title as the premier class head to Thailand for the first time. Will it be another Marquez vs Ducati contest? Will the Championship get closer once again? Or can a last chance saloon for Dovizioso deny the six-time World Champion? In two weeks, all will be revealed at Chang International Circuit…