2020 MotoGP Round Eleven – Aragon
How wondrous is the rabbit-hole the 2020 MotoGP season has led us down? Alice herself would be blown away by the Wonderland we now find ourselves in.
As loins were girded for a crucial double-header at Aragon, it was revealed Rossi had contracted the Plague and would be spared from maybe another DNF by a DNS.
Not to be outdone, Petrucci, swollen by his superb win at Le Mans, was stung in the face by a hornet and swelled up a little more.
Crutchlow was sporting a new prison haircut, and vultures were circling overhead. Yes, really. I saw them.
Rumours regarding Dovi’s future joining Dani Pedrosa as a KTM test-rider gained strength over the weekend, while Iannone’s future remained uncertain, as his appeal, which was meant to be finalised on the Thursday, but instead was shunted back another month.
There was also a lot of wishful thinking regarding Marc Marquez, who many predicted would make his return at Aragon. But wishes are different to actual insider knowledge. It’s doubtful Marquez would choose to return, or that Honda would permit him to, unless he was close to 100 per cent fit and able to compete. I would maybe look for him at Valencia, or even Portimao, but would not be surprised if he sat the rest of the crazy season out.
And the whole field was all about the beanies and long undies as Aragon served up a track so cold, everything had to be shunted back an hour after the crashing freeze-fest that was FP1. It was hoped the sun would warm the bitumen enough for the riders to stay out of the carnivorous maws of Turns 6 and 14.
The preliminaries showed us while Yamaha’s don’t work in the wet, they work OK in the cold. Ducatis, on the other hand, do alright in the wet, don’t work in the cold.
Dovi, along with all the other Ducati riders, thus found themselves in Q1. Dovi’s gloves then found themselves embedded into the wall of his pit garage where he threw them – frustrated glove-chucking becoming a bit of a theme in the Ducati garage recently.
Fabulous’s Yamaha did not escape the clutches of Turn 14 in FP3. It tenderised him like a cheap steak in a freaky high-side/low-side combo that had him stretchered off the track. Somehow, he limped his way back for Q2 with two bruised hips, and popped himself on pole. Maverick sat beside him, and Cal, assisted by his dangerous new hair-cut, was somehow in third.
The second row was Morbidelli, Miller (who didn’t seem as traumatised by the cold weather as his fellow Bologna pilots), and the now always ominous Mir.
The first corner of the race saw Morbidelli tip in first, only to run wide, letting Maverick and Fabulous through. Hard on their tyres was Mir and his team-mate Rins, who produced a fabulous start – unlike Cal, who probably needed a hole-shot device more than a new haircut.
Miller quickly shot past Mir as Maverick opened up a half-second gap, while the rookie Marquez, who started in 11th flew past Dovi, who’d made a decent start, but ultimately surrendered his eighth place to the young Spaniard.
Fabulous looked to be catching Vinales as Baganaia was catching gravel with his face at Turn Five. Nakagami, who was making a decent fist of 6th was also then passed by a hard-charging Marquez Junior, and Mir was not having Miller sassing around ahead of him any more either.
It was around about here, with the race but a pup, that Fabulous’s front tyre began to over-pressurise itself. This is usually a problem on hot tracks, but the frozen bag of peas that was Aragon seemed to be doing weird things to Quartararo’s Petronas Yamaha.
Rins passed him on Lap Three and set off in pursuit of a truly committed Vinales out in first. The two Suzukis were now the fastest bikes on the track. Young Marquez was now torturing Miller, and the fourth-placed Morbidelli was closing on Fabulous.
These opening laps were hugely intense, and some weird stuff was clearly going on.
Rins had now caught Vinales and was lapping half-a-second faster, Miller was trying to fend off Nakagami, and Mir shoved it up the inside of both Morbidelli and Fabulous to seize third place.
But the fastest bloke on the track was now Alex Marquez, and Fabulous was well in his sights. Just as Vinales was in the crosshairs of Rins, who passed the Factory Yamaha at the end of the main straight like it was standing still. Marquez Jnr then passed Fabulous, who was not standing still so much as riding backwards, and the field re-arranged itself and settled a touch. It was Rins, Vinales, Mir, Morbidelli, and Marquez – and the way Mir was riding, it didn’t auger well for Vinales.
But it was Marquez who was baking the time-sheets. He was the only rider lapping in the 1.48s, with 14 laps still to go.
The top five had now spaced themselves half-a-second apart, as Nakagami shunted Fabulous even further down the field and out of the championship lead. Miller and Dovi also stomped past him, just as Alex Marquez was introducing his front tyre to Mir’s back tyre.
But Mir was not going into the darkness lightly. He passed Vinales, and suddenly there were two Suzuki’s leading the race. Vinales’s subsequent shock at this unseemly development was huge – and this allowed Marquez past to secure a solid third behind the boys from Hamamatsu.
Fabulous was still in reverse gear, and Zarco grabbed tenth place off him. I was starting to think his smashed hips were the culprit, but it was the strange increase in front tyre pressure he spoke of after the race – he just couldn’t get it to turn, and with nine laps to go, he was back in 15th.
Marquez was still lapping in the 1.48s, and while Mir looked to be catching his team-mate, Rookie Marquez was catching Mir.
While Fabulous was now seeing the back of Lecuona’s KTM in 17th, Dovi asserted his factory dominance over Miller and tucked into seventh place.
Six laps from the end, Marquez fired his gun, and came around on Mir in Turn 16. As the camera cut to his father, Julian Marquez, I thought he might be having a stroke. It was no different in the Suzuki garage, where Davide Brivio looked to be in the midst of a nervous breakdown.
As the race wound itself into the final laps, it was obvious Mir had the championship in mind. Rather than pursue Alex Marquez along the frosty Aragorn asphalt, settling for third seemed the smart option.
Marquez, who was now chasing Rins with stars in his eyes, had nothing to lose. Neither him or Rins were in contention for the championship. But Rins defended his lead like a dog guarding a beloved bone. And Young Marquez was giving it his all, until a sharp shake from his front-end saw him decide second place would have to do for the day.
Rins, Marquez, and Mir stood on the podium, hoisting aloft three rather bizarre-looking trophies courtesy of Michelin. They looked like gorgeous white rings of pavlova surmounted by a satellite dish.
But as bizarre as they appeared, consider how bizarre it is that Mir, a bloke who has not won a race since 2107, now leads the championship. And spare a thought for the Marquez genetics, which are making a fearsome appearance in the closing stages of a season that still promises some amazing twists and turns.
We are back at Aragon at the end of this week. It’s not going to get any warmer, but I reckon it’s going to get a whole lot freakier.
MotoGP Race Results
MotoGP World Championship Standings
2020 MotoGP Calendar
|12||25 October||MotorLand Aragón|
|13||08 November||Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo|
|14||15 November||Comunitat Valenciana-Ricardo Tormo|
|15||22 November||Autodromo Internacional do Algarve|