MotoGP returns to Spain this weekend for the next double-header in this condensed season as the paddock heads to Motorland Aragon near Alcañiz for firstly the Gran Premio Michelin de Aragón and then seven-days later the inaugural running of the Gran Premio Liqui Moly de Teruel.
Aragon has an interesting and complex layout, which features 10 left- and 7 right-hand corners, comprising of tight hairpins and fast flowing turns, so a front end that gives riders the confidence through a variation of bends is very important, and with a straight of over a kilometre in length where high speed stability and the need to put the almost 300 horsepower of a MotoGP bike down to the tarmac are crucial.
Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner the only riders to have won at the venue, this weekend we’ll have a new rider on the top step. Will it be yet again another new winner in 2020 to make it eight different winners this season? There have been seven different winners in the first nine races of the year, equalling the record of different winners over the opening nine premier class races of a season, set in 2000. 15 riders have now stood on the podium since the first race, which is the highest number in the first nine premier class races since 1976, when there were 17.
Without reigning Champion Marc Marquez in the mix, that makes predictions for Aragon difficult. The Honda rider has won at the track five times in MotoGP, and taken five poles. Last year and the year before, however, Dovizioso took second, with Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) also on the podium in 2019. That makes good reading for the Borgo Panigale factory, as does Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) arriving as the most recent winner. With a little more luck, Miller – or team-mate Francesco Bagnaia – could be two real candidates to be the eighth winner of the season.
in a rain-soaked French GP, the top three going in ultimately fought it out for ninth, but Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) remains the man on top. Although the Frenchman has never stepped on the Aragón podium, he is confident of being able to put together another good performance and continue fighting for the world championship title.
“We are in a good position going to Aragón, we don’t really need to change anything with the bike. It is a track that could be a little difficult for us, but we have the extra motivation that we are there to fight for a really good result. We are fighting for the championship, last weekend we managed to increase our lead in tricky conditions and so I think we can do really well again this weekend. First of all we will look to enjoy being back on the bike, then look at how we can make it a great GP for us and, of course, see what the conditions are like when we arrive.”
Quartararo is 68 points ahead of Johann Zarco in 15th place; this is the closest top 15 after the opening nine races of a premier class season since the current scoring system was introduced in 1993. In addition, with 18-points between Quartararo in first and Dovizioso in third, this is the closest top three after the opening nine races of a premier class season since 2017, when there were six-points between Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso after the German GP.
Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) lost some ground to the Frenchman in the championship points in France but gained ever-so-slightly on Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) right behind him on track.
“I‘m really happy that the next rounds are held in Aragon. It is a track that I love, one of my favourites. I usually ride really well there and, for sure, I will give it my all this weekend. It‘s sort of my home GP, and it‘s my goal to put in my best performance of the year so far. Last year we already came close to the podium, so I think that we can do a good job again this time round.”
It was Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) who made the big gains last weekend. Fighting for the win before being forced to settle for fourth, it was a welcome chunk of points after his DNF – through no fault of his own – in Barcelona. He’s now third overall, 18 off the top and ahead of Viñales by a single point.
“We immediately move forward after the race in Le Mans, and now we are already focused on the next two Grands Prix in Aragón, that will be crucial at this stage of the season. Last year I managed to get on the podium at MotorLand, and even if on paper we are not the favourites on this track, I am sure that we will also have some opportunities by using the strengths of our Desmosedici GP bike at its best. The championship is still open, and we have to keep working race after race to try to achieve our goal.”
Danilo Petrucci, fresh off the back of his success at Le Mans after a masterful race in the wet conducted entirely in the lead, arrives in Spain determined to continue his growing progression and to fight again for the top positions even at the Aragón race track. After Le Mans, the rider from Terni occupies the tenth position in the championship with 64 points. Ducati is second in the manufacturers’ standings, while the Ducati Team is currently third in the teams’ standings.
“The victory in Le Mans has certainly served to instill a lot of confidence, and I arrive at MotorLand with high morale. Every race is a world unto itself, but after overcoming such a difficult start to the season, now I want to keep improving. I hope to be able to continue with the same positive feelings we had in France, and I am confident that we can also have our say in the last five races that remain in the championship. Let’s see what the conditions of the track at Aragón will look like when we arrive: we will have to be good at interpreting the behaviour of the Michelin tyres. It will be crucial to be able to start on the right foot from Friday’s free practice.”
Jack Miller will be eager to throw off a demoralising run of bad luck. Robbed of a great result in Misano by an errant tear-off blocking the intake of his Desmosedici, then robbed again by an uncharacteristic engine failure for Ducati last time out at Le Mans, the Australia certainly deserves some luck to go his way. Jack was on the podium here last year…
Franco Morbidelli, who will be looking for a good result after picking up an unfortunate DNF at Le Mans, has visited the podium at MotorLand Aragón twice: once in 2016, when he finished third in Moto2, and again in 2017, when he won the race in the intermediate category. After being taken out by another rider on the first lap of the 2019 edition, the Italian will be looking to take the speed from Le Mans and make a return to the top-3 this weekend.
“Going to Spain this weekend, I expect that we will be fast! I love the MotorLand Aragón circuit. I won there in 2017 when I was in the Moto2 championship and I think that we can do a really good job there this year. It’s a shame we aren’t going there with better results from France, but we were super fast at Le Mans and we need to take this speed with us to Aragón this weekend. I don’t think that we will need to change a lot on the bike, of course we need to see what the conditions are like but I think it will be a good GP for us.”
Valentino Rossi has had an uncharacteristic three crashes in a row and was looking to bounce back at Aragon but unfortunately overnight the Italian superstart has been ruled out of the weekend after testing positive for COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, this morning I woke up and I was not feeling good. My bones were sore and I had a slight fever, so I immediately called the doctor who tested me twice. The ’quick PCR test‘ result was negative, just like the test I underwent on Tuesday. But the second one, of which the result was sent to me at 16:00 this afternoon, was unfortunately positive. I am so disappointed that I will have to miss the race at Aragon. I’d like to be optimistic and confident, but I expect the second round in Aragon to be a ’no go‘ for me as well… I am sad and angry because I did my best to respect the protocol and although the test I had on Tuesday was negative, I self-isolated since my arrival from Le Mans. Anyway, this is the way it is, and I can’t do anything to change the situation. I will now follow the medical advice, and I just hope I will be feeling well soon.”
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) will be looking to show good form once again, with the Japanese rider the only man to have scored in every race – and in the top ten. That consistency has seen him move up to fifth overall in the championship, but it’s not just the maths as Nakagami has also had some impressive speed.
Claiming Honda’s 849th premier class podium at Le Mans, Alex Marquez proved to the world why he is a double World Champion and now a factory MotoGP rider. Whatever the conditions Aragon presents, the MotoGP rookie is entering the weekend like any other; looking to continue learning and adapting to the Honda RC213V. With two races at the same circuit, Alex is looking to replicate the growth he showed between the two races in Jerez and Misano respectively while continuing to focus on improving his performance in Qualifying.
“It has been a nice few days enjoying the feeling after Le Mans, I want to say thank you again to everyone who has supported me or sent me a message after the race. But now it is time to reset a little bit and get back to work in Aragon. Qualifying is still the area we need to work on the most as we have shown that our race pace is usually not so bad and we’re able to fight more and more each race. Let’s see what the weather brings, Aragon in the morning can be very cold so we need to pay attention to this. Let’s have a good weekend.”
Stefan Bradl will once again join the Repsol Honda Team for the upcoming race in Aragon as Marc Marquez continues his recovery at home. After five straight days of riding, Bradl has enjoyed a brief rest between races and is now ready to go again after tasting his first points of the season. The HRC Test Rider achieved a tenth-place finish in 2016 when he last raced at the circuit.
“I am happy to continue with the Repsol Honda Team in Aragon, but I hope that Marc is continuing to recover well. Coming back to the points last race with a strong ride has given me extra motivation for this weekend in Aragon. It’s a circuit with a lot of variety and some tricky points, especially if the temperatures are cooler you really need to pay attention to the right side of the tyre early in the lap. The aim is to again deliver the best result possible for HRC.”
Suzuki have podium form at the track, but last year was a tougher weekend. Their other hurdle remains qualifying too, although Mir and teammate Alex Rins have been doing a stellar job of gaining back on Sunday ground lost on Saturday. For Rins it’s home turf too – about as close as you can get to racing in your own back garden – and for Mir it is too. The number 36 has an interesting record at MotorLand: he’s either won from a good grid position or sliced through the field to a top five or six, although his rookie race in MotoGP was the outlier. This season the sophomore has been a threat everywhere, however, and the bike looks to work everywhere – so can he finally take that first win? He’s seemed on the verge so long, he’s a serious threat to be the eighth different man to win, as is Rins. Mir says that’s a bigger focus than the title, too…
Davide Brivio – Suzuki Team Manager
“Normally in Aragon our bike is quite competitive and we’ve had good results here in the past. The conditions will be different to what we’re used to as the event is happening one month later than usual – the temperatures will be lower and there could be rain, so the weather could play a part. But we’re keen to get going and see what we can do.”
“It’s nice to come to Aragon just after France, because I feel like I’m getting used to the colder circuits and how to manage them. But in the end everywhere is different so we won’t truly know the situation until we start riding. Aragon is a track that I really like and I come here feeling good, I’m still close to the top of the standings and I managed to conserve some points last time out. I’m ready to go.”
“Aragon is a track that I know well, and the main objective for me will be to qualify in a better position than last week. When you start far back on the grid there’s more pressure and nerves and it’s easier to get caught up where you don’t want to be. My pace in France before the crash was really good and I’m happy to come here and try my best.”
And what about KTM? 2020 is already – after only nine races – their best season in terms of points, and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was on the podium once again in France, with Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) only just off it. So what can they do? And can rookies Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Iker Lecuona (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) bounce back from a tough first race in the wet? The Austrian factory’s best result at MotorLand so far is a 10th, but the times they have-a-changed this season. Pol Espargaro and Brad Binder also have two wins each in the smaller categories at the track. KTM have scored 125 points in the Constructors’ World Championship, already making 2020 their best season in terms of points score.
Hervé Poncharal – Red Bull KTM Tech3 Team Manager
“We’ve just finished our races in Le Mans and the whole team is driving down to Aragón, which is a place we are always so happy to see. It’s great circuit, a great place, great facilities, great paddock, so this is going to be our ‘place of work’ for the next two weeks with two races in MotorLand. I think it’s going to be very interesting. The championships in all three classes are coming quite close and we can start to feel that people are more and more thinking about the final championship position. Therefore, it will be interesting to score important points there as usual. I believe the Aragón layout should suit our bike. We have a strong engine this year and there is a long straight there, good braking stability, so I think we should be quite competitive there. Miguel just finished the French Grand Prix and he showed good form and I’m quite sure he wants to continue to fight for top 5 finishes until the end of the season. It will be also interesting to see how the weather and track conditions will be, because normally we always have great weather there, but we are coming quite late in October. This is something, that could also be playing an important game in the overall result. Iker knows the place well, too. For sure, being a Spanish rider, he has been racing quite a few times there. We are happy to go down to Spain, to go South. This is a great place and we will be happy to spend the next two weeks there.”
Aragon has good memories for Aprilia and especially for Aleix Espargaro. The number 41 took his MotoGP podium in Aragon, although that was before he rode for the Noale factory.
Motorland Aragon is located in the Teruel area of Spain, it is a very dry and rocky location, where hot daytime temperatures can be expected, but due to its open location, Motorland Aragon can also have very cool mornings, so a range of tyres to function in those fluctuations of temperature is imperative. With all these requirements the allocation of Michelin Power Slicks that have been chosen for Michelin’s named race and the Grand Prix the following weekend have been selected to meet those demands. The front selection in soft and medium will be symmetric in design, whilst the hard front and the rears in soft and hard will feature an asymmetric finish with a harder left-hand shoulder to handle the extra stresses from the increased number or corners that go in that direction, with the medium rear having a symmetric finish. Due to the track’s inland location there is also a high likelihood of rain and thunderstorms over the two weekends, with this possibility the Michelin Power Rain tyres will be available in soft and medium compounds for both the front and rear. The front will be symmetric whilst the rears will have an asymmetric design with the harder left side like their slick counterparts.
Piero Taramasso – Michelin
“It’s always special to be at the Michelin Grand Prix and this is the second time we’ve had the event at Aragon. Last year was a big success and many people from the factories visited us, sadly that won’t be the case this year due to the protocols, but we still aim to put on a good show and make Michelin and all its staff proud. Aragon is always a challenge, with the difference in temperatures from cool mornings to hot afternoons, although we are going there slightly later in the year, so possibly we won’t get the extremes in temperature that we have had before, plus we also have the sand to contend with, which is blown on the track from the surrounding countryside, making it very abrasive. We have chosen a range that will give the riders the confidence in all conditions, so now the thing is it to make the Gran Premio Michelin de Aragón a special event for all.”
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