MotoGP 2017 – Round 14 – Aragon – With Boris Mihailovic
Round 14 of the MotoGP championship was as much about racing motorcycles as it was about Rossi re-growing enough of his leg-bones to race.
Having missed Misano as a result of a tib-fib break he’d suffered during some enduro riding, the Doctor was by no means a certain start in Spain. And the rules say that while the rider can miss one race due to injury, the team must field another rider if it looks like he’s going to miss two or more.
Dutch Superbike rider, Yamaha’s Michael Van Der Mark got the call and presented himself at Aragón in case Rossi was ruled unfit to race. Rossi also presented himself at Aragón, along with a surgical leg-sock and half-crutch, metallic lumps protruding from his recently broken leg, and as always, a smile on his face.
He’d put in some laps at Misano on an R6 and an R1 a few days before the Spanish round, and had stated he felt better with each passing day. If the doctors passed him fit, and he could manage to pilot his MotoGP bike around the track – an entirely different proposition to riding the R6 and R1 – then young Van Der Mark would not be standing in for him.
Certainly Jorge Lorenzo had managed to race a mere 48 hours after mashing his collarbone a few years back. It had been 23 days since Rossi had broken his leg. And while it’s important to remember Rossi is 38-years-old and Lorenzo was a good 10 years younger when he did his collarbone, it also pays to remember these guys are seriously tough.
Hedgie quite rightly observed that people forget MotoGP racers are all psychopaths. Don’t ever be fooled by Rossi’s smiles and waves. He is arguably the most psychopathic of them all, and if it was at all humanly or inhumanly possible, the Doctor was going to race on Sunday.
And when he got the medical nod, everyone was pleased and hoped he would acquit himself with honour, somewhere around the back or the middle of the grid.
So when he qualified third, jaws were dropped.
Beside him sat Lorenzo in second, while his team-mate Vinales was on pole. This was a great achievement for Lorenzo, who had to muscle his way through Q2 to get there, and also for Vinales, who had struggled in all the practice sessions before putting it all together for Qualifying.
Of course, with all this fuss about Rossi’s leg and his amazing qualifying, no-one was really paying much attention to Marquez. And they maybe should have been.
Marquez had been strong in Practice, but found himself in fifth on the starting grid, while Dovi appeared to be having a rest this round, showing none of his previous form and landing in seventh. Cal was in fourth, and Dani was in sixth, but the big news was KTM’s test-rider Mika Kallio, who while sitting in 11th on the grid, had been blisteringly fast and consistent in practice. Clearly, he is angling for a factory ride next year and has been making poor Brad Smith look quite ordinary of late.
But it was Lorenzo who made the rest of the field look rather ordinary when he led them all into Turn One (again), and made every effort to make a break on the pack.
Behind him was none other than Rossi – and the opening third of the race was a nail-biting spectacle of a vintage pursuit. Lorenzo leading a dogged Rossi, pursued by Marquez and Dovizioso. At times, Rossi was a mere tenth of a second behind the Mallorcan, and it was obvious Lorenzo was not going to get away. Had Rossi managed to pass him, broken leg waving cheekily in the breeze, I’m certain Lorenzo would have ridden straight back into the pits and started to self-harm in despair.
But that’s not how it turned out. As tyres came into play, fuel-loads dropped and jaws were clenched in determination, the race continued to be a nail-biter behind a jubilant and resurgent Lorenzo. He was still leading by lap 15, but Rossi’s throbbing leg was now beginning to pay a part, just as Marquez’s determination to win all the races all the time saw him force his way into second.
Behind Rossi, Pedrosa was starting to feel the heft of his sack. On Lap 13 he was in fifth and two-and-a-half seconds behind the leader Lorenzo.
Three laps later, as Marquez shoved Lorenzo into second, Dani was in third, a second behind Jorge and 1.6 seconds shy of the lead and coming on strong.
Rossi had faded back into fourth, and while Dovi was behind him in fifth, the real threat was coming from a hard-charging Vinales in sixth.
Cal had already fallen off, as had Karel, and Sam Lowes was last – which is certainly an improvement over his normal DNF. Petrucci was being kinda crap back in 20th, half-heartedly racing and being beaten by Bradley Smith. Kallio and Asparagus P were doing Austria proud mid-field, and Zarco was having an off-day, languishing in ninth behind Bautista.
Up the front, Lorenzo had been shunted back into third by a rampaging Pedrosa, clearly determined to make this a one-two for Honda. He may even have caught Marquez if there were a few more laps in the race.
Rossi and his magic leg had been relegated to fifth and his team-mate had muscled his way into fourth, but there just wasn’t enough gas left in Maverick’s tank to challenge Lorenzo for the bottom step of the podium.
The championship has begun to re-balance himself and it’s looking more and more like the Year Of Marquez Again. Dovi’s seventh place finish has put Marquez 16 points ahead of him in the championship. Vinales is 12 points behind him, and Pedrosa is now in fourth and Rossi has been relegated to fifth.
The fat lady hasn’t sung yet, but she is clearing her throat as the circus heads for the fly-away rounds of Japan, Australia and Malaysia, before the grand finale at Valencia on November 12.
The way things are going, that fat lady may be clearing her throat for a round or two yet.
MotoGP 2017 – Round 14 – Aragon Race Results
MARQUEZ Marc SPA Repsol Honda Team Honda 42’06.816
Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.
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