MotoGP is so close right now. Last weekend Danilo Petrucci finished the Aragon GP in 15th and crossed the line just 15.941 seconds behind race winner Alex Rins, which is the second closest top 15 of all-time in a full-length premier class Grand Prix. It was also the second tightest finishing top ten of all time.
Mir is leading the Championship without yet winning a race, becoming the first rider in history to do so after the 10th race of a premier class season. He has 121 points, the lowest score for a Championship leader after the opening ten premier class races since the current scoring system was introduced in 1993. Mir is 68-points ahead of Johann Zarco in 15th place; this is the closest top 15 after the opening ten races of a premier class season since the current scoring system was introduced in 1993.
Eight winners in eight races, and eight so far, is quite a stat. So as the paddock returns to MotorLand Aragon for the Gran Premio Liqui Moly de Teruel, there’s one obvious question: can 2020 equal the record of nine? Set in 2016, it’s the most premier class winners we’ve ever had… and now we’re one away, with a few candidates still waiting in the wings to take to the top step.
The first must be Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). The number 36 is now the Championship leader despite not yet winning, having shown incredible consistency to take podium after podium. He wasn’t quite able to replicate the late pace of team-mate Alex Rins in the Aragon GP – with Rins becoming the eighth different winner after a stunner on Sunday from tenth on the grid – but it would be hard to bet against the Mayorcan moving forward second time around at MotorLand. That would bring him even closer to the top step. It would be easy to say he’ll balance risk vs reward too, but he’s said for some time the target is to win a race before it’s to focus on the title. Rins will likely be hard to beat once again, though, so could the Teruel GP come down to a Suzuki duel? And can Mir come out on top this time around?
“Last weekend I felt I had more potential than third place, so in a way I was slightly disappointed, but I’m also glad that I was able to get another podium and take good points. Leading the championship is something really nice, but I’m not putting too much thought into it at the moment, I just want to ride my bike and do my best again this weekend and see where I end up. But for sure I’m aiming high.”
“Of course I would love to repeat my performance again this week, and for sure I will try! But it’s difficult and there are always many variables to think about. I need to improve my qualifying, because despite the fact that I was able to win when starting from 10th last week, it’s not easy to start far back and it gives you extra pressure and nerves. If I can qualify better I will feel more confident. But anyway, I’m really happy to ride here again for another home GP and I feel great after last weekend.”
The man who came closest to denying the number 42 last time out was Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), however. The rookie is on an absolute roll taking two second places in a row, and he cut his gap from the winner from just over a second in the wet at Le Mans to just 0.263 at Aragon – in the dry. In a Jaws music-accompanied bit of news for his rivals too, Alex Marquez has been a key improver from one race weekend at the same track to the second. With the deficit he had on Sunday sitting at less than three-tenths… can Marquez bring Honda’s winless streak to an end and take his first premier class victory? Stefan Bradl will again ride a Repsol Honda as Marc Marquez further delays his return from injury.
“I’m looking forward to riding again at Aragon after a strong weekend last time. We will really need to work hard to keep at the front because I think many other riders will be able to make a step, like I have done in the past, in the second race. The goal remains the same: to work on our plan and try to make another step in qualifying. We have now been able to get into Q2 but there’s still work to do. If we can continue in the way we have been going these past races I will be very happy.”
Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) is another man who’s come close to winning in 2020 but hasn’t done it yet, but MotorLand has been a tougher venue for Ducati so far this season. Austrian GP winner Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) was the top Borgo Panigale factory rider on race day last time out and edged out Miller and another man who has known the top step but not in 2020 yet – Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) – but plenty has turned on a dime this season.
“Thanks to the experience we made in last Sunday’s race at MotorLand, I think that during the next race weekend we will be able to aim for better results. Now we have many data at our disposal that we can use to try to understand how to manage the tyre consumption well, which again it will be crucial during the race. We still have room for improvement, and if we work in the right direction, I am sure that we will be more competitive here. Let’s hope to find normal conditions in each session to be able to take full advantage of the track time available starting already on Friday to be ready on Sunday. There are 4 Grands Prix left, and we are not that far from our target. For sure, we won’t give up”.
And what about Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu)? The Japanese rider is fifth overall, only 29 points off Mir, and is the only rider to score in every race. He’s also been in the top ten in every race, but has knocked on the door to the podium a few times.
A new winner isn’t guaranteed though. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) only just missed out on pole and was incredibly close to beating Mir to the podium in the Aragon GP, and he can’t be counted out.
“I‘m quite satisfied with how we started and finished last week‘s race. The opening lap and final laps were really good. Now we have to work on the middle part of the race. We are going to try again this weekend. We are going to focus on making the strong points of our bike stronger and I will again be concentrating on my riding style. Whenever we focus on these points we seem to do well – so that‘s our plan. We have the same objectives as we had last week: we want to start from the front row, make a good start, and then we‘ll see. We have nothing to lose in the championship, and we have a good mentality. It‘s a strange and demanding season for everyone, but we are keeping our spirits high. This is a good track for me, and Valencia and Portimão should be good too. We know we can do a good job at these tracks, but we‘re taking it one step at the time. First we are going to try to understand what we need to do to win here this weekend.”
Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) had some solid pace but will want to move forward… and then there’s his teammate, Fabio Quartararo…
“I am confident going into this second race at MotorLand Aragón; we will try to improve last Sunday’s result. We worked very well last weekend, it was a good result and I think we were just missing some small details, which would have helped us fight for the podium. With these small things I believe we could have stayed with the riders at the front. I think we made the correct choice with the tyre, but we need to analyse this ahead of our next race at the circuit again and improve our performance in the race, specially in hotter conditions. We will take what we learned, make some small changes and try again this weekend.”
Despite a crash in FP3 at the Aragon GP that left him a little bruised, Quartararo snatched pole from Viñales on Saturday and, initially, was up there in the fight. But a tyre pressure problem is what the Frenchman cited as the reason he then went back through the order down to P18 – his worst result yet and outside the points. That gave his three key contenders an open goal and Mir’s podium saw him take the lead, Viñales’ fourth saw him gain and Dovizioso once again stole back some of the ground he’d lost with his early crash in Barcelona. What can Quartararo do back at full power in the Teruel GP? He’s the true unknown quantity on the grid, but we’re about to find out.
“We know that our one-lap pace is really good around MotorLand Aragón, which is quite important to be in a good position for the start of the race. However, for the race as a whole it is not that important and you need more than this. For this weekend we need to improve our rear grip, the consistency of our tyres and check that we found out the solution to the last race’s issue. Working with the team we have seen where we can improve, so we will work on this and see what happens this weekend. We have the potential to finish with a good result from this circuit.”
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing will also want to move forward into that top ten battle and beyond, with the Austrian factory having a tougher time of it in the Aragon GP to take P11 with rookie Brad Binder as their top finish. His teammate, Pol Espargaro, was right behind him too. The number 44 will want to get back ahead, and Binder will want a lot more points this time around – he’s now tied on 67 with Alex Marquez in the fight for Rookie of the Year.
Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro was close behind the two top KTMs too – and he’ll want to try and flip that in Teruel as it’s a venue he’s had some good form at.
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