VALENTINO Rossi captured so much attention at the Grand Prix of Aragon, not only deciding to ride just 21 days after breaking his right leg, but then qualifying his Yamaha a stunning third before finishing a miraculous fifth after a punishing 23 laps around one of the most demanding circuits in MotoGP.
Victorious at Aragon was Honda’s Marc Marquez, as ever riding on the edge and occasionally beyond, but staying on board to top an all-Spanish podium also inhabited by teammate Dani Pedrosa and former champ Jorge Lorenzo on the Ducati.
Both Repsol Honda Team riders fought their way forward to take the squad’s seventh double podium of the season.
Marquez’s 60th career grand prix win was also his fifth of the current season, helping him to pull a small gap of 16 points over Andrea Dovizioso and 28 points over Maverick Viñales, his two closest pursuers in the title chase.
“I’m very, very happy with this victory because it was a tough race,” reported Marquez. “There were a few scary moments, once when I was trying to overtake Valentino; he was tighter in that corner than I was expecting, and to avoid a clash I released the brakes, only to realize that Lorenzo was right there! So I went off the track, and at that moment I cooled down a bit, even if I continued to try and close the gap. Once I passed Lorenzo, I had to keep going as I saw that Dani was coming very fast.”
Pedrosa could have won had he cleared pole winner Maverick Vinales earlier, but the Yamaha rider had a large train of riders bunched up behind him for many laps. Once through, Pedrosa quickly moved forward, though Rossi gave him a tough time. But Pedrosa ran out of laps to do anything with his teammate.
Lorenzo opted for a soft rear tyre so it was no surprise when at the start he leapt away from Vinales and the determined Rossi.
Rossi moved to second on the opening lap and then edged closer to Lorenzo. Surely not? No, even Rossi couldn’t defy the medical handicap he was dealing with. But after his quick start he fought heroically throughout, defending aggressively in his ride to fifth behind Vinales and two places ahead of Ducati’s Dovizioso.
“I‘m quite proud, because a week ago I didn‘t know if I would be able to race,” Rosso said later. “Achieving a start from the first row yesterday was already great; I was very happy. I knew I had to suffer in the second half of the race. I had some pain and we also suffered from the degradation of the tyre. The work continues after this race. The calendar works out well for me, I have two full weeks to train and improve my leg‘s condition.”
Lorenzo led for 15 laps in what was his strongest performance on the Italian bike. He made Marquez work for the lead, too.
While his smooth style allows him to manage tyre degradation better than most, Lorenzo couldn’t hold off Pedrosa in the closing laps. Still, third was an encouraging result.
Australia’s Jack Miller qualified 13th and finished 13th.
As is often the case with grand prix motorcycle racing, the completion in all three classes was a pearler.
Franco Morbidelli hit back after his non-finish in Misano to score a fighting, physical win in the Moto2 race at Aragon, extending his world title lead over Thomas Luthi to 21 points.
Morbidelli burst to a handy lead early but was caught and passed by his good mate, the veteran Mattia Pasini. But rather than settle for a safer second place, Morbidelli went hard after the victory, sealing the 25-pointer with a brutal overtake on his fellow Italian.
It was Morbidelli’s eighth win of the current season while his nearest championship rival Luthi finished fourth.
Joan Mir. Mark him down as a superstar of the future. Blindingly fast and a thinker. He is the real deal. The teenaged Spaniard has won his eighth Moto3 grand prix of 2018 to bust away to a virtually uncatchable 80-point lead.
At Aragon, Mir started sixth and then patiently waited until the closing laps before moving to the pointy end of a 15-rider bunch up front. With a lap remaining, Mir gambled on taking the lead knowing that a very long back straight left him vulnerable to slipstreaming. He coped by moving his Honda all over the track to break the drag, winning by 0.04sec ahead of Fabio di Giannantonio
In other two-wheel news, Australian Jason Doyle has opened a 22-point advantage over nearest rival and is ever closer to winning the FIM Speedway World Championship with two grands prix remaining.
In Stockholm on Saturday, Matej Zagar won his second straight GP, but yet again Doyle amassed more points (18) than anyone thanks to his high scoring in the heats.
Currently second Patryk Dudek will need to perform out of skin in the final rounds in Poland and Australia to overhaul Doyle. The Pole only managed six points in Sweden.
Euro F3: Penalty hurts Joey Mawson
Australia’s Joey Mawson was pleased with his driving across the three races of the penultimate round of the European Formula 3 championship at the Red Bull Ring, but was dismayed to learn his best finish over the weekend – fourth in race three – was the subject of a post-race penalty
Earlier, Mawson had a troubled race one with pit stops to remove grass lodged in his front wing and then to replace a punctured tyre after a hit from behind. He was classified 18th.
The podium was filled by the usual suspects, Callum Ilott (Prema), Joel Eriksson (Motopark) and Max Gunther (Prema).
Qualifying for race two, as ever, was close with just a second covering 15 cars. Mawson was 13th fastest, ahead of his VAR teammates Harri Newey and Pedro Piquet yet again.
A strong start elevated Mawson to 10th behind championship contender Gunther, and the two were able to jump two places further forward by the end of the race, won by Eriksson from Norris.
Starting 11th for the final race of the weekend, the Australian moved to eighth by the end of the opening lap before passing Gunther and Tadasuke Makino for sixth. On the last lap Norris and Ralf Aron crashed out, and Mawson crossed the line fourth.
Then came the news of a five-second penalty applied to Mawson and two others for breaching the track limits to avoid a crash on the opening lap. It’s a harsh new policy.
Mawson was thus relegated to seventh. The top three were Eriksson, Nikita Mazepin (Hitech), and Makino (Hitech).
The final event of the championship will be held in on October 13-15 at Hockenheim in Germany.