Today’s Aragon Grand Prix was a classic duel in the Spanish sun between Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) and Italian Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati).
The pair ran such a rapid pace that they quickly left the rest of the pack far behind, fighting their own battle through the undulating twists and turns of the MotorLand circuit, outside the historic town of Alcaniz.
Marquez, who is still recovering from a right-arm injury sustained last year, was nevertheless in scintillating form, riding in Bagnaia’s wheel tracks for most of the 23 laps, then moving into attack mode in the final few laps.
However, both riders had chosen the same medium front/soft rear tyre options, so it was difficult for either to find a real advantage.
Marquez grabbed the lead from Bagnaia on numerous occasions, but the six-times MotoGP world champion was having to ride on the absolute edge to keep up and he was never able to keep his rival behind him for more than a few moments. On the last lap he tried one final attack at Turn 12 and ran wide, which allowed Bagnaia to take the chequered flag 0.673 seconds in front.
Nevertheless Marquez was happy with the result, because he had given his all and tried his best, so he will sleep well tonight. This was also his second-best result since he returned to action at April’s Portuguese GP, one place lower on the podium than his superb victory at June’s German Grand Prix.
The 28-year-old Spaniard’s determination throughout the race was a joy to behold – making time on Bagnaia wherever he could, cutting tighter lines to gain a few metres, but finally it wasn’t quite enough.
His record from Aragon is still impressive though – five victories from eight starts and he aims to be at 100% strength when he returns here next year.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) was Honda’s next finisher, taking tenth place at the end of an exciting race during which he had several battles with other riders, after starting from 11th on the grid.
This was the 29-year-old from Chiba’s 200th start Grand Prix start, making him the first Japanese rider to reach this impressive landmark. The result was his sixth top ten of 2021 so far
Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) expected much after a brilliant British GP, where he started from pole position – for the first time on a Honda RC213V – led the race and finished a strong fifth.
However, Aragon proved to be less kind to the 30-year-old Spaniard, who has won Grands Prix victories here in the 125cc and Honda-powered Moto2 categories.
Although he started from the middle of the third row of the grid – in eighth place, having qualified less than nine tenths off pole – he was unable to sustain that kind of pace in today’s race.
He struggled with grip issues in the heat – track temperature was 48 degrees – and had dropped back to 13th by lap four, in the thick of a close mid-field pack. For the rest of the race he fought back and forth with last year’s Aragon GP winner Alex Rins (Suzuki).
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) had a day to forget at Aragon – less than two hours from his hometown of Cervera. The 25-year-old former Moto2 and Moto3 World Champion qualified 14th but was more confident in his race pace. However, he didn’t get the chance to prove himself, because he slid off on the first lap.
Several riders collided in front of him, Nakagami braked to avoid the collision and the younger Marquez touched his team-mate’s rear tyre while trying to escape the confusion. That contact caused him to fall and he was unable to restart.
The MotoGP paddock now crosses much of southern Europe once again, for next weekend’s San Marino Grand Prix at Misano.
The final version of the 2021 calendar was published yesterday, confirming four races remaining after Misano: The Grand Prix of the Americas at the Circuit of the Americas on 3rd October, the Emilia Romagna e Made in Italy Grand Prix at Misano on 24th October, the Algarve Grand Prix at Autodromo Internacional do Algarve on 7th November and finally the Comunitat Valenciana GP at Circuit Ricardo Tormo on 14th November.