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MotoGP Aragon: Race weekend preview

There's plenty to talk about after Silverstone as MotoGP saddles up to head back south to Spain and the stunning MotorLand Aragon.

The modern classic nestles like an outpost of speed in an otherwise rural, striking and arid landscape, inviting man and machine to make their mark. And, even more pertinent to previewing the weekend ahead, it's also an anti-clockwise circuit... and that usually means one thing: Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez.

The eight-time World Champion didn't cover himself with glory at Silverstone after an early crash that collected Pramac’s Jorge Martin, but there was no harm done for either party and the number 93 was quick to apologise. Momentum didn't mean much for Marquez when the paddock arrived in Germany, another anti-clockwise venue he's made absolutely his own, with the Honda rider putting his foot down to take that history-making win and get back on the top step regardless. He's traditionally the fastest man at MotorLand and the progress keeps coming, in speed at least... so can he pull another stunner out of the bag despite a slightly tougher run of late?


The good news – to add to his record there – is also the form seen from his fellow Honda riders at Silverstone. LCR Idemitsu’sTakaaki Nakagami was ill on race day but his Castrol-liveried teammate Alex Marquez had one of his best Sundays of the year so far, but it was Pol Espargaro who stole the majority of the headlines. Enjoying his best weekend since joining HRC, starting from pole, leading for the opening laps and then coming home in fifth, it was a big step forward for the number 44. Aragon brings more good reading for the brand, however. Alex Marquez also took his first dry weather podium – and second overall, as a rookie – at MotorLand last season, and Nakagami claimed the pole, so Honda will be feeling optimistic of a high-scoring weekend in Alcañiz.

That's also true of Aprilia. After a season of knocking on the door week-in, week-out, Silverstone finally saw that milestone reached: a first MotoGP era podium. Aleix Espargaro has impressed for much of the year but his British GP - and last lap battle to hold off Ducati Lenovo’s Jack Miller - provided another impressive performance to underline some serious progress. He also took his previous premier class podium at Aragon, with the number 41 regularly achieving front-running pace at the venue. This weekend, however, there’s a headline in the other side of the garage too: Maverick Viñales.

After a rollercoaster few weeks, the Spaniard returns in black and red to take on a new challenge on the RS-GP, debuting early after already having signed for the Noale factory to race there in 2022. On his test debut at Misano, the lap-times made for very exciting reading. Viñales has already achieved podiums with two manufacturers, and wins... can he start adding more with Aprilia? And where will he slot back into the pack as he returned to competitive action?

Yamaha, meanwhile, remain on the front foot in the title fight. A stunning race from Monster Energy’s Fabio Quartararo at Silverstone sees him coming into the weekend a whopping 65 points clear, although the Alcañiz venue has never been the best for Yamaha. That may change who stands on the top step, but it can't change who leads the standings. Quartararo could sit out the next two weekends and still lead the Championship by a minimum of 15 points, so he has some room to ride clever and focus on damage limitation if he needs to. That said, he himself pointed out the huge step forward taken by the Iwata marque in Austria, another track that's traditionally tougher, so can he flip the form book? Former teammate Franco Morbidelli did do that on one visit to MotorLand last year too...

Cal Crutchlow returns to partner Quartararo at Monster Energy Yamaha and will be looking to keep making progress and taking data, while fellow Brit, Jake Dixon will also get another ride out on the Petronas Yamaha SRT machine, hoping to build on a solid debut at Silverstone. His teammate, Valentino Rossi, also made a good start last time out, having gone straight to Q2 at Silverstone, before late race grip issues saw him drop down the order. Can the Doctor keep that form rolling on his last visit to MotorLand?

Similar happened for Suzuki Ecstar’s Joan Mir, as the reigning World Champion ran out of steam - for steam, read grip - later in the British GP and came home in ninth, staying ahead of Tech3 ’s Danilo Petrucci by a whisker. But with Quartararo winning, ninth is what's left him 65 down on the top - and he'll be gunning hard to take the opportunity at MotorLand to hit back.

Teammate Alex Rins, meanwhile, had no such trouble. The 2019 winner couldn't quite stage a repeat but he did take his first podium of the season at Silverstone in second, and guess who won last year on our first visit to MotorLand? The number 42 was sublime and he'll be heading in on that injection of confidence. In fact, Suzuki will likely be feeling pretty confident all round at Aragon, as they're the only two riders who were on the podium in both visits to the track last season.

And what of Ducati? At Silverstone it was a more muted run for the Borgo Panigale factory. Miller fought for the podium, Martin fell victim to Marquez' crash, and both Pramac’s Johann Zarco and Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia had a tougher race to fade, outside of the top 10. Bagnaia conceded it made his chance of the crown an even longer shot too, but until grip trouble hit, he'd been fast as ever. With Miller got back in the mix, can they do so again at a track that's been traditionally tougher hunting ground and can Zarco return to the form he was in for much of the first half of the season?

Last year, we saw KTM have a more difficult first weekend at Aragon followed by a big step forward - with the top Austrian machine beating the top Ducati too, so there's reason to expect them to fight for more come Sunday. At Silverstone Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder put on another stunning Sunday charge to go from 12th to 6th too – and complete the statistic of six factories in the top six for the first time since 1972. There were also standouts from Tech3’s Iker Lecuona and Petrucci as both stormed into the top 10. Will experience from last season help to maintain that now? Binder and Lecuona have now raced at MotorLand twice in MotoGP, which is something that couldn't be said of Silverstone.


Miguel Oliveira will be looking for a lot more from MotorLand too. The Portuguese rider was on an absolute charge earlier this season, but since Assen, due to his Styria injury, he's not scored points. With proven talent, speed and smarts, the second factory RC-16 rider will most definitely reappear at the front, but will it be sooner rather than a little later?

This time it's one assault on Aragon for MotoGP, and there's plenty to watch out for.

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