#AragonGP raceday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
He’s been close before, but Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) is now a MotoGP™ race winner. In a true all-time classic at the Gran Premio TISSOT de Aragon, the Italian went toe-to-toe with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in a stunner of a duel, finding an answer for every attack as the eight-time World Champion tried, tried and tried again. Repelling the final assault as the number 93 headed through but wide, Bagnaia was able to cross the line with just over half a second in hand to take his first premier class win in impeccable style. Marquez nevertheless got back on the podium for the second time this year and gave us an incredible show, with reigning Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) locking out the rostrum in third.
As the lights went out, polesitter Bagnaia got away well and held on for the holeshot, with teammate Jack Miller going in a bit deep at Turn 1 and that allowing Marc Marquez to grab P2 after a lightning start for the number 93. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was up to P4, with Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) losing out and down to fifth 5th. Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) then crashed at Turn 5, rider ok.
As Bagnaia and Marc Marquez led the train away, Quartararo was struggling. Both Mir and Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) passed the Frenchman next as he slipped towards the clutches of eighth place Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), but nobody in the early stages was showing their cards, with only 2.2 seconds covering the top six.
Just outside that top six remained Quartararo, however. By now, the Frenchman had the rapid starting Iker Lecuona (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) climbing all over him, and at the end of Lap 6, the number 27 was through. A couple of laps later, another KTM was ahead as Binder followed Lecuona after the Spaniard had despatched him too, and Quartararo was suddenly down to P9.
With eight laps gone, the cards were beginning to appear on the table. Bagnaia and Marquez were just over a second clear of Miller in third, and that advantage was soon up to nearly two with 13 to go. Miller headed wide at Turn 16 not long after too, allowing Aleix Espargaro and Mir to cut through. The reigning World Champion then managed to despatch the Aprilia to take over in third, but the gap to Pecco and Marquez was now nearly three and a half seconds.
To compound the gap, the pace was far from slowing. The two leaders were exchanging 1:48s lap after lap, with the rest in the 1:49s and below. They’d carved out a 4.3s lead over Mir and Aleix Espargaro with nine laps to go, but then it was into tyre life territory. Would that play a role? With five to go though, there was no change, with both riders still in the 1:48s… and it seemed it was going to the finish.
With four laps left, the pressure from Marquez was ramping up. Getting closer and closer until he was glued on, a lap later the first move finally came. The Honda rider went for a lunge into Turn 5, but he was in a little hot and slightly wide, Pecco replying unflustered to get back into the lead. So Marquez next shoved his RC213V up the inside at Turn 15, but again, the Italian got the cutback and held P1. Two down, how many to go?
On the penultimate lap, another. An exact copy and paste at Turn 5, Marquez again lunged late and again got a quick reply. The exact same thing happened at Turn 15 too, and again, Bagnaia carved back past. And so it was going down to some final lap fireworks…
This time, Marquez tried his luck at Turn 1, but that didn’t stick either. So, of course, Turn 5 saw another lunge for the third lap in a row, with the exact same result. That made six attempts from the number 93, each of which had been on to try but each of which had been greeted with a swift reply.
Marquez is Marquez though, so a seventh attempt then came at Turn 12. The number 93 got a great run out of his own namesake Marc Marquez Corner and was up the inside at the downhill left-hander, not a move he’d tried yet but ultimately one that wasn’t going to work either. Struggling to get it hooked up to the apex, Marquez was wide and onto the green, and Pecco needed no second invitation to sweep back past, keep it pinned and finally gain a few metres of breathing space.
From there the Italian made no mistake and crossed the line to complete a perfect weekend: pole position to maiden MotoGP™ victory, the eighth winner of 2021, defeating Marc Marquez on his home turf. His victory is also the 250th for Italy in the premier class, adding Francesco Bagnaia next to a little chapter of a rich history. Emotional in parc ferme, Bagnaia was just sublime on Sunday at Aragon.
Marquez threw absolutely everything at it as he sought that seventh win at MotorLand though, coming up just six tenths short. Still, it’s another podium and a leading role in an all-time classic, as well 20 points to add to his tally – and he’ll likely sleep rather well knowing he left it all out there, seven times.
Behind, Mir kept it tidy in third to take his fifth rostrum of 2021, in some space alone as he escaped Aleix Espargaro but couldn’t get onto terms with Bagnaia and Marquez. Aleix Espargaro’s P4 is another excellent ride from the Spaniard though, and he’s the top Independent Team rider. Miller couldn’t recover ground later on and finished a lonely fifth.
Reigning Moto2™ World Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) claims sixth for his best premier class result, putting the cherry on top of an impressive weekend. The rookie beat Binder by just 0.3s, and both escaped Quartararo by a good margin. A tricky day at the office for the World Championship leader and his second worst result of the season sees his lead cut, but it’s still a healthy 53 points with five races to go.
Martin took P9 less than a tenth behind Quartararo too, with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) 10th in the same pack as Bastianini, an earlier sparring partner, was able to break away from the Japanese rider. Lecuona made a mistake with a handful of laps to go that saw the Spaniard slip outside the top 10, but it was nevertheless a great ride from the 21-year-old and a stunning early charge.
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) pocketed P12 from P20 on the grid, gaining some ground, and it was a quieter day for Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team) in P13, just ahead of Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and 15th place Danilo Petrucci (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing).
Cal Crutchlow (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) were P16 and P17 respectively, with Maverick Viñales taking P18 on his Aprilia Racing Team Gresini debut. Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Luca Marini (Sky VR46 Avintia) were the final finishers, with Jake Dixon (Petronas Yamaha SRT) joining Alex Marquez in the DNFs, crashing out on Lap 2 and rider also ok.
Raul Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) pulled another sensational win out of the hat at Aragon, despite a crash at Silverstone leaving him on the back foot and a crash cycling for which he needed surgery on his hand just before the race weekend. Nevertheless, he dominated to equal Marc Marquez’ record of five wins as a Moto2™ rookie, with teammate and Championship leader Remy Gardner taking second. With that, Red Bull KTM Ajo wrapped up the Teams’ Championship, and the win was also their hundredth too. Augusto Fernandez (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) completed the podium for another rostrum finish as he shows more good 2021 form, storming through from 12th on the grid.
Off the line it was Sam Lowes (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) who held firm from pole from Gardner and Raul Fernandez, opening up an advantage of 0.6 on the opening lap as Raul Fernandez then passed title rival Gardner for second at Turn 12. Just behind, Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) grabbed P4 from Hector Garzo (FlexBox HP 40). The fastest lap of the race on Lap 2 for Raul Fernandez saw him cut Lowes’ lead to just 0.2, with Gardner sitting twice that down on his teammate, in third.
The number 25 then decided to attack for the lead at the beginning of Lap 4, with Gardner exchanging P3 with Ogura just behind. The Australian was having a scrappy opening handful of laps, wide at Turn 12 and once again conceding P3 to Ogura. Soon after, Garzo was also ahead of Gardner. It was a fascinating scrap the Aussie found himself in, but in getting caught up with the likes of Ogura and Garzo – who crashed at Turn 8 on Lap 5 – the gap to Lowes and Fernandez was up to 1.9s. By 10 laps down, Raul Fernandez was still holding Lowes at bay by just over a second and Gardner was over three seconds down on them, with Jorge Navarro (+EGO Speed Up) and Aron Canet (Kipin Energy Aspar Team) in hot pursuit.
On Lap 12, the first drama for a frontrunner: Marco Bezzecchi’s (Sky Racing Team VR46) quiet weekend came to a premature end at Turn 8, putting a dent in his standings. And then, after seeing Raul Fernandez stretch his lead to nearly one and a half seconds, a gift was handed to both Red Bull KTM Ajo riders as Lowes was the next to slide out. Rider ok, the Brit stacked it at Turn 7 with nine laps to go, leaving Raul Fernandez with a huge, six-second lead over Gardner.
Despite the pain barrier, the number 25 was unstoppable. Keeping that gap to the end, Raul Fernandez took his fifth win to take back to the top step in style, with the deficit to Gardner in the Championship down to 39 points as they swept the Teams’ title too.
In even more good news for Aki Ajo, future Red Bull KTM Ajo rider Augusto Fernandez took the final place on the podium. After starting 12th the Spaniard make good progress to slice his way up to the fight for the rostrum, with Navarro his final obstacle. The two had a good duel before the number 37 was able to just pull away to take that third.
Navarro nevertheless took another strong result in fourth, with Canet finishing three seconds down on the rostrum fight in P5. P6 went the way of Fabio Di Giannantonio (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2), as newly crowned Moto2™ European Champion Fermin Aldeguer (+EGO Speed Up) claimed a stunning P7 – his best yet despite already having made quite an impression. Ogura faded slightly and took P8, with fellow rookie Tony Arbolino (Liqui Moly Intact GP) finishing P9 in a much improved race day for the Italian.
The experienced Simone Corsi (MV Agusta Forward Racing) rounded out the top 10, the Italian beating Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP), Marcos Ramirez (American Racing), Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team), Cameron Beaubier (American Racing) and Celestino Vietti (Sky Racing Team VR46) as they locked out the remaining point scoring positions.
Moto3™ brought the serious drama at MotorLand, with three Championship contenders all finding bad luck or trouble on race day. The first was for Romano Fenati (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) as he was forced into the gravel, then Championship leader Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) crashed and, right as he seemed set to make huge gains, so did second overall Sergio Garcia (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team). But one contender held firm and avoided it all, with Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing) pulling off a tactical masterclass to take his third win of the year and move back into third overall.
The Italian just defeated another stunner from Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3), the Turkish rider impressing once again but forced to wait for that first win. Completing the podium was Ayumu Sasaki (Red Bull KTM Tech3), the Japanese rider digging deep and taking an emotional second rostrum after a difficult few months of injury, bad luck and more.
Darryn Binder (Petronas Sprinta Racing) kept the lead initially as the South African held on for the holeshot, but Garcia was quick to attack. As ever though, the moves came thick and fast and a leading freight train formed. Öncü took over at the front, with Acosta, Garcia and Binder shadowing in the early stages.
Drama hit on Lap 5 for Silverstone winner Fenati. Front row starter Gabriel Rodrigo (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) suddenly crashed in front of the Italian, and he was forced to take avoiding action into the gravel – rejoining well down the order, a postcode off the points.
There was also an early touch between Xavier Artigas (Leopard Racing) and Acosta but no harm done. Meanwhile Öncü rolled on at the front, able to stay ahead down the back straight too as a group of nine formed at the front followed by SIC58 Squadra Corse duo Lorenzo Fellon and Tatsuki Suzuki.
After chipping away at it, they tagged onto the back to make it 11 riders fighting for the win, but it was a costly push for Fellon as the French rookie then got a Long Lap penalty for track limits. Taking it dropped him back in behind the chasing trio of Niccolo Antonelli (Avintia VR46 Academy), double 2020 winner at the track Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Stefano Nepa (BOE Owlride).
Antonelli and Nepa were next to tag on, but then drama whittled the group down again… and key drama. After a season of history making, Acosta made his first big race day error of the year, heading up the inside of Artigas and then losing it, skittling both out. And he couldn’t rejoin, leaving Garcia with an open goal…
Starting the final lap, Foggia led Öncü led the two GASGAS machines of Garcia and Izan Guevara (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team). Öncü then hit the front, the Turk digging in on the search for that elusive first victory, and even more drama soon hit just behind. Despite the huge chance to home in on Acosta, it just wasn’t to be. Garcia suddenly slid out as he fought to gain more ground, rider ok and able to rejoin but no points coming his way.
Meanwhile, Öncü remained ahead and the Turk led heading onto the back straight – as he had a good few times during the race, able each time to keep it too. But this time, Foggia had the legs and the incredible straight-line speed of the Leopard Honda struck, the number 7 slicing past. Öncü tried to reply on the drag to the line and almost did, but he’s forced to settle for another second, just 0.041 off the win.
After a weekend of more muted timesheets at times from Sasaki, the Japanese rider played his cards to perfection on race day. Making moves through the group late on, the number 71 took his second Grand Prix podium by just 0.064, denying Guevara as the Spanish rookie was forced to wait for that first podium once again, just as at Silverstone.
Antonelli stormed the latter stages the come home in fifth, able to pull out a few tenths on compatriot Andrea Migno (Rivacold Snipers Team), who nevertheless bounced back after a tough-to-take technical DNF at Silverstone. Binder took seventh nearly a second further back, with Nepa half a second behind him. Suzuki lost out to the Italian by 0.101 as he took ninth, with Masia completing the top ten a couple of seconds off the front group, not finding his 2020 MotorLand magic this time around.
Ryusei Yamanaka (CarXpert PrüstelGP) took P11 with a little breathing space ahead of Adrian Fernandez (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team), with Syarifuddin Azman (Petronas Sprinta Racing) only a tenth and a half off the number 31 by the flag. No mean feat, and the Malaysian impressively scores points on his Grand Prix debut.
Rather stunningly, behind him came Fenati. The veteran Italian dug in to try and gain ground back after being forced wide, and gain ground he did. Making up the gap to the next riders, passing them, and then rinsing and repeating, the number 55 took 2 points for 14th.
Riccardo Rossi (BOE Owlride) just pipped Kaito Toba (CIP Green Power) to the final point, with a late crash seeing Jeremy Alcoba (Indonesian Racing Gresini Moto3) and Fellon both fail to make the flag.