#AragonGP Raceday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
The Gran Premio Animoca Brands de Aragon may well prove a truly pivotal day in the 2022 season, with the headlines overflowing almost from lights out and the top three in the title fight now split by only 17 points. By the flag, Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) had served some Misano-flavoured revenge on Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) as the two duelled it out on the final lap for the win, and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) was both back on the podium and back in serious Championship contention.
Before all that, Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) hit some serious bad luck as he made contact with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) after a slide for the number 93. The Championship leader crashed out, Marquez continued and then suffered a technical problem from the prior contact that saw Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) caught in the crossfire. From there, the pitboards went out for the other key Championship protagonists – Quartararo out – and the lay of the land after MotorLand is now a whole different story as the paddock heads to Japan.
Where do we start? Bagnaia headed the field into Turn 1 after a dream start off pole position but it was a nightmare for several riders behind him. From 13th on the grid, Marquez was already up to sixth when he then had a moment exiting Turn 3 and closed the throttle, leaving Quartararo with nowhere to go. The Frenchman rammed the back of the RC213V and was thrown off, sliding into the run off. Rider ok, but a 0 on the board. Next the Marquez-Nakagami contact that saw the Japanese rider slide off and a host of riders forced into avoiding action, a second shot of huge drama. Not long after, Marc Marquez would also pit.
After all that, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) had jumped from 10th on the grid to fifth and then somehow threaded his way past another three bikes to be running an incredible second midway through Lap 1, ahead of Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team), Bastianini, and Aleix Espargaro. Miller then overtook the South African on Lap 3 at Turn 1 and Bastianini did likewise exactly a lap later, putting the KTM back to fourth, but he wasn’t done yet.
Bastianini wasn’t either and he continued his progress with a move on Miller for second on Lap 6 at Turn 15, before Binder executed an impressive overtake on the Australian through Turn 4 on Lap 7. In the blink of an eye, Miller was all the way back to fifth as Espargaro also got through, at Turn 7.
Bad news for one Ducati rider, then, but the Bologna marque’s future factory pairing was about to engage in combat over first position – just as they did two weeks earlier at Misano. Bastianini got the move done at Turn 1 on Lap 9 and it looked like the Gresini rider might be able to pull away, given the pace advantage he seemed to have over Pecco. Instead, he outbraked himself half a lap later at Turn 12 and went very deep, handing the lead back to Bagnaia and barely holding off Binder through the chicane.
From there, however, Bagnaia and Bastianini started to put the hammer down, their margin over Binder up to one full second on Lap 12, two seconds on Lap 18, and three seconds after just one more. The Bologna bullets were trading quick laps around Aragon, and there was still no certainty over who would prevail. Bastianini twice had looks at Turn 16 and thought better of it, but would there be one last attack?
There sure would be! Bastianini sprung a surprise move on his works counterpart on the final lap at the tight Turn 7 right-hander and he was through, cuing up some sweet revenge for home race defeat at Misano. Bagnaia did give chase and when he got a better run off the final corner, it was still in the balance, but the finish line was close enough to the exit of Turn 17 that Bastianini was just able to cling on by a margin of just 0.042 seconds. Another stunning duel, and in the last two races, that means the total of the gaps between those two at the chequered flag totals a mere 0.076 seconds.
As for the other podium position, that went to Espargaro but it was a late attack as Binder held station for much of the race. The Aprilia and Miller tailed Binder for much of the contest before Aprilia’s ‘Captain’ pulled off the block pass at the start of the penultimate lap, and that was decisive. Espargaro finished six seconds behind the top two but Binder was just 0.240 seconds behind him at the chequered flag, and Miller only another 0.585 seconds in arrears in fifth.
Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) took sixth after a late battle with fellow Ducati rider Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), who got home in seventh ahead of Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), and Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team). Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) earned 11th, with the rest of the points finishers being Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) – who dusted himself off after a Warm Up crash – Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing), Cal Crutchlow (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ team), and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team). A total of 20 riders made the chequered flag with Marc Marquez, Quartararo, and Nakagami the only retirements. Nakagami escaped fairly unscathed from the drama but was declared unfit for Japan for a finger injury, so he’ll need to pass a medical ahead of his home race.
And so the paddock says goodbye to MotorLand as we head for Motegi for the first time since 2019. The dust will take some time to settle but it’s a quick turnaround for the paddock heading into the Motul Grand Prix of Japan, and there’s not too much time to catch your breath before actions gets back underway next weekend.
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Pedro Acosta was back on top at the Gran Premio Animoca Brands de Aragon, picking up his second Moto2™ win and the first since breaking his left femur in a training accident in June. Flexbox HP40 rider Aron Canet took the chequered flag 2.612 seconds back in second, just edging out Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) – but the number 37 extended his lead by three points as Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) took fourth.
At the start, Fernandez got the jump from pole position and led the Shimoku GASGAS Aspar Team duo of Jake Dixon and Albert Arenas through the opening corners. San Marino GP winner Alonso Lopez (CAG Speed Up) launched well, but then drama hit as he crashed out and mayhem unfolded behind as Marcel Schrötter (Liqui Moly Intact GP) hit the deck as well, with a number of other riders forced into avoiding action too.
At the front, as Dixon gave chase to Fernandez, Canet passed Arenas on Lap 1, and so did Acosta at the start of Lap 2. Hopes of a fightback were dashed just half a lap later when Arenas crashed at Turn 12 – with both Manuel Gonzalez (Yamaha VR46 Master Camp Team) and Jeremy Alcoba (Liqui Moly Intact GP) joining him on the floor there just moments later in a separate incident.
Fernandez had pulled a second clear of Dixon on Lap 3 as Canet and Acosta traded third position amongst themselves. In a flash, Dixon dropped from second to fifth on Lap 4 when Acosta went past at Turn 12, Canet at Turn 14, and Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) through the sweeping Turn 16/Turn 17 left-hander. Ogura – who started eighth – tried to join the party on Lap 6 at Turn 1, and while he could not make the move stick at that point in time, the Japanese rider was not going to let the Briton off the hook.
Meanwhile, Acosta was catching Fernandez, reducing the margin to less than a second on Lap 7. Even when he ran wide exiting the Reverse Corkscrew on Lap 8 and gifted second place to Canet, they were still catching the pole-sitter. Acosta made up for his error by re-passing Canet at the end of Lap 9, but by then both were on the tail of Fernandez.
On Lap 10, Acosta blazed past his team-mate Fernandez as they ran up the back straight, while it was Arbolino’s Turn to get into a battle with Canet over third . That would ultimately be resolved when ‘Tiger Tony’ ran wide through the Turn 16/Turn 17 sweeper on Lap 11 and let Canet back through.
Acosta was a full second clear of Fernandez on Lap 14, and two seconds up on the World Championship leader after just three laps more, but Canet was stalking Fernandez. He made his move into the Reverse Corkscrew on Lap 19, and never looked back. Forward of him, however, was three seconds’ worth of fresh air with just a handful of kilometres remaining and that was the podium places settled.
Far from settled was the battle for fourth. Ogura had finally passed Dixon for good at Turn 16 back on Lap 15, and set about throwing down the challenge to Arbolino. They chopped and changed position in the final laps, with Ogura going down the inside yet again at Turn 12 on Lap 21. As he did so, Dixon threw away sixth when he slid out, but the Ogura-Arbolino duel raged on. Into the Turn 16/Turn 17 left-hander at the end of the lap, the Italian sent his Marc VDS entry down the inside but could not make the move stick and had to settle for fifth, just 0.067 seconds behind the Japanese rider.
Sixth went to Fermin Aldeguer (CAG Speed Up), from Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Jorge Navarro (Flexbox HP40), Joe Roberts (Italtrans Racing Team), and Celestino Vietti (Mooney VR46 Racing Team), the latter of whom inherited 10th as a result of Dixon’s late spill. The rest of the points finishers, from 11th onwards, were Cameron Beaubier (American Racing), Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Italtrans Racing Team), Barry Baltus (RW Racing GP), Alessandro Zaccone (Gresini Racing Moto2™), and Bo Bendsneyder (Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team).
Fernandez might have missed out on victory, but a MotoGP™ contract to ride for GASGAS Factory Racing, a Moto2™ pole position, and a podium which built his World Championship lead is not bad. His margin over Ogura is now seven points, with Canet third at another 30 points behind. Vietti faded further into fourth, with the Italian’s deficit blowing out to 52 points with just five rounds to go.
Izan Guevara (Autosolar GASGAS Aspar Team) remains undefeated on home turf in 2022 after the Championship leader put in an imperious performance at MotorLand Aragon. With only Ayumu Sasaki (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) able to stay in the same postcode, it became a duel for the win before Guevara pulled clear for those valuable 25 points and a 33 point lead. Sasaki took second and another MotorLand podium, moving him closer to the top three overall, with Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Ajo) completing the rostrum for his first ever Grand Prix podium.
Off the line it was as-you-were at the front, with Guevara leading Sasaki and Holgado away and the trio building a gap, too. John McPhee (Sterilgarda Husqvarna Max) was on the charge leading a chasing quintet, along with Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Tech3), Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team) and Tatsuki Suzuki (Leopard Racing), before another gap back to a group that included Sergio Garcia (Autosolar GASGAS Aspar Team) and Dennis Foggia (Leopard Racing).
By 10 to go, the top trio pounded on but the group behind had closed up. Öncü was leading it but continuing to lose ground, with David Muñoz (BOE Motorsports) next up and starting to make some moves. That gaggle was a classic freight train battle, but one of Muñoz’ moves was deemed too much as he got a Long Lap for a move making contact with Adrian Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Tech3) a few laps later.
Meanwhile at the front, Guevara and Sasaki had got the hammer down. Holgado started to lose touch with the duo as the gap grew to over a second and then beyond that, with the fight for the win quickly becoming a duel.
Onto the last lap though, Guevara had some time in hand, turning the screw even further to pull out a few tenths. The last final kilometers of racing saw Sasaki shadow the number 28 but find no answer for his pace, leaving Guevara to cross the line with just under a second of advantage for an imperious win – and a big advantage in the standings. Sasaki takes second and gains points on all his key rivals except the rider just ahead, with Holgado putting in an impressive ride to take his first ever GP podium in third.
Öncü was able to pull away from the freight train fight to take a comfortable fourth, leaving the battle behind to get decided on the drag to the line. Despite getting pushed off earlier in the race by Muñoz, Fernandez came back to take fifth place and his best ever result, just ahead of Ivan Ortola (Angeluss MTA Team) as the rookie likewise took his best finish. Muñoz was just a tenth behind them, with Jaume Masia (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in eighth, Carlos Tatay (CFMoto Racing PrüstelGP) and McPhee completing the top ten.
Xavier Artigas (CFMoto Racing PrüstelGP) pipped Suzuki to P11, with Garcia struggling in the latter stages to move forward and the former points leader finishing the race in P13 – just ahead of Foggia after tough day for two key protagonists in the fight for the crown.
The final point went to Diogo Moreira (MT Helmets – MSI) despite a Long Lap for track limits.
Guevara now leads the field to Motegi with a 33-point lead as Garcia and Foggia are left licking their wounds after a tough start to the triple-header. Sasaki moves up to 13 behind Foggia before his first race on home soil since 2019, and with his experience that could prove crucial too.