Sunday’s Gran Premio Movistar de Aragón de MotoGP is unlikely to have a momentous impact on the 2017 championship standings. Honda’s Marc Marquez and Ducati pilot Andrea Dovizioso, playing cat and mouse at 200 mph and tied at present, will head for the Pacific flyaway rounds separated by, at most, 25 points. The man in jeopardy of losing touch is factory Yamaha prodigy Maverick Viñales. A crash this week could put him some 40 points behind the leader – whoever it is – with four rounds to go, not a good place to be, even on a YZR-M1.

Meanwhile, his teammate Valentino Rossi is trying to speed up his recovery time, looking to get medical clearance to race just three weeks after breaking the tibia and fibula on his right leg.

Recent History at Aragon

The 2014 Gran Premio Movistar de Aragon was a flag-to-flag cluster that left the day’s results scrambled. Exhibit A: The factory Hondas of Marquez and Dani Pedrosa crossed the finish line in 13th and 14th places, respectively. Factory Yamaha icon Valentino Rossi finished the day in the medical center. Jorge Lorenzo somehow won in the rain – I know – but the big story was Aleix Espargaro who flogged his Forward Racing Yamaha from a tenth-place start to a thrilling silver medal finish over Cal Crutchlow, grinding his expensive British teeth once again on the factory Ducati.

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Aleix Espargaro scored an impressive second-place, becoming the first rider in what was then called the “Open” spec-ECU class  to score a podium.

In 2015, Lorenzo put on a clinic, leading wire to wire on the dusty plains. He reduced his deficit to teammate Valentino Rossi from 23 points to 14, as Pedrosa held off repeated assaults from Rossi over the last five laps to capture second place. Fans around the world expected Rossi, who hadn’t won a race on Spanish soil since 2009, to steal Pedrosa’s lunch money late in the day. But the mighty mite held on, denying Rossi four points he badly wanted, and tying his best result of what was, at that point, a winless year. Pedrosa would go on to win at Motegi and Sepang, settling for fourth place for the year once again, just holding on to his Alien card.

A year ago, Repsol Honda’s suddenly cerebral Marquez took a big step toward seizing the 2016 MotoGP title with a formidable win here. By thumping the factory Yamaha Bruise Brothers, he increased his margin from 43 to 52 points with four rounds left. A mistake on Lap 3 took him from first to fifth, but he remained patient, kept his powder dry, and went through, one by one, on Dovizioso, Viñales, Lorenzo and, finally, Rossi on the way to his first win in Spain since 2014.

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Marc Marquez beat Jorge Lorenzo in a Spanish one-two (uno-dos?) finish at Aragon last year. Valentino Rossi spoiled an all-Spaniard podium by finishing third ahead of Maverick Viñales.

Viñales won here in 2013 in Moto2. While riding the Suzuki, he managed 11th place the first year and a respectable 4th place last year. Lorenzo had two wins and a second here the last three years. On the Yamaha. This year he doesn’t see the podium. Who does see the podium are Marquez and Dovizioso, two masters at the height of their respective games (it just took Dovizioso much longer to get to this level than it did wonderkid #93), on machines with differing strengths and weaknesses. Dovi is having a career year, while Marquez is having a career career, working on his fourth title in five premier class seasons. Rossi is down and out, and Pedrosa, down but not quite out, never having done more than get close.

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Maverick Viñales is just 17 points back of Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso. It’s doable, but he’ll need to start winning race again.

But Viñales. Before the season began, I had him slotted for four wins and four DNFs. The wins number is within easy reach with five rounds left. But the falls, the falls, are they going to happen, or can he keep it upright, and stay close to the current leaders? At this point, he needs me to be right, or conservative, about the wins, and over on the DNFs. And that’s before the Tech 3 guys started running out of fuel on their 2016 M1s.

Lots of Movement in the Tranches

After Round 12 Silverstone

Tranche 1: Viñales, Marquez, Dovizioso, (Rossi), Pedrosa
Tranche 2: Zarco, Bautista, Folger, Crutchlow, Lorenzo
Tranche 3: Barbera, Petrucci, Baz, Rins, A. Espargaro
Tranche 4: Miller, Abraham, Iannone, Redding
Tranche 5: P. Espargaro, Rabat, Smith, Lowes

After Round 13 Misano

Tranche 1: Viñales, Marquez, Dovizioso, (Rossi)
Tranche 2: Pedrosa↓, Zarco, Folger, Lorenzo, Petrucci↑, Rins↑
Tranche 3: Crutchlow↓, Barbera, Bautista↓, Baz, A. Espargaro
Tranche 4: Miller, Iannone, Redding, P. Espargaro↑
Tranche 5: Abraham↓, Rabat, Smith, Lowes

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Bradley Smith finished a season-best 10th in a wet Misano race.

Jack Miller, Scott Redding and Bradley Smith all had solid results in Misano, in the rain. Should they repeat their credible performances this weekend, in the dry, they will be moving up in the standings, with Hector Barbera, Loris Baz and The Rider Formerly Known as The Maniac, Andrea Iannone at risk of getting knocked down. Iannone may lose his contract on the Suzuki altogether if the suits at Dorna and Suzuki have their way, Johnny Rae’s name being mentioned as a replacement.

Alex Rins, on the strength of his 8th place finish at Misano, is ensconced, at least for now, in Tranche 2 along with Johann Zarco and Jonas Folger, Rookie of the Year honors undecided at this point. Other than a poor outing at the Red Bull Ring, Rins is showing steady improvement since his injury, with top tens in his last two races, under vastly different conditions. I’d like to see him on a factory Yamaha one of these days, but he’ll probably have to take a number behind Tech 3’s Frick and Frack.

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Don’t know if he’ll hang on to win Rookie of the Year but Johann Zarco deserves something for this courageous effort to salvage a single championship point at Misano.

This Just In

Last week, World Superbike rider Michael van der Mark was selected to “replace Valentino Rossi” on the factory Yamaha at Aragon.

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Will he or won’t he? We’ll find out on Wednesday.

Naturally, the thought of someone else riding his M1 has spurred the Doctor into action, jumping on a YZF-R1M for a couple of days of private testing at Misano. Rossi will undergo a medical examination Wednesday in hopes of being cleared to race this weekend, double-leg fracture be damned.

Your Weekend Forecast

It doesn’t appear to have rained in the greater Alcaniz environs for some time now, and the long-range forecast for the weekend calls for clear skies, plenty of sunshine to heat the track, with temps in the 80s and dust on the tarmac if you happen to find yourself off the racing line. These conditions favor the Repsol Honda team; Marquez likes sliding around in the hot grease, and Pedrosa can get enough heat into his tires to be able to compete, unlike last time out.

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Dani Pedrosa seems to perform better in warmer climes such as Aragon.

Speaking of Pedrosa, Alien cards get revoked when a rider develops a hole in his game. For Lorenzo, it’s rain. For Pedrosa, it’s becoming cold temps. (Dovi has been showing one around lately, but I heard one guy say it looked fake.) I think of Dovi as an Alien, although I cannot recall the date of his official entry into The Club. Rossi, Marquez, Viñales – they seem able to ride anywhere, in any conditions. Must be all that enduro and motocross training they do.

An irritating tendency of people trained in economics is to throw around the Latin term “ceteris paribus,” which translates to “all other things being equal,” which they rarely are. As for Sunday’s race, Marquez, Viñales and Dovizioso should end up on the podium, ceteris paribus. But Dani Pedrosa has an opportunity to make me eat my words. Jorge Lorenzo could go all Lazarus at a track he loves. Danilo Petrucci could FINALLY get that elusive first win. And when will Aleix Espargaro see everything fall into place, just once, allowing him to put the Aprilia on the podium?

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Onward to Aragon!

As usual, the race goes off at 8 am on the US east coast and we’ll have results and analysis here ASAP.

  • JMDGT

    Go Rossi!

    • Stop! Thief!

    • spiff

      !! End transmission.

      • spiff

        (Soon)

  • Old MOron

    Hmm, I think you’re being a little quick to knock Cal down and to promote your boy, Rins.
    Okay, Cal had a bad rain race and finished 13th. That’s pretty far back, but it comes on the heals of his 4th place at Silverstone. He managed the pressure of his home race brilliantly.
    As for Rins, he had a decent rain race, but he still finished behind Miller and Redding. How come he leapfrogs them in the tranches?

    • Rins leapfrogs Miller and Redding because I happen to LIKE him, unlike Jackass and The Whiner. Actually, and I admit it’s complicated, but I feel Rins is trending up, whereas Miller doesn’t give a shit and Redding needs to go away, to WSBK or something. Perhaps Scott is aiming to be The Next Sam Lowes?

      • Sayyed Bashir

        Sam Lowes is going to end up back in MotoGP in a couple years, on a KTM RC16. KTM will have four bikes in 2019.

        • Right. And I suppose by then there’ll be a 20-round calendar with dates in Thailand, Finland and Indonesia, too? Get real.

        • Kos

          Sam Lowes is going to be headed back to work at the family home improvement store.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            You will have to eat your words in Moto2 next year and in MotoGP the year after that. Having the Lowes family wealth is not bad either. More than I’ve got. Aprilia treated him badly and will pay for it. They will get out of MotoGP after next year.

          • Dude, you sound like you want to have Sam’s baby. “Aprilia treated him badly and will pay for it.” As a public service, I am going to alert some of my paisans at Aprilia corporate. I’m with Kos on this guy.

          • Old MOron

            Gotta hand it to our alpha MOron. The man is brand-loyal. Looks like that includes people, too.

            What about brand antipathy? Is is possible you don’t rate Sam because Cal has spoken well of him?

          • Sayyed Bashir

            ‘Aprilia must “give everything” or quit MotoGP – Aleix Espargaro’
            https://www.motorsport.com/motogp/news/aprilia-must-give-everything-or-quit-motogp-espargaro-949829/
            Aleix keeps having engine problems and is very jealous of the resources KTM is putting into their MotoGP program.
            Sam may not have produced good results but part of it was the machinery he was on. He had good results in Moto2 and will do even better on a KTM.
            KTM took third tier riders like Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith and is producing top ten results in their first season on a brand new bike. So it is not just the riders but the organization behind them. Sam will do very well with KTM and it will be Aprilia’s loss.

  • Randy Hanks

    I’m waiting for the day Lorenzo becomes relevant again. He started to do it at Misano… And then his Achilles showed itself.

    With Van der Mark’s performance in Portugal this weekend, do you you think he stands a chance if the Doctor isn’t cleared to race? I know the likelihood isn’t there because of the poor transition from WSBK to GP, but how much of a wrench would it throw in the championship if he pulled out a podium?

    And I thought I’d read an interview with Johnny Rae where he said he was good with staying in WSBK?

    • Old MOron

      Too bad Lorenzo doesn’t ride in MotoAmerica. He could pull a Rog Hayden and simply elect not to race in the rain!

      “In Sunday’s wet race, Hayden, who had already clinched second in the championship, elected not to race, citing the potential hazards of slippery seal coating in certain sections of the circuit.”

      • Randy Hanks

        I think Lorenzo would absolutely rule MotoAmerica. Fortunately or unfortunately, those guys race because they love it, and there’s not the GP level of money involved. I don’t blame Rog for not doing Race 2. What’s he got to lose? He’s got his bike for next year. The other guys are trying to hold on to sponsors.

        • Old MOron

          Well, there are different perspectives to every situation. If all (or at least most) of the riders had said that the track was dangerous, and if Roger (and others) had refused to race as a form of protest, okay. But if he simply refused to race because he had sand in his vagina, well, I don’t think Nicky would’ve ever done something like that.

          • Randy Hanks

            I see what your saying, but look at all the DNFs from the race. Hell, Josh Herrin didn’t start stating the rain, and even Tony stated the track slick in a few areas. And look at the ending lap with Gagne and Scholtz. How many times did it look like he was going to eat it?

          • Wait. You’re hijacking the conversation. If you two want to discuss the finer points of WSBK over a couple of beers, fine. Around here, we are MotoGP 24-7-365, except when talking about having sand in your vagina.

          • Randy Hanks

            Sorry Bruce! You should see my DVR schedule on weekends. MA, WSBK, and GP.

            My wife is not a fan.

          • Kos

            This comment is worthless without graphs!

          • Old MOron

            Ha, what you really want is a graphic image of a vagina!

            PS: please don’t post one. I read this stuff while I’m at work. As a cubicle serf, I don’t have any privacy.

        • Randy, my man. Please be advised that if you enter into an argument, even a friendly, with this guy, he will bury you up to your eyeballs in logic, facts, figures, graphs, charts, preces (plural of precis), monographs and Zap Comix. Welcome to the conversation.

          • Randy Hanks

            Just the kind of discussion I like!

    • Van der Mark should be fighting with Sam Lowes and Bradley Smith for last.

    • Mad4TheCrest

      Will you guys spell the man’s name right? It’s ‘Rea’. Johnny is a scion of the Rea Racing family that supported Joey Dunlop in his early years.

      • Randy Hanks

        That was my mistake! Half the time I type faster than I spell check, and I screwed that one up. Thanks for the correction!

      • I was going to blame editing, but looked at my original copy, and it was my error. As a reward for finding it, I’m attaching, just for you, one of my favorite paragraphs from the article that didn’t make it out of editing: “World Superbike rider Michael van der Mark will have the hottest seat in the house this weekend, having been named to “replace Valentino Rossi” on the factory Yamaha. Good one. I’m sure Michael is a great guy, rock star-quality looks, but he should look up the word “cipher” in the dictionary: a zero; a figure 0. Synonyms: zero · 0 · nil · naught/nought. Placeholder. Imagine Lin Jarvis, “Just keep it warm if you will, please, old boy and try not to bang it about too much. Mr. Rossi is expected back soon.” I guess Katman Nakasuga, the Yamaha test rider who podiumed in Valencia a few years back, is busy this weekend, a wedding in his wife’s family or something equally inescapable.

    • Ozzy Mick

      Newly crowned WSBK Champ, Aussie Troy Bayliss, did it in 2006, Nicky’s year. Mind you, he didn’t just podium, he won the race!

    • Ozzy Mick

      Happened in 2006, Nicky’s year, when newly crowned Aussie WSBK Champ Troy Bayliss subbed for an injured Gibernau and won the last Motogp race at Valencia on a Ducati.
      But he WAS the WSBK Champ, and had raced in Motogp before. Hard act to follow.

  • Prakasit

    How dare you revoke Lorenzo’s Alien card! I won’t stand for this. …… never mind.

    • This aggression will not stand, man. 😀

  • Vrooom

    I still think you meant Crutchlow’s expansive teeth, not expensive Bruce. I think if Rossi races and ends up on the podium his alien card is bronzed and hung in the rafters.

    • It’s already up there. Most premier class wins, career, if I’m not mistaken. My grandmother was Polish. Therefore, I can ask if you were referring to the Polish Olympic swimmer in 1976 who was so proud of his gold medal that HE had it bronzed?

      • Vrooom

        Yeah, that post was full of Polish sporting references :).

  • schizuki

    Jorge is concerned:

    “I want to know who is this Marky Mark Mark Van Mark Der Mark Van Mark. Is he going to ride the Yellow Puta’s new secret bike? Or is he going to donate his leg to the Yellow Puta?”

    http://www.bikeme.tv/index.php/i-want-to-know-how-many-legs-the-yellow-puta-has-how-many-of-them-are-actually-his-and-which-of-them-if-any-are-broken-or-belong-to-a-third-party/

    • Still laughing.

      • schizuki

        Read the whole “Dear George” series. Comedy gold.

  • Kos

    Bruce: “Sunday’s Gran Premio Movistar de Aragón de MotoGP is unlikely to have a momentous impact on the 2017 championship standings.”

    Let’s hope that comment is all it takes to ensure an amzing race, filled with impact (but not the rider/tarmac kind)!

    • We spend a lot of time around here tempting fate. Lede sentences are tricky. If I had it my way, the sentence would have continued, “, seeing as how Marquez and Dovizioso are tied for the lead and neither one of them is likely to crash out.” Or something like that. (Dennis had to hack and chop on my post when Rossi started cantering an R-1 around Misano mid-week. You can find the original at http//:www.motogpindy.wordpress.com.)

  • Old MOron

    Having suffered a double displaced fracture in his leg just 21 days ago, the Doctor is back on track and turning laps in anger. Since both practice sessions were wet, I imagine the Doctor had to temper his anger. His lap times were rather low on the timing sheets.

    Ahem, but in both practice sessions, he finished ahead of ALEX RINS. Oh, and so did Crutchlow, Sam Lowes, Mika Kalio, and everyone that Rins recently leapfrogged in Bruce’s tranches. I guess we’ll put it down to the commentators curse.

    Happy Friday, Brucey!