Since Sachsenring, Marc Marquez had grown weary hearing about how great the Ducati is, how great Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo are, how they’ve been making a chump out of him since August. Marc Marquez, despite his calm exterior, is a fiercely competitive young man. Today, with no pressure and no real incentive other than pride, he went out and beat Dovizioso in front of his home fans, assuring them that he may be many things, but one of them is not a chump.

Embed from Getty Images

Marc Marquez ended his longest winless streak of the season at Aragon. His last win came July 15 at Sachsenring.

Practice and Qualifying

FP1 was Ducati “Bring Your Desmo to Work Friday,” with GP18s (Dovizioso, Danilo Petrucci and Lorenzo) and a GP17 (Jack Miller) blanketing the top of the sheet. Valentino Rossi was idling in 15th with 14 minutes left but pushed himself into the top ten – a laughable goal not that many years ago – with some late speed.

Embed from Getty Images

Andrea Iannone was a surprise this weekend, staying in the top five through practice and qualifying before finishing on the podium in third.

FP2 was Marquez holding off the factory Ducatis, with Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Iannone – I know, right? – rounding out the top five. Rossi in 9th and Viñales in 10th put them on the inside looking out, but for how long? Marquez’ hot lap in FP2 was 7/10ths off the track record, within reach. Notables Alex Rins (Suzuki) and Johann Zarco (Tech 3 Yamaha) were buried in the deep teens. Better luck on Saturday.

FP3 was revealing, as all four Yamahas found themselves in the bottom 14 spots of the grid after the session, all four thereby consigned to the crapshoot that is Q1. The crash that left Rossi mired in 18th place after the session looked as if he simply lost concentration and folded the front on a routine fast turn, unmolested. Perhaps after 20-some years of routine practice session corners, they no longer grip The Doctor’s attention the way they used to. Anyway, Crutchlow and Marquez (and Dani Pedrosa) on Hondas were busy slugging it out with Ducati representatives Miller and Dovizioso, not to mention the pesky Iannone and his Suzuki in the top five again.

Embed from Getty Images

Valentino Rossi was a non-factor all weekend.

The most glaring anomaly from FP4 was watching Valentino Rossi giving a reasonable impression of one of the Laverty brothers, closing the session in, again, 18th (eighteenth!) place. From there, he went on to finish 8th in Q1, meaning he would start Sunday’s race in – you guessed it – 18th place. How he finished eighth in Q1 illustrates the growing fetish top riders seem have about not allowing “lesser” pilots to tailgate/slipstream them to a fast lap. My dog doesn’t like going on a walk with another owner and dog walking behind us. It makes her nervous. I’m thinking Rossi’s thinking that, on his current sled, 2019-2020 seems like a long time.

Sitting eighth with new rubber and what seemed like five minutes left in the session, fetish on full display, Rossi spent four and a half of those minutes cruising the perimeter, waiting for other riders to go through on him and which they, in turn, cruising themselves, refused to do. His Wile E. Coyote moment came when he realized there were 30 seconds left on the clock, and he was at least 45 seconds from the start/finish line. He never got his second flying lap started. Welcome to Row 6. BTW, Viñales waltzed into Q2, while Taka Nakagami snuck in just under the wire, consigning fellow rookie Franco Morbidelli to Row 5.

Embed from Getty Images

Marc Marquez led through most of qualifying but Jorge Lorenzo snagged the pole late in Q2.

Q2 went the same way. Marquez laid down two sub-1:47 laps during his first attack, and the second stood up until a minute and a half after the flag waved. Again, much of that time was spent watching the riders and teams, um, standing around, waiting for “the right time” to attack the track record and claim pole. But, with the Racing Gods rewarding bad behavior, the two factory Ducatis apparently got it right. Long after the checkered flag waved, Dovizioso put his GP18 .07 in front of Marquez. Five seconds later, Jorge Lorenzo flashed across the line, taking his third consecutive pole, this by a full .014 seconds. Nice front row. But winning pole without setting a new track record – meh. Note: All Ducs on pole since summer break? No Yamaha starting from the top ten grid spots? Who put the pineapple juice in my pineapple juice?

Another Great Race

“I really don’t give a rip if Jorge Lorenzo swipes pole again. This race needs to be Dovizioso attacking Marquez late in the day, Marquez either withstanding the attacks, running away, or not.” Motorcycle.com, September 19, 2018

Not sure how many of you got what you wanted from this race, but I did. The two best riders on earth on the two best bikes, standing 1-2 in the chase, squaring off for another last lap cage match. This after 22 laps of high drama and exquisite suffering, as they used to say on ABC’s Wide World of Sports – ‘The Thrill of Victory, the Agony of Defeat.”

Embed from Getty Images

Jorge Lorenzo’s pole position went to waste after a high-side crash on the first turn. Lorenzo later blamed Marc Marquez for braking late, forcing him wide.

By taking the hole shot from the third spot on the grid, defending world champion Marc Marquez forced former world champion Jorge Lorenzo wide in the first turn, from whence he opened the throttle a touch early, lost the rear of his Ducati, and got flung over the windscreen, a dislocated toe adding injury to the insult of having crashed from pole for two consecutive rounds. His premature departure left a curious front group consisting of two usual suspects – Marquez and Dovizioso – and two unusuals – Suzuki pilots Iannone and Rins. Pedrosa, in his Aragon swan song, put his Repsol Honda in 5th place to stay after a few laps, and everyone’s favorite rider, Aleix Espargaro, put his own Aprilia RS-GP in sixth place for the duration, tying his best finish ever for the Italian brand, and adding over 50% to his point total for the season.

This is how things stood until around Lap 14. Dovi had led most of the way, with Marquez dogging him the entire time. The two Suzukis, acting as if they weren’t a Tier Two brand, stolidly held serve in third and fourth places, appearing very relaxed, while the two leaders looked anything but relaxed, Dovizioso bouncing on his rear tire braking at the end of both straights. The two leaders started exchanging the lead on Lap 14, back and forth. Mostly recreational, from a distance. Until around Lap 21.

Embed from Getty Images

The championship may be all but decided but we can at least enjoy watching Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso battling it out the rest of the way.

On Lap 21, Marquez bulled his way inside Dovi at Turn 1, only to get passed by both Dovi and Iannone – where’d he come from? – before grabbing the lead back later on the same lap and closing the door from there. Dovizioso was unable to mount a serious challenge to Marquez over the last 2½ laps. Even if he had, the only thing that would have changed would have been who stood on the top step of the podium and who would stand on the second. The 2018 standings, atrocious from a competitive standpoint coming in, got only marginally worse.

The Big Picture

After Misano, Marquez led the Sioux Nation by 67 points with six rounds left. Today, he leads by 72 points with five remaining. Announcers Matt and Steve were banging on today about how Marquez couldn’t clinch the title in Thailand, as if anyone thought that to be remotely likely anyway. His chances of clinching in Japan improved, and his chances of clinching in Australia went way up. Put it this way. It would take a Boston Red Sox-scale collapse over the final five races of the season to deny Marquez his fifth premier class championship. By way of illustration, were Marquez to crash out of the next three rounds while Dovizioso was busy winning them, he would trail the Italian by just three points heading to Sepang.

Embed from Getty Images

Holding a 72-point lead with five rounds left to go, Marc Marquez has the title well in hand. The question now is when he will clinch it.

No other meaningful changes in the top ten. Petrucci jumped up two spots to sixth, as both Crutchlow, who crashed out on Lap 5 and which was not his fault, and Zarco, finishing 14th today, dropped a spot. The only thing that changed in a meaningful way was the likelihood that Marquez would NOT win the 2018 title, which went down again today. He has increased his lead in the championship at every round since Mugello. Oh, and the guys failed to break the track record from 2015 today, putting them 7 for 11 for the year. Still worth talking about. As for the title, that thing is over.

One final note. Prior to the race, you could see delight in the eyes of Xavier Simeon, the sad sack #2 rider for Avintia Reale Ducati, knowing that Jodi Torres, subbing for injured teammate Tito Rabat, was someone he could beat. Today was the day Simeon would, assuming he could finish the race, not finish dead last. We are happy to report that his dream came true, as he managed to pound Torres by half a second for the day, although that elusive first championship point still eluded him. Different people spell “winning” in different ways.

Embed from Getty Images

Xavier Simeon has finished nine races this season; in five of them, he was the last racer to cross the finish line, and in the other four, he was second to last.

Tranching Tool

After Misano

Tranche 1: Marquez, Dovizioso
Tranche 2: Rossi, Lorenzo, Petrucci, Crutchlow, Rins
Tranche 3: Bautista, Pedrosa, Zarco, Iannone, Viñales, (Rabat), Miller
Tranche 4: Morbidelli, Syahrin, A Espargaro, P Espargaro, Smith, Nakagami
Tranche 5: Redding, Abraham, Luthi and Simeon

After Aragon

Tranche 1: Marquez, Dovizioso
Tranche 2: Rossi, Lorenzo, Petrucci, Crutchlow, Rins, Iannone
Tranche 3: Pedrosa, Zarco, Viñales, A Espargaro, (Rabat), Miller
Tranche 4: Bautista, Morbidelli, P Espargaro, Smith, Nakagami
Tranche 5: Redding, Abraham, Luthi, Syahrin and Simeon

Looking Ahead

Two weeks to the maiden Grand Prix of Thailand. No numbing “Recent History at Buriram” to deal with in the race preview, as this is the virgin MotoGP outing at Buriram International Circuit. But we’ll dig up some stuff for you between now and then. My wife and I are leaving tomorrow for a week in Maine – she thinks it might as well be Siberia – for some chowdah, lobstah and relief from another stifling Indiana summer. Ciao.

Embed from Getty Images

The 2018 MotoGP championship now heads east for four rounds in Asia and Australia, which means Marc Marquez may have the title sewn up before the series returns to Europe for the finale in Valencia.
2018 MotoGP Aragon Results
Pos. Rider Team Time
1 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda 41:55.949
2 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse +0.648
3 Andrea Iannone Suzuki Ecstar +1.259
4 Álex Rins Suzuki Ecstar +2.638
5 Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda +5.274
6 Aleix Espargaro Aprilia Gresini +9.396
7 Danilo Petrucci Alma Pramac Ducati +14.285
8 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha +15.199
9 Jack Miller Alma Pramac Ducati +16.375
10 Maverick Viñales Movistar Yamaha +22.457
11 Franco Morbidelli Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +27.025
12 Takaaki Nakagami LCR Honda Idemitsu +27.957
13 Bradley Smith Red Bull KTM +28.821
14 Johann Zarco Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +32.345
15 Karel Abraham Angel Nieto Ducati +37.639
16 Scott Redding Aprilia Gresini +39.585
17 Thomas Luthi Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda +40.763
18 Hafizh Syahrin Monster Yamaha Tech3 +56.296
19 Xavier Simeon Reale Avintia Ducati +58.981
20 Jordi Torres Reale Avintia Ducati +59.513
Not Classified
DNF Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda Castrol 19 Laps
DNF Alvaro Bautista Angel Nieto Ducati 22 Laps
DNF Jorge Lorenzo Ducati Corse
2018 MotoGP Top 10 Standings After Aragon
Pos. Rider Motorcycle Points
1 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda 246
2 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Corse 174
3 Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha 159
4 Jorge Lorenzo Ducati Corse 130
5 Maverick Viñales Movistar Yamaha 130
6 Cal Crutchlow LCR Honda Castrol 119
7 Danilo Petrucci Alma Pramac Ducati 119
8 Johann Zarco Monster Yamaha Tech 3 112
9 Andrea Iannone Suzuki Ecstar 108
10 Álex Rins Suzuki Ecstar 92