MOTOGP: Poleman Pecco Fends off Marc Marquez in a last lap Thriller
Pecco Bagnaia and Marc Marquez went to war at MotorLand Aragon in a brilliant race-long battle. Fabio Quartararo finished in Eighth in a damage limitation ride. His bike was not suited to this circuit.
Wonderful clear skies at MotoLand Aragon as the field lined up on the grid for MotoGP Grand Prix of Aragon. Francesco Bagnaia was fastest in Warm-Up, and lined up on pole from his Ducati Lenovo team-mate Jack Miller and championship leader Fabio Quartararo. The still injured Marc Marquez was seen coming out of the Clinica Mobile after receieving a bit of treatment on his troublesome shoulder, lined up in fourth – his first Top five qualifying of the season. Jorge Martin lined up alongside him on Row two, ahead of Aleix Espargaro.
Maverick Vinales started his first race for Aprilia from 19th as he still learns the bike. He said his riding style is “totally wrong” for the Aprilia and needs to “sacrifice corner speed for a brake/gas technique” to use the bike’s strengths. It will be a steep learning curve for the man who was asked to leave Yamaha earlier in the season for over-revving the bike in Austria.
Briton Jake Dixon started his second race on the Petronas SRT Yamaha. He started on the back of the grid but is getting closer to the rest and was less than a second off the fastest time of Q1 set by Johann Zarco yesterday and only 1.3 seconds off the fastest time in Warm-Up.
With all of the build-up and the warm-up lap out of the way, visors down – it was time to go racing. Off the start, Pecco Bagnaia go the hole-shot as Marc Marquez flies into second with a great start. Jack Miller was demoted to third. Alex Marquez crashed at Turn fiv. He’s crashed in almost every session this weekend so it was time to write it off and move into next week.
Fabio Quartararo was down to seventh by the end of the first lap, and was really suffering for top speed down the back straight. Aleix Espargaro was up to fourth followed by Joan Mir and Jorge Martin.
Jake Dixon went down at Turn nine on lap two. He had just moved ahead of Valentino Rossi but fell and his race was over. Quartararo was battling down in eighth with Brad Binder. Binder got very close to the back of the Yamaha into Turn one but managed to pull out of the move in enough time to stop the KTM. Bagnaia and Marquez started to break at the front, around 0.5 seconds clear of Jack Miller. Marquez was getting very close to the rear of the Ducati but looked to lose touch out of the corners. Miller was making tracks early on to get to the back of the lead pair.
Iker Lecuona had a great start, up to eighth on lap four after staring 13th. The Tech3 KTM rider looks to be out of a MotoGP job next year, and it’s reported he may be going to Honda HRC in WSBK. He is still proving he belongs in MotoGP with a great opening section of the race, pressuring the championship leader into Lap six. Alex Rins made a good start from 20th on the grid. He was up to 12th, six-laps into the race. He usually goes well at MotorLand Aragon so was looking to get his race together early on.
Back at the front, Bagnaia was still in the lead with Marc Marquez still very close to the rear. Jack Miller seemed to be starting to lose touch with the front two, but was around a second clear of the Aprilia of Aleix Esparagaro in fourth. Quartararo was now behind Iker Lecuona. Lecuona got a good run down the back straight on the slow Yamaha and breezed past into the final turn.
On lap eight, Marquez looked a little bit racier. He started looking at the inside of Bagnaia maybe looking at a move. He looked very comfortable sat behind the Ducati. Miller was still in touch and may have been looking after the soft tyre in the rear of his bike. Fabio Quartararo was going backwards. He had been passed by Brad Binder on Lap eight – very easily – and was being pressured by Ena Bastiannini in 10th. He seemed to be really struggling and had Takaaki Nakagami also looking racy in his group. Quartararo was maintaining his position but it looked like a bit of a labouring task.
At the halfway point, Bagnaia and Marquez had broken well-clear. Marquez looked to be dropping back a little, maybe to get cooler air onto the front tyre. Miller went wide into the final corner. He lost the front on entry, and went out to the car park, allowing Aleix Espargaro and Joan Mir through. Miller looked to be having a bit of trouble stopping. Mir made a move on Espargaro into Turn five, making a very tidy move up the inside of the Aprilia.
At the end of Lap 14, Enea Bastiannini used the Ducati power to breeze past the Yamaha of Quartararo into the final corner. The Ducati ran wide on the exit though and Quartararo got back underneath onto the start/finish straight. Bastiannini was on the outside at Turn one but Quartararo ran wide. This allowed Nakagami to get under the pair of them but Quartararo stayed on the inside at Turn two and lived to fight another day. Bastiannini dropped behind Nakagami but Nakagami ran wide at Turn 12 to allow the Ducati back through.
Brad Binder was doing his usual Sunday job, and had passed Lecuona with eight-laps to go. He was on the rear of Jorge Martin battling for sixth. A great ride from the South African. On lap 17, Marquez was still sat behind Bagnaia. He looked very comfortable in behind the Italian, just watching where the Ducati is strong. He wasn’t all over the place, his wheels were inline. It looked composed. Pecco looked to be running deep into some of the slower corners, maybe running into some tyre issues.
Iker Lecuona ran wide into the Corkscrew on lap 17 and lost a few positions. He dropped from eighth to 11th. Fabio Quartararo was still sat in eighth, still being followed by Bastiannini very closely.
Into the final five laps, Marquez looked aggressive again. He’d closed into the rear of Bagnaia. He looked particularly strong in the first sector, through the Corkscrew and through his own corner at Turn 11. He got a run through Turn four and stood the bike up to Turn five as a rehearsal. We could see this unfolding but Pecco had no idea where Marquez was looking at behind him. Marquez needed to be ahead before the back straight because of the Ducati’s speed. Into lap 21, Marquez made his move into Turn five. He sat the bike up, let the brake off and slipped up the inside of Bagnaia. He ran wide on the exit and Bagnaia tucked back underneath. Marquez tried again at the bus stop chicane but ran wide again. Bagnaia retook the lead.
Penultimate lap- Marquez used the same move into Turn five. The same again, he ran wide on the exit and Bagnaia tucked back underneath. The Repsol Honda was moving now. It was moving at apex’s, on the brakes, getting the drive, all over. Marquez tried again at the bus stop, but Pecco used the wide line to get the run down the straight to retake the lead.
Into the last lap, Marquez made the move up the inside into Turn one but ran wide on the exit. Pecco kept his head and tucked back underneath. Bagnaia was now under attack at every single corner. Marquez let the brake off into Turn five and sailed up the inside, but still left enough room for Bagnaia to get back underneath. Marquez started building again and into Turn eight, Marquez was all over the back of the Ducati. At Turn 11, Marquez was right alongside the rear wheel of Bagnaia. Marquez braked late and hard into Turn 12, but was too tight into on the approach to the corner, was going far too fast and ran on over the kerbs. The fight was over. Bagnaia was now clear of danger after Marquez’s last-ditch attempt at taking the lead before the back straight.
Pecco Bagnaia crossed the line to take his first ever MotoGP win,kept his head and wasn’t giving Marquez any opportunity to take this win off him. The Ducati squad looked over the moon, and rightly so. This was Ducati’s first win at this circuit since Casey Stoner in 2010. Marc Marquez took a valiant second after trying absolutely everything for the win and putting an absolutely phenomenal effort in all race. He is still injured and still races that hard. Joan Mir took a very lonely third with the Aprilia of Aleix Espargaro in fourth. Jack Miller took fifth after looking a bit messy in the middle of the race, with a brilliant result for Enea Bastiannini in sixth for the Avintia Squad. Brad Binder got a solid seventh from Fabio Quartararo in eight. You have to think that was a damage limitation exercise from the Championship Leader but a very mature ride nonetheless. Jorge Martin and Takaaki Nakagami rounded out the Top 10.
Cal Crutchlow finished just outside the points in 16th as he moves back to the Petronas SRT Yamaha next time out in Misano. Maverick Vinales finished his first Aprilia race in 18th ahead of Valentino Rossi and Luca Marini. A well-deserved, hard-fought first win for Francesco Bagnaia and he described it as “a dream come true”. Marc Marquez tried everything to win that race but Bagnaia fended off every attack from the “93”. Marquez looked worn out after the race and said, “he still needs to find the best level [for himself]” and “I tried. Like always I try”.
We go to Misano next time out, another track Pecco Bagnaia goes well at. Let’s hope for the same action next weekend.
Featured Image: MotoGP.com