MotoGP™ delivers once again in 2020. We’ve already enjoyed more than our fair share of drama and excitement this season, but the SHARK Helmets Grand Prix de France treated us to yet another wonderfully crazy weekend of racing which saw the lovable Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) return to the top step for the first time since Mugello 2019.
The tension was already palpable at Le Mans as Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) aimed to turn his Free Practice and qualifying superiority into a fourth win of the season, in front of 5,000 adoring French fans. A dry race was already looking like it would be a fantastically close encounter, but the weather gods came up with a cunning plan. Five minutes before lights out, rain – that wasn’t forecast – started to fall down at Turn 8 and soon made its way onto the start-finish straight. Nerves already through the roof, the MotoGP™ riders were about to tackle a first wet race since the 2018 Valencia GP. For Quartararo, title contender Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and a few others, this was uncharted territory.
And boy, we weren’t disappointed. Petrucci’s victory is something that almost everybody will have at least cracked a smile at as the Italian hushed his doubters. The Bologna bullet rider became the seventh different winner in nine races, joining Quartararo, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3), Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) in achieving 2020 glory. It’s yet more proof that the competition in MotoGP™ is frighteningly close this season, and pretty much anyone – given the right circumstances – can win a race. And to think four of the top eight riders in the Championship haven’t won a race yet – Mir, Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) – it could easily rise to double figures before the years ends in Portimao.
1.2 seconds back from Petrucci was Alex Marquez (Repsol Honda Team). Ride of the day? Absolutely. Ride of the season? Certainly a strong contender. In his first wet MotoGP™ race, the reigning Moto2™ World Champion simply excelled. The number 73 barely put a wheel wrong in a race that you’d forgive anyone for making a mistake in, let alone a rookie. Experienced contenders such as Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) didn't manage to finish a treacherous race. Yet, Marquez managed to claim an astonishing P2 from P18 on the grid, fighting his way past way more experienced riders and looking like he was in his 90th MotoGP™ race, not 9th.
Teammate and eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez would have been proud if he’d have produced a performance like that, so double World Champion Alex Marquez deserves all the plaudits he gets after a terrific Le Mans outing. Both the Spaniard’s and Petrucci’s phenomenal podiums see the rider rostrum tally rise to 15 in 2020 – 15! Nine races into the season and we’ve seen 15 different podium finishers, no one could have thought that – and seven separate winners – was possible ahead of FP1 at the Spanish GP. But it’s happened, and long may it continue.
In terms of the Championship, the gap between first and second may have extended slightly, but the points difference between the top four has closed up again heading into a MotorLand double header. 19 points cover Quartararo, Mir, Dovizioso and Viñales with five races of 2020 remaining. Who dares wins? Trying to predict the outcome of races is now just a complete guessing game. Just when you think a rider is starting to find some consistency, a spanner is thrown in the works. Would Quartararo have won today if the race was dry? He had as good a chance as any, but we’ll never know. Instead, Dovizioso was able to claw back some of the advantage as the other trio suffered in the wet conditions. Mir’s fine run of form comes to an end, but crucially, Quartararo, Mir and Viñales finished the race. Now, it’s all to play for in Aragon.
We would try to predict what’s going to happen in a week’s time in northern Spain, but anything could happen. Cliché to say, but MotoGP™ in 2020 has proved that it’s a genuine fact – anything can and so far, has happened. Big-name injuries, debut victories and podiums, rookie winners, miracle escapes, injury comebacks… you name it, MotoGP™ has experienced it in 2020. It’s just been ridiculous, in mostly good ways.
The stats speak for themselves. After nine races of the 2019 season, Marc Marquez was on 185 points, with Dovizioso and Petrucci sitting on 127 and 121 respectively. All three of those riders were on more points than what Quartararo’s accumulation is this year at the same stage – and Frenchman has won a third of the races. It’s the sort of season that you couldn’t script, and all we can do as fans is sit back and enjoy what’s unfolding before us.
MotorLand Aragon, the spotlight is yours. Give us your best shot.
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