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Ahead of another critical MotoGP™ race weekend, Championship frontrunners and riders aiming to close the gap were chatting in the Gran Premio Michelin® de Aragon pre-event Press Conference – the first of two races at the majestic MotorLand Aragon. Title race leader Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) was joined by nearest rival Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Le Mans winner Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), Repsol Honda Team’s Alex Marquez and Moto3™ World Championship leader Albert Arenas (Solunion Aspar Team Moto3), previewing the weekend that lies in wait.
The MotorLand Aragon double header races are the most important of the season yet. Leaving Alcañiz with two good results under your belt, heading into the final three races of the season, is going to be at the forefront of all the riders’ minds. None more so that Championship leader Quartararo and current second place man Mir, who are separated by just 10 points. With Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) and Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) both within 19 points of the top, most eyes will understandably on these four as they sit as current favourites for the crown. With that being said, is Aragon the last chance for the ‘outsiders’ to bring themselves into the title frame?
Pol Espargaro now has three podiums in 2020 after his sublime Le Mans wet weather ride. The Spaniard sits P8 in the overall standings but that doesn’t paint the full story, with Espargaro only 42 points off the lead. Sounds like a lot, but with 50 points up for grabs across the next two weekends, a slip up for any of the leading four and another podium or two for the KTM star brings him right into contention.
“This year has been unpredictable for all of us, but KTM even more,” said Pol Espargaro. “Our previous years were not as good as this year for sure and we are ding results that we don’t expect. We understand why they’re coming but not 100% because this year the tyres are changing a lot and also the conditions of the track. So, we are trying to manage where the level of our bike is because it’s performing much better than what we expect.
“Hopefully this weekend will be one of the weekends where we fight for something great, but we need to wait, especially with the front tyre performance. With the cold conditions, I think we can play with the medium tyre which is amazing for us and we can take profit but if we need to play with the soft one, maybe we will miss some performance on the front and not take full profit from our bike. Let’s see how the weekend starts, I really hope for a good weekend, if we do a good result here and in the second Aragon then why not fight for something interesting at the end of the year.”
That last quote is the most interesting one. The riders who aren’t considered to be in title contention – of course – still believe that there is a chance. It’s MotoGP™ in 2020 after all and a rider who currently isn’t inside the top four taking the crown is by no means out of the equation. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT), Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) and Pol Espargaro all sit on at least 73 points, Quartararo is on 115. You have to think if they’re going to close the gap though, then the Aragon encounters are the last chance.
Miller grabbed a podium at MotorLand in 2019, and it’s a track that suits the Ducati – the 986 metre straight is Desmosedici territory. In the hands of Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and Dani Pedrosa, Honda have also gone well at Aragon. Step forward Nakagami, the only rider to finish inside the top 10 in every race so far in 2020 and a rider that has been close to a podium finish on numerous occasions this year. 34 points separate the Japanese rider and Quartararo, by no means an impossible task, especially with Aragon not typically suiting the Yamaha’s characteristics.
The top four in the Championship standings are understandably being tipped for glory. But there’s a handful – if not more – riders who will still have a say in this title race, one way or another. Is the Aragon double header the last chance for the ‘outsiders’ to get themselves into the 2020 Championship frame? Probably. What we do know is there are five races to go, and there’s going to be several twists and turns to come yet.