4 weeks ago
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Coming into the Gran Premio Liqui Moly de Teruel and over the last couple of races, both Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) have been asked whether they are going to help their teammates try and win the 2020 MotoGP™ World Championship title race. The answer was yes, but only when they’re out of contention. On Sunday at MotorLand Aragon, Morbidelli and Rins probably ensured that question isn’t going to be asked in Valencia as they brought themselves right into the Championship frame.
Morbidelli’s second victory of 2020 was much like his first: lead from the get-go and never look back. After Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) suddenly tucked the front at Turn 5 on the opening lap, Morbidelli was left with clear air to get his head down. That’s exactly what the Italian did and the San Marino GP winner didn’t relinquish the lead from Turn 5 to the chequered flag. It was yet another faultless display of riding from 25-year-old, who finished 14 seconds up the road from the next best Yamaha rider.
That was Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) in P6. Both the Spaniard and former Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) failed to mount any sort of challenge for the podium places in Teruel, the Frenchman finishing half a second behind Viñales and both slip further adrift from title leader Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). Now, after Morbidelli’s victory, the three Yamahas are split by just 11 points in 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the overall standings.
It's a similar story for Rins. 45 points from a possible 50 at MotorLand Aragon has seen the Spaniard soar into title contention, the number 42 now 32 off teammate Mir. With this kind of form heading to Valencia, now three podiums in the last four races, Rins has to be considered as a serious threat. The Suzuki is on song, Rins is seemingly pretty much over his shoulder worries and the pressure isn’t going to be on the 11-time MotoGP™ podium finisher – yet.
It’s fair to say, especially before the first Aragon showdown, that both Morbidelli and Rins were outsiders. Not now though. But both have endured their fair share of bad luck in 2020 too. Rins’ injury in Jerez and Morbidelli’s involvement in the outrageously scary Red Bull Ring crash immediately spring to mind, with Morbidelli also having an engine failure in Jerez while on for a podium. Bad luck, yes. But this is bike racing and this is MotoGP™, luck – good and bad – is part of the game. The duo will probably rue certain things if the title is narrowly missed, but all they’ll be doing at this moment in time is looking ahead.
And looking ahead to Valencia for another double-header at the same circuit, Rins and Morbidelli – along with Mir – carry the most momentum. Both ripped the competition apart in Teruel and it really is all to play for at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo and in Portimao. 25 points is Morbidelli’s deficit with 75 left on the table, 32 is Rins’. Both are title contenders, both as hungry as anyone to take the coveted crown.
The top 14 in the Championship – Mir to Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) – are still mathematically in with a shout at the title. Six riders have emerged as the frontrunners though; Rins and Morbidelli joining Mir, Quartararo, Viñales and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) on +100 points. Who wins from here is anyone’s guess, but you wouldn't be a fool to place your faith in Rins or Morbidelli.
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