Have Ducati rediscovered their MotorLand mojo?

After a disastrous couple of 2020 races in Aragon, the warmer conditions in 2021 sees the Bologna factory riders rise high on Friday

The 2020 Aragon GP didn’t go quite to plan for Ducati. So, heading to MotorLand Aragon for this year's Gran Premio TISSOT de Aragon, there were plenty of question marks as to how the Bologna factory would get on less than 12 months later.

Jack Miller, Ducati Lenovo Team, Gran Premio TISSOT de Aragón

In the two GPs that were held at MotorLand in 2020, Ducati’s best finish was Johann Zarco’s (Pramac Racing) P5. Andrea Dovizioso, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) and current Tech3 KTM Factory Racing rider Danilo Petrucci were the only other Desmosedici stars to claim a top 10 across the two weekends, with Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) suffering two DNFs. It’s safe to say it wasn’t an enjoyable couple of weeks in northern Spain, but things look to be a whole lot brighter this time around.

A major factor – one that everyone is pleased about – in why Ducati and other manufacturers are feeling more comfortable is the weather. In 2020, we visited Aragon in October, where air temperatures were only just creeping into the 20-degree bracket. Ground temperatures on Sunday at the Aragon GP were 31 degrees, with Sunday at the Teruel GP a week later just 27 degrees. However, this year at the beginning of September, track temperatures were up to a more toasty 44 degrees.


And in said session, Miller came out on top by 0.273s to sit as the rider to beat going into Saturday’s action. MotorLand Aragon is a track the Australian admits he loves and along with Dovizioso in 2019, he bagged a rostrum here.

“As soon as I rolled out of pitlane, I was pleasantly surprised. The grip was there immediately and we were able to push from the get-go,” said Miller, debriefing after his fine Friday efforts. “It’s a lot nicer riding here in these temperatures that what we had last year and no, just enjoying it. The bike, like I said to the boys in the debrief, in the last two corners with the double apex, you can pick up the gas and let’s say in the past we had to manage it quite a lot, whereas now we have a nice consistent gas all the way through and it will keep turning, and it’s not rolling off the edge of the tyre.

“It’s definitely more pleasant to ride around here… Aragon is a track I really enjoy. It’s good to be back here and hopefully we can make up for what we didn’t do here last year.”

Joining Miller in the top six is three more Ducatis in the hands of Zarco, Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) and Bagnaia, the latter looking good despite a crash at Turn 5. All three are less than half a second away from Miller’s blistering lap and are hot on the heels of Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Cal Crutchlow (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) in P2 and P3 respectively. And let’s not forget, it’s crunch time in terms of the Championship chase for Pecco, Zarco and Miller.

Speaking to motogp.com pitlane reporter Simon Crafar in FP1, Ducati Lenovo Team Manager Davide Tardozzi said he wasn’t worried coming to Aragon this year, despite 2020’s disappointment. So really, we shouldn’t be surprised to see the GP21s at the spearhead of the timesheets.

Johann Zarco, Pramac Racing, Gran Premio TISSOT de Aragón

“Aragon it seems is bad for us because last year with the temperature, the low temperature, we had a really big problem, all the Ducatis were last every session,” said Tardozzi. “But if we look further back, in 2019 Dovizioso was second and in 2018, unfortunately Lorenzo had his accident but he was dominating the sessions with Marc Marquez, so he was a win contender.

“I don’t think it’s so bad, I’m not looking at Aragon in a bad way. The think here the fastest rider will be like it is now, Marc Marquez, I think the guy to look at is Marc, but I hope our guys will be there to play for the win and the podium.”

After a crash in FP2, FP1 pacesetter Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) is 0.4s away from Miller though. It’s early doors of course, but the Ducati charge in Aragon looks to be robust with four riders in the top six, and reigning Moto2™ World Champion Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) P10.

An incredibly intriguing FP3 awaits as the riders scrap for automatic Q2 promotion, before FP4 and qualifying then prevail on Saturday afternoon. Can Ducati continue their strong start to the 2021 Aragon GP? Only time will tell.

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