Motorsport / 23 September 2018, 4:29pm / Motoring Staff
Alcaniz, Spain – South Africa’s Brad Binder produced a brilliant performance on the factory KTM to take his second Moto2 victory of the season at Motorland Aragon, while Marc Marquez took a hard-fought win from Andrea Dovizioso in the premier class MotoGP race.
Steven Odendaal brought the underdeveloped NTS home a well-earned 18th in Moto2, but Sheridan Morais’ ride on the Willi Race Kalex ended in retirement after just three laps, and Binder’s younger brother Darryn battled home 18th in Moto3 after a difficult weekend in Aragon.
Factory Honda star Marc Marquez continued to assert his authority on the 2018 MotoGP world championship after a ferocious race-long fight with Ducati Team’s Andrea Dovizioso, with Andrea Iannone posting Suzuki’s first ever podium finish at Aragon.
Jorge Lorenzo on the second Ducati Team machine snatched pole from team-mate Dovizioso and Honda rival Marquez on Saturday, but after Marquez pulled a superb start from third on the grid and dived up the inside to grab the hole shot, both he and Lorenzo ran wide, and Lorenzo high-sided out of the race contention, suffering a dislocated toe in the process.
The first-corner drama put Dovizioso into the lead, with Marquez slotting into second ahead of the two fast-starting Suzukis of Iannone and Alex Rins. Dovizioso then settled into a rhythm and controlled the pace, ahead of a five-way fight for second that included Dani Pedrosa on the second factory Honda and Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro.
Honda privateer Cal Crutchlow came up to join the back of the leading group after he lost out on the opening lap from a second-row start, only crash out at Turn 1 on lap five.
Rins was now looking menacing behind Marquez, shadowing numerous overtaking attempts into the first corner as both Suzukis kept tabs on the leading pair. By lap 11, Dovizioso, Marquez, Rins and Iannone had edged out a two-second gap to Pedrosa and Espargaro – and then, almost as if somebody had flicked a switch, Dovizioso turned up the turned up the wick and posted the fastest lap of the race.
Marquez responded to stay with the Ducati as they broke clear of the Suzukis, and dived past Dovizioso at Turn 12 on lap 14. Two laps later Dovizioso got the drive up the hill to duck under Marquez at Turn 4, only for the Honda rider to immediately respond up the inside at Turn 5, with Dovizioso biting straight back at Turn 7.
This allowed Iannone to close the gap, but Marquez pounced again at Turn 12 on lap 19, only to run wide, allowing Dovizioso to stuff the Ducati up the inside at Turn 14. Marquez tried his best to hold the position but he found himself out on the Astroturf; he cut back to get the inside line before the back straight, with Dovizioso chopping back underneath at Turn 15.
At which point Iannone took the outside route around Marquez to take a the lead for a brief moment, but couldn’t match the straight-line speed of the Honda and the Ducati down to Turn 16.
Lap 21 saw Marquez make the race-defining move at Turn 5, and the reigning world champion held on to the flag to take a third consecutive win at Aragon and equal Mike Hailwood’s win tally of 41 for Honda. Dovizioso settled for second to equal Casey Stoner’s Grand Prix podium count, with Iannone earning his third podium of the year.
Fourth was Rins who played his part in a classic race on home soil, with Pedrosa scoring his first top five finish since the Catalan Grand Prix, while Espargaro came home sixth to post Aprilia’s best result of the season.
Pramac Ducati satellite rider Danilo Petrucci was seventh, less than a second ahead of Yamaha veteran Valentino Rossi as ‘The Doctor’ produced a solid comeback ride from 17th on the grid, passing Jack Miller on the second Pramac Ducati in the closing stages while Rossi’s team-mate Maverick Vinales rounded out the top 10 – not the result he would have been looking for on home soil.
Binder got off to a great start and led the opening exchanges ahead of Alex Marquez, who came up to second from fourth on the grid, with champion leader Francesco Bagnaia slotting into fourth before overtaking Marcel Schrotter. Marquez then sliced his way through to the lead on lap three to lead his home Grand Prix as the leading trio tried to break away from the chasing Lorenzo Baldassarri and Schrotter.
But Baldassarri was reeling them in as Marquez’ pace at the front started to slow, bringing him under attack from Binder and Bagnaia. Then Binder ran wide into Turn 16 at the end of the back straight on lap 13. Bagnaia held the tighter racing line as Binder started to cut back and Bagnaia banged into the side of Binder’s KTM in a heart-in-the-mouth moment that cost Bagnaia the place. But Binder continued to lock horns with Marquez and after two failed attempts he made a move into Turn 12 on lap 15 that stuck, although the two banged fairings on the exit.
From there on Binder couldn’t be stopped and he went on to claim his second Moto2 win, while Bagnaia finally got past Baldassarri on lap 17 when he went wide at Turn 3 before getting the better of Marquez to take second, and a 19 point lead in the standing.
Baldassarri and Marquez got into a huge fight for the final podium spot on the penultimate lap, finishing less than a quarter of a second apart with Baldassarri in front when it mattered.
Fifth was Schrotter, a slightly disappointing 5.8s off the pace after he showed great promise throughout the weekend, with Joan Mir taking sixth after starting 15th - a great ride from the reigning Moto3 world champion.
Seventh was Binder’s works KTM team-mate Miguel Oliveira, who also produced a comeback ride after starting 18th, and Mattia Pasini got the better of Fabio Quartararo (Speed Up) for eighth, while Jorge Navarro recovered from a bad start to round out the top 10.
There was no stopping Jorge Martin (Honda) as he produced a master-class ride to take his sixth win of the season, extending his championship lead over second place finisher Marco Bezzecchi (KTM) to 13 points with Enea Bastianini (Honda) completing the podium.
Martin started from pole in front of his home fans and got the perfect launch heading into Turn 1, with Bezzecchi having to start from 18th after being hit with a 12-place penalty for slow riding in qualifying. The hole shot became a 1.6 second lead by the end of the lap one, a gap that would continue to increase as Martin laid down impressively consistent lap times.
Behind him, in a pack of more than 20 riders covered by less than five seconds, Bezzecchi was on the charge, moving up to second on lap five - but by this time his main championship rival was four seconds up the road and disappearing into the distance.
Nevertheless, the battle for second raged on with Bastianini, Fabio Di Giannantonio (Honda), Albert Arenas (KTM) and Marcos Ramirez (KTM) all taking turns at the front of the pack, but Bezzecchi, who at one stage was pushed down to ninth, was able to bring the KTM home in second, salvaging the best possible result - 18th to 2nd, nothing short of superb.
Bastianini also produced a stunning comeback from 15th to hold onto third at the line, with Di Giannantonio fourth, and Ramirez rounding out the top five on home soil.
Tatsuki Suzuki (Honda) was in the mix throughout the race and finished sixth, posting his best result since his fifth at the Catalan GP, while Arenas lost out on the final lap as he went in search of his first podium since his Le Mans victory and cam home seventh. Adam Norrodin (Honda) made a brilliant return to the top 10 in eighth after battling with the frontrunners, finishing just ahead of Jaume Masia, who put in a brave ride after a heavy crash in warm-up, while John McPhee (KTM) completed the top 10.