Round 14 is the final race of the MotoGP’s main European season, with the excitement building before they all head off for three fly-aways, with Japan and Malaysia on either side of the annual get-together at Phillip Island.
Valentino Rossi and his Yamaha arrive in Spain with a 23-point lead in the main game, Johann Zarco gets his first chance to clinch the Moto2 title, and Enia Bastianini will be looking to delay Danny Kent’s triumphant march towards the Moto3 crown, so there is a great deal going on at the 5.077-km, 17-corner Spanish track in northern Spain.
Can Rossi’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo pick himself up, metaphorically as well as literally, after his dramatic crash at Misano last time out?
‘I didn’t have the patience,’ said the rueful Spaniard after trying too hard on rear tyres that weren’t quite up to racing temperature. ‘But we have to take the positives in terms of my feeling with the bike, the competitivity of the Yamaha and my speed on the bike which is fantastic. We can be competitive enough to fight for the win in all the tracks and in Aragon I will be 100%.’
Rossi himself comes away from Misano with mixed feelings. Yes, he’s still in the lead – but Misano was his first time off the podium this year, coming home in fifth, Aragon last year was the last time he posted a DNF – and it’s one of only two tracks where the Italian veteran has yet to win in the senior class.
No such qualms for Marc Marquez: the Misano victor calls this ‘my favourite track of the year’, and the 2015 event sees the young Spaniard gunning for his 50th Grand Prix victory across all classes. He may be 63 points behind Rossi but you can’t see him easing off the throttle just yet…
Elsewhere in the field, Bradley Smith comes to Aragon on a high after finishing second at Misano on the Tech 3 Yamaha. The Englishman is top of the satellite standings ahead of Pramac Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci and was fifth at Aragon last year.
Even higher on the adrenaline rush from Misano is Frenchman Loris Baz, who has stood by the Forward Racing Yamaha squad despite the team’s roller-coaster financial ride this year and saw his courage rewarded with a fine fourth place in Italy.
‘We know that normally every season when you don’t have the best bike you always get your opportunity to show your skill in the wet,’ he said after mastering the tricky Misano conditions. Baz tops the Open standings by a slender five-point margin from Hector Barbera, and has a great incentive to go faster this weekend: a new team-mate of his own.
That’s Toni Elias, the former Moto2 world champion who comes back in place of Claudio Corti for the remainder of the season. The Spaniard raced earlier in the year at Indianapolis on the AB Motoracing Honda, finishing 22nd and last, but is relishing the chance to be reunited with the outfit he first raced for on a Yamaha in the top flight back in `05.
‘The goal is to work hard and enjoy the ride,’ says Elias, who is now 32. ‘The results will come. I am very motivated and enthusiastic.’
That’s not the only rider change: down in Moto2 Aussie Ant West has lost his ride with the QMMF Racing team, where his place on the Speed Up goes to Finnish veteran Mika Kallio. West had accumulated 30 points this season with a best finish of seventh in the US and Great Britain.
It’s the 100th race in Moto2 history this weekend (already!), and only one rider has competed in all previous 99: Switzerland’s Dominique Aegerter, who is unlikely to be in the hunt for that prestigious #100 in Aragon.
Frenchman Johann Zarco gets his first crack at sealing the middle-class title this weekend, and if he does it with a victory he will be the first man in the category to win four on the trot since… Toni Elias back in the category’s first season in 2010.
Not since the first race of the year has Zarco been off the Moto2 podium; his comfortable 93-point margin means that if he wins and Rabat is anywhere other than second, Zarco will take the Spaniard’s title from him.
Down in Moto3, Bastianini claimed his maiden GP victory in Italy last time out on the Gresini Honda and is looking to consolidate that form at Aragon. He’s 55 points adrift of Briton Danny Kent, the Leopard Racing Honda rider who was third at this track last season and this time goes in search of his seventh win of the year.
The three world championship races at Sachsenring will be held over the following distances and times:
• MotoGP: 23 laps starting at 10:00pm AEST
• Moto2: 21 laps starting a 8:20pm AEST
• Moto3: 20 laps starting at 7:00pm AEST