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Chaotic race at Aragon

Moto GP 2014

maddix park mx

Click for Rossi's crash

A remarkable number of firsts were achieved during this year’s chaotic MotoGP race at Aragon after late race rains arrived. Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo took his first race win of the year, giving Yamaha its first GP victory at the Spanish circuit. NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Aleix Espargaro nabbed his first premier-class podium in second, marking the first time an Open class entry has finished in the top-three. Ducati’s Cal Crutchlow got his first podium of the year in third, his best result to-date aboard the Italian machine.

Off the start results like this seemed far-fetched at best. Pramac Ducati’s Andrea Iannone pushed his way to the front in the opening turns followed by the regular lead-pack players; Lorenzo, his teammate Valentino Rossi and Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa all running within the top six during the initial rotations. Marquez moved past Iannone for the lead entering Lap 2 and Iannone put up a spirited fight through the subsequent corners. The Ducati rider’s luck ran out later in the lap, his front end getting out of control and forcing him to stand up. He ran off into the grass and immediately dropped the bike, going into a tumble that forced him out of competition.

Following Iannone’s incident it was Marquez, Lorenzo, Pedrosa and Rossi through four with Tech 3 Yamaha’s Pol Espargaro, Crutchlow’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso, LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, Crutchlow and Go & Fun Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista through the number nine spot.

Three laps in Rossi’s hope for a second consecutive win was dashed, the Doctor suffering a nasty off after running out of track while taking a wide line around Pedrosa. Rossi went down hard, track officials having to carry him off on a stretcher. Here’s what Michele Zasa, Clinica Moble Medical Director, said in a Movistar Yamaha press release regarding Rossi’s condition:

“Valentino suffered a concussion with a suspected loss of consciousness. From a neurological point of view he has recovered very well. He was taken to hospital in Alcaniz to make a further check, in particular a CT scan of the skull that has ruled out any bleeding in the brain. As a precaution he will be observed in the coming hours, but there are no special reasons for concern.”

On track the battle continued, with things settling down for a period as Marquez led Lorenzo and Pedrosa for a number of laps. Dovi was fighting with Pol Espargaro for fourth-place further back, but a mistake by Espargaro let Dovi slip by easily. 
Eight laps into the race Lorenzo made his first move on Marquez for the lead, making it stick for handful of laps before the defending champion answered back. With 12 to go and Marquez back at the front, spots of rain began to show and officials brought out the white flag. No one chose to swap bikes just then however, as track conditions remained stable. 

Marquez and Lorenzo had a back-and-forth tussle through the next four laps as the rains became heavier. Pedrosa entered the fray as well, dropping Lorenzo down to third with eight to go. Riders throughout the ranks held back from pitting for a bike swap as long as they could, but with six laps remaining conditions were bad enough for the first competitor, Aleix Espargaro, to go for his wet condition set-up.

Others followed soon after, but not Marquez, Pedrosa or Lorenzo. The three riders blew past the pit lane entrance lap after lap as the track became more and more saturated. With four to go Lorenzo had had enough and opted to turn in for a bike change, but the two Repsol riders continued to battle for the lead. This proved disastrous for both, with Pedrosa crashing hard soon after Lorenzo went in, dropping him well outside the top-10 by the time he’d rejoined with wet tires. 

Marquez continued to push on, but only briefly, the conditions finally taking their toll on the defending champ as well. The Spaniard held desperately to the handlebars as he and the machine slid into the gravel and when they finally came to a stop he frantically tried to right the bike and return to the track. Officials ran over to help, and soon he was slowly rolling through the final corners, entering pit lane with two laps remaining for his second bike. He hopped from one bike to the other and sped off, but had nowhere near enough time to recover the positions he’d lost.

Lorenzo, meanwhile, was untouchable at the front after Marquez’s off, crossing the line over 10 seconds ahead of Espargaro. Here’s how the Mallrocan explained his race in a team PR:

“I made a really good start, my first lap was very good and I kept at the wheel of Marc. The bike was working very well and Marc was a little bit slower than in practice so I could stay with him and I passed him one or two times. The problem was it was spitting, so I didn't have much confidence, I was very careful and the others were going away in front. Andrea was catching me and I thought I was going to be fighting for third or fourth position. But finally I had an intuition; every lap I felt the spotting was coming worse and it was very dangerous and easy to crash. When I saw Marc and Dani keeping on racing and without going into the pits in the last corner, I said ok, I will take a risk and enter. I changed the bike, the new tires were very difficult to warm up, not so much grip but I tried to be very focused and not make many mistakes. When I passed the board on the straight I was in fourth position so I thought we are going to finish very far but then the next lap I was first! I was surprised; I didn't expect to be first. Having this victory is a great relief for me after so many months of challenges and fights so I’m very proud.”

While Lorenzo coasted home to his unexpected victory, Espargaro and Crutchlow battled to the line for second. The Ducati rider was strong in the difficult conditions and closed up on Espargaro during the final stages. Powering out of the final corner the two were side-by-side, making slight contact at one point as they throttled ahead. At the checkers the Forward Racing rider got Crutchlow by a fraction of a second.

Bradl took fourth followed by Pol Espargaro’s teammate, Bradley Smith, in fifth and Pol in sixth. Bautista crossed the line in seventh with Drive M7 Aspar’s Hiroshi Aoyama and Nicky Hayden grabbing eighth and ninth, respectively. Bautista’s teammate, Scott Redding, finished 10th. Marquez and Pedrosa both successfully swapped bikes and finished as well, with Marquez taking 13th and Pedrosa 14th. Dovi, earlier in contention for a top-five result, crashed out late in the race and took a DNF.

Despite his late crash and low scoring finish, Marquez gained slightly on his closest rivals in the overall standings. Pedrosa lost one point to his teammate and is now 75 points behind the leader in second-place. Rossi remains third after taking a zero for the round. Lorenzo gained significant ground in fourth and is now well within reach of contending with Rossi and Pedrosa for a top-three position, but he still sits 90 points adrift of Marquez.

MotoGP Aragon Results 2014 
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 
2. Aleix Espargaro (Forward Yamaha) 
3. Cal Crutchlow (Ducati) 
4. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 
5. Bradley Smith (Yamaha) 
6. Pol Espargaro (Yamaha) 
7. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 
8. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 
9. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 
10. Scott Redding (Honda) 
11. Danilo Petrucci (ART) 
12. Alex De Angelis (Forward Yamaha) 
13. Marc Marquez (Honda) 
14. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 
15. Yonny Hernandez (Ducati) 
16. Michael Laverty (PBM) 
17. Mike Di Meglio (Avintia) 
18. Broc Parkes (PBM) 
19. Hector Barbera (Ducati)

MotoGP Championship Points 2014 
1. Marc Marquez, 292 
2. Dani Pedrosa, 217 
3. Valentino Rossi, 214 
4. Jorge Lorenzo, 202 
5. Andrea Dovizioso, 142 
6. Aleix Espargaro, 112 
7. Pol Espargaro, 108 
8. Andrea Iannone, 92 
9. Stefan Bradl, 87 
10. Bradley Smith, 85

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