The MotoGP World Championship returns to Spain this weekend as the Gran Premio de Aragón hosts Round 14 of the 2011 campaign, the penultimate European race of the season before what is certain to be a title-deciding flyaway series in Japan, Australia and Malaysia. The impressive MotorLand Aragón circuit, which was only introduced to the calendar last season and was voted IRTA ‘Best Grand Prix’ of 2010 at its first attempt, will welcome the premier class once more in what will be another important development in the race for this year’s Championship title.
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) remains 35 points clear at the top of the standings after finishing third in Misano, where Jorge Lorenzo took his third victory of the season. Catching Stoner remains a tough challenge for Lorenzo but the defending World Champion’s determination remains steely with five rounds of the campaign remaining, and this weekend will provide an intriguing latest chapter as Stoner won on the Ducati at Aragón last year whilst Lorenzo placed fourth on the M1.
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) remains in third position in the standings, with almost 40 points either side of him to Lorenzo in second and team-mate Dani Pedrosa in fourth. The Italian has finished fifth in the previous two races and will be eager to return to contention for podium positions, with Pedrosa keen to continue his recent form of four rostrum finishes in the past five races – the latest in Misano was his 95th GP podium.
Just two points separate Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) and Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) in fifth and sixth respectively, the American with his sights set on adding to the three podiums he has so far amassed in his first season on the factory team. Rossi comes into Round 14 off the back of a seventh-placed finish in his home race at Misano, a race followed up by a private Ducati test in which he checked out the latest developments on next year’s Desmosedici at Mugello.
Rossi’s team-mate Nicky Hayden’s last two races have ended in disappointing style for the American and he will hope to replicate last year’s Aragón podium result, and Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) will expect to be fighting at the front once more. Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) is in line to start his 150th premier class Grand Prix, which will make him only the eighth rider in history to do so.
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Gresini Honda), Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) and Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) all continue to make progress in their second seasons in the premier class, rookies Karel Abraham (Cardion ab Motoracing) and Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) will visit the track for the first time on MotoGP machinery, and Toni Elías (LCR Honda), Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) and Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing) will each target improvements.
This weekend will also be a special one for De Puniet who is scheduled to make his 100th MotoGP start, making him the first French rider to do so.
The Moto2 class continues to deliver a thrilling spectacle this season as the gap between Championship leader Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) and Marc Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) gets ever closer. Following the Misano one-two last time out in which Márquez took victory ahead of Bradl the margin between the pair now stands at 23 points with five rounds left in which to decide the 2011 title, starting this weekend at Aragón.
Bradl, whose last victory came at Silverstone in Round 6, has maintained his lead by virtue of his impressive consistency in finishing on the podium, although Márquez’s fearsome form of five wins in the last six races has rocketed the rookie towards the top of the standings where he is now challenging his more experienced rival. The 2010 125cc World Champion will hope to benefit this weekend from a three-day private test undertaken at Valencia, which he completed following the Misano round.
Whilst the focus inevitably remains on the top two as the fight for the 2011 title heats up, there is also a close scrap unfolding for third position with Andrea Iannone (Speed Master), Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2), Bradley Smith (Tech 3 Racing), Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project) and Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) within 16 points of one another going into Round 13.
Iannone won last year’s race at Aragón and his recent rediscovered form has seen him take a victory (Brno) and third (Misano) in the last three rounds. De Angelis and Smith have also been challenging at the front and will be confident of mounting a push for a rostrum result this weekend.
Aragón produced a podium result for Julián Simón (Mapfre Aspar) last season and as the Spaniard continues to work his way back from injury he will be focused on a strong display this weekend, likewise the impressive progress being made by Moto2 rookie Esteve Rabat (Blusens-STX) has seen the youngster climb to ninth in the standings.
British rider Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing) has made significant improvements in the last two rounds, taking top-five finishes at Indy and Misano, whilst Yonny Hernández (Blusens-STX) has been given the go-ahead to ride after missing the last two rounds through injury. Kenan Sofuoglu’s (Technomag-CIP) return from injury remains unconfirmed as the Turkish rider continues to recover from injuries to his right foot.
This weekend will also see the return to World Championship action of Elena Rosell as a wild card entry for the Mapfre Aspar team, the QMMF Racing Team also has Polish rider Mateusz Korobacz lined up to ride and Spanish Joan Olivé joins the Aeroport de Castelló team for this and the remaining four rounds of the season.
Back-to-back wins in the last two rounds of the 125cc World Championship have seen Nico Terol (Bankia Aspar) stretch his lead at the top of the standings to 31 points, and the Spaniard enters this weekend’s Gran Premio de Aragón keen to further extend his advantage.
Victory for Terol in the previous round at Misano came after it seemed certain that Johann Zarco (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) was about to claim his first GP win, but the Spaniard snatched the win on the drive to the finish line to take his seventh win of 2011 and leave his rival frustrated by a fifth second-placed finish of the year.
It is the Frenchman whom Terol leads in the Championship and with five rounds – including Aragón – remaining Zarco will know the importance of finishing ahead of his rival this weekend.
Just a single point stands between Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing) and Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) in third and fourth places respectively, and there is an identical difference between Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) and Héctor Faubel who are further back in fifth and sixth.
Spaniards Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo), Sergio Gadea (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing) and Luis Salom (RW Racing) will all be chasing strong results in another home GP, and British rookie Danny Kent (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) currently completes the top ten in what is an impressive debut season.
Three wild card riders will also compete in the 125s this weekend with Spaniards Josep Rodrigues (Wild Wolf – RACC) and Pedro Rodríguez (Turismo de Aragón – DVJ) and German Kevin Hanus (Team Hanusch) riding.
The Gran Premio de Aragón gets underway at 9.15am local time on Friday September 16th, when the 125cc class starts the first free practice session.
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