Motorcycle racing is the cruelest form of addiction. What racers need to feed their habit is to win, but winning is hard, one of the hardest things of all. To do so, you have to go beyond yourself, push beyond your limits, exceed what you thought was possible.
That creates a paradox: if you want to win a championship, sometimes you have to accept you can’t win a race. Too much of that servility, though, and ambition will chafe at the bit. The temptation to have a go is hard to resist, with the risk of ending in gravelly ignominy.
That has been the fate of Marc Márquez so far this season. Wins have been few this season, just three in thirteen races. Even podiums have eluded him, Márquez ending off the box in three of the last four races. There is only so much a young man bursting with ambition can take.
That ambition looks set to burst forth at Aragon. If Misano was a track which Marc Márquez had marked down as a place he could risk losing a lot of points, he had comforted himself with the thought that Aragon followed.
Aragon is a Honda track, a Márquez track even. It is a track where he has won. But also a track where he has crashed trying to win.
Could there be a ninth winner in nine MotoGP races? On Thursday, the massed ranks of MotoGP riders had elected Andrea Dovizioso for the role.
“I’m happy they said my name,” Dovizioso told us journalists on Friday, “but they have put a lot of pressure on me. Because I have to win this race, and today wasn’t the best day for me to try to think about winning…”
The Ducati rider had struggled with a lack of grip on the track, adding to the fact that this is not a great track for Dovizioso.
“This track doesn’t have the best characteristic for my style,” he said. Dovizioso’s strength lies in hard braking and quick turning, and there is not enough of that to suit the Italian. Add low grip to that, and he faces an uphill struggle.
Dovizioso also faces Aragon with a new teammate. Andrea Iannone has once again been forced to withdraw, the T3 vertebra he injured at Misano causing him too much pain to continue. He could manage three or four laps, before needing to return to the pits and get some rest.
With 22 laps coming up on Sunday, Iannone quickly understood that would be too much. Michele Pirro was already on standby, and once FP1 made it clear that Iannone would not be able to ride, Ducati’s test rider was put on the bike.
Is there such a thing as momentum in sports? Athletes – that includes MotoGP racers, who are in peak physical condition and should be considered as such – believe strongly in momentum. Statisticians disagree.
Momentum exists for as long as a team or an athlete keeps winning, or achieving success. Once they stop, then the momentum is gone. But there is never an explanation for why they lose it, and why something tagged as momentum should so suddenly disappear.
Whatever statistics may say, if athletes believe momentum exists, then momentum matters. And if there was a moment when momentum matters, it is going into the three-race flyaways.
After Sunday night, the MotoGP grid faces a brief break, and then three races in three weekends with long flights in between. It is the toughest part of the MotoGP schedule, and it helps to go into it with a strong mindset.
A good result on Sunday will help a lot in that respect. If that is what momentum is, then momentum matters.
The MotoGP paddock will see the return of Nicky Hayden, albeit only for a solitary round, as the American will substitute at the Aragon GP for the still recovering Jack Miller.
Some fans may be surprised to learn that Hayden almost replaced at the British GP at Silverstone, with the World Superbike rider instructed to bring his leathers to England, just in case Jack Miller was deemed unfit to ride.
That chance ultimately didn’t materialize for Hayden, but with Miller sitting out the San Marino GP, again to nurture his hand injury, there again is a need for Hayden to pack his leathers, and head to the MotoGP paddock.
Releasing a press release today, the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Racing team has confirmed Nicky Hayden as replacing Jack Miller for the Spanish round at Motorland Aragon.
The KTM RC16 MotoGP project showed good pace this week in Austria, at the Red Bull Ring and in the hands of test riders Mika Kallio and Thomas Luthi. The Austrian factory might have a home-field advantage, but it certainly gained some praise from the MotoGP paddock.
And while the KTM RC16 will make its formal public debut during the Austrian GP, with a parade lap and display, it has been confirmed that we’ll see the MotoGP race in anger at the last MotoGP race of the season, the Valencia GP.