The fourteenth round of the 2019 Moto3 World Championship took place in MotorLand Aragon, as differing fortunes befell the championship contenders, changing the complexion of the points battle ahead of the season’s trip to Asia.
It was the pole sitter, Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) who led the early stages. The Spaniard had a clear pace advantage throughout the lap, but the slipstream in the back straight was enough to keep the pack attached to him, so he couldn’t escape.
This was temporary, though, as fighting between those behind Canet allowed the #44 to break away, and by half race distance he had three seconds on the field.
It was, therefore, a race for second in the final part, and that was a fight contested between eight riders. As the race drew on it became clear who the main contenders for the podium would be: Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0), John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing), Dennis Foggia (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia) all looking strong.
As they moved onto the final lap, there was a breakaway trio of Ogura, Foggia and Lopez, although fighting between Foggia and Ogura, as well as a strong first half of the lap for McPhee, allowed the group to close up again halfway round the lap.
It was Foggia who entered the back straight first, handing the slipstream to those behind. Although it seemed a strange decision for Foggia to decide to lead when he had the option to trail Ogura onto the back straight, it made sense because Ogura’s speed through the middle part of the lap was strong, so hanging on to get the tow would be difficult. Therefore, Foggia’s best hope of second place was to lead, but the slipstream was enough to bring Ogura alongside into turn sixteen, and the Japanese was able to out-brake the Italian and hold the line on the inside, allowing no option of response for Foggia.
Alonso Lopez, having missed out on a home GP podium in Jerez last year due to track limits violations and another in Barcelona this year when Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) passed him in the final corner, was desperate to make the rostrum. He was very late on the brakes into the final corner, but he nearly hit Foggia, and had to correct his line to avoid the #7, which took him out of the battle.
On the inside of all of this was John McPhee, who had lost his left knee slider earlier in the race which was especially compromising in Aragon, since MotorLand is very much anti-clockwise. Missing the knee slider compromised McPhee’s feel in the left handers, so to even be in the podium fight was impressive. Lopez running wide to avoid Foggia granted McPhee fourth place, but he was unable to do anything about either Foggia or Ogura, and so had to settle for the wooden spoon.
Aron Canet crossed the line 4.581 seconds ahead of this battle, which critically did not include either Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) or Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers), the two riders with whom Canet is fighting for the championship. This meant that the victory brought Canet to within two points of the championship lead, a polarisation of the previous week when he was forced to retire in Misano with mechanical problems. There is no better way Canet could wish to enter the Asian tour of the World Championship.
For Ogura and Foggia, the podium represented two different things. For Ogura, the first top three on a Sunday in the World Championship, his first piece of silverware from a Grand Prix, and the result of a fantastic rookie season in which he has fought in the front group many times. On the contrary, for Foggia, the podium represents a return to form, the realisation of his potential in a season which has been quite difficult and where he has played second-best to his rookie teammate, Vietti, on many occasions.
John McPhee’s ride to fourth was quite special considering the limitations he faced in the numerous and dominating left handers in MotorLand, and with Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) crashing out and Niccolo Antonelli (SIC 58 Squadra Corse) sitting this round out due to injury, it was enough for the #17 to climb to fourth in the championship.
Fifth place went to Lopez, who missed the podium this time by less than two tenths. It is becoming quite difficult to continue to watch him come so close to home GP podiums, only to miss out by the smallest of margins. Fortunately for the #21, he is Spanish, so still has one more chance at a home rostrum this year when he arrives in Valencia for the final round.
Sixth place went to last week’s winner, Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC 58 Squadra Corse), ahead of a resurgent Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0), the rookie having a superb ride from twenty-ninth to seventh. In eighth was Albert Arenas (Gaviota Angel Nieto Team), ahead of Gabriel Rodrigo (Kommerling Gresini Moto3) and Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers), the Italian making the same tyre gamble as Ogura – choosing the hard rear compound – but unable to make the same use of it as the Japanese rookie, instead completing the top ten.
Lorenzo Dalla Porta crossed the line tenth, but a track limits violation on the final lap – for the second time in seven days – cost him one position, meaning the Italian is classified eleventh at the end of a difficult race and tough weekend for the championship leader, who at least retains some advantage ahead of Thailand in two weeks.
Wildcard and front row starter Carlos Tatay (Fundacion Andreas Perez 77) could not convert his starting position, and finished twelfth – nonetheless a milestone weekend for the Spaniard, one week on from clinching the Red Bull Rookies crown. Ayumu Sasaki (Petronas Sprinta Racing) finished thirteenth ahead of Celestino Vietti, who has suffered this weekend with pain after his involvement in the crash in Misano took Niccolo Antonelli out of action this weekend, and Jakub Kornfeil (Redox PruestelGP) who took the final point after starting from the head of the front row.
Andrea Migno (WWR) finished sixteenth, ahead of Darryn Binder (CIP Green Power), Filip Salac (Redox PruestelGP), wildcard Gerard Riu Male (Baiko Racing Team) and Romano Fenati’s replacement at VNE Snipers, Julian Jose Garcia, who completed the top twenty on his Grand Prix debut.
Raul Fernandez (Gaviota Angel Nieto Team) was twenty-first in a disappointing race for the reigning Moto3 Junior World Champion. Behind him were Niccolo Antonelli’s replacement at SIC 58 Squadra Corse, Davide Pizzoli; Stefano Nepa (Reale Avintia Arizona 77); Can Oncu’s replacement at Red Bull KTM Ajo, Deniz Oncu; Kazuki Masaki (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race), Riccardo Rossi (Kommerling Gresini Moto3), the injured Tom Booth-Amos (CIP Green Power) and Makar Yurchenko (BOE Skull Rider Mugen Race) who was the final classified rider in twenty-eighth.
There were only two retirements in the Moto3 race in Aragon: Jaume Masia (WWR) and Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing).
Featured image courtesy of Gold and goose/KTM