ALCANIZ, Spain, Sep 24 – Marc Marquez opened up a 16-point lead over Andrea Dovizioso with an impressive ride to claim his fifth win of the season at the Aragon MotoGP on Sunday.
Marquez edged out Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa with Jorge Lorenzo taking third.
Meanwhile, nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi manfully fought for fifth place on his return just three weeks after a double leg fracture.
“I’m quite proud, because a week ago I didn’t know if I would be able to race,” said Rossi, who missed the San Marino Grand Prix a fortnight ago.
Rossi battled for the lead early in the race having qualified third, but understandably faded.
“I knew I had to suffer in the second half of the race. I had some pain and we also suffered from the degradation of the tyre,” he added.
Despite his brave effort, Rossi, though, slips 56 points behind Marquez as his hopes of 10th world title begin to fade.
Dovizioso started the day level with Marquez in the championship standings, but finished down in seventh to deal a severe blow to his title chances with just four races remaining.
Marquez showed his class by moving smoothly through the pack despite starting from fifth, eventually overtaking Lorenzo with eight laps to go for his third MotoGP win in Aragon and fourth overall after winning in Moto2 back in 2011.
“I took a lot of risk but I started with the mentality to win and it finished well today,” said Marquez.
“It’s important because in the Championship we’re leading by 16 and 28 points (to Maverick Vinales), and it’s better to have that advantage than not.”
Pedrosa completed a perfect day for Honda as he stormed through the second half of the race after a slow start to blow past Rossi, Vinales and Lorenzo in the latter stages.
But he left his challenge too late to catch his teammate out front.
“Unfortunately I did too many laps behind Maverick and I lose a little bit of the gap at the beginning,” said Pedrosa.
“Later we both improved the pace and when I got passed him I could really catch the front group, but Marc was in the lead already and could play with the gap.”
And Pedrosa wasn’t happy with Rossi’s attempts to fend him off.
“Unfortunately Valentino did a strange move to me in the main straight,” he added.
“He closed the door completely at 300km per hour so too tight to not give room, not so nice but fortunately I could do and pass him and keep going forward to the podium.”
Looking for his first win since swapping Yamaha for Ducati at the start of the season Lorenzo led for most of the race after beating pole-sitter Vinales to the first corner.
However, he couldn’t match the pace of the Hondas in the final 10 laps as the three-time world champion had to settle for just his second podium of the season.
“It is a pity to lose the victory for not so much because I think in the last 10 laps we needed more grip on the rear,” said Lorenzo.
“I couldn’t follow them but I have to be happy with this third position.”
Fourth place sees Vinales slip to 28 points off Marquez in third in the championship standings.
After a three-week break rivalries will be renewed at the Japanese Grand Prix on October 15.