When MotoGP champion Marc Marquez's title defence was ruined by a broken arm, the favourites to take over his crown on paper were Andrea Dovizioso and Maverick Vinales.

The pair have finished second and third in the standings to Marquez, respectively, for the past two seasons.

But as the 2020 series heads for its final decisive tripleheader, both are openly doubting their chances of overhauling Suzuki's Joan Mir.

The cause of Dovizioso's woes are more obvious, he and Ducati are still struggling to unlock performance from the revised 2020 rear tyre, leaving him off the podium for the past seven races.

Meanwhile, Vinales is battling inconsistency and hasn't managed to finish in the top five for two consecutive races since the Jerez season-openers.

By contrast, Mir, although still without a victory, has only been outside the top 4 once in the last eight events. He presently leads the championship by 14 points from Petronas Yamaha's Fabio Quartararo (3 wins) and is 19 ahead of Monster Yamaha's Vinales (1 win).

"The target is to win the title. But with these inconsistent results and this feeling I have on the bike, it’s going to be very tough to win this title," Vinales said after a fourth place, just a fraction from Mir and the podium, in Aragon 1 was followed by a distant seventh in Aragon 2.

"We are doing a lot of mistakes, also by the technical point of view. We’ll see.

"I cannot say too much. The bike today was not working, I had many issues. For me something I still don’t understand is how I am able to ride that fast in FP4 and then cannot match the lap times in the race – normally I risk more and give my maximum (in the race).

"All I can do is stay calm, relaxed and give the best info for Yamaha."

But Vinales warned catching Mir is "impossible with the bike we have right now. Suzuki right now are on another level. You can see the results Mir is doing: 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd. If he doesn’t win it’s because he starts very far away.

"Suzuki looks like they are able to turn faster, more corner speed and less metres in the corner. You cannot recover all this just by opening the gas [more]."

Vinales had finished 2.8s from Mir's race-winning team-mate Alex Rins at Aragon 1. The victory time then improved by almost six-seconds at Aragon 2, but Vinales was over 4s slower than the weekend before and dropPedrostao +14.3s.

Most perplexing, Sunday's winner was Franco Morbidelli, riding the lower A-spec Yamaha, rather than the 2020 Factory-spec package.

And Vinales wasn't the only Factory-spec Yamaha rider to suffer.

Morbidelli's team-mate Quartararo finished half-a-second behind Vinales in eighth place, then questioned why the Yamaha doesn't seem to improve as the weekend goes on, a trend exaggerated by back-to-back races.

"When our bike works good from the Friday you can win races. But when it doesn’t work you can do nothing to make it work," echoed Vinales.

"We are the ones that lose more places during the race. If there is grip on the track the Yamaha is the best bike. When there isn’t, it’s impossible to ride. Today I changed engine brake, traction control, I ride smooth, I ride aggressive… the lap time was the same.

"Anyway, I took one point out of Fabio. This was our objective; to be the first '2020' Yamaha. This is what we can do."

The exact differences between Morbidelli's machine and the three Factory-spec bikes of Vinales, Quartararo and Valentino Rossi isn't completely clear.

What we do know is that Morbidelli's bike is a closer evolution of the 2019 machine (but still upgraded) compared to the direction taken for the 2020 Factory-spec.

The most visible difference is the revised air intake and therefore engine on the Factory machines, which are slightly faster on the straight (Morbidelli joined Mir at the bottom of the top speed charts at Aragon).

Vinales felt the strengths of the '2019' (Morbidelli) bike are, "basically the DNA of Yamaha: turning and corner speed. Bike this year's [Factory bike] is a bit more difficult, not only from my side but for the other riders. They are also struggling with this bike.

"This [technical direction] was decided in Malaysia, many months ago. It’s the bike we have"

He added: "Last year I just struggled because I put too much engine brake on the bike. That was very easy to solve. We destroyed the tyre by braking, but in acceleration the bike was fantastic.

"We tried many times [the '19 and '20 Factory-spec bike over the winter] and finally we go with 2020 bike. For sure it’s not the best package we can have.

"Still, the championship is alive so we need to stay strong and find something, magically to be fast. That’s it. I don’t want to think too much about last year’s bike.

"We’ll see at Valencia. Fresh mind. We’ll try to push. If it’s more of the same it means we have to change something big. If we solve it, it means we have done something wrong on our own.

"We have ideas but it will be tough to improve the bike because we didn’t improve nothing from the Malaysia test. If the bike works good, we will be good. If not, we’ll try to survive and get the maximum results."

Morbidelli's second victory of the season moved him to fourth in the world championship, 25 points from Mir.

The other Factory-spec Yamaha rider, Valentino Rossi, missed both Aragon rounds after a positive Covid test.

 

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