Title-Leader Marquez Looking Forward to Home Race
Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Catalunya, June 16, 2019
Reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) brings a 12-point title lead to his home race of home races this weekend. MotoGP is a huge sport in Spain, so the championship visits the country four times each season, for the Spanish, Catalan, Aragon and Valencia rounds. Marquez hails from Cervera, just 110km/68 miles from Barcelona-Catalunya, and the Repsol Honda Team is based in Barcelona, so this is as close as they get to racing at home.
The 26-year-old Spaniard is currently chasing his sixth MotoGP crown in just seven seasons. So far this year he has won three races and twice finished a very close second, including a breathtaking ride in the Italian Grand Prix two Sundays ago, when he took the checkered flag 0.043 seconds behind first-time winner Danilo Petrucci.
Marquez opened the 2019 season with a fine second place 0.023 seconds behind Petrucci's team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, who currently lies second in the title chase. He has also suffered one DNF, when he slid out of the lead during April's Grand Prix of the Americas. Despite that fall there is no doubt he is riding better than ever, with his skills improving and his maturity increasing year on year.
At the first six races Marquez led 88 laps out of 142, which is 34 laps more than the rest of the grid put together. Not only is the youngster's talent improving, this year he is also taking advantage of the latest iteration of the RC213V, which features a significant horsepower boost and a finely tuned chassis that's more rider-friendly than ever. Since MotoGP switched to 1000cc machines in 2012 the RC213V has won 72 races, more than all the other bikes together, and won five riders world titles and six constructors titles.
On Sunday Marquez will aim to continue his remarkable run of performance at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit. Over the past nine years he has finished on the podium on eight occasions across three different categories. He won the 2010 125cc Catalan GP, stood on the Moto2 podium in 2011 and 2012, won the MotoGP race in 2014, finished third in 2013 and second in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Only a minor tumble in 2015 prevented him from making a full-house of podium finishes.
This is another historic weekend for motorcycle Grand Prix racing. A month after Marquez scored Honda's 300th premier-class victory and two weeks after the 60th anniversary of Honda's arrival in World Championship racing, the Catalan Grand Prix marks 70 years of World Championship motorcycling. The first-ever World Championship race took place on June 13, 1949. This race was for 350cc machines and was followed by the first 250cc and 500cc races on June 17. All these races took place at the Isle of Man TT.
Marquez's team-mate Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) has enjoyed a remarkable run of success at Barcelona-Catalunya, starting with victory in the 2007 250cc race, on his way to securing a second consecutive 250 World Championship. Since graduating to MotoGP in 2008 he has stood on the top step of the podium more than anyone, with five victories, in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2018.
This year the 32-year-old Spaniard, born in Mallorca, contests the Catalan Grand Prix following a trip to Honda Racing Corporation in Japan, where he worked on further tailoring the ergonomics of the RC213V to suit his riding technique. Lorenzo's first few races on the bike were compromised by injuries sustained during off-season training and at the season-opening Grand Prix. Since then he has made steady forward progress, scoring World Championship points in all but one of the races so far, with a 13th-place finish last time out at Mugello.
Of course, Lorenzo won't be content until he is challenging for podiums and race wins, which will surely come once he has fully acclimatized himself to the RC213V. The three-times MotoGP king has high hopes that this weekend will see him take another step forward.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) scored his best-ever result at Barcelona-Catalunya last June and will working hard to go at least one better this Sunday and climb the Catalan GP podium for the first time. The 33-year-old Briton has already scored one top-three finish this year – in Qatar – and had the pace to repeat that performance in Argentina and at the Grand Prix of the Americas, where he was foiled by a jump-start penalty and a crash.
Not only had Crutchlow had good race pace this year, he has also been quick in qualifying, with three second-row starts and one front-row start from six races. If he can qualify on the first or seconds row this Saturday there is every chance he will be in the fight for a top-three finish on Sunday. Two weekends ago at Mugello he raced with the lead group until he had to ease his pace due to a tire issue, which put him eighth at the finish. He currently stands seventh overall in the points chase.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) goes into this weekend powered by the momentum of a stunning ride at the Italian Grand Prix, aboard his 2018-spec RC213V. The 27-year-old from Chiba rode to his best-ever dry-weather MotoGP finish, with a fifth-place finish, 6.535 seconds behind the race winner; a gap of just 0.28 seconds per lap. This result was further confirmation that the former Moto2 winner, now contesting his second MotoGP season, is making big steps forward.
Nakagami's Mugello result was partly due to a new mental approach to the vital first few laps, when a lot of controlled aggression is required to find a fast group of riders with whom to continue the race. Not only did he finish so close to the leaders he also finished top Independent Team rider, the second time he has managed this achievement. Nakagami is looking forward to this weekend at the Catalan GP, where he has already stood on the podium, in 2016, after taking third place in the Moto2 race.
Honda riders have a great record at Barcelona-Catalunya. Alex Crivillé was the first to win a premier-class race for Honda in 1995, when the track hosted the European in Grand Prix. Four consecutive victories followed at the Catalan GP from 1996, with carlos Checa, Mick Doohan (twice) and Crivillé once again, all of these achieved on Honda's amazing NSR500 two-stroke. In 2001 and 2002 Valentino Rossi was victorious, on an NSR500 and then an RC211V four-stroke. Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner rode RC212V machines to the top position in 2008 and 2011. Most recently Marquez won in 2014.
The magnificent circuit, constructed to the north of motorcycle-mad Barcelona and called Montmelo by the locals, hosted its first Grand Prix in May 1992 and has been a popular championship fixture ever since. The track layout is highly technical with an enthralling mix of fast, long corners and slow, tight turns, camber changes and bumps, plus a long start/finish straight where horsepower and slipstreaming are crucial. Riders and engineers need to find a setting that will allow them to use the edge of their tires without running short of grip in the crucial final lap. They will also need plenty of horsepower for the 1km/0.62 mile straight, where last year the fastest bikes exceeded 345kmh/214mph.
Marquez's younger brother Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) also comes to round seven of this year's 19-round MotoGP series chasing a world title. The 23-year-old won the Moto2 races at Le Mans and Mugello to close to within two points of championship leader Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40 Kalex).
Five years ago at Barcelona-Catalunya the Marquez brothers made history when they became the first siblings to win Grand Prix races on the same day – with victory in the MotoGP and Moto3 races. On Sunday they will aim to take a MotoGP/Moto2 double, as they did at last month's French GP.
So far Marquez has won two races to Baldassarri's three, but the Spaniard has only had one no-score, while Baldassarri has had two.
Americas Moto2 winner Thomas Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex) is also in the title fight, just two points behind Marquez, while Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up Speed Up) is a further 11 points adrift, with three podiums but no wins.
Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia, Kalex) returns to action this weekend after missing the Italian GP, following surgery to fix an arm-pump problem and foot injuries.
The 20-year-old World Championship rookie from Thailand is one of many up-and-coming Asian riders who choose the Barcelona area as their home during the European racing season. Chantra was chosen for this year's World Championship season after a stunning Grand Prix debut in last October's Thailand GP Moto3 race. This will therefore be his first Catalan GP.
Team-mate Dimas Ekky Pratama (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) is also a Grand Prix rookie, but while he has to learn many new circuits this year he does know this weekend's venue, from his outings in last year's Moto3 Junior World Championship aboard a Honda NSF250RW.
The battle for this year's Moto3 World Championship is as frantic as always, with every race a multi-rider contest for victory. The Italian GP was no exception, with the first eight riders past the checkered flag separated by less than six tenths of a second. It's almost certain that Sunday's Moto3 race will be the same kind of close fight.
Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers Honda NSF250RW) was the winner at Mugello, taking his first victory in front of rapturous home crown. The success moved the 18-year-old Italian into sixth place in the championship, with two Honda riders ahead of him.
Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) finished second to Arbolino last time out to move to within three points of series leader Aron Canet. The 21-year-old Italian is now ten points ahead of Niccolo Antonelli (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW), who finished fourth at Mugello, also closing the gap to Canet.
Equal on points with Arbolino is Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW), one of the fastest riders in this year's Moto3 series. The 19-year-old from Fukuoka won the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix and has been in the hunt for more podiums at other races, missing out by the narrowest of margins at the Spanish and French GPs.
Like Chantra in Moto2, Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) also missed Mugello due to injuries sustained at Le Mans. The 18-year-old from Tokyo returns this weekend, aiming to get back into the rhythm of racing.
French GP Moto3 winner John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) stands eighth overall, two places ahead of Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3 Honda NSF250RW).
Tatsuki Suzuki (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW), who finished second to team-mate Antonelli at Jerez and took eighth place at Mugello, 0.595 seconds behind Arbolino, is currently 12th overall.
After Sunday's racing the MotoGP paddock heads to northern Europe for the Dutch TT and the German GP, on consecutive weekends, June 30 and July 7.
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team:
“We arrive in good form after Mugello. The bike and I are in a very good position now, I was able to rest a little between races and I'm back to full strength. There's always a bit more excitement heading into a home GP and it's always a great pleasure to ride in front of all the fans. I'm hopeful of another strong result here in Catalunya to continue the work we've been doing.”
Jorge Lorenzo, Repsol Honda Team:
“After a mixed weekend in Mugello, I am hoping that we can do good work this weekend in Barcelona. We will keep working at our maximum to close the gap to the front. We also have a test after the race, which I am looking forward to as well. I had a very interesting trip to Japan and we were able to work on many things, some which will help this weekend and some for the future.”
Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda CASTROL:
“I am really looking forward to the Barcelona GP this weekend after the poor result and dissatisfaction of Mugello. I'm hoping for a better weekend and I'm looking forward to enjoying myself, by riding well and by working well with my team, who are doing a fantastic job, as always. On Sunday we look forward to trying to regain more points in the championship. Last year I had a good result there and this year I hope we can once again have a great finish.”
Takaaki Nakagami, LCR Honda IDEMITSU:
“Catalunya is like my second home because I live really close to Montmelo and I go there many times for training. Of course our last race weekend at Mugello was fantastic because the team effort was so good and we got a good result. As always this weekend we will try to be strong from the beginning and try to be in the top ten every session. The weather forecast looks okay, so we should be able to have a consistent weekend. Then on Sunday it will be good if we can show our potential and finish around sixth place.”
Lorenzo Baldassarri, Flexbox HP 40:
“The last weekend at Mugello was not easy for us, but on the Sunday we did a great job and managed to finish fourth, after starting from 15th position. Last year at Barcelona we finished seventh, but only seven seconds off the win, so I know we can be fast this year, because in general I have an excellent feeling with this year's machine. We will work hard to make sure we are on the first two rows in qualifying and then get ready for what will probably be a big battle on Sunday.”
Alex Marquez, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS:
“We come to my home Grand Prix at a circuit that is very special to me. Luckily, it's a track that adapts very well to my riding style and where I've won in both Moto2 and Moto3. Apart from the fact that I like it and I'm good at it, I always have the support of the fans here. It is an extra motivation and a very important plus, but it will be very important to manage the nerves here. We arrive at this Grand Prix after two consecutive victories and in a very good shape, which after all is the most important thing because the championship is very long. We are only in the seventh race, so we must keep our patience and build on recent success. A few weeks ago we did a test here and got a good base for this race but as it will be quite hot, we will have to look for some extra adjustments to the set-up.”
Thomas Luthi, Dynavolt Intact GP:
“The test that we had in Barcelona was not easy. We were able to try many things and do many laps, but we did not find that perfect solution for the problems that we had at that time. Then we went to Mugello and there the work was really good. We found a really good pace and were competitive the whole weekend long. Unfortunately we were missing that last bit to fight for the win during the race. But I think that we take these experiences with us to Barcelona. Of course we will have to keep working regarding the rest of the season. But we are back on track and we go in a good direction. We just have to keep working now, but I am confident for the weekend in Barcelona. It’s a nice track and I am looking forward to it. I like riding there. It's usually a fight with the tires as it is getting very hot there at this time of the year, but the forecast looks promising with temperatures not that scorching and therefore I think we really can have a good weekend. I can’t wait to work with my team again and I hope that we will be able to fight for the win this time. That’s our goal for sure.”
Somkiat Chantra, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia:
“I missed the Mugello Grand Prix, so I am really looking forward to getting on my bike again for this weekend's race at Barcelona. It was annoying to miss the tests at this track before Mugello, but we will do our best: work hard and try to enjoy it. The surgery I had after Le Mans went well, so a big thanks to Dr Xavier Mir and everyone else. I am strong enough, although I'd say the hand and foot are 70 percent of their maximum at the moment.”
Dimas Ekky Pratama, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia:
“At the Mugello race I felt more comfortable on the bike, so we are moving in the right direction with the machine, which is great. I also learned more about Moto2 riding at the last race, so I will bring these positives into this weekend. Before Mugello we tested at Catalunya, so I know the track and we will try to put everything together for Sunday. This is now like my second home GP, so I am really looking forward to this weekend and I will do my best.”
Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Leopard Racing:
“The good thing is that we go into this race closer to the championship lead than last time. Always our focus is the championship, so this proves we are working well. Moto3 is so close now that one day you can win and the next day you can lose by one hundredth of a second. The important thing is to always be in the front group and most important of all not to make a mistake. This is how we will continue working at Barcelona.”
Niccolo Antonelli, Sic58 Squadra Corse:
“We once again proved we are fast at Mugello. I hope we can do the same this weekend. We have everything we need – I am working really well with the Honda and the team is working really well around me. The points we lost at Le Mans were unfortunate for the championship, but there is still a long way to go and we are only 13 points behind Canet. It will be another crazy race this weekend, with the slipstream once again crucial to the result. It will be important to play our cards right.”
Tony Arbolino, VNE Snipers:
“It doesn't get better than winning at home at Mugello, but now we move on to the next race, knowing that we have a long way to go this season and understanding that we have quite a gap to catch up the points leaders. Like Mugello, the Barcelona circuit is a great challenge for riders, so I'm looking forward to working with my team and getting the best out of the bike for Sunday.”
Kaito Toba, Honda Team Asia:
“I know that we have the pace for a podium, so this will be my target for this weekend. The important thing, like always, will be to start well from FP1 and then make steady improvements during Friday and Saturday, so that we are ready for Sunday. We tested at Montmelo before Mugello and I felt very good on the bike, so with some more hard work we hope to achieve my target.”
Ai Ogura, Honda Team Asia:
“Thanks to everybody, especially Dr Xavier Mir, for their help after Le Mans and for making it possible for me to return to riding this weekend. I am feeling fit and strong, although I don't think I will be at 100 percent on Friday. However, I am really looking forward to getting back on my bike again and enjoying another Grand Prix weekend.”