Honda's King of the "Ring Goes for a Straight Ten"
SACHSENRING, Germany, July 7, 2019
This weekend reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) races at one of his favorite racetracks, where he has been victorious.
The 26-year-old Spaniard arrives at the Sachsenring in fine form, after continuing his remarkable run of 2019 results at last Sunday's Dutch round at Assen. He finished that race in second place, which gives him four wins, three seconds and one DNF from the first eight races of 2019, good enough for a 44-point series lead.
While Marquez leads the Riders World Championship, Honda leads the Constructors World Championship. This year's target is a fourth consecutive success in both series, the two most prestigious prizes in motorcycle racing.
Sunday's German Grand Prix is every bit as important as each of the other 18 races, but it is also different, because it is the first back-to-back race of the year and it takes the paddock into its traditional summer break, when riders and teams get three weekends off before the action resumes at next month's Czech Grand Prix.
Marquez's record of nine consecutive wins at one Grand Prix venue is unmatched in modern history. In 2010 he won the 125cc German Grand Prix, on his way to that year's 125 world title. In 2011 and 2012 he won the Honda-powered Moto2 race at the track. And he has won all six MotoGP races since he graduated to the premier class with his Repsol Honda RC213V in 2013.
The Sachsenring is one of five anti-clockwise racetracks in the 19-race MotoGP series and the seven-times World Champion (once in 125s, once in Moto2 and five times in MotoGP) loves tracks that go left. This is because American-style dirt track, which uses anti-clockwise oval tracks, has been an important part of Marquez's training regime since he was a boy. He therefore feels even more comfortable in left-handers than he does in right-handers.
The Sachsenring is also unusual because the circuit is short, tight and barely features a straight worthy of the name. Apart from the short start/finish straight, riders spent the vast majority of each lap cornering. This places a huge emphasis on the machine, especially power delivery, tire life and so on.
Marquez's record on the RC213V proves that the 1000cc V4 delivers rider-friendly performance that allows him to concentrate on honing his riding technique. Indeed Honda's various premier-class machines have a strong record at the circuit.
Before Marquez graduated to the premier class, Dani Pedrosa took a hat-trick of Sachsenring victories on the RC212V and RC213V, giving Honda a clean sweep of the last nine MotoGP races at the venue. Honda's RC211V also enjoyed success at Sachsenring with Valentino Rossi, Sete Gibernau and Max Biaggi. And before that the NSR500 two-stroke took victories with Mick Doohan and Alex Barros.
Marquez's team-mate Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) will not be present this weekend. The 32-year-old took a heavy fall during Assen practice last Friday, sustaining a stable fracture of his T6 vertebra and a trabecular fracture of the T8 vertebra. He is currently recovering at home in Lugano, Switzerland.
Lorenzo's place will be taken by Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team RC213V), whose usual duties include his testing role as HRC's MotoGP rider. The 29-year-old German has already contested one MotoGP round this year, finishing an excellent tenth in his first race in six months.
Bradl was a full-time MotoGP rider from 2012 to 2016, during which he took one podium finish and a best German GP result of fourth in 2013. In 2011 he finished second in the Honda-powered Moto2 at Sachsenring, on his way to winning that year's Moto2 World Championship. Later this month he will ride a Honda CBR1000RR in the super-prestigious Suzuka Eight Hours race in Japan.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) has twice been denied victory at the Sachsenring by one man: Marquez. In 2013 the 33-year-old Briton chased the youngster home in second place and again in 2016, when he set the fastest lap of the race. Crutchlow has had a varied 2019 so far, taking a podium finish at the season-opening Qatar GP and showing excellent pace at some other events. Last Sunday at Assen he finished in seventh place, although his mid-race pace was much stronger than that. This weekend he will work on fine-tuning his RC213V set-up to allow him to push harder from the start.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) will be feeling sore this weekend. During last Sunday's Assen race the 27-year-old from Chiba was knocked down by a rival and was battered and bruised in the ensuing crash. That DNF interrupted an excellent series of results by the former Moto2 race winner, who has scored six top-ten finishes so far this year, including a superb fifth place at Mugello, where he took the checkered flag just six seconds behind the winner. This is Nakagami's second season in MotoGP and he rides a 2018-spec RC213V.
The current Sachsenring venue was first used for Grand Prix racing in 1998 and the circuit was later upgraded and lengthened. But the circuit's history goes back much further than that. The local roads were first used for motorcycle racing in the late 1920s and the closed-road circuit hosted the East German Grand Prix from 1961 to 1972, during which time Honda achieved its first Sachsenring victories. Indeed Honda won the 250cc class at the inaugural East German GP in 1961 with Mike Hailwood, and dominated in 1962, with Luigi Taveri taking 125cc victory on an RC145 twin and Jim Redman winning the 250cc race aboard an RC163 four and the 350 on an RC170 four.
The Moto2 World Championship has a new leader going into this weekend: the super-consistent Thomas Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex). He moved into first position after finishing fourth at Assen, while erstwhile leader Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) crashed out after tangling with the fallen Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40 Kalex).
That incident tightened up the championship battle, with 32-year-old Swiss Luthi leading 23-year-old Spaniard Marquez by six points, while Assen winner Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40 Kalex) now stands third, a few points ahead of Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up Speed Up), Baldassarri, Luca Marini (SKY Racing Team VR46 Kalex) and 26-year-old German Marcel Schrotter (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex).
Sachsenring could provide another upset, since neither Luthi nor Marquez has finished on the Moto2 podium at the German venue.
Grand Prix rookie team-mates Dimas Ekky Pratama (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) and Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia, Kalex) endured a particularly tough weekend at Assen. Ekky Pratama was taken out by a rival during practice and was unable to continue riding at the event. The 26-year-old Indonesian will ride this weekend, although he won't be at full strength.
Chantra won't contest the German GP because he fractured his left wrist. During the week the 20-year-old Thai underwent surgery on the injury and hopes to be able to return to action at the next race at Brno, on August 4.
The contest for the Moto3 World Championship also got closer at Assen, when Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) took a hard-fought second-place finish to move to within seven points of series leader Aron Canet, who finished that race in 12th place.
Dalla Porta has scored four second-place results so far this season and aims to go one better this weekend. The 21-year-old Italian certainly wants to better his 13th-place finish at Sachsenring in 2018.
Three of the top four riders in the Moto3 title hunt ride Honda's NSF250RW machine, which has won the last two Riders World Championships and Constructors World Championships. Niccolo Antonelli (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW) is third overall, just ahead of Assen winner Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers Honda NSF250RW).
Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) certainly deserves a great result this weekend. The winner of the season-opening Qatar GP led much of the Assen race until he was barged off the track and later involved in a multi-rider incident. The 19-year-old from Fukuoka definitely has the speed to win; all he needs now is some better luck.
Toba's team-mate Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) comes to Germany in great form, having finished the last two races in sixth place. At Assen the 18-year-old from Tokyo crossed the line just two seconds behind winner Arbolino. Ogura has high hopes of being in the podium battle on Sunday.
MotoGP gets to enjoy a well-earned summer break after Sunday's racing, with three weekends off before rounds 10 and 11 take place on consecutive Sundays in the Czech Republic and Austria, on August 4 and 11.
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team:
"The first back to back race of the season, I am excited. We had a good weekend in Assen and I am motivated as we now arrive at one of my favorite tracks. Of course, past results don't mean a lot once we start on Friday so we have to keep working hard with the Repsol Honda Team to stay in front. Everyone says I am the favorite because I won in the past few years, but this sport is unpredictable and everyone said the same in Austin and I crashed. Then we will start just thinking about the weekend as every race."
Stefan Bradl, Repsol Honda Team:
"I'm very excited to join the Repsol Honda Team in Germany. It's a special race for me as my home race, obviously I am very sorry for Lorenzo and I wish him the fastest recovery possible and to come back strong. I am glad to be able to help the team and HRC, let's see what this weekend brings. We have been working well with Honda and I am grateful to them for this opportunity."
Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda CASTROL:
"Sachsenring is a good race to go to. They have great fans there who give us great support, so hopefully we can have a good race for us and a good spectacle for the fans. The track is very technical and very tight and twisty, so we will have to try to use the positives of our bike, which is that we use the rear of the bike to turn, so hopefully we can spin around the corners. You also need to be very precise there, so I will work with all my guys in the LCR Honda CASTROL team to find the best set-up."
Takaaki Nakagami, LCR Honda IDEMITSU:
"After last Sunday's big crash we keep positive. For sure there isn't enough time for me to recover fully, but I am okay, so we will just have to see how close to 100 percent strength I can be. I'm looking forward to Sachsenring. Last year in Germany we had a good weekend, showing a good pace and qualifying in Q2, but I fell in the race. I know we have a good chance this weekend, because it's a tight layout with no long straights, so I think this can help us to get a good result. We forget Assen and aim for a good result to take us into the summer break."
Thomas Luthi, Dynavolt Intact GP:
"I'm coming to the team's home race as World Championship leader. That's certainly something very special for me. It's a cool feeling. There will be a lot going on, I'm ready for it. The most important thing and number one is of course the race. That's what we have to focus on and continue to work as concentrated as ever. I think we really made a good step with the setup again at Assen. I'm happy that I came out of this crazy race with fourth place. Now we're trying to continue in this direction at the Sachsenring as well. I'm looking forward to working and fighting with the team. We have a very good spirit and are in a good position in the World Championship. Everything is going very well. On the track itself - at the Sachsenring I've never had any great successes. I was on the podium once in 2005. In 2017 I rode my last Moto2 race there and that was a very good weekend. Of course, this remains positive in my memory. Unfortunately I crashed out of second place in the race, but that already shows that it can also work at the Sachsenring."
Alex Marquez, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS:
"It could be said that Sachsenring has been one of the circuits where I have suffered the most in recent seasons. However, this year the mentality is very different, so I think it could be a good race for us before we go on holiday. If we work and try our best just like we did in Assen then I am sure we can be fighting at the front again. I want to make up for the zero in Assen and try to regain the lead in the championship."
Augusto Fernandez, Flexbox HP 40:
"Last Sunday's victory was the result of so much hard work by the team, which has put me in the position where I have a bike that can fight for the win. Last year I got one point for 15th at Sachsenring, so I hope that this weekend we can once again prove how far we have come in the past year. The track is unique and very challenging, so we will have to stay focused and see if we have the pace to take our fourth podium of the season."
Dimas Ekky Pratama, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia:
"My condition after my crash gets a bit better, day by day, so I am recovering well. As always, we stay positive and keep looking forward. The first thing for me to do at Sachsenring will be to pass the medical check, to make sure I am fit to ride. If I pass the check then this will be my first event at this circuit, so I will have much to learn during the weekend. I will do my best and keep recovering from last Friday's crash."
Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Leopard Racing:
"We seem to finish second at just about every race, so now I really want to win a race this year, like I did at Misano last September. That will be the target this weekend, as it always is; but the main thing is to be on the podium, because Moto3 is a so close at the moment that the most important thing is to stay out of trouble and get good points every weekend. For sure it will be another race with a big group at the front; so strategy will be very important."
Niccolo Antonelli, Sic58 Squadra Corse:
"We didn't have a great result at Assen last Sunday, so it's good that we go immediately into the next race, so we can put those memories behind us. Assen was another crazy race. I was able to be very fast in the beginning but then things became more complicated. This year I want to get my best result at Sachsenring. I think we have a bike that will work very well and then it will be important to play the last laps of the race."
Tony Arbolino, VNE Snipers:
"The win at Assen was great, so the target is to keep going like this! The team has a very good working method now, which is helping me to do my best in the races. The Honda is also going so well now – we have a fast bike that handles very well, and the chassis will be extra important this weekend, because the Sachsenring is very tight, so you make a lot of time with a good-handling bike."
Kaito Toba, Honda Team Asia:
"Sachsenring is a very technical track and quite unlike most other tracks, because you don't need to use the slipstream there to go fast. So if you are riding fast you can be sure to be very competitive. I hope to perform strongly this weekend, working as usual from FP1. We must keep working in the same direction, always trying to get the best feeling from the bike as soon as possible. Then on Sunday we will try to take a victory."
Ai Ogura, Honda Team Asia:
"Since the beginning of my rookie season we have kept improving many aspects of our performance, so we are coming better and better and better. Last year I did the Sachsenring race as a wild card rider and I felt good at this track. I am really looking forward to this Grand Prix and my target will be the same as always - make our best pace and then see where we end up on Sunday."