Honda Takes Aim at MotoGP Triple Crown Hat-trick
CIRCUIT RICARDO TORMO, Valencia, November 17, 2019
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) and Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) contest this weekend's season-ending Valencia Grand Prix aiming to crown another sensational MotoGP season for Honda.
Marquez won the 2019 MotoGP Riders World Championship at last month's Thailand Grand Prix and Honda won the 2019 MotoGP Constructors World Championship at the subsequent Japanese GP. On Sunday Marquez and Lorenzo aim to complete the full MotoGP set by winning the 2019 MotoGP Teams World Championship.
If the pair does lift the triple crown it will be the third in a row, a remarkable achievement for Honda's riders, its amazing RC213V machine and the entire Repsol Honda Team. It will also be a fitting end to the season that marked the 60th anniversary of Honda's first World Championship race, at the 1959 Isle of Man TT.
During 2019 Honda won its 300th premier-class Grand Prix and its 25th premier-class constructors crown. Since the creation of the four-stroke MotoGP World Championship in 2002 Honda's domination of the fastest, highest-tech motorcycle racing series has only increased.
Honda riders have won the MotoGP riders title ten times (2002, 2003, 2006, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019), Honda has taken the constructors crown on 12 occasions (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019) and the Repsol Honda Team has so far won the teams prize nine times (2002, 2003, 2006, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018).
Marquez believes 2019 to be his greatest season yet, even though he won't quite match his record 13 race wins he achieved in 2014 when he won the MotoGP title for the second time. So far this year he has won 11 races, but the competition has never been stronger and Marquez has never had to ride harder.
This year his speed has been as incredible as ever, but his consistency has been better than ever. He hasn't finished a single race outside the top two, with six second-place finishes to go with his 11 wins. He has failed to finish just once this season, when he slid out of first place in April's Grand Prix of the Americas. Thus the 395 points he has scored so far are an all-time record in Grand Prix history, with one race still to go.
Marquez's last victory, three weeks ago in Australia, was his 55th MotoGP win, making him Honda's most successful rider, ahead of Mick Doohan and Dani Pedrosa. He now has just two riders ahead of him in the all-time premier-class winners league: Giacomo Agostini and Valentino Rossi.
The 26-year-old Spaniard is no stranger to success at Valencia; indeed he has stood on the Valencia podium on six occasions: once in the Moto2 class and five times in MotoGP. He has won two races at the traditional season-ending event: the 2012 Moto2 race and the 2014 MotoGP event. Last year he failed to finish after falling victim to the slippery, rain-lashed track.
Team-mate Lorenzo goes into the final race of 2019 aiming to continue his comeback from a midseason back injury that forced him to miss four races. The three-times MotoGP World Champion returned to action at August's British Grand Prix, resolving to rebuild his speed and confidence step by step.
The 32-year-old Spaniard's Valencia target is a best-possible point score that will help the Repsol Honda Team overcome the two-point gap to its rival for the MotoGP teams title. Lorenzo certainly knows how to get around Valencia at a rapid rate – he won the 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2016 MotoGP races at the track.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) comes to Valencia from Japan, where he played a starring role in the Honda Racing Thanks Day at Twin Ring Motegi, where he was joined by team-mate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) and other Honda stars from the world of two-wheel and four-wheel motorsport. His highlight was riding the Honda NSR500 that Eddie Lawson took to the 1989 500cc World Championship.
The Briton, who will be chasing his fourth podium result of the year on Sunday, has had starkly contrasting fortunes at the last two races. At October's Australian Grand Prix he raced to second place to stand alongside winner Marquez on the podium, giving Honda a highly prized one/two result. However, two weekends ago he crashed out of the Malaysian Grand Prix after running out of front grip.
Nakagami won't compete at Valencia. The 27-year-old from Chiba ended his season early, after last month's Japanese GP, to undergo surgery on a troublesome shoulder injury and give himself enough time to get fully fit for 2020 pre-season testing, which commences in February.
Once again his place will be taken by Johann Zarco (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V), who had his first races on the Japanese rider's 2018-spec RC213V machines at the Australian and Malaysian GPs.
Atrocious weather at Phillip Island gave Zarco a hard time in his first outing on the bike, but the 29-year-old Frenchman acquitted himself well in the circumstances, finishing in the World Championship points.
Better weather in Malaysia allowed Zarco to further explore the speed of the RC213V, which took him to an impressive third-row start. He was fighting for a top-eight result in the race when he was taken out by another rider.
Zarco goes well at Valencia. He finished second in his rookie MotoGP race at the track in 2017 and won his last Moto2 race there in 2016.
Valencia has been MotoGP's tradition season-closer since 2002. The track, situated west of the Mediterranean city of Valencia, is named after the late Ricardo Tormo, winner of the 50cc World Championship in 1978 and 1981.
The track has one of MotoGP's tighter, more twisty layouts, so it prioritises easy handling and horsepower. From the first turn to the last corner there is no straight worthy of the name, so riders must work very hard to overtake rivals. Honda riders have enjoyed great success at the track, with premier-class victories achieved by Alex Barros (2002), Valentino Rossi (2003), Marco Melandri (2005), Dani Pedrosa (2007, 2009, 2012, 2017), Casey Stoner (2011) and Marquez (2014).
Two weeks ago at Sepang the last of MotoGP's three 2019 world titles went to Marquez's younger brother Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex), who secured the Moto2 world title to add to his 2014 Moto3 crown, won with a Honda NSF250RW. The 32-year-old is the first rider to have won both the Moto2 and Moto3 titles.
The Marquez brothers celebrated their incredible achievements with a huge fan party in their hometown of Cervera, Spain, last Saturday.
This weekend's Moto2 interest will focus on the battle for second place in the World Championship between Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM) and Thomas Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex). Both riders are on top form at the moment, with 24-year-old South African Binder winning the last two races and 33-year-old Swiss Luthi securing a second and two thirds from the last three rounds. Binder, who will graduate to MotoGP in 2020, currently has a four-point advantage over Luthi.
Twenty points behind Luthi stands Spaniard Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up Speed Up) who has scored seven podiums this year but is still looking for his first Moto2 victory.
Brilliant Grand Prix rookie Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia, Kalex) aims to finish his apprenticeship World Championship season on a high this weekend after he too took part in last Sunday's Honda Racing Thanks Day at Motegi.
The 20-year-old Thai has enjoyed an impressive first year in GPs, during which he has had to learn nearly every track from scratch. This has not stopped him from battling for World Championship points on numerous occasions. He scored his first top ten at April's Argentine GP, even though he had never ridden the track before practice. Last month he finished ninth at his home race at Buriram, where he had hoped for even better than that.
Fellow rookie Dimas Ekky Pratama (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) scored the best result of his season, with 18th place at Sepang. The aim of the 27-year-old Indonesian this weekend is simple – to score his first World Championship points.
This weekend recently crowned Moto3 World Champion Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) contests his final Moto3 race before moving up to Moto2 next year. The 22-year-old Italian is very much in the groove at the moment, with three victories from the last three races. Valencia may be a challenge – he has yet to score a point at the track!
Dalla Porta is one of eight Honda riders to have enjoyed Moto3 victories this season, which has given the company the Moto3 Constructors World Championship for the third consecutive year. And five of the top six riders in the points chase ride Honda's superb NSF250RW.
Italian teenager Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers Honda NSF250RW) has an outside chance to take second place in the 2019 Moto3 series. The winner of June's races at Mugello and Assen currently stands 15 points behind Canet.
But Arbolino isn't the only rider aiming to move up at Valencia. Just one point behind him is 21-year-old Spaniard Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW), winner of this year's Catalan and British GPs. Ramirez, who also graduates to Moto2 in 2020, has form at Valencia – in 2017 he finished third behind 2018 Moto3 World Champion Jorge Martin and Joan Mir, who contests his first MotoGP season in 2019.
Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) comes to Valencia from the Honda Racing Thanks Day, where he won the Honda Grom race, just ahead of World Endurance Championship rider Mike Di Meglio [F.C.C TSR Honda France CBR1000RR) and Crutchlow. The talented 18-year-old from Tokyo has been a frequent top-three contender, claiming his first podium with second place at Aragon.
Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) plans to finish his 2019 campaign the same way he started it. The 19-year-old from Fukuoka won the season-opening Qatar GP but has struggled to repeat that performance thus far. A strong end to 2019 would certainly boost his confidence going into the winter, when he changes teams.
All three categories will commence off-season testing next week, with MotoGP riders at Valencia and Moto2 and Moto3 riders at Jerez. There is a two-month testing moratorium in December and January, so the first 2020 pre-season MotoGP test will take place in February, at Sepang. The 2020 season gets underway with the Qatar Grand Prix on March 8.
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team:
"First I want to say thank you to everyone who came out to celebrate in Cervera, it's always very special to do this party and to have my brother alongside me as World Champion again was really magical. Now we return to work. We have the objective of winning the Team Championship in Valencia, but also we are looking to 2020 already and continuing to try some options while we have this time before we go into test mode after the race. We will try to put on one more really nice show for the fans before winter!"
Jorge Lorenzo, Repsol Honda Team:
"Valencia is a circuit that is quite different to the ones we have been racing at. It is very tight compared to the likes of Phillip Island and Sepang and it can sometimes be quite cool, especially in the morning and this is something we must pay attention to. After a more positive race in Malaysia, I am striving to continue making these gains and do everything I can to help the Repsol Honda Team win the Team Championship."
Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda CASTROL:
"We are all looking forward to going to Valencia to put on the final show of the year for the LCR Honda CASTROL team. We will give our all to make a good race and we will try to be towards the front of the pack, like we were at the race before last in Australia. My crew have worked as hard as ever this year and we've had a few great results, so we want to keep working like that this weekend."
Johann Zarco, LCR Honda IDEMITSU:
"This will be an interesting weekend because I've now had two races on the LCR Honda IDEMITSU machine, during which I learned a lot. It was a great feeling to be fighting for good results again at Sepang and I think we will be able to take another step forward this weekend. I know Valencia very well and have had some good results there, so let's hope the weather conditions stay consistent throughout the three days, so that we can work through Friday and Saturday towards a good result on Sunday."
Alex Marquez, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS:
"I'm very motivated! It's my first race as World Champion, so on the one hand I want to start preparing for next season but on the other hand enjoy a weekend without pressure and celebrating the title on track near the fans. It will be a special and very nice weekend in which I will give everything to try to end the year with a victory. It's a nice opportunity to perform without pressure and push at our absolute maximum, so from the first minute I will go out concentrated and go for it."
Brad Binder, Red Bull KTM Ajo:
"After the wins at Phillip Island and Sepang I'm really looking forward to Valencia to try and make it three in a row. That would be the best way to finish my time in Moto2. I've had a great time in the category and with a great team behind me I've learned so much, which I hope will help me when I move up into MotoGP next season. We will give it everything on Sunday and then start testing my MotoGP bike on Tuesday. It's an exciting time!"
Thomas Luthi, Dynavolt Intact GP:
"The expectations for the last race weekend are of course pretty high. It's amazing how fast the season went by already. The last three overseas races have been very successful and now is the chance to secure the runner-up spot and I want to grab that opportunity. It's important that I concentrate on the race weekend and on getting as many points as possible with the race in Valencia. But I am very confident. We have done a very good job in the last three races. We also got more understanding of the bike, in terms of setting it up, and I hope we can work well over the weekend and be ready with the setup early. I'm looking forward to it and I'm fully motivated to attack again."
Somkiat Chantra, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia:
"This is the last race of my first season in the World Championships and I'm really happy to go to Valencia this weekend. my target will be the same as always – to try to keep improving, to do my best and to get a good result in the race. I know Valencia from the Moto3 Junior World Championship, so I have some circuit knowledge which I will try to use."
Dimas Ekky Pratama, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia:
"This weekend at Valencia I will ride my final race with the team. Even though it's my last race I will try to continue working after our better result at the Malaysian GP two weeks ago. I want to do a good job with the team, concentrate on my riding and try to finish the season with a strong result."
Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Leopard Racing:
"We come back to Europe for the last race after an amazing trip to Asia and Australia, with three wins from three races. This Sunday will be my last Moto3 race, so I want to enjoy the weekend with no big pressure and try to finish this championship with another win. I think we can do it, but we all know that Moto3 is difficult every race, so we will just have to do our best and see how Sunday works out."
Tony Arbolino, VNE Snipers:
"This will always be a special season for me – when I got my first GP win – so of course I want to complete it with another result to remember. The aim is to get a good finish and then immediately next week we start testing at Jerez for next year, when I hope to use all the lessons I learned this season and take another important forward step."
Marcos Ramirez, Leopard Racing:
"Both me and Lorenzo start Moto2 next week, so we want to say goodbye to the Leopard team in the best way possible – maybe another one/two like we made in Australia. I like Valencia and know I can get a top three there, if everything goes right. For Spanish riders it is another special weekend, with so many fans there for the last race of the year. We will try and put on a good show for them!"
Ai Ogura, Honda Team Asia:
"I am really excited to go back to Valencia because last time I was there I had a good result, with a podium finish in last year's Moto3 Junior World Championship races at the track. This time I want to finish the season in a good way with a good result, because it will be really important to have a good feeling going into the winter before next year. I will try and race with the front group and then let's see what happens."
Kaito Toba, Honda Team Asia:
"This weekend's race at Valencia is a special race for me, because it's my last race with the team, so I will try my best to give the team a present with a good result on Sunday. I will work hard from FP1 on Friday and on Sunday I will try to get a podium."