Marquez Aims to Reign Again in Spain
This weekend Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) races at home for the first time this year, with his army of fans hoping for the completion of a hat-trick of victories from the 23-year-old Spaniard.
Earlier this month Marquez won dominant back-to-back wins in Argentina and the U.S.A, but he knows that the return to Europe brings greater challenges as his rivals look to reduce his current 21-point championship advantage.
The 2013 and 2014 MotoGP king has had a superb start to the year which began with the introduction of various new technical regulations – most notably control electronics and Michelin control tires – which have increased the workload for everyone on the grid.
Repsol Honda and the Honda Racing Corporation have worked day and night to extract the maximum from MotoGP’s new technical environment. So far it seems Marquez and his crew are ahead of the game – with two wins and a close-fought third at the season-opening Qatar GP – but he knows he must keep working as hard as ever to stay ahead.
Last year Marquez finished second at Jerez, behind eventual World Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha). The former Moto2 champion has enjoyed other podium successes at the track: he won the MotoGP race in 2014 and finished second in 2013, his rookie MotoGP season. In 2012 he finished second in the Moto2 race on his way to that year’s world title.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) has had an up and down start to his eleventh season with Repsol Honda, taking a dramatic podium finish in Argentina and crashing out last Sunday at COTA. The 30-year-old Spaniard has enjoyed a long and distinguished career at his home Grand Prix, with victories in both the 250cc class (now Moto2) and the MotoGP class.
Pedrosa won the Spanish 250 GP in 2005, the year he won his second consecutive 250 world title, and the Spanish MotoGP race in 2008 and 2013, when he beat Marquez by two seconds. Last year he was absent from the event because he was recuperating from surgery to correct an arm-pump problem.
Honda’s other three MotoGP riders have endured a challenging start to the 2015 campaign. Briton Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda RC213V) has slid out of all three races, but he has never lost his never-give-up spirit, remounting after his tumbles at Termas Rio de Hondo and COTA, where he finished just one place outside the World Championship points. Although the 30-year-old has yet to score a point this season he has shown time and again that he has the pace to fight inside the top five. And that will be his aim this weekend.
Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) is the only rookie in this year’s MotoGP and is taking a sensible approach to his first few races on a 250 horsepower motorcycle. The former Moto2 World Champion has made sure that he has finished all three races so far, which has allowed him to learn plenty and supply his crew with lots of data. This weekend will be special for the 26-year-old from Barcelona, who has twice finished on the Jerez podium, with a third-place finish in last year’s Moto2 race and a third-place result in the 2010 125cc race.
Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) missed last weekend’s COTA race after a heavy fall during practice exacerbated the broken ankle he sustained during winter training, which had been further damaged during the previous GP in Argentina. The 21-year-old Australian – a former Moto3 race winner – has shown some stunning speed so far this year but he knows he must now focus on finishing races.
This year’s Honda-powered Moto2 series is already shaping up to be the most thrilling championship since the category’s creation in 2010. With three rounds gone, the top five riders are separated by just four points!
Top of the pile so far is Briton Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 Kalex), who took the championship lead at COTA with his second-successive runner-up result. But his advantage over Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40 Kalex) is just a single point. There’s no doubt that this weekend Lowes will come under huge pressure from Spaniard Rins who dominated COTA with a typically faultless victory and will be out to make amends for his last-corner tumble at Jerez 2015, when he was battling for second place with Rabat.
Reigning Moto2 World Champion Johann Zarco (Ajo Motorsport Kalex) sits just one more point behind Rins, with a win and a third from the last two races. And Qatar GP winner Thomas Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten Kalex) winner is just two points further back in fourth, proving the incredibly close racing in a category in which all riders use identically tuned CBR600RR streetbike engines.
Last year’s dominant Jerez Moto2 winner Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex) holds sixth place in the champion and would no doubt be better placed in the points chase if he hadn’t slid out of the lead of the season-opener in Qatar. The German is eight points behind Swiss ace Dominique Aegerter (CarXpert Interwetten Kalex).
With last year’s Jerez Moto3 winner Danny Kent now in Moto2, it’s as difficult as ever to predict the winner in MotoGP’s smallest capacity class, for 250cc four-stroke singles. So far there have been three winners from the first three races, two of them on Honda’s NSF250R, the bike of choice for upcoming riders across the globe.
Niccolo Antonelli (Ongetta-Rivacold Honda NSF250RW) won the first race in Qatar by a fraction of a second, while teenage rookie Khairul Idham Pawi (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) won race two in Argentina by almost half a minute.
And yet Honda’s current top scorer in the category is Jorge Navarro (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Honda NSF250RW) who holds second overall, just three points behind series leader Brad Binder (KTM), who has yet to win a race.
Antonelli is now fourth, after losing an excellent result at COTA when he fell on the penultimate lap. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing Moto3 Honda NSF250RW) holds eighth overall, yet to show the dazzling form that took him to third in last year’s championship.
Jerez is one of the most popular events in the MotoGP World Championship, regularly attracting weekend crowds of over 200,000. Motorcyclist make the pilgrimage to the Andalusian town from all over Spain and Europe. Race-day atmosphere is never less than electric.
The circuit was built in the 1980s and has hosted a Grand Prix event every year since 1986. Most riders love the track because it’s a layout that rewards rider talent. Many of the circuit’s 13 corners flow into one another, placing the emphasis on smooth, neat riding and stable, all-round machine performance. Excellent machine balance is vital to allow riders to maintain high corner speed through the many long turns, the real secret to a quick Jerez lap. The track’s fastest corners – the Crivillé and Ferrari right-handers – lead into the slowest – the final Lorenzo hairpin, scene of many a thrilling last-lap duel.
Honda riders have won twenty of the thirty MotoGP races staged at the track on a variety of machinery, including the NSR500 500cc two-stroke, the RC211V 990cc four-stroke, the RC212V 800cc four-stroke and the current RC213V 1000cc four-stroke.
Honda MotoGP rider quotes
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team:
“We’re very happy to head to Jerez with a small advantage in the championship standings because I think our rivals are going to be very strong there. I’m also very happy with the work we’re carrying out with Honda and my team because we’ve improved step by step at every race: we found a good base setup in Qatar and we further bettered it slightly in several areas, such as engine braking and electronics, in Argentina and Texas. Anyway, there’s still work to do and margin for improvement, especially in acceleration. Besides this, the tracks are different in Europe—narrower, with a different tarmac—so we have to wait and see how we can manage the situation. Of course I love to be back in Spain after three flyaway races. Racing in front of my home crowd and my fan club is always very nice and gives me a special emotion and extra motivation.”
Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team:
“I’m looking forward to racing in Jerez as it’s one of my favorite circuits on the calendar, and I particularly missed it not being able to race there last year. We’ll try and give our best in front of our fans, starting the race weekend with a positive mood after the promising feeling we had at the last race, even if it had an unfortunate ending. I believe we could have fought for second place in Texas, so we must start from that and work hard beginning with FP1 on Friday.”
Tito Rabat, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS:
“After the last round in Texas we understood clearly the point where we are struggling the most and that is accelerating of the slow corners with lean angle. I need to work on my riding technique to improve in that area and the team will also try and help me gain some time under acceleration with the setting of the bike and electronics. Jerez is a fast track and luckily we will only suffer from this weak point in three or four corners, so I’m optimistic of a strong weekend. Racing in Spain always gives me extra motivation and I will be trying my hardest like always to get the most positive result possible. I think we can make another step and try and be closer to the front.”
Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda:
“We’re all looking forward as a team to going back to racing in Europe. Obviously, on the back of three really tough races so far this season we aim to kick-start our challenge there and will be doing the best job we can as always. We’ll be trying some new settings on the bike in Jerez, and hopefully this can mean we will make fewer mistakes than we have so far in the championship. So I can’t wait to get going in Spain, and I’m looking forward to bringing home a good result for the LCR Honda Team.”
Jack Miller, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS:
“It’s never good to have to sit out a race through injury, as I had to in Texas, so I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike in Jerez. After Austin I stayed in the US, where I’ve been working hard on my rehabilitation with Doctor Andy Walshe, ready for the European phase of the season. The next few weeks are tough, with races coming one after the other, starting this weekend at the Spanish Grand Prix.”
Moto2 rider quotes
Sam Lowes, Federal Oil Gresini Moto2:
“In Jerez all the riders did a lot of testing before the start of the season, so I expect another hard-fought race weekend. During winter testing we always had a good feeling with the bike at this track, so hopefully we can make a good race. I like the circuit a lot, although actually my results have been so-so in the last two years. Also, it’s always a pleasure to race at Jerez because there is always a big crowd and a great atmosphere. I can’t wait to get back on track, especially now that we are coming off two good races and we are leading the championship.”
Alex Rins, Paginas Amarillas HP 40:
“I will start the weekend with a little pressure because of course it is my home race, so there will be a lot of expectation from the Spanish fans. My tactic for the weekend will be the same as always: push from the beginning, full gas! Because that’s the key to get the bike right and to win the race. I’m very excited to be racing at Jerez!”
Johann Zarco, Ajo Motorsport:
“It’s good that Alex will get some pressure from the fans! I was very happy with my second place there last year because it had been a difficult race. Also this year’s preseason tests were quite challenging, but at the Grand Prix the track always feels different from the winter tests, so I hope I will have a better feeling will this weekend.”
Honda Moto3 rider quotes
Jorge Navarro, Estrella Galicia 0,0:
“After Qatar, Argentina and the United States, I was very eager for this ‘home race’ to come around. Jerez wasn’t very good for me last year; it was one of the hardest tracks on the World Championship calendar in the end, but this year I think we did a good job during the official tests. If we continue in the positive way that we have been working at the first three races this season, I think we can do a good job during this weekend. We will work on trying to improve in every session, every time we leave the pits, in order to obtain the best result possible in the race.”
Niccolo Antonelli, Ongetta-Rivacold:
“Jerez is a difficult track, but during the preseason we did several tests there so we have lots of data. Anyway, many riders will be fast and I think it will be a hard race. It will be important to work well to improve our bike and find the right configuration and the right pace from the beginning.”
Khairul Idham Pawi, Honda Team Asia:
“It was a very hard weekend for me in Austin, but I this weekend in Jerez I will do all my best to enjoy the race and to get a good result. This is a learning season for me because I have to learn so much about Grand Prix racing and I also I have many new tracks to learn.”