Reigning World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) travels to his home race this week, aiming to get his title defence back on track after several tough races.
The 22-year-old – who this time last year was in the middle of a run of ten consecutive wins – currently lies fifth overall in the points standings, following crashes in the third and sixth races of the 18-event calendar. Marquez has already proved his speed this year, with a victory and a second place, but he has lacked the devastating consistency he showed last season as he romped towards his second consecutive MotoGP crown.
The omens are certainly auspicious for this weekend’s Catalan Grand Prix at the Catalunya circuit to the north of Barcelona. The former 125cc, Moto2 and twice MotoGP king has won GPs at the fast and flowing venue in two categories: in 125s in 2010 and in MotoGP last year. And during his childhood racing career he enjoyed considerable success at the track, which is only 110km (68 miles) from his family home in Cervera.
During a difficult run of races, Marquez and his team are working hard to return to the peak of performance that had them dominate last year’s championship with a record-breaking 13 victories in a single season. They have been fine-tuning the youngster’s 2015 RC213V to improve corner-entry and corner-exit performance. They had solved corner-exit issues in time for the last race in Italy but still had to perfect corner-entry. Two weeks ago at Mugello, Marquez slid out of the race after challenging strongly for second place.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) made a welcome return to the podium at Mugello following a three-race absence during which he underwent surgery to fix a lingering arm-pump problem in his right forearm. The Spaniard is one of several riders who have had similar surgery this year, which highlights the huge physical demands of riding a modern-day Grand Prix bike.
Pedrosa is even more of a local to the Catalunya circuit that his team-mate – the former 125cc and twice 250cc World Champion hails from Sabadell, just 20km (13 miles) from the track. The 29-year-old won his first Grand Prix at Catalunya in 2003, in 125s, and has followed that with a 250 win in 2005 and a MotoGP victory in 2008. He is still returning to full strength following his recent operation but is confident of being on the pace this weekend.
Briton Cal Crutchlow (CWM LCR Honda RC213V) is Honda’s next-best rider, currently holding seventh in the points chase after a strong start to his first season on an RCV, including third place in April’s Argentine GP, won with a typically forceful move at the final corner. However, Crutchlow has tumbled out of the last two races, while gunning for top results. At Mugello he dislocated his right ankle. After plenty of cycle training he hopes to be as close to fully fit as possible this weekend,
The fourth rider on Honda’s factory-spec machine is Scott Redding (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V), still learning his way in his second MotoGP season and his first on a full-power factory machine. The Briton, who was runner-up in the 2013 Moto2 series, has had one top-ten finish so far and is working hard to turn the corner which will allow him to challenge for better results.
Four more Honda riders compete on the marque’s Open spec machine, the RC213-RS, which uses a control ECU that will be mandatory for all bikes from next season. Three of these four men have already scored points this season, which is turning out to be the toughest championship ever, a point proved in Argentina where the top 20 finishers were covered by less than a minute for the first time since GP racing started in 1949.
Former MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden (Aspar Team Honda RC213V-RS) tops the list so far, with two points-scoring finishes. MotoGP rookie Jack Miller (CWM LCR Honda RC213V-RS) is next up, despite DNFs at the last two rounds. The 20-year-old, who graduated to the premier class directly from Moto3, has a huge amount of learning to do as he grapples with a 230 horsepower machine instead of a 50 horsepower machine.
Honda’s second MotoGP rookie Eugene Laverty (Aspar Team Honda RC213V-RS) is learning fast, scoring points at the last two races, after joining the championship from World Superbike.
Czech rider Karel Abraham (AB Motoracing Honda RC213V-RS) has had a luckless season, with tumbles, technical issues and a jump start at Mugello keeping him out of the points.