This weekend reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) brings a 23-point championship lead to his home race at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit, a one-hour ride from Cervera, the town of his birth.
The 25-year-old has won three of the six races so far this year as he works towards winning a fifth MotoGP crown in his sixth season in the class of kings. Marquez is therefore the standout performer of 2018, but he needs to get back in the points on Sunday after falling at the last race in Italy, before remounting to finish 16th, one place outside the points-scoring positions.
Marquez has an enviable record at the circuit, having stood on the podium in all three of the Grand Prix classes he has contested over the past ten seasons: 125cc, Moto2 and MotoGP. He has enjoyed his greatest success at Barcelona in the biggest category, winning the MotoGP race in 2014, finishing second in 2016 and 2017, and third in 2013.
Following last month’s French Grand Prix, Marquez and the rest of the MotoGP grid undertook a test session at Barcelona-Catalunya, evaluating a new surface and modifications to the final sector of the track. He came away pleased with the changes and confident that he can once again be in the hunt for victory.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) has a record at Barcelona-Catalunya that goes all the way back to 2001, when he finished seventh in the 125cc race, which was won by Lucio Cecchinello, now owner of the LCR Honda MotoGP team. Pedrosa has since won across all three classes at the track, winning the 125cc race in 2003, the 250cc race in 2005 and the MotoGP race in 2008. He has finished in the MotoGP top-three a total of nine times, including a third-place finish last year, when he stood on the podium with runner-up Marquez.
This will be a special weekend for 32-year-old Pedrosa, who was born in Sabadell, just 20 minutes from the track. It will be the former 125cc and 250cc World Champion’s final outing at his home venue with the Repsol Honda Team, after 13 seasons with the squad. Next year Marquez’s team-mate at Repsol Honda will be three-times MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo.
Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) should be back to full strength following a heavy tumble during qualifying for the French GP. The 32-year-old Briton bravely rode to eighth place at Le Mans and then sixth at Mugello, Italy, where he was still suffering the lingering effects of his injuries.
This weekend Crutchlow will be eager to produce his best-ever performance at Barcelona-Catalunya, where he’s yet to better his fifth-place finish way back in 2012. He has already proved a winner this year – at April’s Argentine Grand Prix – and has been competitive at every other track, so there’s a good chance he can finish in the top four on Sunday. Last year he encountered serious rear-grip issues in the race, finishing 11th. Hopefully the resurfaced circuit will work in his favour.
Reigning Moto2 World Champion Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS RC213V) shares the lead in the Rookie of the Year prize with Malaysian Hafizh Syahrin, who’s made history this year as the first South East Asian rider to compete in MotoGP.
Morbidelli has performed superbly in his first six MotoGP races, scoring points on five occasions while learning to get to grips with a doubly powerful racing motorcycle: from a 125 horsepower Moto2 bike to a 250 horsepower MotoGP bike. Like Crutchlow, the 23-year-old has yet to stand on the podium at Barcelona-Catalunya. Last year he finished fifth in the Moto2 race.
Fellow rookie Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) had a torrid Sunday at Mugello, falling on the first lap with Pedrosa. The 26-year-old from Chiba was able to remount and finish the race, albeit outside the points. This was a great disappointment for Nakagami, who had scored points at each of the previous four races, proving that he is also enjoying a promising apprentice season in MotoGP.
Thomas Luthi (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS RC213V) began his adjustment to MotoGP later than his fellow former Moto2 riders, due to injuries sustained at the end of last season, so he’s had a more challenging start to his MotoGP career. He has yet to score his first points in the category but has twice come very close, finishing 16th in Qatar and France. Last year Luthi finished second in the Moto2 race at Barcelona-Catalunya, so he knows the fast way around the circuit.
The Barcelona-Catalunya was built in the early 1990s to bring the motorcycling World Championship to Spain’s biking heartland. The track hosted its first Grand Prix in May 1992 and has been a popular fixture on the calendar ever since. The circuit 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. This year the final section has been altered for the third successive year, returning to a layout that’s closer to the pre-2016 configuration, with the lap climaxing with two sweeping right-hand corners.
Honda has a great record at the circuit, where Honda riders Mick Doohan, Alex Criville, Valentino Rossi, Carlos Checa, Casey Stoner, Marquez and Pedrosa have won premier-class races.
After Sunday’s racing, the MotoGP grid will remain at the circuit for a one-day test, during which riders will evaluate machinery updates in preparation for the remainder of the 19-round championship, which continues with the Dutch TT on July 1.