Reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) has scored 65 Grand Prix victories at racetracks all over the world, but he’s achieved more success at the Sachsenring than anywhere else.
The 25-year-old Spaniard, who won the Dutch TT a fortnight ago to increase his advantage in the 2018 MotoGP series, hasn’t been beaten at the Sachsenring since 2009, his second season in the World Championships. In 2010 he won the 125cc German GP, in 2011 and 2012 he won the Moto2 race and he is undefeated in MotoGP since he graduated to the premier class with the Repsol Honda Team in 2013. His five MotoGP wins at the track have helped Honda achieve an amazing run of eight consecutive MotoGP victories at the track.
However, Marquez knows very well that past performances don’t guarantee future performance, so he goes into this weekend prepared to work as hard as ever for success. His most recent victory at Assen moved him 41 points clear of closest-challenger Valentino Rossi, but afterward that latest success he announced that now is no time to back off, so he will be in his usual attack mode for the ninth race of the season.
Marquez is in great form as he chases a fifth MotoGP crown from his six attempts. So far this season he has won four of eight races, with two further podium finishes. The only races he finished off the podium were Italy, where he crashed and remounted to finish 16th, and Argentina, where a penalty left him in 18th.
Team work is of course vital to Marquez’s success. HRC created its best-ever RC213V for the 2018 season, building a bike that is both faster and easier to ride; hence Marquez’s consistent speed throughout the first eight races. He has high hopes of continuing his form this weekend before enjoying MotoGP’s summer break, with two free weekends before the Czech round on 5 August.
The Sachsenring is an anti-clockwise track – one of five such venues in the 19-round championship – which is one reason Marquez goes so well there. Since he was a boy, Marquez’s training regime has focused on riding around dirt tracks, which are usually anti-clockwise, so he feels even happier turning left than he does turning right!
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) has also enjoyed plenty of success at the Sachsenring, situated near the city of Chemnitz. The 32-year-old Spaniard was the most successful rider at the track before Marquez moved up from Moto2, with a total of six victories. These include four MotoGP wins, in 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012, and two 250cc wins, in 2004 and 2005.
This year Pedrosa arrives at the German venue hopeful of a strong ride at a track that he likes, following a run of more difficult results. Two weeks ago he finished 15th in a record-breaking Dutch TT at Assen, which featured the closest top 15 in almost 900 premier-class races since motorcycling’s world championships began in 1949. Pedrosa finished just 16 seconds behind Marquez in that race. This is the result of recent changes to MotoGP’s technical regulations which make the racing closer and more exciting. By way of contrast, when Pedrosa won his first MotoGP race at Shanghai, China, in May 2006, when 15th finisher took the checkered flag one minute and 11 seconds behind him.
HRC’s third rider Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) was in the lead group at Assen, finishing in sixth place, less than four seconds behind Marquez. The 32-year-old Briton also lies sixth on points, with one victory so far this year, at round two in Argentina, which has helped put Honda at the top of the MotoGP Constructors World Championship, which the company hopes to win for the third consecutive year. Crutchlow has also scored two strong fourth-place results, in the season-opening Qatar GP and in last month’s Catalan GP, so he has his eyes firmly set on another podium.
Crutchlow has good reason to be optimistic about this weekend. He has always gone well at the Sachsenring, where he scored one of his first MotoGP podiums in 2013, when he chased Marquez home. Two years ago he again finished second to Marquez, in a rain-affected race, and set the fastest lap along the way.
Honda has three rookies in MotoGP this season. Reigning Moto2 World Champion Franco Morbidelli (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) is currently the best placed of all the rookies, with an excellent record of six points-scoring rides from his first eight races in the category, including his first top ten, achieved at May’s Spanish Grand Prix. However, the 23-year-old crashed heavily during Dutch TT practice, breaking a metacarpal bone in his left hand. Morbidelli is working hard to regain fitness in time for the coming weekend, but will not know if he can ride until he has undergone a fitness check at the track.
Fellow rookie Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) has also impressed pit lane with his first eight races in the premier class. The 26-year-old Japanese star has scored world championship points on four occasions, as he adapts from a 125 horsepower Moto2 bike to a 250 horsepower MotoGP machine. The former Moto2 race winner is currently busier than any of his fellow MotoGP riders because he will contest the hugely prestigious Suzuka 8 Hours race at the end of the month. Nakagami, who has already visited Japan several times for pre-race testing, will return to his homeland after this weekend to make final preparation for the event, staged on July 29. In the race he will share an HRC-prepared Honda CBR1000RR with Takumi Takahashi and Leon Camier. Former MotoGP and 250cc Grand Prix winner Tohru Ukawa managing the team.
Honda’s third MotoGP rookie Thomas Luthi (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda RC213V) has had a challenging time of late. The 2016 and 2017 Moto2 championship runner-up started his MotoGP preparations later than his fellow rookies, due to injuries sustained late last season, and has yet to make it into the points, although a positive test at Brno following the Dutch TT has helped him make forward progress. His difficulties perfectly sum up the demands of MotoGP. Luthi is a former 125cc world champion who won 11 Moto2 races before moving up to the big class.
The German round of the World Championships sees the MotoGP circus switch from one historic race venue to another, from Assen to the Sachsenring. The original Sachsenring street circuit was first used for racing in 1927 and hosted the first GP behind the Iron Curtain from 1961 to 1972. The track regularly attracted crowds of 350,000 and was last used for World Championship racing in 1972. Following German reunification a Sachsenring short circuit was constructed. The venue hosted its first Grand Prix in 1998 and since then has undergone substantial upgrades. It is now a complex and challenging circuit, with an ultra-tight first section that leads into a rollercoaster series of high-speed left-handers that are its dominant feature.
Honda won its first Grand Prix at the Sachsenring in July 1961, when Mike Hailwood took victory in the 250cc race aboard a four-cylinder RC162. Honda riders have won 14 premier-class GPs at the new Sachsenring since 1998, with a Pedrosa and Marquez taking a clean sweep of the last eight MotoGP races at the track.
MotoGP reconvenes after its short summer break for the Czech Grand Prix on August 5 and the Austrian GP on August 12.