Honda’s four MotoGP riders face an important few days at Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli this weekend, when the 14th race of the 20-event 2022 MotoGP World Championship will be followed by an official two-day test for all riders and teams at the same circuit.
In recent years the MotoGP racing calendar has expanded from 17 or 18 races to 20, with testing increasingly limited as a result. This makes the few remaining test sessions more and more important, especially for manufacturers working particularly hard on machine development.
Factory riders Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) and Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) will race as hard as usual on Sunday, then use the Tuesday and Wednesday test days to try different settings and evaluate new parts, as they work to bring the latest RC213V back to the front of the pack after some challenging races.
At Misano last year Espargaro had his best result of his first season with Honda, when he finished behind team-mate Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), giving the factory Honda team a super one-two result. Marquez is currently recovering from surgery, his place taken by Bradl, who usually works as Honda’s official MotoGP test rider.
Thirty-one-year-old Spaniard Espargaro has already tasted victory at Misano, when he won the 2013 Moto2 race at the track, on his way to winning that year’s Moto2 World Championship, which at the time was powered by Honda.
Bradl has also stood on the podium at Misano. In 2011 he finished second in the Moto2 race, just behind none other than Marquez. At the end of that season Bradl claimed the Moto2 championship crown. The 32-year-old German scored his best MotoGP result at the track in 2013, when he finished fifth aboard his LCR Honda RC213V. That year the RC213V won the second of its seven MotoGP Constructors World Championships.
This month is significant for Honda’s MotoGP project because the company’s racing subsidiary – Honda Racing Corporation – was established 40 years ago in September 1982, shortly after Honda had fully returned to racing in the motorcycling World Championships.
The 1982 season marked the launch of Honda’s superb three-cylinder NS500 Grand Prix bike. The machine scored one of its first great results at Misano that year, when American legend Freddie Spencer finished second in the Italian GP. The following year Spencer and the NS500 won Honda’s first premier-class Riders World Championship. In total Honda has won 46 premier-class Riders and Constructors World Championships, more than any other manufacturer in more than seven decades of World Championship motorcycle racing.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) was Honda’s top-scoring rider last time out at last month’s Austrian Grand Prix and aims to be back in the points this Sunday. Last year at Misano the 26-year-old former Moto2 and Moto3 World Champion scored a single point, for 15th place, and will be out to improve on that this weekend, then continue working during Monday’s tests.
Marquez has stood on the podium at Misano on three occasions. In 2013 he was third in the Moto3 race. The following year he finished second on his way to winning the Moto3 title. In 2019 he took third in the Moto2 race, on his way to winning the Moto2 crown.
Team-mate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) hopes to make amends for an unlucky race at the Austrian GP. The 30-year-old from Chiba was battling in the pack when his front tyre overheated, which reduced grip and caused him to slide off. Like his fellow RC213V riders Nakagami has also enjoyed podium success at Misano, finishing second in the 2013 and third in the 2015 and 2016 Moto2 races.
The circuit close to the seaside of the Italian Riviera resorts has hosted motorcycle Grand Prix races on and off since 1980, with Italian, San Marino and Emilia Romagna GPs. A serious accident during the 1993 event triggered a break, the track re-joining the calendar in 2007, running in the opposite direction. Honda has claimed many premier-class victories at Misano, with Freddie Spencer, Pier-Francesco Chili, Mick Doohan, Alex Criville, Dani Pedrosa and Marquez.
Misano is the penultimate race of the main European segment for the 2022 MotoGP series, before riders and teams head east for the Japanese, Thai, Australian and Malaysian rounds of the series. These four countries will host their first MotoGP events since 2019, before the start of the global pandemic, which forced the cancellation of these races in 2020 and 2021. Honda’s quartet of riders are particularly looking forward to the company’s home Grand Prix, which takes place at Twin Ring Motegi on September 25.