The 2022 MotoGP World Championship draws to a close this weekend at Valencia, where Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) hopes to be in the fight for victory once again.
This has not been an easy season for Honda, with its number-one rider missing almost one third of the races while recovering from another operation to the right-arm injury that has troubled him since a crash during the first race of 2020.
Last month at Phillip Island in Australia the 29-year-old Spaniard came within 0.186 seconds of scoring Honda’s first victory of the year and its first since last year’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Like Phillip Island, Circuit Ricardo Tormo is an anti-clockwise track, which suits Marquez because he is always at his strongest through left-handers, especially now that he’s working to regain full strength in his right arm.
Marquez returned to racing after a six-race layoff at September’s Aragon GP, after an exploratory outing at Misano, following the earlier San Marino GP. One week after Aragon he took pole position for the Japanese GP, proving his remarkable talent and resilience.
Although Honda’s six-times MotoGP World Champion knew he wouldn’t be 100% fit for these last few races of 2022 he wanted to return to racing to accelerate his physical rehabilitation and help Honda find the best development direction with its RC213V for 2023. At the last few races Marquez has tried several technical updates, including new aerodynamics and a new swingarm, with the aim of improving various aspects of the motorcycle’s performance.
This will be Marquez’s first Valencia Grand Prix since November 2019, when he concluded arguably his best-ever MotoGP season with a 12th win of the year, giving him 88.4% of the maximum-possible points score. In more than seven decades of GP racing only five premier-class riders have achieved a better percentage score. Marquez missed the 2020 and 2021 Valencia races due to injury.
His record at the track is impressive. He has achieved three Grand Prix victories there, the 2014 and 2019 MotoGP races and the 2012 Moto2 race.
Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) contests his last race with Honda at Valencia, hoping to complete his second season with the factory team with a strong result. The 31-year-old Spaniard started this season in superb style with a podium finish at the season-opening Qatar GP but has struggled to reproduce that performance since.
However, the former Moto2 World Champion has a strong run of point-scoring finishes, with points taken at the last five races, so he will want to keep that run going and try to get inside the top ten. His Valencia record includes three MotoGP podium finishes and two in the old 125cc class. Espargaro missed last year’s Valencia race, after taking a heavy tumble on the Saturday.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) also rides his last race for Honda on Sunday to complete a third straight year on RC213V machinery. Marquez graduated to MotoGP in 2020, after winning the 2019 Moto2 championship, five years after he won the Moto3 title with Honda. He secured his Moto3 crown at the traditional Valencia season finale.
The 26-year-old Spaniard has achieved two MotoGP podiums with Honda and has had some strong rides this year, most notably in April’s dry Portuguese GP, where he finished seventh, and in last month’s wet Thai GP, where he took eighth.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) plans to return to action this weekend, after missing the last three races following surgery to his right hand, to fix damage sustained in a crash during the Aragon GP. Nakagami is flying to Spain from Japan, where he underwent the operation a month ago and has since been recuperating. He will undergo a medical check before being given clearance to commence practice on Friday morning.
The 30-year-old from Chiba has shown great speed at Valencia in the past. In 2020 he qualified on the front row for both Grand Prix events at the track, finishing fourth, less than a second off the podium in the GP of Europe, and challenging for a podium finish at the Valencia GP before sliding off.
Valencia, near Spain’s Mediterranean coast, hosted its first Grand Prix in 1999 and has closed the MotoGP World Championship every year since 2002, except for Covid-hit 2020, when the circuit staged two rounds before the season-ending Portuguese GP. The venue is hugely popular with fans, because the vast grandstands that surround most of the track allow spectators to see the entire layout.
The circuit is tight and twisting, so riders need their bikes to be very manoeuvrable, so they can make rapid changes of direction. Horsepower and excellent anti-wheelie control are also vital, because riders enter the long 0.876km/0.544-mile start/finish straight at low speed, so they must accelerate through all the gears to a top speed of around 332kmh/206mph.
Honda riders have won numerous MotoGP races at Valencia, starting with Brazilian Alex Barros (Honda RC211V) in 2002 and Italian Valentino Rossi (Honda RC211V) in 2003. Marco Melandri (Honda RC211V) won there in 2005, while Dani Pedrosa topped the podium in 2007 and 2007 (Honda RC212V) and in 2012 and 2017 (Honda RC213V). Casey Stoner took Valencia victory in 2011 (Honda RC212V) and Marquez in 2014 and 2019 (Honda RC213V).
MotoGP riders and teams get literally one day off before commencing their preparations for the 2023 season. The one-day test at Valencia next Tuesday will include Marc Marquez, his new team-mate Joan Mir, winner of the 2020 MotoGP title, Nakagami and his new team-mate Alex Rins.
Following that outing the paddock will wait until early February for the first tests of 2023 at Sepang, Malaysia. The 2023 MotoGP World Championship will commence with the Portuguese GP at the Algarve International Circuit on 26 March.