Team-mates Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) and Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) contest their home Grand Prix at Jerez this Sunday, hoping to put memories of last weekend’s complicated and rain-soaked Portuguese Grand Prix behind them.
The first two days of the Portuguese round were dominated by heavy rain, leaving the pair only Sunday morning’s 20-minute warm-up session in which to set up their machines for the dry race. Usually, this wouldn’t be a huge concern, because engineers can refer back to data from previous races at any track, but this year’s RC213V is an all-new machine, so they had no option but to guesstimate settings.
All things considered, Marquez and Espargaro did well to finish sixth and ninth, with the impressive Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) just between them in seventh.
Jerez has always been hugely popular with fans, who ride their motorcycles from all over Spain and Europe to attend a Grand Prix that becomes a huge celebration of the joys of motorcycling. And this year is particularly significant for those fans, because this will be their first time at Jerez since the 2019 Spanish GP, due to the pandemic.
The older Marquez brother has achieved some of his greatest successes at Jerez. The eight-times World Champion – six in MotoGP, one each in Moto2 and 125s – has won three MotoGP races at the Andalusian circuit, in 2014, 2018 and 2019. Before he graduated to the premier class his best Jerez results were second place in the 2012 Moto2 race and third in the 2009 125cc race.
MotoGP featured back-to-back Jerez rounds at the start of the Covid-affected 2020 season. Marquez led the early stages of the 2020 Spanish GP, ran off the track, made a heroic recovery to third place, only to crash in the closing stages, sustaining a fractured right humerus (upper arm) bone. This injury kept him out of racing for nine months, until his return to action last April, so the 2022 Spanish GP will be his first in two years.
The 29-year-old’s aim this weekend is to continue development of the 2022 RC213V, working diligently with his Repsol Honda crew and HRC engineers to increase the machine’s overall potential. Warm and sunny weather is forecast throughout the three days, so he should be able to make much better progress than last weekend.
If the work goes well then there is little doubt that Marquez will compete for a podium finish on Sunday. If he does finish in the top three it will be his 100th podium in the premier class, another milestone for one of the greatest motorcycle racers in the history of the sport.
Sunday’s race isn’t the only important event of the next few days for Repsol Honda and HRC. The racing is followed by a one-day test at Jerez, which will allow riders and engineers to work on their machines without the usual pressures and demands of a Grand Prix weekend. Good weather is also forecast for this vital day.
So far Espargaro is the only rider to have scored a podium result on the 2022 RC213V. The 30-year-old made a stunning start to the championship by leading most of the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix, finally finishing in a very strong third place. Obviously he wants to repeat or better that result on Sunday.
Espargaro has yet to stand on the MotoGP podium at Jerez but he has won two races in the smaller World Championship classes at the track. In 2010 he won the 125cc Grand Prix at the track and in 2012 he won the Spanish round of the Moto2 category at the circuit. The following year he became Moto2 World Champion. His best MotoGP result so far is his fifth place in 2015, three places behind his current team-mate.
Marquez’s younger brother comes to Jerez aiming to build on a morale-boosting ride last Sunday at the Algarve International Circuit. Alex Marquez always goes well at the undulating Portuguese track – last year he missed the MotoGP podium there by a fraction of a second and this year he enjoyed a thrilling duel with his sibling during the final laps, losing out by just two hundredths of a second.
That result will hopefully give the 26-year-old the momentum he needs to keep pushing forward and improving after a challenging start to 2022 at the first four races, which were all outside Europe, in Qatar, Indonesia, Argentina and the USA. MotoGP is now back in Europe until September, which makes life much easier for most riders and teams, with less travelling time and more time to focus on physical and mental training and technical preparation.
Alex Marquez has also enjoyed success at his home Grand Prix. In 2017 he scored his first Moto2 victory at the track, two years before claiming the Moto2 World Championship. Marquez also won the Moto3 World Championship, in 2014, but despite standing on Moto3 podium at Spain’s other three MotoGP venues – Aragon, Catalunya and Valencia – he never made the top three at Jerez in Grand Prix racing’s smallest category.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) aims to get his 2022 campaign back on track after a difficult start to his fifth season in the premier class. The former Moto2 race winner scored points at three of the first five races, with a top-ten finish in Qatar, but wants much better than that.
Jerez is one of the 30-year-old from Chiba’s favourite circuits, so he is confident he can have a good weekend and compete inside the top ten. In both 2020 and 2021 Nakagami scored two of his best three results in MotoGP, taking fourth in the 2020 Andalusian GP and in the 2021 Spanish GP. On both occasions he was less than a second away from a first MotoGP podium result.
Jerez is one of MotoGP’s longest-established venues. Jerez city had hosted motorcycle street races for many decades before the current short-circuit was constructed in the mid-1980s. The new circuit hosted its first Grand Prix in 1987 and quickly became a favourite with riders, thanks to its challenging layout which is dominated by long, sweeping corners that demand a fine-handling machine and smooth use of the throttle.
Recently Jerez was renamed in honour of Spain’s most successful Grand Prix rider, Angel Nieto, who won 90 GP races in the smaller classes between 1969 and 1985. Marquez’s victory tally currently stands at 85, with 59 aboard his RC213V in the class of kings, 16 in Moto2 and ten in 125s.
Honda has been winning at Jerez since the very beginning. Wayne Gardner and his Honda NSR500 won the inaugural Spanish GP at the track in April 1987, on his way to winning that year’s 500cc/MotoGP World Championship. Since then Honda riders Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan, Alberto Puig, Alex Criville, Valentino Rossi, Sete Gibernau, Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Marc Marquez have also won at the track, taking Honda’s Jerez total to 22 victories, with the NSR500, RC211V, RC212V and RC213V.
The Spanish GP is the sixth round of this year’s 21-race World Championship, the longest in the sport’s history. It is followed later this month by the French GP at Le Mans and the Italian GP at Mugello.