The 2022 MotoGP World Championship reaches half-distance this weekend in Germany, where Honda won its first premier-class Grand Prix victory almost 60 years ago.
Honda entered the 500cc category for the first time in May 1966, unveiling its four-cylinder RC161 at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim. The machine was an immediate success, comfortably winning the race, with Honda legend Jim Redman onboard.
The following year the RC161 helped Honda take a unique clean sweep of all six Constructors World Championships: 500cc, 350cc, 250cc, 125cc and 50cc. Honda has now won more 500cc/MotoGP successes than any other manufacturer, with 312 race wins, 21 riders titles and 25 constructors crowns so far.
Sunday’s German Grand Prix takes place at the historic Sachsenring, which initially staged Eastern German GPs from 1961 to 1972.
The modern, purpose-built Sachsenring is very different from the old street circuit but is still a huge challenge for riders. The venue’s undisputed king – Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) – won’t be present this year because he’s recovering from major surgery to an old arm injury.
Marquez won the last eight MotoGP races at Sachsenring, his successes preceded by a hat-trick by Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC212V and RC213V).
Marquez’s place will as usual be taken by Honda’s MotoGP test rider Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), who has already deputised for Honda’s six-times MotoGP king on two occasions this year, in April’s Argentine GP and the most recent Catalan GP. He also contested May’s Spanish GP as a wild-card entry.
The 32-year-old German has been racing at Sachsenring since he was a teenager. He scored his best result at the track during the 2011 German Grand Prix, when he finished second to Marquez in the Moto2 race. He also finished second in the 2008 125cc GP and took his best MotoGP result so far in the 2013 event, when he rode an RC213V to fourth place, for the LCR Honda Team.
Full-time team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) aims to bounce back this weekend from a difficult race at the Catalan Grand Prix, caused by an issue with his rear tyre.
Espargaro started the race superbly, running fifth in the lead group during the early stages, but then his rear tyre lost grip, so he couldn’t use his machine’s full performance and slipped back to finish 17th.
Back in March the 31-year-old Spaniard scored the all-new RC213V’s first podium at the Qatar GP. Since then he has been working hard at developing the bike, continuing that process during an important one-day post-race test at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit.
Espargaro finished the day a close fifth fastest, just 0.241 seconds off the best time. During the day he tried various important new parts, including new aerodynamic solutions and a revised frame and swingarm. The data and information gathered during the session will help Honda HRC engineers to extract even more performance from the machine during the second half of the 2022 season.
His best result so far at Sachsenring is his third place during the 2013 Moto2 season, which he ended by winning the title.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) comes to Germany in recovery mode, after a heavy fall at the first corner of the Catalan GP. The 30-year-old from Chiba escaped without any fractures but spent the next few days in hospital. He will take part in Friday morning’s FP1 session to assess his fitness and plan the rest of his weekend accordingly.
Team-mate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) also took part in the post-Catalan GP tests, riding an amazing 96 laps, more than anyone else, despite pain from a heavy fall during Saturday practice at the track.
The 26-year-old former Moto2 and Moto3 World Champion is convinced that the knowledge gained during the test, which will be relayed to HRC in Japan, will help him improve his pace for the remainder of 2022.
The younger Marquez has scored a single Grand Prix victory at Sachsenring – he won the 2019 Moto2 race, on his way to winning that year’s world title.
The present Sachsenring was constructed during the 1990s and hosted its first MotoGP round in 1998. The venue was enlarged into its current 3.67km/2.28-mile layout in 2001. The anti-clockwise circuit is heavily asymmetric, with ten left-handers and three right-handers. These include a hugely challenging sequence of seven consecutive lefts, from Turn Four to Ten, which take riders across undulating countryside at ever-increasing speed. The lap is completed by two tighter left-handers, which both offer opportunities for last-gasp out-braking manoeuvres.
Honda riders have won 17 500cc/MotoGP races during the track’s 25-year tenure as host to the German GP. Those winners, in chronological order, include Mick Doohan, Alex Barros, Valentino Rossi, Sete Gibernau, Max Biaggi, Pedrosa and Marquez.
The German GP is the third of four races over just five weekends, a busy period in the MotoGP season. Immediately after Sunday’s race the paddock will pack up and head north-west to Assen, for next weekend’s Dutch round of the championship. After that riders and teams get to enjoy a five-weekend mid-season break before reconvening at Silverstone, for the British GP on August 7.