The 2022 MotoGP World Championship roars back into action at Silverstone this weekend following its longest mid-season break in decades, caused by the cancellation of last month’s Finnish Grand Prix.
On Sunday the grid will line up for the first time since the Dutch round of the championship on 26th June. The five weeks off since then has given riders and teams a chance to rest following a hectic first half of the season, which concluded with five races over seven weekends, although of course the riders continued their training programmes through much of the break.
Honda’s four MotoGP riders – Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) – are all raring to go, rested and recharged for the remaining nine races of the 20-event 2022 season.
Espargaro has great memories of his last visit to Silverstone. On the Saturday of the 2021 British Grand Prix he recorded his first MotoGP pole position with Honda, then led the race the next day, before taking the chequered flag in fifth place, only four seconds away from a podium finish.
This weekend the 31-year-old Spaniard will aim once again to be at the front of the race, battling with MotoGP’s fastest riders. So far this year Espargaro has scored one podium aboard his RC213V, at the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix. He missed the last race in the Netherlands due to injuries sustained in the previous German GP. Therefore the five-week break has been particularly useful to the former Moto2 World Champion to fully recover from those injuries.
Espargaro has achieved a single Grand Prix victory at Silverstone, in 2012, when he won the Moto2 race. Two years earlier he finished second in the 125cc race. On both occasions he shared the podium with current MotoGP team-mate Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), who was third in the 2012 Moto2 race and won the 2010 125cc race.
Marquez is currently recovering from further surgery to fully fix the right arm he broke at Jerez in 2020. After contesting the opening rounds of the 2022 championship he underwent a humeral osteotomy, which will require him to miss the remainder of this season. For six weeks following the operation he had to keep the arm immobilised, finally commencing light rehab work in mid-July.
This weekend the 29-year-old Spaniard’s machines will once again be in the capable hands of Honda’s MotoGP test rider Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), who took part in a private test session at Jerez, Spain, last month, working to continue improving the latest RC213V, which was fully redesigned for 2022.
The 32-year-old German tried various new parts and strategies during the tests, which should help Honda continue forward progress in the second half of this year’s championship.
Bradl has tasted victory at Silverstone – he won the 2011 Moto2 race at the track, on his way to winning that year’s Moto2 World Championship. His best MotoGP result at the track so far is the sixth place he recorded in 2013, when riding for the LCR Honda team.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) is another rider who has triumphed in the Moto2 class at Silverstone. The 30-year-old from Chiba won the 2017 British Moto2 round, defeating six other riders who are now his rivals in MotoGP.
Nakagami’s aim this weekend at Silverstone will be to get back in the groove and return to the top ten after challenging weekends at Barcelona, Sachsenring and Assen. He has already scored four top-ten finishes this year, including two seventh-place results at Jerez and Le Mans.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) also had a difficult conclusion to the first half of the season, due to injuries received during June’s Catalan GP at Barcelona. The 26-year-old former Moto3 and Moto2 World Champion’s best finish so far this year is a seventh place in April’s Portuguese GP, so he knows he has the pace to run close to the front group.
Marquez has twice stood on the podium at Silverstone – he finished third in the 2013 Moto3 race and second the following year, when he won the world title.
Silverstone is a very fast and highly demanding racetrack, with a flowing layout that rewards high-precision aggression. Many of the corners are interlinked, so finding the right line is critical to good lap times. The track’s character often creates spectacularly close racing and the circuit is a great favourite with riders.
The British round of the MotoGP World Championship is historically important, because the country opened motorcycling’s first-ever World Championship season on the Isle of Man in June 1949. However, the first British motorcycle Grand Prix wasn’t staged until 1977, after the Isle of Man TT was removed from the series because the 37.73-mile circuit was deemed too dangerous for World Championship competition.
Silverstone hosted the British GP from 1977 to 1986. The event then moved to Donington Park, before returning to Silverstone in 2010.
Honda has enjoyed plenty of success at British rounds of the premier-class championship, starting with Mike Hailwood’s legendary 1966 and 1967 TT wins aboard the RC181 four-stroke. During GP racing’s two-stroke era, Randy Mamola, Freddie Spencer, Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan, Alex Criville and Valentino Rossi won British GPs aboard Honda’s NSR500, the most successful premier-class motorcycle of all time.
Since large-capacity MotoGP four-strokes arrived in 2002 Honda has won British GPs with Rossi, Max Biaggi and Dani Pedrosa aboard the RC211V, with Andrea Dovizioso and Casey Stoner on the RC212V and with Marc Marquez on the RC213V.
After Sunday’s racing the MotoGP circus returns to Europe, with the Austrian Grand Prix at Red Bull Ring on 21st August. The 2022 season concludes at Valencia, Spain, on 6th November.