The Repsol Honda Team will have a revised line-up for this weekend’s Argentine Grand Prix, with HRC test rider Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) joining full-time rider Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit.
Bradl will ride the bikes of Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), who is recovering from a fall at the Indonesian Grand Prix two weeks ago, which has given him another case of diplopia. Marquez’s vision is improving and his condition is being closely monitored by his medical team who will assess when it’s safe for the six-times MotoGP king to return to action.
This is the first Argentine MotoGP since March 2019, when Marquez won a sensational victory, beating the rest of the pack by more than nine seconds. That win was one of 12 during the 2019 season, making Marquez’s sixth MotoGP world title arguable the strongest of all time. In 19 races he missed the top two steps of the podium just once.
Espargaro is confident that he can successfully fly the Repsol Honda flag at Termas after a storming start to his second year with Honda. The 30-year-old Spaniard led much of the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix, finally finishing a close third, even though this was the very first race for Honda’s completely revised 2022 RC213V.
Espargaro, Marquez and their fellow RC213V riders struggled at the subsequent Indonesian Grand Prix, due to a surprise change of rear-slick design. Due to high wear and tyre blistering experienced during pre-season testing at the brand-new Mandalika circuit, teams were equipped with a rear slick designed in 2017, with a stiffer casing, which didn’t suit the latest RC213V at all.
This weekend the MotoGP grid will return to using current rear slicks, for which the 2022 RC213V was specifically designed.
The omens are certainly good for Espargaro and his fellow RC213V riders because Honda riders have always gone well at Termas de Rio Hondo, winning four of the six MotoGP races staged at the circuit since it joined the World Championship in 2014： Marquez in 2014, 2016 and 2019 and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) in 2018.
Marquez’s replacement Bradl also took part in the inaugural Argentine GP at Termas aboard an RC213V, finishing a strong fifth behind winner Marquez, runner-up Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi. The 32-year-old German, who won the 2011 Moto2 title after a long battle with Marquez, also finished seventh in the 2016 Argentine GP, so he gets on very well with the Termas circuit.
Bradl substituted for Marquez on many occasions during 2020 and 2021, while the 29-year-old Spaniard recovered from a right-arm injury. During that time he scored some very impressive results for a test rider, taking seventh at the 2020 Portuguese GP and eighth at the 2020 French GP.
Team-mates Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) also had challenging weekends at Mandalika, due to the tyre issues, and like their colleagues they cannot wait to get back to using 2022-spec rear slicks at Termas de Rio Hondo.
This will be an interesting weekend for the younger Marquez, because although this is his third year in the premier class he has never raced a MotoGP at Termas. When the circus last visited the circuit he was on his way to winning the 2019 Moto2 World Championship.
On that occasion he finished a close third in the Moto2 race, the first of ten podiums that helped him win the title that his older brother had won in 2012.
Marquez will do his best to re-learn Termas on a MotoGP bike, with the aim of adding to his first points-score of the season, his 13th place at soaking Mandalika.
Nakagami scored a great seventh-place result on his last visit to Termas in 2019. He also started 2021 well with a top-ten finish in Qatar but was unable to score points last time out in Indonesia. Issues with the allocated rear slick in practice and qualifying left him at the back of the grid for the first time since his first MotoGP race at the start of the 2018 season.
Water spray kicked up by the bikes in front of him at Mandalika made vision a serious problem, so Nakagami was unable to see his way to moving forward as fast as he had wanted, leaving him 19th at the chequered flag. A return to this year’s slick tyres at Termas should give the 30-year-old from Chiba a chance of repeating his top-ten result at the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix.
Argentina made history in 1961 when it became the first country outside Europe to host a round of the motorcycle Grand Prix World Championships. Coincidentally, that event crowned Honda’s second World Champion, Tom Phillis, who secured the 125cc title just a few weeks after Mike Hailwood had won Honda’s first world crown, the 250cc, at the Swedish GP.
Phillis won that Argentine GP at the Buenos Aires circuit, outside the capital city, heading a Honda monopoly of the top-five positions.
After three Argentine GPs the event disappeared from the Grand Prix calendar until a brief return in 1980s and 1990s, at the same venue.
The 2014 creation of the Termas de Rio Honda circuit near the northern Argentine town of the same name, famous for its hot springs, has made Argentina a permanent feature of today’s MotoGP World Championship.
The circuit was designed by well-known racetrack engineer Jarno Zafelli, whose aim was to create a fast, flowing layout that encourages great racing. The 4.8km/2.9-mile circuit is a blend of fast straights and undulating, high-speed corners and is highly popular with riders.
The Argentine GP always attracts a large and passionate crowd, with fans visiting from numerous neighbouring countries because this event is currently MotoGP’s only race in South America.
After Sunday’s racing the paddock travels north for next weekend’s Grand Prix of the Americas, at Circuit of the Americas near Austin, Texas. Two weeks later the main 12-race European segment of the championship begins with the Portuguese GP.
The 2021 MotoGP season – the longest-ever, with 21 rounds – concludes at Valencia, Spain, on November 6.