Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) continues his return to racing alongside new team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) as the Spanish pair contest their home Grand Prix at Jerez this weekend.
Six-times MotoGP king Marquez eased himself back into action at Portimao, Portugal, two weeks ago, after nine months off his RC213V.
His comeback was remarkable and emotional. Marquez finished the race in seventh place, only 13 seconds behind the winner, and was moved to tears when he returned to his garage where he was greeted by his Repsol Honda Team. The 28-year-old had spent nine months – including three surgeries and daily physio and rehab work – to recover from the fractured right arm he sustained at Jerez last July. His commitment to always pushing forward, no matter the odds, has been incredible and an inspiration.
Of course he is still in recovery mode and will continue working with that mindset this week, after 11 days of gym work and rest following three days of riding at Portimao, one of the few tracks in the current 2021 World Championship that he had never ridden before.
Marquez knows Jerez much, much better. He has been racing at the popular Andalusian venue since he was a teenager, climbing the ladder towards Grand Prix racing. And yet he didn’t win a Spanish GP during his years in the 125cc and Moto2 World Championships – he won his first Jerez GP in 2014, aboard his RC213V and followed that with further successes in 2018 and 2019.
Espargaro cannot wait to start riding at Jerez. The 29-year-old Spaniard joined Honda at the start of this year and went into the season-opening Qatar and Doha GPs after only five days aboard an RC213V, due to the global pandemic restricting pre-season testing.
The races at Losail are staged at night-time under floodlights, so the conditions are unique, and they don’t teach riders and engineers a lot. Portimao only joined the World Championship last year, so it’s still very much a new circuit to MotoGP riders.
At Jerez the 2013 Moto2 World Champion will finally ride his RC213V at a track he knows really well. This will allow him to learn much more about his new machine than was possible at the previous three races.
Espargaro enjoys the circuit and has twice climbed to the top step of the podium. He won the 125cc Spanish GP at the track in 2010 and two years later took victory in the Honda-powered Moto2 race, beating Marquez by 0.241 seconds! His best MotoGP performance so far at Jerez is a fifth place in 2015 and he believes he now has the machine to better that result.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol Honda RC213V) has also enjoyed important successes at Jerez. In 2017 he won his first Moto2 race at the track, which was the first step towards him winning the Moto2 title in 2019.
The 24-year-old Spaniard has had a challenging start to his second season in MotoGP but, like Espargaro, is looking forward to competing on more familiar ground. Last time out at Portimao he chased his older brother home in eighth place and hopes to use that result as the foundation to an even stronger weekend at Jerez.
Last year the younger Marquez made his MotoGP debut at Jerez, finishing 12th in the Spanish GP and an impressive eighth in the subsequent Andalusian GP at the track.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) scored his first top-ten finish of the year two weeks ago at Portimao, despite some pain and discomfort from a high-speed fall during practice. That result gives him the confidence to keep making steps forward at Jerez, where last year the 29-year-old from Chiba scored a superb fourth place in the Andalusian GP, only 0.567 seconds off the podium.
The former Moto2 race winner’s best result in the intermediate class at Jerez was another fourth place, just two tenths of a second behind third-place finisher Pol Espargaro!
This year Nakagami contests his fourth season in MotoGP, riding a latest-spec RC213V for the first time.
There will be five RC213V machines on the grid this weekend, with Stefan Bradl (Team HRC Honda RC213V) returning to his normal duties as HRC test rider. The former Moto2 World Champion contested the last 12 races of 2020 and the first two of 2021 as replacement for the injured Marc Marquez, during which he recorded some excellent results, while continuing development of Honda’s MotoGP bike.
Jerez has been part of the MotoGP World Championship since 1987, when the premier-class race was won by Wayne Gardner (Honda NSR500), who later that year became the second Honda rider to win the 500cc world title, following Freddie Spencer’s 1983 and 1985 successes.
Since then Eddie Lawson (Honda NSR500), Mick Doohan (Honda NSR500), Alberto Puig (Honda NSR500), Alex Criville (Honda NSR500), Valentino Rossi (Honda RC211V), Sete Gibernau (Honda RC211V), Dani Pedrosa (Honda RC212V), Casey Stoner (Honda RC212V) and Marc Marquez (Honda RC213V) have also won races at the track.
Jerez was recently renamed Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto in honour of the country’s first multiple motorcycling World Champion who won 90 GP races in the smaller classes between 1969 and 1985.
The track is situated close to the city of Jerez and has always been popular with riders and fans. The layout twists and turns around hillsides, placing the emphasis on fine handling. Many of the corner sequences link together, demanding high lean angles, so it’s important to set up and ride your machine in a manner that will look after the tyres.
Next stop on the 2021 MotoGP journey is the French GP at Le Mans on May 16.