This weekend MotoGP returns to the legendary Silverstone circuit for the first time since August 2019. Last year’s British Grand Prix was cancelled due to the global pandemic, a real loss for all the riders who adore the fast-and-furious racetrack, which started life as a wartime airbase.
Among those who appreciate the special challenges offered by Silverstone are Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), who has a heroic record at the venue situated in the British Midlands.
Honda’s six-times MotoGP World Champion won the 2014 British MotoGP race and has twice finished second at the event, on both occasions by a fraction – in 2013 he took the chequered flag eight hundredths of a second behind the winner and in 2019 by just one hundredth of a second.
Marquez has also stood on the Silverstone podium in both MotoGP’s lower categories. On his first visit in 2010 he won the 125cc race, on his way to taking that year’s 125cc World Championship, and in 2012 he finished third in the Honda-powered Moto2 race, on his way to winning that year’s Moto2 World Championship.
He returns this year still in comeback mode, fighting back from an arm injury that kept him out of racing for nine months. The 28-year-old Spaniard contested his first race of 2021 at April’s Portuguese Grand Prix and won his first victory in a year and a half at June’s German Grand Prix.
Two weeks ago he was once again in the hunt for victory at Red Bull Ring, until he slid off after changing to his rain-tyre equipped RC213V when rain started falling.
Marquez is still working at getting his right arm and shoulder back to full strength, so he can once again unleash the spellbinding riding technique that took him to the 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 MotoGP crowns. He knows that he is most likely out of this year’s title fight, so his current aim is to continue his rehab – with more victories, whenever possible! – and work closely with his Honda engineers to ensure that both rider and his RC213V are in the best possible shape to fight for a seventh MotoGP crown in 2022.
Marquez’s team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) has a busy weekend ahead of him, trying to learn one of MotoGP’s most complicated circuits aboard his RC213V. Last time at Red Bull Ring he had ten corners and 4.3 km/2.68 miles of asphalt to learn. This time he has 18 corners and 5.9 km/3.67 miles to take onboard.
The 30-year-old Spaniard is determined to raise his game after a run of lower-than-expected results. And although Silverstone is complex, it’s a circuit that requires bravery and commitment, both of which Espargaro has in abundance.
In 2012 he won the Moto2 race, sharing the podium with third-placed Marquez, so he certainly knows his way around. And two years earlier he also joined Marquez on the Silverstone podium, taking second place to his younger countryman in the 125cc Grand Prix!
Japanese star Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) hopes that Silverstone will provide a welcome change of luck, especially since the circuit gave him his second victory in the Moto2 category.
On that day Nakagami shared the podium with Italian Franco Morbidelli, who has since won three MotoGP races, so there is little doubt that the 29-year-old from Chiba has the talent to fight for podiums and even race wins in the premier class.
So far this year Nakagami has shown great speed, but on Sundays he’s usually been out of luck. His best 2021 result to date is a fourth place at May’s Spanish GP, just a fraction of a second off the podium. This weekend he will be aiming to go at least one better.
Team-mate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol Honda RC213V) rode his rookie MotoGP season last year, so this will be his first visit to Silverstone aboard a MotoGP bike.
Marquez has already experienced some success at the track, back in his Moto3 days. He finished third in 2013 and second in 2014, on his way to that year’s Moto3 World Championship aboard a Honda NSF250RW. However, his best Silverstone result in Moto2 – he won the Moto2 World Championship in 2019 – was a fourth place in 2015, less than a second off the podium.
The 25-year-old Spaniard had a challenging start to his second season in the premier class but was a new man at the last two races at Red Bull Ring, after a rest and reset during MotoGP’s five-week mid-season break. He scored two solid ninth-place results, running a race pace just seven tenths of a second slower than the winner of the Styrian GP, the first of back-to-back races at the Alpine venue.
Marquez aims to use those two weekends as a platform for continuing his forward progress at Silverstone, where he will have a lot to learn aboard his RC213V.
Silverstone is the longest and one of MotoGP’s fastest, most challenging tracks and is appreciated by most riders for its flowing layout with numerous corners which require multiple different approaches in riding technique. It also demands a motorcycle that’s been set up to tackle everything from fast sweepers to tight hairpins.
Like many British racetracks, Silverstone was originally an RAF airfield during the Second World War. Racing began at the venue in 1948. In 1977 it became the first mainland circuit to host Britain’s round of the World Championship after the Isle of Man TT course was pronounced too dangerous. Silverstone continued to host the event until 1986, after which the GP was moved to nearby Donington Park. The British GP returned to Silverstone in 2010.
Once Sunday’s racing is finished the MotoGP paddock will return to mainland Europe for back-to-back races in Spain and Italy – the Aragon Grand Prix on 12th September and the San Marino Grand Prix on 19th September.