Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) today achieved his best qualifying performance since his return from a nine-month layoff from injury.
Honda’s six-times MotoGP World Champion rode a stunning final lap in this afternoon’s Q2 qualifying session to move up to third fastest for a front-row start, but moments later he was knocked back to fourth, by less than two hundredths of a second.
Nonetheless the 28-year-old Spaniard – who won of five of his last seven races here aboard his RC213V – is in good shape for tomorrow’s Aragon Grand Prix, the 13th round of this year’s 18-event World Championship.
Before qualifying Marquez topped the all-important FP4 session, during which riders evaluate their race set-ups. This suggests he has a good chance of climbing the podium for the first time since he won June’s German GP in superb style.
Marquez has a remarkable record at anti-clockwise circuits. He is unbeaten since 2009 at Germany’s Sachsenring, but Aragon is less left-handed than the German venue, with ten lefts and seven rights, against ten lefts and three rights. This means it’s more demanding for his right arm and shoulder, which aren’t yet at full strength following a crash at Jerez in July 2020.
Marquez has had two tumbles this weekend – at Turn 16 yesterday and at Turn 14 this morning – both of which he emerged from unscathed.
Team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) came into the Aragon GP after his best weekend since joining the Repsol Honda Team at the start of the year – he started the British GP at Silverstone from pole position, led the race and finished an excellent fifth.
Espargaro has also shown excellent speed here, using Honda’s latest chassis upgrade for the RC213V. Seventh in the first three sessions, just two tenths off the fastest lap, and eighth in FP4, the 30-year-old Spaniard also qualified eighth. He knows he can once again fight in the front group, so long as he can get a good start. The first laps at this circuit can always be a bit hectic, so the former Moto2 World Champion knows he must at fight at his maximum from the first corner. Only a couple of minor errors in his fastest qualifying laps prevented him from securing a better grid position.
Last year Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) started the Teruel GP at Aragon from pole position. Tomorrow the 29-year-old from Chiba will start from the fourth row of the grid, his best lap 1.044 seconds off pole and only half a second away from the second row.
This is an important race for Nakagami, because it is his 200th Grand Prix start and he is the first Japanese rider to reach this milestone. He was a close sixth fastest in FP4, so he too has high hopes of a strong race tomorrow.
Today Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) was the only one of Honda’s RC213V riders not to go straight through to the Q2 qualifier. The 25-year-old Spaniard’s day didn’t start well when he slid off in the morning. This incident slightly disrupted his programme for the day and he missed out in Q2 by a fraction of a second, so will start the race from the fifth row, immediately behind his team-mate.
The MotoGP paddock will pack up in a hurry after tomorrow’s racing because practice for the San Marino Grand Prix – on Italy’s east coast – starts on Friday morning.