Following last weekend’s Aragon Grand Prix in north-eastern Spain the MotoGP circus hurried across southern Europe for this weekend’s San Marino Grand Prix, the last event before MotoGP heads to the USA for its first flyaway round since the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix back in March.
The paddock is still abuzz with talk of last Sunday’s race – a tense and thrilling encounter between Honda’s Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) and Italian rival Francesco Bagnaia.
Victory finally went to first-time winner Bagnaia by a fraction of a second, but Marquez never gave up the fight, taking the lead seven times in the last three laps, but never quite having the grip he needed to make his move stick.
Nonetheless, such a hard-fought second place brought great joy to Marquez and was another important step in his gruelling comeback from the nine-month injury layoff that followed the fractured upper-right arm he sustained in July 2020.
Marquez’s Aragon podium was his first since his first victory following his April return, which he scored at June’s German Grand Prix at Sachsenring.
It is no coincidence that both Aragon and Sachsenring.
are anti-clockwise circuits, because Marquez’s right arm is still not at 100% strength, which compromises him through right-hand corners. This is because part of his astonishing riding technique requires him to force his right arm into the asphalt, which can save a front-tyre slide by reducing load on the tyre.
Misano will not be an easy weekend for the 28-year-old Spaniard because unlike the rest of the grid he didn’t race at Misano last year. Indeed the circuit hosted back-to-back rounds of the 2020 World Championship – a way of increasing the number of races without the extra logistical problems created by the early stages of the pandemic.
On the other hand, he didn’t race at Aragon last year either, but his astounding talent allowed him to compete for victory, at the same time entertaining hundreds of millions of fans across the globe.
Marquez has a great record at Misano, as he does at most racetracks. The former 125cc and Moto2 World Champion has topped the podium no less than six times. He won the MotoGP race in 2015, 2017 and 2019, the Moto2 race in 2011 and 2012 and the 125cc race in 2010.
This Friday – 17th September – is an historic moment for Honda. The company won its very first World Championship on 17th September 1961, exactly 60 years ago. On that day British rider Mike Hailwood secured the 250cc World Championship aboard his four-cylinder RC162 with victory at the Swedish GP at Kristianstad.
This was such a momentous event that company founder Soichiro Honda and his wife Sachi travelled all the way from Tokyo, Japan, to watch his dream of global success made true, an arduous trip requiring multiple stops.
One month later Australian Tom Phillis secured the 125cc World Championship aboard his twin-cylinder RC144.
Not only that, but Honda also took the first five places in the 250cc series and the four of the first five in the 125s, securing its first Constructors World Championships as a result. This was an amazing achievement for a company that contested its first world-class event only two years earlier!
Very soon Honda became a byword for motorcycling greatness, a reputation it has retained with more than 800 Grand Prix victories and 130 Riders and Constructors World Championships. All of these numbers are all-time outright records in the spot.
Although Marquez has been part of Honda history since he won his first MotoGP crown with the RC213V in 2013, his team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) is new to the Honda family.
On Sunday he will contest his 14th race aboard an RC213V, still looking for his first podium result with the bike. Last month the 30-year-old Spaniard took his first pole position with the machine at the British GP at Silverstone and led the early stages of the race. Espargaro is currently evaluating a revised chassis for the RC213V, working hard to build a direction for the 2022 MotoGP World Championship.
Misano is something of a team home GP for LCR Honda duo Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V), because although the team is based in Monaco its founder Lucio Cecchinello was born in Venice, three hours north of Misano.
Nakagami and the younger Marquez are working to build momentum following a challenging series of races. Both the 29-year-old from Chiba and the 25-year-old Spaniard will be doing everything in their power to work their way back towards the podium fight.
Honda will field a fifth RC213V rider this week, with HRC test-rider Stefan Bradl (Honda HRC Honda RC213V). The 31-year-old German has already contested three GPs this year, the opening two rounds as substitute for the injured Marquez and as wildcard at May’s Spanish GP. He scored points at all three races. He has also tested recently and Misano and will use this weekend to further development of the RC213V.
Misano was built in the early 1970s and hosted its first round of motorcycling’s World Championships in 1980. It became a full-time part of MotoGP in 2007 following a lengthy absence from the calendar and a reversal of layout, from anti-clockwise to clockwise.
The circuit is tight and demanding, dominated by mostly slow- to medium-speed corners, with the exception of the super-fast Turn 11 which tests bravery and commitment to the maximum. The circuit demands good machine manoeuvrability.
Sunday’s racing is followed by a two-day MotoGP test at the track. The next race is the Grand Prix of the Americas, which takes place at the Grand Prix of the Americas, outside the Texan city of Austin. The MotoGP paddock then returns to Europe for the final three races of 2021: the Emilia Romagna GP at Misano, the Algarve GP at Circuit of the Algarve and the Valencia GP at Circuit Ricardo Tormo.