This weekend MotoGP riders race at Misano for the second time in five weeks as the 2021 World Championship moves into its final phase. After Sunday’s racing just two of 18 races remain – next month’s Algarve and Valencia Grands Prix.
This has been a comeback year for Honda’s six-times MotoGP king Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), who last time out won the Grand Prix of the Americas, suggesting once again that he is very much on target to regain 100% strength for the start of the 2022 MotoGP season.
Marquez’s victory at Circuit of the Americas was his second since he returned to action in April, following a nine-month layoff through injury, and his most dominant ride since his return. This latest success augurs well for the last three races of 2021, but Misano may be a more complicated weekend for the 28-year-old Spaniard.
Marquez has always performed best at anti-clockwise circuits like COTA and this is particularly true at the moment, because the lingering effects of his right-arm injury continue to handicap him through right-handers. Last month at clockwise Misano he rode well but wasn’t able to go with the leaders, finishing fourth. The circuit’s three high-speed rights that follow the back straight were a particular challenge for him, so it will be interesting to see how much the arm and shoulder have improved since that last visit.
His aim will be to finish on the Misano podium, which he has topped no less than six times over the past decade. In 2010 he won the 125cc race at the track, on his way to that year’s 125cc World Championship, and he won the Honda-powered Moto2 races in 2011 and 2012, on his way to winning the 2012 Moto2 crown. He has also won three MotoGP races at Misano, in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
Team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) had a good ride at Misano last month, finishing seventh, just three seconds behind Marquez, who knows the RC213V much better than the 30-year-old Spaniard, who joined Honda at the start of this year.
Espargaro has been steadily gaining speed at recent races, most notably at August’s British GP, where he scored his first MotoGP pole position with Honda and finished fifth, his best result so far with the RC213V. Returning to the same circuit will be a particular advantage for Espargaro, who will be able to use everything he learned last time at Misano to great effect.
Espargaro has also been victorious at Misano. He won the Honda-powered Moto2 race at the track in 2013, when he went on to win the Moto2 world title. His best MotoGP finish at the venue is last year’s third place.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) looked set for one of his best rides of 2021 at COTA last month. The 29-year-old from Chiba scored a second-row start in qualifying and got away well in the race, only to slide off on the second lap. He bravely remounted and fought back, aiming to score World Championship points, but when the chequered flag came out he was 17th, two places short.
Last time at Misano, Nakagami qualified 13th and finished tenth. He is determined to do better than that this weekend. Last year he scored a sixth place at the track, and in 2013 finished second in the Moto2 event, barely half a second behind winner Pol Espargaro.
Team-mate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) will be working hard as ever to get back into the top ten after a couple of lower results at the last few races. During August the 25-year-old Spaniard was building speed nicely, with three-consecutive top-ten results at the Styrian, Austrian and British GPs. He finished 15th last time at Misano, so he will work with his crew to use the lessons learned during that weekend to record a better result on Sunday.
This is the second year in a row that Misano has hosted two rounds of the MotoGP World Championship. Last year the San Marino and Emilio-Romagna Grands Prix were staged on consecutive weekends, a format that allowed more races within the logistical restrictions of the global pandemic. This year’s Emilio-Romagna round was a late addition to the calendar, following the cancellation of the Australian, Japanese and Malaysian rounds, due to the pandemic.
Misano – built in the 1970s, just inland from the Adriatic beach resorts of Misano, Rimini and Cattolica – staged its first motorcycling Grand Prix in 1980. The circuit’s direction of travel was later reversed, from anti-clockwise to clockwise, and this format was used for the first time by MotoGP in 2007. Since then Honda’s RC212V and RC213V machines have won five races at the track, which demands a quick-steering motorcycle for its numerous slow corners and changes of direction.
The paddock gets one weekend off after Sunday’s racing before the season-ending, back-to-back races at Algarve International Circuit (more commonly known as Portimao), on 7 November, and Circuit Ricardo Tormo on 14 November.