Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), winner of the last two MotoGP races, will not contest this Sunday’s Algarve Grand Prix, after suffering a minor concussion during a training fall last weekend.
Honda’s six-times MotoGP World Champion will be replaced by test rider Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), who did sterling work while substituting for Marquez last year and at the start of this season.
Marquez’s absence from the penultimate race of 2021 is a disappointment, following his stunning form at recent races. He scored his first win of the year at June’s German Grand Prix and followed that with back-to-back victories in last month’s Grand Prix of the Americas and Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.
These successes prove that the 28-year-old Spaniard is getting back to top form, so that he can mount a strong challenge for the 2022 MotoGP World Championship. His tumble during off-road training at home in Spain last Saturday wasn’t serious, but after a few days of rest he was assessed by doctors who decided he should miss Algarve GP, as a precautionary measure.
Bradl knows the Algarve International Circuit (more commonly known as Portimao) well. The 31-year-old German and former Moto2 World Champion tested there last year and contested the first MotoGP round at the rollercoaster venue last November. He had an excellent weekend – qualifying sixth and finishing seventh – so he is optimistic of another strong showing on this latest visit
Marquez’s full-time team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) will take aim at the podium once again on Sunday, after scoring his first podium with Honda and his best-ever MotoGP result at Misano two weeks ago, giving the Repsol Honda Team a memorable one-two finish.
The 30-year-old Spaniard took time to get up to full speed with the RC213V following a pre-season testing programme truncated by the global pandemic. In recent weeks he has grown stronger and stronger aboard the machine, as he adapted himself to the bike and vice versa.
At Silverstone in August Espargaro scored his first pole position with Honda and led a race for the first time on a Honda. A two-day test following September’s San Marino GP helped him continue the adaptation process, fine-tuning settings which laid the foundations for his impressive Misano weekend: fourth in qualifying, a fraction off the front row, and second in the race, less than five seconds behind his team-mate.
Honda’s other two MotoGP riders will look to their results from their last visit to Portimao in April for inspiration this weekend.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) finished that race in eighth place, one position behind his older brother, one of his most promising rides so far this season.
Since then the 25-year-old Spaniard has achieved four more top-ten finishes – sixth at the French GP, ninth places at the Styrian and Austrian GPs and eighth at the British GP. His target this weekend is therefore to fight inside the top ten once again, aiming to better that sixth place at Le Mans.
Team-mate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) had a difficult weekend last time he was at Portimao. Only seven tenths of a second off the fastest lap times after Friday’s two practice sessions he fell at high speed during Saturday morning’s FP3 outing, due to a tyre that wasn’t up to full operating temperature.
That tumble ruled him out of action for the remainder of Saturday, so he had to start the race from the back of the grid, still in considerable pain. From there the 29-year-old from Chiba had a heroic ride, charging through the pack to finish tenth. Nakagami therefore knows he can achieve a much better result if he has better luck this weekend. His aim is to improve on his best result of 2021 so far, his fourth place in May’s Spanish GP.
Portimao is situated in Portugal’s Algarve region, a popular tourist destination in the country’s south. The circuit was constructed in rolling countryside a few kilometres inland from the port city of Portimao, once famous for its shipbuilding industry.
The circuit layout is hugely challenging, because the track rises and falls dramatically, requiring riders to work incredibly hard to balance their motorcycles as they ride across the hilly terrain. Meanwhile their engineers must work to find the perfect compromise in settings, so the bike works in all situations – accelerating, braking and cornering uphill, accelerating, braking and cornering downhill and accelerating, braking and cornering on the flat.
The 2021 MotoGP season concludes at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo on 14th November, before starting work towards the 2022 championship at Jerez, Spain, on 18th and 19th November. Testing will resume at Sepang, Malaysia, in early February and the season-opening Qatar GP will take place on March 6th.