Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol Honda RC213V) had one of the best rides of his first two seasons in MotoGP at Algarve International Circuit today, taking a fourth-place finish in a race red-flagged with two laps to go.
Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) also enjoyed an excellent race, often the fastest rider on track as he battled for fifth place, finally credited with sixth.
Honda’s six-times MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) was absent this weekend, recovering from a slight concussion sustained during a training accident a week ago.
His younger brother certainly did his best to make up for his absence. The 25-year-old Spaniard disputed third place with former Moto3 rival Jack Miller lap after lap during the penultimate race of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship.
Marquez had just retaken third place from Miller at the start of the penultimate lap when the red flags were shown, following a collision and subsequent crash between Iker Lecuona and Miguel Oliveira. Both riders were soon up and walking away from the incident. As usual in the case of a red flag, positions were taken from the preceding lap, giving third place and the final podium place to Miller.
Nevertheless Marquez was happy with the strength of his performance and entered the parc fermé as top Independent Team finisher. After several difficult outings this was an important weekend for the former Moto2 and Moto3 World Champion, who used various chassis updates from Honda to improve the performance of his RC213V. Marquez qualified eighth and made superb forward progress in the early stages to attack Miller.
This was the younger Marquez’s best result since he finished an amazing second in last year’s Aragon Grand Prix.
Espargaro, also using chassis upgrades, started from the second row of the grid, after qualifying sixth, and had high hopes of battling for the podium. However he didn’t get the best of starts and lost several more positions on the second lap, which left him mired in the pack. The 30-year-old Spaniard fought back well, lapping faster than anyone at several stages of the race and making passes wherever he could.
The former Moto2 World Champion, who finished second at Misano two weeks ago, behind team-mate Marquez, ended the race only three seconds behind third-placed Miller and fourth-placed Marquez.
Both their results proved that Honda is once again making progress with its RC213V machine, after some challenging times earlier in the season.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) had a great Sunday, following a very disappointing Saturday, caused by a crash during qualifying that left him at the back of the grid.
That tumble left the 29-year-old from Chiba with a huge job ahead of him this afternoon, but he reacted superbly, working hard to move forward as fast as he could. Nakagami completed the first lap in 19th place. By half-distance he had worked his way into the points-scoring positions. The red-flag incident helped to move him to 11th at the finish, an impressive result considering his starting position.
This weekend Marquez’s bikes were ridden by Honda’s MotoGP test rider Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), who has only contested five MotoGP rounds this year. The 31-year-old German was able to help Honda continue development work of the RC213V and was rewarded with a point-scoring finish in 15th place.
Today’s race was the 17th of this year’s 18 rounds. The 2021 season ends next Sunday in Spain, with the Valencia Grand Prix at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit. But that is not the end of 2021 for MotoGP riders and teams, who will commence their preparation for 2022 a few days later at Jerez, Spain.
Marquez will undergo another check before deciding whether to race at Valencia.