Marquez’s team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) finished less than a second behind the super-siblings in ninth.
The fifth round of the longest-ever MotoGP World Championship was complicated for the entire grid, because most of Friday and Saturday were spoiled by heavy rain and strong winds. Riders only fitted slicks for the first time during yesterday afternoon’s qualifying sessions, when the track was still damp and treacherous in places, so this morning’s dry warm-up session was their first chance to really evaluate tyres for the race.
This was a particular handicap for Honda’s 2022 RC213V, the only all-new motorcycle on the grid, because unlike other riders Honda’s four riders could not use their set-up and race-tyre information from last November’s race at the Algarve International Circuit.
Honda’s six-times MotoGP World Champion had a heavy fall in yesterday morning’s soaking FP3 session and did well to qualifying ninth, on the third row of the grid. However, with only this morning’s 20-minute warm-up in which to adjust the new RC213V for the dry track he didn’t feel comfortable on his machine in the race.
The 29-year-old Spaniard slipped outside the top ten at the end of the first lap, leaving him with a lot of work ahead of him. From there he steadily built speed and confidence as he got to understand the new RC213V on slicks around this rollercoaster of a circuit, but with so little set-up time he didn’t have the pace to run up front.
At half-distance he was ninth, closing steadily on his younger brother. The pair were together for the final few laps, passing and repassing, just like they do when they are dirt-bike training at home. Finally the duel was decided on the last lap.
The younger Marquez, Moto3 World Champion in 2014 and 2019 Moto2 World Champion, qualified a best-ever seventh yesterday at a track he really loves. Last November he was only a fraction away from achieving a MotoGP podium here.
The Spaniard, who yesterday celebrated his 26th birthday, started brilliantly, completing the first lap in fifth place and riding aggressively to hold position. He stayed there for the first quarter of the race, then lost a few positions, before commencing his contest with his brother.
Today’s result was his best of the year, confirming his hopes that his performance would improve once the racing moved to Europe after the four out-of-Europe races that started the season.
Both brothers and Espargaro are now looking forward to their home GP next weekend, when weather conditions are forecast to be much better.
Espargaro started from row four, one behind the Marquez brothers, after sliding off during his fastest qualifying lap yesterday, so he also had a lot of work to do. He lost a few positions early in the race and had the older Marquez come past at one-quarter distance. After that he spent much of the remainder of the 25 laps chasing the other Repsol RC213V.
In the final laps he battled with Pecco Bagnaia, the pair colliding on the final lap as they disputed eighth place. Bagnaia finally won the contest just a few hundred metres from the finish, leaving Espargaro just 0.258 seconds off an eight-place result.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) started from 17th on the grid, after making the wrong call on tyre choice in the final minutes of his qualifying session. The 30-year-old from Chiba rode a superb first lap to get himself into the points and was fighting for 11th place when he slid off on lap 11, after making contact with another rider’s bike
Nakagami bravely remounted but his machine had been damaged in the fall, so the rest of the race wasn’t easy for him. Nonetheless he finished 16th, just one place outside the points,
Four flyaway races preceded the Portuguese GP – in Qatar, Indonesia, Argentina and the USA – each requiring gruelling inter-continental flights for riders, teams and freight. Now that the paddock is back in Europe riders and teams can now look forward to nothing more than a short drive to southern Spain for next weekend’s Spanish GP at Jerez.