Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) rode a typically heroic race at sun-blessed Jerez today, battling for the podium and finally taking a close fourth-place finish.
The six-times MotoGP World Champion qualified fifth for the sixth race of the 21-round 2022 MotoGP World Championship and was immediately in the battle for third place with Jack Miller and Aleix Espargaro.
Lap after lap the 29-year-old Spaniard chased Miller, finally making it through into third place with an audacious move at Turn Five with four of 25 laps to go, the huge and boisterous home crowd roaring approval.
The presence of fans at Jerez for the first time since 2019 was a huge boost for the entire MotoGP paddock, but especially for the Spanish riders.
Marquez was taking it to the limit as always and nearly fell when he lost the front at Turn 13, later the same lap. He saved the slide with his left knee – despite his motorcycle reaching a remarkable 66 degrees lean angle – but the fraction of a second he lost with that moment relegated him to fifth place.
Of course, even then Marquez didn’t give up. He set off after Miller once again, finally taking fourth place from the Australian on the final lap at Turn Eight. At the chequered flag he was less than two seconds outside a first podium of the year. The result also promoted the 2014, 2018 and 2019 Jerez winner to ninth in the World Championship, despite missing two races following injuries sustained during morning warm-up in Indonesia.
Marquez certainly exceeded his pre-race predictions, when he announced that even a top-five result would be difficult. At the moment he is still working hard to develop the all-new 2022 RC213V, which was created to take advantage of MotoGP’s current rear slick tyre.
Tomorrow will be as important today as Marquez takes part in a one-day test here at Jerez, joined by the rest of the grid. This will be Honda’s first chance since the start of the season to work on improving the latest RC213V outside the time pressures of a Grand Prix weekend. The aim is to further improve the bike’s turning performance and front/rear traction balance.
Team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) started his second season with a rousing third-place finish in the Qatar Grand Prix back in March, but he was unable to recreate that kind of performance at Jerez this afternoon.
The 30-year-old Spaniard started from 13th on the grid, after missing promotion to the Q2 qualifying session by just three thousandths of a second. Today’s weather was the hottest it’s been all weekend, with the increase in track temperature reducing grip, which caused real problems for Espargaro, who needs a lot of rear grip to exploit his riding technique to the maximum. After finishing 11th, the former Moto2 World Champion is looking forward to tomorrow’s test, so he can work on his current issues.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) always goes well at Jerez – finishing an excellent fourth in his two previous outings here – and this afternoon he once again fought strongly at one of his favourite racetracks. The 30-year-old from Chiba was fastest in warm-up and made a stunning start, charging through from seventh on the grid to fourth in the first few corners.
He couldn’t quite maintain that pace, however, and had several riders come past him. From there he settled into seventh place, chasing 2020 MotoGP World Champion Joan Mir for much of the race, finishing less than a second behind him and just over two seconds behind Marquez.
This was the first time since the season-opening Qatar GP that Nakagami has finished inside the top ten and he finished top independent-team rider, so he goes to the next race in France determined to build on this performance.
Team-mate Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) recovered superbly from a complicated Saturday, which left him 22nd on the grid. The 26-year-old rode aggressively today, working his way into 16th by the end of the first lap and then taking several further positions. He finished 13th, a good result for the former Jerez Moto2 winner, who knew he had the pace despite yesterday’s difficulties, which started with a fall in FP3.
Honda’s MotoGP test rider Stefan Bradl (Team HRC Honda RC213V) had an incident-packed second race of the season, which was also his 200th Grand Prix race. The 32-year-old former Moto2 World Champion slid off at the last corner of the first lap, remounted and continued, only to tumble again before half-distance, putting him out of the race.
Tomorrow Bradl will continue his development work with Honda’s four full-time MotoGP riders. The MotoGP paddock will then pack up and head to Le Mans for the French Grand Prix on May 15.