Honda’s six-times MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) will start his home Grand Prix from the second row of the grid after a super-determined ride in today’s Q2 qualifying session.
The 29-year-old Spaniard looked like sharing the second row with Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) until the final moments of the session, when the 30-year-old from Chiba was bumped onto the third row, by just 0.034 seconds.
Marquez’s performance brought huge cheers from the local crowd, the first time that fans have been allowed to watch a Spanish Grand Prix on site since the 2019 event.
Marquez has been working hard with his Repsol Honda crew and HRC engineers to continue development of the all-new RC213V, which has been hampered by extraordinary conditions at three of the first five races of 2022： weather and track surface issues in Indonesia, only a single day of practice and qualifying in Argentina, due to the late arrival of freight, and no dry practice sessions in Portugal last week.
This afternoon the former World Champion had to ride as hard as he’s ever done to secure his place on row two, from where he believes his best hope is of a top-five finish in the sixth race of this year’s 21-race MotoGP World Championship.
Yesterday Marquez slid off twice at slow speed – the second time when he hit a wet patch of asphalt while cruising back to pit lane moments after his first fall. Today he continued both the development of his new RC213V and adjusting his riding technique to fit the machine.
He knows that tomorrow’s race will be very tough, with the forecast warmer weather raising track temperature, which will reduce grip. Marquez has won three MotoGP races here, in 2014, 2018 and 2019.
Nakagami was slightly more than one tenth of a second behind his fellow RC213V rider but that was enough to spoil his hopes of a second-row start at his favourite track. The former Moto2 winner has scored two of his best MotoGP results at Jerez, with two fourth-place finishes in the last two years, both within a second of the podium.
Tomorrow he knows he can fight for the podium once again, but he will need a great start and a strong first few laps to get with the leading group in the early stages.
Nakagami was third fastest following the first three practice sessions, just ahead of Marquez, with both of them less than two tenths of a second outside the fastest times.
Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) had a minor fall in this morning’s FP3 session, which curtailed his progress towards completing free practice inside the top ten to take him directly into Q2.
Instead he had to fight his way through Q1 first and he so very nearly made it, cheered on by his home crowd. The 30-year Spaniard was fastest for a while, finally missing out by just three thousandths of a second. He will therefore start the Spanish Grand Prix from the fifth row of the grid, hoping that he can produce a strong-enough race pace to take him deep into the top ten.
Honda’s MotoGP test rider Stefan Bradl (Team HRC Honda RC213V) had another very useful day, working through several items for Honda HRC. The 32-year-old German and former Moto2 World Championship showed impressive speed in FP3, despite sliding off at one point. He qualified 20th and will gather more important data and information in the 25-lap race.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) will start from 22nd, a disappointment after his promising weekend in Portugal, where he qualified seventh and finished the race in seventh, giving him high hopes of a good weekend at Jerez, where he won his first Moto2 race in 2017. Like Espargaro he fell in FP3, which complicated his day.
The 26-year-old Spaniard will do everything in his power to work his way into the top 15 tomorrow for his fourth points score from the first six races of the year. The Jerez asphalt is likely to be extremely slippery in the heat, so if he can get the best out of his RC213V in those conditions he will have a chance of making the difference.
Following tomorrow’s racing the MotoGP paddock stays at Jerez for a one-day test on Monday. This will be a particularly important day for Honda, which will have its first chance since the start of the season to experiment with the performance potential of the 2022 RC213V, with upgraded parts and settings.
The next race is the French Grand Prix, at Le Mans, on May 15.