Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) returned from injury to score a heroic top-ten start at baking-hot Sachsenring today, where track temperature reached 50-degrees Celsius.
The 31-year-old from Chiba took a heavy fall on the first lap of the Catalan Grand Prix two weeks ago and had to undergo a medical check here on Thursday to ensure he is fit to ride. Although Nakagami passed the test he is riding in considerable discomfort from a right-shoulder injury, which is compromising his performance.
Nevertheless the former Moto2 race winner has given it his all during these last two days around the tight and testing German circuit. Nakagami ended the first three practice sessions ninth fastest, completed FP4 in ninth and was running ninth in the Q2 qualifying session until the final moments when he slid off at Turn One and was bumped to tenth. He missed a third-row start by a sliver, just 0.094 seconds.
Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) was fully committed in Q1 this afternoon, running second for a while [enough to get him into Q2] but he is riding in considerable pain from a couple of falls, so by the end of the session he came up just four thousandths of a second short of promotion to Q2.
The 31-year-old Spaniard will therefore start this tenth race of the 20-race 2022 MotoGP World Championship from the fifth row of the grid, with the 13th best time.
Espargaro has certainly been fast this weekend – his best lap in free practice was faster than his best qualifying lap from last year – but the track, the conditions and his injuries are making life complicated for the former Moto2 World Champion.
The anti-clockwise Sachsenring circuit, with its seven consecutive left-handers, plus the current European heatwave, place a larger-than-emphasis on rear tyre performance, especially on the left side of the tyre. And lap times are incredibly close, with the top ten separated by six tenths of a second.
During tomorrow’s 30-lap race it will be essential that riders and engineers do everything they can to look after the left of the rear tyre, so that riders have enough grip to go full-race distance at full speed.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) will start the race one row further back from Espargaro, after setting the 16th quickest time in qualifying, following a high-speed fall this morning. Tomorrow the 26-year-old Spaniard will aim to extend his impressive recent consistency with a sixth consecutive points-scoring ride
Honda MotoGP test rider Stefan Bradl (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) once again proved his speed in what is only his fourth race weekend of 2022. The 32-year-old German, who is deputising for Honda’s six-times MotoGP king Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V), currently recovering from surgery to his injured right arm, was 18th today and will therefore start the race from the opposite end of the sixth row to Marquez.
Following tomorrow’s race the paddock will pack up immediately and head north-west to Assen, venue for next weekend’s Dutch round of the 2022 MotoGP World Championship. After Assen the paddock gets to enjoy a much-deserved five-week break, before reconvening at Silverstone, for the British Grand Prix.
The 2022 MotoGP season concludes at Valencia, Spain, on November 6.