Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) rode a breathtakingly aggressive qualifying lap at Valencia today, scoring his third consecutive front-row start, confirming his growing strength.
Honda’s six-times MotoGP World Champion, who is still recovering from recent surgery to his right arm and this weekend is suffering from a bad cold that has nearly lost him his voice, was overjoyed with his performance, thumping the fuel tank of his RC213V and waving to the vast Valencia crowd as he rode his slow-down lap.
Yesterday Marquez and his crew focused on evaluating different parts and settings, with a view to Tuesday’s vital post-season test here, before switching into race mode for today. Even so, 29-year-old Spaniard was expecting a second- or third-row start after completing free practice this morning in sixth place. Hence his delight after his stunning qualifying lap this afternoon, which was just two tenths of a second off pole position.
Marquez therefore knows he has a chance of a podium finish in tomorrow’s race, the 20th and last of 2022, the longest season in more than seven decades of the motorcycling World Championships. He would also like to score Honda’s first MotoGP victory of the year but he knows that will not be easy. However, the overview of his performances since he returned to race action at last month’s Aragon GP has been immensely positive, with a pole position at September’s Japanese Grand Prix and a thrilling second-place finish at last month’s Australian GP, just 0.186 seconds behind the winner. That result gave Marquez his 100th premier-class podium.
All the knowhow Marques has learned in these last few races has been fed back to Honda engineers who are now working on the 2023 RC213V prototype.
Honda’s other three riders have had a more complicated two days of preparation for the Valencia GP.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) will start his last race with Honda from the fifth row of the grid after setting the 15th best qualifying lap of the day. The 26-year-old Spaniard’s grid position underlined the incredibly close competition in the MotoGP class, because he was only six tenths of a second slower than his older brother and only eight tenths off pole
This was always going to be a challenging weekend for Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V), who is riding his first race since the Japanese Grand Prix, after which he underwent surgery on a right-hand injury sustained during the preceding GP at Aragon, Spain.
The 30-year-old from Chiba underwent a fitness test before his comeback to confirm that he is fit to ride but isn’t yet at his best. Nakagami, who has fought for the podium on previous MotoGP visits to Valencia, will start from 24th. He had qualified 21st, but was given a three-position grid penalty, imposed for a riding infringement in this morning’s FP3 outing.
The older Marquez’s team-mate Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) also had a tough day, sliding off his RC213V in Q2, which obviously compromised his qualifying performance. The 31-year-old Spaniard will therefore start his last race with Honda from 21st place on the grid, promoted one spot by Nakagami’s penalty. His pace had been stronger in the FP1, FP2 and FP3, which he ended in 17th position, and was even faster in FP4, when riders work on race pace, ending that outing fourth fastest.
Following tomorrow’s racing the MotoGP paddock remains at Valencia for two more days before breaking up for the winter. Pre-season testing for the 21-round 2023 season which will comprise 42 races (21 sprint races on Saturdays and 21 GP races on Sunday) will start at Sepang, Malaysia, in early February. The Portuguese GP opens the season on 26th March.